What I needed was a shower and some shut eye. I'd be damned if she saw me looking tired or disheveled. When she finally did wake up, feeling like half a mile of bad road, I wanted to stroll in looking fresh and clean as if I hadn't a care in the world
I needn't have worried. Almost a day passed before Doolittle called to tell me that his patient seemed to be coming around.
"How will she feel?"
"Sore as hell and probably…."
"Hungry" I guessed.
"Yes I should think so. Accelerated healing burns the body's resources. I do belive she will be ravenous."
I smiled, "Doctor, do you think she might enjoy some nice hot chicken soup?"
There was a tiny pause before Doolittle answered. "My Lord I think she should like that very much."
Oh yes, she would sit in bed and eat the soup I got for her like a good little girl. The best thing would be watching her gulp it down clueless as usual to the consequences of her actions.
As I strode into the room, with one of the cooks behind me carrying the soup on a tray, I caught the tail end of a conversation.
"How did I get here?"
"His Majesty carried you."
"Is he burned to a crisp or sliced in half this time?"
Her concern was touching. "Neither," I answered.
Her eyes grew wide. I can walk quietly if I wish to, I am a cat after all. I gestured for the cook to put the soup down. Doolittle bowed and both he and the cook left the room.
I took a moment to look Kate over. I had not seen her since bringing her in. Her appearence had improved, but not much. Her face was bloodless. Dark circles puffed under her eyes, and the skin stretched tight over her face. She looked like a ghost of herself. Almost frail.
I was not used to seeing her like this. It scared me a little bit.
"You look like shit." Honesty is important in any relationship.
She cleared her throat. "Thanks, I try."
Frail and weak, but still Kate.
I picked up a bowl soup and thought about what it would mean here in this place if I offered it to her and she accepted. She might not know what it meant, but I would. This was it. Nothing ventured…
I held the bowl out to her so she could smell it. Before I could warn her, she grasped it with both hands, and burned herself.
"Idiot." I sat the soup in front of her with a spoon.
She actually thanked me. This was going well. I had half expected her to throw the soup at me.
Kate grabbed the spoon and went at it. That's right, eat it.
"Did you get the surveys? They were…"
"On the dresser. Shut up and eat your soup."
I pulled up Doolittle's chair and watched her while she ate. This was nice, we were together and so far had not tried to kill each other. Maybe if I could just keep her quiet… Maybe if I kept feeding her.
"So that's the secret."
She looked slightly shocked. No witty comeback. Maybe I scared her. Naw not the ass-kicker.
"You okay? Gone a bit pale there."
"Secret to what?"
"Secret to shutting you up." I smiled. "All I have to do is beat you till you half dead, then give you chicken soup and blessed silence."
She made a face and went back to the soup.
"What did you think I meant?"
"I don't know. The ways of the Beast Lord are a mystery to a humble merc like me."
"You don't do humble." Smart ass was more her speed.
Her bowl was empty, so I handed her another. This time our fingers brushed together. I held still and looked into her eyes. Our faces were very close. Her lips parted slightly. I leaned in toward her and … She grabbed the bowl pulled away and it was as if a spell was broken. Funny little mouse.
"Why did you save me?"
"I picked up a phone and there was a hysterical child on the other end, crying that you were dying and that the undead were coming. I thought it might be an interesting conclusion to a boring evening." That and I fucking hate the undead.
She looked puzzled. "How did Julie know to call here?"
"Hit redial from what I understand. Smart kid. You're going to tell me what you've blundered into." I wasn't asking. My people had crawled over her place, sniffing every inch. There had been three assailants, none human. No bodies, but some evidence of a fire and dents and stains on the wall. The best they could figure out, she'd killed something in the kitchen, set the second attacke on fire, and rammed the third one into the wall. Derek had brought Julie to the Keep. He was working on her, but she was a street kid. She trusted no one and so far didn't talk.
Dark eyes looked at me from Kate's pale face. "No."
Maybe she had misunderstood. She had been through a lot.
"No?" Give her a chance.
God fucking damnit, not this shit again. I crossed my arms and gave her my displeased look and meant it. She stared back. This was too much.
I leaned back. "You know what I like about you? You have know sense. You sit here in my house, you can barely pick up a spoon and you're telling me 'no'. You'd pull on Death's whiskers if you could reach them." She did not know it, but at this moment she was close. Damn close. "I'll ask one more time, what were you doing?"
