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“I've finally met her, man, the girl of my dreams.” Chad said, grinning widely. He looked so happy that Jensen couldn't even tease Chad for being sappy. “She's my everything ... we're going to be together forever.”

“That's awesome, Chad, it really is,” Jensen said. He hurried on once he caught sight of Chad's glare. “But don't you think you're getting ahead of yourself? Didn't you tell me you started dating this girl, like, six days ago?”

Chad shrugged as if the details were unimportant. “I know she's the one.”

“How?” Jensen challenged. He saw Chad's mouth open, and Jensen thought, this is it, he's finally going to let me in and tell me everything. Because Jensen knew his best friend well enough to know when he was hiding something, and after nearly twelve years of friendship, he knew Chad better than he knew anyone else. And they weren't supposed to keep any more secrets from each other; last December their friendship had nearly broken apart when Jensen got involved with gambling and started not only hiding his addiction from Chad, but stealing money from him, too. He'd went to a gambling support group, and that problem was taken care of, but the reminder of the friendship he'd almost lost still hung heavy in his mind.

Jensen felt disappointment settle heavy, like a stone in his stomach, when Chad looked away. “I just do.” He said evasively. His words hurt Jensen deeply, but not nearly as much as watching Chad walk out the door without another word. He didn't say goodbye, and he didn't look back.

The next morning, after drinking a cup of coffee, he found a note hung on the bathroom mirror, written in Chad's messy scrawl saying he was leaving and for Jensen not to look for him, it was safer that way. How it was safer for Jensen, and why Chad felt the need to leave with only a note, haunted Jensen for the next three years.

Chad didn't return for his clothes. Though Jensen sat around their apartment for two days, no one came by for any of Chad's personal items. Chad had left with only the clothes on his back and his wallet. His run-down car was still parked outside of their apartment. A call to Chad's parents, who'd kicked him out when he was eighteen because their son not only wouldn't follow in his father's footsteps and become a priest, but also wouldn't marry the woman his parents wanted him to, amounted to nothing. They hadn't heard from Chad, nor would they answer if their son did call .

Jensen had hit a dead-end.

There was nothing left to do but pack away Chad's belongings in the hope Chad would write or call asking Jensen to mail his belongings to him. He never did. And when Jensen moved to a cheaper apartment, he brought Chad's belongings with him. The record signed by Iggy Pop, given to Chad by an ex-girlfriend and cherished by Chad even though he didn't like the singer, hung on Jensen's bedroom wall as a reminder of the friend he'd lost. A couple of months later, desperate for cash, Jensen sold Chad's second hand car for a paltry sum that barely amounted to two month's rent.

He thought about Chad every day, and hoped he was okay, wherever he was. He hoped Chad was alive, and wondered if he missed Jensen as much as Jensen missed him.

Jensen returned to his small apartment in a foul mood. It had been a long day at the office, where his boss, also in a shitty mood, took his frustration out on Jensen. Working as the assistant to a top billed, world famous lawyer had never been Jensen's dream. For one thing, when Jensen had thought of working in a lawyer's office, it was Jensen that was the world famous lawyer, not his boss. Chad was also there and working as a lawyer and Jensen's partner at their own private firm.

His dream had gone up in smoke when Chad left with only a note, and three years later, Jensen still wasn't where he was supposed to be. With Chad gone, Jensen was no longer able to afford the apartment he lived in with Chad. He'd finally found one, after living on the street for almost four days, but it was shitty and rundown, and on a good-day he had cold water for a shower. Jensen also had to drop out of law school, no longer able to afford the tuition combined with paying so much money for an apartment, crappy as it may be. He also worked full-time at two jobs to pay for rent and tuition for the night classes he took at the cheaper community college.

Getting an interview at the world famous Sakorski firm was a dream come true, or so Jensen had hoped. He'd dreamed he would be hired as a lawyer, even if it was an underpaid one. The interviewer had practically laughed in Jensen's face when he'd mentioned that during his interview. Turns out world famous Sakorski had all the high paid, Harvard educated lawyers he needed, but instead was looking for an assistant with law knowledge to keep his records in order, and assist him with research for his cases. Jensen, desperate for a better paying job, agreed.

