Low Midnight Page 33

“Kitty!” he called.

Nolan stared at him. “Its name is Kitty?”

Cormac just glared. Her ears came up for a split second, but she never let her attention waver from her enemy. “Kitty, we got this, back the hell off!”

Nolan took the cue. “Eddie! Get out of there! Just leave it!”

The growling dropped off; the two creatures put a fraction more space between them. But they continued circling, heads down and muscles tensed.

“I’m not breaking up that fight,” Nolan declared.

Cormac’s hand itched for a gun. He could fire it into the woods to get their attention. Kitty wasn’t going to break off until the other wolf showed some sign of submission. But he wasn’t really a wolf, and so it wasn’t likely to happen.

“Nolan, tell him to drop his gaze and his tail.”

“What?”

“He needs to break eye contact, get his tail down so she’ll leave him alone. Do it!”

“Eddie! You heard him. He knows what he’s talking about, do what he says, okay?”

The scraggly wolf turned and looked at Nolan, and Cormac swore he could read the animal’s expression: What, seriously? Disbelief and frustration. But he gave a shake, dropped his gaze, and let his tail fall. If not a show of submission, it at least said that he wasn’t going to put up any more fight.

In response, Kitty backed up a step. Her gaze fell, her tail relaxed. Her fur was still sticking straight up—she wasn’t going to trust the guy if she could help it. The standoff continued, since neither one of them was going to walk away.

“Kitty, it’s okay. I got this.” Her ear flicked, but otherwise she didn’t move. “Go sleep it off. Please,” he said.

She dropped her head, paced in a circle a couple of times, looking them all over as if trying to make a decision. Finally, she loped off, weaving between trees, down a rise, and out of sight, looking at home in the forest, as natural as breathing. He sighed, frustrated at how politeness always seemed to work on her, even in her wolf form, like she was some kind of schoolteacher.

Nolan let out a heavy breath he’d been holding. “Jesus Christ, I thought we were all dead.”

Which showed he didn’t know anything about werewolves. Her posture had been angry, but defensive. In the meantime, the other wolf seemed to hunch its shoulders, cocking its head, wriggling itself into a seated position, propped up on its hind legs. Then, a human hand reached out from under the mass of fur, grabbed hold of a now-lifeless tuft of skin near its neck, and pulled. Cormac had confronted skinwalkers before, but he’d never seen one shift back to human like this.

The skin came off, and a twenty-something man, naked, stood tall in the wolf’s place, holding the wolf hide in front of him to shield his privates. He had deeply tanned skin, short black hair, and a lopsided grin, like he was waiting for someone to laugh at his joke.

Nolan cleared this throat. “Uh, Bennett? This isEddie. Eddie, Cormac Bennett.”

Cormac said, “You know, I don’t care who the hell you are or what the hell you’re getting up to out here. I’m gonna go after my friend, hike back to my Jeep, and leave you to it.”

He turned to march off, but Eddie moved to intercept him. Not saying a word, not caring that he was stark naked except for a mangy-looking, tattered wolf skin. He still had a predator’s look in his eye, like he was waiting for a chance to pounce.

So it was going to go like this, was it?

Nolan said, “First, you tell me when Layne’s planning on moving in. You say he didn’t send you, but why else would you be out here?”

“You’ll have to ask him,” Cormac said, again making to step around Eddie, who again moved to block. This was going to get old real quick. He looked the guy straight on, meeting his gaze. “Who’d you kill to get this power?”

The guy’s smile turned toothy. “Huh. Smart guy, are you?”

Cormac tugged at the arrowhead charm to make sure it showed over his T-shirt. “Move.”

Eddie didn’t move. But he wasn’t smiling anymore. Cormac’s awareness had gone sharp, his skin prickling and the air going still, the way it did before a fight or at the critical moment of a hunt, right before he fired a shot. Eddie was in front of him, unhappy but unable to do anything because the charm worked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nolan moving up behind him, but his rifle was tucked under his arm, hanging at his side. He was complacent, because he had Eddie to do his dirty work.

At least they weren’t going after Kitty.

“Eddie, you going to lay this fucker out or what?” he said. Probably not as casually as he wanted. All he had to do was take another step closer …

“Can’t,” Eddie said. “He’s protected.”

“What?”

“Because I know what I’m doing,” Cormac said, and dropped his gear to swing back into Nolan with an elbow in the solar plexus. He followed with a right hook that made the guy stumble and drop the rifle entirely. Then Nolan surprised him by taking a swing back. He didn’t seem capable. Cormac dodged, but the blow caught him on the cheek, rattled his head. Didn’t matter, he ignored it and grabbed Nolan’s shirt, threw him to the ground, and kicked him in the gut, just to get it over with. The whole time, Eddie didn’t make a move. He frowned, though, shuddering in place like he desperately wanted to go for blood.

Nolan writhed a moment, letting loose a collection of the usual curses while pawing around for his dropped weapon. As tempting as it would be to also kick the man in the groin while he was down, Cormac resisted. He found the rifle, popped open the chamber and unloaded it, scattering the bullets into the underbrush and throwing away the weapon. He collected the blanket and canteen and set off. This time, Eddie didn’t move to block his way.

Prev Next