Kitty Saves the World Page 76

What I had seen lately of gods and angels and demons made me think of how you feel as a kid when you catch adults behaving badly. This? you think. This is what being a grown-up is all about?

“I believe that the full moon comes around once a month, and that the sun rises every morning,” I said. “And I believe in the pack.”

“Amen,” he said.

Epilogue

ON THE 366th day after Roman’s final destruction, the stone wolf shattered. I woke up to a popping, cracking noise, and crumbs of gravel scattered across my chest. The chain turned to ash in my hands. I gathered the pieces and stared at them a long time, not sure what to think, unsettled at the trace of magic still lingering. Really, I didn’t feel sadness about the thing. I was even a little relieved it was gone. The reminder of the Men in Black wouldn’t be attached to me anymore, and it had done its job.

We’d even had a month to spare.

The 367th day was a full moon.

Ben held the door of my sister’s house open for me, diaper bag slung over his shoulder, baby carrier in his other hand, while I came in holding Jon cradled in my arms. He’d been here a month and I still couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was round, pink, bald, with pudgy arms and amazing little fingers, and tiny lips that opened into big, gummy yawns. He had Ben’s chin and my eyes. He smelled like sunshine. At least he did when he was clean and sleeping.

Cheryl and the kids greeted us loudly—along with the golden retriever barking from the backyard. That dog had never gotten used to us. Everybody was very enthusiastic about the new baby, and fortunately for me Cheryl was happy to baby-sit. Or she said she was. Nicky and Jeffy wanted to see their cousin. I mostly stood still and let the chaos roar around me.

Ben had taken well to fatherhood, which didn’t surprise me, but I often caught him with this bemused look on his face, like he was wondering how he ended up holding a diaper bag and baby carrier. But he was usually right there before I even asked for help, and I also caught him sometimes holding the baby on one shoulder, his nose pressed to Jon’s soft baby head, just breathing, taking in the scent.

Tonight was a full-moon night and we couldn’t linger. I could feel Wolf scratching at my gut, a hint of things to come. Disconcerting. I hadn’t felt her anticipation in a year, and I had forgotten how to deal with it, how to keep it together. Wait, just wait, I kept murmuring, and her growl answered me.

The first full moon after I’d gotten the amulet had been strange. Half believing the thing wouldn’t work, I’d gone out with the pack to our mountain den. Just in case. But Wolf hadn’t been there. Or she was there, the strength and power I had as a werewolf still curled up inside me. She didn’t wake up, didn’t claw at my guts trying to rip through my skin for her one night of freedom. It was the strangest thing. I thought about her, opened my mind in the way that usually let the Change wash over me. But no fur pricked on my skin, no claws burst from my fingers.

Around me, the wolves in my pack shifted into their furry, lupine selves, howling and snapping, running off into the nighttime woods to hunt. And I sat on the ground, hugging my knees, feeling like I had fallen into an alternate world.

Ben took it badly. He waited to shift until he couldn’t anymore, resisting until he fell, grunting in agony as his wolf overtook him. As a wolf he lingered, rubbing against me, nuzzling me, licking my face, nipping my fingers. His wolf didn’t understand that I wouldn’t be going with him this time.

Burying my face in the ruff of his neck, I murmured, “It’s okay. You have to go without me. I’ll wait here for you.” I cried, and he whined deep in his throat. Since his very first full moon, we’d only been apart a couple of times.

Finally, because the blood and the hunt called, and the rest of our pack was howling for him, he ran. I watched him, and he stopped to look back a couple of times before disappearing into the nighttime woods. I felt very alone in that moment.

I got a blanket from the car, wrapped it around me, and sat up against a tree to wait. I woke up a few hours later with Ben’s great furry body shored up against me, snuggling under the blanket, as if he was sure he could keep me warmer. Hugging him hard, I went back to sleep with wolf fur in my nose, and woke up at dawn with my husband back in my arms.

I went out with the pack every full moon of that year and a day. I may not have had Wolf for the time being, but this was still my pack. It wouldn’t have been right to stay away. Even when I was eight and a half months pregnant and huge and grouchy, and Ben’s wolf was even more frantic at leaving me than he had been that first night, I sat by that tree, wrapped in my blanket, the baby kicking like he knew something was up. He couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t get comfortable, we didn’t sleep at all. Wolf was quiet the whole time.

Now, Wolf was back. My nerves, head to toe, were churning, and Ben could sense it. When I lost it, I was going to really lose it. My shoulders were bunched up to my ears, and my sister kept asking if everything was okay, and I kept saying yes, yes, while clutching at Jon as if he were about to fall off a cliff.

When I was pregnant, we’d wondered: Would the baby be born a werewolf? Would he have some supernatural quirk, would he have magical energy bursting from his fingertips? What price were we going to have to pay for having him at all? Did we have to worry? Had anything like this ever happened before? I called Dr. Shumacher, Alette, Ned, and Marid, who was the oldest vampire I knew. Nobody knew what was going to happen. Nothing like this had ever happened before. But none of them seemed worried. “You’re Regina Luporum,” Ned, Master of London, had said. “Of course strange things are happening to you.” He’d had a laugh under the words, like he’d been joking.

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