Kitty Goes to War Page 19

THE NEXT day at work, I waited for Dr. Shumacher’s call. I wanted to hear that Tyler and Walters had arrived safely and happily in Denver, and that they were eager to embark on bright, happy, well-adjusted lives. I was afraid I would find out there’d been another breakout, and that the trio was again rampaging across the countryside. I was afraid Shumacher would tell me that Colonel Stafford had decided a few silver bullets were the only solution after all.

My phone kept ringing, as usual, but none of the calls came from Dr. Shumacher. It was making me cranky.

I answered yet another call from my desk phone to hear Lisa at reception say, “Hi… um, Kitty?”

“What?” I just about snarled that time.

Lisa sounded a little shaky. “There’s someone here to see you. He doesn’t have an appointment, says his name is Harold Franklin.

Harold Franklin, president of Speedy Mart. Here? “Really?”

“He says he wants to talk to you. Should I send him up?”

“No, that’s okay, I’ll meet him downstairs,” I said, scrambling to gather my thoughts. Why would he be here? He ought to be talking to me through our lawyers. That was the whole point of having lawyers, so you didn’t have to talk to people you were officially mad at. My paranoia got the better of me and I decided I wanted to meet him in the open, with people watching, in case he’d decided on more direct and nefarious action.

I was supposed to be a big, scary monster, so why did I spend so much time worrying about people killing me?

I ran down the stairs and emerged into the KNOB lobby.

He was alone, standing near the reception desk and gazing around the lobby with the abstract interest of someone killing time. He was tall, older—in his early sixties, maybe—his short cropped hair gone to white. He wore a gray suit and overcoat that were probably expensive, and held himself with a lifetime’s worth of confidence and authority. Here was a man used to running empires—corporate empires. The only kind that mattered these days.

“Ah, Ms. Norville,” he said, turning his attention to me.

And why did he make me think of vampires? He wasn’t one. He had a living, beating heart, not to mention it was full daylight outside. It was probably the “I could own you all” attitude.

“Mr. Franklin,” I said, and approached him with my hand politely offered for shaking, which he did in standard corporate fashion. Nothing suspicious here. “Would it be a cliché to say that this is a surprise?”

He chuckled politely. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”

There was really no nice way to make the next conversational gambit. “Um… why exactly are you here?” Here in Denver, here in my building, talking to me

“Is there someplace we can talk privately?” he said, glancing around to indicate the public nature of the lobby, including Lisa, who was failing to pretend to ignore us.

I winced in false apology. “Actually, you know what? I think we’d better talk right here.”

He smiled as if he’d scored a point. Like he’d proven that I was too insecure to talk in private, that I was actually worried, or something. Oh yeah? Well, I scored a point by not caring about that. He shouldn’t even be here while he was suing me. Not without our lawyers. I wanted witnesses.

“All right, then,” he said. “I want to make you an offer.”

“Maybe you should have made me an offer before filing a lawsuit.”

“You might not have taken me seriously, then.”

We’d expected some kind of offer—but certainly not delivered in person. I almost pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and called Ben right there. This guy was playing a game that I didn’t have a copy of the rules for.

“You want to make me an offer, why not call my lawyer? Aren’t you jeopardizing your suit just by being here?” I asked the question knowing he’d have a rehearsed answer, that he probably had an answer for everything.

“Lawyers have their place, but I like to take the measure of my opponents in person. Look them in the eye.”

This smacked of corporate backroom dealing. So not my milieu. Maybe I should have taken him to KNOB’s college-chic conference room to throw him off his game. Not that anything would throw this guy off his game.

His left hand hung at his side, closed in a fist, as if he was holding something. A cell phone maybe. Whatever it was was hidden, and my gaze kept dropping to his hand, hoping for a glimpse. I had to mentally shake myself, bringing my focus back to him.

I crossed my arms and stared him down. “All right. I may regret this, but what’s your offer?”

“I’ll drop the case. All I need is a public apology during your show.”

I was almost surprised that the offer wasn’t more… surprising. “Oh, is that all?”

“It’s reasonable. Neither of us shells out for a court case, neither of us wastes the time, and no harm’s done.”

Except maybe to my reputation. I couldn’t remember—had I ever apologized to anyone on my show, ever?

“But for me to apologize—that would assume I was wrong. So. Am I wrong?”

He chuckled again, sounding even more condescending. “Ms. Norville, is anything you say on your show the truth? When you tell everyone you’re a werewolf, are you telling the truth?”

“Come on, I went over all that years ago. I’m on film, for crying out loud.” This was starting to piss me off. “Here’s the thing, Mr. Franklin. Everything I talked about on my show regarding you and Speedy Mart was pure speculation. I can’t prove if it’s the truth or not. I said that. But your overreaction to the whole thing makes me wonder if I’m on to something. Well? Am I on to something?”

He studied me a moment; I couldn’t guess what he was thinking. Then he smiled broadly. “It doesn’t matter what I believe. My difficulty is that a lot of people out there believe. They’re your bread and butter. They listen to you, whether or not you’re telling the truth.”

I bet he practiced that speech. I bet he worked real hard to make it sound ominous. I glared. “Did you really think you could come here and make threats and that I’d just roll over and show you my belly?”

His eyes narrowed, a hint of anger. Like he really had expected that to happen.

“I’m not making any threats. I’ll be in touch, Ms. Norville.” He left, his Italian leather shoes squeaking on the tile.

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