Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 45

“No, I didn't notice.”

Joe said, “That's because we spent the night locked in the house with all the lights on.”

“And the days I shape-shifted that weren't on the full moon—you didn't notice then, did you?”

They both looked at me. Alice said, “You turn into a wolf on other days, too?”

Even Ben looked at me sharply. 1 wasn't supposed to shape-shift on other nights. He knew I wasn't supposed to do that. Now what kind of role model was I?

“Whenever I want.”

“I didn't know that,” Alice said softly.

Tony straightened from where he'd parked by the counter. “Hey, Alice, you want to help me with something?”

“What?”

“That thing out there left a lot of bad feeling in the air. No reason we can't try to clean it up a little, even if things didn't go the way we planned.”

“But the coroner, shouldn't we wait—”

“This won't bother them. We won't have to touch anything.”

She brightened. Tony had offered a chance for redemption, and she seemed eager to take it. “All right.”

The two left the cabin, and Tony flashed me a smile on the way out.

Joe busily rinsed out mugs.

I started toward him. “Don't worry about that, I can get it.”

Ben interceded. “No, you sit down and start healing.” He pointed at me until I sank into a kitchen chair. Funny—I hadn't noticed I was dizzy until I sat down and the room stopped trembling. Ben put a mug of something steaming in front of me, then went to help Joe.

Clutching the mug in both hands and sipping carefully, I watched Ben and Joe washing coffee and tea accoutrements at the sink, side by side. Joe, who wouldn't let me, the werewolf, into his store without holding a gun on me, stood next to another werewolf and didn't even know it.

Over the next half hour, Sheriff Marks's backup arrived, including a coroner's van and a few deputies to take statements. While they worked, Tony and Alice walked around the clearing, each waving a smoking bundle of plant matter—some kind of incense. Some kind of blessing, or cleansing. 1 didn't know if it would work. Alice seemed to feel better, at any rate. At

least it worked for someone.

One of the deputies took Joe and Alice home. The cops had taken statements from everyone, and Tony was the next to leave. Before that, he found me, sitting on the porch steps to watch the proceedings.

He sat next to me.

“Here. Take this.” He reached over his neck and pulled something from under his shirt: a small leather pouch on a long cord. Before I even had time to lean away in surprise, he put the cord over my head, so 1 was wearing the pouch around my neck. “It's protected me through the years. It may help protect you.”

I put my hand over it. Small enough to fit inside my fist, the brown leather was soft. Stuffed inside was something crunchy and fibrous. Dried herbs, maybe.

“May?” I said.

He shrugged, like we were talking about the weather. “1 do what I can.”

“Well. Thanks for trying.”

“If I had known that's what we were dealing with, I might have been able to do more.” He nodded to where the coroner's people were loading the body onto a wheeled stretcher. Some forensics officers wrapped the wolf skin in a plastic bag and carried it away.

“Any advice for what to do next?” I said.

“Let it end here. Don't go asking any more questions. Don't look for any more trouble.”

I hid a smile. Good advice, to be sure. Not sure it was the right advice. I had way too many questions, and this hadn't ended because Cormac was still sitting in the back of Marks's car, wearing handcuffs.

“Ben told me about the silver,” I said. “1 don't usually keep that sort of thing around, but we could probably pay you with some of Cormac's bullets.” I'd pay Cormac back later. He'd understand.

“This one's on the house,” he said. Then, as unobtrusively as he'd arrived, he disappeared into his truck and away.

Finally, after the coroner's crew and deputies were gone, the sheriff left with Cormac riding in the backseat, leaving the clearing suddenly empty and quiet. Ben and I stood on the porch, watching the chaos disperse. The night wasn't over for us; we had to get in my car and go spring Cormac.

“I don't know if I can do this,” Ben said, watching the cars leave.

“Do what?”

“Sit there and argue with those clowns. Not without… something happening. Losing my temper. You know.”

“You've done it before, haven't you?” They'd both acted like this was routine. Which was kind of scary.

“Lost my temper? Sure.” He smiled a little. “Or do you mean representing Cormac? You keep saying you and I are a pack and we have to look out for each other. 1 feel like Cormac is part of my pack. I have to protect him. The wolf side would do anything to protect him.” He flexed his hands, like he could already feel that anger, that determination, waking up inside him.

1 touched his hand, to bring him back to himself. He let out a nervous breath.

“I'll go with you,” I said.

Looking away, he nodded. “1 was hoping you would.”

I hadn't ever considered not going.

The truth was, the thought of him leaving me here, of being alone after all that, made me ill. Between that and the queasy, injured feeling that still lingered after the fight, I wanted to throw up. 1 wasn't okay at all, and I wasn't going to sit around waiting for the next curse to arrive.

Chapter 15

We took my car, and in forty minutes arrived at the sheriff's department and county jail in Walsenburg. Marks had booked Cormac by the time we got into the building, and the hunter was ensconced in a back room, out of sight.

Marks glared at us over the front desk. “He's already asking for his lawyer. You want to get back here so we can take his statement?”

Ben was tense. I knew him well enough by now that I could tell without touching him.

“You'll be fine,” I said. “Just breathe slow and think about keeping it in. Stay calm.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Yup.” I tried to make my smile encouraging.

He straightened his shoulders and stalked forward like a man preparing to go into battle.

I'd seen him talk down cops before. I'd seen him face a panel of senators and hold them off. In those cases he'd had this hawk's stare, the fierce-eyed glare of a hunter that had always instilled confidence in me, because he was always on my side.