Kitty Saves the World Page 77

Now that he was here, we both watched Jon carefully, and we both smelled him. He was human. He didn’t smell like a lycanthrope, he didn’t smell strange or magical. He smelled like a sweet, healthy baby.

It was just his parents who were monsters.

“Can I hold him?” Nicky asked, and though my gut said no, of course not, my mouth said, “Yes, here, just like this,” even though she’d held him before and done just fine, and knew how to support his head and everything. She didn’t even need to sit on the sofa while holding him. She was becoming so grown up.

My arms felt too light without him. I kissed his head one more time, and Ben gently touched my shoulder and steered me toward the door. “We really need to get going.” His own wolf was close to the surface, showing gold in his eyes.

“Thank you again,” I said to Cheryl. My voice held an edge of desperation. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my family.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll call in the favor someday.” She gave me a quick hug and pushed me out the door, into a night that felt very huge.

My baby was only a month old and I’d just left him.

It’s time. I knew that. My guts were turning inside out. I hugged myself. But I managed to get into the car.

“You okay?” Ben asked, pulling out of the driveway and heading toward I-70, which would carry us into the mountains.

“I’d forgotten how much it hurts,” I murmured. No—I’d gotten used to how much shifting hurt. The calluses of it had all worn off over the last year. I had to get used to it all over again.

He took my hand, squeezed it. “Keep it together.”

How many times had I said those words to him in the early days of his infection, when he was still learning how to control his wolf, when the panic and rage took over? I said those words because they were what TJ, the werewolf who’d helped me, had said. I felt like I was right back there, my very first full moon, the first time I shifted. I took a deep, shuddering breath, because I was about to start gasping. Ben drove a little bit faster.

Everyone else in the pack was already there. Ben must have talked to them—gotten the support network together, made sure I had as much help as I needed. Having everyone in the pack in one place was one less thing to worry about. Shaun, shirtless and in sweatpants, came to the car as Ben was shutting off the engine, and he helped me out. He had an expression of concern. So did Becky, standing behind him, taking hold of my other hand.

“How are you doing?” Shaun asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes, and I didn’t know if it was because I was afraid of what was going to happen, or because I’d only been away from Jon for an hour and I already missed him, and felt like my heart was being stomped on. Why had no one warned me about this part?

Then Ben was beside me. Hand in hand, we walked past the road to the edge of the forest. “Take the others,” he said to Shaun and Becky. “Go on ahead.”

Some of the pack had already shifted, and they came up to me, nudging me with their noses, licking my hands—saying hello, we’re here for you, and we love you. Their smell filled my nose, pack and night and hunting and blood.

I dropped to my knees in the dirt and Ben was right there with me, kneeling behind me, his arms wrapped around me, an anchor.

“Ben, I don’t think I can do this.” I didn’t know how to shift anymore. I didn’t know how to let go. It was like the first time all over again. Let me go, it’s time, it’s time, it’s been so long …

“It’s okay, Kitty, you can do this. I’ve got you, just like you held me that first time.”

He pulled off my shirt, and the chill night air hit my skin. I gasped, and a million needles stabbed my skin. My hands were changing, my bones slipping, and still I tried to hold on.

“Let it go, just let it go,” Ben murmured in my ear. And I did. My skin opened, and Wolf leaps out.

I tip my head back and howl.

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