Kitty Rocks the House Page 29

“I was never much for dignity.” I pointed a thumb over my shoulder. “You mind if I look around a little?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t. You’re not particularly welcome here.”

I grinned. “You just bitter because I can come in here without an invitation but you can’t come into my place?”

“I hadn’t noticed.” He turned away, which left him staring at the next wall over, but never mind.

Glancing around, I let my nose take in the air, catching scents of people, their perfume and deodorant, the thick rush of alcohol, and underlying tint of commercial floor cleaner. And vampires, of course. I wouldn’t be able to pick Rick out of the crowd, even if he was here, which he probably wasn’t.

“Right. Well. I guess I’ve taken up enough of your time.”

“Yes, you have,” he said curtly.

“Angelo—is something wrong? Seriously. You’re all acting uptight, even for you guys.”

“Nothing is wrong,” he said. “Again, lovely to see you, but you really ought to be going.”

Dismissed. Got it.

Getting back on the street, in the fresh air and away from the people, felt good. I tipped my nose up and took deep breaths of the city air, studying it as if it could give me answers. I kept coming up with the same one—Rick’s Family wasn’t having any more luck getting in touch with him than I was.

* * *

I STOPPED off at New Moon, thinking I’d check in with Shaun and whoever else was around that night, drink a soda, and comfort myself with the smells of pack and safety. But I hadn’t gotten two steps inside when I spotted Darren and Trey sitting at a back table, deep in conversation over a couple of beers. My back table, the one I normally held court at when I came here after shows or met with Rick. Darren was speaking earnestly, Trey was nodding, his expression bright with hope. Darren sat with his back straight, his chin up; Trey was hunched, back curved, gaze downcast—his body language showing submission to the other wolf.

Something inside me—coiled fur and muscle, sharp teeth—wanted to kill Darren right then. But whatever he was telling Trey, he really did look like he was helping the other man.

Deciding I just couldn’t face either one of them right now, I turned right back around, left my restaurant, and went home to sleep.

Chapter 11

I HAD TO figure out what to do about Darren. He was causing trouble in the pack. No, if I had to be honest, I was the one having the trouble. He kept rubbing me the wrong way, and I didn’t want him here anymore. But was that fair to him? Ben offered to run the guy out of town with the help of his silver bullet–loaded Glock. As much fun as that sounded, I didn’t want to admit failure on bringing him into the pack just yet. He wasn’t a bad guy, I was sure. He kept challenging our authority without apparently meaning to, and I didn’t know how to convince Darren that what he was doing was bad form. If he’d been belligerent, I could have challenged him and run him out like Ben said. But he wasn’t being mean; he was just being rude.

When Darren called me the next morning to see if I wanted to go out for coffee with him, I was surprised. I’d been thinking of suggesting exactly the same thing. He’d picked up on my favorite method of diplomacy; maybe there was hope for him yet.

We met at a little coffee shop a couple of blocks from the radio station. He bought me a cup and brought it to me at one of the café tables out on the sidewalk.

“The cub learns,” I said as he sat across from me.

He actually looked chagrined. “I know I screwed up, and I can tell you don’t like me—”

“It’s not that,” I said, while thinking that yeah, no, I didn’t much. I let the white lie stand. “You’re very charming. But I’m not sure I understand you. There are times I wonder if you’re really a werewolf, or if you’re just not used to dealing with authority.”

He bit his lip, lowered his gaze. “I was like this even before becoming a werewolf. Arrogant, I think some people call it. Have to be the center of attention. Add that to the werewolf posturing—I either get along with everybody, or nobody. I’m trying, Kitty, I really am. But it’s hard for me not to treat it like a game sometimes.”

“It’s not a game, but you know that,” I said. “I’ve watched people die, trying to get into or out of a pack. Why do you want a pack, really? You must have done just fine as a lone wolf.”

“Lone wolf gets lonely. I want friends at my back. I’ve always imagined meeting someone like Becky—” He blushed at that, and his voice caught. Wetting his lips, he tried again. “I figured if I could fit in with a pack anywhere, it’d be yours.” And then with the puppy-dog eyes.

“You’re working really hard to sell yourself to me,” I said.

“What is it you’re always saying? Civilization is worth fighting for. I like civilization, and around here that means a pack.”

Smiling in spite of myself, I said, “You listen to the show. Brownie points for you.”

“What a relief.” I glared, and he had the good sense to drop his gaze, avoiding the barest hint of a challenge. “I really want to make this work, Kitty. Please give me another chance.”

God, he was begging. How could I say no? “I’ll give you another chance, for Becky’s sake. And for her sake, don’t fuck it up. All right?”

He agreed, thanking me profusely, then bought me another cup of coffee. I felt like I was being bribed.

I hoped he’d succeed at integrating into the pack more than I believed he would.

* * *

CORMAC SLEPT on and off a whole other day, which was good, because it meant we didn’t have to argue with him about lying down and keeping his arm still. He woke every couple of hours for soup and painkillers and the bathroom, but that was it. He must have been exhausted. Ben worked at home to keep an eye on him.

It couldn’t last.

The next morning, noise woke us half an hour or so before we usually dragged ourselves out of bed. A coat dropping; a hard object scraping on the table.

Ben and I tensed, lifting heads, listening. “What’s that?” I whispered.

He thought a minute, then blew out a breath. “It’s Cormac sneaking out.”

I rolled out of bed, pulled on sweats and a T-shirt. Ben was right behind me. I got to the living room in time to see Cormac struggling to ease his broken arm into its sling, dropping the keys to his Jeep, his jacket tucked under his good arm. I’d never seen him so physically awkward.

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