Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 12

“I'll wake you up. Don't worry.”

“I can't stop worrying. Sorry.”

“Go to sleep, Norville.” He raised his hand, started to reach out—for a moment, he seemed about to touch me. I braced for it, my heartbeat speeding up—what was he doing? But he turned around and left the cabin before anything happened.

Slowly, I sat on the sofa, then wrapped myself in the blanket. The cushions were ancient, far too squishy to be comfortable. But it wasn't the floor, so I lay down.

This was a mistake, I thought as I fell asleep. Cormac and I staying in the same house—absolutely a mistake.

I woke up to find Cormac putting a log into the stove. I didn't feel cold. I probably would have let the fire burn

out. Outside the window, the sky was pale. It was morning again already. He closed the door to the stove, then sat back on the rug and watched the flames through the tiny grill in front.

I hadn't moved, and he hadn't noticed that I was awake, watching him. Shadows still darkened his eyes, and his hair had dried ruffled. He'd taken off his jacket and boots—and the gun belt. He wore a black T-shirt and jeans. His arms were pale, muscular.

Suddenly he looked over and caught my gaze staring back.

I stilled the fluttering in my stomach and tried not to react. Just stay cool.

“Is 'Rosco' still out there?” I said.

“Yeah. He fell asleep around two A.M. I expect he'll wake up soon and get out of here.”

“And no dead animal on my porch?”

“None.”

I turned my face into the pillow and giggled, “If it weren't happening to me, this would be downright hilarious.”

“I did find this.” He held out his hand.

I looked at it first, then gingerly opened my hand to accept it. It was a cross made of barbed wire, a single strand twisted back on itself, about the length of my finger. The steel was smooth, the barbs sharp. Not worn or rusted, which meant this hadn't been sitting outside for very long.

“You think this is from my sacrificial fan club?”

“Could be. If so, the question is Did they leave it on purpose, or did they just drop it? If it's on

purpose, then it means something. It's supposed to do something.”

“What?”

“I don't know.”

I could almost feel malevolence seeping out of the thing. Or maybe the barbs just looked scary. “What am I supposed to do with it?”

“I recommend finding somebody with a forge and have them melt the thing into slag. Just in case.”

He thought it was cursed, and he brought the thing into my house? I groaned with frustration. I wanted to throw it, but I set it on the floor instead.

“Why a cross?”

“There's a dozen magic systems that borrow from Christianity. This part of the country, it might be an evangelical sect, or maybe some kind of curandero.”

“Curandero. Mexican folk healer, right?”

“They do all kinds of stuff. Sometimes, they go bad.”

“You know a lot about this sort of thing.”

“It helps, knowing as much as I can. The people who hire me—they're believers. They have to believe in werewolves and magic to call me in the first place. The symbols may be different, the rituals are different, but they all have one thing in common: they believe in the unbelievable. You know what I'm talking about. You're one of them. One of the believers.”

“I only believe because of what I am. I don't know anything about any of it.”

“Hell, I don't know anything. This is just scratching the surface. There's a whole world of freaky shit out there.”

He was being uncharacteristically chatty. I didn't know if it was stress or sleeplessness. Maybe something about sitting in a tiny cabin in front of a wood-burning stove on a cold morning made people personable.

“How did you find out about the freaky shit? I found out the morning after I was attacked—the whole pack stood there telling me, 'Welcome to the family, have fun.' But who told you?”

He smiled, but the expression was thin and cold. “I don't remember anyone telling me werewolves are real. I've always known. My family—we've been hunting lycanthropes for over a hundred years. My dad taught me.”

“How old were you when he died?”

He looked

sharply at me. “Who told you he died?”

“Ben.”

“Bastard,” Cormac muttered.

“That was all he said,” I said quickly. “I asked how you two met and if you'd always been so humorless, and he said you had a right to be humorless. I asked why and he told me.”

He was staring at me, and 1 didn't like it. Among wolves, a stare was a challenge. The thought of a challenge from Cormac made the wolf inside me cringe in terror. 1 couldn't fight Cormac. 1 looked away, hugging the blanket tightly around me.

“You still talk too much, you know that?” Cormac said.

“I know.”

Finally, he said, “I was sixteen. I moved in with Ben and his folks after my dad died. His mother was my dad's sister.”

“Then Ben knew, too. He was part of the family history.”

“Hard to say. I think Aunt Ellen was just as happy to leave it all behind. Jesus, what am I going to tell her?”

“Nothing,” I said wryly. “At least not until the full moon falls on Christmas and Ben has to explain why he's not coming home for the holidays.”

“Spoken with the voice of experience.”

“Yup. If Ben wasn't in on the werewolf hunting from the start, how did you drag him into it?”

“I didn't drag him—”

“Okay, how did you get him started in it?”

“Why do you want to know all this stuff about me?”

“You're interesting.”

Cormac didn't say anything to that, just went back to staring at me with a little too much focus.

I said, “Could you not look at me like that? It's making me nervous.”

“But you're interesting.”

Oh, my. That clenching feeling in my gut wasn't fear— not this time.

I'd kissed Cormac once. It had been another situation like this. We were sitting and talking, and I let the urge overcome my better judgment. And he kissed back, for about a second, before he marched out of the room, calling me a monster.