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[OOC: All dialog and situations taken from Magic Strikes. I've merely switched the POV from Kate to Andrea.]

It was Sunday morning when I walked into Kate's office saying, "Raphael called. Apparently an order just went down the chain of command." I had to pause when Kate gave me a 'Raphael, eh?' look; to which I replied with a, 'Go ahead and ask, I dare you' look.

Her look was understandable, given what I had said at lunch the day before, but after we had deserted her with the Beast Lord (which she totally deserved for waving Raphael over), Raphael had invited me to go book shopping. I felt a little guilty for using his attraction to me to gain information, so I had decided to play along and he had been a perfect gentleman. Didn't try any moves. No getting into my personal space, no casual brushing against me, nothing, just us looking for books. In fact, he played so nice, I gave him my phone numberswork and homewhen he asked. I knew it was never going to go anywhere, I wasn't going to sleep with him and he'd lose interest, but that didn't mean I couldn't have a little fun, right?

"The Pack?" Kate asked, bringing me back to her office.

"Yeah. Any member of the Pack who attacks you is going to have a long, unpleasant meeting with Curran."

Kate grimaced and raised her pen in a mock salute. "Yipee. I had no idea I was a fragile flower in need of His Majesty's protection."

"Have you been attacked?"

"Yep. I was good and didn't kill anybody."

That sounded like a story so I closed the door behind me, stepped forward, and sat in her client chair. "What's going on?"

Kate sat a moment, deciding if she wanted to spill, before standing and activating her office's wards. A wall of orange surged up to seal the door and all the low level office noise disappeared. Then, she leaned over to unlock the top drawer of her desk, removed a thin case folder, and dropped it onto the desk. "Do the hand."

I was tempted to raise my eyebrows but instead raised my hand. "I will not disclose the information I am about to receive, unless authorized by the person who surrenders this information to my discretion. I will not use this information for personal gain, even under duress, coercion, or to save myself or others from imminent physical harm. I do so swear by my honor as a knight of the Order."

It was a hell of an oath. More people flunked out of the Academy on oath breaking than any other test of will. When you've been beaten, drowned, whipped, and then branded with a hot iron, most people will say anything just to make the torture stop. There was a narrow band of pale skin on my back, despite the Lyc-V in my system; a reminder of where a hot iron had kissed me. It proved I'd passed. I knew Kate had a identical scar. We both would remember the secrets we had keep for our test oaths to the end of our days and never reveal them. Not even through a stray thought.

Kate nodded and handed me the file. I read it, the abridged version of the Midnight Games. I knew there was a bigger file locked away but Kate didn't have enough clearance for that. Of course, I could accidentally mention any stray information she might need.

Once I was through reading what was there, I looked up at Kate and arched an eyebrow. Then she told me about the rest. How Jim, her old mercenary partner and the Pack chief of security had planted a team in the Midnight Games, suspecting outside shapeshifters of using the Games as a way to check the Pack's strength. Which was really bad. That meant the Pack's chief of security was breaking the Beast Lord's first law; no one touches the games.

But that wasn't it. Their plants in the Game kept getting killed and they hadn't told Curran. And the latest was Derek, Curran's protégé. Well, Derek wasn't dead yet, but he was severely injured. Kate told me of this team competing in the Games called the Reapers and her best guess is that they cornered Derek, beat him, broke him, and then poured molten silver on his face. Derek currently lay in a coma and Doolittle, the Pack's senior med-mage, couldn't figure out why Lyc-V wasn't healing the damage.

Then she told me about how Curran had been sneaking into her home to "make sure she was alright" and how he walked in, bold as you please, last night to scare a few years off her life. After wrestling and fighting, Curran had kissed her and by the look on her face I could tell it was bad.

"Shit. Fuck shit," was all I could manage.

"'Shit fuck' would also have been accepted." Kate replied with a sigh.

"The head of Pack's security has gone rogue, Derek is near death, and you're mated to the Beast Lord."

"Jim hasn't gone rogue; he's just not following orders at the moment."

I gave Kate a look. "That's what going rogue is!"

"And for the record, I'm not mated to Curran."

I just shook my head. "What planet are you from? He's slipping into your apartment to tuck your blanket in at night. That's the protective urge at work. He thinks you're mated."

"He can think whatever he wants. That doesn't make it true."

"I just realized: he's treating you like a shapeshifter alpha. You're playing by the rules of not-quite-human courtship here. Has he asked you to make him a dinner yet? Dinner is a big deal."

"No, he hasn't. Look, I'm not a shapeshifter and he's dated humans before."

"That's just it," I said, tapping my fingers on the desk to get her attention. "A direct come-on like that is a challenge. That's how an alpha male would approach an alpha female. They are all about power struggles and the hunt, and they don't do subtle well. I realize this sounds twisted, but it's a backhanded compliment on his part."

"He can take his compliment and shove it where the sun don't shine."

"Can I quote you on that?" I asked with a smirk.

"Be my guest. I've worked too hard to be his passing fancy."

A sudden thought made me frown and I had to ask. "So where does all this leave you? Are you going to disappear for a while?"

Kate nodded. "I have to see this through, and I can't do it with Curran breathing down my neck."

"Need any help?"

"Yes. I'm putting in a request to analyze some silver samples to the computer database. It might take a day or two to process. If you could pick it up…."

I waved my hand dismissively and scowled. "Of course I'll do it. I meant shoot-somebody type of help."

"Oh. Not at the moment. But I'll call you if I need a bullet through somebody's head."

"You do that. Try not to get killed."

"Will do."

We looked at each other and I felt like this would have been where we hugged had we been hugging sorts of people. There was once last thing I had to know though. "So how was it? Kissing Curran?"

"I can't let I'm kiss me again, because if he does, I'll sleep with him."

I blinked a few times. "Well, at least you know where you stand."

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Andrea Maria Nash

August 2014

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