Chapter 8 – Mumbo Jumbo

Rex stood on the front porch, looking out over the dry and hot Texas Hill Country. It never ceased to amaze him how much life this semi-arid region could support. Its thin layer of topsoil meant that it had evolved plant life all its own to survive the mostly dry and sometimes flooding terrain.

He smiled as he looked across the yard at the Texas live oak that he had once climbed as a boy. How old was the damned thing? He knew that as a boy, Grandfather had climbed it, too. And after today, he was beginning to hope that his little girl would someday soon climb it as well.

His little girl? How could he think of her like that after such a short time? Only a few weeks seemed too quick. The truth was that it had happened the moment he laid eyes upon her. Oh, he had listened to his friends talk about the moment they had first seen their children. The instant bond, the unconditional love.

But that was a biological thing, after months of pregnancy and anticipation. He had needed neither, just the sight of her, those big brown eyes, and that hair flying as wildly about her head as he hoped she would one day soar about the ranch.

He shook his head as he thought about the hours of arguing that he, Angel, and Grandfather had with Jaycee. The woman was stubborn. That word did not come close to covering it. No doubt, if she had been a skinwalker, her skin would have been a mule.

“What is so funny, my son?” That voice of wisdom spoke from over his shoulder.

“Nʉ Sʉmʉ,” was all he needed to say to his Grandfather. He knew the man would understand instantly.

His Grandfather echoed his chuckle, “I will not say that I envy you, my grandson. That one is…”

Rex laughed as he turned and accepted the steaming hot cup of coffee that the old man held in his weathered and gnarled fingers. He flashed back to that Sunday morning before he met her. It seemed a lifetime ago. His Grandfather had been right, of course. He need not have been worried. Fate and the Great Ones had it all under control. He hoped they did now as well.

“What am I going to do, Grandfather?”

“What you are meant to do…love and protect them,” his Grandfather’s wise advice seemed so easy. It was anything but. If Jaycee had insisted once, she had done so dozens of times since that afternoon. Angel could not accept such a precious gift from them. He and Grandfather had both tried to explain, but how could they? Tell this woman of logic that the skin belonged to the child, or maybe the child belonged to it.

He was reminded of another mother, his own. She never did come to understand. To this day, his mother dismissed all her father’s ways. She clung to the ‘one truth’ of her mother’s family. Even more, she held to the science and experiments she conducted in her labs every day. She could never accept that it was the spirit world which she denied and not the medicine that she forced on him for years that had finally brought him the peace he sought.

Not that he had much peace since Jaycee came into his life. If he could never convince his mother, what made him think he could convince his mate? Even now, she resisted. Refused to see that they belonged together. Resented the way that he knew her thoughts. Denied the very existence of the bond that provided his only hope for real peace from the beast within. The creature that threatened to consume him as it had that other man. The Chupacabra.

There was no other choice. Rex had to succeed this time. They had to, looking to his Grandfather. It was not just his life that rode on this outcome. But his child’s did as well.

He remembered that first day, the violence that had threatened to pull her tiny body limb from limb. He had to make Jaycee see what she refused to admit. Her daughter had had only one of the seizures since they came here, one of the small ones that first day. He hoped that would count for something when the time came.

He feared it was coming soon. Too soon. He needed more time. He wanted to ease her into things, help her to come to accept the truth that she could not see.

His Grandfather put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed softly. “Like I told the child, there is time. Not much time granted. Perhaps even shorter for you, my son. But as with Angel, it will be enough.”

Rex’s shoulders sloped as the reality of the battle ahead loomed larger than even the comfort of his Grandfather’s words. He hoped there was enough time. He had to believe he could reach this woman as he never had his mother.

He hoped he was man enough to be what she needed. To protect and love the woman and child that he had been given. He hoped Grandfather was right one more time.


Jaycee watched them through the screen door. It was hard to believe that the two men were related at all. The older one with skin almost darker than her daughter’s and long straight hair that even through the white, you could catch a glimpse of the midnight black it must have once been.

She smiled as she thought about the picture that she had seen of the man. He had been an actor in Hollywood. The wedding photo of the handsome young brave with the platinum blond starlet had been another shocker. The other face was instantly recognizable. She would have never guessed.

That photo and the one of the little girl with light caramel skin and straight light brown hair began to explain how Rex had come to be so fair. She had found no photographs of the woman and her son. None of Rex’s father. But undoubtedly, he was as fair as his grandmother had been.

