Shifters of Silver Peak(2)

By: Georgette St. Clair

The little girl looked at the women, then looked at Morgan with a scowl. “I’m Teddy, and he’s the Big Bad Wolf,” she said of Morgan.

“And don’t you forget it,” Morgan said, returning the scowl with one of his own.

The girl walked over to Eileen and Erika and looked up at them. “You’re a wolf, and you’re a wolf.” She jabbed a dirty little finger at both of them. “And I’m a human. Are you in a pack? Did you know that some wolves can’t turn into people? Where do those wolves live? Where do you live?” The fact that she was firing off a volley of questions at them meant she liked them. It was preferable to her alternative mode of communication – ankle-biting.

“Erika, I need a favor,” Valerie said. “Can you take Teddy here back to Juniper? She’s staying in the shanty town at 372 Winthrop Drive. Her mother is at the mineral springs, and she’ll be back around five. There should be some church volunteers at the rec center there today who can watch her until her mother gets home. If not…” Valerie’s face puckered in concern, and she glanced at Morgan, who shook his head decisively.

“Motherffff…” Erika glared after Morgan, then glanced at Teddy and stopped herself. “Mother of pearl is my favorite jewelry,” she finished. “I got this,” she said to Valerie. “Hey, Teddy, want to go to the town square, make a snow-fort and throw snowballs at people?”

“Erika!” Valerie protested, scandalized.

“What?” Erika flashed a wicked grin. “Basic self-defense skills should be learned at a young age. We can also practice making swords out of icicles.”

“No swords!” Valerie said.

“Okay, icicle spears. We’ll go to the coffee shop and get some hot chocolate first,” Erika said to Teddy. “We need fuel if we’re going to go start a frozen-water war.” Erika was a tomboy and an infamous mischief-maker. Great. So Valerie’s choices were leaving the child by herself, sending her off to stab someone, or…well, those were her choices today.

Erika led the happy child out, and Eileen sat on Valerie’s desk. “Other than the fact that your boss is an ass-face, isn’t it a beautiful day?” she said, gesturing at the window, which faced Main Street.

It was December 10th, and the village of Silver Peak, Montana, was a winter wonderland.

Freshly fallen snow blanketed the streets and parked cars and fire hydrants in sparkling white. Christmas garlands twined around the lamp posts, and every store window was framed with twinkling red-and-green lights. A pack of Christmas carolers was strolling through the streets, singing. They were led by their parents. Several of them were in cub form, trotting through the snow wagging their tails and wearing wreaths as collars. They howled in tune to the singing.

“Breathtaking,” Valerie said.

“Stunning.” Eileen nodded contentedly.

“I really hate Christmas,” Morgan growled.

He looked at the carolers. “It’s one p.m. Don’t they have somewhere to be? Why are they walking around singing like that?”

Eileen and Valerie exchanged amused looks with each other, and Eileen stifled a snicker behind her hand.

“What?” Morgan snapped.

“I, for one, am shocked,” Eileen said. “I mean you could knock me over with a feather. A season that’s all about togetherness and happiness and love, and you hate it?”

Morgan stared at her. “You don’t work here anymore. And yet you’re here.” He glanced over at Arthur. “She’s still here.”

“Yep, she is.” Arthur, a tall, lean wolf shifter in his fifties, nodded placidly. His method of getting along with Morgan was to agree with whatever Morgan said without really paying much attention to it.

“I miss you too,” Eileen said drily to Morgan. She plucked a crumpled-up ball of paper from the garbage and threw it at him, and it bounced off his head and fell on the floor. “Oh, look. I don’t actually miss you. I’m right on target.” She and Valerie exchanged high-fives.

“Valerie?” Morgan’s tone said that he was losing patience.

“She’s my friend. She came to visit me on my lunch break. Drive her away, and you can answer your own calls for the rest of the day. And deal with the carolers.” Valerie met his glower with a challenging stare and raised an eyebrow at him.

Eileen looked away, trying not to laugh. Morgan threatened to fire Valerie on a daily basis, but he’d never go through with it. She was the first secretary he’d had who’d lasted more than a month. It was surprising, because she was a human, and if anyone could be expected to put up with Morgan’s rudeness and temper tantrums, it would be a shifter.

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