We were both clean, dried, and dressed in five minutes tops. Well, clean enough to pass inspection by whomever was at the door, anyway. Tobias left the bathroom ahead of me and opened the door to Suzannah, who had her hand up to knock again, and Kirk.
“Didn’t mean to take so long,” he said. “You caught us at, er, an awkward time.”
Suzannah laughed. Kirk’s face turned a little red. “Sorry,” Suzannah said. “It’s time to be the Alpha. We have a problem with the new wolf.”
“I was afraid we might.” Tobias ran his hand through his wet, loose hair and stepped aside to let them in. We settled in the living room. “She’s afraid to go on the hunt, isn’t she?”
Kirk nodded. “We’ve both been over there talking to her since early this morning. Suzannah made sure Candace had her cell number, and she called at about four this morning panicking because she felt like she was about to shift.”
“She’s been on her own too long,” Tobias said. “She may have forgotten what it’s like to hunt with a pack, or maybe she’s just worried about how the rest of us will treat her.”
“I think it’s both,” Suzannah said. “She has a lot of fear, Tobias. Have you found out why she was asked to leave her old pack?”
“Her side of the story. Not her previous Alpha’s. I haven’t checked my emails yet.” He went to his computer. “I figured this might be the best way to contact the Sunset Pack Alpha. This way he can just tell me the whole story without being interrupted. Assuming he’s willing to tell me anything at all. Hang on.”
“What happens if a wolf doesn’t go on the hunt?” I asked. Even though I hated the end results of a hunt, i.e. the dead animals that my packmates chowed down on while I stayed in the bushes and tried not to vomit, I loved the hunt itself. Running freely in an area big enough to allow it, not having to worry about being seen. I even enjoyed chasing the deer and other animals. I just didn’t like the part where they became the evening meal.
“They’d be pretty miserable,” Kirk said. “They can’t help changing. The full moon does it to all of us, and I’ve never yet heard of a wolf who can resist. Even you; you don’t shift between full moons, but when that moon comes up you go furry just like the rest of us.”
“Yeah.” I thought about that. “I’ve never tried to stop myself from shifting at the full moon. I just kind of assumed it wouldn’t be possible.”
“I don’t think it is,” he said. “I mean, Candace could stay here if she wanted instead of going to Sharon’s place with the rest of us. She’d still change and she’d still have the urge to run and hunt. That would be a big problem around here. There’s nowhere to run where a human wouldn’t see her. We’ll be changing so early that humans will still be coming home from work. And there’s nothing to hunt here unless she finds a squirrel or something, which wouldn’t be enough to take care of the energy she loses in the shift.”
“The Sunset Pack Alpha answered,” Tobias said. “And I don’t think he was too happy about being asked. He says the Anax already heard the whole story.”
“The Anax refused to tell you anything,” I said. “So either he didn’t hear the whole story or he’s hiding things from you.”
“If he’s hiding something, he has a reason.” Tobias leaned closer to his computer monitor. “He says she was causing too much conflict, which is what she told us. She’s ‘unlikeable’.” He did air quotes with his fingers. “Some of the pack members felt like she was a drain to be around. Others liked her and defended her. The Alpha and Peacekeeper had to resolve disputes all over the place. That alone wasn’t enough for her to be asked to leave, though.”
“What happened?” I walked over to stand behind him. Whatever had finally gotten Candace kicked out of her previous pack, it hadn’t been good. And it meant that my first instinct about her might have been right.
“She refused to go on a hunt,” Tobias said slowly. “She’d had an incident with a couple other pack members the day before, and she was afraid they’d retaliate. The Alpha let her stay behind, and when he and the other pack members returned some of the humans who lived nearby were tromping around looking for wolves. A little girl had reported seeing two wolves, one brown and one grey. The Alpha wasn’t sure who the grey was, but he knew the brown was Candace.”
“I know who the grey was,” I said. “Saul.”
Tobias nodded. “I think so too, but the pack didn’t know he was there and Candace didn’t say anything about him.” He looked at the computer again. “She hadn’t actually revealed that werewolves existed, and the humans were easily convinced that the little girl had just seen a coyote. So the Alpha chose not to pass a death sentence on her. But she’d put the pack at risk, so he told her she had to leave.”
“It’s no wonder she’s afraid to go on the hunt,” Suzannah said. “But she has to go. There are too many humans here.”
“Not to mention a child living right above her.” Tobias stood. “Suzannah, see if she’ll come over here to talk to me, please. I went to her last time, but I think she needs to understand that isn’t how it usually works around here.”
He was making a dominance move on a wolf who was probably scared half out of her mind. I didn’t think that was a good idea, given what we knew about Candace, but Tobias was in charge.