Rogue Page 33

The Alpha opened his mouth to make his grand revelation, but I beat him to the punch. I just couldn’t resist.

“We’re looking for a tabby.”

I’d whispered, but they all heard me clearly in the eager silence created by our Alpha’s theatrical pause. At the edge of my vision, Marc gaped at me, but my eyes were on my father, whose face registered first surprise, then annoyance. Then pride. He was proud of me for figuring it out on my own.

I grinned, relishing what felt like a rare moment of competence. But my father kept watching me, as if waiting for more. My smile faded as I wondered what I was missing. Was he irritated at me for one-upping him on purpose? Instead of answering my unspoken question, he smiled and glanced from me to the rest of the guys. Whatever was on his mind, he didn’t want to talk about it in front of everyone else. At least, not yet.

“How did you know?” he asked at last, moving on as if he’d never paused.

“Deductive reasoning.” Beaming openly now, I glanced from face to astonished face, unbothered by the knowledge that they were reacting to my news, not my skill in deducing it. “There’s no way the average stray would let someone else get close enough to hurt him without going on the defensive. Unless that someone was a girl. Specifically, a tabby —the tomcat’s Achilles’ heel.”

Ethan frowned, skepticism etched into every line on his face at the thought that a girl could ever be his downfall. I was more than happy to burst his sexist bubble.

“Tell him, Dad. Harper and Moore got their tickets punched by a girl.

And it could just as easily have happened to you, Ethan.” Self-defense would have been the last thing on my youngest brother’s mind if he’d met a strange tabby on the street. He’d have been more concerned with getting his hands on her than with keeping hers off him.

“No way.” He shook his head, short black hair falling across his forehead.

I sighed. Tomcats aren’t threatened by tabbies. I’m proud to consider myself the exception to that rule, but general y speaking, male werecats see nothing to fear in the female of the species. Even as a member of the not-sogentler sex, I’d made the same mistake. The truth was that we’d al been trained from birth to underestimate women. Some of us, to underestimate ourselves.

While human society had made wonderful progress in the struggle for gender equality, the werecat community was still decades behind the times. Irritating though that fact was, I understood the reason. Tabbies are very rare, averaging only one out of every six or seven Pride births.

Once you add in the strays, who are all male, the ratio of tabbies to toms becomes even smal er.

Since technology has yet to eliminate the necessity of a womb in the process of procreation, female werecats are not only rare, but very valuable.

How do people treat rare and valuable treasures? With great care and respect. And with a single-minded determination to eliminate all possible dangers. For that reason, most tabbies grow up to be full-time moms, like my mother. As such, they can remain under the watchful eyes and protective arms of their husbands and teams of enforcers, who would gladly give their own lives to protect the woman who will someday bear the next generation of werecats.

Frustrating, and frighteningly archaic, but true.

And when I thought about it that way, it wasn’t really much of a surprise that none of us had considered that the killer could be a woman.

Or that Harper and Moore had let her slip through their personal defenses. Fear for his life was probably the last thing on either man’s mind when he saw the mystery tabby. The first was no doubt lust. On second thought, that might have been the only thing on either of their minds.

“Think about it,” I said, enjoying my moment in the limelight. “You guys have been falling for that one since the beginning of time.

Remember Adam and Eve? Samson and Delilah? Need I go on?”

Apparently not, judging by the less-than-friendly looks on their faces.

And I had serious doubts they’d recognize references to Calypso, Circe, or Scheherazade. Maybe Lorena Bobbitt…

“Whatever.” Ethan glanced from me to Marc, then back to me. “If you’re so sure it’s a tabby now, why didn’t either of you recognize the scent in the first place?”

Shrugging, I crossed my arms over my chest. “The smell is very faint, and just like the rest of you, we went into this expecting to find a tom’s scent. So that’s exactly what we found. Or what we thought we found.

Besides, I can’t speak for Marc, but I was blindsided by the foreign aspect of the scent. That surprised me—” and scared me “—so much that I didn’t think to analyze any further.”

Marc nodded in agreement, threading his warm fingers through mine.

I squeezed his hand in response, thanking him silently for backing me up.

If we’d both missed the cat’s gender, I didn’t come off looking like such an idiot.

“Well, she’s not a jungle cat.” My father’s voice rang into a silence broken only by the crickets chirruping outside, and I felt a smal measure of tension ease from the cramped muscles in my neck. “She lacks that distinctive Amazonian scent. But she’s definitely from somewhere south of the equator.”

“Holy…crap.” Vic glanced at our Alpha as he altered what he’d been about to say. “A South American tabby? We’re looking for a serial-killing foreign tabby cat? In our territory? How is that even possible?”

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