Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 40

“So,” I said, filled with fake cheerfulness. “Did you really give those crosses to Jake to melt them down, or did you keep them so you could dump them back around my place?”

Bug-eyed and stricken, she stared back at me. Almost, she trembled, and a scent of fear-laden sweat broke out on her skin. She looked like prey. Like a rabbit caught in Wolf's sight.

What a great feeling. I had the power; I was the badass. If I so much as raised a finger, she'd probably scream.

Then, she knelt. Slowly, she disappeared behind the counter, and when she stood again, she held the bag of crosses I'd given her. They chimed when she set them on the counter.

This was one of those times when I hated being right.

“Goddamn it, Alice. I liked you! Why'd you Have to turn out to be such a bitch?”

The overly polite woman, the one who couldn't be mean to anyone's face, took command. “You don't have to be so angry,” she said, with a righteous tilt to her chin.

I wasn't finished. “If you hate me enough to kill small animals over it, don't turn around and pretend to be nice to me. Honestly, I prefer Joe here with his gun pointed at me. At least I know where I stand with him!”

Joe blinked at me over the stock of his rifle, like he was unable to process the rather backhanded compliment.

Marks said, “Joe, why don't you put that thing away.” Joe obeyed and slowly lowered the weapon.

“I don't hate you,” Alice said softly. “I just don't want you to live here.” Her thin-lipped grimace was almost apologetic.

I didn't even know where to start. Maybe she wanted me to sympathize. Maybe she wanted me to feel sorry for her. Instead, the rage flared even higher. I had to pause a moment, take a breath, and think happy vegetarian thoughts before I growled for real. What had I told Ben about holding it in taking practice? 1 was getting a lot of practice right now.

Finally, I said, “Guess what? You don't get to tell me where to live.”

She looked away.

Tony stepped up then, sweeping away the tension with his presence. “You know what you did wrong, don't you?” He addressed Alice.

“Who are

you?” she asked.

“Tony. You know what you did wrong?”

She shook her head, hesitant, still full of that befuddled rabbit look.

“The cross on the doorway,” Tony said, gesturing back to where Alice had hung a cross above the door. “The barrier of crosses. They're supposed to prevent evil from crossing, yes? Keep evil contained, keep it from intruding.” He waited for her to nod, to acknowledge what he said. “Kitty's not evil. I've only known her half a day and I know that.”

He said “evil” and I almost heard “dangerous.” As in, “She's not dangerous. She's harmless.” I had an inexplicable urge to argue, but Tony kept talking.

“She may have danger and darkness in her nature, but so do we all. That isn't evil. Evil is seeking out the darkness, seeking out the pain of others.”

I glanced back at Ben, to make sure he'd heard. That was what I'd been trying to tell him. He looked at me, gave a tiny smile. Yes, he'd heard.

“Is it true what Sheriff Marks said, that our spell caused what's been happening to the cattle?”

“Your spell called out to evil. You may have drawn it here, yes.”

She rubbed her face—wiping away sudden tears, springing from reddening eyes. “I'm so sorry. I thought I knew what I was doing, I was sure I knew—I have to fix it. How do I fix it?”

“Apologizing is always a good start,” Tony said-Alice looked at me, and for a moment I did feel sorry for her. She obviously felt so badly, and so tortured when the true consequences of what she'd done sunk in, I didn't want to be angry at her anymore. The words—Oh, it's all right, just as long as she never does it again—were on the tip of my tongue.

But the Wolf in me shifted testily. And you know, she was right. Alice wasn't going to get off that easily. 1 waited for the apology.

“I'm sorry, Kitty,” she said. “I'm sorry for all the trouble.”

You 'd better be… “Thank you,” 1 said instead.

“I think I can help clean all this up,” Tony said. 'There's a ritual I know, it'll clear away the curse. Heal some

of the bad feelings. Will you all help?”

He looked at each of us, and we all nodded. Even Joe.

“Good,” he said. “Be at Kitty's cabin at twilight, about five o'clock. We'll get this taken care of. Oh—and I'll take those. Thanks.” Smiling amiably, he grabbed the bag of crosses off the counter.

We left the store, Tony bringing up the rear, almost like he was herding us. Or keeping me from lingering and doing something stupid. Within minutes, we were in the car and back on the road.

“Cormac wanted me to have those melted down,” 1 said, nodding at the bag of crosses in his lap.

“That'd work, but I was just going to hold them under running water.”

“You mean that's all we had to do?” I shook my head. The more I learned…

He said, “I'm curious where Alice learned her magic. If she was raised in some kind of tradition—healer or witchcraft or something—or if she got those spells out of a book somewhere. That's the trouble with you white people, you read something out of a book, you think you understand it. This kind of magic, though—you really have to live with it to know it.”

That reminded me of learning a language, how really learning it requires living it, speaking with native speakers, growing up with it—total immersion. Repeating vocabulary words in high school wasn't going to cut it.

I said, “I can assure you, everything I know about the supernatural I've lived with personally.” That didn't mean I understood any of it.

Tony laughed. “I believe you.”

From the backseat, Ben said, “You really think what they did caused what happened to the cattle? What about what we saw in New Mexico?”

“Maybe what Alice and them did drew it here,” Tony said.

“Or did it follow Cormac?” 1 said.

That left us with an ominous silence. Because it made sense. There'd been two of them. Cormac killed one, and the other followed him, seeking revenge. Only Cormac wasn't here anymore. So it went wild, killing, like it had before.