Low Midnight Page 31

It worked. The skinwalker kicked and writhed to get out from under Kitty—opening more scratches, but Kitty didn’t seem to notice. As it scrambled into the open, it turned and ran, back stiff and tail straight out like a rudder. A werewolf would have had its tail tucked between its legs, getting driven off after a fight like that. But a skinwalker was a human in wolf skin, not a being made up of parts of both.

“Kitty?” he called at her.

Crouching, she stared out into the woods, growling with every breath, an amber sheen in her eyes. Her T-shirt was ripped and hanging off her, revealing skin and bra. She’d torn it off herself, and was now shoving down her jeans. Her teeth were long, and her face was stretching.

“Kitty,” he repeated warningly, even as he backed away to give her room. Her wolf half would recognize him. At least, it had before.

“Gotta track down that bastard,” she muttered, her voice thick.

“No, you don’t—”

She was already shifting. Adrenaline and blood had pushed her wolfish instincts over the edge. Even as she stripped, a sheen of gray and tawny fur sprouted over her naked skin as her limbs seemed to melt, twisting into new shapes. She grunted once in pain, but other than that the change seemed to flow through her, like she’d flipped a switch and let it happen. He looked away, unable to face full-on the sight of her caught between one shape and another, her form distorted.

Then it was over, and an oversized wolf—long, rangy legs, lean body, pointed ears focused forward—was shaking off the last of her clothes. Without looking back she launched into a ground-eating run, chasing the skinwalker into the woods. She might very well be even more pissed off at the thing than he was.

When shots fired—explosive punctuation to the already chaotic encounter—Cormac crouched to take himself out of any line of fire. Looking, he found a man some thirty yards off, near the worn-out shed, aiming a rifle in the direction Kitty’s wolf had raced off.

Chapter 13

FURY GRABBED Cormac, with an urge to race over, yank the rifle out of the guy’s hands and beat him over the head with it until his skull caved in. Then keep going. He didn’t do that, because that was likely to get him shot. A quick assessment—the shots hadn’t gotten her. Kitty was still running, quickly disappearing into the trees. The gunman kept shooting anyway, wasting bullets.

Ben was going to kill him for getting her into this.

How were we supposed to know it was a skinwalker, not a werewolf? My God. Even Amelia sounded breathless.

Cormac wasn’t so sure Ben would understand. If the roles had been reversed, he’d be inclined to break the other’s neck for putting Kitty in danger. Kitty wouldn’t even be able to stop him. Fortunately, Ben was a lot more rational than that. He’d at least wait for an explanation. He might not ever talk to Cormac again after, but he’dlisten to the excuses first.

In the end, he recognized the gunman, which kept Cormac from murdering the guy straight off. Thickset, bearded, in a green canvas jacket and faded jeans. Jess Nolan, of course. Cormac tipped his head back, looking heavenward in a vague prayer, then stood, held up his arms and the flares in a show of peace, and called out. “Hey!”

His eyes buggy with shock, Nolan swung the rifle around, but lowered it when he saw Cormac. He squinted like he didn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Bennett? Cormac Bennett, is that you?”

Cormac hadn’t thought he was famous until the last few days. He’d had a reputation years ago, but he figured it wouldn’t have survived his time in prison plus a couple of years of mostly staying out of trouble. Oh well.

“Jess Nolan,” he said by way of reply. A statement as well as an expression of annoyance.

Nolan’s laugh was nervous, like he was pretending to be happy to see him, and trying to ignore what had just happened. Tucking the rifle under his arm, he came over, holding his hand out like he expected Cormac to shake it. Cormac had his hands full of road flare and didn’t move.

“What are you doing out here, Bennett?” He tried to sound casual, but kept looking back into the trees. Trying to decide which was the bigger threat, Cormac or the werewolf he’d just seen go tearing off.

Cormac took a pointed look at the torn grass and bloodied ground where the fight had taken place, as well as the abandoned-looking shed and mine entrance. “Just out for a walk with a friend. You’re a little jumpy with that gun, you think?”

His nervous smile dropped. “Friend—you don’t mean that wolf?”

“I do. I figure that’s why you’re out here—just you and a wolf, out for a walk?”

“Sure. I guess.” He was standing between Cormac and the shed. Guarding it.

“You want to tell me about the skinwalker?”

“The what?” he said flatly. Cormac wasn’t buying the dumb act.

“You’ve got some jumpy Navajo wizard working for you patrolling the place, right? Maybe getting in fights?”

“How do you know about that shit?”

Cormac gave him a look; his patience was gone. “I’m not interested in your stash, Nolan. I’m going to go track my friend down now, and I’d appreciate it if you called off your buddy before she gets to him.” And so Cormac didn’t have to keep looking over his shoulder.

“Your friend? A werewolf. I thought you hunted down werewolves.”

Yeah, so did he. His father’s memory chastised him yet again. “Yeah, well, there was this girl. What the hell you doing out here that you need muscle like that? What is it Layne thinks you’re doing out here?”

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