Kitty Raises Hell Page 21


I looked for the Paradox crew.

They had sprawled on the sidewalk nearby, gathered around Gary, who lay flat on the sidewalk. A bloody spot was visible above his brow. He must have hit something hard on his way down, but it seemed to be clotted, matted with hair, rather than gushing blood. I hoped that was a good sign. A couple of paramedics were working on him, without the urgency that would have meant his situation was critical. And yes, the camera crew was still filming.

Jules wandered over to us.

“How is he?” I asked.

“Alive,” Jules said. “Probably a bad concussion. They’re taking him in for X-rays.”

We all looked parboiled, skin red and sweating, streaked with soot, hair and clothing singed and smoking. We looked shell-shocked. Disaster survivors.

“Why the hell didn’t you get out of there?” Jules said.

“I couldn’t lose the place,” I said and realized I was crying. The tears carried soot and smoke from my eyes. I could feel the grit scratching at me.

“Stupid,” Ben grumbled at me. “It was stupid, Kitty. It’s just a place. We can rebuild a place.”

“And a few burns aren’t going to kill me.”

“Being a werewolf is no excuse for staying inside a burning building!” Ben said.

“What happened?” I said. “What the hell happened in there? Did anyone see anything? Did the cameras pick up anything?”

Jules shook his head. “I don’t know. It happened fast. There was a fireball from the kitchen.”

“Gas explosion,” Ben said, echoing my earlier thought.

“Maybe,” Jules said.

“But not really,” I said.

“Of course not,” Jules grumbled. “Coincidence only goes so far.”

Paramedics loaded Gary into an ambulance, while Tina and Jules left for the hospital with him. Yet another guy in a uniform poked at me, and I had to concentrate not to snarl. I was still sitting on the sidewalk, in the dark, listening to water spray and firefighters holler at each other. The oxygen mask lay in my lap. I’d dropped it.

Wolf was cowed. Far past wanting to shape-shift and run away to protect myself, I was in shock, numb, hugging myself. It had been a while since Wolf was so scared and confused that quivering seemed the best option.

“Ma’am, you need to go to the hospital.”

“No, I don’t. I’ll be fine.”

“You’ve got second-degree burns on your arms, ma’am.”

“Really?” I looked. My arms were red. Very red. Bad sunburn red. But didn’t second-degree mean blisters?

The paramedic stared at my arms, as well. He blinked a couple of times. Then he shook his head. “I could have sworn that was a lot worse a minute ago.”

“Maybe you’re just stressed,” I said. He went away, shaking his head.

The fire was almost out, and the building itself remained intact. The investigators had already had their first look and gave us their impression: There hadn’t been an explosion, so it probably wasn’t a gas leak. Just fire. I hoped all this meant we could make repairs and reopen quickly. But how was I going to explain this to Shaun?

Ben talked to the police and fire investigators about what we were doing here and proved that we owned the place, so no one would get hauled off on trespassing or vandalism charges.

“The police want to take a look at all the video footage, to see if they can figure out what happened. I have to say I’m looking forward to reading that report,” he said.

“I’m not sure how much more of this I can take,” I whined. My fury had drained away along with the rush of adrenaline. “It’s going to keep coming after us. It’s going to keep... destroying things, until...” Until it destroyed us. I didn’t want to say it.

He put his arm around me, tucked my head on his shoulder, kissed my hair. “I wish I had some suggestions. But this is way out of my league. All I really want to do right now is go run. ” His body was stiff, hands clenched even as they rested against me from the tension of keeping his wolf under control. He hadn’t gotten to the numb stage, apparently.

I didn’t want to sit around and wait to see what disaster happened next. “Come on,” I said, pushing myself off his shoulder to stand up, then tugging on him to get him to his feet. “Let’s go see how Gary’s doing.”

Chapter 7

Gary Janson had a concussion. He hadn’t suffered anything as serious as a skull fracture or bleeding in the brain, but the length of time he’d spent unconscious had the doctors worried, so they were keeping him in the hospital under observation. Before we arrived at the hospital, he’d woken up, been aware of his surroundings and of his team gathered around him. But he didn’t remember what had happened, and he’d seemed confused at some of the doctor’s questions. He hadn’t been able to answer the classic “How many fingers am I holding up?” for example. Still, the doctor expected him to recover, given time and rest.

The cameras had followed us to the hospital and spent time getting video of the doctor explaining Gary’s injuries. I wanted to corner the show’s cameramen and ask if they were really wanting to put all this into the show. It seemed sensationalist, even by my standards.

We found Tina and Jules in a nearby waiting room, sitting hunched in their chairs, looking bereft. Jules had taken off his glasses to rub his eyes. I hated to break the mood, but I was still under attack, and my restaurant had almost burned down. I had to find out if Tina’s little experiment had accomplished anything.

“So,” I said, scuffing my feet. “Can I assume the Ouija board just pissed this thing off?”

They looked at me like I’d turned green. Ben had wandered off to read a public health notice hanging on the wall—pretending like he didn’t know me. Then they sputtered with laughter. Tina held a hand over her mouth and turned red, almost crying from trying to keep from laughing, and Jules just shook his head.

“Bloody hell, ” the Brit said. “I have never seen anything like that!”

Either this was a lot of pent-up stress getting loose, or I was confused.

“I can’t believe it. When I said it was dangerous I was talking demonic possession. I’ve never had anything like that happen before,” Tina said, gasping for breath. “We almost died. And Gary—oh, my God!”

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