Low Midnight Page 36

Amelia sounded put out when she muttered at him. I know what happened. You showed me what happened, letting it seep out of your memories whether you liked it or not. You had your chance with her. She gave you a chance, and you walked away. Can you imagine what that does to a woman? She’s told all her life that what men want is carnal knowledge of her, she offers herself, her body to you—and you refuse her? All she can think is, My God, what is wrong with me?

“She’s a werewolf.” That was his excuse. He’d gotten close—sometimes he imagined he could still taste her lips, feel her eager hands gripping him. Then some kind of flight instinct kicked in. Self-preservation, and suddenly he could only see that he was feeding himself to the wolf. He’d gotten scared. Him, scared.

He still saw the wolf in her. He just didn’t mind it so much, now.

At least you have the sense to accept her friendship.

Glad you approve, he muttered back.

I’m only trying to be helpful.

*   *   *

KITTY’S PHONE—sitting on the edge of the seat, tucked against her leg where she’d set it before she fell asleep—rang a couple of times before Cormac took the liberty of shutting it off. Ben, both times. Cormac didn’t want to talk to Ben. He probably should have woken her up so she could deal with it, but he didn’t. Dodging. He shut the thing off so she wouldn’t hear the ringing.

Dusk had fallen when they finally pulled into the driveway of her house. Ben kept odd hours and was often out, meeting with clients, springing them from jail, or jumping through hoops at court. Cormac was hoping that Ben would be out when he dropped Kitty off.

She was awake by then, wrapped up in the blanket. The slashes on her arms from the skinwalker had healed, but he was pretty sure traces of blood still lingered in her clothing and that Ben would smell it. Not to mention the lopsided shiner he’d developed, a purplish half moon sloping under his left eye. He kept poking at the puffy skin, and yeah, it hurt. He ought to get some ice on it. He didn’t want to have to explain any of it to his cousin. His plan was to let her out without him ever getting out of the car. She could do all the talking. She was good at it.

But Ben was waiting in the driveway. He must have heard the Jeep’s engine and come out to meet them. He was barefoot, in his casual/sloppy mode, wearing jeans and an untucked T-shirt, and his arms were crossed.

Kitty scrambled for her phone. “Why is it off? Did you turn it off?” She fiddled with it a few seconds and groaned. “He’s been trying to call for an hour. Did you turn your phone off, too?”


She let out a growl and stormed out of the car, slamming the door behind her.

He still might have had a chance to escape, but Ben came over and put a hand on the roof over the driver’s-side door. Cormac had spent all day going face-to-facewith blowhards, and found he couldn’t stand up to Ben. He rolled down the window.

Kitty went around and leaned next to her husband.

“And how was your day?” Ben asked wryly.

She said, “You’re gonna have to ask him, I’m done playing go-between.”

Ben tilted his head, took a searching breath. “You shifted. What happened—wait a minute, are you bleeding?” The anger vanished. He held her shoulders, faced her, studied her all over, searching and smelling.

“Not anymore,” she said brightly.

He breathed a word that might have been a curse, wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into an embrace, kissing her forehead, resting there a moment. When he turned back to yell at Cormac, he didn’t let her go. Kept that arm around her, kept her pulled close, and she melted into the contact.

Cormac thought, not for the first time, that she was better off with him. He couldn’t do what Ben did, wrapping her up with affection so casually. She got sliced up and the best Cormac could do to comfort her was hand her a blanket.

Ben said, “What the hell have you gotten into? And is that a black eye? You got into a fight? Thank God you’re off parole.”

He didn’t know where to start, and when he looked at Kitty—the talker, who was so much better at explaining things than he was—she wasn’t any help. She blinked those big brown eyes expectantly at him and stayed quiet.

Cormac sighed. “You remember Anderson Layne?”

He had to think about it a minute. Kitty was watching for his reaction. “The militia nut who hung out with my dad? You ran into him? While looking into a century-old murder? I’m confused.”

“I didn’t go looking for him. He’s hired himself a wizard and is getting into the prospecting business. Jess Nolan’s around, too. The two of them are working up a rivalry and I got caught in the middle.”

“And you got Kitty caught, too.” That edge of anger returned.

“We agreed I should keep an eye on him, right?” she said. She brushed an arm against Ben, and he visibly calmed. “He hasn’t shot anyone. Yet.”

“Did either one of them try to hire you?” Ben said, in full interrogation mode now.

The Jeep’s engine was still running. Cormac could drive away, right now.

“Layne did.” The fact that he took Layne’s money meant he’d essentially been hired.…

“You told him no, right?” Ben sighed, not bothering to wait for an answer. “Okay. Fine. I trust your judgment, and if you need to work with these guys to learn more—”

“I don’t,” Cormac said. “I’m done with them. I’m walking away and won’t run into them again,” he added.

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