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Deriks Bane, Page 2

MaryJanice Davidson

Page 2


  He had no problem with Michael; he loved the big dope.

  He just didn't love Michael being the boss. Not anymore.

  Derik made a fist and hit himself on the thigh. This was his problem, not Michael's, and he had to figure out how to fix it, pronto. He owed the big guy respect, not just brotherly love. And show it he would, no matter how the words wanted to choke him. He wasn't some—some monkey, fighting for the sake of it. He was a werewolf, member of the Wyndham Pack, and fully grown besides. Squabbling was beneath him. So was picking fights.

  He turned, forcing a smile . . . and the clod of dirt hit him right in the middle of the forehead. It exploded, and dust sprayed everywhere.

  "Idiot! Putz! Dumb ass!"

  "Jeez, Moira," he complained, secretly glad showing throat had been put off a bit, "you could have put my eye out. "

  "I wasaiming for your eye, you stupid asshole!"

  "Now, Moira, you know you shouldn't use such vague terms," he teased. "You gotta speak hi black and white, honey, really let people know what's on your mind. "

  She wasn't having it; the scowl didn't crack. She marched the rest of the way up to him— looking cute as hell in khaki shorts and a lavender T-shirt—and kicked him smartly in the shin. It hurt, too; Moira had toenails like a sloth. "How could you risk your life like that? We nearly had a fight for dominance in the main hall _- front of all your friends. In front of Lara! You're lucky Michael didn't tear your head off. You're lucky Jeannie didn't shoot you!"

  He didn't want to, but couldn't help it: He felt his lips draw back from his teeth. "I could have taken him. "

  Moira threw up her hands. "What iswrong with you? You've been like a hungry bear all summer. This is a good time for us, Derik— Michael's brought peace, Gerald's gone, we caught the monster who'd been killing those poor girls . . . there's never been a better time to be a werewolf. So why are you trying so hard to screw things up?"

  He looked at her, this fine woman, as dear to him as Michael was. Oh, yeah? a treacherous inner voice whispered. Dear to you, hub? You've got a funny way of showing it, jerkoff.

  He didn't have an answer for her. "I don't know what's wrong," he said dully. "I just want to fight, all the time. Everything that comes out of Michael's mouth is pissing me off. I love him, but I could choke him right now just to watch his eyeballs bulge. "

  Moira's own eyeballs bulged a bit at that, but she recovered quickly. Her eyes—so fine a blue they were nearly lavender—went narrow and thoughtful. She began to pace, looking not unlike a petite blonde general.

  "Okay, well, let's figure this out. " He smiled in spite of himself. Moira the math genius. Every problem could be broken down to an equation and, thus, solved. Well, hell, she'd figured out where Bin Laden was hiding, hadn't she? Luckily for the world, one of the cabinet members was a werewolf. Moira had sent an E-mail, and forty-eight hours later, hello, spider hole. "Are you in love with Jeannie?"


  "Okay, calm down. It's an explanation, you know . . . if you wanted another man's mate. "

  "Well, I don't. I mean, Ilike her and all, but Ac's Michael's. Just like he's hers. You can't really picture either of them with anyone else, can you?"

  Moira stopped pacing and smiled at him. "No, you're right about that. All right, then," she continued matter-of-factly, "are you in love with me?"

  "Ewww, no!"

  Unfortunately, she kept going. "Are you upset because I've taken a mate and am having sex with him pretty much every chance I—"

  "Aagghh, Moira, please, my eardrums are gonna implode!"

  She arched her brows. " 'Eww'?"

  "Honey, you're too cute to be believed, but I have never—never,yuck!—thought of you that way. Never. Ugh! Did I say never?"

  "All right, you don't have to induce vomiting to get your point across. "

  "If it'll get your mind off that track . . . " he warned, fully prepared to shove a finger down his throat.

  "Well, it's another theory, that's all. "

  "A bad, terrible, awful, yucky theory. Baby, we grew up together. You're like the sister I never wanted. " He flopped down onto the sand to watch her pace. "Don't take this the wrong way or anything, but if you put your tongue in my mouth, I'd probably barf. "

  "Mutual, wise guy. Actually, I was sure you were picking a fight because you've got the urge to settle down with a mate, and you're surrounded by mated couples, and . . . well, I know how you feel, is all. " She paused, looking pensive. "I was so lonesome before Jared came. "

  "Moira mated with a monkey, Moira mated with a monkey," Derik sang.

