“I HAVE to talk to you about something,” Herman Weiss stated in his usual steely tone. “Something that should but can’t be reported to the Council. Nobody can find out.”
I sighed. “I’m the Bureau’s counselor. Whatever it is that should be reported by the Council’s standards will be. I’m not going to—”
“Doesn’t patient-therapist confidentiality apply?”
“Of course. Unless whatever it is you’re telling me constitutes a risk to yourself or others, in which case, by the Council’s directives, it will be reported. I’m guessing it would fall under those directives, considering you think it does.”
“You owe me,” he snapped.
“I saved your life.”
I worked my jaw, then nodded. “You did.”
“You do this and we’re even.”
“The Council won’t tolerate—”
He snorted. “The Council isn’t your fucking concern.”
I lifted one eyebrow. “Pretty sure it is.”
He leaned forward in the chair he dwarfed and narrowed those striking icy blue eyes at me. “Your real concern is pissing off an unstable werewolf alpha sitting a few feet away.”
Well, shit. Now it was too late to deny any knowledge or involvement. Then a particular word from his little tirade registered. I blinked a few times and my stomach clenched tight. “Unstable? What are you saying?”
Weiss ran a hand through the graying hair that had been neatly combed back just moments before. “Went to see Amanda yesterday. She pushed my buttons, and… it resulted in me breaking the glass divider and flinging five agents through the room when they tried to hold me back.”
I scratched my chin. “The extra-strong, super-reinforced glass divider?”
“Yes. They ended up shooting a tranquilizer dart in my ass to stop me. I would’ve killed her, Sands. Bathed in her blood, painted the walls with it….” He cleared his throat and looked away.
I counted to ten in my head and ran a hand over my face. “Why didn’t I hear about this? Incident this big should’ve been reported by all involved, including the Medical Care Unit.”
He smiled. “Hence my request to talk to you about something that should but can’t be reported.”
I exhaled, counting to ten. “You had the five agents, the MCU personnel, and any possible witnesses to your temper tantrum not report the incident?”
He grinned, glowing with pride. “I run a tight ship.”
I squinted. “That’s one way of putting it. Another would be everyone covering your ass is defying the Council,” I hissed.
He held a hand up. “Don’t go there. They’re protective of their alpha, that’s all.”
“That’s a bit backwards, isn’t it? Aren’t you supposed to protect them?” I muttered.
He growled. “Don’t piss me off, Sands. Won’t end well with my track record lately.”
“Holy dangling lobes,” I whispered. “It happened more than once?”
“I’ve been having… shitstorm temper tantrums in the last couple of weeks.”
Dear gods and wings, no. “Temper tantrums?” I almost squeaked. “You should’ve reported that the moment it happened! Alphas don’t do temper tantrums out of the blue. That’s why you’re seeing me now.”
“You know what happens to crazed alphas,” he said grimly.
I shivered. “It was just a glass divider, Weiss. I’m sure the Council won’t put you down, considering the circumstances….”
But I stopped myself there. Maybe they’d put him down especially because of the circumstances. After all, his mate, Amanda—who was going to be executed this week—had started up an antileader movement and killed one werewolf alpha and two vampire sires. Maybe getting rid of Weiss would help the Council place the blame on someone other than them—dead werewolves couldn’t really defend their name, could they? Of course, the Weiss family had been providing alphas to the only Council-sanctioned werewolf pack for two generations, so the Council wouldn’t go against them simply out of politics. Not when the Weiss of the day played ball with them. Not when the next Weiss in line was barely seven years old. But an alpha whose mate had been held in custody for a couple of weeks having “temper tantrums” now—anyone with half a mind would think it was rages. If they could claim just cause, and rages were that, then things might be different. I’d have to confirm if it was terminal stage or incipient. Incipient was easy to solve; terminal meant execution. If there was any chance of him not getting executed and me not getting blamed for either not knowing or knowing but not reporting, it had to be incipient.
I crossed my legs and arranged my tie, hoping to exorcize some of the restlessness from my system. “Tell me about the… tantrums.”
He looked down for a moment, then back up to me. “Happened five or six times since Amanda was taken in. They start out of the blue, and before I know it, I’m in red and itching to taste everyone’s blood, break their necks, crack their spines, and—”
I cleared my throat. “I get the picture. Have you tried… diffusing the cause?”