The pay was better than Jensen expected, but it still wasn't all that much. Seven months into the job, Jensen was still living in the same shitty apartment, still driving a run-down car, and still struggling to pay his bills. The only real upside to having the job was that Jensen no longer needed to work two jobs to make ends meet. His bills were getting paid; he just had almost nothing to live on for the rest of the month. His boss gave him a bonus at Christmas time, and a week's paid vacation, which was better than what his previous two jobs gave him. Jensen would have been better off financially if he hadn't had to max out his credit card buying the two expensive suits he needed to wear to work each day, as cheaper, but still good looking Macey or JC Penney suits were banned by his boss. 'The client will know, Jensen,' Mr. Sakorski was fond of saying when Jensen dared to complain about the expenses.

Jensen double parked the car in his customary spot by the curb and winced when he saw that he needed to get gas tomorrow morning. Since tomorrow was Tuesday, and he didn't get paid until Thursday, he was going to be practically starving himself until his next paycheck. He was going to have to forget running down to the grocery store for the essentials, and dry-cleaning his suit. His boss was going to freak, seeing Jensen wearing the same suit the next two days, which was a deliberate violation of company rules, but Mr. Sakorski was too dependent on Jensen to threaten his job over it. Mr. Sakorski wouldn't be able to run his office without Jensen there, and the man knew it.

His boss was still going to make Jensen's life hell in retaliation for violating the suit rule. It was childish of his boss, not to mention trite, but there was nothing Jensen could do. Life sucked.

Jensen had just finished eating a lukewarm bowl of Ramen Noodles and was contemplating a cold shower, when a knock sounded at his door. Not expecting any visitors, as he had only casual acquaintances at the office, and his only other friend, Christian, was in Maine visiting his family, Jensen felt understandably anxious. Another knock had Jensen rushing to the door.

His eyes widened as he caught sight of a beautiful but dainty woman, with long straight blond hair and piercing green eyes, standing impatiently at the door. She smirked at Jensen before she shoved her way past him and into his apartment. Jensen grunted when his back hit the wall; for such a small woman, she was really pretty strong.

Once he regained his tongue, he was speaking, and very angry. “Who are you, and what the hell are you doing here?”

The woman smiled prettily. She made as if to lean against the sink, but seeing the pile of dirty dishes, and the counter, in bad need of a cleaning, thought better of it and instead sat down at the kitchen table and finally spoke. “Jensen, I came here because I need your help.”

“How do you know who I am?” Jensen asked breathlessly.
Her eyes burned into his with the intensity of a laser. “I know that you live in this apartment by yourself, and that you used to have a gambling problem. I also know your favorite color is blue, and you play the guitar.”

What the hell?. Jensen thought, freaked out. This woman was insane and she might be about to shoot him and rob him of what little material possessions he had. Jensen was afraid and he needed to calm down before he had a panic attack and she mugged him, or something. He just needed to breathe and think rationally.

Okay, so she knew him, but that meant nothing. She could be the wife of a disgruntled man who'd hired a lawyer from the firm Jensen worked at. She could want revenge for her husband; she could be angry and want to hurt him to get back at Jensen's employer. Or she could be an insane stalker. Anything was possible at this moment in time.

“Calm down, Jensen,” She soothed, like he was a spooked animal that needed calming.

“That's kind of hard to do when you know me and I know fuck all about you.” Jensen said reasonably.

She smiled wryly. “I'm Katie Cassidy, and I am married to your best friend Chad Michael Murray. Chad has told me so much about you, I feel like I know you so well, even though we're meeting for the very first time. He's wanted to come and visit you for some time now, but something has always come up. Though he's been absent from your life, he's made a point to keep tabs on you, just in case I have need. And I do need you. I am here, Jensen, for your help.”

