Kitty Rocks the House Page 48

“And you were stronger than them, to be able to take over. You’re stronger than you look. I get it.”

“No, not really. Meg was stronger than me in a straight-up fight. So I shot her. Silver bullet. Worked great.”

Taking a reflexive step back, he was unable to suppress the flash of panic in his eyes. But I didn’t draw, and neither did Ben. This wasn’t the case of blind rage and desperation that that previous confrontation had been, so we’d left the gun in the car. Darren figured that out after a few deep, testing breaths, his nose flaring. But the damage was done; he’d shown that sliver of weakness.

“Becky?” Darren said. “Tell her.”

Becky stood to his right, a step or two behind, waiting for a cue. His or ours. She was tense, hands clenched, arms at her sides, shoulders bunched. Schooling her expression to calmness.

“Becky?” he said again, when she didn’t come forward.

She licked her lips. “I can’t do it, Darren.” Her voice was steady. Mine probably would have cracked.

“Yes, you can.”

“Then I won’t do it.”

“We talked about this. I thought you agreed with me—”

“I said I wanted to be alpha of the pack. I wasn’t thinking about … what the consequences would be. But Kitty’s right. Things have been so much better since she got rid of Carl and Meg. She’s earned a little loyalty.”

“It’s too late for that,” Darren said. “There needs to be a change. We all know what’s coming, the vampires, werewolves, all of us. Someone strong needs to lead that fight. Someone physically able to fight, who doesn’t have any doubts at all.”

“Yeah,” I murmured. “History is full of people who didn’t have any doubts.”

He stalked forward. His voice growled, “I’ll take you down, I can fight you both.”

I was very careful to stand rooted. I couldn’t afford to be scared; the stakes were too high. I said, “By any chance do you know what happened to Carl? The other half of the old alpha pair?”

He pulled up. “I’m guessing you shot him, too.”

“No,” I said. “The rest of the pack tore him to pieces.”

They came when I called, as I’d had no doubt they would, stalking through the trees and into the clearing. Shaun went shirtless, displaying lean strength in his arms and chest, his gaze locked on Darren. Tom and Wes had shifted and trotted on either side of him, each of them two-hundred-plus pounds of wolf, lips curled back, ears pinned.

I smiled, showing teeth. “So?”

Darren laughed. “So what? You know what that tells me? You’re not strong without them. You can’t be alpha without your pack backing you up.”

“That’s the whole point.”

Shaun and the others kept moving, fanning out around the clearing, keeping Darren in the middle.

Darren wasn’t backing down. The challenge had faltered, but he was still focused, radiating aggression. No wonder—we’d cornered him. He’d fight us all if he had to. Even if he had to know he couldn’t stop us all.

“Hold up there, guys,” I called. Shaun and the wolves stopped pacing, though my four-legged henchpeople padded in place, heads low, circling, anxious. “Darren, you’re not a bad guy. I really do think we’re all on the same side, and we need all the people we can get to face off against Roman and his army. I don’t want to hurt you—”

“You can’t hurt me.”

I waved him off. “—but I want to know something. Did Nasser send you here to take the pack from me? Because he doesn’t think I can handle it?”

When he didn’t answer, I knew.

Ben huffed. “How do you like that? Guy comes here looking for allies and thinks he can do better?”

I said, “Yeah, I’m kind of used to people not taking me seriously. You want to go back and tell Nasser that we’re doing just fine?”

I’d hoped to give him an out. He could just walk away. Or he could talk back, engage in an actual conversation, tell me more about Nasser, find a way to work with me and mine. Convince me we really were all on the same side. He was a cornered wolf, but a smart one. But I misjudged.

He turned and lunged at Becky.

She scrambled back, but his arms were around her, one hand at her throat. Shaun let out a snarl and charged, along with the wolves, who reached them in a handful of long strides. Ben and I also lunged without thinking, ready to pounce on him to tear him apart before our claws had time to sprout.

But Darren shouted, “I’ll rip her head off!” He held her head in a lock and swung her around as a shield, while she hung on to his arm. His hands were thickening, the nails of his fingers sharpening into claws that pressed at the skin of her neck.

We all stopped.

A werewolf could survive a lot of damage. He could slash her throat, and she’d live, if she could get enough air to keep breathing. If she didn’t lose all her blood. We healed fast. We just had to live long enough for the healing to catch up with the injuries. Silver poisoning, take the head or heart—those were the ways to kill a werewolf. He knew what he was doing, of course he did.

Good thing Becky wasn’t going to wait around for him to do the deed. Instead, she started shifting.

Her back arched, bucking against his hold, her muscles contracting and straining as they bent into another shape, rough and wolfish. Her face stretched; her teeth sharpened, and her clawed hands slashed bloody ribbons down his arm. He roared at her, but couldn’t hold her thrashing form. She slipped straight down out of his grip.

Shaun and the others pounced. The human-shaped Shaun grabbed Darren’s arm and twisted it back, the wolves locked their jaws on throat and thigh. Darren screamed; the noise roughened into a snarl. His teeth became fangs, and his body stretched and morphed. The fight became a tangle of fur and blood.

Ben and I ran to Becky, who was full wolf now and caught up in her clothing, denim jeans ripping, shirt in rags. She twisted back on herself like a fish flopping on land.

“Shh, hold on a sec,” I hissed at her, tearing fabric away as best I could. I thought she might snap at me, but she only bared her teeth and pinned her ears.

The noise of the fight rattled through the clearing. Ben stood guard between us and them. When Becky tore free of her clothes, she lunged back toward the others. The tang of blood was thick in my nose, and my own Wolf reached through me, wanting to join in.

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