His new skin was very pale. The thick blond hair of his scalp and eyebrows was now barely longer than morning stubble.
"Thank you," I said, keeping my gaze fixed on his face.
Feeling awkward, I fought an urge to shift from foot to foot. "I'm leaving."
"After I talk to you."
"Doolittle's released you?"
The memory of the aging doctor glaring at me in outrage popped into my head. "He didn't have much choice."
"You can stay if you need to." Curran wiped the moisture dripping from his chin.
"No thanks. I appreciate it and all, but it's time to go."
"Places to go, people to meet?"
"Something like that."
"Sure you don't want to join me in the tank? The water is fine."
I blinked, at a loss for words. Curran laughed, clearly enjoying every second.
"Ahh, no," I managed.
"You don't know what you're missing."
Was he coming on to me or just messing with me? Probably the latter. Well, then, two could play that game. I looked pointedly at his midsection. "No thanks," I said. "I know exactly what I'm missing."
I said, "I've come to talk about Derek."
Curran managed to shrug while still holding on to the wall. "I've released him from his blood oath."
"I know. He insists on tagging along and I don't want him to. I tried to explain that I do dangerous work for little money and that being in my vicinity is bad for his health."
"What did he say?"
"He said, 'Yeah, but will I get chicks? In truckloads?'"
Curran laughed, submerging like a dolphin, and surfaced again. "I'll talk to him."
"Could you do it sooner rather than later? He thinks he's going to drive me home."
"Alright. Tell Mila at the door to send him to me."
"How did you get through the fire?" he asked.
Oh crap. "It wasn't fully up," I said. "Dumb luck. Couldn't get out of it though. I guess she was hell bent on bringing that ceiling down on my head."
"I see," Curran said. I couldn't tell if he believed me or not.
I turned around and made a little mocking bow that made my stomach hurt. "Would there be anything else, Your Majesty?"
He waved me off with a flick of his wrist. "Dismissed."
Curran was too dangerous to know. Too powerful, too unpredictable, and worst of all, possessing an innate ability to infuriate me, throwing me off balance.
Hopefully our paths would not cross again.
A young wolf whose name I didn't know drove me to Greg's apartment. I thanked him and walked up the stairs to find a white stain of a note pinned to my door. It said, "Kate, I tried to call but you didn't answer. I hope we're still on for tonight. I've made a reservation at Fernando's for six o'clock. Crest." I tore the note off the door, crumpling it, and tossed it aside. The wards shimmered shut. The sturdy door separated me from the rest of the world, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Kicking off the Pack's sneakers, I crawled into the bed, and fell asleep.
WHEN I AWOKE, LATE AFTERNOON WAS SLOWLY burning down to evening. I felt drained and uneasy, unsettled, as if I'd missed an important deadline. Searching my brain for the causes of my rotten mood produced no results and I felt worse.
I lay in bed and looked at the ceiling, considering calling Crest and telling him to forget it. That would be the sensible thing to do. Unfortunately, sensibility was not among my virtues. To miss the date was somehow equivalent to giving up without trying.
I shambled to the bathroom and washed my face with cold water. It didn't help.
There was only one dress I could wear to Fernando's, both because it was the only formal dress I owned and because it was the only dress hanging in Greg's guest closet. I had worn it to a formal function he had dragged me to in November, where I had spent two hours listening to people who loved hearing themselves orate.
I took the dress from the closet and dropped it onto the bed, then went to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water. I had lost a lot of blood. I forced one glass down, refilled it and came back, sipping the water. The dress lay on the sheets, bathed in the last rays of the tired sun. Of a simple cut, it had an unusual color, a nameless shade somewhere on crossroads between peach, khaki, and brass. Anna had picked it out for me. I remembered her going through the dresses hanging on wire hangers, briskly sliding them out of the way one by one, while an impossibly thin saleswoman watched in distress. "You don't need thinning," Anna had explained, "or padding. What you need is softening, which is a touch more complicated but can be done with the right dress. Lucky for us, you have the right complexion for the color. It will make you look darker, which in itself isn't a bad thing."
I looked at the dress and recalled the unsettling feeling of not recognizing myself when I put it on. I was proportionate, even lean, but not slender. Most women don't bulk easily, but if I flexed my arm, I could see definition. No matter how hard I tried to lose weight or become thinner, all I managed to do was to wind more muscle on my frame, so I'd quit trying to match the willowy standard of beauty when I was fourteen years old. Survival took precedence over fashion. Sure, I didn't weigh a hundred and ten pounds, but my narrow waist let me bend and I could break a man's neck with my kick.
This dress camouflaged the muscle, tricking the eye into seeing soft flesh where there was none. The trouble was, I wasn't sure I wanted to wear it today for Crest.
I touched the soft fabric and wished Anna would call.
The phone rang.
I picked it up and heard Anna's voice say, "Hello."
"How do you do that?"
"What? Calling when you want to talk to me?" She sounded amused.
"Most clairvoyants are slightly emphatic, Kate. The empathy with the person serves as a bridge for the things we do. I've known you for a very long time - I remember when you were learning to walk - and I've formed a permanent bond. Think of it as being tuned to a certain radio station that's off-line most of the time."
I sipped my water. I knew she wouldn't mention the vision, unless I asked her about it and I didn't feel like asking.
"How's the investigation?"
"I've found Greg's killer."
"Aha. What did you do to him?"
"Her. I disemboweled her and then crushed her heart."
"Lovely. What did she do to you?"
"I'll have a scar on my upper thigh and my stomach is still healing. But at least I had a professional medic this time."