Jensen banged his head, hard, against the wall behind him. Of all the possibilities swimming through his mind, he'd never once thought she was Chad's wife. She'd come for his help, and he just couldn't turn away his best friend's wife. He whacked his head again, and winced at the throbbing under his skin. His head was beginning to ache, so he stopped hitting it against the wall. He breathed in and out and rested his aching head against the cool wood. There was no point in continuing to angst over what to do about her; he'd made up his mind the moment she asked for his help.

Jensen's world, as he knew it, was over.

A month or so after they'd moved to New York, they'd gone out drinking to some overpriced bar that neither could really afford, and somehow, their conversation had drifted to marriage.

“It'd be awesome, man,” Chad slurred. “I want a medieval wedding. Powdered wigs and corsets and tights, all that shit.”

Jensen snorted into his beer. “I'm not wearing a corset. That's for women.”

Chad slung his arm around Jensen's shoulder and pressed a sloppy kiss onto his cheek. Jensen squawked indignantly and pushed Chad away. His friend laughed obnoxiously and looked Jensen up and down appraisingly.

“You're pretty enough to be a girl. Maybe that corset would suit you, Jenny.” He grinned cheekily when Jensen flipped him the bird. “Can you imagine, Jensen? Low-cut dresses, heaving bosoms? Painted lips, flowing hair? Fucking hot!”

Jensen rolled his eyes. “It sounds like something out of a bad romance novel.”

Chad knocked back another shot. He was suddenly serious. “As long as you're there, standing up beside me, it's the wedding I want. You'll be my best man, right?”

Jensen had to swallow past a lump in his throat. “Of course. You don't even need to ask.”

Chad had gotten married, and Jensen hadn't been there. Chad had simply disappeared, gotten hitched, and never once felt the need to send him a letter saying, “Oh yeah, I'm married. Sorry you couldn't be there as my best man.” The sting of Chad's betrayal stung deep, and a petty part of Jensen hated his best friend more in that moment than he'd ever hated anyone in his life.

It felt like Chad had sucker punched him in the stomach. It seemed his best friend hadn't valued Jensen's friendship as much as Jensen valued Chad's. If he had, Jensen would have been there, standing beside Chad, as he became Katie's husband. Jensen would have been there, just like his friend had asked him to.

Chad's betrayal burned hot on Jensen's tongue, and it was hard to speak past his anger.“So let me get this straight,” Jensen said, five minutes later, when the power of speech had returned. “You're married to Chad, and, oh yeah, thanks for inviting me to the wedding of my friend of twelve years. And you need my help? How can I possibly be of any use to you? I've never met you, and I haven't seen Chad in three years!”

Katie opened her mouth to speak, but Jensen rushed on, so angry he could barely see straight. “How about telling me why Chad felt the need to leave first? Or why was I safer with Chad fucking disappearing?”

Katie ran a shaking hand through her blond hair. Her smile was tenuous at best. “There's no easy way to say this, so instead of trying to dress the truth up, I'll just come right out and say it.” She paused and shot Jensen an unreadable look. “You're going to want to take a seat, Jensen.”

Sensing if he continued to stall Katie was going to remain stubbornly quiet, Jensen listened and sank down on the chair across the table from, fuck, Chad's wife. He still couldn't wrap his head around the fact that this was the woman Chad had talked of being in love with over three years ago, and that Chad had gotten married, and Jensen hadn't been there.

Katie's smile was sad as if she could sense Jensen's misery. “The reason Chad left, and the reason he felt it was safer to be away from you, is because Chad's what I am---”

“Seriously crazy?” Jensen muttered, unable to remain silent.

“No,” Katie said, annoyed, and if looks could kill, Jensen would be dead a hundred times over. “Chad's a werewolf, Jensen. I turned him the first time we had sex, when we bonded.”

