Kitty Raises Hell Page 10

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The smell of sulfur fades. Soon she senses only forest, pine and damp, earth and life, as if the danger has never happened. She lopes around her pack and gives a signal to slow, to settle. The wolves mill, uncertain, panting, ears back—frightened.

So is she. She can’t hide it. But she’ll watch out for them.

She leads them to a place if not as comfortable as their usual den, at least defensible. It’s a space of sheltered trees on the side of a hill, open on all sides—she can watch anything that approaches, smell the air all around. They have plenty of chances to escape. She paces, counts her wolves by scent. All here. All safe, though shaken. She settles in to patrol. To keep watch until morning.

She watches the sunrise. The pack sleeps around her—naked, furless. They’ve all slipped back to their other halves. It’s sad, seeing them like this. But they still smell of pack, of family. Exhausted, sleep is heavy in her eyes, but fear keeps her upright.

Her mate wakens, and his furless hands reach for her. She sniffs him, wet nose tracing his limbs.

“Kitty.” His voice is thick, anxious. “You have to sleep. Come back to me, please.”

She licks his face, saying, But I’m here, I’m right here.

Others wake, moving slowly, groaning. Some of them flinch, looking around wide-eyed.

She yips. I’m standing guard, you see? I’m keeping watch.

“It’s our turn, Kitty. Let us watch. Sleep now.” He bends his face to her shoulder. She squirms under his touch. His fear increases hers.

“What’s wrong?” another asks.

“She won’t sleep.”

“Can’t say I blame her.”

Her mate again, almost desperate. “Shaun and Mick are keeping watch, okay? You can rest now.”

He whispers by her ear, soothing. Strokes her flanks. Urges her to sleep. Shelters her with his presence.

Her eyes close. She can no longer stand. When she sleeps, she’s curled up tight, stiff with worry.

I convulsed with the feeling of falling. My muscles twitched in anticipation of pain.

But I lay on solid ground, the earth of a forest, and with a great, frightened heave of breath, my lungs filled with Ben’s scent.

His embrace tightened around me. “Shh, shh. You’re okay. It’s okay.”

The morning was bright around us. Late morning, by the look and smell of things. I was usually up much earlier than this, the day after running. But Ben and I were both still naked. He held me close, his front to my back, his breath stirring my hair. We weren’t in our usual den. His whole body was taut with anxiety.

“What happened?” I sat up, struggling free of him but still keeping hold of his hand, his arms. I still smelled burning coals, like the woods were on fire. But all around me was calm.

“I’m not sure,” Ben said. “Something came after us last night.”

“Is everyone okay? Where is everyone?” We were alone in our shelter.

“I sent most of them home. I thought they’d be safer away from here. Mick and Shaun are still here.”

Watching our backs. Memories returned—images, emotions. We’d all been terrified. How far had we run? I didn’t recognize this place. I started shivering and cuddled closer to Ben.

“You’re freezing,” he murmured. But I couldn’t get dressed, because my clothes were back at the old den, miles from here. I looked around, dazed, trying to get my bearings, glancing over my shoulder for something that burned.

Mick and Shaun returned. Fully clothed, they might have been anyone. They’d walked out, studying the area between here and where the attack had come, looking for any evidence of what had happened. They brought our clothing with them. I dressed quickly, trying to get warm.

“What’s out there?” I said.

“Nothing,” Shaun said, shaking his head. “Just that smell.”

The smell of a burned forest. Unseen, a bird called, the sound echoing.

“Shaun—you’re okay?” I remembered an image: Shaun was the wolf who’d been attacked first.

“I’m fine,” he said, but he looked tired and seemed to be favoring a shoulder. All I remembered from the attack on me was shock and anger.

“Could you tell what it was? What do you remember?” I asked.

He shook his head. “It’s blurry. Things are always blurry the morning after—you know. But I could have sworn it had hands. Like it grabbed me and shoved me. It was strong—it must have been huge.”

“But did you see anything?”

“No, nothing. But the smell—”

“Fire,” I said. I could still smell it, and the odor triggered a feeling of fear.

“Something’s hunting us. I don’t like it,” Mick said, scowling and surly. He was short but stout, built like a brick wall and just as tough. Dark hair in a buzz cut, black eyes looking out. Still gleaming with a little wolf. He and Shaun were some of the first to back my takeover of the pack. I couldn’t have a better pair looking out for me. I might have been the alpha, but I couldn’t do it without them helping me. I didn’t rule by force, but by friendships.

“Let’s get back,” I said, urgent now, hurrying. I wouldn’t let go of Ben’s hand. My mind was coming back to me, and the pieces of my body clicked back together after shifting. “I need to make some phone calls.”

The four of us went back to the cars.

“You think this is connected to the Tiamat cult?” Ben said. “That this is the attack we’ve been waiting for?”

“The burned door, the smell of fire here—what else could it be? It was waiting. All this time it was waiting for the full moon.”

“Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe it’s random,” Ben said. Even he didn’t sound convinced.

“That would be worse, don’t you think?” I said.

Because then I wouldn’t know where to start with trying to figure this out.

Chapter 4

First, I called Odysseus Grant.

We’d kept in frequent touch since the message appeared on New Moon’s door. He’d been keeping an eye on the Band of Tiamat on their home turf. He didn’t believe any of them had left Vegas, which meant the group of lycanthropes that had kidnapped me, and the vampire priestess that had tried to sacrifice me to her goddess, had sent someone—or something—else to leave that note at New Moon. And, I believed, whatever had come after us last night. I told him the latest news.

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