Kitty Goes to Washington Page 49

I'm sorry, T.J.

Stop it.

After the cemetery, we drove out of town to the state park where Luis spent full moon nights. He wanted me to be comfortable there. It was nice, getting out of town, leaving the smog and asphalt for a little while, smelling trees and fresh air instead.

We even had a picnic. Another car commercial moment: strawberries and white wine, types of cheeses I'd never heard of, French bread, undercooked roast beef, all spread on a checkerboard tablecloth laid on a grassy hillside.

Luis was trying to distract me. He was doing all this to take my mind off everything I was worried about. The least I could do was pretend like it was working.

“Thanks,” I said. “This is wonderful.”

“Good. I had hoped you'd smile at least once today.”

“I bet you're sorry you found me at the museum.”

“No, of course not. I'm glad to have met you. I might wish you were not quite so busy.”

He wasn't the only one.

I moved to sit closer to him, inviting him to put his arm around me, which he did. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

He chuckled and shifted his arm lower, so his hand rested suggestively on my hip. “After this week, I should hope so.”

I smiled, settling comfortably in his embrace. “How did you get it? The lycanthropy.”

He hesitated. His gaze looked out over my head, over the hillside. “It's complicated.”

I waited, thinking he'd continue. His expression pursed, like he was trying to figure out what to say, and not succeeding. I didn't know him well enough to know if he was the kind of person who'd wanted to become a lycanthrope, who'd wanted to be bitten and transformed, or if he'd been attacked. We'd had a week of lust and little else, which meant we might as well have just met.

“Too complicated to explain?” I said.

“No,” he said. “But it isn't a story I tell often.”

“It was bad?” I said. “Hard to talk about? Because if you don't want to—”

“No, it wasn't, really. But as I said—it's complicated.”

Now I had to hear it. I squirmed until I could look at his eyes. “What happened?”

“I forgot how much you like stories,” he said. “I caught it from my sister. I thought she was hurt, I was trying to help her. She shifted in my arms. I didn't know about her, until then. Even when she bit me, I hardly knew what was happening. It was an accident, she didn't mean it. But she panicked, and I was in the way.”

“Wow. That's rough. She must have felt terrible.”

“Actually, when she shifted back to human and woke up, she yelled at me. Wanted to know why I couldn't mind my own business and leave her alone. By then I was sick, so she yelled about making her take care of me.”

“Let me guess, older sister?”

“Yes,” he said with a laugh.

“It sounds familiar.”

“She was angry, but she was sorry, too, I think. She took care of me and helped me learn to live with this. Now we help each other keep our parents from finding out about it.”

At least I didn't have that problem anymore. I'd never have to come up with another excuse about why I was missing a family gathering on a full moon night. “Your sister's in Brazil?”

“Yes. You know what she does? She spies on companies doing illegal logging in the rain forest and reports to the environmental groups. Sometimes I think she's a bit of a terrorist. Frightened loggers come out of the forest with stories about giant jaguars with glowing green eyes.”

“She sounds like an interesting person.”

“She is.”

We'd been there maybe an hour when I glanced at my watch. I shouldn't even have brought it. But I did.

“Could we get back to town by four, do you think?” I said.

He put his hand on my knee. “Is there nothing I can do to you convince you to stay a little longer?”

Oh, the agony. I put my hand on his and shook my head. “I'm sorry. Here you are, doing everything you can to sweep me off my feet, and I'm refusing to cooperate. I'm lucky you're still trying.”

He grinned. “I love a challenge.”

He leaned over to me, putting his hands on either side of me, trapping me with his arms, and moving closer—slowly, giving me plenty of time to argue and escape before he kissed me.

I didn't argue. Or escape.

I barreled into the Crescent at a quarter after four, convinced I was too late to find Fritz. Not that he'd ever speak to me again. I should have been happy with what he'd revealed last night on the show, but enough never was, was it?

My vision adjusted to the dimness of indoors. I watched Fritz's usual table, expecting his hulking form to be there, once I'd differentiated it from the shadow. I focused, squinting hard, but the table was empty.

Jack stood, elbows propped on the bar, reading a magazine. I leaned on the bar in front of him, and he looked up and broke a wide smile. “Hey! I heard your show last night. That was cool!”

“Thanks,” I said, distracted and not sounding terribly sincere. “I missed him, didn't I? Fritz already left.”

“He didn't show today.”

“But it's past four. He's never late. Does he not do weekends?”

“He never misses a day.”

A weight settled into my gut. “Do you think he's okay? Do you have a phone number for him? Should I go check on him?”

“I don't have a clue where he lives.”

This was my fault. Fritz was in trouble and it was my fault. He'd talked, he'd spilled the beans, and someone didn't like it. “Are you even a little bit worried?”

He shrugged. “Wouldn't do any good if I was.”

Great, another disinterested isolationist. “Is Ahmed here?”

“I don't think so. I can call upstairs if you want, maybe he's there.”

“Sure.”

He hit a line on the phone behind the bar, stood there with the handset to his ear for what must have been five minutes, then shook his head. “Nothing.”

“Do you think he knows where Fritz lives?”

“He might.”

I asked for a pen and wrote my cell phone number on a napkin. “If he does, have him call me.”

Jack tucked the napkin by the cash register. “You're really worried about him.”

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