“Wait, you're a Werewolf?”Jensen asked, skeptical. “Are you out of your mind?” Katie sighed, as if Jensen were taxing her patience. In one blink of the eye and the next, she turned into a golden wolf with a white star shaped mark on the top of her forehead and over her left eye. In the next instant she was back to human. The transformation seemed effortless on Katie's part; she easily changed forms with no visible exertion. Jensen was fascinated to see that her clothes disappeared and reappeared with her. Katie strode over to Jensen and picked up the chair he was sitting on with one hand and settled it back onto the floor without breaking a sweat. She sat down on the chair to Jensen's left while Jensen had a silent break down.

Holy shit”. Jensen stumbled away from Katie and backed against the wall. Katie remained seated, and watched him with studied calm. Jensen's mouth opened and closed like a fishes, before he finally managed to gasp out,

“You're actual a Werewolf? An honest to God, supernatural creature?” Katie nodded. “Then I'm not...loosing my mind?”

Katie laughed for a moment before she seemed to realize it was an inappropriate time to be doing so, while Jensen had a mini freak-out across the room. “I am indeed a Werewolf. I have been for centuries.”

Jensen's mind latched onto that bit of information, and clung to it like a drowning person would to a piece of wreckage. “That would explain why your speech is so old-fashioned.”

Katie blinked for a moment, as if she was absorbing that piece of information. “I had never noticed.”

“Whatever.” Jensen muttered. He was understandably shocked, but it was time to get back to the issue at hand. “So the legends are true? You get bit and you're turned? But you can transform whenever you want? You don't have to wait for the full moon?” Katie nodded the affirmative. “So that's why Chad stayed away?”

“You're right, Jensen; I can change forms whenever I wish. It's the same for all Werewolf's. Our primal nature seems to be tied to the moon; we are at our most savage while it remains full in the sky. During the full moon it is easier to remain in our wolf form. If we are mated, we remain close to our other half, and we can remain in our human form should we choose. However, unless there is urgent business, we never do this.

“What you need to understand, Jensen, are Werewolf's are very aggressive by nature and with Chad recently turned there was a good chance that he'd unintentionally harm you or even kill you until he got used to his superior speed and strength. That was time he didn't have. As my mate, it is essential we stay close together and remain as one solid unit. A bonded werewolf needs its mate close by for each other's sanity. I am part of a pack, and I couldn't be away from it. Chad came with me, as I was unwilling to stay.”

“You bitch,” Jensen snarled.

“He's my mate, Jensen, and I need him. My needs have to come before those of a friend.” Katie lifted her chin haughtily before she seemed to deflate. “He didn't want to, but he agreed, in the end. If it makes you feel better, he was miserable for months.” It did, actually, though Jensen wouldn't give her the satisfaction of admitting that.

“So why are you here? It's obviously not for my company.” Jensen said, uncomfortable. This woman, this werewolf, and holy hell was that hard to wrap his mind around, made Jensen nervous. He couldn't get a good read on her, other than she spoke her mind and seemed to radiate sadness.

Katie wouldn't meet Jensen's eyes for a long uncomfortable moment. When she did, Jensen exhaled at the stark pain visible in her eyes. “Chad's been kidnapped, but my pack refuses to listen. They think I've killed him.”

Jensen's eyes widened. “You killed Chad?! Why?! I thought you said you were mated!”

Katie went pale at Jensen's words. “I would never hurt Chad! I love him and I'm---. That doesn't matter.” She cut herself off and fell silent. Jensen watched her, horror churning in his stomach. She'd murdered his best friend. Everything she said was a lie. And though Jensen should kick her out of his apartment, he stayed still because she was a killer, and she had superior strength and could snap his neck before he even blinked.

Even as Jensen thought that, he knew the real reason he stayed seated and didn't demand she leave was because she looked so small and fragile, so defeated, sitting across from him. She was so pale, and her green eyes were filled with so much pain that Jensen was incapable of sending her away. Instead, Jensen was frozen and unable to move. He could only listen as she spoke, her voice laced with so much sorrow it made Jensen's heart clench with sympathy.