He frowned. “Doing what?”
I squirmed in my chair. “I mean, you know… a conjugal visit. It’s why rages happen in mated couples, especially when one of the mates is a leader. They’re a side effect of, you know… being without your mate for a while.”
Heat crept up my face as I pictured Weiss “diffusing the cause.” I swallowed thickly, hoping against hope my years-long teenagerish crush wouldn’t show. Not now, of all times. Sweet flapping wings, not now, I thought desperately.
Weiss leaned forward and set his hands on his knees, shaking his head. I thought he was about to say something, but then he shook his head again, growled a little, seemed to want to speak—but didn’t.
I frowned. “Weiss?”
“Fucking shit!” he snapped.
I froze for a moment. Was he going into a rage now? In a rush, I started to read his emotional grid. If he was going into a rage, I had seconds at best to drain the rage out of him. My skills were rusty, but I could do it if I had to. It went against my principles, though, which was why I’d become a therapist instead. Draining whatever emotional state someone went through was a momentary solution; it did nothing to help the underlying cause. But still, I’d choose being alive over being shredded to pieces by a raving mad werewolf of any kind—let alone Weiss, a mountain wolf, meaning one of the strongest and largest, and an alpha to boot.
As I read his emotional grid, though, the mystery only got thicker. “You’re not going into a rage. You’re embarrassed. Why would you be embarrassed?” I asked, stupefied.
Weiss was a lot of things, but shy was definitely not one of them. I couldn’t actually remember seeing him embarrassed since I’d started working as counselor for the Bureau of Paranormal Investigation, where he was director. I’d been here for about five years.
He rubbed a hand over his face, then finally looked up. “You’re not supposed to pull any of that fairy shit,” he grumbled.
I cleared my throat. “Fey.”
He grinned. “I kind of like ‘fairy,’ though.”
I squinted. “I kind of think I’ll report you to the Council if you use it again.”
“You’re just pissed you can’t go tattle on me,” he grumbled.
“You’re just pissed you go on all fours when you shift, Mister Wolfman,” I snapped.
He snorted. “As opposed to staying bipedal, like the lycans? Sorry to disappoint, Sands. I’m very fucking proud of being a werewolf. I’m not saying lycans aren’t good, mind you. Travis and Rick are damn good guys, and they’ve proven that in my time of need. I don’t have an issue with my form when I shift, Sands. Need I remind you that it’s fey who have issues with us animal-like folks, werewolves and lycans alike?”
“It’s not being animal-like that they have issues with. What Kingdom fey have a problem with is whatever they can’t control directly. Believe me, I know.”
He nodded. “Yeah, you do.”
I took a good look at him, noticing how he tapped his foot against the floor. Though it was subtle, the message was clear. He was on edge even now. But it didn’t make sense.
“You’re asking me for a favor. Why push my buttons?”
“Can’t help it,” he growled.
I flinched. “Excuse me?”
“Edelweiss,” he snarled.
Was his brain so flooded by hormones that he was losing his mind entirely? “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You reek of the shit,” he growled.
I was still lost. “And?”
“I’ll ask you just this once. Do you mean to convey the message that it conveys?”
I widened my eyes. “I take health supplements with edelweiss. If the message is there are things that could be improved in my system, then yes, I mean to convey that message, I guess.”
He snorted. “Bullshit. It means something else when a Weiss is sniffing it,” he snapped.
Crap. Why did that never cross my mind? Of course edelweiss would somehow mean something to a Weiss. I hadn’t thought of checking the records for these kinds of links when I’d started taking my health supplements. Obviously, I should have. Though in my defense, I hadn’t expected to come anywhere near Weiss, since he and all of his agents generally avoided me like a pest. My pulse spiked. I really hoped the scent didn’t mean some sort of challenge, or I’d find myself on the receiving end of a prime beating in a matter of seconds.
“What does it mean?” I asked as calmly as I could.
If he were going to attack me here, his secret would get out. He wouldn’t do it, no matter what the damn edelweiss meant. That was if he were still sane, which was yet to be determined. Actually, him ever being sane was yet to be determined. And I was positively flipping out of my mind for having a crush on the wacko. I cleared my mind, redirected my focus on him.
