Dead and Loving It (Page 12)

recognized it anymore. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, think it over. I know Jeannie’d like to meet you. If nothing else, to be proved right. She lives for that s**t.” This was said in a tone of grudging admiration.

“We’ll see.”

Drake heard Wade inhale, and stretch again. “Fine, be a stubborn a*s, I don’t care. Better beat feet out of here. Gonna be a long one. Last night of the full

moon.”

“Happy trails,” he said dryly. “Again, try not to eat anyone.”

“Again,” the larger man said, loping off, “don’t make me puke. Company

.

coming.”

“Yes, I—” He nearly fell down, right there in the alley. “I know.”

“Jeez,” the girl said, coming closer. She glanced over her shoulder at the rapidly retreating Wade, then turned and glared at the unconscious gang. “You gigantic losers!”

Everything was suddenly very bright, very sharp. The exhalations of the would-be attackers, Wade’s retreating footsteps, the girl’s perfume—L’Occitane Green Tea.

He could see her.

Not sense her, not get an idea of where she was and how she felt by her voice. See her. Everything around her was shades of gray, but she stood out like a beacon.

She was short—her head stopped right around the middle of his chest. And her hair was that light, sunny color he assumed people meant when they said blonde. Her eyes were an odd color…not blue like ice was blue, and not purple like people had described irises…somewhere in between.

Her hair was brutally short and so were her nails. She was wearing six earrings in her left ear, and eight in her right. She had a nose ring, a hoop through her left eyebrow, and her shirt was short enough to show off the bellybutton ring. Her stomach was sweetly rounded, and she was wearing shorts so brief they were practically denim panties. Her black tights were strategically ripped, showing flashes of creamy skin. Her tennis shoes (what color was that? Red? Orange?) were loosely tied with laces that weren’t any color at all.

“Are you all right, guy? I’m really sorry if they tried anything. I told them to cut the s**t. I didn’t think they, y’know, meant it.”

..

He gaped at her.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, glancing at the cane. “I didn’t realize. Do you need me

to walk you somewhere? Did they hurt you?”

“I can see you!”

“Ooooookey-dokey.” She took a cautious step backward. “Listen, I’ve got

stuff to do tonight—last chance. D’you need me to call you a cab or something?”

“Holy Mary Mother of God!”

“So, no. Well, ‘bye.” She turned, and, frozen, he watched her walk away. Her butt was flat, and she hitched up her shorts, which gaped around her waist. He couldn’t begin to imagine her age—twenty-two? Twenty-five? He had at least fifteen years on her.

He heard a crack, and dropped the cane—he’d been gripping it too hard, and it had split down the middle. Why could he see her? Why now? Was it a function of the full moon? If so, why hadn’t it ever happened before? Who was she? And where was she going in such a hurry?

The clouds scudded past the moon, and suddenly he had twice as many teeth.

CHAPTER THREE

Crescent stood on the rooftop and stared down at the street. It wasn’t so far. One measly story. Shoot, people fell that far all the time and survived…mostly…and besides, she wasn’t a regular person. Probably.

If she was ever going to fly, now was the time.

She put her hands on the ledge and started to boost herself up, when she felt a sharp tug on the seat of her shorts and went flying backward. She hit the gravel rooftop and all the breath whooshed out of her lungs. So she lay there and gasped like a fish out of water, and when she was able, rolled over on her knees.

The largest wolf she had ever seen was sitting three feet away. She was too startled to be frightened. And he wasn’t growling or biting, just staring at her in the moonlight.

A dog she could almost understand, even here, in the middle of the city. But a wolf? Where had it come from? Did it escape from a zoo? And how did it get up on the roof? Could wolves climb fire escapes? Was there a fire escape?

If she spread her fingers as wide as she could, its paws were just about that size. And its head was almost twice as wide as hers, with deep, almost intelligent brown eyes. His fur was a rich, chocolate brown shot with silver strands, and when the breeze ruffled its pelt, the wolf looked noble…almost kingly.

“What’d you do that for?” she asked the wolf. “If I want an animal biting my butt, I’ll start dating again.”

It stared at her. She supposed she should have been scared, but had no sense of menace from it.

