Kitty Takes a Holiday Page 35

He was still shaken by the day's adventure. Not quite comfortable in his skin. 1 knew the feeling. I let him talk as much as he wanted.

He said, “It feels like a parasite. Like there's this thing inside me and all it wants to do is suck the life out of me then crawl out of my empty skin.”

Now there was a lovely image. “I never looked at it that way. To me it's always kind of felt like this voice, it's looking at everything over my shoulder and it always has an opinion. It's like an evil Jimmy Cricket.”

He chuckled. “Jiminy Cricket with claws. I like it.”

“It digs into your skin like a kitten with those needley little things.” 1 giggled. Silly was better than scary.

Ben winced. “Ugh, those things are evil. You ever want to see something fun, throw a kitten down somebody's shirt. Watch them squirm trying to avoid getting clawed while not hurting the kitten.”

Now 1 winced. I could almost feel those little claws scratching on my stomach. “You sound like you've done it before.”

“Or had it done.”

I couldn't help it. 1 giggled again, because I could see it: him and Cormac as kids, cousins fooling around at the family reunion, and 1 just knew who would have thrown a kitten down whose shirt. Oh, the humanity.

Wearing a wry smile, he looked at me. His voice turned thoughtful. “I don't think I'd have made it this far without you. Cormac did the right thing, bringing me here.”

“That's nice of you to finally admit it.”

“When this happened to you, did you get through it alone or did someone help you?”

“Hmm, I had a whole pack. A dozen or so other werewolves, and half of them wanted to help and half of them were worried I'd be competition. But there was someone in the middle of all that. T.J. looked out for me. The first time I Changed, he held me. I tried to be there for you the same way. But T.J.—he was special. He was very Zen about the whole thing most of the time. He used to tell me not to look at the Wolf as the enemy, but to learn to use it as a strength. You take those strengths into yourself and become more than the sum of the parts.” Always, this was easier said than done. But I could still hear T.J.'s voice telling me these things. Reminding me.

“Where is he now?”

To think, I had just been about to congratulate myself that I'd spent a whole minute talking about T.J. without crying. I spoke softly, to keep my voice from cracking, because I was supposed to be the strong one. “Dead. I called out the alpha male of our pack, and T.J. swooped in to back me up. We lost. He died protecting me. That's why I had to leave Denver.”

“I hear that happens a lot, in werewolf packs.”

“Maybe. 1 don't really know. There's a lot of different kinds of packs out there.”

“I'd just as soon keep this one to you and me.”

“Afraid of a little healthy competition?” I said wryly.

“Of course. I'd hate to have to share you with anyone.”

“Or is it that you'd hate to have to fight to keep me to yourself?”

He shifted so he was looking at me. 1 looked back, down the length of my body. “You know, 1 think I would. If I had to.” The playful tone went out of his voice.

My whole body flushed. Suddenly we weren't two friends snuggled together for comfort. He was male, I was female, and there were sparks. The weight of him leaning against me sent warm ripples through my gut.

“Is that you talking—you the human, I mean. Or is it the wolf?” I said.

He hesitated, then said, “It's all the same thing, Isn't it?”

Helplessly, I nodded.

He moved again, propping himself on an elbow so he leaned over me. Tentatively, he touched the waistband of my sweatpants. I didn't say anything. In fact, I pulled my arms away, tucking my hands under my head, so I wouldn't be tempted to stop him.

He pushed up the hem of my tank top, tugged down on my sweatpants, exposing a stretch of naked skin across my belly. He kissed this, working his way across, gently and carefully, like he wanted to be sure to touch every spot. Warmth flushed along my skin everywhere he touched. He eased the edge of my pants down farther, until he was kissing the curve of my hip, using his tongue, tasting me. My heart was beating hard, my breaths coming deep. I closed my eyes and squirmed with pleasure.

It was all I could do to keep from grabbing him, ripping off his clothes, and pulling him into me. He started this, so I let him work, reveling in the focused intensity of his attention. He kept at it until I gasped, a sudden jolt of sensation startling even me.

Then I grabbed him and ripped all his clothes off.

After that, we acted like we were on some kind of honeymoon. We'd start out washing dishes and end up making out over the sink, pawing each other with soapy hands. The bed got a workout. The sofa got a workout. The floor got a workout. The kitchen table—after one attempt we decided it wasn't stable enough to withstand a workout.

I got a heck of a workout. I was sore.

It distracted us from our problems, from the curse, from the slaughter, from the threats that had taken up residence in my dreams. The reason Ben gave me for not sleeping was a much better one than lying awake waiting for doom to strike.

Then there was the nagging little voice that kept telling me it wasn't Ben, it was the wolf inside of him that had inspired this heroic passion. He wouldn't be here if he weren't a werewolf. Circumstance had brought us together, but I was enough of a romantic to want to be in love.

Neither one of us brought up the subject.

Over the next several days, two more herds of cattle were attacked. A dozen cows in all were slaughtered, torn to pieces. Each time, Marks called me up, wanting to know where I'd been the night before, what I'd been doing, and did I have witnesses who could verify that. Not really, seeing as how Ben and I were each other's alibi. Each time, Ben and I went out and searched the area, looking for something out of place, unnatural. Something that turned the world dark, and glared out with red eyes. But it must have been avoiding us.

I tried calling Cormac again, more than once. Voice mail picked up every time without ringing, so he was out of range or his phone was off. He didn't have a message, just let the automated voice carry on. I tried not to worry. Cormac was fine, he could take care of himself.

The second time Marks called I accused him of racial profiling—the only reason he suspected me was the fact that I was the only known lycanthrope in the region. He replied that he had applied for that warrant to collect a DNA sample from me.

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