“I woke up four days ago to an empty bed and to Chad missing. I searched our house, but other than his bloody shirt and some dirt on the floor, near the back door, there was no sign of him. I went to Jeff and his mate, Allison, and begged for their help. They sent Mike and Tom, they’re another mated pair, to investigate.

“They found more blood outside the back door, and some churned up dirt, but no sign of Chad.” Katie stopped for a moment and wiped tears from her eyes. When she next began to speak, her voice shook badly. “The next thing I knew, I was thrown in prison and awaiting death. There was no need for a trail, as there were witnesses the night before that saw Chad and I arguing.

“Chad and I have been going through a hard time lately, disagreeing about every little thing. He says I've been moody and impossible to be around.” Katie snorted derisively. “We were supposed to spend the night in question out on town and trying to reconnect, but instead we ended up arguing on the front lawn and never went anywhere.”

Katie sighed and angrily wiped away a tear. Jensen was stunned at the realization that even two people who were obviously meant for each other, could be so dysfunctional and argue like a human couple. Katie continued before Jensen could interrupt, her voice thick with tears.

“I declared my innocence, but with the bloody shirt, dirt in front of the back door, blood in the backyard and the dug up lawn, I look guilty as hell. Jeffery and the rest of the pack assume the worst. It doesn't matter that they can't find Chad's body!” Katie's eyes blazed with fury.

“They say that the rain we had that night washed away the blood trail, but the evidence all emphasizes my guilt. It doesn't matter that I need Chad in my life, that I can't bare to live without him. My pack refuses to believe me. They say the reason why I'm not insane is because if a werewolf murders its mate, as punishment we stay sane so that we can live with the guilt forever, until the day we die.” She gnashed her teeth together, her wolf visible in her every movement.

“I can sense him, Jensen,” Katie whispered after a long pause where she visibly collected herself. Her eyes were imploring as she knelt in front of Jensen. “He's alive, but I can't get a read on his exact location. I've tried to appeal my sentence, which is torture and then death, but Jeffery won't see reason. My only ally is Lauren, a midwife. She's the one who busted me free, and gave me the means to get to your apartment.”

“I don't know what you think I can do,” Jensen said, after a long, uncomfortable silence. It was insane, but he believed Katie. She was in so much anguish, and her sincerity practically bled through every word. This Jeffery must be a real dick, to think she was lying, that she wasn't in fact insane with grief over her missing husband.

“I need you to help me until I can figure out who's holding Chad, or, at the very least, buy me some time. I've escaped, so they're tracking me. I have one night, maybe two until he gets here.”

The apprehension in Katie's voice sent a frisson of fear down Jensen's spine. This man must be one scary dude to make Katie, who, up until this point had seemed unflappable, turn fearful and skittish. He licked suddenly dry lips. “Who?”

“Jared Padalecki. He's a Berserker, the fiercest warrior in the pack, and he carries out the torture before the condemned is killed.” Katie looked up at Jensen, her eyes filled with tears.

“What's a Berserker?” Jensen asked, hesitant. He was sure he didn't want to know, but he felt compelled, nevertheless, to ask.

“A Berserker is a fierce warrior who relies heavily on rage to destroy their enemies. Jared is a valued member of our pack, because Berserkers are so rare. He's the first one in our pack, and they're valued not only for their incredible speed and strength, which is higher than the average werewolf, but also for their tracking skills. Tracking used to be a much bigger part of packs hundreds of years ago, and elaborate ceremonies used to be held as a pack's enemy was tracked down and killed. Now, he’s finding me.” Katie finished humorlessly. Jensen remained silent, unable to think of anything to say.

Katie continued. “They need to be guarded during battles, because they're out of control when the madness takes its hold. To make sure they don't destroy their allies, they fight with someone they trust tethering them to reality. That werewolf can pull them back should they need to, because their bond is strong enough that the Berserker can recognize their protector even in the middle of the madness consuming him. It is preferred that the Berserker's protector is their mate, but because Jared isn't mated, that duty falls to Mike.”

