Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 15

I went after him.

He stared at the deer. Just stared, clutching the blanket around him and shivering like he was cold, though I didn't think the chill in the air was that sharp.

“I can smell it,” he said. “All the way in the bedroom, I could smell it. It smells good. It shouldn't, but it does.”

Fresh blood spilled on the ground, hot and rich, seeping out of cooling meat and crunchy, marrow-filled bones—I knew exactly what he was talking about. My mouth would be watering, if I wasn't so nervous.

“It's because you're hungry,” I said softly. “I could eat it right now, couldn't 1? If I wanted, I could eat it raw, skin and all—”

“Come inside, Ben. Please. Cormac'll take care of it.” Ben stood so tautly, his whole body rigid, I was afraid that if I touched him he'd snap at me, and I didn't know if his snapping would be figurative or literal. Something animal was waking in him; it lurked just under the surface. Very gently, I touched his arm. “Come on.” Finally, he looked away from the deer. He turned, and let me guide him inside.

Hours later, Cormac stacked cuts of wrapped venison in the freezer, while I pulled steaks out of the broiler. Turned out everyone here liked them rare. Go figure.

Cormac came in from cleaning up outside and went to the kitchen sink to wash his hands. “Tomorrow I'll find someone to take care of the hide. The rest of it I buried—”

“I don't want to know what you did with the rest of it,” I said, giving him a “stop” gesture while I took plates out of the cupboard.

“Come on, it's not like you haven't seen any of it before. In fact, you might have offered some help.”

“I don't know anything about dressing a deer for real. I usually just rip into it with my teeth.”

Ben sat at the kitchen table, staring blankly at the tabletop. Cormac had given him a change of clothes, but he still wrapped himself with the blanket. I tried not to be worried. He needed time to adjust. That was all. Not having him take part in the banter was weird, though.

The table, an antique made of varnished wood with a couple of matching straight-backed chairs, was small, barely big enough

for two people, totally inadequate for three. After I arranged the steaks on plates, Cormac picked up his and stayed put, eating while standing by the counter. I brought the other two plates to the table. I set one, along with a set of utensils, in front of Ben. His gaze shifted, startled out of whatever reverie he'd been in, and tracked the food.

Determined not to hover, I sat down with my own meal. I couldn't help it, though; I watched him closely.

Meat looks different to a werewolf. I didn't used to be much of a meat eater at all. I used to be the kind of person who went to a steakhouse and ordered a salad. But after I was attacked, and I woke up and had a look at my first steak, so rare that it was bleeding all the way through—I could have swallowed the thing whole. I'd wanted to, and the thought had made me ill. It had been so strange, being hungry and nauseous at the same time. I'd almost burst into tears, because I'd realized that I was different, right through to the bones, and that my life would never be the same.

What would Ben do?

After a moment, he picked up the fork and knife and calmly sliced into the meat, and calmly put the bite into his mouth, and calmly chewed and swallowed. Like nothing was wrong.

We might have been having a calm, normal meal. Three normal people eating their normal food—except for the spine-freezing tension that made the silence painful. The scraping of knives on plates made my nerves twinge.

Ben had eaten half his steak when he stopped, resting the fork and knife at the edge of the plate. He remained staring down when he asked, “How long?”

“How long until what?” I said, being willfully stupid. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

He spoke in almost a whisper. “How long until the full moon?”

“Four days,” I said, equally subdued.

“Not long.”

“No.”

“I can't do it,” he said, without any emotion. Just an observation of fact.

He was making this hard. I didn't know what else I expected. He'd acquired a chronic disease, not won the lottery. Ben wasn't a stranger to the supernatural. He was coming into this with his eyes wide open. He'd seen a werewolf shape-shift—on video, at least. He knew

exactly what would happen to him when the full moon rose.

“Everyone says that,” I said, frustration creeping into my voice. “But you can. If I can do it, you can do it.”

“Cormac?” Ben said, looking at his cousin.

“No,” the hunter said. “I didn't do it then and I won't do it now. Norville's right, that isn't the way.”

Ben stared at him a moment, then said, “I swear to God, i never thought I'd hear you say anything like that.” Cormac looked away, but Ben continued. “Your father would have done it in a heartbeat. Hell, what if he'd survived? You know he'd have shot himself.”

My mind tripped over that one entirely. My mouth, as usual, picked up where intelligent thought failed. “Whoa, wait a minute. Hold on a minute. Cormac—your father. Your father was killed by a werewolf? Is that what he's saying?”

We embarked on a three-way staring contest: Cormac glared at Ben, Ben glared back, and I glared back and forth between them. Nobody said anything until Cormac spoke, his voice cool as granite.

“You know where my guns are. You want it done, do it yourself.”

He walked out of the kitchen, to the front door, then out into the night, slamming the door behind him.

Ben stared after him. I was about ready to scream, because he still wasn't saying anything.

“Ben?”

He started eating again, methodically cutting, chewing, swallowing, watching his plate the whole time.

I, on the other hand, had lost my appetite. I pushed my plate away and comforted myself with the knowledge that if Ben was eating, he probably wouldn't kill himself. At least not right this minute.

After supper, Ben went back to bed and passed out again. Still sick, still needing time to mend. Or maybe he was avoiding the situation. I didn't press the issue. In the continued absence of Cormac, I took the sofa. Dealing with Ben had exhausted me. I needed to get some sleep. Or maybe I was just avoiding the situation.

I fervently hoped Cormac wasn't out shooting another deer. My freezer couldn't handle it.