Doolittle sighed. “Drink your tea.”

I looked at my glass. I’d had Doolittle’s iced tea before, and exercising extreme caution was in order. I sipped a tiny bit. Sugar overload. I waited to see if my teeth instantly disintegrated from shock. Nothing. My mouth was stronger than I gave it credit for.

Doolittle sat down in a chair and looked at me, and for once his eyes were empty of their usual humor. His voice was soft. “You can’t keep doing this, Kate. You think you’re going to live forever. But sooner or later we all have to pay the piper. One day you’ll laugh and joke and roll out of your bed, and you’ll fall. And then it won’t be three days of bed rest. It will be three months.”

I reached over and touched his hand. “Thank you for fixing me up. I don’t mean to cause you grief.”

He grimaced. “Drink. You need fluids.”

Someone knocked.

“It’s me,” Jim’s voice said.

Doolittle offered me a sweatshirt. I pulled it on and he let Jim in. Jim looked like he’d chewed bricks and spat out gravel.

He grabbed a chair, set it by my bed, sat down, and looked at me.

I looked back at him. “Sorry I put my hands on you. Won’t happen again.”

“It’s cool. You weren’t yourself. You better now?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s try this again, then. Tell me about the fight.”

“Did Dali tell you about Erra?”

“She did.”

I sketched the fight for him, leaving our family connection out of it, and described my rescue.

“Scales,” Jim said.

“Yep.”

I knew what he was thinking—shapeshifters resulting from infection by Lyc-V were mammals. There were several cases of humans turning into reptiles or birds, but all of those happened because of outside magical factors, not Lyc-V infection, and none of those transformations had an in-between stage. The shapeshifter who grabbed me was in a warrior form. Half-human, half-something scaled.

“What sort of eyes did she have?” Doolittle asked.

“Olive iris, slit pupil. Reddish glow.”

“Glow isn’t a good indicator,” Doolittle said. “Hyena eyes reflect light in any number of colors, yet bouda eyes always glow red. But the slit pupil is interesting.” He glanced at Jim.

“There was a man on the roof,” I said. “She knocked him off. Is he okay?”

Jim nodded. “He says the same thing: scales, red eyes, tail. I’ve smelled a similar scent before.”

“What was it?”

Jim grimaced. “A croc.”

Shapeshifter crocodiles. What was the world coming to?

“Stranger things have happened.” Doolittle pointed at my glass. “Drink.”

I showed the glass to Jim. “The good doctor put a spoon of tea into my honey.”

“You’re drinking tea a honey badger made,” Jim said. “What did you expect?”

Doolittle snorted and began packing gauze and instruments into his medical bag.

“If you didn’t put her on me, then who did?”

“I don’t know,” Jim said.

It wasn’t Curran. Security was Jim’s territory; if Curran felt I needed a bodyguard, he would have asked Jim to take care of it.

Curran. Oy.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“One of the Clan Wolf’s satellite houses,” Jim said. “The Wolf Clan House is outside the city, but they have a few rallying points in Atlanta’s limits. This was the closest.”

“And Curran?”

“At the Keep.”

“Did you tell him about this?”

“Not yet. Is there anything more you have to tell me?”

“No.”

He showed no signs of moving. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

Cat and spy master, lethal combination. “No. What makes you think that?”

Jim leaned back. “You’re a lousy liar.”

“That’s true.” Doolittle rolled up his stethoscope. “I’ve played poker with you, young lady, and the whole table knew every time you got a good card.”

“Deception makes you uncomfortable,” Jim said. “It works for you on the street, because when you promise to hurt someone, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that you mean it. But if you came to me for an assignment, I’d fire you after the first minute.”

“Fine. I’m a bad liar.” I looked at Jim from above the rim of my glass. “That doesn’t mean I’m hiding something. Maybe there is nothing more to that story.”

“You’ve put the glass between yourself and me and you’re keeping it pressed against your mouth so the words don’t get out,” Jim said.

I put the glass down.

“Is it an Order thing?” Jim asked.

“No, it’s my thing. It has no relevance to the Pack.”

“Okay,” Jim said. “If things change and you want to tell me or if you need help, you know how to find me.”

He got up and walked out.

I looked at Doolittle. “Why the sudden goodwill?”

“Who knows why cats do things. My guess is you taking a blade for him may have something to do with it . . .”

Doolittle raised his head and grimaced. “They just can’t leave well enough alone.”

A knock sounded through the basement.

“Who is it?” Doolittle called.

“I’ve come to see the patient!” a woman’s voice called.

“Is she naked?” another female voice asked. “I always wanted to see her naked.”

“Shush. George, will you keep me standing here all day?”

I looked at Doolittle. “Is that who I think it is?”

He bristled and headed to the door.

Besides Curran, two shapeshifters in the Pack gave me pause: Mahon, the Bear of Atlanta and the Pack’s executioner, and Aunt B, alpha of the boudas and Raphael’s mother. The rest were dangerous, but those two made me take a moment or two and think things through before I blundered on. I’d seen Aunt B in action with her human skin off. Blowing her off wasn’t in my best interests no matter how pissed off or weak I was.

“You’re looking very fine, George,” Aunt B said. Craning my head to see the two of them would destroy what little semblance of dignity I had left, so I stayed put.

“What do you want?” Despite Doolittle’s Coastal Georgia Southern accent, the good doctor’s voice lost all of its charm.


Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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