Kitty Goes to War Page 52

The colonel nodded and spoke to his men. “Stand down. Back off and wait at the doorway.”

The soldiers retreated, walking backward, unable to turn away from the tableau we presented: two people bent in despair, two ravaged bodies, a hallway spattered in blood.

Ben came to us first. I watched him, as if I could draw him forward with my eyes. He touched my shoulder, then Tyler’s, and bent his face to my hair. His breath tingled on my scalp, and I melted against him, relieved. I could finally let go. We were going to be all right.

“You’re hurt,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Mostly bruised, I think. Maybe broken ribs.”

“Can you stand?”

We’d have to get out of here sometime, I supposed. Tyler’s expression had settled into a mask. The sadness hadn’t gone away. He seemed so tired.

Holding Ben’s arm, I started to pull myself to my feet, but sharp pains rippled across my ribs. I hissed and doubled over, and both Ben and Tyler were at my sides, grabbing me to keep me from falling. They settled me against the wall instead. Yeah, bastard had broken something.

“What the hell did you do?” Ben asked.

“She went up against Vanderman,” Tyler said.

“You did what?” Then Ben rolled his eyes as though that didn’t surprise him.

“I had to,” I said. “He was trying to break into that room.” I called to Stafford, who was still hanging back. “Colonel, there are a couple of people in there, they might need help.” My lungs ran out of breath, my voice choked, and I started coughing.

Stafford looked like he wanted to argue, but he went to the broken door, called to the women inside, and after they answered, he shoved into the room. One more problem taken care of.

Ben and Tyler sat against the wall on either side of me. I leaned against Ben and let myself heal. Werewolf healing was fast, but never fast enough when you were in the middle of it.

“Walters saved me,” I said. “Right at the end. He got Vanderman away from me. I think he would have been okay. If we could have kept him safe, he would have been okay.” I shook my head.

Ben kissed the top of my head, and I sighed.

I would have liked to have said that it was all over. But I expected there’d be a lot of excuses, finger-pointing, and rationalizing. Maybe for Tyler this would never be over. He’d have Walters, Vanderman, Gordon, and all the guys from his unit living in his memory for the rest of his life. He’d be asking himself how he was the one who got out alive. This moment might have felt like a victory. But it was a Pyrrhic victory. We were left with a lot of pieces to pick up.

Stafford returned to the hallway. The room’s occupants were two women in fatigues, looking impossibly young and tiny. They glanced at the bodies, glanced at us, then hurried up the hallway and to the door. Two more hatch marks on the victory column. Were we even yet?

The colonel just stared at us.

Tyler pushed himself to his feet, stood at straight, formal attention, and saluted. He held his hand to his forehead in that salute for a long time while Stafford stared at him, apparently at a loss. My Wolf would have bristled under that gaze, accepted the challenge, and tried to throw it back to him. Tyler kept his gaze down. He stayed submissive, acknowledging that Stafford was the one in charge. Most people wouldn’t recognize the body language. Stafford may not have recognized it as lupine body language. But he recognized it as military.

He returned the salute, and Tyler dropped his hand.

“At ease,” the colonel said, and Tyler relaxed a fraction. “What happened here?”

“Sir,” Tyler said, his voice heavy with exhaustion. “Sergeant Vanderman and Sergeant Walters aren’t going to be causing any more trouble.”

“And what about you?”

“I’d like to request a discharge, sir.”

I expected Stafford to argue, to at least get huffy, to rant at the little bit of his world attempting to slip out of his control. But he didn’t. He studied Tyler for a long moment, lips pursed, as if he wanted to say something but the words had stuck. Then he touched Tyler’s arm, a quick, sympathetic pat, and turned away.

“Stick around for debriefing. All three of you,” Stafford said over his shoulder as he continued on to lock down the floor.

My phone chose that moment to play “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I answered.

Cormac said, “I need help. Now.”

Chapter 21

“WHAT’S GOING on? What’s happening?” I pressed my hand to my opposite ear and walked a few feet away to get some privacy.

“Franklin found himself some very weird ancient magic. He finished casting his spell and this blizzard is just getting started.”

I had stopped questioning this sort of thing a long time ago. Weird ancient magic, check. Even worse blizzard, check. I wanted to go home and take a hot bath.

“Right. But can we stop him?”

“We can neutralize the spell, but we have to hit every Speedy Mart in town to do it. I can’t do it alone.”

That was a pretty big thing for him to admit.

Denver and the surrounding suburbs had thirteen Speedy Marts. Cormac had visited them all over the last week. Normally, getting to all of them would sound doable. Crazy, but doable. But now?

“Cormac, we’re in Colorado Springs in the middle of a blizzard. How the hell are we supposed to get to Denver?”

“I don’t know. Hijack a snowplow or something.”

“Not helpful,” I said. “How much time do we have?”

“A couple of hours before it’s too late to break the spell.”

“Let me call you back in ten minutes,” I said.

“I’m serious, Kitty. We don’t have time to screw around.”

A snarl burred at the back of my throat. “Ten minutes.” I hung up.

Cormac wouldn’t exaggerate. He was talking the worst blizzard ever. A Katrina level of destruction blizzard. I couldn’t imagine. That was the point. Hundred-mile-an-hour winds, subzero temperatures, a dozen feet of snow crashing through roofs, no power, no heat, and having it last for a week or more.

“What’s wrong?” Ben said when I rejoined the group.

“The Franklin situation’s blowing up. Cormac needs us back in Denver.”

Ben blinked in disbelief. “He knows there’s a blizzard on, right?”

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