Low Midnight Page 44

Amelia moved around him, putting herself in his line of sight, trying to catch his gaze. He kept looking out to the wild, which he understood better.

“If I didn’t know you, I’d say you were having moral qualms. What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid. It’s just wrong.”

“Are you afraid your own dead will rise up to speak to you? To berate you? How many people have you killed, Cormac? Including the monsters. You’ve never told me that. You never let that knowledge slip out.”

He’d never told anyone. Not even Ben knew all the hunts he’d been on, all the contracts he’d taken, the exact number of people he’d killed. He’d never asked. Amelia was the first person who had.

He knew the number without having to stop and count. “Eighteen.”

She didn’t seem at all horrified. Just nodded thoughtfully. “The first was the werewolf who killed your father, when you were sixteen? And the latest was the skinwalker, the one that put you in prison?”

“There was the demon back in prison. And the werewolf in Chinatown, the one I stabbed. He’s eighteen.”

“You count the demon as one of your kills?”

“It was sentient. Devious. It was a hunter. Maybe it wasn’t a human being, but it wasn’t an easy kill, so why not count it?”

She raised an eyebrow. “One might make an argument that it was my kill, not yours.”

“All right—seventeen and a half kills, that make you happy?”

“Fair enough. The rest of them—were they all vampires and werewolves and other monsters? Have you ever killed a mortal, normal human?”

“Two. Two of those were human.”

“Any regrets?”

“No. They all deserved to die. I’m pretty sure they did.” Even the one who’d just gotten in the way had chosen to be there, had known what would happen if he stayed. That was what Cormac figured.

“Then why do the dead haunt you? Why are you afraid of speaking to them?”

Her questions, her pushing him, made his neck stiff. Caused an itching deep in his spine, and he wanted to swat at the bugs crawling there. He walked. Realized he was pacing, like a predator in a cage, and didn’t much care. Kept going, down the sloping hill along the creek. But this wasn’t reality, wasn’t a physical space, and Amelia appeared at his side, keeping pace with him. Studying him. He didn’t turn to look at her.

“Cormac?”

It wasn’t the dead that scared him. He wasn’t afraid of hearing from any of the people he’d killed. When he couldn’t sleep at night, it wasn’t any of their voices he heard, keeping him awake.

“Cormac,” she said. “Your walls are going up again.”

He hadn’t realized he wasdoing it. In prison, when she’d first tried to contact him, her spirit edging its way into his mind, he’d resisted. He’d built walls, imagined them going up stone by stone to keep her out. She’d almost driven him crazy, trying to break through. He’d finally let her in so they could stop the demon that was killing prisoners.

The wind, the freezing snow—his mind was going cold.

He said, then, “My father.” He stopped walking, still couldn’t look at her. But he could at least stop trying to escape.

“If you start speaking to the dead … you’re afraid you would have to start speaking to him.”

He didn’t even have to channel the man’s spirit. Cormac heard his voice berating him for getting caught, for going soft, for not being good enough, for not being good. Right after he was attacked and infected with lycanthropy, Ben had wanted Cormac to shoot him. Being a monster was supposed to be worse than being dead. But Kitty changed that. Cormac refused to kill Ben, and the world was better for it.

Douglas Bennett would have killed Ben without hesitating.

Cormac was weak, and he imagined his father’s ghost whispered to him. He was wrong. He’d been given a legacy, an inheritance to protect the world from monsters. And now, he was shirking his duties, working with the monsters instead of killing them. He was just about a monster himself. A guy with two auras and a pocketful of magic spells.

He didn’t have to speak any of this out loud to Amelia. She sensed it pouring out of him. The walls were down.

“That voice isn’t real, you know,” she said. “It’s your imagination. I’m sure he wouldn’t be so … so judgmental.”

“You didn’t know him.”

“No, I only have your memories to go on. The memories of a sixteen-year-old boy—not entirely reliable, if I may say so. If it would lay his spirit to rest in your mind, we could try to channel him. Just to see.”

He shook his head. No. Just no. He didn’t need to do that. His father was wrong, he was moving forward, that was all.

Amelia stepped closer, her manner oddly hesitant. “Perhaps … there are other ways of laying spirits to rest. I—I would like to see the place where he died. Have you ever been back there, since it happened?”

“No.”

She put a hand on his shoulder. The gesture felt strangely tangible, her touch warm and gentle. “Let’s go, why don’t we?”

And why not? He needed to take a walk. He needed to get out of here.

Chapter 17

HE COULDN’T find the spot.

With a burning desire to stay out of the whole of southern Colorado for the next few days, he drove up to Grand County, to the ranch where Douglas Bennett had died.

Prev Next