Kitty Goes to War Page 37

Ben slept in and woke to find me sitting on the sofa, staring out the balcony window at the depressed gray day. He was shirtless, dressed only in sweats, and his skin looked warm and touchable.

“Think this’ll clear up by tonight?” he said.

It was full-moon night. Even when the sky was overcast, I could feel its power tugging at me, a restlessness turning in my gut that would grow stronger until the night itself, when it would boil over.

I reached up to rub his back, then put my arm around his waist. We’d been out in nastier weather than this. To a wolf, covered in fur, the cold was nothing. Our human forms retained some of that resilience. When we slept, we’d all curl up together, keeping each other warm, even as the snow fell over us. In the morning we’d wake as human, grumbling about coffee and hot showers. But we’d never freeze out in a storm. I mostly worried about the snow keeping us from driving home.

“Yeah. If it’s too bad maybe we can go out east,” I said. Depending on where a storm hit, either the mountains would get dumped on with snow, or the plains would. We could usually find someplace else to be if the snow got too bad.

Normally, I wouldn’t worry about a winter storm impacting the pack’s night out. This time, maybe I should be. “Do you think we should give Cormac a call?”

“What—in case Tyler and Walters give us trouble?” His brow furrowed. I knew he didn’t want to get Cormac involved—he might be tempted to take action.

“No. To find out if maybe Franklin can start blizzards as well as hurricanes.”

“We don’t even know that he can start hurricanes.”

“Cormac said he was up to something. What if it’s this?” I pointed to the falling snow.

It wasn’t a blizzard. Not yet. In fact, it might have been slowing down—the gray clouds were only spitting flakes, which melted as soon as they touched down. Wet, messy—but not a blizzard.

“You’re—” He stopped.

“What? I’m what?”

“I was about to say paranoid. But sometimes, you’re right.”

“So I should call Cormac.”

“Maybe in just a minute,” he said, and wrapped his arms around me, trapping me against his body. I could feel his chest move with his breathing, and time stopped for a moment as we watched the snow fall. If only all mornings could be like this.

CORMAC WANTED to meet and talk, which meant he had something. He came over to the condo midmorning, sheltering a manila folder inside his leather jacket. His brown hair was dark with damp from the falling snow.

Ben and I were dressed and ready for company by then. We gathered around the dining room table over hot coffee.

“What have you got?” Ben said.

“Two things: a lot of speculation, and this.” Cormac pulled a page from the folder. It showed a blurry photograph, low resolution, high angle—footage from a security camera, maybe. The setting seemed to be the lobby of an office building, at night—polished granite floors, potted ferns in the corners and at a security desk. Lights flared in reflection off a row of glass doors.

Two figures were shaking hands. One of them was clearly Franklin, much as I’d seen him last week, in his expensive coat and confident bearing. The other was a blur, indistinguishable. As if the person was moving, maybe turning quickly at the sound of a noise.

But that wasn’t it. I had seen this before.

“It’s surveillance footage,” I said.

Cormac nodded. “From the lobby of the building in New York where Franklin has his offices.”

“How the hell did you get this?” Ben asked.

“You sure you want to know?” Cormac answered.

“This isn’t going to be admissible in court, is it?” Ben said.

“Probably not, but we’re past that. Here’s the speculation: I think Franklin’s a hired gun. But I don’t have a clue who he’s working for.”

“That’s a vampire,” I said, pointing to the mysterious blurry figure. Vampires didn’t always show up on camera—they could when they chose to. But they could also manipulate the way they interacted with light—traveling in shadow, seeming to appear and disappear magically. No reflections. And blurring their recorded images.

Cormac looked at me, his lips pressed in a line. After a moment he said, “Yeah. Maybe. That’s more speculation.”

“Franklin’s a hit man?” Ben said, leaning over the table, looking confused. “But why? He owns a multimillion-dollar corporation.”

“You should know better than anybody, some guys don’t get into it for the money,” Cormac said. “If I’m right, then Kitty’s right, and Speedy Mart’s a front that lets Harold Franklin travel all over the country, anchoring his spells to do whatever he needs to do. And it always looks like an accident. A natural disaster. Collateral damage covers up the hit even better.”

“Isn’t it more likely that Franklin’s doing the hiring of whoever this guy is?” Ben’s inclination was to argue. To poke holes in arguments. I was grateful for that now, because Cormac’s story sounded crazy. Except that it made so much sense. I bet even Charles from Shreveport hadn’t considered this explanation.

“Anything’s possible,” Cormac said, and the phrase had never sounded truer. He nodded at me. “Except you look like you know who this vampire is.”

“Roman,” I said. Ben rubbed his hand through his hair. His shoulders had gone stiff, like hackles rising, and his body seemed poised to spring.

Cormac noticed it and glanced between us. “That guy you tangled with last year? The two-thousand-year-old vampire?”

“Yeah.”

“This sound like something he would do?”

“Yeah,” I said. And I wasn’t surprised, I couldn’t be. I knew Roman would be back, somehow. “So Franklin’s trying to kill me—”

“Or punish you. Show that he—and whoever hired him—has power over you. They waited for an opening, and you gave them one when you did your show. Discredit you with the lawsuit, punish you with whatever Franklin has cooking. They might even have planted some stories to encourage you.”

So I’d brought this on myself. If I’d just shut up, if I hadn’t gone poking the wasp’s nest… But no. I had every right to question Franklin. Because I was right, dammit. I said, “You guessed all this because this is how you would do it. The hit-man mentality.”

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