Black Beast
was too young. Not yet a teenager. There was time. This girl, on the other hand, should have settled by now. And if she Changed like this regularly, someone should have noticed her animal and put it in the records, along with a court summons.
    But they hadn't, and none of the infractions mentioned in the file had any sound basis. Certainly not enough to warrant conviction. There was only one obvious conclusion. Someone had chosen to omit them in blatant defiance of the Council.
    Finn bit his lip and realized he could taste his own blood. He spat, tainting the grass nearby.
    If he wanted, he could haul her in before the Council the moment she touched back upon solid earth. He held considerable sway among the members. If he were able to convince them that she was the menace Karen claimed she was, they wouldn't even bother to hear her plead her case. They would slap her in silver handcuffs and send her to the prison in Antarctica, the Keep.
    But they would wonder. As he, too, wondered.
    Why did he harbor so much hatred for vermin?
    He watched the hawk circling overhead, oblivious to his thoughts, and he realized that he knew. Yes, he knew exactly what the cause of this irrationally intense hatred was. He desired her kind—and had, since he had first laid eyes on one of the slinky cat shifters his father had dealt with when he was still a young man. He wanted to
them, and it went against everything he had ever been taught, or
, and so he loathed them instead.
    Finn gritted his teeth, ignoring the looks his familiar kept sending him. She could read his mind, as he could hers, and she did not like what she was seeing in the violent maelstrom of his thoughts.
    That made two of them.
    Witches were not supposed to think about shape-shifters in this way. It was bestiality once removed, a violation of the Second Rule, which was that shape-shifters and witches could not have romantic liaisons.
    And yet, the moment he had laid eyes on her picture for the first time, months ago, he had found himself entertaining thoughts the likes of which he had never had reason to contemplate—not in such detail.
    Others did, of course. It was considered a fetish. Sometimes witches would dress up in furs or feathers during sex, and they would bite, scratch, and fuck like the animals that they so desperately desired in bed. It was considered a sickness. But he had never been one of them, had never been quite so depraved.
    Or so he'd thought.
    But when he had lain with Karen the other night, it hadn't been her face he'd seen during climax.
    Finn cursed. This presented an entirely new list of potential failures. He did not like to think about what his father would say if he found out his only son and heir was a filthy vermin-lover.
    His life, as he knew it, would be ruined.
    But this proud creature, who clearly thought herself above the law, would not care. She had no lost love for his kind. That much was obvious, when she had reacted so hostilely to the idea of being followed.
    And he had thought not being a Quad was the only problem he faced for the kingship. This was worse.
    Far worse.
    The more she circled and dove, the more he hated her. The more he wanted to clip her wings.
    To destroy her.
    Possess her.
    Own her.
    She was free in a way he never would be, and had done nothing to deserve it.
    “Where are her things?” he demanded of his familiar.
    She looked at him balefully, but she was bound to serve him, and serve she did.
    They came across the place where the shape-shifter had left her clothes and backpack. There were strange particles clinging to the canvas, buzzing as angrily as wasps. Graymalkin hissed when she saw them, and Finn narrowed his eyes.
It couldn't be.
    He tore open the bag with shaking hands. It was. Black magic. The shifter girl was dabbling in black magic. He had his probable cause. His lips curled

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