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. What happened to your arm? Kai asked asI threw another punch.I d skipped thegloves, but what were skinned knuckles com-pared to torn flesh, bruised hearts, andeverything else my fellow cats were sufferingupstairs? 227/839I swiped my good arm across my sweatyforehead without looking at him. I broke it.And that reminder sucked up what little joyremained in my useless punching, so I shif-ted my weight onto my left foot and let myright leg fly.I hit the heavy bag hard enoughto make it swing sluggishly, and the blow ra-diated into my knee and beyond.A tinyspark of triumph shot through me.Kickingwas better.There was nothing wrong withmy legs. How did you break it? Kai asked, obviouslyunbothered by my pointedly short answers.I steadied the bag with my good hand andfaced him, hoping I looked fierce in spite ofthe scribbled-on cast. I broke it dispatchingof the bastards who tried to kill several of myPride mates.I expected Kai to flinch, or laugh, or showobvious skepticism.Instead, he only nodded 228/839solemnly.Almost respectfully. So you un-derstand our need for vengeance. No. I whirled again and grunted as my leftleg hit the bag. We deal in justice. Justice and vengeance are the same. Now you re just lying to yourself to validateblood thirst. I kicked again, and the bagswung harder. Justice is for the victim.Kick. Vengeance is for the survivor. Kick.Istopped to steady the bag again and glancedat the bird now watching me in fascination. You re not doing this for Finn. I threw aleft jab and had to stop myself from follow-ing it with a right out of habit. You re doing it for yourselves, and that sanything but honorable. Contempt drippedfrom my voice, and blood smeared the bagwhen my knuckles split open with the nextpunch. 229/839 We punish the guilty as a warning to futureaggressors, Kai insisted, and I turned to seehim scowling, small dark eyes flashing in thedim light from the dusty fixture overhead. There was no aggression! I threw my handsinto the air. Your boy tried to take awerecat s kill.That s fucking suicide.Don tyou harpies have any instinct? Or commonsense?Kai drew himself straighter, taller, thoughthe movement must have stung in every un-treated gash spanning his chiseled stomach. We are birds of prey, but carrion will sufficein a pinch.The kill was abandoned in our huntinggrounds.Finn had every right to a share. It wasn t abandoned.The hunter  I wascareful not to give out Lance s name   justwent to tell the group he d brought down 230/839dinner.And for the record, a werecat is onlyobligated to share his meal with higher-rank-ing toms and his own wife and children,should he have them.Our custom says nothing about donating toany vulture who swoops out of the sky. He wasn t in werecat territory.Okay, technically Kai had a point, but thatwas only by chance.In many cases, territor-ies of different species often overlap, mostlybecause what few other species have outlas-ted werewolves exist in such small numbersas to be inconsequential to us.Or so we d thought. You know what? None of that matters.Frowning, I kicked a boxing glove across thefloor and crossed my arms over my chest,annoyed that they didn t fit there, thanks to 231/839the cast. The cat who killed Finn wasn t oneof ours.If he had been, your bird would havedied in our territory.But you just said he didn t.Kai s scowl deepened, and his good handtightened around the bar until his knuckleswent white, the muscles of his thick handsstraining against his skin. If your people areinnocent, where is your proof?Incensed now, I stomped across the grittyconcrete into the weak light from the fixtureoverhead, careful to stay well back from thebars. Our proof was murdered this after-noon.By your honorable informant.The bird only stared at me, probably tryingto judge the truth by my eyes.But I couldn tread his expression.Couldn t tell whether hebelieved me, or even cared one way or theother. You need new proof. 232/839 No shit, Tweety. I turned my back on himand stalked across the floor, then over thethick blue sparring mat to the half bath onthe back wall. Do you even care that whileyou guys are out here slaughtering innocenttoms, the man you re after is hundreds ofmiles away, laughing his ass off?Okay, Lance probably wasn t laughing, buthe had to be at least a little relieved that hewasn t the one being dropped from thirtyfeet in the air by a vengeful, overgrown bird.I squatted and dug beneath the small, dingysink until I found a bottle of rubbing alcoholand a gallon-size bag of gauze squares andmedical tape.We had hydrogen peroxide,but frankly, I wanted the walking eight-piecedinner to sting in every single cut. Here. Back on the mat, I tossed the alcoholunderhanded.It landed a little harder thanI d intended, then slid until it hit the bars, 233/839evidently undamaged. I can t do anythingfor your arm, but maybe this ll prevent gan-grene.Or whatever. While Kai stared at thebottle, obviously confused by my compas-sion, I tossed the bag of bandages, whichsmacked the bars then fell to the ground.Kai bent awkwardly and hopefully pain-fully to pull the bottle through two bars.His gaze shifted from me to the alcohol, thenback again, and his head tilted sharply to theside a decidedly avian motion, which im-plied a very detached curiosity. Why do youcare? For the same reason I don t go aroundkilling innocent toms.Because my humanhalf understands that sometimes compas-sion is the greater part of honor.Ten 234/839Sweaty from my workout, I headed for myshower, but I knew something was wrong themoment I closed my bedroom door.Thedoor to my bathroom stood open and anamorphous shadow lay across my carpet,cast by the brighter light from within.I held my breath but couldn t stop my heartfrom pounding.My first thought, as ridicu-lous as it would seem in hindsight, was thatMalone had somehow breached not only ourterritorial boundary, but our home [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]