Rex might not look like his Grandfather with his sandy blond short hair that curled just a bit at the tip. If you looked closely, there was grey blended in. Of course, his Native American heritage could account for some of the healthy copper tan.

Jaycee’s breathe caught in her chest as she thought about seeing him without a shirt that first day as they had unloaded the horses in the late Spring heat of the Texas Hill Country. The tan extended to the waistband of his jeans that clung like a second skin to firm thighs and a tight ass. But it was the smooth muscled expanse of his chest that had cradled her head the night before that had tormented her dreams every night since. She sucked in a deep breath just at the thought of it.

“Damn it, woman,” came the pained explanation as the center of her thoughts turned to face her. She had forgotten that as weird as it was, he seemed able to read her mind. Or she would like to forget it anyway. Better yet, she would rather he did not.

“I’m sorry to disturb you,” she dropped her eyes to the wooden floor. She hoped they could not see the way her cheeks flamed red in the pale moonlight. “It is just that Angel wants Grandfather to read her a bedtime story.”

Not me, she choked back tears. She knew that she should be grateful. Happy that her daughter, and she, had more good people like Hector and Lupe in their lives.

It seemed that there were so few of them in this world as she thought about all the people she had once considered her friends. Back when she was married to Sean, back before Angel got sick. It seemed another lifetime ago.

So, why was she jealous? Why did she resent these men so much? She had been grateful for the help that Hector and Lupe offered. Even though she had always insisted that they let her pay them something for their trouble, she knew that they did not do it for the money but out of the goodness of their hearts. Just like Rex and his Grandfather. So why the difference?

Because she had never really had to share her daughter with them. Hell, she had never had to share her with anyone, not even her ex-husband, Angel’s father. And that frightened her. What would she do if Angel came to need them more than her? She had given up her life, most of it anyway, to care for her daughter. What would she have then? What would she do?

Maybe it went deeper even than that. Angel was the only thing that was ever truly hers. The only person that she knew would love her. As unconditionally as she loved her child. She choked back a silent sob as they opened the door.

The older man went through first. “Please join us. I would like you to hear this story too, my child.”

Jaycee frowned as the man walked past her down the hall to the room that she shared with her daughter while they were here. She was not sure she was ready for anymore of the man’s lessons today.

She had finally acceded to her child’s demands to keep the old dress when she recognized that the child was spiraling out of control, fast approaching one of her meltdowns.

She had not had one since they came here. She had not had a seizure either. Not even in her sleep. After five years of vigilance, it was strange lying in bed next to a peacefully still child. She frowned as she tried to think of even one time since that first seizure when Angel was a baby that she had gone this long without a single one. She could not.

There had to be some explanation. Maybe as a couple of the doctors had suggested, Angel was outgrowing them? But most of the experts they had consulted had not been so hopeful. Not as severe and frequent as her seizures were, not as young as they started. What then?

She sighed and shook her head. She would have the whole night to think about it. It was better than more wet dreams about his bare chest and tight ass. Or worse yet, about the hard ridge that she had felt in his jeans during their brief stolen moments on her ranch. Before all this…

She felt the hand on the small of her back like a red-hot poker. Her nipples hardened painfully. She felt the moisture as it ran into her panties. Damn, why did this man have this effect on her body every time?

He captured her hand in his and brought it to his soft lips. He kissed the palm as he stared into her eyes. He slowly lowered her hand then, but instead of releasing it. He brought it to the front of his jeans, “Because it is mutual, Nʉ Sʉmʉ. My body craves yours as much as yours desires mine.”

“But we were summoned by Grandfather, and we should not keep them waiting.”

Jaycee nodded mutely, glad for any excuse to escape the heat and need she felt building for this man.

This was the first time he had touched her since they had come here. She had even begun to think that he was having second thoughts. That after seeing what her life was truly like day in and day out, he had decided that he was not that interested in her after all. She would not have blamed him.

“Never. That little girl is not a burden. And even if she were, she would be mine to bear right alongside you, Nʉ Sʉmʉ.”

He bent and brushed a kiss atop her head, “I just knew you were mad at me. I wanted to give you time. But never think for a single second that I do not want you. Need you. I do. And I always will.”

Jaycee did not want to admit it, but his words came as a relief. She was glad to know that he still wanted her. She was half tempted to put her hand right back on the front of those jeans just to prove to herself how much.

