Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 33

1 took a deep breath, quelling the nausea brought on by the stench of death—not even Wolf could stomach this mess. I filtered out the smells I knew, looking for the one

I was afraid I'd find: the musky human/lupine mix that meant werewolves had been here.

I didn't smell it.

“This wasn't werewolves,” I murmured. What was weird, though: I didn't smell anything outside of what I expected. No predator, no intruder. Nothing that wasn't already here; no hint of what had been here. Just like around my cabin, when I chased after that intruder. Like Baker said, it was as if something dropped on them out of the sky.

“Kitty.” Low and strained, Ben's voice grated like sandpaper.

He stared at the scene with unmistakable hunger. And revulsion, the two sides of him, wolf and human, battling over what emotion he should feel. His wolf might very well look on this as a feast and claw its way to the surface. The smell of blood—so thick on the air—was like an invitation, and he wasn't used to dealing with it. He clenched his hands. Sweat had broken out on his hairline. He was losing it.

I grabbed his arm and turned him away.

He squeezed his eyes shut, and his breaths came quick. I whispered, “Keep it together, okay? Don't think of the blood, think about something else. Keep it locked up inside, all curled up and harmless.”

He started to turn around, to look back over his shoulder at the slaughter. Hand on his cheek, I made him look back at me. I held his face and pulled his head down closer to me. We touched foreheads, and I kept talking until I felt him nod, until I knew he heard me.

His breathing slowed, and some of the tension sagged out of him. Only then did I let go. “Take a walk if you need to,” I said. “Walk back to the car and don't think about it, okay?”

“Okay,” he said. Without looking up, he started back for the car, hunched in and unhappy looking.

“Weak stomach?” Baker asked.

“Something like that,” I said. “Is there anything else I need to see here, or can we go back to the cars?”

We climbed back over the fence, and Baker replaced the top strand of wire. Ben was leaning on the hood of my car, arms crossed

and head bowed. I wished Marks had given me some kind of warning, so I wouldn't have had to bring Ben into that. He wasn't ready to deal with that.

“We're having a hard time explaining what happened out there, Ms. Norville. Werewolves, though. That's a pretty interesting explanation,” Marks said.

“Yeah, but it's wrong,” I said. “I didn't do it. I don't know what did.” I didn't tell him about the thing I saw outside my cabin. That thing I thought I saw. If I couldn't describe it, what was the point?

Marks clearly didn't believe me. He might as well have been holding a pair of handcuffs. Baker's expression was maddeningly neutral. Like he was happy to put it all in Marks's hands and get back to the business of ranching. Western reserve to the extreme.

“Look,” I started, growing flustered. “It's easy enough to prove I didn't do it. Get somebody out here to take some samples, find the bite marks and get some saliva, test it. I'll give you a sample to compare—”

“You don't have to do that,” Ben said, looking up. “Let him get a warrant first.”

Marks glanced at him. “Who did you say you were?”

“Benjamin O'Farrell. Attorney-at-law.”

The sheriff didn't like that answer. He frowned. “Well ain't that something.”

Ben sticking up for me settled me down. He was right; I didn't have to defend myself here. They had no proof. I said, “You think about trying the UFO people? 1 hear they have a bead on this sort of thing.” Anything could have done this.

“This isn't a joke. This is a man's livelihood.” Marks gave Baker a nod.

“I'm not joking. Can we go now?”

Scowling, he went to the door of his car. “Don't think about leaving town. Either one of you.”

Whatever. I opened my own car door and started to climb in.

Baker called out, “If you come up with any ideas about what happened here, you'll let me know?”

I nodded. My only idea at the moment was that this whole town was cursed.

As soon as I left the driveway leading out of Baker's ranch, Ben said, “Do you have your

phone?”

“It's in my bag.” I gestured to the floor of the backseat.

Ben found it, then dialed a number.

He must have gotten voice mail. “Cormac, it's me. There's been some cattle killed up here. Matches the MO of those flocks killed at Shiprock. Your rogue wolf may have found its way out here. I don't know where you've gone, but you might want to get back.”

He lowered the phone and switched it off.

I glanced at him, though I wanted to stare. I still had to drive.

“Rogue wolf,” I said. “The one he wasn't able to kill back in New Mexico?” I remembered he'd mentioned the sheep that had been killed. That there'd been two werewolves, and he'd only shot the one. “Why didn't you say anything back there?”

“Because I couldn't.” Ben's voice was tight, almost angry. “Because that smell hit me and—and I wasn't in my head anymore. Something else was. I couldn't talk, I couldn't even think.”

My own anger drained out of me. “It's the wolf. Certain smells, sometimes tastes, or if you're scared or angry, all of that makes it stronger. Calls it up. You have to work extra hard to keep it locked away. If I'd known what we were going to see I would have warned you. Or kept you away.”

“I hate it,” he said, glaring out the side window. “I hate losing control like that.”

This was Ben, who stood in courtrooms telling off judges, who stared down cops, who didn't pull punches. Probably couldn't stand the idea of something else inside him running the show. I reached over, found his hand, and held it. I half expected him to pull away, but he didn't. He squeezed back and kept staring out the window.

We returned to the cabin, but I didn't go inside. I went out, into the trees, the direction I'd run the other night, chasing that thing. That nightmare. If I hadn't just seen that slaughtered herd, I might have been able to convince myself that shadow had been a figment of my imagination.

Ben followed reluctantly. “Where are you going?”