Dead and Loving It (Page 9)

Where the hell was Janet?

He'd been groping absently for her while he'd been thinking, but she wasn't in his bed, and the bathroom light was off. He could hear her on the floor, gasping in-pain?

Was that pain?

In the second before he looked, it seemed like every malady mortals were prone to raced through his brain. She had appendicitis. He'd knocked her up (it was supposed to be impossible, but who really knew?) and she was having a miscarriage. She was having a heart attack. A brain embolism. A kidney shutdown. God help him, he was as afraid to look as he was afraid not to.

He looked. Janet was on her knees beside the bed, panting harshly, and her back-it almost looked like the knobs of her spine were moving. Her hair was hanging in her face in sweaty tangles, and her nails were sunk into the carpet. His feet hit the floor with a double thud and he reached for her. "Janet, I'm getting a doctor. I'll be right-"

A low, ripping growl froze his hand in mid-reach. And then-so fast, it was so quick, he blinked and it was done-she sprouted hair and her nose turned into a long snout and her eyes went wild and she was leaping for the door.

She bounced off it, but he was alarmed to see it actually shudder in its frame. She coiled and leapt again. And again. He remained sitting on the bed-he was afraid if he stood he would fall-and stared at her. Janet was a dun-colored wolf with silver streaks running down her back. Her eyes were the same color as when she was a biped, but now they were glittery and homicidal. He remembered how she paced when he read, how she couldn't seem to sit still for long, and realized that in this form she was claustrophobic.

Chunks of the door were leaping off the frame and falling to the carpet each time her body hit the door, but at this rate it would take at least ten minutes and she was likely to damage herself. He got up and walked to the door on legs stiff with shock, fumbled with the lock, dropped his key twice (all the while dodging her small wolf's body-she never stopped, she completely ignored him, he doubted he was even a cipher to her now), and finally swung the door open.

He ran after her to do it again, and again. Then she spotted the bank of windows facing west and lunged toward them. He dived, and managed to catch her back left leg just as she was coiling for a leap that would take her through the window. She spun and he had a dizzying glimpse of what looked like a thousand sharp teeth as she growled.

"We're three stories up," he panted, clutching her while at the same time trying not to break her leg. "You'll never survive the fall. Well, you might but-Janet, don't go!"

She snapped at his fingers. Wrathful growls bubbled up out of her without pause, or breath.

"Please don't leave! I was wrong and you were right-God, you were so right, I was a blind fool not to see it. Please don't leave me."

She snapped again, her jaws closing about a centimeter from his flesh. A warning.

Probably her last warning.

"I can't bear it without you. I swear I can't. I thought I was content before but it was a lie, everything was a lie, even why I was keeping you was a lie..."

His grip was slipping. He talked faster.

"...but you were right, and you never lied, not once, not even to get away, and Janet, I will spend the rest of your life making it up to you..."

She was almost free, and he was afraid if he let go to get a better grip, he wouldn't be fast enough.

"...but please...don't...go!"

She went.

He lay on the floor in his study a very long time. It seemed too much work to get up, find the broom, and start sweeping up the broken glass. He owned the building anyway, so who cared? Who cared about anything?

He couldn't believe she was gone. He couldn't believe he-who prided himself on possessing at least a modicum of intelligence-had let this happen.

My name is Janet Lupo.

Had done such things, and to such a woman.

I'm not afraid of any man, and I don't lie.

What had he been thinking?

My name is Janet Lupo.

How could he have been so blind?

My name is Janet Lupo.

So stupid and arrogant?

The full moon is eight days away. And when it comes, you're going to get a big fucking surprise.

Oh, if there was a God this was a fine joke indeed. He had finally found the one woman he could spend eternity with...

Your little oak doors won't hold me then.

...and he had kidnapped her and raped her and kept her and ignored her when she spoke the truth.

You'll realize you fucked up, bad.

He'd demanded she admit to being afraid of him, and when she wouldn't, he assumed it was a lie.

You'll know I was telling the truth the whole time, but you couldn't see past your stupid injured male pride.

His stupid injured male pride.

I'll be gone forever, and you'll have the next hundred years to realize what an asshole you were.

He would have cried, but he had no tears.


Chapter Ten

Three days later

Jane rolled over and stretched. Then shrieked in anger as she fell three feet and hit the cement with a smack. She'd curled up on the base of the statue in Park Square, promptly gone to sleep, then forgotten about the drop when she woke up. Why don't I ever remember this shit until it's too late? she thought, rubbing her skinned elbow.

