Low Midnight Page 52

Her discussion of magic made it sound scientific rather than mystical. She didn’t have any agenda besides just figuring this stuff out, which meant she didn’t need to dress it up in mysticism to impress anyone. She didn’t write what she’d learned in any kind of code, because she wasn’t competing with anyone. Her curiosity was fierce and genuine.

Sometimes, Cormac thought about the kind of magician he might have ended up with living inside his head. Someone determined to control absolutely, who might have broken him without thinking twice. Amelia had tried to break her way in, until she found that negotiating worked better. But say it had been Roman whose spirit was locked in the stones of the prison—Cormac might not have survived. Or worse, he might have survived but been trapped, overcome, crushed by magic and intention, fighting a constant battle just to maintain his self. His whole life co-opted. Would anyone—Ben, Kitty—even have noticed?

Better not to think of it.

She finished writing, read it half a dozen times, still wasn’t fully satisfied but he convinced her it was good enough, so he sent it. Then spent a full minute staring at the screen, waiting for a response that he rationally knew wasn’t likely to show up immediately. He started to shut off the computer.

Just a little longer. An answer could come any second.

“I’m not going to sit around here waiting.”

But—

He shut it down anyway and grabbed his jacket and keys. Best thing to do was to take a walk. Burn off some of the impatience.

Chapter 21

HE ARRIVED at New Moon, sure that Kitty and Ben would be there. That was always his excuse. It wasn’t like he needed to go out; he’d never go out at all, if not for meeting those two at their restaurant. Maybe an exaggeration, maybe not. Sometimes they weren’t there; he’d go anyway, sit in the back and read a book and have a beer before packing up and going home. But odds were good they’d be there, and he could give them an update on what he’d found. Leaving out the exploding bits, of course.

He went in, paused a moment to take in the shape of the place, the number of people and where they were sitting, the traffic patterns, the mood. This was a mellow after-work crowd, carrying with it an atmosphere both exhausted and giddy. Shaun, working behind the bar tonight, gave Cormac a cautious nod in greeting.

“Kitty here?” Cormac asked.

“She should be here in half an hour or so,” the bartender said. “You want something to drink or are you just dropping by?”

“Sure. The usual.” Predictable. He’d become painfully predictable. He had a usual watering hole where people recognized him and they knew what he drank without asking.

And why not? You’re practically middle-aged, you ought to be more settled than you were in your youth.

He was not going to start thinking about that.

Shaun finished pouring the beer and set it on the bar. “Thanks,” Cormac muttered, and carried it to a table in back, where he could sit in a corner and watch. And read—atAmelia’s insistence, he brought along Milo Kuzniak’s notebook. He sat, drank his beer, read, and didn’t much care how it looked from the outside.

Sure enough, Kitty came in about a half an hour later. Ben was with her, and the two were talking. Or she was talking, and he had a vaguely amused smile on while he nodded at her encouragingly. They spotted him quickly, as soon as the door opened. They could smell him.

The ensuing pattern was familiar: she checked in with her pack members, Shaun at the bar and anyone else who happened to be around. She had the friendly, amiable disposition of a politician without the artifice, handing out friendly touches and comforting smiles. Her pack members, the other werewolves, leaned into her, following her with devoted gazes. Cormac wasn’t sure she realized the effect she had on them. She’d say she was just being nice.

Ben came straight over and took the chair across from Cormac. “Well?”

“Well what?”

He shrugged, leaving Cormac wide open to stick his foot in his mouth. Kitty rescued him by sweeping over, setting two mugs of beer on the table, and perching in the other chair. She revealed the book she’d held tucked under her arm and pushed it across the table to him.

“Look what I got. Galleys for the new book. Isn’t it pretty?”

On top of everything else she managed, she was an author. That was more of a sideline to the talk radio show, but if she was going to be doing all that talking anyway, might as well write some of it down.

It was a cheap paperback, not the final fancy hardcover that would be out in a few months. Storytellers: Myth and History, the title read. The cover was a photograph, her portrait against a backdrop of pine trees. She was all made up and airbrushed and looked like a celebrity, which he supposed was the idea. But it didn’t look like the Kitty he knew.

“Congratulations,” he said, his tone as even as ever.

“Thanks! This is an extra. You know, if you wanted to read it. Or something.” She blinked hopefully.

He was about to politely decline, but Amelia insisted. Yes, we want to read it. He picked up the copy, and Kitty beamed.

“You find out anything new?” Ben asked. “I assume that’s why you’re here.”

“Don’t think I just stopped by for a beer and company?”

“Not that you’d ever admit it,” Ben observed, which was more accurate than not.

“So what have you found?” Kitty demanded.

He started to say something, stopped. Thought for a second about how to condense everything that had happened since the run-in with Nolan and Eddie. Realized that Ben would ask how much of what he’d been doing was technically illegal, and Cormac didn’t precisely know. He didn’t think they were trespassing on private land when they experimented with that mining spell. Bottom line, none of it would make Ben and Kitty happy, and he didn’t want the grilling he’d go through if his answer was too vague.

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