Low Midnight Page 3

“She set us both up. Not my fault.” He held up his hands in a show of defense.

“You people don’t have any faith in me at all, do you?” She heaved a dramatic sigh and turned to walk off to her usual table in back.

Kitty was cute. Not gorgeous, though she could probably approach it if she ever bothered with makeup and high heels and the whole getup. She chose comfort, in jeans and flat-heeled pumps and a short-sleeve blouse. About five-six, she had an athletic build and a quick grace about her. Her shoulder-length blond hair was loose, framing her face. Brown eyes. He’d known her for six or seven years now.

Ben he’d known his whole life, a fact that amazed him. Cormac sometimes had to adjust his own mental image of the man from the scruffy, gangly teenager he’d been when Cormac moved in with his family, to the focused, intense—and still kind of scruffy—adult he was now. He wore a blue button-up shirt untucked over khakis, hands shoved in his pockets. An average guy, likeable in spite of the law degree.

Side by side, the couple stalked to the back of the restaurant, retrieving their own beers from the bar. Cormac watched them, observing the undeniable, underlying truth of their lives: both Ben and Kitty were werewolves.

Cormac still flinched a little thinking of it. Werewolves were the bad guys, he’d known that truth since he was a boy learning to hunt from his father. His father didn’t just hunt the usual game—he also took on vampires, werewolves, the supernatural creatures that most people thought were just stories, at least back then. Then, the inevitable happened. In hindsight, Cormac knew it was a matter of time. You hunted near-invulnerable monsters of the supernatural, ones that science and nature couldn’t explain, that walked the Earth as proof that magic existed—eventually, you’d meet one you couldn’t kill. And it would kill you. The men in the Bennett family who hunted all died young. He expected to die himself, by claw or fang, sooner rather than later. When Cormac was sixteen years old, a werewolf killed his father, and he hated them. Or thought he did. Then Kitty came along.

He’d meant to kill her. He’d been hired to kill her, a blatant attempt by his client to get her new and increasingly popular radio show off the air. Maybe he’d been stupid to take that job—the publicity of killing her on the air hadn’t scared him, and he’d been confident, probably overconfident, of his ability to escape any repercussions after. He’d had a job, and his job was killing werewolves. She’d talked him out of it, live on the air, without breaking a sweat. At least not that he’d been able to see. They’d become something like friends.

When she’d needed a lawyer, he’d recommended Ben. Later, he’d brought Ben along on a job—just backup was what he’d said, someone to call out if the bad guy came around from behind. But there’d been two bad guys, and one of them had gotten Ben.They’d made a pact as kids: if either of them was infected with lycanthropy, vampirism, or something worse, the other would kill him. When the moment came, Cormac couldn’t do it. Couldn’t kill the only person in the world he trusted, because Kitty proved that not all the werewolves were bad guys. Cormac took Ben to Kitty for help. Now they were married.

It seemed like a lifetime ago. Centuries ago. That all had happened to a different person, and now he came to the bar to drink with a couple of werewolves who were also his friends. His father would be so disappointed with him.

Stop minding your father, Amelia reprimanded him. He’s dead.

“Yeah, well, so are you,” he murmured.

As he watched Ben and Kitty, he could see their true nature in a dozen little ways that they weren’t conscious of: the way their nostrils flared when the door opened and they smelled newcomers, the watchful look in their eyes, the stiffness in their shoulders when they got nervous. When they perched in their chairs, he could almost see ears pricking forward with interest. Kitty brushed along Ben as she sat, shoulder to shoulder, a gesture both animal and intimate. They kept watch over the bar, which they’d opened to be something of a den for their pack of wolves. Shaun was also a werewolf, and Cormac recognized a couple of others hanging out. Most people wouldn’t see it, but Cormac knew what to look for.

When they were all seated with beers in hand, Ben raised his glass and said, “Cheers.”

It was easy being comfortable here, drinking beer and sitting with friends. Being comfortable made him nervous.

“Does it feel different now?” Kitty asked.

He shrugged a little, the start of a deflection, but he changed his mind. “Yeah, it does. Feels like finally getting the keys to the handcuffs.” He could feel the envelope resting in his inside pocket, pressing against his heart.

“Any big plans?” Ben asked.

“Vacation,” Kitty said. “I’d go on vacation. Someplace with beaches. Or Disneyland! You could go to Disneyland.”

Ben looked pained. “Your vacations don’t tend to be all that relaxing.”

“Someday,” she answered. “Someday, I will have a vacation that doesn’t go pear shaped.”

Cormac’s lip quirked in a smile. Kitty couldn’t take a trip without combining it with work, which meant publicizing it, which meant attracting attention, and that was where the trouble started.

“Don’t laugh,” she muttered at him.

Ben said, “It’s probably best not to make any life-changing decisions just yet. I’ve seen it happen—people go off paper, go crazy, throw themselves for a loop, fall into old habits, end up back in prison.” Ben was a criminal defense attorney and spent a good chunk of his business escorting clients through the system.

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