Kitty Goes to War Page 16

I recognized Joseph Tyler, who sat on the floor, hunched over, his back to the door, apparently asleep. Or maybe just indifferent. He wore fatigue pants and a T-shirt, like when I’d seen him before.

In the middle of the cell, a smaller white guy lay on his side, curled up, definitely asleep. I recognized Sergeant Ethan Walters from his picture. I was used to seeing werewolves wake up after shifting looking just like that, in a shape that recalled a sleeping wolf, fetal, limbs tucked in. But he was wearing pants. So maybe he just slept like that all the time. I’d pegged him as the weakest of the three, at least as far as the pecking order went. It may have been that he was just the most vulnerable, the farthest gone, the one needing the most help. I tried to be sympathetic, even though he’d been the one to attack Becky. I still wanted to beat him up for that.

The third soldier paced the window in front of me, back and forth. He kept his gaze outward, to the door, even as he changed direction. Back and forth, about five steps one way and five steps the other. The neurotic habit of a caged predator. He’d worn a clean streak on the tile floor with his pacing. I’d never seen him in this form, but I knew him by his movements, by the rage in his eyes, a focused burning. I could feel the force of it almost as soon as I entered the room. This was the alpha male, the huge shadow wolf. Sergeant Luke Vanderman. He was in his late twenties, over six feet tall and more than solid. Forged and tempered. He went shirtless, showing off a sculpted chest, shadowed with brown hair.

He was more than a little impressive. I didn’t know whether to tremble in fear or in awe. Now there’s an alpha… Down, girl.

When Dr. Shumacher moved aside and I came into sight, Vanderman lunged forward. He all but pressed himself to the glass, his teeth bared. His right hand slapped against the partition, his fingers bent into claws.

If I had flinched, if I had stepped back, it would have been all over. I’d never have been able to talk to him. But somehow I held my ground. My heart was racing, and Vanderman would be able to hear it, be able to smell the anxiety in the sweat breaking out on me, the ventilation system drawing my scent into his cell. But I didn’t look away, I didn’t slouch, didn’t cringe. My tail, only imaginary at the moment, stayed up.

I just kept thinking that I had faced worse than this. And there was that wall between us.

When he hit the window, Tyler looked. Walters sat up, his gaze wary. Tyler turned to face me and his eyes widened. I gave him a thin smile. He seemed shocked to see me.

“I know you,” the alpha sergeant said. His voice was low, threatening, as if he was talking through clenched teeth.

“Yeah. We met.” I tried to stick to my soothing talk-radio-host voice. My NPR voice. “It’s nice to finally talk to you.”

“What do you want?”

“To help,” I said, but it sounded kind of vague and lame. Help how?

“Maybe she’s a bribe,” said Walters. He crouched now, balanced on his fingertips, ready to spring. He watched me, his lips parted, and I’d have sworn he was drooling. “We get some ass, calm us down—”

“Grow up, Walters,” Tyler said.

“Is that why you’re here?” Vanderman said. Growled. He looked like he was going to burst out of his skin any minute.

“Nobody is touching my ass,” I said.

“Sounds like a dare,” he said, lips parting in a hungry smile. He leaned right up to the wall, his breath fogging the glass.

“I’m just here to talk. Werewolf to werewolf.”

“Bitch.”

“Yeah,” I said.

He snarled and returned to pacing. Back and forth, glaring at me the whole time.

“Sergeant, we can’t release you until we’re sure you’re not going to be a threat to yourself and others,” Shumacher said, entirely scientific and rational.

Vanderman slammed against the Plexiglas, pounding it with hands bent like claws, as if he could scratch his way through and get to her.

Startled, she stepped back, fear rattling through her. Vanderman was the boss here and everyone knew it. He’d kill Shumacher if the wall wasn’t there.

Calmly, I stepped between Shumacher and Vanderman, blocking his view of her. Protecting her, showing that he’d have to go through me to get her. He was a bully, and I’d dealt with bullies before.

“Could you leave us alone for a few minutes?” I said over my shoulder to Shumacher.

“Are you sure?” She clung to her clipboard like it was a shield.

“I’ll be fine, and I’m sure you have a million closed-circuit cameras in here, so you’re not going to miss anything, right?”

“Call if you need anything,” she said. She pressed her lips in a frown and left, heels clicking on tile.

The door closed behind her, and the air went out of the room, as if we were now vacuum sealed.

For a second I panicked. What the hell did I say to these guys? What could I possibly say that they’d take seriously? But they weren’t just badass Green Berets who’d been through a hell I couldn’t imagine. They were baby wolves without their alpha. They’d been floundering since Gordon was killed.

Tyler faced me now. “Captain Gordon didn’t tell us there were any female werewolves.”

Vanderman pointed at him. “Don’t talk to her.”

“I imagine Gordon didn’t tell you a lot of things,” I said. They were just babies. I’d talked down baby wolves before. That was how I’d have to approach them. “Sergeant Vanderman, what do you want?”

“I want to rip out your throat after I fuck you hard,” he said.

“Okay, that’s helpful,” I said, sarcastic. “Now I want to hear from your human side. Ignore your wolf for a minute and tell me what you really want.”

“Maybe that is my human side,” he said, baring teeth. And yeah, maybe he was right. He wouldn’t be the world’s first misogynistic homicidal bastard. I couldn’t forget, he’d already killed three of his own teammates.

I smiled. “Then I get to tell Colonel Stafford to pull the trigger on you guys.”

They cringed. All of them. Even Vanderman, and I thought I knew why—at some level, their human sides were still observing the army chain of command. Stafford had power over them and they knew it.

“Let’s back up a minute,” I said. “You guys are in serious trouble. Unless you start pulling yourselves together, you’re going to be locked up for a very long time. Shumacher and Stafford are the ones who get to decide whether you’re safe enough to be let out of here. I may be the only one who thinks there’s a chance you might ever be safe enough to go free. You need to start talking to me.”

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