Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 30

“Why?” Ben said.

“You know him better than I do. You know what he's like.” I sat at the table, feet up on the seat of my chair, hugging my knees. “Did he have someplace he needed to be? Maybe he's following up on his contact, about the blood magic.”

Ben shook his head. 'Three's a crowd. That's what he was thinking. That's why he left.”

“But…” And I couldn't think of anything more to say. If Cormac had felt that way, he should have said something. He should have told me. Why couldn't he ever just come out and say it? “Should we go after him? Should we call him?” 1 had his number stored on my cell phone. I'd entered it in when I first got the phone, a short time after 1 met him. He was the kind of person you could call in an emergency.

Again, Ben shook his head. “If he'd wanted us to contact him, he'd have left a note.”

“It's not a matter of what he wants, it's a matter of what's good for him. He's not going to go do something crazy to get himself hurt, is he?”

Ben arched a brow wryly. “Any more so than he usually does?”

He had a point.

“What's the plan now?” I said. “Cormac left us with that curse. I'd just as soon let the curse win and get out of here.”

Ben continued looking out into the forest. He seemed peaceful, if sad. The calm was holding. “One more day. Give me one more day to pull myself together. I don't think I'm ready for civilization yet.”

I couldn't argue with that. I'd give him all the time I could. “You got it.”

So. That started our first day without Cormac.

I worked at the computer. I'd tried to pull off a modern-day Walden, but I'd failed to live up to Thoreau's ideals. The real problem was that I didn't have a pond. It was Walden Pond. I needed a large body of water for effective contemplation.

But really, what would Thoreau have done if a friend had shown up with a werewolf bite and begged for his help? Which made me wonder if maybe there was a more sinister reason Thoreau went off to live by himself in the woods, and he dressed the whole experience up in all this rhetoric about simple living to cover it up.

Werewolves were not exactly part of the accepted canon of American literature. What would Thoreau have done?

A WWTD? bumper sticker would take too much explaining. And really, he'd have probably lectured the poor guy about how his dissolute lifestyle had gotten him into the situation.

1 wasn't Thoreau. Wasn't ever going to be Thoreau. Screw it. 1 wrote pages about the glories of mass consumerism offered by the height of modern civilization. All the reasons not to run off to the woods and deny yourself a few basic indulgences in life.

That night, without a word spoken about it, Ben and I slipped into bed together and snuggled under the covers for warmth. No making out, no sex, not so much as a kiss, and that was fine. We were pack, and we needed to be together.

We should have left town that day.

Something happened, woke me up. I could barely feel it as it pressed against the air, making its own little wind with its passage. A predator, stalking me.

No. This was my place, my territory. I didn't have to take this. I wasn't going to run and let it win. Just no-

I slipped out of bed and stomped out to the porch, in the dark of night, no visible moon or stars or anything.

“Kitty?” Ben said, from the bedroom.

Leaning on the railing, I smelled the air. Trees, hills, and something. Something wrong. Couldn't see anything in the forest, but it was here. Whatever hated me was here.

“Come out!” 1 screamed. 1 ran into the clearing, turned around, searched, and still didn't see anything. “I want to see you! Let me see you, you coward!”

This was stupid. Whoever laid that curse on this place wasn't going to come out in the open. If they'd wanted to face me, they'd never have snuck around gutting rabbits on my porch in the first place. All I'd do with my screaming and thrashing around was chase it off.

But that feeling was still there. That weight, that hint that something wasn't just watching me. It had trapped me. It had marked my territory as its own, and was now smothering me rather than letting me run.

Maybe this wasn't the curse. Maybe this was something else. Cormac said it might escalate, but escalate to what?

Something like eyes glowed, making a shape in the darkness.

My imagination. There

wasn't really anything out there. But 1 went into the trees, stepping lightly. Think of wolf paws, pads barely touching earth, moving easily as air. My stride grew longer. I could jog like this for hours without losing my breath.

“Kitty!” Ben pounded down the porch steps, but I didn't turn around. If something was out there, if this thing was after me, I'd find it.

There, movement. That same shadow, large but low to the ground. Lurking. My pulse sped up, beating hot. This was what I should have been doing all along, turning the tables, hunting the hunter. Counterintuitively, I slowed, waiting to see what it would do, giving it a chance to leap this way or that. Once it moved, all I had to do was pounce and pin it with my claws.

Two red eyes, glaring, caught me. The gaze fixed on me, and I couldn't move.

I had good eyesight—a wolf's eyes. But I couldn't make out the form the eyes belonged to. Even when it moved closer, I only saw shadow. I heard a low noise, like a growl, so low it shook the ground under me.

All my instincts screamed for me to run. Get out. This wasn't right, this wasn't real. But I couldn't move.

Something grabbed my arm and yanked me from behind. I stayed on my feet, but 1 might as well have flipped head over heels, the way my vision swam and the world shifted.

“Kitty!”

My senses started working again, and I smelled friend. Pack. Ben.

“Did you see it?” I said, gasping for air, clinging to his arm.

“No, nothing. You ran out of the house like you were in some kind of trance.”

And he followed, out of trust, out of loyalty. I pulled myself close to him. 1 kept looking out, scanning the trees, the spaces between them, looking for red eyes and a shadow. I saw skeletal branches against a sky made indistinct with clouds, earth rising up the hill, and patches of snow.

Both of our breaths fogged in the cold, releasing billowing clouds that quickly faded. Nothing else moved. We might have been the only living things out here. I shivered. Once I stopped running, the cold hit me like a wall, chilling my skin from toe to scalp. I was only wearing sweats and a T-shirt and went barefoot.