"Kenneth, look at me."
He snapped back to me. "It says here that you and Sandra work together in the Northern Recovery office. Is that correct?"
"Aside from what happened on Friday, would you say Sandra is a friendly person?"
Ken puzzled it over. He wasn't sure where I was heading. "I suppose so."
"Could it be that when Sandra told you that you looked nice, she might have just been trying to be friendly?"
"So you had never seen her compliment anybody else in the office?"
He paused. "Well, yes, she does say nice things sometimes to people, but I mean, I'm the only guy there, so it's different."
This was so not my thing. I just wanted to hop on the table, knock him upside the head, and be done with it. "But it is possible that you might have misinterpreted Sandra's comment?"
It took a few more seconds, and then he finally said, "It's possible."
Hallelujah. "Suppose there were a man working in your office. A much larger, stronger man. Let's say a render. He came into the office wearing a new leather jacket. You had a friendly chat, you complimented his jacket, and that night you woke up with the man standing over you, nude and holding a bouquet of roses."
Kenneth's eyes went wide. "But I'm not gay!"
"It's not about being gay; it's about being confronted by someone larger and stronger than you are when you are at your most vulnerable. If you were to find this dude standing in your bedroom, would you be upset?"
"Hell yes, I'd be upset. I'd tell him to get the fuck out. But she didn't tell me to get out. If she had said, `Ken, get the hell out!' I would've left. She shot me eight times."
Oh, screw it. "She is smaller and weaker than you are. She woke up, saw you naked and ready for action, and probably thought you were going to rape her. She was scared, Ken. You scared her half to death."
"She didn't have anything to be scared about! I wouldn't have done anything."
"She didn't know that. You already broke into her house, so you have no respect for her property. What would make her think that you would respect her as a person and just walk away if she told you to leave?" Muscles played along Ken's jaws. "That's the way the shapeshifters do it. Everybody knows that you didn't encourage the Beast Lord, but he broke into your apartment and you didn't shoot him."
The audience got so quiet, I could hear myself breathe. So that was it. That was what Jennifer was after.
"I see." My voice went quiet. "Is that why you decided to appeal directly to me?"
"Who suggested it?"
Jennifer wanted to embarrass me. Well, if she expected me to wilt, she'd be waiting until hell sprouted roses. I turned and looked at Jennifer. She smiled back at me. Half a second to clear the desk, two seconds to cross the room and I could be sinking my fist into her face. Cure all her ills and mine.
"I had no idea that Clan Wolf's alphas kept such a close eye on my relationship with the Beast Lord. I'll have to check under our bed tonight to make sure no little wolf spies are hiding under there."
Somebody snorted and choked it off.
"Do you know what I did after I discovered the Beast Lord in my apartment?"
Ken realized he was on shaky ground. "No."
"I put a knife to his throat," I said. "And I changed the lock on my door. Besides that, I had encouraged the Beast Lord prior to him breaking in. I flirted with him, I kissed him, and I paraded around in front of him in my underwear."
I was almost done. I just had to keep from pummeling Jennifer for a little bit longer. "Did Sandra ever do any of those things?"
Let's get it all out there. "Did she ever make out with you in a hot tub or offer to serve you dinner naked?"
My face must've gotten darker, because Ken gulped. "No."
I turned to George. "Does the Code of Pack Law have anything to say about courtship?"
George cleared her throat. "Article Five, Section One states that no member of the Pack may threaten or assault another member with the intention of forcing sexual congress."
"What's the punishment for rape?" I asked. "Death," George answered.
Ken turned white.
"Your actions can be construed as a prelude to sexual assault. It's alarming that your alphas didn't realize that, since it's their job to know things like that and impress that understanding onto the members of their clan. Is forced mating common in Clan Wolf?"
The audience turned to look at the wolf alphas. Daniel startled. Jennifer clenched her teeth.
Ken showed all the desperation of a man trapped on a chunk of ice in the middle of a raging river. "No."
"So your alphas do not encourage rape, to the best of your knowledge?"
"Very well. I'm ready to rule." I looked at Sandra. "You may say something if you would like."
She shook her head.
I looked at Ken. "You acted like an idiot and got eight bullets for your trouble. Count yourself lucky that she didn't shoot you where it counted. If it had been me, I would've cut off your head and filed a police report after you were done bleeding out on my carpet. Suck it up, learn from it, and move on. You get nothing. Apologize to Sandra for scaring her and then causing her a load of embarrassment by having this matter dragged before the Pack assembly."
He stared at her wild-eyed. "I'm sorry."
"This proceeding is over." I glanced at the wolf alphas. "Would the alphas of Clan Wolf please see me on their way out."
The auditorium cleared in record time. I leaned back in my chair.
Daniel and Jennifer approached my desk.
Both of my boudas moved closer.
"Jezebel, Barabas, leave us," I said. The fewer witnesses we had to this, the better.
Barabas reversed his course in midstep and went out the door. Jez hesitated, snarled something under her breath, and followed him out.
Just me, Jennifer, Daniel, and George.
"It's been fun," I said. "The game ends now."
"What game?" Jennifer asked. I shrugged. "You have three choices. First, you can quit fucking with me and walk away. Second, you can challenge me, and I'll kill you. It would be good for me. I need the practice."
Jennifer bared her teeth. Daniel put his hand on her forearm. I could take her alone. Both of them with magic down would be hard.
"Third, you can keep pestering me, in which case at the next Pack Council I'll move for your removal. I can do that, can't I, George?"