Kitty Goes to War Page 58

“I heard that,” Ben said.

“Where are we?”

“Broadway,” he said.

“We have to hustle,” I said, shaking my head. “We’ll never make it.”

“Just tell me how to get there,” Tyler said, and gunned the motor. I fell against the backseat and grabbed the door to steady myself.

“Head east on Alameda,” Ben said, grinning. “Two lights up.”

Tyler ran the next red light. But we were the only vehicle in sight. Tyler sped through the next three red lights, which was kind of cool. Racing on, we managed to approach Colfax without sliding out of control. I kept expecting to see flashing red and blue lights reflecting off the snow and fog—the one time you don’t expect any cops around, Murphy’s Law said they ought to be here.

Ben navigated until Tyler swung the wheel and fishtailed onto Colfax. I studied the way ahead of us for a black Hummer barreling along. It was hard to see anything through the snow, which was still falling here.

“There he is,” Tyler said, shifting hard and swinging the steering wheel. The Humvee lurched sideways, the chains biting into the ice covering the street. We blocked most of the road, now, and could move forward or back as needed to stop Franklin. The Hummer was a black hole moving through the mist, getting closer. We all expected him to stop.

“Guy’s not slowing down,” Tyler said.

“Maybe he can’t stop on the ice,” I said, doubtful.

“He’s speeding up.” Tyler’s hands kneaded the steering wheel. He bared his teeth. “This is just like a roadblock. He ain’t slowing down.”

Roadblock, car bomb—Tyler was in another place at the moment. I squeezed his shoulder.

“Asshole,” Ben muttered. “Thinks a monster car like that makes him invincible.”

“We can still stop him,” I said. “It won’t hurt us.”

Tyler’s breathing steadied. “Permanently, rather. It’s still gonna hurt. You sure?”

We didn’t have any time for further discussion. Tyler hunched over, bracing. In the backseat, Ben and I curled up on the floorboards, hanging on to each other.

Then came the crash.

Near as I could figure before I shut my eyes, Franklin’s Hummer T-boned us. Steel crunched and tore. A shockwave slammed through us and we skidded, even with the tire chains. I flew, bounced—hands grabbed me. My vision went upside down for a minute. Then, silence.

I’d been holding my breath. Wolf was shrieking through my gut, claustrophobic and crying to get out. I pulled her in, locked her down tight, made my breathing slow and calm. Only then could I assess. Sore—lots and lots of sore. I had a bruise on my head where I’d run into something hard. But no shooting pains. No blood or broken bones. All in all, I didn’t feel much more beat up than I had after Vanderman worked me over.

Ben’s hand closed on my arm. I grabbed it and squeezed back. We’d ended up on the seat, him pressed up against the door and me sprawled in his lap. I peered through the window and got a look at the hood of Franklin’s Hummer, which was only slightly rumpled. The engine had smoke coming out of it.

We took a moment to stretch our limbs and extricate ourselves.

“Everyone okay? Still human?”

“Barely,” Ben said, voice tense. “You?”

“Shaken. Fine,” I said.

“That sucked.” Rolling a shoulder, he winced. He opened and closed his hand as if he expected it not to work.

“Tyler?” I asked. I could hear him breathing in the front seat, but he hadn’t spoken yet, which worried me. If he shifted, this would get messy. Messier. I straightened, feeling a muscle in my back spasm. Yeah, if I’d been fully human this would have hurt. Leaning over the front seat, I got a look at Tyler.

Hunched over, muscles trembling, he was still gripping the steering wheel, like it was a life preserver. I took a breath—full of wild, full of wolf. I also smelled blood. He was on the edge. He’d been hurt, and his wolf would blaze forth to protect him.

I pulled myself into the front, grunting when my battered muscles complained. Moving close so he could smell me, so he would have to listen to me, I put my arms around him. My embrace seemed small, unable to contain his powerful frame.

His eyes were clamped shut. Blood dripped from a cut on his forehead.

“Tyler, listen to me. Keep it together. Pull it back in. You don’t have to shift, we’re fine, we’re going to be fine. Stay with me. Breathe…” The litany went on. Stay human. Stay with us. Breathe slowly, in and out.

I could usually get wolves to listen to me when they were on the edge like this. Just hold them, wrap them up, keep talking to them so they would remember human voices. But those were wolves I knew. How well did I know Tyler, really? “Please,” I begged.

And his breathing slowed. The muscles in his back relaxed, some of the tension going out of them.

“There’s Franklin,” Ben said, looking out the window at the man stumbling out of the other crashed car. His own voice was sounding low and rough, and I wondered how close he was to losing it. He shoved open the door and stalked out like he was on the prowl.

“Tyler, you okay? I gotta go back him up,” I said.

The soldier shuddered through the shoulders and straightened, like a dog shaking itself out. “Let’s go,” he said.

Ben had paused outside the Humvee, waiting for us. Together, we moved around to Franklin’s Hummer, to face the man himself.

He wasn’t dressed for the weather. His trench coat would be more at home on the streets of New York City or London. He probably wore his usual suit underneath. The maroon wool scarf wrapped once around his neck didn’t seem to do much to hold back the cold. The snow came up well over his dress shoes. He was tense, shivering.

When he saw us, he backed away, stumbling. He must have seen something inhuman in us. Something ferocious, animal. A pack of beings who wanted to tear him apart, and very much could if they got to him. One wonders if he saw anything but the threat. He knew what I was—my identity as a werewolf was very public—and could guess that Ben and Tyler were also werewolves.

He raised a hand over his head; he was holding something, a metal artifact as big as his fist. “Stay back! I have defense against your kind! Stay back!”

The object he held was made of silver and shaped like some kind of hammer—a broad T with rounded edges. A Scandinavian charm, with an intricate design stamped into it. Gleaming, it threw back what little light shone on it, and almost writhed in his grip, like it was a living thing trying to break free. Some twisting force of nature—lightning, maybe.

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