Kitty Saves the World Page 62

I didn’t yell. I strolled up to him, pressed myself to him, face to his shoulder, and took him in—his scent, his warmth, his solidness—and sighed.

“Tracked me, did you?” I said.

He kissed the top of my head, the part of me closest to him. “Yeah. Figured I might as well. Your phone’s still in the pocket.”

“Did you find—”

He held up my wedding ring on its chain, and I breathed a heartfelt sigh. I pulled it back over my neck, another amulet to go with the others. Maybe the strongest. “I should train Wolf to keep a better hold of this.”

“Wolf’s job is to keep you safe,” he said, leaning in to give me another gentle, reassuring kiss. “We can always get another ring.”

“Thanks, hon,” I said, returning the kiss.

I gathered the clothes, tucked them under my arm. I’d probably end up throwing them away—they smelled charred and gross. They’d been dipped in a sulfuric, bacteria-laden bath.

“Anything happening?” he asked, looking across the plain.

The ritual—Tina in the center of the circle, Grant working around her, Cormac keeping watch—hadn’t changed since the last time I checked.

“Still waiting.”

Ben took up his guarding stance. Waiting was hard, when I felt like everything depended on what happened in the next hour. The bubbling and hissing of the thermals had become a comforting background noise, like static.

“Kitty?” Hardin hissed in a loud whisper, walking toward me and pointing toward the ritual. Something was happening.

A shimmering rippled the air in front of Tina, just outside of Grant’s circle. Cormac stood nearby, crossbow in both hands but not aimed. Grant was watchful, but didn’t seem worried.

The shimmering took on a shape: an animal-like figure, a big humped body, a face low to the ground, wide paws, rippling fur—a bear. It seemed to waver in reality, as if it were made of fog, denser air moving through the thinner mountain atmosphere. Other figures appeared throughout the basin, wherever one of us stood: another humped bear, the long-eared form of a rabbit, a thin-legged dear. The blur appearing before Hardin and me, and Ben when he trotted up to join us, was rangy, canine, with alert ears and a straight tail: wolf. I looked over to Sun.

Hazy shapes swarmed around him, a whole crowd of wavering animals acting like they wanted to rub up against him. Sun regarded the swarm, his arms outstretched, mouth open with wonder, but he didn’t seem concerned. Not that he would.

“What is it?” I said.

“I don’t know,” Ben said, and looked to Cormac. None of us wanted to call out, to interrupt whatever was happening.

From the middle of the circle, Tina reached out a hand. She was speaking, and the bear-shaped blur before her seemed to be listening.

Sun came down the slope toward us, and the shimmering figures followed him. They stood apart, as if they weren’t sure about us and wanted to watch. But with Sun, they pressed close.

“They like you,” I said.

“Yeah,” Sun said, bemused. “It’s ’cause they don’t know exactly what I am. They’re trying to figure me out. It’s kind of cool.”

“But … what are they?”

“Spirits. The Shoshone call them the Ground People.” He looked up, scanning above us. “There’s probably some of the Sky People around, too.” Overhead, a ripple in the air that might have been a ghostly hawk sailed by.

Tina moved the map outside Grant’s ritual circle. The bear spirit studied it a moment, then leaned in, touching its nose to the paper. Tina responded with a smile.

I felt relief. We had come to the right place and asked the right question of the right people. These spirits knew every corner of the park, knew everything that was happening. They were willing to help because we’d asked politely. Sometimes, it all came together.

The bear spirit in front of Tina lifted its head for all the world, like it was sniffing at the air. The shadow wolf next to us turned and flattened its ears to its head. All the spirit animals hesitated, straightening to look across the basin as if a noise had startled them. I didn’t see anything.

“What’s happening?” Hardin whispered.

“Something’s here,” I said.

“What is it?” Sun said, but he didn’t seem to be talking to any of us.

The spirits that had surrounded him disappeared, their shimmering forms wavering to nothing. The one by Tina did the same. Just like that, they were gone.

“I think we should get out of here,” I said, trotting down the dusty trail toward Cormac. The sun had set; stars began to light up the sky overhead. Roman and any vampires with him would be awake now. “Can we get out of here?”

“Grant?” Cormac asked.

The magician was blowing out candles and kicking at the dirt to erase the symbols he’d marked. Tina folded up the map. We all converged at this spot, pensive and uncertain.

“Wait a minute,” Cormac said, holding out a hand. “Everybody shut up a second. Stand still.”

We all froze. Everything was quiet. Just a peaceful night in the wilderness.

“That’s not right,” I said. Ben turned his nose up, working to take in the air. Hardin and Cormac took defensive stances. Sun had a staff in his hand that hadn’t been there before, and he was ready to use it.

But there wasn’t anybody, anything, out there. That wasn’t what was bothering me. It was the silence. The geysers, the steaming vents, the bubbling fumaroles—they were all quiet. Still. And that was wrong.

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