“All the better to see you with, my dear,” she muttered. “Now you stay here. I have to do something.” She got up, brushed the dust off her knees, and started for the ledge. She got about a step and a half when she heard a warning growl behind her. She threw up her hands and spun around. “Jeez, what are you? Why are you picking on me? And why do you care? Look, I won’t get hurt. I can fly. I mean, I’m pretty sure. And if I’m wrong—but I don’t think I am—it’s only one

story.”

Nope. The wolf wasn’t buying it.

“Well, hell,” she said, and sat down cross-legged.

It had been a long day, and a longer night. Almost before she knew it, she

was tipping sideways. The gravel was probably cutting her cheek, but it felt like the softest of down pillows.

She slept.

CHAPTER FOUR

She was stiff, and freezing, and someone was shaking her by the shoulder. What the hell had happened to her cot?

She opened her eyes to see a man down on one knee beside her. And, hello! Not bad for an old guy. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, and had great dark eyes, brown hair touched with gray, and smile lines bracketing his mouth. His shoulders, in the dark suit and greatcoat he wore, were impossibly broad. His thighs were almost as big around as her waist, and he was crouching over her like a dark angel. It was a little disturbing, but kind of cool.

“Good morning.” His voice was deep, pleasant. He probably worked in radio. “Are you all right?”

“Sure,” she said, but she groaned when she sat up. “I can’t believe I fell asleep up here.” She brushed gravel off her cheek and looked around. The wolf was gone, thank goodness. “Oh, s**t! I never got to—never mind.”

“What are you doing up here?”

“Mind your own beeswax,” she said. “You can go now.”

“You don’t seem suicidal,” he commented.

“I’m not!”

“Then why are you up on a roof?”

“You’ll laugh at me.”

“Doubtful.”

“Also, it’s none of your business.”

“Well,” he said pleasantly, “I’m not leaving you up here by yourself. So you might as well tell me.” “Dammit!” What was going on? First the gang decided to be dumb (dumber than usual, anyway,) then a weird-a*s giant wolf tormented her, and now this guy. God hated her is what it was. “Fine, I’ll tell. I’m pretty sure I can fly. I’ve felt I could all my life. It sort of—runs in my family. Except my family’s all dead, so I never really knew for sure for sure, y’know? So, anyway, last night I finally screwed up the courage to try, but I couldn’t because—never mind, you’ll think I’m a nut-job. More so than now, I mean. Anyway, that’s why I’m up here. Not to die. To fly.” “Mmmm.” He put a big hand on her face and peered at her pupils. “Well, you’re not on drugs. That’s something.”

“I quit doing drugs when I was seventeen,” she snapped, and batted his hand away. “I’ve been clean for ages.”

“And you’re not terminally ill,” he finished.

“How d’you know that?”

“I’m a doctor, it’s my job to know.”

“What, did you do a blood test in my sleep?”

He ignored that. “What’s your name?”

“Why do you care?”

He looked at her soberly. “I care.”

Weird. But cool. Okay, fine. “It’s Crescent.”

“That’s it?”

“No, I have a last name, but I’m not telling.”

“Why? Are you a fugitive?”

“I wish. It’s just that everybody laughs. You’ll laugh.”

He raised his hand, palm out. “I promise I won’t laugh.”

“It’s Muhn.”

“Crescent Moon?”

“The h,” she said with as much dignity as she could, “is silent.”

“That’s all right,” he told her. “My last name is Dragon.”

“Doctor Dragon?”

“Doctor Drake Dragon.”

“Oh dear.” She giggled. “We’re both cartoons.”

“You realize, of course, that we must get married.” He said this with a perfectly straight face, which made her laugh harder.

“It’s just too good a story to tell our grandchildren,” she agreed. “But first I have to do this. So, good-bye.”

“Come down and have breakfast with me instead,” he coaxed.

Interestingly, she was tempted. He really was a stone fox. And she hadn’t been on a date in… Let’s see, she had been able to legally drink for three years, and there was that guy who took her to the rave right after…

Wait a minute.

“Wait a minute!” God, she was slow this morning. “You’re the blind guy from the alley!” Except he didn’t seem blind. He’d checked her pupils, for crying

out loud.

“Yes,” he confirmed.

“You don’t seem very blind.”

He hesitated, then said again, “Have breakfast with me.”

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