Winter Rain, part 59

“You . . . live in the city, right?”

“Mm hmm,” I say, turning back in my seat to face her. I smile, but she doesn’t seem quite comfortable meeting my eyes. “Right in the middle.”

“Isn’t that . . . difficult? You know, living so close to all those people?”

I nod. “It can be. You’ve certainly got to be careful. I mean, no changing out in the open, no running around wolf during the day, that kind of thing; but, on the other hand, there’s lots of work to be had, it’s easy to blend in. Pros and cons, right?”

“You mean you only change at night?”

“Well, mostly. There’s a large park right behind our house, with lots of trees. I’ll sometimes run around in there during the day, but you have to be really careful. But, yeah, for the most part, wolf is for night.”

Frowning, she asks, “But . . . does that mean you only hunt at night?”

I laugh sadly, and reply, shaking my head, “Well, we pretty much don’t hunt.”

“You don’t hunt?!”

I shrug defensively. “Well, not where we live. There’s just nothing to hunt, and really no place to do it.”

“You don’t hunt,” she says again, shaking her head in disbelief. “But how can you . . . . ” She pauses for a moment, worried, then asks, “You know how, though, right?”

I burst out laughing, and the worry melts from her face, to be replaced with an embarrassed smile. “Of course we do,” I reply. “We still learn to hunt—and, frankly, we use a lot of those skills in our work. We’re just not hunting for our food.”

“Your job is hunting?” she asks, leaning in.

Brennan shoots me a glare, but I ignore him. There’s no harm in talking to her, as long as I don’t go into specifics.

“Well, sort of. We do odd jobs—for other families and sometimes for humans. Reconnaissance, investigations, courier services, protection, negotiations—you know, whatever needs doing. A large chunk of the city is in our territory, so if any other family wants to get stuff done in the city, well, they usually have to come through us.

“Oh, cool! So you’re like spies, or something?”

Brennan rolls his eyes, and I laugh again, as much at him as at the image of us as spies. “Well, not quite. But same idea, I guess. Anyway, some of the work we do is a lot like hunting. Just, you know—we don’t eat what we catch”—I waggle my eyebrows—“mostly.” She grins. “And, you know—in some cases, we just choose not to catch it at all.

“How about you? Doesn’t your family have a business?”

Her grin vanishes. She shrugs, and leans back into her seat. “Well, you saw our place. We raise sheep.”

“Really? I thought that was just a way to let you go hunting without the locals getting suspicious.”

“Well, yeah, but that’s not all we have them for. We sell their wool, and some of the meat.”

She frowns. “That’s why we never have any money.”

She shrinks down into herself and looks out the window. For a moment, I wait for her to turn back, but she doesn’t.

“Well, I think it’s pretty cool,” I say. “It must be pretty nice to be so self-sufficient. I mean—if we go a few weeks without work, we’re fucked. As in not eating. But you guys, you don’t have that problem.”

She hesitantly meets my eyes again. “Well, I guess. It’s just . . . not very exciting, you know? We eat the same things every day, we do the same things every day. I don’t know, it’s just . . . there’s not a lot of room, you know?”

“What do you mean, ‘not a lot of room’?”

She frowns, and looks away for a moment. “Well, it’s . . . hard to explain. It’s just . . . I don’t know—I want more. I mean, my family’s big—everything that needs doing, well . . . it’s already being done by someone else. And as much as I love being able to run around . . . I just . . . ” She drops her eyes again, and goes silent. But I know what she’s thinking.

“You want somebody to trust you with something.”

She looks up, sadness—and maybe just a bit of hurt—in her eyes. She watches me silently for several moments. Finally, she nods.