Mariska stared at him, her mouth open in silent horror.
He stalked forward, tongue lolling against his teeth. He smelled no one else, just her.
She was alone.
Lashed by sturdy ropes to the back wheel of her wagon.
Face to face, he glared at her.
The stink of her fear clogged his nose. The wolf arched his head, enjoying the tart scent of it.
“What the hell?” Kid stumbled to a halt next to him. A hand pressed to his head as though staving off the ache. Like the wolf, he stared at Mariska.
“Let me go.” His spitting kitten recovered from the shock stippling her features.
“I didn’t tie you up, ma’am.” Kid groaned. “And until I know who did and why the hell I feel like this, I think you can stay right there.”
Mariska’s gaze darted back to him. His lips peeled back from his teeth.
She’d better start explaining.
“What does it want?” Mariska directed her words at Kid, but she never stopped staring at Cody. Even as the musk of her fear peaked, her gaze didn’t waver. The wolf approved, even as it irritated him. She should bow her head.
She should beg.
She hurt them.
No, Cody reasoned, even as the wolf’s fury choked him. She drugged them. It wasn’t quite the same as hurting.
The wolf didn’t care for reason. It was close enough.
“Explain.” Kid didn’t bother with a smile or diplomacy. His ashen face and wobbling words carried sickness in them.
Wolf and boy echoed the same thought.
Mariska swallowed. “Will you at least release me?”
“No.” Kid squatted, one hand dropping to the ground as though to steady himself. “What did you do?”
“It was a sleeping draught. Naught else.”
Mariska’s gaze darted to Kid. Cody growled. No, she would not look at him.
“And it was to make you sleep, I told you that last evening.” This time she directed her words at Cody.
“So if we were asleep, why are you tied up?”
The woman went mute and Cody lunged forward, nose-to-nose. Mariska blanched as his breath touched her cheek. The wolf rumbled his approval. Now, she was paying attention.
“My father accused me of breaking our guesting laws. This is my punishment.”
“To be lashed to a wagon?” Kid made no move to intercede on her behalf. The boy needed answers, too. Cody wouldn’t hurt her.
“No.” Mariska growled the word and spared a momentary glance at Kid before Cody surged up to block her line of sight. She would need to learn to stop doing that.
“No, my punishment was to be left for Cody. He won me through blood and bone and I have twice harmed him with betrayal coated in friendship and guesting. I am to belong to him.”
Pleasure and annoyance thudded side-by-side against his heart. The wolf was content with the idea of ripping her throat out, but Cody stayed him. His kitten was furious, embarrassment riding high in the color of her cheeks, just barely edging out the fear stinking the air. She’d been abandoned by her people for her crime.
That was a hell of a punishment in and of itself.
“She’s telling the truth,” Kid said out loud, not that Cody needed the confirmation. The boy wavered to his feet, but Mariska was smart this time, she didn’t look at him. So Cody turned his head.
The boy looked like hell.
“I’m going to throw up. You want to get out of those ropes. Make nice with Cody. He’s pissed.” Kid began to stumble away.
“You’re leaving me here?” Mariska’s shriek stung Cody’s ears and his head whipped around.
“Next time, don’t drug me and I’ll untie you.” Kid waved her off and moments later the sound of his retching filled the air.
The wolf stared at Mariska.
What the hell am I going to do with you?