Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 7

I left the conversation feeling a little better able to deal with the situation.

Hose it down, Sheriff Marks said. I went to get a bucket of water and a scrub brush. And a garbage sack.

The next few nights, I didn't sleep at all. I kept listening for footsteps, for the sound of another animal getting butchered on my front porch. The anxiety was killing me.

Human civilization was becoming less attractive every day. During daylight hours, I didn't even try to pound out a few pages of the memoir. I didn't even turn on the computer. I sat on the sofa and stared out the window. I could go out there and never come back. It would be so easy.

In the middle of another wakeful night, I heard something. I sat up, heart racing, wondering what was happening and what I was going to do about it. But it wasn't footsteps on the porch. Nothing screamed. I heard gravel crunching, the sound of a vehicle rolling up the drive to my cabin. My throat closed—I wanted to growl. Someone was invading my territory.

I got up and looked out the window.

A Jeep zoomed into the clearing, way too fast, swerving a little when the brakes slammed on.

Arms stiff, claws—fingers—curling, I went to the front door, opened it just enough to let me stand in the threshold, and glared out. If the invader challenged, I could face it.

But I knew that Jeep, and 1 knew the man climbing out of the driver's seat. Thirty-something, with light brown hair and a mustache, he wore a leather jacket, black T-shirt, and jeans, and carried a revolver in a holster on his belt. Cormac, the werewolf hunter. I'd never seen him panicked like this. Even from here I could tell he was breathing too fast, and he smelled like too much sweat.

Leaning on the hood, he came around to the front of the Jeep and shouted, “Norville!” He took a few steps away from the vehicle, glaring at me—challenging me, the Wolf couldn't help but think. His voice was rough. “Norville, get over here. I need your help.” He pointed at the Jeep, as if that explained everything.

I didn't speak. I was too astonished. Too wary. He looked like someone getting ready to rush me, to attack, screaming. I knew he could kill me if he wanted to. I didn't move.

“Norville—Kitty, Jesus, what's

wrong with you?”

I shook my head. I was caught up in some Wolf-fueled spell. I couldn't get over how weird this was. Suspicious, I said, “What's wrong with you?”

Anguish twisted his features. “It's Ben. He's been bitten.”

“Bitten?” The word hit my gut and sent a tremor up my spine.

“Werewolf,” he said, spitting the word. “He's been infected.”

Chapter 4

I ran to the Jeep. Cormac steered me to the passenger door, which he opened.

Ben sat there, relaxed, head slumped to the side— unconscious. Blood streaked the right half of his shirt. The fabric was torn at the shoulder, and the skin underneath was mauled. Individual tooth marks showed where the wolf had clamped its jaw over Ben's shoulder, and next to it a second wound—a messier, jagged chunk taken out of the flesh near his bicep—where the creature had found its grip and ripped. Ben's forearm also showed bite marks. He must have thrown his arm up to try to protect himself. All the wounds had stopped bleeding, were clotted, and beginning to form thick, black scabs. Cormac hadn't bandaged them, yet they were already healing.

They wouldn't have been, if it hadn't really been a werewolf that did this. If Ben hadn't really been infected with lycanthropy.

I covered my mouth with my hand and just stared, unwilling to believe the scene before me.

“I didn't know what else to do,” Cormac said. “You have to help him.”

Feeling—tingling, surreal, blood-pounding feeling— started to displace the numbness. “Let's get him inside.”

1 touched his neck—his pulse raced, like he'd been running and not slumped in the front seat for a five-hour car ride. Next, 1 brushed his cheek. The skin was burning, feverish. 1 expected that, because that was what had happened to me. He smelled sharp, salty, like illness and fear.

His head moved, his eyes crinkled. He made a sound, a half-awake grunt, turned toward my hand, and took a deep breath. His body went stiff, straightening suddenly, and as he pressed his head straight back his eyes opened.

“No,” he gasped and started fighting, shoving me away, thrashing in a panic. He was starting to

develop a fine sense of smell. 1 smelled different and his instincts told him danger.

I grabbed one arm, Cormac grabbed the other, and we pulled him out of the Jeep. Getting under his shoulder, I tried to support him, but he dropped his weight, yanking back to escape. I braced, holding him upright and managing to keep a grip on him. Cormac held on to him firmly, grimly dragging him toward the cabin.

Ben's eyes were open, and he stared in a wide-eyed panic at shadows, at the memory still fueling his nerves.

Then he looked right at Cormac. “Kill me,” he said through gritted teeth. “You're supposed to kill me.”

Cormac had Ben's arm over his shoulder and practically hauled him off his feet as we climbed the steps to the porch.

“Cormac!” Ben hissed, his voice a rough growl. “Kill me.”

He just kept saying that.

I shoved through the open front door. “To the bedroom, in back.”

Ben was struggling less, either growing tired or losing consciousness again. We went to the bedroom and hauled him onto the bed.

Ben writhed, then let out a noise that started as a whimper and rose to a full-blown scream. His body arced and thrashed, wracked with some kind of seizure. I held down his shoulders, leaning on him with all my weight, while Cormac pinned his legs.

I shifted my hands to hold on to his face, keeping his head still and making him look at me. His face was burning up, covered with sweat.

“Ben! Sh, quiet, quiet,” I murmured, trying to be calm, trying to be soothing, but my own heart was in my throat.

Finally, I caught his gaze. He opened his eyes and looked at me, didn't look away. He quieted. “You're going to be okay, Ben. You're going to be fine, just fine.”

I said the words by rote, without belief; I didn't know why I expected them to calm him down.

“Kitty.” He grimaced, wincing, looking like he was going to scream again.

“Please, Ben, please calm down.”

He closed his eyes, turned his face away—and then he relaxed, like a wave passing through his body. He stopped struggling.