Kitty Goes to War Page 3

The on-air sign dimmed, and the recorded closing credits rolled, a familiar wolf howl playing in the background. My own wolf howl, my other voice, the other half of my being.

I slumped back, exhausted, pulled my headphones off, and rubbed some feeling back into my ears. Matt came in to stand in the doorway between the booth and studio. He was stocky, and he’d recently cut his black hair short. Way short. He used to wear it in a ponytail, but he’d noticed it was thinning up top and didn’t want to end up like our boss, Ozzie, KNOB’s station manager, who compensated for his thinning hair by growing his graying ponytail even longer.

Just another little change in the world. If you didn’t pay attention to the little changes, you’d wake up one day and the whole universe would be different.

“How do you think it went?” I said.

“I think it went fine,” he said. “I always like it when you do investigative stuff. But it’s going to suck if you don’t actually find some conspiracy. Al Capone’s vault, baby.”

“That won’t matter,” I said. “No conspiracy theory ever really dies. I’ll be perfectly happy if nothing comes of this, because then I won’t have to look over my shoulder every time I drive past a Speedy Mart.”

“You do spend an awful lot of time looking over your shoulder, don’t you?” he said, and I grimaced, because he was right.

I was sick and tired of secrets and conspiracies. These shadow groups, entire shadow worlds that seemed bent on destruction, with the rest of the world none the wiser. The worst part was how justified I was in feeling like a conspiracy-theory nut. I’d seen the results with my own eyes. I’d bled over it.

No more. No one else should have to die for shitty power games. If something was going on with Speedy Mart, I’d figure it out. If nothing was—then that was just fabulous, too. I’d be happy looking like an idiot if it meant nothing was wrong.

Matt and I said our farewells for the night. Outside the building, Ben was already parked at the curb, waiting to pick me up. My sense of relief and pleasure at seeing him in his car, looking out the window at me, was physical, a warm flush across my skin.

It didn’t matter how many times we played this scene out—my crawling into the passenger seat after my shift, leaning into each other for a kiss hello—it never got old.

I leaned in for a second kiss, and a third, this one long enough to taste him.

“Hm. Hello to you,” he said, when we finally broke apart. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I said with a sigh. “Just a little tired.” I kept my hand on his leg as he drove away from the curb; even that light contact helped me relax. I could feel warmth through the fabric of his pants, and the flexing of his muscles as he pressed the gas pedal.

“Are we going out or going home?” he asked.

“Home,” I said. “I don’t want to talk to anyone else but you right now.”

Ben smiled his crooked smile, and all was right with the world.

TREES MEANT safety. Forest was home. So when I felt trapped, it was in a building, an impossibly vast mansion, with corridors turning at sharp angles, floors rising and falling steeply. I ran, not knowing if I was on two legs or four. It felt like four, but my skin was smooth, furless, which meant I hadn’t turned Wolf. I could smell blood, rotting blood, but I couldn’t track it. It was everywhere. Sometimes blood meant food, sometimes it meant danger. Conflicting feelings of desire and terror confused me. It meant I ran without resolve, even though danger was close at hand, in the next room. Other people were here, also fleeing, and if we could only find each other we’d all be safe. But I couldn’t find anyone. I couldn’t save anyone. I was alone, running and cornered at the same time, and when a shot rang out, I flinched, feeling the burning pain through my body—

—and woke up, sitting up, breathing too fast, my pulse racing in my throat, painful.

“Kitty, shh, it’s okay. Calm down.” Ben was right there, arm across my shoulders, face close to mine, whispering comforts. I’d woken up like this before.

When I could separate myself from it, I knew what the dream was: the building that trapped me was the lodge in Montana where I’d been hunted with a dozen others. Five of us had escaped. We survivors had all been wounded to one degree or another.

I still had nightmares, months later.

I covered my face with my hands and took a deep breath. Part of me was still flailing, terrified, furious, looking for a way to lash out with claws and sharp teeth—my Wolf side, surging to the fore. It took all my self-control to soothe her, to pull her back into the cage. I imagined all that power shrinking to a hard knot in my belly. As long as my heart kept racing it was difficult to listen to Ben, my husband.

“Keep it together,” he murmured, nuzzling my neck, a wolfish gesture of comfort. He stroked my hair, and finally my heartbeat slowed, my muscles unclenched, and I could breathe without thinking about it.

Human now—mostly human—I slumped into his embrace, wrapped my arms around him, and let out a sigh. I was safe, I was home. Kneeling in bed, we held each other for a long time.

“You okay?” Ben said finally, his breath ruffling my hair.

“I don’t know.” My voice was muted by his shoulder, where I rested my head and took in the scent of him. “I dream about them.” The ones I hadn’t saved; Ben knew.

He pulled away and smoothed my hair back. “You think maybe you should talk to someone about this? Get some counseling?”

Ben’s gaze was full of concern, and maybe a little frustration. He’d skirted around the subject before, and I’d dodged because I liked to think I was a tough girl.

I scratched my head and rubbed my eyes, which ached. I needed more sleep, and I was starting to hate sleeping. “I thought I could handle it.”

“I know,” he said. “I would just really hate to wake up one night and find your wolf tangled up in the sheets. How would I explain the growling to the neighbors?” The condo complex had a no-pets policy. If I ever did lose it and turn Wolf—yeah, that might get a little noisy.

“That would almost be amusing enough to try it,” I said, turning a lopsided grin.

“How about I let you talk to them when the complaints come in?”

“How about I just try real hard not to turn Wolf in the house?”

His brow furrowed, giving him a perplexed look. “Do other lycanthropes have house rules like that? No shape-shifting indoors? No silver in the silverware drawer?”

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