Kitty Rocks the House Page 21

Then my phone rang.

I flinched, and Ben jumped as if a gun had fired. His lips curled from his teeth. “Can’t you shut that off?”

Caller ID said Cheryl. I probably shouldn’t even have looked, but I couldn’t ignore my sister. “Yeah?” I answered the call, wishing I didn’t sound so brusque. I stood by Ben’s car, clutching the phone to my ear, staring at nothing. Ben paced nearby, jangling the keys in his hand.

“Kitty, hi, it’s me.”

Why did people still say that, in this age of caller ID, when we knew who was calling before they said anything? “Hey, Cheryl.” My foot started tapping. Cheryl didn’t call me that often. We lived just across town from each other, but usually relayed messages through Mom, who called each of us every Sunday like clockwork. My sister only called directly when she wanted something, or if something was wrong. She didn’t sound like something was wrong.

“So, how is everything?” she asked.

How is everything. I could give her a blithe answer, vague and cheerful, but a growl lodged in my throat. I had to swallow in order to continue.

“Fine. Busy, actually. I’ve had a lot on my plate this week.” Ben stopped pacing and stared at me, his brows raised, asking, Are you serious? “In fact, I was just on my way out with Ben. Like, right this minute.”

She made a thoughtful hum. “It’s Saturday night, isn’t it? Nice to know somebody still gets to party on the weekends.” Her tone was cutting.

“Actually, it’s a full moon tonight,” I said, frowning.

“Wait, what? What’s that got to do … oh.”

“That’s right,” I said. “And I really need to get going.”

“Right, okay, but I just need to talk for a second.”

“Make it fast.”

“I want to have a party for Mom, since her birthday’s coming up and to celebrate her last scan coming back clean. But if I’m going to pull it off I really need your help.”

I groaned. I didn’t mean to, it just came out. It wasn’t that I didn’t think a party was a good idea—every day with Mom healthy was worth a celebration. She’d been diagnosed with breast cancer almost four years ago and beat it. Nothing to worry about. Except medically speaking she wasn’t out of the woods yet. She was in remission, but the cancer could always come back. She hadn’t crossed that five-year mark yet, but for now, she was good.

So, party, yes. But I just couldn’t take on another project right now.

“What was that for?” Cheryl shot back, annoyed.

“I’m sorry, but how much help are we talking about here? I’m kind of overbooked as it is—”

“Oh yeah, I always forget how busy you are, with all your jetting off to Europe and partying on Saturday night—”

“I wouldn’t call it partying—”

“I’ve got two kids here, Jeffy’s starting kindergarten this fall, I never seem to get anything done, and I thought that just for once I could count on you to help out, just a little.”

The topic of this discussion had turned into something else entirely. This wasn’t about a party at all, was it? In a twilit sky, the silver moon was edging over the horizon. I didn’t have time for this … That was the trouble, wasn’t it?

I took a breath and did what I could. “Cheryl, are you okay?”

“I just want to know that when I call you for help you’re going to be there, you know? That’s what family’s supposed to do.”

“Cheryl, I love you, and everything’s going to be okay. But can we talk about this tomorrow?” I winced. I wasn’t trying to get rid of her. Except that I was. How did I make this not sound so bad?

Her voice turned flat. “Sure. Of course. Tomorrow. Fine,” she said, taking a deep breath. Like she was trying to keep from crying. Oh God, my big sister was having a nervous breakdown, and I’d triggered it.

“We’ll do the party,” I assured her. “I’ll help. But I can’t talk about it right now. Okay?”

“Okay, okay,” she said, and hung up. And that was that. I clutched the phone to my chest.

Ben watched me. “You heard all that?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Is my sister losing it, or am I?”

“Either way, it’ll pass.”

“I really don’t need another thing to worry about.”

He squeezed my arm. “Let’s get going. We’ll worry about that later.”

* * *

THE OTHERS would already be gathered, waiting for us. Not quite checking their watches or time on their cell phones, but watching the full moon rise and wondering where their fearless leaders were. This would take some damage control. I wasn’t worried about most of the pack; we’d been stable for years, and no one was much interested in challenging our authority.

But this time we had Darren. What would he think, the alphas not taking charge on the one night when being a werewolf really meant something?

Like I had to impress him or something.

The farther out of town we got, the better I felt. We were leaving our human selves—our human anxieties—behind. The wilderness in the mountains meant freedom. At least for a night.

Tonight we were meeting at a little-used dirt service road on National Forest land. We carpooled so we’d only leave a handful of cars parked suspiciously in the middle of the woods at night. Ben turned off the main road; another ten minutes of driving brought the first of the other cars into view. I counted them, and sure enough, everyone else was already here, or should have been. He switched off his headlights and parked. We stashed our wedding bands in the glove box.

The sky above was deep blue, touched by the silver light of a rising moon. It’s time, it’s time.

Hand in hand, we walked into the woods to meet the others. I could hear a few murmuring voices, and running feet brushing through foliage. A rangy, oversized wolf came at us, ears up and tail out like a rudder, loping along with his mouth open, smiling almost.

“Wow, Tom, you a wolf or a golden retriever?”

He put his ears back and veered away from us, snapping at air, enjoying his time. He could never be bothered to wait for the rest of us before shifting.

A few of the others had shifted as well, and they circled the spot where the rest of us waited, trotting up to Ben and me, brushing along our legs and nuzzling us in greeting, then bumping shoulders with the others. Chaos waiting to burst free.

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