Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 63

I did understand, and hated that 1 did. Wolf seemed to prick her ears up at the very mention of the word blood. Beside me, Ben stood frozen, staring. His eyes weren't his own, not entirely. Something wolfish swam in them. I had to get him out of here. But I wanted more answers.

“Why did she kill Joan?”

“She had a sister to spare? I don't know. Didn't anyone warn you about asking too many questions around here?”

“Who did you kill in trade for your powers?”

He hid a smile with a bowed head. “It's a good thing for a witch to have a large family.”

My stomach lurched into my throat; I wanted badly to throw up. I took hold of Ben's arm and squeezed too hard.

Lawrence continued. “Bodies disappear out here. You go out to the desert, a body gets dried up and covered with sand in a day. In a month it's nothing but bones. You tell anyone you were coming out here?”

“Let's go.” I wrenched Ben's arm and steered him out of there. The door to Lawrence's shack slipped closed behind us.

Back in the open air, I felt light-headed, giddy—free. I almost ran to the car.

Ben was stewing. Fuming. His shoulders hunched, his fists closed. He kicked the dirt on our path.

“He knows, but we'll never get him into court. He knows Cormac did the world a favor putting a bullet in her. Hell—that guy probably needs a bullet put in him.”

“Calm down. We'll figure something out. We still have leads.” But we were running out of them. I tried to stay positive.

I stopped a few paces from the car. Something wasn't right. A sound tickled my throat—the start of a growl.

“Kitty.” Ben's voice was tight. He moved toward me, so our shoulders touched. Side by side, protected—but from what?

A mountain lion leapt onto the roof of my car.

It had dodged around us in a couple of strides and made the jump without effort, so quickly I hadn't sensed it coming. Or maybe it had simply been able to slip by without us noticing. The thing was huge, solid, with thick limbs and a wedge-shaped face. It sat tall, its tail wrapped around its paws, looking for all the world like a house cat surveying its

domain. Its tan fur was flat and slick, and dark smudges marked its eyes. Red eyes, bright as garnets.

Like somebody in a slapstick comedy, I looked back to the shack, then back at the mountain lion. And yes, the shack's door stood open.

“Kitty…” Ben murmured, taking my hand.

“Me or it?”

“Not funny.”

We backed away.

The lion jumped off the car and stalked toward us, head low, tail flicking like a whip. Red eyes flashed.

Had to think of a plan. Had to do something. Couldn't just let this thing hypnotize me with its terrible gaze. All I wanted to do was scream. But I recognized the freezing terror that was numbing my limbs. I'd felt this when Miriam attacked me. Had to break out of the witch's spell somehow.

I whispered, “Ben, I'm going to break left. Try to draw him off while you get to the car and call for help.”

“I was going to say the same thing, but with me drawing him off and you calling for help.”

“No, I can fight him if I have to. I can take him.”

“Just like you took Miriam?”

Details…

Both of us spoke quickly, breathily, on the verge of panic. I wondered how he was doing with his wolf. I still held his hand, which strained with tension. But no claws had started growing.

The mountain lion took another set of steps and opened its mouth to show thick, yellowed teeth, sharp as nails. It made a sound that was half growl, half purr, grating and skull rattling. Ben and I kept backing, until 1 slipped on the gravel. His grip on me kept me upright.

The monster crouched, its muscles bunching, gathering itself to jump at us.

“It jumps, we break,” I murmured. Ben nodded.

But instead of jumping, it paused, stared at us, blinking those red eyes. It bowed its head. Then, its whole body seemed to collapse. Like the air went out of it. The face crumpled, and the eyes went dead.

A human hand reached out from under the lion's body and pulled off the tawny skin, revealing a naked man crouching in the dirt. A long gray braid draped over his shoulder.

Lawrence Wilson looked up at us and smiled.

“Louise got to you first. Lucky. Very lucky.”

I

touched my chest, feeling the hard shape of the arrowhead under my shirt. It worked. The damn thing worked.

“Let's get the hell out of here,” I muttered to Ben.

Carefully, cautiously, we circled around the old man. Watching us, he stood, but didn't make another move toward us. Quickly we slipped into the car.

The tires kicked up a rain of gravel in my hurry to drive us out of there. Lawrence watched us go, standing at the side of the dirt road. He seemed to hold my gaze in the rearview mirror until we were out of sight. The mountain lion's skin hung limp in his hand.

Around the hill and out of sight, 1 snuck a glance at Ben. He sat straight against the back of the seat, staring ahead, expressionless.

“You okay?”

After a pause he nodded. “Yeah. I think I am.”

We made it off the dirt road and onto pavement. “Good.”

Another dusk had fallen by the time we returned to the motel. The sky had turned deep blue, and a cold wind blew across the parking lot. It smelled dry, desiccated, and wild. Wrong. Like something out there was looking for us, and meant us harm. It might have been paranoia. Or not.

We had police reports, death certificates, coroner's reports. We had a couple of statements, a couple of newspaper articles. Tales of crimes that might have happened, of the bad reputation of a certain family, and people who wanted nothing more than the rumors and fear to go away. We didn't have hard evidence that Miriam was anything other than a highly disturbed young woman, or that Cormac had had no choice but to kill her.

We got out of the car. Ben slammed shut the door, lingered, then leaned on the hood and kicked the tire. And kicked it again.

“Would you stop kicking my car?” I said.

Hands on the hood, he leaned over, breathing hard. His anger was getting the better of him, which meant his wolf was getting the better of him.

“Are you okay?”

If he started shifting, I didn't know what I'd do. He didn't have experience keeping it together, when everything around you poked the creature awake. When all you wanted to do was run.