Kitty Goes to Washington Page 18

“I've never heard it that way before.”

Ahmed sighed. “It saddens me that the tribes in this country do not tell the old tales to one another. If we gathered to tell stories and drink more, there would not be so much fighting, yes?”

“Hear hear.” I raised my near-empty glass in a toast, drained it, and said, “Tell another one.”

I lost track of time, lounging there on satin cushions, in Luis's arms, while Ahmed spoke of stories I knew, but had never heard like this, through the filter of my own experience: a werewolf who looked at the world through two sets of eyes, human and animal, and constantly had to bridge the gap between them. Enkidu, from the Epic of Gilgamesh, was a wild man who lived like a beast until he was tamed by a woman's touch. And what if he didn't just live like a beast, but was one, and yet found a reason to embrace civilization? There were tales that sounded like Aesop's Fables, about the kindnesses shown between humans and animals, thorns plucked from the paws of lions and the like, and Greek and Roman myths about gods and goddesses who could change form at will.

The way Ahmed told it, this wasn't a curse or a disease I'd been suffering with for the last four years. It was a gift that made me part of a long tradition of saints and heroes who slipped easily between one shape and another and made it a strength.

I wasn't ready to go so far as to feel grateful about what had happened to me. It had been an accident, a violent, bloody accident, and I didn't feel blessed. Except if I wasn't a werewolf, I wouldn't have my show and all the success it had brought me.

I was confused.

“Wait, Marian, you can't leave without saying goodbye!” Ahmed called to the dancer, who had just reached the door. “Excuse me,” he said to us, then leapt to his feet and rushed over to sweep her up in a bear hug. Wolf hug. Whatever.

Luis took the opportunity to move his hand to my hip, where he settled it in an unmistakable invitation. When I tipped my face up to look at him, he was right there, looking back at me. I could feel his breath on my cheek. I craned my neck, leaned forward just a little—his lips pressed mine lightly, then drew away.

I must have flushed from scalp to toe, the way a sudden heat rose around me.

“My apartment is nearby,” he said, whispering in my ear.

I felt his body stretched out behind me, the solidity of it, his warm scent, and I wanted it. I wanted him.

I pressed his hand and smiled.

We met Ahmed by the door to say goodbye, though I was self-conscious because I felt like I was glowing. Luis stood very close to me.

“Thanks for the stories,” I said. “For everything.” I meant the place, this shelter, the company.

“Kitty, it's a pleasure. The doors here are never locked. You're welcome anytime.”

The air outside was cool; Luis and I walked arm in arm.

He had a sexy studio apartment with hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, sparse furniture and floor-length drapes. The kitchen had an island counter and looked well stocked, against expectation of the usual bachelor pad. As if he wasn't attractive enough already, he probably knew how to cook as well.

Not that I had that good a look at the place, because just like in a movie we were kissing before the door closed. He pushed me against the wall, and I wrapped one leg around his, pulling myself close to him. We couldn't get into each other fast enough. My skin was tingling, inside and out.

I suddenly realized, it wasn't enough to think back to the last time I had sex, which was long enough ago. But when was the last time I had good sex? That was a pathetically long time ago.

As his hand was climbing up my thigh, under my skirt, I stopped its progress, pressed it against me. I made him slow down, tasting his lips, drawing the weight and solidity of him closer. He smelled spicy, excited, simmering with sweat and hormones. I pressed my face against his neck and took a deep breath of him. He pulled the strap of my dress off my shoulder, bent his head over my bare skin, and did the same, breathing in my scent. I giggled, because I wasn't even supporting myself anymore; I was leaning into him, he was holding me, and we were breathing together.

I was going to enjoy this.

Much later, we rested together in bed, naked and glowing.

I dozed in a happy, languid haze when I noticed the mattress was vibrating with a soft, rumbling noise. I didn't think Luis was snoring; the sound was constant. It felt like one of those coin-operated massage beds in a cheap hotel. I looked up, glanced around, befuddled. The sound was coming from behind me. Right behind me.

I rolled over without displacing Luis's arm draped over my hip.

“Luis? Are you purring?”

The rumbling stopped and he sleepily mumbled, “Hmm?”

Chapter 4

“Don't move. I'll get it.”

Luis was already out of bed before I realized someone was knocking on the front door. The noise had a steady rhythm and was getting louder. Luis put on a robe and went to the door. “Yes?”

The answer was muffled by the barrier, but perfectly comprehensible.

“It's time for Kitty to leave now. She's had enough fun for one night.”

Leo. He must have tracked me down.

It had to be getting close to dawn. Maybe I'd thought I could wait him out. As it was, he had just enough time to drag me back.

Luis looked at me. I didn't want to say anything. Leo rattled the doorknob.

“You don't have to go,” Luis said. “He can't come in. I'm not going to invite him.”

Ah, the home turf advantage. If we could stand another hour of Leo nagging at us through the door, we'd be fine.

A click and drag rattled the door—the sound of a dead bolt sliding back. Luis moved back in time to avoid being hit as the door swung in.

Bradley stood in the doorway, holding a device that was most likely a lockpick.

Leo leaned on the wall outside, safely beyond the threshold, regarding us with an expression verging on laughter. “Fortunately, the mortal humans in Alette's employ aren't bound by that annoying little restriction.”

“You're trespassing,” Luis said.

“Hello, Luis. How is your band of miscreants at the Crescent these days?”

Luis stood with his hands clenched and back braced, giving the impression that he was about to pounce. Was he going to defend me in some gloriously violent manner? How romantic. It scared the daylights out of me.

“Luis, it's okay. I should probably get going.”

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