Kitty Rocks the House Page 46

I had a moment of doubt. Becky had been a werewolf longer than I had; she’d been part of this pack longer than I had. Where did I get off thinking I could boss her around? But I knew the answer to that: she didn’t look at the big picture. She wasn’t in charge—couldn’t be in charge—because she didn’t care. She didn’t think ahead. Otherwise she would have known the answer to her question.

“Because that’s my territory and I wanted to meet on neutral ground,” I said. “No, scratch that. Forget about the pack. I want us to have a normal conversation. Two people having coffee. Change of context. Got it?” She didn’t let her expression flicker, not a millimeter. I tried again. “I want to hash this out as people. Human beings. Without all the claws and blood.”

“If you want to avoid that, you can just leave town. You and Ben both. Nobody has to get hurt.”

Oh, she was trying so hard to be brave. Offering me the same deal I’d—me and T. J.—had tried to get from Carl, once upon a time. It hadn’t worked then. Didn’t Becky remember?

I said, “What do you want, Becky?”

“You know what I want,” she said, dodging.

“You think you want to be alpha, right? With Darren? You don’t even know him.”

“Neither do you.”

“I’m not the one sleeping with him.”

Her gaze dropped, only for a second before zeroing in on me again. A flash of weakness that made her blush. Wolves didn’t blush, that was the human side coming through. “He’s right, Kitty. You shouldn’t be alpha if you can’t even be here to lead.”

They were going to keep beating me up with that, just like Cheryl did. But only if I let them, ha. “That’s a different issue entirely. One we can deal with separately. Right now I’m talking about you.”

“I’m strong enough to be the alpha. Darren and me both.”

“I never said you weren’t.” My smile felt absolutely rigid. Titanium hard. “I just want you to understand something. If we can’t work this out here, we have to fight. You and me, Darren and Ben. Same shitty cycle over again. I’m not going to leave, and it sounds like you’re not going to leave. If we can’t decide not to fight, then we’ll fight. But let me warn you: if I have to fight, I will win, because I’m fighting for me, Ben, my job, my family, my home. My whole philosophy and outlook on life. I’m fighting for everything I believe in—everything I’ve fought for up to this point. And what will you be fighting for? A guy you met a month ago? He’s cute, he’s got charm, and maybe he’s a great lay—and what else? Who do you think’s going to win that fight, Becky?”

When she looked away, turning her gaze to the tabletop, I knew I’d won. Without lifting a claw. I didn’t say anything, didn’t gloat. Just waited for her to answer my question, to tell me what she wanted to do next, so we could finish our coffee and move on.

Her head bowed, her hair fell across her cheeks, and her now-slouching shoulders began to tremble. She made a sharp noise, half-gasp, half-whine.

I leaned forward. “Wait—are you laughing or crying?”

When she looked up, her cheeks shone with the stripes of tears, but she was smiling. Both, then.

“I’m trying to imagine having a talk like this with Meg.” The laughter won out, and she wiped her eyes. “I’m just not seeing it. She would never have done anything like this.”

“That’s kind of the point,” I said. I traced the ring of moisture my cup left on the table. “I still have nightmares about her sometimes. Both of them. You know their old place is for sale?”

She went wide-eyed. “You’re not thinking of—”

“God no,” I said. “Never. Getting a place in the woods is one thing, but their place? No.” I shook my head to emphasize the point, then drank a long sip of now-lukewarm coffee. Didn’t matter, the stuff had only been a prop anyway.

Becky took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”

If I’d asked her for what, I’m not sure she would have said the thing I thought she should be sorry for. For her ambition? For the near-betrayal? For her infatuation with Darren? All of the above? It didn’t matter, none of it did. Just as long as we could walk out of here on speaking terms and not on the verge of war. So I didn’t ask. Just accepted and moved on.

“Don’t let it happen again.”

“There’s something else,” she said, and I raised an interested brow. “I don’t think he came here for any job, like he told you. I don’t think there’s even a cousin.”

“Really?” I said flatly, wheels in my mind turning.

“The apartment he got is really posh, and he never actually seems to go to work. At least, he’s always right there when I call him. I think he might have come to Denver just to check out the pack.”

“Well, then,” I said. “I’m going to have to think about that.”

“Yeah,” she answered, sounding tired.

Ben took the opportunity to saunter over, slouching into the booth beside me in a mostly unassuming manner. He directed his gaze toward Becky instead of at her.

“We good here?” he said.

“Are you two going to pay a little more attention to the pack? If you don’t want guys like Darren waltzing in here and playing games, you have to actually be here.”

“Yeah. We’ll talk.”

We flagged the server for another round of coffee. And we talked.

Chapter 16

ON SUNDAY, my mother called, as she always did, to ask how things were going, was I doing okay, so on and so forth. As usual, I couldn’t give details, like how I was in the middle of dealing with a coup attempt on my leadership of the Denver werewolves, helping to organize an international supernatural conspiracy, hanging onto my job, trying to stay sane—

So I deflected, and brought up the problem I could talk about. “I’m worried about Cheryl. I think I really pissed her off this time.”

“Don’t worry too much about that,” she answered, sounding amused. “You two have been pissing each other off since you were little.”

That was true. But it seemed like as kids we could forget about the grudges more quickly. Fight at lunch, friends again by supper. “Do you think I’m neglecting you all? Because I’m always running around trying to do too much?”

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