Kitty's Big Trouble Page 22

The pack of werewolves had halted their approach. The human thug said, “All right. Where is it?”

I blinked and cocked my head. “Where is what?”

“You know what I’m talking about. The safe is empty—what did you do with it?”

“We thought you had it,” I said.

Ben glanced at me. “You don’t have to tell them that.”

“Well, I’m confused,” I said. I pointed at them. “You guys don’t have it?”

“We’re not stupid. Hand it over and you can leave,” the leader said. The two wolves stepped forward, their lips drawing back and noses wrinkling as they snarled.

Anastasia donned a regal pose, chin up, staring down at the peons around her. “Your Master must know he can’t win,” she said to our opponents.

The wolves’ hackles were getting stiffer, the fur down their back standing straight up, and they weren’t going to back off. “We just want what was in the safe.”

“Yes, and we leave here alive, you said that,” she said. “Or, if you’d rather, you can deliver a message to Roman for me—and I will allow you to leave here alive.”

The guy actually took a step back, uncertainty tightening his features—a show of weakness that made my own Wolf perk up. We can take him …

But he shook himself and pulled back his lips, showing teeth. “Then you really don’t have it. So there’s no reason to keep you alive at all.”

The wolves launched.

Ben and I sprang forward to meet them. Inside me, my Wolf snarled, her teeth bared and claws outstretched, ready to slash. My crooked fingers matched the impulse. I would keep myself together as long as I could, but I would shift if I had to, to win this fight. I was cornered, and that might be my only option.

Ben slammed into the wolf on the right, and they both tumbled to the floor. The wolf on the left, the one I was about to tackle, squealed and writhed in a sudden pain. I stumbled as I pulled up—I hadn’t touched him yet.

Cormac yelled, “Kitty, the knife, it’s silver! Use it!”

Sure enough, the wolf had four inches of slim wooden handle protruding from his shoulder. If the blade was silver, the wolf was finished. Cormac must have thrown it from behind me. I didn’t want to think about what would have happened if he’d missed and gotten me instead. Despite all we’d been through and all the times he hadn’t killed me, I still worried.

Whining with each breath, the wolf was twisted back on himself, trying to bite and claw out the knife. I rushed forward to pull it out and finish the job, and move onto the next one—but the leader beat me to it. He yanked the knife out and stayed crouched over his henchwolf, holding the weapon with a sure grip and a braced arm, defensive. I backed away.

The guy and the knife were still way too close to Ben and the other werewolf. Ben had blood on him, streaking from cuts on his arms. He was doing a good job keeping the wolf away from vital bits—the wolf attacked, and Ben kicked his belly, sending him tumbling away. The creature sprang right back, biting and slashing. Ben blocked with his arms, which took the brunt of the attack, but he couldn’t keep this up forever.

The leader of the trio stayed by the fallen wolf, a hand resting on his fur, trying to comfort the animal even as he held the knife ready. The wolf lay flat now, panting for breath, whining as the silver did its work, poisoning his blood. They might have been mercenaries, but they were still a pack.

The damned fox thing wailed again. A second later, a ball of ruddy fur rocketed over my head and slammed into the werewolf leader, using those needlelike teeth on his face. I looked over my shoulder—Grace stood by the now-open cage, a penknife in hand. She’d opened one side of it, cutting the twine that held the bamboo poles together. Lips pursed, she looked scared but determined.

The nine-tailed fox thrashed and yipped, biting at the werewolf leader’s face. Blood spattered as the man screamed and batted at it, slashing with the knife, trying to shove it away. The fox wasn’t interested in us or our fight. As soon as it had cleared the blockade of people in the corridor, it raced ahead and away, around the corner and out of sight.

Pain and anger pushed the leader over the edge—jagged flaps of skin hung loose from a bloody cheek where the fox had ripped into him. His eyes had turned golden, and he bared his teeth in a snarl. I could jump him while he was shifting—maybe distract him long enough for the rest of us to get away, or at least draw the other wolf away from Ben. But he still held that silver knife.

Anastasia stepped between us. Growling, the werewolf slashed at her—and she moved. I assumed she moved; it happened too quickly for me to see clearly. She was in front of me, took a step, and then she stood next to the werewolf, holding the knife while she twisted his wrist and wrenched his arm behind him hard enough to make the joints pop. Crying out, he fell against her, bending back to relieve the pressure. Calmly, she placed the knife across his throat.

At his leader’s cry, the other wolf fell back, leaving Ben alone. In the pause that followed as we assessed, all of our breathing was audible as panicked, nervous gasps. All except Anastasia.

“Nobody move,” she said softly, which seemed redundant.

I glanced at Ben, who had slumped against the wall, catching his breath, keeping us all in view. He was cut and bruised, but gave me a quick nod—he’d survive. The still-functioning wolf faced us, stiff-legged, as if not knowing whether to attack or run. He was watching his leader, who twitched like he wanted to move, but every time he did, Anastasia squeezed his arm or pressed the knife to his skin. I could feel Cormac behind me, looking over my shoulder. Grace was still far back in the room.

On the floor in the middle of our gathering, the wolf Cormac had injured had started to shift back to human. Bones melted and resolidified in their original forms; gray and tawny fur faded, thinned, and once again became skin, now marred with black streaks along the veins, radiating from the wound in his shoulder. The silver poisoning had killed him.

Anastasia leaned close to the ear of her captive. “I very much suggest you answer my questions now.”

He managed to snarl without moving.

“Where is Roman?”

“I don’t know,” he said around growls huffing with every breath. His hands flexed, his body braced, tense. He was on the edge, ready to shift in panic despite the vampire’s threats.

Behind me, Cormac watched. He had a second knife in hand, a slender, aerodynamic piece designed for throwing. Where did he get these things? His felony conviction kept him from carrying guns. Were knives okay then?

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