Silence fell thick and uncomfortable after Katie stopped talking. It took several minutes before Katie inhaled sharply and looked at Jensen imploringly. “I'm slowly going insane without Chad. I need you. Will you help me?”

God help him, but he was going to help, he should be running for the hills, be kicking this woman out and telling her she needed some serious therapy, but he just couldn't. She was Chad's wife, and as mad as he was at his friend, he would do everything in his power to help the woman Chad had left behind.

“Yes.” Jensen said, and he hoped he wasn't condemning himself to death and torture from this 'Jared'. “I'll help you.”

“This is the guest room, you can stay here. I hope you'll find it comfortable.” Jensen said awkwardly. Katie peered inside, her nose wrinkling with distaste, though she didn't speak. Her eyes showed the gratitude she couldn't seem to express as she wished Jensen a goodnight, and he stood, frozen, as she shut the door in his face.

Jensen could hardly believe this had happened, even though Katie was there, and living proof that not only had his friend run off and gotten married, but he'd taken a werewolf as his wife. And, if Katie was to be believed, and she had no reason to lie if she wanted Jensen's help, she'd changed Chad too.

Jensen made the short trip to his bedroom on shaking legs. He changed, suffered through an ice-cold shower, brushed his teeth and laid out his clothes for the following morning on autopilot. The sheets were cool, and Jensen's skin felt like it was freezing onto the sheets. He'd planned to pay the heating bill on Thursday with his paycheck, but it looked like unexpected expenses that included Katie, were going to make heating an unattainable luxury.

With both his shivering body and racing thoughts, sleep took a long time to come.

The next morning Katie, looking rumpled but still beautiful in a wrinkled white robe, was sitting in his small kitchen. She shoved a mug of coffee into his hands and went back to reading the newspaper from the kitchen table. Jensen felt her eyes boring into his skin from around the newspaper as he took a cautious sip of his coffee. Jensen made a small sound of surprise when the drink was exactly how he liked it.

Katie huffed a laugh and tossed her blond hair out of her eyes. “Chad talked a lot about you the first four or five months after we left New York. I pretty much know all there is to know about you, Jensen, and that of course includes how you like your coffee.”

Jensen flushed and took another sip of his drink. “I guess he really missed me.”

Katie was silent for a long time, her gaze focused on something only she could see. Probably Chad, if Jensen had to hazard a guess. “He really loves you. I used to be jealous, because while Chad was my mate, he was always talking about you. My jealousy made me act without thinking, and I literally tore him away from you. He suffered so much because of how carelessly I handled his feelings. I failed to realize you're the closest thing he has to family, since he's estranged from his real one. I'm his wife and mate, but you're practically his older brother, and he needs you in ways I can never fill.”

Jensen blushed even harder and he couldn't meet Katie's eyes. He flinched when Katie griped his shoulder, and her hair was like a curtain of silk around his face. “I guess you never realized how much you mean to Chad, and how much he needs you in his life.” Katie's fingers dug into his skin hard enough to hurt. “Well now you know. So I guess you better help me live long enough to find him, hmm?”

Jensen did know now.

Jensen had been unsure if he should go to work in light of his new house guest and all the complications she brought with her. It was only after Katie assured him she would still be in his apartment when he got back and that she needed his help, combined with Jensen's very real need to buy food and one day pay his gas bill that convinced him work was a good idea.

“Besides,” Katie began. Jensen watched as she pulled a laptop from an overnight bag he hadn't noticed in last night's excitement, “It's not as if anyone is going to take me. Not yet at least. I should have at least another day. Probably.”

Jensen paled at the thought of Chad's wife being kidnapped and then killed. What would he tell Chad? Would he even find his best friend?

Katie forced a smile that didn't reach her eyes. “Cheer up, I still have time. I suggest you at least take a day or two off for personal reasons, because I do need your help.” Katie did smile then, wide and open when Jensen agreed with her suggestion. He could hear Katie typing away as he left his apartment and locked the door.

