Kitty Saves the World Page 30

They share the rabbit, then they run.

They must cover ground, as much as they can. They fan out, come back together, marking as they go, laying down their scent, sending the signal to any others who happen by: we are here, this place is ours, you can’t have it.

She climbs a hill, a vantage point into the next valley. Sound carries here. She howls, singing. Her mate has gone ahead into the valley, and he answers her. Their songs make another mark that echoes to the heavens.

He continues, and she races to join him.

If there was danger here, she would smell it. She doesn’t, but that doesn’t change the feeling, bleeding over from her other side. Something’s wrong …

She finds her mate and whines, bumping him shoulder to shoulder for comfort. It’s late—early. The sky pales. Still, there’s time to hunt again, and they’re still hungry. Deep in the hills they stalk a deer. She circles one way, flushes the prey into her mate’s waiting jaws. He drags down its throat, she hangs onto its haunches until it falls, twitches.

A feast; they gorge. She keeps looking up, waiting for that thing she feels watching.

Nothing there, again.

He’s the one who decides it’s time to leave, nudging and nipping her until they both run. This is familiar territory, they know where they’re going, and soon find the den, a sheltered place where they curl up together, warm in their shared fur and shared breath.

She should revel in this night. She rarely gets to run so far, so long, or feed so much. But the night feels empty without the pack.

Nestling closer to her mate, she sleeps.

*   *   *

WE ENDED up at the den, just like we planned. I marveled at the amount of ground we’d covered. Through the night, our wolves had traveled miles, straight over the mountains from here to there, where no roads went. I felt the distance in my bones. Waking up after running as Wolf, I usually felt weird and tired. This time, I felt sore as well, through every limb, even around my rib cage. I’d never run so far.

The morning was still, cold. The sun was well up—we’d run until dawn, slept late. I still didn’t feel ready to wake up.

I snuggled closer to Ben. Somehow, after curling up together to sleep, I had a vague memory of his tail tickling my nose, and his muzzle pillowed on my flank. Shifting back, we’d ended up with his arms over my back, my face pressed against his neck. We were naked, warm. I smiled.

In response, he closed his arms, hugging me, holding me in place. I looked up at him, combed my fingers through his hair. They still itched, a memory of claws.

He didn’t say anything. His eyes shone, his gaze still wolfish, the animal side bleeding into his waking self. He was still hungry—in a sense. He touched my cheek, held my head, kissed me hard, and didn’t pause.

His mouth tasted of blood, of the meat we’d killed. So did mine.

Our lovemaking was fierce; I almost couldn’t keep up. I held tight and lost myself. Our wolves were still with us, and the world felt wild.

We ended up lying back on the ground, arms around each other, catching our breaths.

“You okay?” I asked, brushing back his hair.

“Yeah,” he said, sighing, his human voice finally returned. “I’m just wanting to hang on extra hard to what I’ve got.”

Skin to skin, we lay together for what seemed a long time. I could have stayed there all day. All week. Surely everything would work out without us.

“Do you smell that?” he asked, lifting his head, wrinkling his nose.

“All I can smell right now is you,” I murmured.

“Thanks? I think? No, seriously.” He nudged me, and we both sat up.

The air was still, quiet. A normal morning quiet in the woods. I breathed slowly, and a prickling tingled on the back of my neck. Something was definitely out there. But I couldn’t see it. Couldn’t smell it.

“I spent all night feeling like something was watching us,” I whispered.

He said, “I don’t remember that much. I just remember … I couldn’t decide if we were running something down, or running away from it.”

“Yeah, that’s about right.” I climbed to my feet, reached my hand to help him up. “You know, if our ride isn’t here, it’s going to be a long walk back.” We were naked. We had no clothes, no phones. No change for a pay phone, assuming we could find a pay phone. I still had dried leaves and dirt in my hair. I ran my fingers through it, trying to straighten it out. As if that would make it all okay.

“He’ll be here.”

Sure enough, Cormac and the Jeep were at the gravel turnout at the end of the service road. We came into view, and Cormac immediately ducked his gaze and studied the mechanism on the crossbow he was holding.

“Always prepared, I see,” I said.

“Always,” Cormac said.

A couple of plain wool blankets sat on the hood of the Jeep; Ben picked them up, brought them over to me, and made a show of shaking one loose and draping it over my shoulders. He looked both tired and amused, and I gave in to an urge to brush my fingers through his hair. He had scruffy, brushable hair.

With both of us wrapped in blankets, Cormac could look up again. Toughest guy I knew was also the shyest, it turned out.

Cormac pursed his lips. “You guys accomplish anything?”

Ben and I exchanged a glance, neither of us wanting to answer. Ben finally said, “We made it very clear to whoever’s watching that we’re not running away.”

“And you’re sure someone’s watching?”

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