License to Kill (Balancing the Scales #2) - R.J. Blain Page 0,1

I can move some of my stuff into your house and claim some territory. Some time to deal with my apartment isn’t a bad idea, but that shouldn’t take me more than a week or two. I’ll pretend this anchoring bullshit is just giving me time to handle my apartment. I’m going to be poor pretty soon, though, if I don’t get a paycheck. I guess I can file for unemployment.”

“You’ll be working interior,” Pauline reminded me. “Interior staff are paid.”

“I would rather start dropping acid while eating rusty nails in the hopes of contracting tetanus.” I wrinkled my nose. “I’ll likely resign and reapply to join if I’m going to be jerked around on it. I have zero interest in working interior. That is not what I worked so hard to do, and I won’t be doing it. I can pursue another career field of my choosing if interior is my only option.”

Pauline scowled. “That is not on the table for discussion, Karma.”

“If I wanted to work interior, I would be working interior. Fine, I can’t qualify for two months. At least put me on proper leave then. I can evaluate in two months. I am fine with that. It’s not the first time I’ve had to do medical leave, and it won’t be the last.”

In two months, a lot could change, and it could be for the better, although I doubted I’d appreciate the restrictions.

“Medical leave is an appropriate solution to this problem, Pauline,” Jake’s father stated. “Medical leave doesn’t revisit a poor situation, it allows her to receive pay, and it gives her a chance to settle. Jake can handle his work as normal. He has worked in the field long enough, he has the experience, and will be fine in the violent crimes division.”

“I don’t like it.”

“You don’t like it because you expect her to understand how we operate as a pack in the FBI. She has been cultivated as a Normal. If she wants to take medical leave, you will let her without complaining about it. It’s not your choice. She isn’t in the pack, and as she’s not a Fenerec, she won’t be in the pack. Don’t apply pack rules to her when they don’t apply and can’t apply. Leave it be. If she wants to go back to school and become a teacher, you’ll not say a single word about it.”

While Pauline had always crossed me as the inevitable victor of any disputes between her and her husband, she nodded without putting up a fight.

Interesting.

The days dragged into each other, and the bitter transition from active FBI special agent to on medical leave to a stay-at-home wife wore away at me. The promised two months turned into three months, and I stared at the rest of my life with a relentless chill in my chest.

I’d been right about the weight of dread and how it could smother me. I’d also been right about my abilities to endure.

Every time I asked about qualifying and reapplying, someone made up some damned excuse. When it became apparent my medical leave would end in termination, my fox focused on what was important to her: having the family group Jake, his parents, and the member of his pack enjoyed.

I could tell when Jake sensed something from his pack. His eyes grew distant, and he forgot I existed, focusing on something I couldn’t see or hear.

My fox grieved, and after having asked Jake yet again, sometime after three months bled into four, if I could become part of his pack, he’d started working longer hours to avoid me.

By the time the fifth month slogged around, I accepted nothing would change. My packed bag waited by the door along with a new cell phone with an equally new number, and in an exercise of hubris, I’d texted my ma identifying myself in case she ever wanted to give me a call. Her reply offered the only glimmer of hope I’d had in months. She’d think about it and get back to me in a day or two; she had some business she had to attend to first.

My fox could wait for a day or two for the chance to become a part of even a broken family.

I could have left without a word, but my ma hadn’t raised me to be a coward. I’d tell Jake I was leaving right to his face, take my bag, and hit the road. I’d be hitting the road without a car, but I

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