“Damn it, woman, your timing sucks.” He growled, and for all the world, it sounded like a wolf. Like the old pelt, his Grandfather had shown her daughter that afternoon come to life. His hand at the small of her back urged her forward, “Later.”

Was it a promise or a threat? Not that she cared one way or the other. Her body anyway. It was starved for his touch, his kisses, his caresses.

Rex pushed her through the door where the soft glow of the lamp seemed to embrace them all, young and old.

His Grandfather looked up as they came in. Was that smile just a bit too knowing?


“I am glad you could join us, my children. I was just about to begin without you. Tonight I promised our Angel that I would tell her a very important story, another lesson. About skinwalkers…”

Raymond Greywolf saw the frown on Jaycee’s face. He knew that all of this was hard for his grandson’s mate. He understood better than he wanted to remember. He recalled just how difficult it had been for his Jane. He had not dared to tell her the truth of his ancient heritage and gifts. She had discovered them for herself, coming into the old barn one night to announce dinner just he took off his wolf. Even then, even having seen for herself, she struggled to believe.

He knew that their daughter did not believe the legends and never would. Perhaps he could have or should have shared the truth with Raine when she was younger, but they had had so much more to cope with. Her mother’s death had left them both devastated. While he was admired among his kind for fighting back the darkness that always descends with the loss of a mate, he had done it for their child because he knew that it was what his Jane would want. Still, he wondered all too often if he had not failed there also, just as he had been unable to keep his mate safe.

But that was all the past. This was the present. And the future. Not merely his future. Or even Rex’s. But the miraculous little girl whom he had come to know and love as perhaps he never had any other. And ultimately, he believed, as the legend foretold, this was the very future of this planet. A new breed of skinwalkers sent just as humanity and the Mother Earth needed them most.

The question was – could this woman embrace and support the gifts of those closest to her? Raine certainly had not done so for her son or father. Even his Jane had never fully dealt with his other. While she acknowledged its existence, the compromise was that she never again saw his wolf. Maybe that would have changed over time. He always liked to think it would. But he would never know, less than two years later, and his Nʉ Sʉmʉ was gone, dead.

This was his second chance. Something that most people never got, and even fewer had the courage to take. But he would. For his grandson’s sake. And this precious little gift. And even for her, Jaycee, herself. She had a role to play in this too. If she would…

“There are many stories about how the world was created, my little Angel. I am sure that you have heard of the god who made her in six days. And perhaps of this Big Bang and evolution as well.”

The little girl nodded her head to each. Those intelligent and compassionate brown eyes bore into his soul as Angel hung on each word he spoke. “My peoples have two varieties of the creation story. Both believe in the Great Spirit. Some call her mother. But unlike the Judo-Christian god or many other myths, the creator spirit is distant. Once creation was complete, the spirit left this world to others. The sun, the moon, the wind, and other ‘lesser’ gods.”

“How did She make the earth, Grandfather?” Angel gripped the blanket tightly about her. Perhaps this was not the best bedtime story. It seemed to ignite that magnificent mind of hers.

“Ah, here is where the stories differ. In some peoples, the earth and life arise from the ancient seas. Creatures collect bits of mud to form the land. Then others crawl up on to it to live. The historians, sociologists, and anthropologists that attempt to piece together the fragments of our stories and beliefs, which their white ancestors did not manage to destroy, call this the earth-diver myth. Is it not strange that hundreds and thousands of years ago our peoples held this belief that scientists call evolution?”

Angel nodded her head, but Ray was more interested in the reaction of her mother. Jaycee leaned against the wall by the door. She stood stiffly, barely inside it. If not for his grandson’s presence filling that doorway, he feared the woman would have left already. He realized that it would not get any easier from here.

“But it is the second belief, the emergence myth, as the white ‘experts’ call it, that I want to tell you about tonight. In these stories, and there are many, many of them, among peoples as diverse as the Choctaw, the Blackfoot, and the Hopi, humans came from deep, deep, deep within the Earth.”

Her little brows furrowed as she tried to comprehend how that was possible. “The Earth was made of many layers, deep caverns. Humans would climb from one deep cave up into the next. They would live there happily for a time, and then something would force them to move on, a flood or lack of food. Some god or hero would come along to lead them up out of that place to a higher one.”

He looked once more towards the woman. So far, everything he had said was verifiable. Carefully couched as legends or myth recorded by the white man. Still, he noted the increasing tension in her face and stance. Rex had stepped closer into the room. His arm lightly rested about his mate’s waist.

