Guardian Hound
growing things and old, old trees, Lukas scented another of the hound clan.
    He stopped, standing very still, making Rudi stop as well.
    â€œWhat is it?” Rudi asked. He scented the air. “You smell that, don’t you? Good boy, Prince. Come on.”
    They went immediately back to the house and moved cities the next day.
    # # #
    After eight years, when they were living in the suburbs of Chicago, Rudi carried a large bag into his study, then called Lukas in and shut the door.
    The room smelled of Rudi and all his electronics—computers, printers, and plastic cords. The bag Rudi carried smelled of cool magnets and cardboard. He’d been to a mall, or a big store: His shoes carried scents of industrial cleaners and the car.
    Rudi himself smelled anxious and excited. He opened the bag and pulled out a white board, then he arranged rows of magnetic letters at the bottom, two full alphabets’ worth. After he set the board on the floor, he sat in his chair and addressed Lukas.
    â€œI was not spying on you, Prince,” Rudi said clearly.
    Lukas continued to sniff the board, as if he was uninterested, though he was suddenly wary.
    â€œMy new laptop came with a camera that automatically records everything. I didn’t realize it was motion-sensitive.”
    Lukas finished sniffing the board and walked over to where Rudi sat, nosing his pockets as if looking for treats. He wanted to run far, far away, but he had to pretend he didn’t understanding a word Rudi was saying. After all, Rudi was talking in a normal voice, not demanding attention or commanding obedience.
    â€œIt recorded you reading my magazines.”
    Hamlin rose up and pressed against Lukas. Trust , he said. Pack. Of us.
    Lukas sat back and looked up at Rudi. He couldn’t share his secrets, not even with his protector.
    â€œIf you ever want to talk to me,” Rudi continued, nudging the board closer with his foot. “You can use this.”
    Lukas walked back to the board and looked at it again.
    It would be so easy, so very easy, to reach out a paw and slide a letter. Even just the letter “K” to show that he understood.
    But then Rudi would want more, demand Lukas say more, and Lukas couldn’t take the risk. He merely nodded and wandered off, sniffing around Rudi’s chair, teasing apart all the scents, trying to figure out exactly where Rudi’s shoes had walked most recently.
    â€œAll right. Keep your secrets,” Rudi said. “Lady Metzler would be proud of you.”
    From then on, there were always at least three different magazines open on the coffee table, set there for Lukas to read from every night.
    And Rudi’s computer was never close by.
    # # #
    Their most recent city was Seattle. Lukas didn’t mind the rain, and he loved the open dog parks. Grass grew all year round, but there were still seasons, which meant leaves to jump and play in. They’d arrived more than a year ago, and Lukas hoped they’d stay longer.
    Summer was just ending, and the nights were turning cooler. Rudi had taken them to a different park, and they were walking home in the soft twilight when Lukas smelled it.
    He sat down in the middle of the sidewalk, nose high.
    What was that?
    Rudi scented the air as well. “Clan?” he asked quietly.
    Lukas stood and shook himself all over, pretending it hadn’t been anything. He walked to the end of his leash, then looked over his shoulder at Rudi, who still stood motionless. Well? Lukas asked with all of his doggie spirit.
    â€œAll right then. Come on.” Rudi started walking again.
    The scent hadn’t been clan.
    That warm, wild heart that Lukas caught a whiff of was purely human, but strong enough to fight all the clans, and more.
    It was the heart of the knight he’d dreamed of, so long ago. The knight who would defeat the shadows.
    Lukas had to find it— her . He needed to be near her, bathe in her scent.
    She gave him hope

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