Jensen could not remember a workday that dragged on as long as this particular Tuesday. He had so much on his plate right now it wasn't funny. Jensen's bank account was drained after filling his car up with gas; he didn't have the money until tomorrow to buy any food for himself, let alone Katie, which made him a horrible host. Katie probably wouldn't care all that much that he couldn't house her like she deserved, Jensen got the feeling that she was more worried about Chad than her living arrangements, which made sense, as Katie said, Chad was her mate and was the most important thing in her life.

It still made Jensen feel guilty for his inability to be a good host.

Katie was still sitting at the dining room table when Jensen opened his apartment door at exactly 6:17 PM. She'd changed out of that morning's white bathrobe into a faded gray sweatshirt at least two sizes too big, and baggy navy sweatpants. Jensen wondered if Katie was wearing Chad's clothes, but couldn't think of how to ask without causing her undue pain. Her long blond hair was damp and tangled, which meant she'd suffered through an ice cold shower. Jensen winced in sympathy, remembering his own misery from last night's shower.

She talked over Jensen's apologies. “I've spent the day trying to think of anyone who may have a vendetta against me or Chad. I've come to the conclusion that I am the likely target, as Chad hasn't been a member of the pack long enough to make an enemy. I've also hit a proverbial wall, because of the closeness of our pack there are no room for petty feuds or grudges. Our pack leader mediates what little arguments we do have.”

Jensen grabbed the milk carton from the fridge and searched for a clean glass. “The milk went sour,” Katie said, absently, her eyes fixed on a piece of paper nearly illegible, covered as it was with crossed-out words and eraser smudges. Jensen threw out the milk carton and grabbed a bottle of water instead.

“So you're saying you have no suspects.” Jensen stated. He took a swig of water and flinched as his eyes met Katie's furious ones.

“No,” She ground out, and her voice, low and lethal, sent shivers down Jensen's spine. “What I am saying is that there are too many suspects for me to name a definitive one. Our pack has made hundreds of enemies over the centuries we've been together.” Katie exhaled. “But if I had to guess I would say it's Alexis Bledel. She was kicked out of our pack in one of the only ways possible: she tried to assassinate our pack leader.”

Jensen whistled. “That sounds suicidal. This chick must have a few screws loose.”

Katie chuckled. “That's one way of putting it, but yeah.”

“I still don't understand what that has to do with you. Why would this Alexis blame you, and more importantly why would she take Chad?”

Katie shifted uncomfortably. It took her several moments to meet Jensen's eyes. “Alexis and I used to be best friends. We were inseparable; we spent all of our time together. I knew everything about Alexis, and she knew everything about me. I was shocked when I discovered how wrong I was.

“Alexis and I were baking for a dinner Jeff was throwing. At the time, Jeff was attempting to form an alliance with a pack who had been trying for the past decade to kill Jeff and take his place as the leader of our pack. Alexis and I were joking around about how the dinner was going to be not only awkward, but boring as hell. Imagine my surprise when the door was kicked in and three werewolf's came and led Alexis away.

“I remember going berserk and attacking the men taking my best friend away, my rage blinded me and I was easily knocked away. I only stopped when Alexis, who was crying hysterically, begged me to stop before I got myself killed. I backed off because I loved her, and I didn't want to cause her any more pain.

“I found out a couple of hours later that the reason Alexis had been dragged away was because she had been planning to assassinate Jeff during the dinner. It turned out my best friend, who I knew better than myself, had been leading a secret life, hidden from me. She'd fallen in love with the leader of the rival pack, and he'd convinced her that only she could successfully kill Jeff, since no one would ever suspect that Alexis would try to take out the leader of her own pack, but also, when he took over Jeff's position, he'd give Alexis a high position in the new order he'd create. She'd be his Mate.”