“When humans lived in those deeper caves, they were more animal than man, but with each cave, they climbed higher towards the surface, they lost some of their animal characteristics. Until when they finally reached this world, the surface, they walked upright and were fully human.”

“Isn’t that like evolution, too, Grandfather?”

Her mind never ceased to amaze him. This child was gifted in so many ways. Destined to be a great leader of their people, of all people. If they could help her learn to focus, to control those gifts, so that they did not tear her frail body apart. Over the past couple of weeks, he had come to hope that was possible.

But he knew that the situation was precarious. Without the full understanding and support of her mother, well, his grandson’s self-doubts illustrated where that path led. And this child’s course was so much more vital and dangerous than his or Rex’s had been. No, they, he and Rex, must somehow bring Jaycee around, help her to embrace the reality of their truth.

He inhaled deeply and nodded, “Yes, Angel, it is. Except that our peoples believe that animal lives inside of us still.”

Angel frowned again as if trying to grapple with some hard truth. He paused the story, giving the child time to do so.

He was much more worried about her mother. Jaycee was shifting nervously from foot to foot. Her shoulders were squared. She had even pulled away from Rex’s gentle embrace. The frown on her face marred the woman’s natural beauty. Ray knew that she wanted to argue with him, was tempted to remind them this was just a legend, nothing more. But the others in the room knew otherwise.

He resumed the tale, more slowly this time. “For some of our peoples, this animal is a spirit guide. Young men go on vision quests before they become men, warriors. They go alone into the desert or wild. They pray and meditate, seeking their spirit guides. Their animal side. In some traditions, especially the Pacific Northwest, this is called their totem and is immortalized in cravings.”

“You’re a wolf, aren’t you, Grandfather?”

He nodded and smiled, “Whatever made you guess that?”

“I can see it. I see your wolf standing behind you.”

It was Ray who was shocked. This was unheard of. “And Rex? What is he?”

“He’s a pony. Much prettier than mine. So many colors, but his mane and tail are pure white.” The little girl turned towards his grandson and her mother, “Mommy is a bear.” Angel frowned, “But she’s different. Her bear does not stand as close. And she’s turned away. Like she doesn’t like Mommy. Why is that?”

Ray knew that he had to take back control of this conversation. As much as he wanted to follow the trail of this brilliance, now was not the time. This night, this story had always been more about his grandson’s mate than her daughter. And he felt the confusion and anger growing in Jaycee. He had only moments to smooth the way for Rex, if that. He and Angel would have days, weeks, months, and years to explore her talents. Or he hoped they would.

But not if they could not win this mother bear over. It made perfect sense, though he might have guessed the turtle with its self-reliance, tenacity, and slow progress. No, a mother bear with her strength, courage, and leadership fit this woman much better. But bears were known for their solitary natures as well. And it was up to him and Rex to draw her bear into their protective circle. At that moment, the task seemed impossible.


Rex smiled, a bear, his mate was a bear and not a mule. That was good. He should have seen it sooner, but then again, he did not have the gifts that his grandfather or daughter had. Right now, though, he was more than a bit worried about Jaycee’s claws.

Angry did not come close to describing his mate’s disjointed thoughts. The one that worried him most was betrayed. She felt that he and Grandfather had betrayed her trust, were leading Angel down a path that was more fiction and fantasy than reality.

He would have to deal with that. Now. This night. He was confident that was what his grandfather had intended. To force his hand, to make him reveal himself to her. Perhaps he should be angry at the old man, but he knew that his grandfather had his best interest and his daughter’s at heart.

He knew the man had felt the growing tension inside of him, the need to claim his mate had warred with his desire to give Jaycee time to adjust to all the changes in their lives. He had wanted her to know him and perhaps to even begin to love him, just a tiny bit, before they faced this crucible. Or maybe he had just been delaying the inevitable? Perhaps he feared that her logical mind would reject him and his gifts as his mother always had?

He did not have that luxury anymore. He knew that he must face her with the truth, not only about himself but about her child as well. He hoped that her diary, where she meticulously scribbled each of Angel’s seizures and behaviors, would be enough evidence to supplement what he had to show her, his other-self. That the undeniable progress of their child combined with the irrefutable evidence of her senses would be enough to overcome a lifetime of indoctrination into the Western Judo-Christian paradigm. That seemed a lot to hope for right now.

