Kitty's Big Trouble Page 36

I stayed still, quiet, letting him sleep. Absently, I touched his ruffled hair, smoothing it behind his ear.

When he was human again, Henry came over with a blanket. He kept his distance, holding it out as an offering, taking care not to startle Ben by getting too close, for which I was grateful. I took the blanket from him and spread it over Ben.

The others left us alone, and we waited.

After a time, Ben tensed—I felt his muscles tighten against my leg. His nose flared, and he flinched awake, sitting up. I waited for him to gain his bearings, to get the scent of the place, to settle. It only took a second.

He looked at me. “I thought I’d lost you.”

I fell against him and we kissed. His arms closed tight around me and I pressed myself to him while our lips worked, hungry for each other’s taste. I wanted to rub myself all over his skin, taking in his warmth, his scent.

“Werewolves are all about instinct, emotion. They’re so full of passion. Makes them fascinating, don’t you think?” Boss had returned, regarding us from the doorway. He seemed to be speaking to Anastasia, conspiratorial, as if this was a long-running vampire joke.

Most vampires annoyed me because I didn’t know their ages. But to not even tell me his name? It was typical. Rick hadn’t been born with that name, Roman was an acquired name, and I really doubted that Anastasia was her original name, either. They’d reinvented themselves, like shedding old skins, when they became vampires. They could choose their identities, because who from their old lives was around to remember? To call out the inventions?

I tried to imagine Anastasia as a young woman, a child, eager instead of calculating and obsessed. And I couldn’t.

Joe was with Boss, and between them stood Grace Chen. Mission successful.

I rested my forehead against Ben’s shoulder and sighed. For just a moment, I’d been able to forget about everything, everyone, but him. We’d had our own little sphere of perfection, however fleeting. Ben kissed the top of my head and kept his arms around me, holding me close. Yeah, we could stay like that for a while longer.

“Are you okay?” I whispered, trying to keep the conversation between us.

His breath ruffled my hair, which felt marvelous, comforting. I reveled in the smell of him. “I’m feeling kind of stupid. I lost it. Completely.”

Obviously. “Why? You got through two fights without losing it. What happened?”

“When you didn’t answer, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do—so I lost it.”

“And came looking for me?”


“That’s sweet, you know.”

“I’m glad you think so.” We kissed again, a reassuring touch of lips. “What about you? You’re hurt, your leg—” He put his hand on my right hip, which twinged at the touch. But I held his hand there, not wanting him to move.

“I fell,” I said. “Broke something, I think.”

“But you’re okay? It healed?”

“It’s taking awhile, but yeah, I think so.”

“We have to get out of here,” he said.

“Yeah. But we can’t, not yet.”

“I know.”

I nestled closer in his embrace, finally feeling strong enough to deal with the situation outside.

Boss was still grinning at us like he thought we were cute. Cormac was back to standing guard. He didn’t particularly look like he was standing guard, but he’d put himself between the two of us—huddled on the floor, vulnerable—and the rest of the gathering. The arrangement suggested us against them.

Anastasia was talking to Grace.

“I didn’t count on any of this!” the young magician said.

“Your family understood what was asked of them—”

“That was hundreds of years ago! What do you expect me to do? I wasn’t going to stick around and try to fight monsters. I can’t do that.”

“Do you honor your ancestors or not? We’ve lost time, it may be too late.”

“I have to butt in,” I murmured to Ben, extricating myself from his embrace, as much as it pained me to do so.

“Of course you do,” he said, his smile turning crooked. He wrapped the blanket firmly around him after my departure. Which was a shame. If we’d been alone I’d have stripped down to join him. Later …

“Anastasia, chill out,” I said. “She did the right thing when she ran.” Both Anastasia and Boss arced brows at me, as if surprised by my interruption. I hoped they were impressed by my assertiveness. “Roman’s here. But he doesn’t have the pearl or those werewolves wouldn’t have been asking us for it. So we still have a chance of finding it. Don’t we?”

Anastasia set her mouth in a frown—grim and hopeless. She didn’t think there was a chance.

“Grace,” Cormac said. Everyone looked at him, startled. He was quiet enough most of the time that he almost blended into the background. That was exactly how he planned it. “I might be able to work out a way to search for it, but I don’t know what it is, what it looks like. If you can give me something to look for, we might be able to find it.”

The young woman raised her arms in a gesture that was half pleading, half frustration. “Have any of you considered that if this terrible Roman guy doesn’t have it, and we don’t have it, then someone else got to it first—someone who put the huli jing in a cage? Someone more powerful than any of us? You really want to go after that?”

Anastasia frowned. “If you had not failed in your duty to your ancestors—”

Grace put her hands over her ears. “Oh, stop with that, please! You sound like my grandmother!”

Taken aback, Anastasia pursed her lips.

“Grace,” Cormac said again. “You think we can do this?”

Deflating, she fidgeted, taking off her glasses, wiping them on the hem of her shirt, putting them on and glaring through them, giving the vampires surly glances. “Yeah, I think so.”

“We’ll need some space and quiet,” Cormac said to Boss.

“Can we watch?” he asked.

“Sure. Long as you’re quiet.”

“This way, then.” He started toward the other side of the room, where a door stood.

Ben got to his feet, keeping the blanket wrapped modestly around his waist. The look was kind of cute, showing off his lean body. I had an urge to pull his hand away so that the blanket dropped …

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