“They’re breaking the treaty.”
Ethan Calhoun stopped twirling his tone bar between his fingers and clutched the cold steel in his palm. So, a governmental dilemma prompted Tokarz, pack alpha, to summon the pack to the Full Moon Lodge. Ethan had hoped Tokarz was going to announce a new tour for Toke Lobo and the Pack. The band hadn’t been on the road in months.
“What?” someone asked.
“The United States government wants to break the treaty with us.”
Ethan tightened his grip on the tone bar. Mitchell Jasper, the pack’s government liaison, slunk into the room with Tokarz. Ethan figured something bad was coming. The man looked . . . terrified.
“Washington no longer wants to offer sanctuary in return for our services,” Tokarz clarified, in case any werewolf in the room didn’t understand the implications of a broken treaty. As if the threat to their existence was a concept too complicated to be stated only once.
Or maybe shock made everyone slower than usual.
Ethan didn’t have the words to describe the sensation of melting from the inside out. Granted, he wasn’t a descendent of one of the original French families comprising most of the Loup Garou pack. The treaty cut with Thomas Jefferson wasn’t sacred to him as it was to the others. He was ignorant of his own family’s history. His grandfather remained mute about the pack he’d abandoned. Although Loup Garou had accepted the Calhoun family, Ethan was always aware he was an outsider.
“We need your help.” Jasper cleared his throat before he spoke. The words still emerged weak and diluted. It was a miracle the man didn’t piss himself.
“Why should we help you?” Tokarz asked.
“Most people don’t want the treaties abandoned.”
“Most people aren’t aware there are treaties.” Tokarz spoke in a voice so cold, Ethan expected the windows to frost over.
Why didn’t Tokarz ask Jasper to define we? Who wanted the pack’s help?
“Look.” Jasper channeled some testosterone from somewhere. “I know it’s a bad idea to break the treaties. I know how valuable having a . . . secret weapon of . . . your nature . . . is to the security of our country. I’m a patriot, and I am not going to let ignorance and short-sightedness destroy something costing the government nothing and still works.”
Tokarz smirked. “So. You want us to be a secret secret weapon?”
The phrase sounded ridiculous. Tokarz watched too many old movies.
Jasper cleared his throat again. “My department isn’t the only one trying to work around the new administration’s dictates. While I am in Loup Garou to officially tell you the treaties will be rescinded, I am also here, personally, to tell you our country has never needed you more.”
The man deserved points. He played the room perfectly. Every werewolf present, including Ethan, was deeply patriotic.
“Not to say there isn’t an element who would like to see you . . . your species eliminated.”
“Say what you mean,” Tokarz said. “Don’t use fifty-dollar words when nickel ones will do. Dead. Some folks want us dead.”
Only if a lobo observed Jasper closely, as Ethan did, would he see the slight inclination of his head.
“We need to remind some members of congress who are privy to the agreements precisely what they know and why the treaties matter.”
“You mean threaten them.” Tokarz glowered.
“The treaties have served our nation for two centuries. Some influential people need to be reminded.”
“And on whose behalf would we be reminding them?” Tokarz asked the first question Ethan would have asked in his place.
“Your own.” Jasper lifted his chin, as if daring Tokarz to contradict him.
“Go on,” Tokarz said after several moments of a staring match. Jasper did not blink.
“I have a list of names. Men who have availed themselves of the special services guaranteed by the treaties, and who are currently in positions of power to help—maybe force—the preservation of the treaties.”
Maybe Ethan’s imagination spoke, but Jasper sounded stronger. Surer of himself.
“And how do you suggest we remind these people they owe us sanctuary?”
As Jasper laid out his plan—and his idea didn’t sound like much of a plan—Ethan’s gut churned. He was surprised he hadn’t snapped the tone bar he always carried in his front pocket. His fingers worked the steel hard enough.
Jasper’s so-called plan involved sending emissaries to meet with the politicians who had availed themselves of lycan services in the past. Ethan wasn’t clear on what the emissaries were supposed to do; every instinct he possessed shrieked Tokarz planned to send him. He’d worked on a couple missions the band had been involved in and was one of the few band members not yet mated. Mated males needed to stay put and protect their females.
After the meeting broke up, Tokarz asked Ethan to stay. The request prompted Ethan’s father and grandfather to also remain.
“My grandson is the sole survivor of my line,” Pa told their alpha.
“When my grandfather accepted you into the Loup Garou pack, you—”
“My agreement with the Loup Garou hasn’t changed.”
Ethan exchanged a glance with his father, who didn’t seem any more in the know than Ethan was. Pa nursed his secrets; his family respected Pa’s reticence.
“My agreement hasn’t changed,” Pa repeated. “The treaty your ancestors signed with the government has nothing to do with me or mine.”
“My grandfather’s conditions for accepting you included honoring our ways. The treaty is a part of this pack’s heritage.”
“Has Ethan not participated in missions as required? The time you met your mate? The time a crazy man in Idaho threatened to overthrow the government? Ethan has fulfilled his generation’s obligation to your family.”
“I don’t have a choice.”
“You do. You’re alpha. You could send anyone.”
“You’re right. I’m alpha, and I’ve made my decision.”