“Mama Bears can be a bit grizzly at times when they are protecting their cubs, little doe,” his grandfather teased as he brushed a lock of Angel’s soft curls from her forehead. “But don’t you want to hear the rest of my story? Or are you perhaps too tired? Another night?”

His daughter shook her head, that curl falling right back across her forehead as it liked to do. “No, Grandfather. Tell me, tell me the rest of the story, tell me about skinwalkers.”

“Oh, I sense a bit of the otter in you, too, my child. Inquisitive, bright, playful, trusting, and loyal. A Feminine Power to be dealt with. Though it is not common, some skinwalkers have more than one side.”

His daughter frowned as his grandfather continued the tale that he remembered all too well. It was the same, yet different, from the one that he had recited to Rex and his ‘cousins.’

Though Jack Greywolf was his second cousin, or was that first cousin once removed? He had never understood any of that. Jack was the grandson of his father’s only brother, but it was simpler just to say cousins. Of course, Ryan was his cousin. The only son of his father’s sister.

They had been an odd combination. Jack, with his long, straight black hair, dark eyes, and light brown skin just a shade or two lighter than Grandfather’s or Angel’s, was the prototype of their Native American heritage. Ryan, with his blond hair and blue eyes, was the complete opposite. Though he held a deep respect for Grandfather’s Native American lore, it was not something he carried in his blood. ‘A child of my heart’ was what the old man had called the troubled young man from that first summer when he had joined Rex at the ranch.

He was somewhere in the middle, a mix of both races, though at first glance, he favored more the Germanic heritage of the Rangers and their berserkr roots. He and his grandfather were both fascinated by the fact that animism had deep roots in the Viking culture of the ‘white man’ half a world away.

But the word berserker literally meant bear warrior. It was not just bears, though. The Viking literature or what little was left of it after being sanitized by the Christians, as their own heritage had been, spoke of Úlfhéðnar, or wolf warriors, and Svinfylking, the boar.

Rex knew that his Grandfather’s library was filled with books from around the world that detailed the various animistic and shapeshifter lore from cultures other than their own. His logical mind had often sought solace in those volumes.

If they survived this night, perhaps he could share these alternative beliefs with his mate as well. Though, he of all people understood the depths of conflict in her mind, heart, and soul. Even as often as he had worn his other skin, transformed himself, some part of his mind rebelled against the truth that he knew but could not believe.


Jaycee had reached her limit. Had enough of hooky pie-in-sky myths and legends. She did not doubt that the older man and sadly, perhaps even Rex believed the bullshit. However, she would have hoped for more from a modern and seemingly enlightened man like him. It was something she would have to consider before committing to any…

What was she even thinking? This was just temporary. As soon as it was safe, she would take her child back home. Even if she did give into these wild lusts, that had been raging in her body since the moment she walked into that courtroom, that did not mean anything.

Jaycee had learned early. This world, this moment was all there was. More than one of her foster families had dragged her to church, shoved their god, and salvation down her throat. Even the Wilson’s had felt it their Christian duty to do so. It was the one thing that had come between her and the older couple. But by the time she came to live with them, Jaycee had become too jaded.

Some warped sense of Christian morality seemed to permeate the world of fostering. But it never lasted. Those people didn’t other families had never really loved her, didn’t give a damn about her. That little girl was just another good deed. Until she became too much of a burden, or until one of their ‘real’ children needed them more. Then they packed her bags and sloughed her off on the next family.

As for their god? Why would she want anything to do with someone or something that created an innocent child only to abandon her to the vagarities of strangers? How many times had she tried to be a good girl? Prayed to those people’s god for a ‘real’ home, a real family? Each time to be let down yet again.

Hell, even her marriage, which she and Sean had agreed was a partnership, a practical arrangement for the creation and bringing up of children, a contract of sorts, she had discovered the hard way that even that was an illusion. She had only one person she could count on: herself.

As much as the mother in her wanted to protect and nurture her daughter, she knew that ultimately her job was to instill in Angel that same sense of courage, strength, and determination. Because as much as she wanted to believe otherwise, even she could not always be there to protect her child. Ultimately, Angel had to learn to stand on her own two feet. That she was the only person, she could truly count on.

Yes, she might owe these people a debt of gratitude for being there when things had gotten difficult, just as she did Lupe and Hector. Yes, maybe they were good people. She knew in her heart that the old man and his grandson meant well. But how many times had well-meaning people let her down?

