Kitty Goes to War Page 50

Ben said, “I’m not leaving you.”

I grabbed hold of his collar and pulled him to me. He cupped my face in his hands. Our kiss tasted hot and anxious after all the cold and stress of the day. It melted me, just a little. Enough to keep going until we cleaned up this mess.

“I’ll be okay,” I said, a statement made mostly on faith .

Ben nodded, but his frown wracked his whole face. “There’s got to be a phone in one of these offices. Shout if you hit trouble.”

“Hell, yeah,” I said.

Ben trotted back down the hallway and ducked into the first unlocked office. I almost yelled at him to close and lock the door behind him—but he did so without me having to tell him. Couldn’t have anyone sneaking up on him.

Tyler and I continued, toward Vanderman’s cell, looking for the rogues.

“Where else could they go?” I asked in a whisper.

“There’s the elevator.”

The elevator was at the other end of the hallway, around the next corner. “They wouldn’t take the elevator, would they?”

Werewolves on the edge of wild, on the hunt, would follow the trails of human scent. Their animal sides at the fore, they might not think of taking an elevator—the scent trail would be cut off. And even if they did think of it, they wouldn’t want to get trapped in a tiny steel box. At least, I wouldn’t.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If they know the stairs are cut off because we’re here—yeah, they might.”

“So we should go lock the elevator.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “It all seems so futile.”

“Don’t say that. Remember, we’re here to save Walters.” We’re here to save you.

He shook his head. “Captain Gordon would have hated this. Hated what we’ve all turned into. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“I’m sure he was a very nice guy, but right now I’m royally pissed off at him.”

Tyler actually chuckled.

A crash rattled the hallway behind us, like a door breaking—I thought it was behind us, but these hallways looped back on each other, and with all the tile, they echoed. It might have come from the office where Ben had locked himself—or it might have come from around the next corner. Tyler and I were looking in opposite directions.

“That’s gotta be Van,” Tyler said.

“And Walters, right?” I said. “They wouldn’t have separated, would they?”

Or maybe they would. They were a wolf pack on the hunt—hunting us, the rival pack in their territory. They’d be moving to flank us.

“Go,” I said, and Tyler ran, back to where we’d left Ben.

So, either we’d split them up, or they’d split us up. We wouldn’t know which until it was all finished and we figured out who won. Except no one was going to win this thing.

Another crash sounded, and this time I was pretty sure it had come from the next hallway, where the elevator was. Maybe I could shut down the elevator. I stepped carefully, a Wolf creeping in this mad human forest—and smelled werewolves all around me, hunting, spilling blood. I had to listen, watch, smell, feel.

I turned the corner to find Vanderman throwing himself at a locked door. He was naked, as if he’d just woken up from shifting back from wolf and hadn’t bothered with clothing. He looked primal, his muscles flexing as he shouldered into the door, rattling it in its frame. Teeth bared, snarling, he grabbed the handle and wrestled with it, twisting, wrenching, looking for all the world like a dog with a chew toy.

The dead bolt cracked the frame; the door wrenched out of place. On the other side, two women screamed. Their footfalls pattered as they scrambled away from the door, and two sets of heartbeats raced. Vanderman doubled his efforts to break in.

“No!” I shouted and ran at him. I didn’t think about it. If I had, I would have run the other way. Of course, then he would have chased me. Wolves love nothing better than chasing after prey. This way maybe I had a fighting chance.

He jumped away from the door and faced me down. His eyes lit. Tendons and muscles stood out as he sprang at me with hands outstretched. Claws grew—he showed a sheen of fur. I scurried, trying to change direction midstride. Dodging didn’t help. He tackled me, smashing me against the floor shoulder first. It hurt.

Kicking, clawing, I tried to get out from under him. My breath came out in a whine. I had to get off my back or he would claw into my belly, rip into my throat. An arm free, I swiped at him, catching his face, ripping my nails across his cheek. I didn’t have claws yet. In a few more seconds, I would, like him.

He put his knee into my belly, pinning me. He was so damn heavy. But I didn’t stop struggling. Pain throbbed in my shoulder; I could feel ribs popping under his weight. Panic tightened my lungs.

“This is all your fault,” he growled into my face. His breath was foul, tainted with old meat. “You come into my territory, you steal my pack. I’ll murder you, I’ll—”

“Van, no!” Walters’s voice echoed. He appeared at the other end of the corridor, behind Vanderman. Also naked, glaring, wild—as much wolf as human. He might have been looking for Tyler, where the hallway turned back around to the elevators. And where was Tyler?

Walters continued, pleading. “She’s helping us, she’s on our side. I came to get you so she could help you, too.” The submissiveness of his posture was painful to watch. He was groveling, his back curled, his limbs bent, almost on all fours, only daring to take quick glances at Vanderman out of the corner of his eye. If he’d had a tail, it would have been between his legs and tight against his belly. In another moment he’d be on the floor, his stomach to the ceiling.

When Vanderman faltered, I snarled and kicked, hitting his unprotected crotch. He took it with little more than a grunt. Raking claws down his sides, across his ribs, I got him to flinch. I rolled to my belly and pulled myself away—his knee went into my back. If I shifted, I could get out of this… I tried to steady my breathing, tried to keep it together. I heaved, growling, and rolled away. Jumping into a crouch, I turned to face them. Wolf stared out of my eyes.

Vanderman stared right back. Pure hate, pure challenge passed between us. It was okay, I could take it. Sure, he was big and scary. But the more I looked at him, the angrier I got. He’d ruined things for the rest of his squad. They’d all be alive now if he’d been able to keep it together. I could blame him for the whole terrible sequence of events, since Captain Gordon wasn’t around to blame.

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