CERISE sipped her tea. The morning was gray and a little damp. The night left some dew on the wicker chairs sitting on the balcony and it was making her jeans wet, but she didn't care. She liked sitting like this, early in the morning.The woods here came almost right to the house. These were real woods, thick oaks and maples and pines. From her perch she could see clear across the lawn to where the trees started. Somewhere out there William prowled. He liked to take off early in the morning and hunt. The house grated on him a little. He would've preferred a much smaller place and so would she, but this was the only house among Casshorn's holdings that was close enough to Declan's manor. It would be all right. They would make it into a home eventually. Or just build a smaller place. She did kind of like the huge stone balcony. And the pool was nice. Gaston loved it to pieces. But a smaller place would be better.Cerise sipped her tea. So nice and quiet. Yesterday the four kids - Lark, Gaston, George, and Jack - had gotten ahold of some Rollerblades, specially made for them by someone in Declan's family. They had themselves a race down the long marble hallway, and then somehow it turned into a brawl, the way it usually did.The kids were at Declan and Rose's today. Cerise first met Declan and Rose about two months ago. Lark and the boys hit it off right away, and Declan and William were friends, but she wasn't that wild about meeting Rose. For one thing, William had liked her at some point.He was hers now. Her wolf. Cerise smiled. Still, when she first saw Rose, it didn't help either. Rose was taller than her by about four inches. Her hair was honey brown and perfectly styled, her gown looked expensive, and she was pretty. Too pretty.Cerise had worn jeans, a white blouse, and she'd left her hair down because William liked it that way.The kids went one way, the men went the other, and Cerise had to sit with Rose on the terrace."So you're from the Mire in the Edge?" Rose said after a while."Yes.""That's why the jeans?""Well, I tried a gown," Cerise said. "I looked very nice in it. I wore it long enough to take a picture, and then I took it off. It looks very pretty hanging in a closet."Rose looked at her. "Will you excuse me?""Sure."About five minutes later Rose came out wearing a pair of threadbare jeans and a T-shirt and carrying two bottles of beer. "I've been saving them. They're from the Broken."She popped the tops and passed one over to Cerise. They clinked beer necks and drank.The boys and Lark disappeared into the trees."My youngest brother killed a lynx yesterday," Rose said. "Apparently it came into his territory and left some spray marks. He skinned it, smeared himself in its blood, and put its pelt on his shoulders like a cape. And that's how he came dressed for breakfast."Cerise drank some beer. "My sister kills small animals and hangs their corpses on a tree, because she thinks she is a monster and she's convinced we'll eventually banish her from the house. They're her rations. Just in case."Rose blinked. "I see. I think we're going to get along just fine, don't you?""I think so, yes."And somehow they did. Now they had a babysitting arrangement: one weekend Rose had the kids and one weekend she did. She didn't mind. Jack was a small feral William. He was trouble, but he was a good kid. He worshipped William, and Lark and he were like two peas in a pod. She couldn't quite figure out George yet. He was very quiet and polite, but once in a while his eyes would light up and he'd say something really funny. It was almost like there were two Georges: the well-mannered version and the hidden wry one who lived to make trouble.But today they were gone, off to Rose and Declan's. Which meant that this morning she and William would be alone in the house.A black wolf burst from the forest and charged the house. Cerise smiled.The wolf changed in mid-leap, turning into a very naked William. She craned her neck a little to get a better look. Mmmm . . . He vanished below the balcony. A moment later William swung himself over the balcony rail and flopped in the chair next to her, still stark naked and slightly sweaty.She looked at him through half-closed eyes. "You're lucky the kids aren't here."He leaned over, his eyes wild. "But the kids are gone. We can have a nice lazy breakfast and then we can nap.""We just got up.""You just got up. I've been up for hours." He leaned over and kissed her lips. She tasted him, smelled the light musk of his sweat. His tongue explored her mouth, and when they broke apart for a breath, she had to remind herself that taking her clothes off on the balcony wasn't a good idea."You're right, we should take a nap," she told him.He grinned at her.A sharp forlorn cry rolled above them. She looked up and saw a small blue speck rapidly growing bigger."What's that?"William swore. "That would be an Air Force wyvern. A small one."The speck grew into a huge scaled creature, a cross between a dinosaur and a dragon, sheathed in blue and white feathers. Enormous wings churned the air and the wyvern touched down in the middle of the lawn. A small cabin perched on the back of the wyvern.Cerise took a towel off the table and thrust it at William. He looked at her like she was crazy."Cover yourself.""Why?""Because most men don't stand there with their stuff hanging out for all to see."William wrapped the cloth around his hips.The wyvern lay down. The cabin door opened and a man jumped out.William growled."Who is that?""That's Erwin."Erwin came up to the house and waved at them. "Lord Sandine. The Mirror requires your services."They wanted him to go spy. He would be off in danger on his own. Her throat constricted. No. They hadn't had nearly enough time together."I'll go get dressed," William growled."Both of you, m'lord.""I get to go?" Cerise jumped to her feet."Yes, my lady. That is, unless you refuse. Lord Sandine is bound by our agreement, but you are - ""Save it," she told him. "I'll be right there. Let me just get my sword."