"I see. I retrieve the surveys the Pack let slip through its fingers, and in return you bring me here against my will, interrogate me, and threaten me with bodily harm. I'm sure the Order will be amused to learn the Pack kidnapped its representative."
"Aha. Who is going to tell them?" Yes, the Pack greatly regrets being unable to save the Orders representative, her injuries were extensive. It would be so easy. Windpibe and larynx crushed? Like someone strangled her? You don't say.
She looked at me as if to gauge my intent. Would I do it?
"I guess I'll just have to kick your ass and break out of here."
Hahaha. Maybe if I had a seizure or a blood vessel burst in my brain.
She shot me her crazy smile.
I showed her the edge of my teeth. "In your dreams."
"We've never had our rematch. I might win."
Yeah and on that day we'd get together with the People and put on a show in the old barn.
She grimaced. "Bathroom?"
I gestured toward it and she carefully got out of bed, like she was not sure if she could stand on her own. I almost felt sorry for her. Then I saw the rest of her and could not help smiling.
"What's so funny?" she demanded.
"Your panties have a bow."
She looked down. She wore a little tank top and blue panties with a silky bow. Her face went white, then red. Hahaha.
"What's wrong with bows?"
"Nothing, I expected barbed wire or something with chains."
She stuck her nose in the air. "I'm secure enough in myself to wear panties with bows on them. Besides they're comfy and soft."
You don't say. "I bet."
Big eyes again. She hesitated. "I don't suppose you'd mind giving me a bit of privacy for the trip."
And miss the panty parade? "Not a chance."
She made a valiant effort to get out of bed but her legs betrayed her. I was barely able to catch her before she hit the floor. I held her tightly for a moment, enjoying the closeness. She smelled like Kate. I could get used to her scent.
"Need some help ass-kicker?
"I'm fine, thanks." She tensed, I held her for a moment longer and then released her. She carefully made her way to the closest door.
"That is the closet." I pointed out helpfully.
She looked like she was going to cry and staggered into the bathroom.
Nearly half a dozen of my best people had gone rogue, among them my Chief of Security, our Head of Medicine, a young wolf, and the Scion of Clan Bouda. They had broken my first law. They had chosen to participate in the Midnight Games and had refused direct orders to appear before me and explain their actions.
I had never before questioned Jim's loyalty; he was Alpha of Clan Cat and for all intents and purposes my Second. Doolittle despised pack politics and had saved my life more often than I liked to think about. Derek had become a member of the Pack after his father had gone Loup and slaughtered his mother and sisters. When this happens, and it happens more often than humans think, SOP is to kill male survivors, especially adolescents as they were believed to have a genetic predisposition to going Loup. Jim had been in favor of putting Derek down. I had overruled him, which I rarely do. The kid had been through a lot and I decided he deserved a chance. Had I made a mistake? That Raphael was involved in this surprised me not at all. If Bea's little peacock thought I wouldn't mess up his pretty face he was as dumb as those girls who followed him around like dogs in heat.
What could possibly cause a cat, a wolf, a hyena, and a middle-aged medmage honey badger to risk my wrath? I couldn't figure out the what or the why, but I had a damn good idea of the who. Kate Daniels, professional fuck-up. Kate worked for the Order, humans who despised my kind. Yeah, she was employed by the Order and did jobs for the Guild, but I swear her mission in life was to make mine miserable. She defied me publicly, challenged me privately, and God help me, she bounced around inside my head like a bull in a china shop.
As soon as I had gotten wind that something was amiss, I had called her. In her usual charming and diplomatic way she had both denied any and all knowledge as well as politely declining to assist me in any way. Of course, she was in this mess up to that nice ass of hers. Later as I started to put the pieces together, she had called to tell me that she and Jim were running off together and even offered me an erotic dinner if I could find them in three days. Kate short-circuits my brain. In my head we always have these clear coherent exchanges, but once we meet, what comes out it is, "Kate, do what I say or I'll kill you." Her default reply is, "Fuck you!" and we go downhill from there.
Once I shook the idea of naked Kate out of my head, the big picture made no sense. Jim and Kate had worked together on odd jobs for the Guild but there had never been a hint of anything more than a friendship built on mutual respect. I knew for a fact that Jim liked that half-blind vegetarian tiger. Who the hell ever heard of such a thing? She gave the big cats a bad name and she kept trying to kill herself by driving too fast.