Home > How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(6)

How To Marry A Werewolf (Claw & Courtship #1)(6)
Author: Gail Carriger

It wasn’t that Channing necessarily disliked children. He simply didn’t like the memories they incurred. Another life. Another time. He’d rather his past stayed where it belonged, drowned by the weight of decades.

Biffy sat down across the kitchen table from him and watched him eat his pie.

Channing did not offer him any.

“How’d the Sundowner investigation go?” Biffy was careful not to touch the tabletop for fear of flour smudges on his lovely grey suit.

“How do you always know BUR business, Alpha? Sometimes I think you know it before I do, and I’m the head of the division.”

“You know my training. I maintain many of my connections… from before. You know I don’t like things messy. I don’t like to be confused or uninformed.” Strumming under Biffy’s confession was Alpha possession and Alpha control. My city, the tether said to Channing. My people. My responsibility.

In his other life, Biffy had trained as a spy under the greatest vampire intelligencer of them all. But that was before his metamorphosis. He didn’t work for the vampires anymore but he still craved information. The blood-suckers had instilled in him a desire that his mortal death had not cured. Biffy liked knowing what was going on in London. And in the world. He needed to know things. Recently, he’d begun training the pack to gather such knowledge for him. Of course, he already had Riehard, who was one of the best. But Biffy also had other contacts. No doubt one of them was at BUR.

“I should clean up my offices,” said Channing.

“You know it wouldn’t be effective.”

It annoyed Channing to no end when Biffy did that. Channing would tell his Alpha about his job, if asked. But Biffy never asked for details on BUR operations. He searched things out using more secretive means. He also never asked Channing for his loyalty. It’s almost as if he thinks I’ve none left to give. Perhaps he is right.

Channing gave his Alpha the information anyway; it was all he had to offer. “Trail turned cold in Hyde Park earlier this evening. I suspect the contraband never left Boston.”

“Pity. You could have used a fresh supply.”

Channing inclined his head but didn’t answer, because he was chewing.

Biffy leaned back in his chair and narrowed his eyes slightly. “Something else happened, didn’t it? In the park tonight.”

“Did it?”

“I felt you waver.”

“Did you? I didn’t think we were so intimate that you could sniff out my feelings at a distance like that.”

“A tether is a tether, Channing. You cannot fool me with that icy facade. You hurt deeper and harder than any of the others, so I feel you pulling at me the most.”

“Do I? Do you? I shall try to control myself better.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

Channing laughed, cold and sharp, a burst of pain bleeding out of his mouth. “You’ve no idea what you’re asking for, Alpha.”

“No, I don’t. But you keep it all so close, tight to yourself. That’s not pack. That’s loner behavior. It pulls and frays and aches. You’re hurting yourself and you’re hurting us. I don’t want to lose you, Channing. You’re a prat but you’re my prat.”

“Have you asked Lyall or the others? Do you know why?”

“I do. But it’s not worth shutting yourself off from us because of what she did.”

“Pack may not be enough to hold me? Is that what you’re saying?” Channing’s greatest fear tore at his throat, making his voice ragged.

“No, but I think it’s what you believe. You could let it go, you know? I’m strong enough now, even for you.”

Channing finished his slice of pie and cocked his head at his pretty young Alpha. “You’re a child.”

Biffy cocked his head back. Wolflike, mirroring his movement – sympathetic, strong, and present. He did not rise to the bait.

Finally, the Alpha said, “It won’t break me, Channing. If you let me take on some of it. If you let her go, just a little.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about.”

“No, it isn’t, is it? People think because you are cold that you feel nothing. When in fact, it’s quite the opposite.”

“Don’t accuse me of being deep, Alpha. And stop meddling – you’re like a gossipy grandmother. Now that you’ve established yourself, you want to see the rest of us tied down and subdued.”

Biffy flashed his sweet smile. “I’d settle for seeing you happy.”

“You are a confounded romantic.”

“Guilty as charged. So, what happened to twinge our tether?”

“There was this irritating American.” Channing had no idea why he confessed even that much. Sometimes, it was hard to hide from an Alpha.

“An American, was it? Pretty?”

Channing glowered at him and refused to elucidate further.

Biffy only nodded to himself in that irritating way he had. “Very pretty, I take it. Was she—” Suddenly, the Alpha’s head went up, nostrils flaring.

Channing instantly tensed. What was it? Loner in their territory? Break in one of the others’ tether? Attack? Battle?

The expression on his Alpha’s face went from concerned sympathy to incandescent joy. “Lyall’s home.”

Channing snorted at him.

Moments later, Professor Lyall slid quietly into the room. One eyebrow rose in inquiry at the sight of Channing and his pork pie remnants chatting alone with the Alpha in an unlit kitchen.

“Channing, how are you this evening?” The Beta’s nondescript face was carefully neutral, although there was something to his eyes that suggested he was actually amused to find them thus situated.

Channing pointed at Biffy. “Take him away, Randolph, do. He’s getting nosy again.”

Professor Lyall came up behind their Alpha and ran his fingers through the young man’s dark brown hair. Biffy leaned into the caress, closing his eyes briefly like a contented cat.

Channing groaned. “Stop it. I just ate.”

Biffy grinned. “You’re only jealous.”

Channing rolled his eyes, stood up in a huff that was only partly simulated, and stormed out of the room. Jealous. Of course I’m jealous. And it wasn’t even the love, or the contentment, or the easy affection that drove a spike into what was left of Channing’s heart. It was that he’d set himself on this path and had walked it with confidence for decades, chosen to be solitary, because it seemed easier and he was lazy and afraid. And now he was trapped.

A pair of blue eyes, like lapis, had shaken him out of it for one sharp moment. His Alpha had felt it, that tiny shift. That opening of the trap. And Channing wanted to escape – he desperately wanted escape. Except that the pain of the iron teeth holding him back was all he knew now, and he was a coward.

Get yourself together, Channing, old man, she’s a bloody American. She is not for you. And you most certainly are not for her.

STEP THREE

If You Must Be Bait, Be Very Stylish Bait

Faith found the Iftercast household to be much like its mistress – comfortable, casually opulent, cheerful, and mildly forgetful. The town house was situated in a desirable location just off Grosvenor Square, substantial without being too showy. This, too, was like its mistress.

They kept fashionable hours, with breakfast at noon, morning calls paid in the early afternoon (confusingly), and other business conducted at night. Faith supposed it made sense for a society built around the presence of supernatural creatures. Vampires and werewolves, after all, only came out after sunset.

So it was that when Faith came down at an hour she thought unpardonably late, in a bicycling outfit she was certain would be met with disapproval, it was to find the family still at table. And her outfit entirely ignored.

Mr Iftercast was as dour and reserved as his wife was convivial. His most prevalent characteristics, so far as Faith could tell, being limited tolerance for the eccentricities of his female family members and a predilection for reading the newspaper at table.

He mostly grunted when asked a direct question, although he was perfectly civil to Faith. He flipped the corner of his paper down when his wife introduced them, and gave her a curt nod and an abrupt, “Miss Wigglesworth. Welcome.”

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