Kitty Rocks the House Page 13

“You have a counterpart at Interpol?” I said. “Why didn’t you tell me this? Why didn’t you tell me this before I went to London? Can you imagine the interview I could have gotten—”

“Wait a minute, slow down. Yes, I have a counterpart, and to be snide about it, you never asked. We were all sick of being embarrassed in our local departments, so we started talking to each other. Amazing what we’re finding out.”

“What? What are you finding out?”

She pointed at the sketch. “Tell me about him, first.”

If I gave away anything about this guy to Hardin, Rick would never forgive me. I gave her a very bland smile. “You’ll have to talk to Rick.”

“Is this some kind of supernatural territory thing?” she said. “Vampire versus werewolf, not stepping on toes, all that?”

“More like a not stabbing friends in the back thing,” I said. “I’m sorry. Rick really is the guy you want to talk to. He knows more than I do anyway.”

“This guy’s here in Denver, isn’t he?” she said. “If he really did commit those crimes, aren’t you worried about him pulling the same shit here?”

Which was why I wanted to get out of here so I could call Rick before Hardin did. “Yeah, actually. And I’ll call you if I hear about anything that urgent. I promise.”

She frowned, arching her brow. I looked back at her, wearing my best innocent face. We probably could have stared at each other like that for the rest of the afternoon. But I didn’t have the time.

I gestured over my shoulder to the car. “I’m going to go now.”

She slipped the picture and folder back under her arm. “I’ll be in touch.”

“Nice talking to you,” I said, waving. Then I jumped in my car and started the engine. She watched me drive off. Pure intimidation.

After driving around the corner, I pulled over and called Rick. Half a dozen rings later, the call went to voice mail. Of course it did—the sun was still up. I’d have to wait until after dusk to talk to him. I had to comfort myself with the knowledge that Hardin wasn’t getting through to him, either.

I did the only thing I could—left a message and waited for his return call.

* * *

NIGHT FELL, and Rick didn’t return my call. We had a couple of weeks until our meeting with the vampire delegate from Buenos Aires, which seemed simultaneously too long to wait and too little time to prepare. And always, always, I had the sense that a timer was ticking down to something, and that some malevolence was waiting for me just around the corner.

Usually, I could trust Rick to return calls, but this time I wanted to get to him before Hardin did, and he could decide whether or not to warn—or even trust—Columban. I went looking for him.

Cormac hadn’t called, either, which meant he hadn’t learned anything about where the priest was staying. I had no other leads.

I parked my car behind Obsidian, but never made it to the stairs leading down to Rick’s lair. The spring air was still, sharp with the last cold of winter. My nose flared, awakened by a scent, thick and intrusive, both familiar and alien. Lupine, fur and musk overlaid with human skin, civilizing soap. Male. Werewolf, but not one of ours. Another stranger. Hardin was right, too many weird people had been coming through Denver.

A strange werewolf was downtown, and he hadn’t asked for permission to be here. Just showed up without any warning. He probably had a perfectly good reason for it that would elicit my sympathy, and we would become great friends as soon as I got the explanation. In the meantime, Wolf bristled. She wanted to hunt him down. One more thing to worry about. Ticked me off.

I pulled my phone out of my jeans pocket and called Ben.

He answered, “Hey.”

“Hey, I’m downtown. Can you get down here?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Someone’s in our territory. I don’t recognize the scent.”

“Give me ten minutes. Meet at New Moon?”

“Yeah.” We hung up.

The strange werewolf had been through here recently. Last full moon had been three weeks ago, and our territory had been safe then. He could have arrived in town anytime since then and kept to ground, or he could have just gotten here. So was he announcing his arrival, or was he too stupid to cover his trail?

I tracked him west. He was on foot, following sidewalks. Just a guy out for a stroll. He wasn’t traveling in a straight line, though. His path veered north, toward Civic Center Park, then circled the block back toward the art museum. Like the guy was sightseeing or something. I checked my phone—I needed to get to New Moon to meet Ben. Oddly, the stranger’s trail bent toward the same path. He’d headed to the restaurant, too, and recently.

Who was this guy? I called Ben again.

“Hey, Ben? You at New Moon yet, because I think he’s headed in your direction.” My voice was tense.

“Um, yeah,” he said. “The guy’s already here.”

I started jogging. “Who is he? What’s happening?”

“We’re outside. We’re waiting.” He sounded calm. Not relaxed, but not panicked, either. Guy was there, but not threatening.

“Yeah?” I said, wanting to know more, not knowing what to ask.

“Just get over here.”

I made myself slow down, so I could have the last couple of blocks to catch my breath and not be gasping when I faced the stranger. This was going to be some stupid misunderstanding. I was going to have to play self-help guru face-to-face to some adoring fan who didn’t know any better, wasn’t I? I ought to be grateful something like this hadn’t happened before now.

Within sight of New Moon’s brick façade, his scent became crystal clear. My nose gave me a picture before I actually saw him. He was a werewolf, but a civilized one, with clean clothes and washed hair, comfortable with being human. Ben caught my gaze first. He was standing at the outside edge of the sidewalk, arms loosely crossed. His shoulders were stiff, though, his back straight as a rod and his chin up in a show of dominance. After a second he turned away from me to glare again at the man leaning on the wall of the building.

He was the kind of werewolf who you could look at and imagine that he really was a werewolf, a monster, under the human skin. Muscular, with broad shoulders and powerful arms. No doubt he worked out and knew how to fight. Slouching, he was as tall as Ben, and would tower above us both if he straightened. But he was carefully keeping himself small. He was smiling, seeming way too casual for the situation he was in—facing an alpha pair whose territory he’d intruded on. He wasn’t making a challenge—his gaze was downcast. But he didn’t seem at all worried. So maybe everything was okay and he had a good reason for being here.

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