  "Shut up, don't call him that! God, I really hate that term. "

  "I dare you to use it in front of Jeannie," he teased.

  "Do I look like I want to spend the rest of the day in an iron lung? Never mind the humans in our lives . . . my point is, I couldn't stand to be around Michael or Jeannie, because seeing their happiness made me feel worse. I figured that was your problem, too. "

  "Well, it's not. Don't get me wrong, cutie, I'd love to find the right girl and knock her up—"

  "And cherish and love her," Moira added dryly.

  "—but I've got time. Hell, I'm not even thirty vet "

  "Well, we could see if Michael—"

  "Leave him out of this. "

  She chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then adopted an overly innocent expression that put him instantly on guard. The last time she'd looked like that, she had encouraged Lara to cut up his cashmere sweater to make soft puppets. "We should talk to Michael, you know. He's our leader. He'll tell us what to do. "

  He ground his teeth in irritation. "Moira, whatever the problem is,I will figure it out. I don't need Michael shoving his snout in where it's not wanted. "

  "But he'll fix everything. He'll tell you how to solve your problem, and you'll listen to him, and you'll be better. "

  "I said I can handle thisby myself!"

  "You don't want his help?"

  He bounced to his feet so swiftly, to a human it would have looked like he teleported. "Jesus, do I have to write it on my forehead? Whatever it is, it's my problem, not his, so he should justleave me be!"

  "Ah," she said quietly. "So that's it. Also, back up before I bite off your chin. "

  He did, realizing he and Moira were nose-to-nose. As nose-to-nose as they could be, anyway—he was a foot taller. "Sorry. I should probably take a walk, sweetie, I'm not good company right now. "

  "I wonder when it happened?"

  "Whenwhat happened?" he practically snarled.

  "When you became alpha. "

  "Don't be ridiculous," he said automatically, but inwardly he could feel himself nodding.

  "Oh," she said, watching him, "and you knew, of course. Sure. You knew, but you ignored it, because you don't want to hurt anyone, and you don't want to leave us. Why would you? You've lived here all your life—we all have. This is home. "

  He stared at her. Moira, so pretty and cute and helpless-looking . . . Moira, the most intuitive person he'd ever met. "Sometimes you're scary, you know?"

  She smirked. "Of course. " Her smile dropped away. "I'm only annoyed I didn't figure it out sooner. But Derik . . . as you know perfectly well, one Pack cannot support two alphas. It just can't. That's why there are fights for dominance. That's why you have to leave. Now. Today. "

  "But Moira, I—"

  "Now. Today. Before this gets worse and you do something we'll all regret, forever. " She softened her brisk tone and gently touched his brow. "Because if you or Michael died . . . none of us could bear it. "

  She didn't add what they both knew. If Michael killed Derik, she would leave. And if Derik killed Michael, she would kill him—try, anyway—and leave. Would the Pack hold? Sure. It had been around for centuries and had been through much worse than the squabbles of alpha males. Would the Pack be a place of love and light any longer?

  No. />
  He didn't dare say a word. She was speaking exact truths, her specialty, and though he could hardly stand to hear the words, he'd ignored the problem long enough. But if he spoke, he'd probably burst into tears like a kid and embarrass them both. He hadn't cried since his mother died, but these thoughts had been heavy on his heart for the last few months.

  "Derik, the wolf in you wants the Pack. But the man in you would never forgive himself if he took it. "

  Still he said nothing, but she stepped closer, and he rested his forehead on her shoulder. They stood that way, motionless on the beach, for a long time.



  "I'm really sorry—"


  "—but the transmission's completely shot—"


  "—and we'll have to keep the car for at least a week—"


  "—while we work on it—"


  "—it'll cost a little more than the estimate I gave you . . . Christ, lady, take a breath, will ya?"

  Sara Gunn sagged against something large and greasy—not the mechanic—and concentrated on not passing out. New transmission! Eighty zillion dollars to fix, and meanwhile no car for at least a week! Now the mechanic would gouge out her eyes and make her catch up on her laundry, and the day would be complete.

  "We coulda caught it earlier if you had more than two oil changes a year," the mechanic ("Dave" was emblazoned on his shirt pocket) said with mild reproach. "Ask me how to save on your next tire rotation!" was on his T-shirt in migraine-inducing yellow. Sara disliked lectures from men who wore instructions on their clothing.