Night Broken - Patricia Briggs
For our good friends—you know who you are. I don’t know how we ended up surrounded by so many people who are, as my father used to say, “folk to ride the river with.” I especially would like to dedicate this to two people who went above and beyond for us this year as we tried to combine stupid travel schedules with horses who wait until I’m gone before turning their minds to mischief.
Dr. Dick Root, DVM, held my daughter’s hand when Tilly had her foal while Mike and I were on signing tour. There aren’t actually many people who will put up with a dozen phone calls at four in the morning without losing their cool. Thank you, Dick. May you and Ally (OFW Alivia) travel many happy miles together.
Deken Schoenberg also comes to my rescue, whether it be by trimming horses in triple-digit weather, lending me a hand when I get in over my head, or, as a not random example, helping when I am stuck five hundred miles away in a different country and a silly yearling decides that that is the day to get himself hurt. Magic is sorry he kicked you, especially after you drove the better part of fifty miles to come help him. He promised me that he will treat our friends better in the future.
Next time we leave town, I’m not telling the horses.
The phone rang while I was elbow-deep in sudsy dishwater.
“I’ll get it,” said my stepdaughter, Jesse, hastily dumping two glasses and a fork in my sink.
A werewolf pack that eats together stays together, I thought, scrubbing stubborn egg off a plate. Sunday breakfasts weren’t attended by the whole pack—some of them had families just like regular people or jobs they worked on the Sabbath. The breakfasts weren’t mandatory because that would have ruined the intent. Darryl, Adam’s second, who usually prepared the meals, was a hellaciously good cook, and his food attracted anyone who could manage to come.
The dishwasher was running, stuffed full and then some. I would have let the rest of the dishes wait until it was done, but Auriele, Darryl’s mate, wouldn’t hear of it.
I didn’t argue with her because I was one of the three people in the pack who outranked her, so she’d have to back down. That felt like cheating, and I never cheat.
Unless it is against my enemies, whispered a soundless voice in my head that might have been mine but felt like Coyote’s.
The second reason for my compliance was more self-serving. Auriele and I were getting along, which made her the only one of the three female werewolves in the pack who was friendly with me at the moment.
Auriele hadn’t been happy having me as the Alpha’s mate, either—I was a coyote shapeshifter among wolves. She didn’t think it was a good thing for pack morale. She also thought, correctly, that I brought trouble for the pack with me. She liked me despite herself. I was used to the company of men, but it was nice to have a woman besides Jesse, my teenage stepdaughter, who would talk to me.
So, to please Auriele, I washed dishes that the dishwasher could have taken care of, ignoring the burn of hot soapy water in the wounds of my trade—barked knuckles are a mechanic’s constant companion. Auriele dried the dishes, and Jesse had volunteered to tidy up the kitchen in general. Three women bonding over household chores—my mother would be pleased if she could see us. That thought hardened my resolve that next week, some of the men would do cleanup. It would be good for them to expand their skill set.
“There’s this kid in my second-period class.” Auriele ignored the ringing phone as she hefted a stack of plates up to the cupboard with a grunt of effort. It wasn’t the weight of the dishes that was the problem—Auriele was a werewolf; she could have lifted a four-hundred-pound anvil onto the shelf. It was that she was short and had to stand on tiptoe to do it. Jesse had to dodge around her to get to the phone.
“All the teachers love Clark,” Auriele continued. “All the girls and most of the guys, too. And every word out of his mouth is a lie. ‘Enrique cheated off my paper,’ he told me when I asked him why they both had all the same mistakes. Enrique, he just gets this resigned look on his face; I expect that Clark has done this to him before.”