Percy Wilkes grimly clamped a cheroot between his teeth as he waited for the alpha to acknowledge him. An affectation, merely. The wolves were averse to cigarette smoke and other unnatural scents. Natural scents were bombardment enough.
"Do you smoke, solitary?" the alpha asked mildly, his pale brows lifted inquisitively. "Shall I procure a light for you?"
Percy grimaced slightly around the cheroot and plucked it from his mouth. He rolled it idly between his fingers. "No, that will not be necessary, alpha," he answered. "Force of habit," he explained with a close-mouthed smile. "I find it soothing to the nerves."
"I do not approve of this modern fashion of adulterating the senses," the alpha began. The alpha's mate lowered her head with an enigmatic smile. "Human vices abound among the younger set; they have turned from the old ways. We live in a scandalous, crass age, solitary."
"I admit that I am but a product of the era, alpha," Percy said with an elegant shrug. "Perhaps it would be different, had I been raised in the territories. But alas, I am accustomed to human privileges."
He swept his gaze along the floor before the alpha. No challenge offered.
"Will you partake of the privileges of my territory, then, stripling?" A steely note in the alpha's voice warned that he merely cultivated the faÃ§ade of the obstreperous elder.
"I ask only to roam freely, and hunt when the moon comes upon us."
"Not many solitaries come so far west."
"I simply travel with my sister, an agent with the Bureau of Preternatural Affairs. She is not one of us; I act as her tooth and claw." To the wolves, a woman would need someone to serve as her keeper.
The alpha's amber eyes gleamed briefly with interest. "Does your investigation pertain to the wolves?"
"We believe not, alpha. Treaty matters with the fey only. Your pack is very-distinct in its boundaries."
"But we are all entangled, solitary," the alpha said with relish. "The bjorn of this territory is my ally."
A warning that this alpha would not be bound by any measure of neutrality, should Magdalena's investigation get out of hand.
It wasn't always so. Wolves did not often choose to enmesh themselves in the affairs of the fey. The three preternatural races were held in balance in many territories, a triangle whose center point shifted only occasionally. And in the middle, humans, penned in. In the natural order of the Old World their breeding would not have been allowed to run rampant.
But in the New World, with wide swaths of territory to be taken in hand, humans could be more useful. One must be a master of something, after all.