Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 19

He just stood there. “You couldn't have left a note?”

“I didn't think you'd wake up before we got back.”

“Don't worry,” Ben said. “She looked out for me.”

“Should you even be out?” Cormac said accusingly, almost motherly.

I nearly snapped at him, something juvenile like what's your problem? Then I realized—I'd never seen Cormac worried before. At least, worried and actually showing it. He was downright stressed out. It was almost chilling.

Ben slumped into the other chair at the kitchen table. “I survived, didn't I?” Cormac scowled and looked away, which prompted Ben to add, “I'm okay, Cormac.”

“At least for another three days,” I muttered as I shoved food into the fridge. I put the groceries away loudly and angrily, as if that would make me feel better. The guys ignored me.

“You need help with that?” Ben indicated the spread of gun oil and gun parts on the kitchen table. Cormac had put paper towels down first, so I couldn't even get mad at him for messing up the table.

“I'm done.” Cormac began cleaning up the mess, packing everything away into a metal toolbox.

Ben watched for a minute, then said, “If you'd just shot me, you wouldn't have to deal with this crap now.”

“You are never going to let me live that down, are you?”

“We had a deal—”

Cormac slammed the toolbox on the table, making a wrenching crash. “We were sixteen years old when we made that deal! We were just kids! We didn't have a clue!”

Ben dropped his gaze. I left the room.

Couldn't go far, of course. A whole five feet to the so-called living room. Still, the space made ignoring them marginally easier. The whole cabin became entrenched in a thick, obvious silence. A moment later, Cormac left out the front door, toolbox and rifles in hand. Then I heard him repacking his Jeep. I half expected the engine to start up, to hear him drive away forever, leaving me to deal with Ben all by myself. But he didn't. Maybe he planned on sleeping out there to avoid any more arguments, but he didn't drive away. Ben went to the bedroom. I sat at my desk, at my computer, pretending to write, and wanted to pull out my hair.

I'd spent a year on the radio telling people how to

fix their supernaturally complicated relationship problems. And now I couldn't deal with the one right in front of me.

Ben emerged long enough for supper. More venison steaks. After, he pulled a chair into the living room and sat in front of the stove, just watching the embers burning through the grate, slipping into some kind of fugue state. I couldn't really argue. I'd done the same tiling when this had happened to me. As the body changed, perceptions changed, and the world seemed to slow down. You blinked and a whole afternoon went by. The sense of disconnection had lasted for weeks. I'd almost flunked out that semester. If I hadn't been just a year away from finishing, I might have given into that urge to drop out and walk away. Walk into the woods, never to return.

Cormac stayed in the kitchen. They still weren't speaking.

Later, at the appropriate hour, I turned on the radio. Yes, it was that time of the week again. I curled up on the sofa, cell phone in hand.

Ben looked at the radio, brow furrowed. Then, he narrowed his eyes—an expression of dawning comprehension. “What day is it?”

“Saturday,” I said.

Immediately he stood, shaking his head. “No, uh-uh, there is no way I am listening to this. I'm not watching you listen to this. I'm out of here. Good night.” He went to the bedroom and flopped on the bed.

Cormac came from the kitchen, glancing at the bedroom, and sat on the other end of the sofa. “What's this?”

'The competition,” I said.

The sultry voice announced herself.

“Good evening. I am Ariel, Priestess of the Night. Welcome to my show.” And again, “Bela Lugosi's Dead.” Of all the pretentious…

1 muttered at the radio in a manic snit. “Tell us, Ariel, what shall we talk about this week?”

Ariel, via the radio, answered. “We've all heard of werewolves,” she intoned. “We've seen countless movies. My little brother even dressed up as the Wolf Man for Halloween one year. All this attention has given short shrift to the other species. Lions and tigers and bears. And a dozen other documented lycanthropic varieties. Oh, my.”

Cormac crossed his arms and leaned back. “You have to wonder if she's got a body to go with that voice.”

I so wasn't going to tell him about the Web site. I glared at

him instead. Then, a niggling voice started scratching at the back of my mind. Scratching, gnawing, aggravating, until I had to ask, “What about my show? You know, before you saw me in person—did my voice ever, you know, make you wonder if I maybe had a body to go with it?”

He looked at me, stricken for a moment. “You're a little different,” he said finally.

Oh, God, I'm a hack. An ugly, talentless hack and nobody ever liked me, not once, not ever. I hugged the pillow that was on the sofa and stewed. Cormac rolled his eyes.

Ariel was still talking. “Are you a lycanthrope who is something other than the standard lupine fare? Give me a call, let's chat.”

I had the number on speed dial by this time. I punched the call button and waited.

Cormac watched thoughtfully. “What are you doing?”

1 ignored him. I got a busy signal the first time, then tried again. And again, until finally, “Hello, you've reached Ariel, Priestess of the Night. What's your name and hometown?”

I had it all planned out this time. “I'm Irene from Tulsa,” I said brightly.

“And what do you want to talk about?”

“I'm a were-jaguar. Very rare,” I said. “I'm so glad that Ariel's talking about this. I've felt so alone, you know? I'd love a chance to talk.”

“All right, Irene. Turn down your radio and hold, please.”

I did so, pressing the phone to my ear and tapping my foot happily.

Cormac stared at me. “That's really pathetic.”

“Shut up.”

Then he had the nerve to take the radio to the next room, to the kitchen table. He hunched before it, listening with the volume turned down low. Couldn't he leave me alone?

I listened in on three calls: the callers claimed to be a were-leopard, a were-fox, and a werewolf who refused to believe that lycanthropes could be anything other than wolves, because, well, he'd never met any others personally. If he'd called into my show I would have told him off with a rant that would have left him dumbstruck. Something along the lines of: Okay, you big jerk, let's try out a new word, shall we? Say it along with me: narcissistic…