Kitty Rocks the House Page 16

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Thanks, Kitty. I really appreciate it,” Darren said, beaming his calm smile at us.

Not only did he get in the first word, he had to get the last one, too. Whatever.

Shaun went back to work at the bar, but Becky and Tom stayed behind to talk to Darren. The glamour of the new.

Outside, a faint breeze brought the scent of distant mountains, of spring pines and stone, through the asphalt and fumes of the city. I filled my lungs, and the walk to the car was calm.

“Did I make the right call?” I asked Ben.

“We’ll find out,” he said.

“That’s not comforting.” I took his hand and squeezed.

“You’re still wondering if you’re doing this alpha thing right, aren’t you?”

“I’m pushing thirty. Isn’t life supposed to get easier?”

Ben laughed.

Chapter 7

RICK NEVER returned my call that night, and I worried. As I tossed and turned in bed, reaching to the nightstand to check my phone on the off chance I hadn’t heard the ring, Ben kept pointing out that Rick had survived a very long time and could reasonably be expected to take care of himself for the foreseeable future.

“Besides,” he added, “Columban didn’t seem interested in hurting Rick.”

“Then what about those arson cases in Europe? Rick doesn’t know about those and I doubt Columban would tell him.”

He murmured sleepily onto the back of my neck. “Kitty. Relax. Please.”

I tried, honest I did. But I kept waiting for that call, as I watched dawn lighten the sky outside the bedroom window.

Somehow, I got myself to work and made a show of accomplishing something, despite all the potential interviewees who wouldn’t return my calls, press releases I was supposed to be reviewing, messages I should have been answering, my second book that wasn’t writing itself. The file for it glared on my monitor, displaying too much white space.

When my cell phone finally did ring, I dived for it. The prey had revealed itself at last, and I pounced. Even though in the middle of the day, in full sunlight, it couldn’t possibly be Rick, who was holed away in his lair, asleep. I hoped he was.

This call came from Cormac. Maybe he had some good news. I answered, “Yeah?”

“I think I found where your vampire priest is holed up.”

“You did? Where?” If we found Columban, I’d bet we’d find Rick.

“You want to go see?”

“We’re not going to be sneaking up on this guy, are we?”

“It’s the middle of the day, what can he do? I’ll pick you up.”

Twenty minutes later his Jeep was at the curb in front of KNOB. Bag and jacket in hand, I piled into the passenger seat. He drove off without a word.

We’d gone six or seven blocks before I couldn’t stand the silence anymore. “So what’d you find?” I asked.

He wore a thin, wry smile. “You gotta ask yourself, if you were a priest, and a vampire, where would you go?”

“I’m not really in the mood for this,” I said.

“It’s pretty funny.”

“Come on? Where?”

He was enjoying himself too much to give the surprise away. I crossed my arms and slouched.

We crossed the freeway into downtown, and he turned from Colfax onto the Auraria campus, a collection of university buildings on a surprisingly pastoral campus for being the middle of downtown Denver. He made a couple of turns into a warren of buildings and parked in a circular drive beside a large, pink church. It had two square, neo-Spanish colonial towers in front; a curved, graceful roofline; gray trim. It must have been almost a century old, and the rest of the city had clearly grown up around it.

“Here it is.”

I pointed at the crosses at the top of the building. “It’s a church.”

“Yup.”

“I thought vampires couldn’t go into churches,” I said. “Consecrated ground and all that.”

“But this one’s not a church anymore. The parish moved out in the seventies, and it’s been used as an auditorium ever since. There’s a dinosaur museum in the basement.”

So, where do you go to find a vampire priest? A deconsecrated church. Of course. I chuckled. “Well, that’s cute.”

He opened the door and climbed out.

“Wait, what are you doing?” I called, scrambling out of my side of the Jeep. “You can’t go staking him or anything. Rick’ll kill us.”

He glanced at me sidelong, and I growled under my breath.

“I’m only guessing he’s here,” he said. “A vampire isn’t going to leave a trail or reveal himself unless he wants to. Nothing’s better at hiding than they are. But you’ve seen it before—don’t look for the vampire, look for what he’s using to protect himself. I made a list of likely places and started visiting them, and I found something.”

We walked around to the back of the building, to a quiet space by a house connected to the church—the former rectory. A row of shrubs and a flower garden, daffodils nodding and lilacs filling the air with a heady smell, sheltered the space from the foot traffic on the sidewalk.

Cormac knelt on the ground, and I knelt with him, watching. He pulled items out of his pockets and arranged them on the lawn in front of him, which meant he was going to work a spell. Or, Amelia was. Because of her, I never knew what Cormac was going to draw from his figurative hat next. His pockets always had arcane bits and pieces in them.

He picked up a stub of a red candle, the wick already blackened; a sprig of some herb; and a piece of black twine. He wrapped the herb to the candle with the twine, then lit the candle using a cheap lighter, which seemed wrong somehow. A real wizard ought to be able to spark it out of thin air, right? But I’d hung around with enough magicians over the last few years to know the answer to that: you don’t waste magic on something you can do without it. The cheap lighter ignited the candle’s wick just fine.

Cormac’s lips moved, mouthing words. He stepped forward, toward the church wall, holding the candle in front of him, its flame wavering with the movement. About twenty steps away, the yellow drop of fire went out. The air was still, but a stray breeze might have extinguished it. I looked around, as if expecting to find that some invisible person nearby had blown it out.

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