No, she could not allow this man’s crazy beliefs to pollute what she was trying to accomplish with her daughter. Especially with the challenges she faced, Angel needed to be firmly grounded in this world. In reality. Not some spiritual mumbo jumbo.

Jaycee forced a smile as she stepped away from the wall. “Mister Greywolf, Grandfather, perhaps that would be best. Perhaps we should finish this story another time.” However, she would make sure that time did not come.


Angel felt the panic and fear overcoming her. She reached for the old man’s hand, clutched it desperately. “Please, please, Mommy, no!”

She was powerless to stop the tears. Even holding Grandfather’s hand, she felt the power begin to grow, flooding and threatening to overpower her brain. The haze came from the sides, narrowing her field of vision.

But what always frightened her most was the anger and violence that she feared would one day burst forth. She worried that it might consume her. Swallow her whole. Eat everything that was Angel. Then she would become some monster, some demon. And who would be able to control it then?

It was the fight that had lived inside her for as long as she remembered. Good and evil. Light and dark. Right and wrong. She knew that it was the same for everyone. But it wasn’t. She was different. She had always known that. She ‘knew’ so much. But she had known so little.

Until these men came into their lives. The moment she had seen the Pony Man step out of his truck, she had felt safe. For the first time, she felt hopeful. That things might be alright for her, and Mommy.

And when he had brought Grandfather to her, she had known this man could help. He could lead her to the light. He could teach her how to control the gifts inside her. He was her guide, her helper.

She knew Mommy was scared. Mommy was always afraid. Someone had hurt her. And Mommy wanted to protect her. But couldn’t she see? Didn’t she know? How could she make Mommy understand they did not need to be scared anymore? They were safe. They were home.

But she was scared now. Frightened that Mommy would take it all away. She was Mommy, and she could do that.

Angel was too little, too new. She could not find her voice any more than she could find her way back here. She wanted to scream. To throw things. She was scared she would explode. She did not like exploding.

She felt her heart pounding. Her head was throbbing. She felt the tingle that always began at the base of her spine. She knew what happened next. But she was tired of it. Tired of the explosions, the violent jerks, being trapped inside a body that would not obey her.

She had thought that was gone. In the past. That Grandfather would help her past that all. But what if…what if Mommy…

“Angel, look at me,” she heard Grandfather’s voice beckoning her back. She tried to focus on it. To let it guide her home.

“Great spirit of us all, you have made my body strong. Please fill me with your wisdom, so I’ll know right from wrong.”

Grandfather’s words so closely mirrored her hopes and dreams. If only she could believe that her body was strong, healthy enough to make it back to that kind voice that called her back from the edge. She felt the hand tightened around hers, a gentle squeeze, but enough to ground her and keep her there, for now at least.

“Let me see myself as others also see me, so I’ll know if my character agrees with how you say it should be.”

Angel knew what she wanted. She wanted the light. She tried to be good.

“Let me be slow to anger, yet so quick to forgive. Grant me patience, oh great spirit, so happier my life I can live.”

She breathed in deeply. Yes, patience. Grandfather said she had time. She believed him. He would not lie to her.


Rex felt his mate tense. Knew that she wanted to go to her child. But he knew something else too. He could not let her.

He felt his daughter’s pain to the depths of his soul. It mirrored his own. How many times had he begged and pleaded with his mother to let him come to this man? To let him find the peace he sought with Grandfather.

Like Jaycee, his mother believed only what her eyes could see, her ears hear, and her hands could touch. Or so she said. The irony was not lost on him that his mother, the nuclear physicist studied particles, subatomic and powerful, but things that she could not see. Things that she had to take on faith every bit as much as he had to take his other side.

He reached out, his hand took Jaycee’s and drew her back. His voice was far more potent than he intended, held far more command than he was comfortable with, “Come with me.”

She shook her head and opened her mouth to speak. But instead, he turned her to face them as they recited the prayer for guidance that his grandfather had taught him that first summer, even before he knew the gifts that lie within himself. How many times had he recited those words over the years?

“Can you do that? Can you give Angel peace and self-control? Or would you only upset her more?” He saw the pain in her eyes as tears collected there. He hated himself for bringing her that pain, but it was time his mate faced some truths.

It was time they both did. “Come with me,” he tugged her from the room.

His grandfather turned to smile at him. The man had better be right. Again. So much rode on this one. Not just his own life, but his daughter’s as well. He prayed to the great spirit for wisdom and courage to face what he knew was to come as they stepped from the front door into the bracing cool of a Texas Hill Country night.

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