Kitty Raises Hell Page 36

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I leaned my head on his shoulder. “I’m the last person to complain about the pleasant little surprises that happen along the way.”

It was the unpleasant ones I was getting sick of.

Near home, I spotted a familiar motorcycle and rider in the rearview mirror. Same helmet, same jacket, following about three cars back. Peter, still at it. I wished I had gotten a phone number from him, so I could call him. Tell him to stop this. He wasn’t going to learn anything I hadn’t already told him, and I really didn’t want him getting caught up in this demon business.

My first job was to tell the rest of the pack what had happened. We’d lost one of our own, and anybody could be next.

Ben took the notepad where I kept everyone’s contact info away from me. “I’ll make the calls,” Ben said. “I’m a lawyer, I’m used to giving people bad news.”

I let him. That left me to call Odysseus Grant.

His phone rang. And rang. He didn’t answer. Either he was busy, or he had finally gotten sick of me and wasn’t taking my calls anymore. I tried not to think the worst: Something had happened to him, he’d confronted the Band of Tiamat, or they’d confronted him, and it had ended badly. And I’d never know.

I turned on the computer and called up web sites for Las Vegas newspapers, looking for something spectacular and out of the ordinary: mass murder, fires, chaos in the streets. But I didn’t find anything unusual, at least not by Las Vegas standards. A couple of crooked politicians were exposed, a tycoon announced plans for a new resort. If something had happened, it might have been so subtle it hadn’t made the news.

Or maybe he was busy and not answering his phone.

By the time I’d finished, Ben set his phone down, blowing out a sigh. He pursed his lips.

“Well?” I said.

“I told Shaun and Becky. They’ll spread the word. They want to talk. That’s probably not a bad idea.”

“Show some kind of leadership so the troops don’t lose faith?”

“Something like that. They suggested meeting in the mountains. I told them we could be there in a couple of hours, for anyone who wants to talk.”

The forest where we spent full moons would be heavy with the memory and smell of shifting, of turning wolf and running. Feelings would run high there. I wasn’t sure everyone could handle it. I didn’t want any more trouble than we already had. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

Ben ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “I would have told them New Moon, but so much for that.”

We were running out of territory.

“Okay,” I said. “But we’d better get going. I want to get there first.”

“Occupy the high ground?”

“Something like that. I just think it’ll go better if we’re there already. It’s a dominance thing.”

“It usually is,” he said.

The human side could be as sarcastic as it wanted about pack dynamics, but the pack still seemed to win out in the end.

Chapter 13

We were too late. We arrived at the remote parcel of land where we parked on full-moon nights, and Shaun, Becky, and a half dozen others had already arrived. I bristled, because it meant they had the same thought I had and wanted to make a statement. It was almost a challenge.

They’d carpooled in a couple of cars, which were parked to the side. They lined up along the barbed-wire fence that marked the property: arrayed in a straight line, leaning on fence posts or standing in tough poses, arms crossed, glaring, frowning. Ben parked the car in front of them. We got out and leaned on the hood. Stared them down. I tried not to think about the OK Corral.

Most of these people knew me in the old days, when I was a new wolf, weak, bottom of the pecking order. Back then, being submissive was far easier than trying to stand up for myself. Being submissive meant the bigger, badder wolves looked out for me. Most of the time. When they weren’t beating me up themselves. It had seemed like a fair trade at the time.

That meant some of these wolves remembered how easy it used to be to knock me around. They had to be wondering, how tough was I really ? How easy would it be to nudge me out of that top spot?

I got a lot of mileage out of the fact that me returning to Denver as a badass alpha had confused the hell out of some of them. It put them in “wait and see” mode. But I was running out of time to prove my worth. I had to convince them they were better off with me in charge than not.

What a mess. I wondered if this was the demon’s main purpose all along: not to destroy me directly, but to undermine my position in the pack to the point where the other wolves did the job.

I thought about what a real badass alpha werewolf would do in a situation like this, and all I could think was drill sergeant, screaming at the troops to get them in line, punishing them for questioning my authority. I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t very good at that sort of thing. I wasn’t a drill sergeant, and we weren’t in the army. We were supposed to be a family.

“Hi,” I said, as neutrally as I could. Not cheerful, not angry, not scared. Definitely not scared. They had every right to be here f” I asking questions. No need for me to get all defensive about it. Ben stood next to me, looking surly. The muscle of the operation. Good cop/bad cop. That made me want to smile. “Is everyone okay? Did anything unusual happen to anyone else last night?”

“Besides Mick dying?” said Dan. One of the tough guys, lanky and muscular. Not so tough that he liked to stick his neck out, usually.

“Yeah,” I said softly. “Besides that.”

I tried to read the body language. People were scared, trying to cover it up with anger. Bunched shoulders stood in for raised hackles. Eyes glared and lips were open, just a muscle twitch away from being bared. But they weren’t threatening me, not yet. Nobody was glaring at me. They glared at the ground, or off to the side, or at my shoulder, but they didn’t make eye contact to offer a direct challenge. I hoped my neutral tone put them off-balance. If I wasn’t aggressive, maybe they’d be less likely to show aggression, and we could do this without fighting about it.

“He’s really dead?” Shaun said. His arms were crossed, his dark eyes serious.

I nodded. “I saw his body at the morgue.” Now I was glad I had done it, so I could say that with confidence.

“It was the thing. The same thing that went after us the other night?”

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