Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 20

By comparison, Ariel was shockingly polite. “Marty, do you consider yourself to be an open-minded person?”

“Well, yeah, I suppose,” said Marty the caller.

“Good, that's really good,” Ariel purred. “I'd expect a werewolf to be open-minded. You're involved so deeply in the world behind the veil, after all. I'm sure there are lots of things you haven't had personal experience with, yet you believe—like the Pope, or the Queen of England. So exactly why is it that you can't accept the existence of other species of lycanthropes, just because you've never met one?”

Marty hadn't thought this one through. You could always spot the ones who spouted rhetoric with no thought behind it. “Well, you know. All the stories are about werewolves. And the movies—werewolves, all of ttiem. It's the Wolf Man, not the Leopard Man!”

“And what about Cat People?”

Hey, that was what I'd have said.

“That's different,” Marty said petulantly. “That was, you know, made-up.”

Ariel continued. “Stories about shape-shifters are found all over the world, and they're about all kinds of animals. Whatever's common locally. You really have to accept that there might be something to all these stories, yes?”

“I've never heard of these stories.”

Wow, I loved how some people were so good at digging their own holes.

“Your culture isn't the only one in the world, Marty. Moving on to the next call, we have Irene from Tulsa, hello.”

My turn? Me? 1 was ready for this. I tried to sound more chipper and ditzy than I had the last time I called. “Hi, Ariel!”

“So, you're a were-jaguar. Can you tell me how exactly that happened? Jaguars aren't exactly native to Tulsa.”

“When I was in college I spent a summer volunteering in Brazil for an environmental group, working in the jungle. One time 1 started back to camp a little late, and, well…” I took a deep, significant breath. “I was attacked.”

How could you not sympathize with that story? Oh, yeah, somebody nominate me for an Oscar. I wondered how long it would take her to spot the

fake.

“That's an amazing story,” Ariel said, clearly impressed. “How have you coped since then?”

“I have good days, I have bad days. It's really hard not having anyone to talk to about it. As far as I know, all the other were-jaguars are in Brazil.”

“You ever think about going back and finding someone who might be able to help you?”

“It just never worked out.” I'm so sad, pity me…

“Well, Irene, if you really want something, there's always a way.”

Maybe that was why Ariel bothered me so much: that Pollyanna sunshine attitude. Sometimes, things just didn't work out.

“I want to get married under a full moon. Is there a way for me to get that?”

“Sometimes you have to adjust your wants to be a little more realistic.”

“Easy for you to say.”

She dodged, yanking control of the conversation back to her. “Tell me why you really haven't been back to Brazil.”

I said breezily, “Well, you know, I had to come back home, finish school, then I met this guy, see, and then I broke up with this guy—and you know how it is, one thing then another, and I guess I got distracted.”

Ariel wasn't having it. “Irene, are you pulling my leg?”

Damn, she got me. That didn't mean I had to admit it. “Oh, Ariel, why would I do something like that?”

“You tell me.”

“Calling you with a fake story about being a were-jaguar would be—oh, I don't know—a delusion based in some psychiatric disorder? A desperate cry for attention?”

“That's what I'm thinking,” Ariel said. “Moving on to the next call, Gerald—”

I hung up in disgust. I still hadn't gotten her to say anything stupid. I was feeling pretty stupid, but never mind that. My inner two-year-old was enjoying herself.

Cormac was watching me from the kitchen, which made me even more disgruntled. 1 didn't need an audience. At least not one that was sitting there staring at me.

He said, “You ever think that maybe she's really a vampire or a witch or something, the same way that you're really a

werewolf? That she's keeping it under wraps like you did?”

“Right up until you blew my cover, you mean?”

He shrugged noncommittally, as if to say, Who me?

She's a hack,” I muttered. Then what the hell does that make you?”

“A has-been, evidently.” I brushed back my hair and sighed.

He stood and grabbed his coat and gun off the kitchen counter. “You want a pity party, you can have it by yourself.”

“I'm not… this isn't… I'm not looking for your pity.”

“Good. 'Cause you're not getting any. If you're a has-been it's your own damn fault.”

“Where are you going?”

“Guard duty. If I see any gutted rabbits I'll let you know.”

Bang, he slammed the front door behind him and that was that.

I let out a frustrated growl, grabbed the blanket, and cocooned myself on the sofa.

I wasn't a has-been. I wasn't.

Yet.

Chapter 7

I woke, startled, and sat up on the sofa. I hadn't heard anything, nothing specific had jolted me awake, but I felt like someone had slammed a door or fired a gun.

Cormac.

He was asleep in a chair, which he'd pulled over to the living-room window. He'd been keeping watch, just like he'd said. But I never thought he'd fall asleep on guard duty. It just wasn't like him.

Whatever had shocked me awake hadn't affected him. He even snored a little, his chin tipped forward so it almost touched his chest.

Outside, the sky was gray. Light, so it was past dawn, but still overcast, like it was about to snow. I had a queasy, stuffy-headed feeling that told me I hadn't gotten enough sleep.

“Cormac?” I said.

Immediately he sat up and put his hand on the revolver he'd left sitting on my desk. Only after looking around, tensed at the edge of the chair as if waiting for an attack, did he say, “What happened?” He didn't look at me; his attention focused on the window and the door.

“Something woke me up,” I said.