Kitty's Big Trouble Page 53

I nodded at the crossbow. “Do you really need that? Roman’s not going to show up for a while.”

“What do we do when those two wake up hungry?” He nodded at Anastasia and Henry.

“I trust Anastasia. She wouldn’t hurt us.”

“That chick is batshit crazy,” he said.

I sat up. “You would be, too. And you’re one to talk, what with the Victorian wizard-lady living in your brain.”

Hugging herself, blinking through her glasses, Grace watched us. I settled back and promised myself I wouldn’t argue anymore. Much.

“It’s not like I can just get rid of her,” Cormac whispered.

“So she is possessing you. Holding you prisoner.”

“She saved my life,” he said.

The silence stretched. I would have appreciated a ticking clock. As it was, I felt as though we’d fallen out of the universe. Grace’s written prayers seemed to glow in the muted light of Cormac’s magicked quartz.

“What happened to you in there?” Ben asked. Meaning prison. What had happened to change Cormac so much in two years?

Cormac gave a short chuckle. “Place had demons.”

“Most people would think you meant that figuratively,” I said.

“Demons, gods—the world’s full of all kinds of shit,” he said.

“But Amelia saved your life?” I said, to confirm it in my own mind as much as anything. The more I tried to pry the story from him the more surly he’d get. But I wanted to be sure of that much.


“Then I guess I’ll stop bitching about her.”

I could see his wry smile, even in the semidarkness. “She and I both appreciate it.”

“I’ve just been worried about you,” I said.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” he said, matter-of-fact, instantly—like a defense mechanism.

“Yes, I do,” I said.

“Get used to it,” Ben said, amused. “You’re part of the pack.”

“The pack?”

I hesitated, then said, “Pack of three. That’s what I’ve been calling us. I figure we have to look out for each other.”

“Huh,” he said, settling himself against the wall, adjusting his grip on the crossbow. I kept waiting for him to say something else, but this was Cormac. The strong, silent type.

After another long moment, Ben said, “When they say they’re gods, they don’t mean literally gods, do they? They’re something else and they’re just calling themselves gods.”

Nobody said anything, until the silence itself seemed the answer.

Cormac said, “It’s a hell of a lot to take in.”

“No, you’re right,” I said. “They can’t literally be gods, because that would mean…” I took a breath, swallowing a lump that was threatening my voice. “That would mean religion, everything they said in church—”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Ben said. “People say all kinds of crap in the name of God, doesn’t mean they’re speaking for an actual higher power. It’s like you’re always saying, there’s real and then there’s real. There’ve been plenty of two-bit psychics who claim they’re channeling Cleopatra when they’re doing no such thing. That there may really be something out there just gives that many more people a chance to try to make a fast buck on big claims.”

“Ben, you remember that freak of a preacher your mom used to listen to on the radio?” Cormac said.

“Which one?”

“The one who said NASA ought to stop going into space because it was blasphemous trying to get too close to heaven.”

“Geez, yes,” he said, chuckling. “That was right after that guy who was all about how ‘God will call me home’ if he didn’t get a million dollars or something. No, I’m sure that’s got nothing to do with any capital G god.”

I squeezed Ben’s hand and settled his arm more firmly around me. “That’s the real power, you know. That televangelist got the money he asked for, did you know that? There doesn’t have to be anything magic there if you can use the concept to manipulate people.”

“But how do you know?” Ben said. “When Anastasia evokes a promise Grace’s ancestors made hundreds of years ago to scare Grace into helping her—how do you know there’s not really something there?”

“You don’t,” I said. “That’s why it works.”

Cormac sounded frustrated when he said, “But Grace’s got something going on, those two are really vampires, you two are really werewolves, I’ve got Amelia, and that Sun guy is not human.”

“We could talk ourselves in circles and still never figure it out.”

“It’s like running a race: you just keep your eye on the path in front of you,” Cormac said.

“What happens when you find yourself right back where you started?” I said.

He didn’t answer.

Grace had fallen asleep. She was huddled against the wall, wrapped in Cormac’s jacket, her breathing deep and even. I wished I could sleep; Wolf wanted to pace. I tried to settle her—Cormac was part of our pack and keeping watch. Nothing could make Cormac not keep watch. We were as safe here as we’d been all night. Sighing, I thought maybe I could sleep for a little while.

Ben was playing with a strand of my hair, stroking the tangles out of it, curling it around his fingers, over and over. I looked at him. “You okay?”

“On what scale? At the moment, I’m okay. I hope I can still say that in six hours or so.”

I turned my head to kiss his shoulder.

Still watching the door, Cormac said, “Look, I want you two to know, if something happens and we don’t make it out of here—”

“We’ll make it out of here,” Ben and I said together.

“Damned optimists,” he said with a huff, rearranging his seat against the wall, adjusting his grip on the crossbow, and settling into silence.

We shouldn’t have interrupted him. I’d never find out what he’d been about to say.

* * *

BEN WASN’T going to let himself sleep, either. His muscles under me were tense. With all this vigilance around me, I should have been able to nap a little. But I’d drift off for a few minutes, then start awake, convinced I heard the sounds of battle right outside the door. Every time, Ben would touch me, comforting me.

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