“Tell me why you’re here.”

Stephanie’s fingers traced the arm of the chair slowly as she thought about how to answer that. Why was she here? She sure as hell didn’t want to be. Everyone seemed to think there was something wrong with her. She liked herself just fine.

“Stephanie?”

“Yeah… I’m here. Trying to think.”

“Take your time.”

She had all the time in the world, one of the perks of near-immortality, of course. She had nowhere to be. The boys were at school, and her husband had stopped caring where she was a long time ago. She eyed the doctor. It wasn’t her time she was concerned about.

Technically, she wasn’t really concerned at all.

“I suppose I haven’t been given a choice, have I?” It was like a switch and Stephanie snapped. “I mean, they’ll hunt me down like a dog if I don’t see you, right?”

“Down, Stephanie,” Dr. Woyzeck cautioned and leaned toward the intercom button on his phone. She saw the twinge of fear that crossed his eyes, and she couldn’t help but smile.

Fear.

One of her favorite smells.

“Yeah, yeah… just… relax.” Stephanie chuckled with a low growl. She realized it wasn’t exactly convincing, but the doctor settled back in his chair.

They locked eyes for a moment.

“So… yeah. We both know why I’m here. Let’s just stop pretending. I. Am. A. Murderer.” Stephanie watched him wince at the last four punctuated words.

“A… serial… killer, yes, and your attorney is hoping I can help with your defense.” The doctor hesitated, but grew in confidence and professionalism as he spoke.

“Because I’d never kill anyone if I wasn’t insane?”

“Something like that, yes.” The doctor scribbled a few notes on his pad, covering them with his free hand when Stephanie leaned in to see. “That is the point of today’s visit, for me to determine your ‘sanity’ and build a case for a plea that you were not in your right mind at the time of the deaths.”

“I see… Does a… ‘lack of conscience’… prove anything?” Stephanie’s mocking tone caused the doctor to look up at her.

“Who are you mimicking?”

“My husband. On his way out the door.” Stephanie winced. That was probably her only regret, the loss of Michael and the three youngest boys. “He told me the only one he couldn’t save was Owen, so he left him with me and a ‘God help us all.'”

“Where are they now?”

“I’m not really sure. I haven’t seen hide nor hair for three days. It’s probably a good thing for him that I can’t find him.” Her voice and her thoughts held a long growl and her eyes glinted with a lust for revenge.

The doctor raised an eyebrow without looking up, making notes with even-more-than-necessary focus.

“Heh…” Stephanie chuckled wryly, retreating slightly. “I suppose that’s not helping my case, eh?”

“Not so much, no. Can you clarify if that is a threat to his – or the boys’ – safety?”

Stephanie lunged to her feet with a growl, towering over a now unflinching doctor. Even when she leaned in so that he would feel her hot, salivating breath, he didn’t blink. They just stared at one another for a full three minutes.

Finally, Stephanie could no longer stand it, she winced and turned away. Her pride was hurt and she shrank back to crouch in her seat.

“They’ve got nothing to worry about,” she muttered without meeting his eyes. She’d never hurt her pups and Michael just wasn’t worth the time or the effort. She’d have indigestion for weeks. The thought alone caused her stomach to rebel.

“Good girl.” The doctor stood and patted her gently on the head.

Stephanie whimpered. How had the tables turned?

“Do you know why your attorney chose me to evaluate you?”

Stephanie couldn’t answer. He was clearly the Alpha, even though he’d shown fear until she staged an attack. Why?

“Because…” Dr. Woyzeck continued. “Your attorney knows as well as you and I do that there isn’t a pill in the world that can give a person their conscience back.”

Stephanie eyed him warily as he paced in circles around her, like she normally did with her prey.

“You have no conscience. Period. We can plead insanity, and there might be a judge out there who would buy it, but not without a second opinion. I am the only one who can help you, Stephanie. Will you let me?”

Wide-eyed, she nodded.

“Good… so here is the plan then…” He twirled the pen around his finger, as if trying to determine the next course of action. Stephanie waited.

“I have been recording this session.”

She growled and tensed, trying to prepare herself for the perceived inevitable attack. The doctor just gave her “the look” and she whimpered and backed down.

“Good girl,” he patronized again. “I do have some ethics, Stephanie. I cannot and will not use any portions of the recording without your consent, which is why I confessed to having recorded us. I will delete the file if you prefer, but there is evidence now that will help you…”

She nodded slightly to indicate he should continue.

“Now,” the doctor cleared his throat. “We can claim the change in mood as a sign of a bipolar disorder – not quite insanity, but I’m sure we can find proof of a dissociative disorder as well. The comments about your husband… we can have you show grief at having even considered a retaliation…”

The doctor paced around her, clearly having forgotten she was even there. This was now his show, and she didn’t like being a pawn in someone else’s game.

Stephanie called the shots; that’s how it was supposed to work. Even Chief Dell knew that. Oh, he could threaten and warn her to behave, to fall in line, but he was ultimately afraid of her – he knew his place in the pack.

This new dog was clearly overstepping his bounds and needed a leash.

She tracked the doctor’s movements, stalking him with her eyes. The time for attack was soon. It didn’t matter whether he had a good plan or not. It wasn’t hers. And therefore, she wouldn’t play. This was self-defense.

She sprung.

———

Stephanie popped a breath mint from the doctor’s desk as she emerged into the waiting room.

“You waiting for Woyzeck?” She smiled at one of the other patients who nodded.

“You might wanna schedule something else.” She turned to the receptionist. “He’s… out to lunch.”

As she stepped into the parking lot, Stephanie growled. The balance had been reestablished and the old Alpha’s place had been restored.