Kitty Goes to War Page 32

“So how is he?”

“He’s alive. Making progress on the case. But—have you noticed anything odd about him? Anything different?”

“Like what? You mean something other than what’s usually wrong with him?”

Like the surliness, the borderline sociopathy “I don’t know. He had piles of books everywhere on some of the weirdest topics, and I think he’s been burning incense. You’ve known him your whole life. Has he always been this… I don’t know… studious? Obsessive?”

“Kind of, yeah. Obsessive, at least. All about getting the job done, especially with the hunting. Especially since his father was killed.”

“And now it’s like if he can’t do it with weapons he’ll do it some other way? Books and research?”

“Maybe. You didn’t expect him to have some kind of epiphany in prison and turn into Little Mary Sunshine, did you?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t expect anything, I guess.” Honestly, I hadn’t known Cormac all that well before he went to prison. He’d been this shadowy vigilante figure who slipped in and out of my life. He wasn’t much different now, I supposed. But all those books were just weird. Maybe I felt like he had changed, but I couldn’t figure out how. “But he smells different. Just a little.”

“And if we weren’t lycanthropes we wouldn’t notice it.” Ben turned thoughtful. “There is something else. He gets distracted. Staring off into space, like he sees something or is listening to something. When I shake him out of it he pretends that it didn’t happen. I haven’t really asked him about it. I figure he’s just adjusting to being on the outside again.”

“When have you ever known Cormac to get distracted? When has he ever not been completely focused on the world around him?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I do know the more we pester him the more annoyed he’s going to get. We just have to leave him alone.”

Cormac was a grown-up. He didn’t need us to worry about him.

“We’re acting like a couple of alpha wolves carrying on about a wayward pup,” I said, smiling.

“When you say you want kids I didn’t think you meant one like Cormac.”

Was that what it was? Displaced maternal instinct? I wrinkled my nose and thought about it. Ben stood, joined me at the wall, and leaned in to kiss me on the forehead.

“What was that for?” I said.

“You’re cute.”

Well, that was something, anyway.

I leaned into him for a hug. He wrapped his arms around me. A few inches taller than me, he put his nose to my hair and inhaled, taking in my scent, sending a pleasant flush along my scalp. I sighed, and he shifted, breathing in along my ear, my neck, and bending to breathe along my shoulder. Something wolfish showed through in his movements, which in turn brought out more of my own animal instincts, and lowered my inhibitions. I ran my fingers through his hair and brought my face close to his so I could return the gesture, breathing in the scent of him. His arms squeezed me, and he moved to smell my other shoulder.

Then I realized he really was smelling me, taking in my scent. Checking me over.

I pulled away and cupped my hands around his face to make him look at me. I didn’t even have to explain my confusion; he looked sheepish. Guilty.

“What exactly are you looking for?” I said.

I expected him to pull away and get surly, to deny that he was looking for anything—suspicious of anything. Instead, he reached around my arm and brushed hair out of my eyes.

“I was just thinking about you and Cormac alone together.”

“So you had to check?” To see if I smelled like Cormac. To see if Cormac and I had gotten together. “And?”

“You smell like his apartment,” he said and shook his head. “But you don’t smell like him.”

“Of course not, I didn’t even touch him,” I said, exasperated. “Did you really think I’d cheat on you? With your cousin?”

He shrugged. “I don’t think I expected to smell anything.”

“But you had to check anyway.”

“You two did have a thing.”

Yeah. A still undefined “thing.” Whatever it was. “That was awhile ago. A lot of water under the bridge.”

He sighed with what sounded like relief. Maybe he had to hear me say it. Maybe it was his human side that needed reassuring, not the wolf side. We were still touching, my hands resting on his chest, his hands on my shoulders.

I pulled myself closer to him, and he leaned in to kiss me, his mouth against mine, working and eager. My mind fuzzed over as the taste of him became my whole focus. I didn’t think I could get any closer to him, but he ran a hand down my backside and pulled me more firmly against him. Claiming his territory, which was just fine with me.

Chapter 13

I ASKED FOR that live interview with Tyler and Walters for the show, but Shumacher and Stafford refused outright. I wasn’t surprised, and I had a compromise lined up: a taped interview, and they could approve the questions. Reluctantly, they agreed—as long as they could screen and vet the resulting recording. Otherwise, no deal. I had misgivings about letting them have that much control—but it was that or nothing. So I brought the recording equipment to the hospital and conducted the interview, which ended up being mostly with Tyler, since Walters didn’t do very much talking. Once Tyler settled down and got used to the microphone, he seemed to get into it, like he was eager to tell his story. Then I had to hand the recording over.

What Shumacher gave back to me was milquetoast. The military had excised anything that mentioned that Tyler and Walters were, in fact, werewolves. Which was most of the interview, of course. They prohibited me from saying anything that indicated that the army had fielded lycanthropes in Afghanistan or Iraq. They didn’t want people to know it had ever happened. When I argued, I read between the lines and figured out it wasn’t even that it was a military secret they were trying to protect—they were worried about the political fallout. A chunk of the public—and Congress—didn’t trust the supernatural. They thought we were trying to take over, and every now and then some wing nut came up with a theory about how the White House was controlled by vampires. Something like this would only add fuel to the fire.

They had a point.

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