She was pleasantly tired, and would be for the next couple of days. It was always like that when she chased the moon. She also felt very new, almost husked out.

Purified. Whatever.

She stood, and shivered. Step one: find clothes. Spring in Boston was like spring in Siberia.

She marched up to an early-morning commuter, a businessman obviously cutting through the park to get to the subway. He stared at her appreciatively as she approached, but she had eyes only for his cashmere topcoat. "How-" was all he had time for before she belted him in the jaw and mugged him.

She had made her choice as a wolf, and would carry it out as a woman. She didn't have to wake up in the park, naked and alone. Or yesterday, in an alley. Or the night before that, beneath the docks by the harbor-ugh. She didn't think she'd ever get the smell out of her hair.

There were only a hundred safe-houses in Boston, as well as acres and acres of woods owned by pack members. She could have romped there and woken to clean clothes and a hearty breakfast. But as a wolf she had avoided all those places and her kind. The beast knew what she wanted. Now it was time to get it.

Of course, she didn't know where Dick lived, exactly. It's not like she scribbled down the address with her paw on her way out the window. Luckily, there were ways and ways. She might not have a super nose like some of her kind, but the day she couldn't sniff up her own backtrail to a den was the day she'd jump off a fucking bridge.

It didn't take long, but her feet were freezing by the time she got there. Dick lived in a dignified brownstone condo that was probably built the year the Mayflower landed.

She shifted her weight back and forth, stuck her hands in her stolen pockets, and looked up at his window. The glass hadn't been replaced; there was a large piece of cardboard taped into the frame instead. Guess it took time to order that fancy old-fashioned stuff.

Except for the rumble of an early morning delivery truck, the street was quiet.

"'Scuse me. D'you live here?"

She looked. The delivery boy was holding three brimming grocery bags, and looking glum. "Yeah. Why?"

"Well, thank God. 'Cause I've been making deliveries for two weeks, but the last couple days nobody ever takes the food in, and it goes bad or gets swiped, and it's just a waste, is all."

Ah, so that's where all the sumptuous feasts came from! Dick had the food delivered, and cooked the meals for her. Yum. "I was gone for a while," she told him,

"but now I'm back."

"Who are you?"

"I'm the owner's fiancée." She shook her head. It sounded just as weird out loud as it did in her head. "Do I have to sign something?"

"No. He's got an account with us."

"Then get lost."

"Nice!" But he set the bags down, slouched back to his truck, and pulled into traffic without looking, in typical Boston fashion. Which was good, because it wouldn't do for him to watch her break into the house.

"Well, shit." That had been considerably easier said than done! Dick's front door wouldn't budge, and she was reluctant to break more of that expensive glass. He might not be so thrilled she came back. She had a vague memory of him grabbing her and begging her not to go, but it was more like a dream. She didn't trust her wolf-brain to factually interpret human emotions.

She smacked herself on the forehead. Dummy! Why was she trying to see him in the daytime? Even if she got in, he wouldn't exactly be a thrilling conversationalist. He'd be holed up in his bedroom, dead to the world-literally. Until then, she might as well chat with a rock. Still, it would have been nice to swipe some clothes.

Oh, well. The coat was plenty warm enough, and she didn't give a fuck how many people stared at her feet. At least she was in a big city, instead of some rinky-dinky small town...the yokels always loved something new to gawp at. She just had to kill another ten hours until the sun set. Thank God for the Barnes & Noble café.


Chapter Eleven

Richard slumped in the chair beside the fireplace. He'd been sitting in this room every evening since Jane had left. It had been the last place he'd seen her.

He was starving, and didn't care. He deserved to go hungry. And the thought of leaving-of perhaps missing her if she came back-was unbearable. What if she was hurt? What if she needed something and he was out assuaging his thirst?

Who are you kidding? She's gone, fool. You did everything but toss her out the window yourself.

True enough. Still, he waited. It was the only thing he could do. He'd never insult her by trying to find her and convince her to return. Return to what? An unnatural existence with a monster? And what in the world could he ever say to her? "Janet, dear, sorry about kidnapping you and raping you and keeping you and all but calling you a liar to your face, kiss-kiss, let's go home." As the lady herself might say, "In a fuckin' pig's eye."