Kitty Rocks the House Page 15

It would, indeed. “You’re not really endearing yourself to me.”

“Right. Sorry. I won’t cause trouble, I promise.”

Ben wasn’t any more tense than he’d been when the interview started. Which meant he didn’t sense any more threat than he had twenty minutes ago, when Darren first appeared. If Ben had reservations, he’d let me know. I couldn’t think of a reason to say no. Besides, if he was a friend of Nasser’s, that made him an ally. Theoretically.

“Okay,” I said. “We’ll give it a try. You just have to follow the rules: be nice, and don’t be stupid.”

He stared at me. “Don’t be stupid? That’s it?”

“That’s it,” I said. And it really was. Anyone who couldn’t manage those two things, I probably couldn’t help. “Well, and I’d like your address and phone number so we can stay in touch. If you need a place to stay we can probably find you something.”

“No tithing?” he went on, and I shook my head. “No rituals of submission? No hierarchies?” He was talking about ceremonies that some packs went through—alphas demanding demonstrations of obedience, usually involving violence and bloodshed.

I said, “As a wise alpha wolf recently told me, if you have to beat people up, you’re doing it wrong. I’m not saying you won’t get challenged by anyone else in the pack, because you will, but we can be relatively civil about it. I prefer to put the ‘were’ ahead of the ‘wolf.’”

“Nasser also says you’re not subservient to the local vampire Master.”

“Rick? No. I mean, we’re friends. But just friends.” That sounded weird … Speaking of Rick, I still needed to talk to him about Hardin and her wanted poster.

“That’s really unusual,” he said. And was I pleased that he sounded impressed?

“We work together, hopefully for the good of everyone. And who’s interviewing whom, here?”

He spread his arms in a show of apology. “All right, then. What else do you want to know about me?”

Ben and I looked at each other—me passing the ball to him. Because just like “How old are you?” was the obvious question I always asked vampires, werewolves had their obvious question.

“How did you become a werewolf?” Ben asked. “Did you choose it or were you attacked?”

“I was attacked,” he said, without any self-consciousness. Totally straightforward.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It happened a long time ago. I was nineteen. Still a kid, really. I was out fishing near my family’s cabin, stayed out too late, the full moon was up. You probably hear stories like that a million times. The local pack took me in, helped me cope. I started making the alpha there nervous, so I left rather than cause trouble. I’ve been seminomadic for probably ten years now.”

“And how do you know Nasser?” I asked.

“I’ve helped him out a time or two, whenever he needed an extra pair of arms. Or claws.” His smile carefully didn’t show teeth.

That made him hired muscle, for whatever shenanigans Nasser got up to. Anti-Roman shenanigans, probably, but still. Darren the mercenary.

My skepticism must have shown through, because he quickly continued. “That was only when I was on my own. Lone wolf. When I’m here, when I’m part of your pack, I answer to you, and that’s it. I figure that’s part of ‘don’t be stupid,’ right?”

I smiled in spite of myself. “You’re catching on.”

“So, do I pass?”

I suddenly realized what was driving me crazy about this whole situation: I was being asked to decide someone’s fate for the immediate future. I shouldn’t have that kind of power. Most werewolves—and vampires, and probably a dozen other supernatural beings as well—would see it as completely normal. He’d asked permission to live in our territory, I could give it or not as I chose. But this wasn’t just about settling down; he was asking to become part of our family—and it was up to me to say yes. When really I should be calling up everyone in the pack, talking to Shaun and Becky, and Ben of course. Maybe even Rick. Might not hurt to consult Cormac as well …

“You’re thinking deep thoughts,” Ben said.

I’d been staring into space, my lips pursed. “No deeper than usual.” Darren was looking at me expectantly. “All right, you’re in. Don’t blow it.” I offered my hand for him to shake, which he did, again. Shaking hands was a human gesture, not a wolf greeting, but he overcame his wolf instincts without hesitation. He was civilized. Housebroken, even. Deal accomplished. I still felt weird.

“Why don’t I introduce you around?” I said, gesturing at the others to join us. “I imagine you’ll meet the rest of the pack on the next full moon.” I did the mental count in my head—eight days away. Sooner rather than later, then. We’d get to see both sides of the new kid.

Shaun approached obliquely from our side of the table, keeping a wary gaze on the newcomer. He was our lieutenant, the strongest wolf in our pack. Our backup. Becky and Tom were tough, but ranked lower than Shaun. They hung back to see how Shaun reacted.

“Everything cool?” he asked.

“Everything’s cool,” I said. “Darren, Shaun. And that’s Becky and Tom. Darren’s going to be staying with us for a while. And not causing trouble.”

Shaun’s lip curled. Yeah, he’d help keep Darren in line, if it came to that. I still couldn’t get a good read on the guy. He seemed unconcerned, smiling and friendly.

“Right,” Shaun said. “Can I get you a drink?”

“Sure, that’d be great,” Darren said.

Maybe this seemed weird because I felt like we should have been doing this out in the woods, on four legs, duking it out with growls and teeth instead of sitting at a table in a restaurant. We were acting human. But our wolves were sizing each other up. Full moon was going to be interesting.

Shaun brought beers, the others sat with us, and we embarked on a perfectly normal conversation, asking about jobs and work and places we’d lived. Tom knew about an apartment for rent, and Darren seemed to think it sounded good. They agreed to meet about it tomorrow.

Well, this seemed to be going well. Swimmingly, even. The tension around us faded a few notches. My shoulders relaxed, and I didn’t feel a need to keep watching Darren, waiting for him to strike. I was suddenly exhausted. I turned to Ben. “Time to go home?”

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel