Jim had a high opinion of Kate's abilities, which was a rare thing. Kate was skilled with that sword of hers, almost as good as she thought she was. I kept trying to puzzle it out: even if they had decided to run away together, how did the Games figure into it? I knew Kate would fight for the fun of it, or the money. Did they need the money for their new life together? How had they gotten the others involved? Derek worked for Jim, almost worshiped Kate. If they had used him…. That I could not forgive.
I also knew that Raphael's mate was Kate's best friend. He would do anything for her or just to piss me off. Perhaps he thought his Mommy could intervene on his behalf if he got caught. I had almost hoped B did interfere and got tangled up in it. After all she has been a thorn in my paw as long as I can remember. It would feel good to remove it. Since Mahon was not mixed up in this nonsense, I could give him that honor. I know he would enjoy it and faithfulness should not go unrewarded. None of this of course explained Doolittle's involvement. Had they forced him to help? Possibly, but he is a tough old bastard and you don't cross a badger without a good reason.
I had to know, and so I tracked Kate to one of Jim's safe houses. She was alone but I could smell the others, they had been there recently. Derek was hurt, I could sense it. That had driven me over the edge and I had leaped at her without looking. Right into a Loup cage.
When I had stopped roaring, Kate explained it all. I now knew about the Wolf Diamond and the Rakshasas. I understood why Kate felt compelled to do these things. It made sense; she was trying to help her friends and the Pack. What I could not condone or comprehend was how she did these things. Some people go about things in a roundabout way. Kate blows things up and then tries to glue the pieces together with spit. If she had only come to me in the beginning, but now it might be too late.
As I sat at the bottom of the Loupe cage, waiting for the skin on my palms to heal enough to try the silver bars again, I slowed my breathing and went over my options. None were great. I could wait for them to let me out of this cage or for someone else to find me. No, that was unacceptable.
I am the Beastlord, I will not be crated and let out like a puppy.
I could break out of this, but it would hurt, a lot, and in that rage I would slaughter not only Kate and cohorts but anyone who tried to stop me. As angry as I was, I had to admit I did not want to do that either.
By now they would already be in the Arena. Short of slaughtering the entire Red Guard, I could not get in there to stop them before the entire audience of sick fucks saw members of the Pack take part in the Games. After that too many people would know and I could not let that pass. If they survived I would have to kill them. By myself in front of the rest of the Pack.
Kate had finished her spiel and left. I forced myself to relax and try to find a way out of this mess. I assumed I was alone with my thoughts when I heard something move down the hallway. The smell was familiar but I could not place it, definitely not Kate but…
Julie. Her kitten. All I had to do was to convince her to let me out.
I closed my eyes and listened to her sneaking through the house. Close by, almost close enough. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the sound of the footsteps approaching my cage. Julie showed potential, moving well for a human child, quiet and careful despite the dim and unfamiliar surroundings. Kate would have stormed into the dark stabbing at shadows. I wondered briefly where or from whom Julie had learned to sneak. She had not survived on the streets by being slow or stupid. Derek seemed fond of her and it was obvious she was smitten with the kid. To her, he was older and good looking.
Damaged Derek, laying somewhere now with his good-looking young face forever ruined. Would she even look at him the same way?
A fresh wave of rage and grief almost overcame me, and I had to fight the urge to roar in frustration. No, hold it together. There will be a time for fur and fury, for the rending of flesh and the taste of blood on the tongue. Not the now. Take a deep breath, keep it together. Don't scare the kitten. Convince her to let you go.
Come closer, Julie, that's it. You're almost there.
When she was near enough that I could hear her breathing, I called out to her in my best not crazy voice, "Ok, Kate, you win, I could not break out, let me go, and I will give you that hundred bucks I owe you." Kids liked money right?
She walked into the room and sat on the floor. A tiny thing, skin and bones, narrow face, pale hair.
"Nice try. You know I am not her, and you should know she's gone now where you can't get her."
Smart girl. "Look kid, I don't want to get anybody. Just let me out of here please."
"Julie. My name is Julie. Why?"
"Why what, Julie?"
"Why should I let you out?"
"Because, I asked you nicely, and it would be better for you and your…" – Psychotic guardian, terrible role model, bad influence- "…Kate, if you release me."
