He snorted and went back to making dinner. “Why Bramble Burn? With a talent like yours, you could live anywhere. Why the most dangerous place in the city?”
“I’m not trying to prove anything, if that’s what you’re wondering.” She didn’t want him to think she was a nut. “I’m a quarter elf, and there’s some weirdness in my father’s line. My grandfather and I have a thing for plants; we need them like you need food. A garden’s not enough, and the farm wasn’t big enough. I need my own space, my own trees, and the Burn called to me.” She’d felt it for years, the need growing until it was a compulsion. Her mother never understood, didn’t want to understand, so she’d stopped trying to explain a long time ago. “We need each other, the Burn and I.”
She looked into space, imagining her dream. “You’ve seen what I can do. Imagine a park filled with trees like the oak. I can make things you’ve never dreamed of.”
He didn’t say anything as he set two plates on the table, waving her to sit when she would have helped. He placed a pot of rice and a pan of green beans, sweet potatoes and ham in gravy between them. “The others are on call, so we might as well dig in.” He took a bite and said, “The guys said you were beefing up security on your tree.”
“Tomorrow,” she affirmed. “This is good.”
He nodded. “I’d like to see what you’ve done sometime. I’m curious about your tree; it’s not every day I meet a tree mage.”
“I’m more of a farmer,” she demurred. “What’s it like being a werewolf?”
He frowned. “That’s a bit off topic.”
“And off limits?”
“No, but you should learn subtly if you want to change the subject.”
“Okay, new subject. Let’s talk about you. If I let you into my tree, I’m inviting a member of the pack, which isn’t the same as inviting the nice F&R guy who let me stay the night. I don’t know what the pack would do with the information.”
He blinked. “We already have a good idea. You’re not exactly subtle.”
She shrugged. “I’m a private person. Territorial, even.” Maybe not as bad as her grandfather, who sometimes let trees eat trespassers, but strangers and crowds were difficult. Her mom had forced her to attend all kinds of functions as a kid, thinking she’d outgrown it, but she never had. Parties were noisy, which hurt her ears, and there was too much stimuli. Also, people’s body language often didn’t match their words, and that made her leery. She didn’t know how to play with kids her age, and adults often talked about shallow, unimportant stuff.
As a kid she couldn’t explain it, and as an adult, she understood it was normal for a highly gifted, very intelligent person. Her brain was different, hungry, and that was fine. Despite her mother’s worries, she was perfectly normal for who she was.
That was another reason she needed Bramble Burn; a book and a sunny garden were hard to beat. That was the end goal, but having a challenge to keep her mind busy was priceless.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to fight you for the Burn, but fine. I like being a wolf.”
Werewolves didn’t actually turn into wolves, although they could communicate with them. They became man-wolf hybrids with superior reflexes and strength. They couldn’t speak in the hybrid form, so they used sign language. They’d been on Earth long before the worlds merged, hiding among the human population. Since the world was already in chaos, it seemed like a good time to reveal their race.
She knew all that, and she didn’t have anything against them. She admitted she was irritable that the attraction she felt for him wouldn’t go anywhere. They could reproduce with elves but not humans, though they mostly married within their species. Besides, interspecies dating could be complicated.
God help her, she knew all that and still baited him. “I don’t mind letting you run through the woods when I’ve finished them, but the tree is for me. Maybe a man, if I have one someday.”
He raised his brows. “How very wolf-like of you.”
She shook her head. “I told you, my line is odd. I’ve made peace with it.” She washed their dishes as he silently cleaned the kitchen. He was probably mad, which was for the best. She was very, very busy.