I shoved another shirt in the spare bag. We really needed to stop at a store somewhere so Ritch could run in and grab some clothes. He couldn’t wear mine forever, though I liked seeing him in my clothes. I hadn’t been even remotely subtle about my interest and need to protect Ritch. That was probably why Deke had accepted him, even while he was on edge after just mating Kraig.
With everything going on, though, it wasn’t the time to say anything to Ritch. He’d been abused, used in the worst way by people who should’ve protected him, and he’d lost the only family who mattered to him. But I would show him how a human werekin should be treated.
Ritch came out of the bathroom but he stopped in the doorway before his toes could touch the bedroom carpet. “Yes?”
“Since we haven’t had a chance to take you shopping, I packed some of my clothes for you. Would you mind going down to the kitchen and grabbing some snacks and drinks? There’s a cooler in the garage and there should be a soft-sided tote on one of the shelves.”
“I can do that. Is there anything you want in particular?” Ritch rubbed his hands on his thighs.
“How about more of those sandwiches you made yesterday? They were really good.”
Ritch beamed. “The roast beef with the stone ground mustard?”
“Oh yeah.” My mouth was already watering. “A lot of them. I’m starving, and yours always taste better than mine.”
“I put mustard on both slices of bread. How long until we need to leave?” Ritch asked.
“As soon as we’re done packing. We’re going to stop at the store on our way out of town and at least get you the basics.” I
“You don’t have to do that,” Ritch protested. “I don’t want you to spend your money on me.”
“Of course, I don’t.” I stepped into the closet and pushed the clothes to one side so I could get to the safe built into the wall. “But I’m sure you’d like to have some underwear of your own, and you can pick out your own type of deodorant and shampoo so you don’t have to keep using mine if you like something else better. It’s no big deal.”
“I’ll pay you back.” Ritch said that like it was a promise.
“Not necessary. Besides, you’re helping us. The streak pays me a wage, and you will get one too. Christian’s markings can be passed off as tattoos, but mine can’t. I’m going to need your help to talk to any humans.”
Ritch’s eyes were huge. “Really?”
“Yep.” I got the safe open finally and began to pull out my guns. For most clan business, I used my strength and weapons as a bonded werekin. But in the human world, I’d need human weapons. I also found a knife in a sheath that could slid over a belt. “Here.” I stepped out and tossed the knife to Ritch. “You can never be too careful. Just make sure it’s covered when you’re among the humans.”
“A knife?” I’d only thought Ritch’s eyes were huge. Now I could nearly see the whites all around his irises.
“You don’t have claws to protect yourself.”
Ritch flinched. “Oh.” He looked down. “Right. I’ll go make those sandwiches,” he said quietly.
What just happened? He’d gone from surprised and what I thought was happy to monotone with a carefully blank face. I didn’t like it. I replayed what I said in my head, and winced. That had come out wrong, and I needed to apologize. We had to go though.
We could talk in the car.
I pulled out another knife and threaded it on my belt. Maybe that would help.
The windows of my SUV were as dark as legally possible, but I still made sure to pull into a shadowed spot instead of under a light. I reached into my pocket for my wallet. “Here.” I pulled out a card. “Make sure you pick up a wallet too.”
“I had an extra card for my account. This is yours so you can buy what you need. If we got separated, you’d need money.” I held on to the card when Ritch grabbed it. “About what I said earlier. I didn’t mean it like how it sounded. I carry a knife when I leave the compound too. It’s not bad that you don’t have claws, but it does make me want to make sure you have a way to defend yourself. That’s all.”
Ritch’s shoulders relaxed. “I’m sorry. I know you’re not like the guys I grew up with. Being a human werekin isn’t a bad thing to you.”
“It really isn’t, but I’ll try not to say insensitive things if it bothers you.” I let go of the card.
“I said I’ll try. Deke isn’t the only one who has trouble saying the wrong thing.”
Ritch smiled. “I’ll try not to take offense.”
“Appreciate it.” My phone beeped with a text alert. “Oh, make sure you pick up one of those loadable phones too. You’ll need a way to communicate.”
“That’s too expensive,” Ritch protested.
“No, it’s just smart. Everyone needs to be able to stay in contact. We’re looking for traitors who are hurting human werekin. You saw what they did to Kraig, to my dad. You’re a human werekin. I want you to be able to call for help if anything happens. Otherwise I’m going to worry about you.”
“Okay, okay, I get it.”
“I expect you to have enough clothes for at least a week, along with anything else you need. And a sturdy pair of boots. Those sneakers you have aren’t adequate. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve set up their sick experiments in a remote location.”
“Do you want anything?”
“Slim Jims. I’m craving some salty meat.”
Ritch choked, and I pounded on his back. “You okay?”
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