"Why do you do that?"
Ok, I would play along but my patience was growing thin. "Do what, exactly?"
"Bully people. Threaten them in that calm scary voice. They are all afraid of you."
Ridiculous. "I don't threaten people. I am nice. I don't yell or scream." Keep going though and you will see how terrifying I can be.
"Bullshit. They are all scared of you. Jim, Derek, even though he looks up to you. Kate too, and she is not afraid of anything."
That was interesting. "First, watch your mouth, child. Second, what makes you think Kate is scared of me."
"Screw you, I am not a child and you are not the boss of me. She said you broke into her house and stole things."
I crossed my arms on my chest. The last thing I wanted to do is to explain the mating rituals to a human girl. "I am the Beast Lord, not a thief or burglar."
"You took a pie. Why would you do that? Don't you have whatever, servants, who cook for you? Kate doesn't have a lot of money, why would you steal her food?"
"That is adult business; I will not explain myself to a child."
"It was an asshole thing to do."
I choked back a snarl. "Little girl, I am not going to warn you again, do not speak to me like that again…"
She had me there. As pissed off as I was, there were lines I would not cross. I would not harm a child. Ever.
I had to take a deep breath and step away from the ledge. Persuade her. Be reasonable. I could do reasonable.
"Look, Julie, I am trying to be a nice guy. I've asked you nicely to release me. I could break out of here, but you would not like that, I promise you. That would be scary and loud, and nobody wants that sort of thing. This is the last time I am going to ask you. Please free me before I do get angry and do something we will both regret."
"You're doing it right now. I'm not stupid. I know you are mad and I know that if I let you out you'll hurt me and try to make me tell you where Kate is."
"No. I don't hurt little human kittens. Never have and never will. I give you my word."
She looked at me, thinking about it.
I leaned forward. "I know where Kate is and why, but I don't know why she left me in this cage. I would not hurt her and she knows that."
I broke into her place, I kissed her, I've indulged her beyond what any of my people could get away with. Any sane woman at this point would know where we stood. I would never harm Kate. I might roar and threaten, and I might even pounce when occasion called for it, but she knew damn well that no violence would follow.
But then again, we were talking about Kate. Nothing was sane about Kate. That's why I was sitting in a loup cage, trying to reassure a frightened child that I would not rip her to pieces.
Julie drew her knees to her chest. The kid looked like she never ate. A stiff wind might knock her over. "Kate thinks she has to save everybody, duh."
"Who is she saving by keeping me in here, Julie?"
"Her friends and you from having to hurt them. She knows you will feel bad if you do."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
She paused for a moment and then continued slowly, "She knows you're pissed and you will do your Lion King thing, punishing them for…" She paused considering her words. "Disobeying you. You will regret it when you calm down but then it will be too late. Dead is dead."
"Why would she think that I would regret it?" I was actually curious. Also what the hell was my "Lion King thing?"
"Cause she likes you and believes that you're a good guy."
"She said that?" A good guy, huh.
"No, but I can tell. The way she looks, when she talks about you."
Getting more interesting by the second. "Looks like what?"
"She looked the way my mom used to when she talked about my dad. And they are dead now."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Everybody always says that, but it doesn't mean anything. It's like saying hello or something."
"It means something," I told her. "My parents are dead too, and I was about your age when I lost them."
Julie looked like she was about to cry and waved her arms. "Whatever. Look, I'm not stupid. I know things! Adult things."
"Like sex. I know about sex."
I just stared at her. I wasn't opening that can of worms.
"The point is, she likes you. She likes you – likes you. She was going to kill Derek for you, if he went loup, so you didn't have to do it."
Now it started to make sense. So that was what all of this was about, Derek was Jim's responsibility and both Jim and Derek fucked up royally. Now Kate was caught up in this mess. In her mind she was as accountable for the boy as we were. Derek had come to her for help and she had been unable to refuse. Unfortunately it had all gone to hell as things tend to in our world and the kid had gotten hurt bad. Now she blamed herself and the only thing she could do was to go all in and hope for the best. She took it all on herself, as an alpha would do. I had to give her credit for trying to see this thing through to the end, but it should have been me. It was my job to know what was going on, to save, to protect, and to kill when there was no other way, and I dropped the ball.