Katie exhaled shakily and rubbed her arms as if she were cold. Jensen shifted uneasily but while he wanted to say something, nothing came to mind. His mind was blank. He could only imagine the shock and pain Katie must still feel just thinking of Alexis, and to have to dredge up the past in order to make Jensen understand the vendetta Alexis had against her...Katie must be in hell.

“As Alexis fled our pack, she turned to me and whispered her goodbye in my ear. I doubt I need to tell you her last words to me were anything but kind. She called me a lying whore who'd turned her in to Jeff, and she would get her revenge against me no matter how long it took. It didn't seem to matter to her that there was no way I could have possibly known of her plot against Jeff; I hadn't even known she was involved with anyone, let alone the leader of the pack who'd been targeting my pack for eighty years. In Alexis' mind, she'd twisted our friendship into something that could not be trusted; she'd convinced herself that I was the cause of all her problems. She really believed I'd betrayed her. She had all of her fury and vengeance focused on me. And I fear after all this time she's been plotting to hurt me any way she can.”

Katie paused for a moment, overcome with emotion.“Jeff took pity on Alexis, and instead of having her killed---And I'll never, as long as I live, forget the look in Jared's eyes when he found out Jeff wasn't having Alexis put to death. As Jeff's right hand man, it was his duty to carry out Jeff's sentences. Jared's eyes were filled with barely banked rage, Jensen; dear God----Jeff instead had Alexis banished from our pack. If Alexis ever came near our pack again, she would be killed.”

Jensen looked away as he saw Katie wiping tears from her eyes, in order to give her some small bit of privacy. Katie's eyes, as Jensen's met hers, were determined. “Now you know, Jensen. Out of everyone who could target me, Alexis is the one who has the most motive. It's been twenty-two years, and she's had all of this time to plan her revenge. I need you to help me prove my innocence, and help me get my husband back.”

“Let's do this.” Jensen said, by way of agreement.

“So where do we start?” Jensen asked, an hour later. He'd changed out of his suit into a mostly clean t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans. He'd ate some crackers and a salad, the last of the food he had left in his apartment. He'd worry about groceries and money tomorrow, when his paycheck cleared. Now that food and changing his clothes was done, he felt nervous and ill at ease.

Katie had changed out of the sweatpants and into a pair of jeans, but she'd kept the sweatshirt on. She looked up from her notes at Jensen's question. She looked uncomfortable, as if she were about to say something Jensen wasn't going to like, and she was nervous about Jensen's reaction. It didn't settle Jensen's roiling stomach.

“We need to question Alexis, and hopefully get her to confess.”

“We need to what?!” Jensen asked. He knew he was staring at Katie with a gaping mouth and wide eyes, but he couldn't help it. He must have heard Katie wrong. They weren't going to go and talk to the insane werewolf who had sworn revenge against Katie...right?

Katie, for her part, seemed unfazed by Jensen's reaction. “You heard me right. We're going to go and talk to Alexis.”

“You do realize this woman is insane, right? You know she wants you dead?” Jensen asked, just in case Katie had missed the memo. Katie looked at Jensen, sad but determined. Jensen sighed, defeated. “You're crazy, too. Awesome. You and Chad must make quite a pair.”

Katie's grin was evil. “You should see us together, then.”

Jensen shuddered, horrified. “Oh God, help me.”

Katie laughed, loud and free, surprising herself. She looked years younger, and infinitely more beautiful, with the fear and misery melted away. Jensen couldn't help laughing along with her. And for a moment, they were free of their worries. The moment passed all too quickly, and Katie got herself under control. Her good humor evaporated too.

It was like her face was chiseled in stone and her eyes were steely, not an iota of mercy or kindness present. Jensen knew, instinctively, he was looking at the wolf, the ultimate hunter. A chill went down his spine just looking at her. Heaven help Alexis when they found her, because Katie's former best friend wasn't going to find any leniency from Katie. Alexis was going to be facing death only after a whole lot of pain.

“I don't know where Alexis is living right now. I do, however, know who may have the answers.” Katie said, already on her way out the door.

Part Two


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September 2012

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