Kitty Saves the World Page 70

The face on this coin was almost recognizable: a profile, like the old coins with kings and emperors on them. I couldn’t tell if this one was Roman or Lightman. Didn’t matter, they were gone and it was over. I went to the lake’s edge and threw it, hurled it after the Maltese cross. Let it sink to the depths.

When it vanished under the surface of the water, I felt better. Smiled, even. God, that sunlight felt good.

On the shore, partly in the water and partly out, I found clay shards, broken pieces of the lamp he’d been holding. The core of the spell, the Manus Herculei. Broken, done, gone. I stretched my arms, rounded my shoulders. I could have laughed, I suddenly felt so light.

I turned around to walk back up the rise, but two men stood there. The same two Men in Black who’d been following me all week. I hadn’t heard or smelled them approach. My hackles went up all over again. Wolf roared, ready to break free.

I marched toward them. “Who the hell are you?”

“We’d like to talk to you, if it’s all right,” the olive-skinned one said. Like we’d just run into each other on one of the hiking trails.

“Do you have any idea what’s happened here?” I pointed at the lake, which had so recently been on fire, and at the smear of soot that used to be Roman. My gestures were wild, my expression most likely crazy. I could not deal with one more thing.

“Yes, we do,” he said simply. And I believed him.

I sagged, put a hand on my suddenly aching head. “Who the hell are you?”

“You can call me Ezra. Call him Jacob. We’re Powers,” said the pale-skinned one.

“Authorities,” said the other, Jacob. “Though that’s not really important here.

I stared. “Of course you are.” I was sure I had read something about this in Paradise Lost. Or someplace else. One of those angelic magic books. Powers, Authorities—they were categories of angels. “The other side of the coin, right?”

“This is such a beautiful place,” Jacob said, gazing around at the dawn-lit trees and lake, which glowed golden. “It’s such a shame—you see, it’s always been collateral damage in our war. A bastion. A prize. Our kinds have been fighting for control of it for a very long time.”

“A very long time,” Ezra added with a sad smile. “Even though our direct influence is limited. Surprisingly limited, really. Both sides need pawns to do our work.”

“But Earth is full of pawns,” Jacob finished.

For a long moment I just stood there. Even Wolf didn’t have a growl for that. Softly, I muttered, “We weren’t fighting for you. We were fighting for ourselves. For each other. So, you know—fuck you.”

I started the hike back up the hill. I had to find Ben. Or what was left of him.

Jacob said, “Yes, and it made you stronger than you ever would have been as pawns. Lightman doesn’t understand that.”

“Kitty. Your friends will be here soon,” Ezra said.

I stopped, turned. “They’re okay? They’re alive? All of them?”

“They’re mostly okay, yes.”

My heart lurched at that “mostly.” I had to find them, I had to get to them now—

“Just one more moment, please,” Jacob said, reaching. We have something for you, if you want it.”

Ezra pulled something from his jacket pocket, held it up. A carved stone on a gold chain, simple and straightforward. Nothing to be afraid of.

“No,” I said, hand up. “I’m sorry, but no. No more amulets, no more talismans or crosses or coins, or … or … Just no more magic.”

“Would you like to hear what it does first?” Ezra said.

I sighed. “Okay.”

“It gives you a year and a day. A nice fairy-tale length of time, isn’t it? A year and a day.”

“To do what?” I said.

“To be healed.”

Jacob said brightly, “It’s another fairy-tale thing—like the good fairy in Sleeping Beauty. We can’t take away the curse. But we can give you a year and a day.”

“He—” Ezra nodded in the direction Lightman had been standing, was it just a few minutes ago? “He isn’t the only one able to influence these things.”

They both seemed very pleased with themselves, waiting happily for my reaction.

“A year and a day,” I said, very slowly and carefully. “Without shifting. A year and a day as a human.”

“Not precisely. You’ll always be a werewolf. But this will give you … time.”

My hands went to my stomach, which seemed a ridiculously stereotypical gesture. But both men nodded. “Time to be pregnant,” I said, just to be sure.

“We thought you’d appreciate it, after what you’ve been through,” said Jacob.

The world had gone sideways. It was like I couldn’t see straight, my head was ringing so much. “Like, a reward? I didn’t do this for a reward—”

“Of course not,” said Ezra. “This is more to say … we like what you’ve been doing and you should keep doing it. Do you want it?”

A year and a day. I nodded. He came forward and put the chain around my neck. Did something that shortened it, so I couldn’t just pull it off again. If I looked, I mostly likely wouldn’t find a clasp.

The stone looked ancient, prehistoric. The carving was round, primitive, stylized, eyes and flattened ears on a canine face the only visible features. A wolf. I understood what he’d meant—I wouldn’t be human. Wolf would always be here, looking out for me. And that was fine.

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