Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 29

We talked about my evil stalker.

“How long's this been going on?” Ben asked.

“About ten days. The first one happened right before you got here,” I said. “Okay, so whoever has it in for me knows what I am. Why didn't something happen last night? Why didn't they go after the wolf half?”

“They're scared,” Ben said. “You're strongest at the full moon. They're not going to want to confront that.”

Cormac said, “He's right. Full moon's the worst night to go after a werewolf. You wait until the morning after. Get 'em while they're sleeping it off.” He smiled.

Even Ben shook his head at that one. “You just got a whole hell of a lot creepier.”

“Me? 1 haven't changed a bit.” He gave Ben a hard look.

I wasn't going to let that topic go any further than it already had. “They didn't come after me this morning. They were scared enough to stay inside last night, but didn't know to come looking for me this morning.”

“They don't know what they're doing.” Ben looked to Cormac for confirmation.

The hunter tapped the flat of his steak knife thoughtfully against his opposite hand. “If they'd wanted to kill you all it would take was a sniper sitting up on the road. Deputy Rosco could do it. They're just trying to scare you into leaving.”

“So who is 'they'? Or he, or she, or it?” I said.

Ben continued the brainstorming. “Someone who doesn't want to kill you and doesn't know what they're doing.”

“Amateurs,” Cormac said. “Amateurs practicing some kind of fucked up blood magic. This is going to turn around and bite somebody on the ass.”

“Hello?” I raised a hand. “I'm feeling pretty ass-bitten right here.”

“But you're still here. Whatever spell it is your fan club thinks they're casting isn't working. You can't work the kind of magic that calls for hanging skinned dogs up in trees without paying some price. They've either got to give up soon, or escalate. I'd hate to see where that could go.”

“You have any contacts who might know something about

this?” Ben asked.

“1 might. I'll make a call.” He retrieved his cell phone from his duffel bag and went outside.

All 1 wanted was for the torture of small animals outside my house to stop, the book to be finished, and Ben to be okay.

I could check on at least one of those. “How are you doing?”

He thought for a moment, then shrugged. “All right, I think. I'm not feeling much of anything. It's a whole lot better than yesterday, though.”

“Good,” I said, inordinately pleased.

Ben and 1 were washing dishes when Cormac came back in. He didn't say anything about how his call went, and we didn't ask. If he didn't tell us, asking him wouldn't get him to talk.

It was strange, how I was getting used to having him around. Maybe the three of us still had a chance of coming to some sort of equilibrium. Some arrangement where Ben didn't lose his best friend, I didn't lose my new wolf pack, and Cormac could hold on to the only people who anchored him to the world. Or maybe that was wishful thinking.

Later, i found Ben changing the sheets on the bed. He'd found the clean set in the closet, and was stripping off the ones he'd sweated, tossed, and turned on over the last week.

“I thought I'd get it ready for you,” he explained as 1 leaned in the doorway. “I've kept you out of it long enough.”

This was going to be more awkward than I thought. We weren't wolves tonight, and the lycanthropy wasn't lighting any fires. Any acknowledged fires, at least.

“Where'll you sleep?” I asked.

Cormac answered, “The sofa. I'll take the floor.”

“I can take the floor,” Ben said. Cormac was already pulling out his bedroll and spreading it out by the desk. “We can draw straws.”

“Do I get to draw straws?” I said.

“No,” they said, in unison.

My, what gentlemen. I smirked.

Ben ended up on the sofa. Cormac was very hard to argue with.

Eventually, the lights went out and the house fell quiet.

I hadn't gotten any sleep the night before. Being in my own bed again, I should have been out for the count. But I lay there, staring at the darkened ceiling,

wondering why I couldn't sleep. I had too much on my mind, I decided.

Then the floorboards leading into the bedroom creaked, very faintly. I propped myself on an elbow. The figure edging inside the room was in shadow, a silhouette only. I took a breath through my nose, smelling— It was Ben.

“I can't sleep,” he whispered. He stepped toward the bed, slouching a little—sheepish, if I didn't know him better. “I keep fidgeting. It feels… weird. Being alone. I was wondering: could I… I mean with you—” He gestured toward the bed, shoulders tensed, and looked away.

He was a new wolf. A pup. A kid having nightmares. I'd been the same way.

I pushed back the covers and scooted to one side of the bed.

Letting out a sigh, he climbed in beside me, curling up on his side as I pulled the covers over us both. I put my arms around him, he settled close, and that was all. In moments, he was asleep, his chest rising and falling regularly. He was exhausted, but he'd needed to feel safe before he could sleep.

God help anybody who felt safer with me looking after him. I could barely take care of myself. But what else could I do? I held him and settled in to sleep. Tried not to worry.

As I faded, sinking into a half-asleep state, I glimpsed another shadow at the doorway. A figure looked in briefly, then moved away. Then I heard the front door open and close, and faintly, like a buzzing in a distant dream, the Jeep's engine started up, and tires crunched on the gravel drive.

He's gone, my dream self thought, and there wasn't anything I could do about it.

Chapter 10

He's gone,” Ben said, leaning over the kitchen sink and looking out the window to the clearing where Cormac's Jeep was no longer parked.

Cormac had cleared out his bedroll, his duffel bag, his guns. After sharing the space with him for a week, the house seemed empty without him and his things. He'd packed everything up and driven off in the middle of the night. It was how he often made his exits.

This time, though, the bastard had left me to figure out this curse business on my own. I'd been counting on his help.