Kitty Rocks the House Page 23

But he has hunted without the pack, and hunted badly. She feels a driving need to see him cower.

She pushes her mate and huffs at her strongest, her enforcer, one of those who leads the hunts. Together, they run, stretching to cross the field of grasses in long strides. Her hope is that this wolf will see them coming and drop to show his belly.

He does not. Instead, he stands on the carcass he has killed, in victory, in dominance. She pins her ears, lips contracting to bare her teeth at him. When he meets her gaze—a calm, unconsidered challenge, a rage fills her. She charges. Her mate and her second are with her, as is right. Reaching the challenger first, she crashes into him, jaws open and claws reaching. He rears to meet her—and falls away. Tumbles off the bloody meat he’s been picking at. Her mate and enforcer circle. The challenger sidles away, tail lowered. Not between his legs. Not quite submissive. But he’s dropped his gaze.

He’s larger, she can’t stand over him, can only show dominance by glaring, curling her lips. Stand between him and his kill, show her anger. He circles, paces. Mostly seems confused. As if he doesn’t understand what he’s done wrong. As if he doesn’t know the rules.

Her mate and enforcer run at him, nip at him, and together they drive him to join the pack. She follows at a stiff-legged lope, looking back once at the half-eaten carcass. Much meat is left. She’s tempted to make use of it, but they’ve already left too much sign of their passing. The urge to flee this tainted spot overcomes her hunger.

The pack has scattered. The deer they might have hunted together has been forgotten in favor of easier, smaller prey. They hunt from desperation now, for rabbits or such, for the scant morsels they can find. Not the organized feast they could have had. For the moment, she has lost control. So she runs, and runs, kills what she can, a couple of rodents, swallows them whole. Runs again. A cry stops her. An arcing note, echoing against the night sky, stabs into her mind, and calls her back.

Her mate meets her halfway. Nips her ear. She yawns at him, rubs herself along his side, fur to fur, and finally feels right.

The pack gathers in their night’s den. All of them, even the stranger. The others give him wide berth. She snaps at him, drives him off in a run before letting him circle back. Just to show him.

She is only able to sleep when her mate curls up beside her, resting his snout against her neck.

Chapter 9

OFTEN, MORNINGS after a full moon were muddy, full of strange dreams and half-remembered images. A taste of blood lingering in the film over my teeth, with no real memory of how it got there. Only assumptions, and a hope that I hadn’t done something terrible.

This morning, the night came back to me with the clarity of a photograph. Darren’s solo hunting expedition. His sheer … stupidity. What did he think he was doing? He’d put us all in danger.

I propped myself on my elbows and let my nose widen, taking in scents. The pack was here, curled up together after the previous night’s anxiety and chaos. A dozen and a half naked human bodies tucked up against the shelter of the rocks that formed the night’s den. Gaze alert, body tensed, Shaun was awake and looking back at me. I gave my head a small shake. No need to panic. We could handle this, calmly, sensibly, like human beings.

“Where is he?” I growled.

“Hmm?” Ben murmured. He wasn’t awake yet.

I shook his arm. “Come on.”

“What … oh.” He scrubbed his face, waking himself up, but I was already on my feet and stalking around the edges of the den, looking for Darren.

He’d curled up to sleep a few paces off from the others. And Becky was with him. They were naked, together, his arms around her body, her legs tangled up with his, and I didn’t want to know what they’d been doing all night and into the morning. Was this how it felt to walk in on your teenage kid?

I stood in front of them and crossed my arms. I might have tapped my feet.

Darren woke first, moving arms and legs, nuzzling the back of Becky’s neck. Becky started to roll over, to place herself more firmly in his arms, then stopped. Her nostrils widened, taking in my scent, and her eyes shot open, looking at me.

“Morning, sunshine,” I said. She froze, ducked her gaze, and suddenly seemed trapped in the other werewolf’s arms.

“Isn’t it a little early?” Darren mumbled. Still hadn’t opened his eyes.

“Kitty, don’t you want to put some clothes on?” Becky said.

Yeah, I was naked, standing in the middle of the woods, chewing out a guy I barely knew. Didn’t much matter when we were all naked.

“You should talk,” I said.

She shrank, slouching and curling up. Darren leaned over her protectively. Ben, who’d come up to lean on the rocks behind me, straightened and took a step forward. This was not how I wanted my morning to go.

“You look kind of angry,” Darren finally said. “I know I was supposed to meet you last night—”

“That’s actually not what I’m pissed off about,” I said. “Do you remember what you killed last night?”

He thought a minute, and donned a slow smile. “That was pretty sweet. You have a great territory up here. Easy pickings.”

He didn’t get it. Not even a little bit. I yelled, “We do not kill cattle! How are we supposed to stay under the radar if we eat someone’s livelihood?”

“You’re getting this worked up over a cow? What’s the big deal? One dead cow isn’t going to hurt anything.”

“Have you ever seen a UFO investigator go after a cattle mutilation investigation? This is exactly the kind of thing they live for, and if they go looking for aliens and find us instead … sure, people know about werewolves, but if they knew exactly where to find us, and came hunting for us—”

“I think you’re overreacting.”

“I think you flunked your audition,” I said.

“Whoa, wait a minute.” He extricated himself from Becky’s sleepy embrace, and she shuffled out of his way as he stood. If I really thought about it, I couldn’t blame Becky in the least—he was a good-looking guy, with well-defined muscles and a confident stance to his body. A little too confident—chin up, shoulders back. Looming over me, and not bothering to show a bit of submission. He was taller than I was, which meant I had to figure out how to stare down at him. Fortunately, I had help. Ben stalked forward, arms crossed. Shaun joined me on the other side. Darren took a step back. Good for him.

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