Kitty Raises Hell Page 37

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“I think so. He seemed to have burned to death.” There were winces, a couple of hushed exclamations.

“Why him?” Becky—average height, sharp features, short auburn hair—asked.

Shaun said, “He didn’t want to use that stuff you gave us. He didn’t think it would work. I don’t think he even opened the jar.”

That didn’t surprise me, but it made me sad. “He didn’t trust me.”

“I think he didn’t believe there was a situation he couldn’t fight his way out of.”

My inner self diverged. I wanted to hang my head, shed tears, apologize. Because I was sorry. Maybe I couldn’t have kept him alive in spite of his own stubbornness, but I was the one who brought this down on us all.

I couldn’t react that way. Wolf couldn’t. I couldn’t let my back slouch an inch. I had to keep my gaze up. I had to be strong and not show a bit of weakness, or none of them would trust me.

Not that any of them ought to be trusting me, but I couldn’t think that, either.

“What are you going to do about it?” Becky asked.

A death called for vengeance. Or at least justice. If nothing else, stopping the thing that did this meant it wouldn’t happen again. That was all I really wanted. Now, if this had been a rival pack of werewolves attacking us, we’d have known what to do. But this demon was invisible, untrackable. My confidence sounded hollow.

“I’m in contact with someone who might be able to stop this thing,” I said. “He seems to know exactly what to do. The bad news is he’s a vampire.”

“It always comes back to the vampires,” Dan said.

“Yeah, that’s exactly how they like it,” Shaun answered. “What kind of deal are you going to have to make with this guy?”

“I don’t know yet. I’m meeting with him and Rick tonight. I won’t give up our autonomy, but I have to do what I can to keep us all safe.”

“You could try keeping your head down,” Dan said.

A few huffs of agreement answered, as well as a short laugh. Not keeping my head down had gotten me in trouble with the old alphas. And look where that had gotten me.

“Good advice to follow there,” I said, glaring at him. He ducked his head and glanced away, like a good lupine subordinate. “You guys want the old management style back, I’ll step aside and leave you to it.” That came out more angry than I meant it to.

Nobody said anything. Score one for my side.

“The potion works,” I said. “Use it. Know that I’m doing something. I’m not going to let this slide. Any questions?”

“Let us know if there’s anything we can do,” Shaun said.

“Thank you.”

Gaze down, Shaun came over, nodded at Ben, squeezed my hand, then continued on to the other cars. Then came Becky, Dan, and the five others, one by one, all with their gazes lowered, all giving me a brief touch to show that yes, we’re still a pack. I tried to reflect comfort at them. Yes, this is our territory, and we’re going to be all right. We watched as they drove away.

That left me and Ben, masters of the territory, leaning against the car, side by side, touching along the lengths of our bodies. We could lend each other our backbones. It was a beautiful day to spend in the woods, one of those fall days where the temperature spiked and drenched the world in golden sunlight. I breathed deep, taking in the rich forest air, chilled by the mountains around us. The air itself made me want to run. I let out the breath with a sigh.

“That went well,” I said with false cheer.

Ben snorted. “If Shaun ever decides he doesn’t like you, we’re screwed.”

“Yeah, well, that’s why it’s so important we get New Moon back up and running. Give him a stake in keeping us around.”

“That almost sounds like a plan,” he said.

I leaned my head on his shoulder. “Maybe I could call the Band of Tiamat and ask for terms of surrender.” I could guess what they’d be: return to Vegas, allow myself to once again be tied to the altar of sacrifice for their insane little cult. Let them kill me.

Ben pulled away to look at me. He was frowning, worry creasing his brow, making his laugh lines deeper, making him look older. Hazel eyes studied me. And it was weird, because I’d have expected him to get angry, defiant, to say something cutting and sarcastic. But he just looked tired.

“No, you can’t,” he said without passion. Just clear statement of fact. “I won’t let you.”

“I can. You’d do it, too, if it meant making all this stop.”

“It’s not like you to just give up.”

“How do you know? I used to give up all the time.”

He smirked. “I’m glad I didn’t know you back then. I like you stubborn.”

Stubborn. Right. I had to keep being pigheaded. But being pigheaded was so much work .

“I’m going to remind you that you said that the next time we have an epic argument.”

He looked heavenward and sighed like a martyr.

I said, “Maybe I could call the Band of Tiamat, offer to surrender, get them to call off the attack—then escape their clutches at the last minute and destroy them from the inside.”

“That’s more like it,” Ben said. “But I’d still like to come up with a plan that doesn’t involve the word ‘surrender’ at all.”

Still working on that...

Rick and I had arranged to meet early at Psalm 23 so we could decide what to tell Roman. After what had happened today, I wasn’t in the mood for talking to either one of them, but I had to. If Roman could stop this thing, stop anyone else from dying, I’d pay nearly any price. Rick could be damned. More damned than he already was, anyway.

I must have looked awful when I arrived at the club and made my way to the corner table where Rick was sitting, hands folded before him, waiting. His eyes widened when he saw me. Not a good sign, if I could startle Rick.

“What’s wrong?”

The headache behind my eyes came in waves. The aspirin I’d taken an hour before hadn’t helped.

“This thing raised the stakes,” I said. “It killed one of my pack.”

“Oh, no. When? How?”

“Last night. Burned to death, from the inside.”

“I’m very sorry,” he said, softly, sincerely. “Sit down. Can I get you something? A drink?”

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