He looked up, searched my eyes. “Really don’t know?”
I kept eye contact, though it wasn’t advisable with an unstable alpha. “I really don’t.”
“Really?” he rumbled deep in his chest.
Shit. I was starting to get a hard-on. Definitely not the proper response in this situation. I needed a distraction, quickly. “You were going to tell me about diffusing the cause of the maybe-rages.”
He growled deep in his chest, the sound crawling up my bones and resonating in my head. “Lack of conjugal visits isn’t a factor.”
“So you’ve been having them?”
“No,” he snapped.
I frowned. “You lost me. Mated werewolves get incipient rages when they haven’t… been with their mates for too long. If you have been, then you shouldn’t be having rages—so it’s some other cause, which isn’t good news, but at least we’ll know it won’t get you executed. If you haven’t been with your mate, then the rages are happening because of that. But they’re incipient, easy to get rid of, so you have a conjugal visit, and the problem is solved.”
“If not fucking Amanda would’ve given me rages, I would’ve been having them for years by now. All right?” he said, looking away.
What? “You mean you and your mate haven’t… for years?” I asked, flabbergasted.
“Yes,” he growled, squinting at me.
Shit, now I was feeling almost as awkward as he looked. “That’s… interesting,” I muttered.
“Me not fucking my mate is interesting?”
“No, I mean the fact you didn’t get rages because of it. So it’s not related to that now either, we might assume.”
I scratched my chin. “Uh-huh. Then where are these bouts of rage coming from?”
“Fuck me if I know,” he grumbled.
I kind of wished I could, though it was totally outside the realm of possibility. Crush on him or not, I had no reason to think Weiss was anywhere near a possibility. For all I knew, he was straight, in fact—also impotent or severely blue-balled, and possibly insane. I still wished I could run the tip of my tongue all over his chest and nibble his collarbone, to begin with. I shook my head to clear those thoughts away. “Everything we discuss is in confidence, and it’s important that you’re sincere with me on this. Rages aren’t something to play with,” I said as kindly as I could.
He growled viciously. “I fucking know! Almost decapitated a guy on the street the other day. Don’t lecture me, fey prince. I’m not a patient guy on the best of days. This isn’t the time to goddamn test my patience.”
I gulped, trying to ignore the prince jibe. “What I’m trying to get at is… you haven’t been with Amanda because you didn’t feel the physical need? Or have you been using… a replacement of sorts?”
He lifted an eyebrow. “You asking me if I fuck around or wank?”
My face heated up like crazy, enough to be sure I was blushing. “I’m asking if you’ve been repressing needs, or if you simply didn’t have them. It’s important. Hormones are the basis—”
“Amanda and I aren’t up for discussion. I haven’t been repressing shit, but I do get hard if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not limp-dicked.”
Of course I pictured him hard the next second, because my mind worked in visuals like that. Sweat bubbled up on my temples. He already looked like he wanted to cap me, those icy light blue eyes fixing me with murderous intent. My whole body was tense, muscles full of energy and ready to make a run for it. It was irrational of course, a fight-or-flight response brought on by the intense vibe of doom he was emanating. But if I ran, that would be the end of me. To werewolves, someone trying to run away was like catnip. It only made it that much more fun to catch and kill you, got them all the more excited. I needed to steer this discussion away from my impending doom and more toward safer, less scary topics.
I cleared my throat. “Right. Would you be willing to have Dr. Black do your blood workup?”
He glared for a few moments, then sighed. “As long as my name won’t be tied to the blood, yeah.”
I nodded. “Don’t worry, he’s kind of a friend. I think I can ask for a favor.”
“He found a replacement for that lab guy already?”
“Show must go on, right? Not like he’s going to close up his practice because his lab technician strayed off the path.”
“By straying off the path, you mean trafficking marking hormones and fucking with hierarchy,” he hissed.
“Yeah. Dr. Black had nothing to do with that.”
“I hope this time he picked a lab tech who won’t try to start the fucking apocalypse,” he commented spitefully.
I wasn’t sure what the hell to say. Everything set him off, obviously. Any Amanda-related topic seemed to earn me extra murder points.
He looked up, those gorgeous eyes focused on me like lasers. “Until we sort this out, Sands, you’re my new partner.”
No freaking way. “What?”