Kitty Rocks the House Page 2

“You must be Andy and Michelle,” I said.

She blushed and smiled; he nodded, only raising his gaze to us for brief moments. The werewolf pair had gone submissive, which was a little unnerving—they were the alphas of the Phoenix pack, strong and dominant. I’d been able to send a message ahead to warn them we were coming, that we had no intentions of invading, and could we please have permission to stay in their territory for as long as we needed for the funeral? They’d sent a welcoming message back. I wasn’t sure we’d even meet them while we were here, or if they’d keep their distance.

“Thanks,” Ben said. “For letting us pass through. I hope it hasn’t caused any trouble.”

“Oh, no,” Andy said. “I hope you haven’t had any trouble. You haven’t, have you? You have everything you need? Is there anything else we can do for you? A place to run, maybe?”

“No,” Ben said. “Full moon’s not for another week, fortunately.”

“Ah, good,” Michelle said. “I mean, not good—I’m really sorry about your grandmother.”

My polite smile was feeling awfully stiff. “Thanks. We’d probably better get back to it. We’ll let you know if we need anything. Really.” I started backing away slowly.

“It’s nice meeting you,” Michelle said. She was so earnest I could almost see her tail wagging. “I mean—you’re not really what we expected.”

“What did you expect?” I said.

She ducked her gaze. “Well, you both look so friendly. I guess we expected you to be…”

“Tougher. Tougher looking,” Andy finished. His smile appeared as strained as my own felt. “Given some of the stories we’ve heard.”

“Ah,” I said. “I think some of those stories exaggerate.”

“Even so. It’s still pretty impressive.”

I shuddered to think. Exactly what did I look like from the outside, anyway? I was just a talk radio host. A werewolf talk radio host who’d publically declared war on a shadowy vampire conspiracy. Alrighty, then.

“Thanks again,” Ben said. “We’ll be out of your territory in a couple of days.”

Their smiles suddenly seemed relieved. Ben and I waved good-bye and walked back to the cars.

I frowned. “They’ve been keeping an eye on us the whole time we’ve been here, haven’t they? Just to make sure we wouldn’t start a fight.”

“Seems likely.” His smile was amused, his hands shoved in the pockets of his suit jacket. I was a little offended that he wasn’t more worried, or at least insulted.

“They acted like I might try to eat them. When did I become such a badass?”

“Your reputation precedes you,” Ben said.

“I don’t even know what reputation that is anymore. I don’t even recognize myself, the way they were looking at me.”

“Don’t let it go to your head.”

“On the contrary, I think I’d rather ignore it completely.” I wouldn’t know how to act like the badass tough they’d expected.

Cheryl was watching our approach from the edge of the groups of relatives still lingering and talking. There was one person who’d never see her little sister as a badass.

“Do you know them?” she asked. Andy and Michelle were walking away, into a different section of the cemetery.

“Not really,” I said, and left it at that.

“You’re kinda weird, you know that?”

“I’m a werewolf,” I said, glaring. “Trust me, Cheryl, you don’t want to know.”

She rolled her eyes at me.

It wasn’t until the reception was almost over, after Mom, Dad, and Cheryl had already left for their hotel room, after I’d said good-bye to all the relatives without knowing when I was going to see any of them again—we made noises about a family reunion, or maybe a big wedding anniversary celebration, or something—and Ben and I were walking out to our car, parked at the curb a block down the street, that I started crying. The tears burst, all at once, without warning, soaking my cheeks. I choked on a blubbering breath I couldn’t quite seem to catch.

Stopping, I squeezed my eyes shut and held my nose in an effort to stop the stinging.

“Kitty?” Ben had gone on a few more steps before looking back.

I took a deep, stuttering breath that staved off the waterworks. “I’m fine. It just got me for a second.”

He took my hand and leaned close, not to kiss me, but to let his breath play over my neck. His touch, the scent of him, calmed me. I was safe, I was protected. We stood like that for a moment, taking comfort in each other’s presence.

“I’ll drive, okay?” he said finally.

“Okay.”

I slouched in the passenger seat, watching the suburban tract housing pass by as we drove away. I turned over the thought that had pushed me over the edge, had triggered the grief I’d kept at bay for the last few days. Grandma had always called me Katherine, refusing any less dignified nickname. Never mind that I hadn’t displayed a lot of dignity as a kid. To her, I was Katherine.

Then it hit me: now, the only people in the world who’d call me Katherine were vampires with an overdeveloped sense of decorum. It was enough to make anyone cry.

Chapter 2

SOON AFTER returning to Denver, I had a meeting in the basement of a downtown art and antiques gallery. The gallery, Obsidian, was a front, disguising the vampire hideout of the Master of Denver. In a room that looked way too much like an average suburban living room to be part of a vampire hideout, I sat on a sofa with Rick, looking over the coffee table at our visitor.

The vampire sitting in the armchair across from us defied classification. Nasser was Master of Tripoli. He appeared to be in his midthirties, and had an imposing presence—long face, serious frown, and dark, simmering eyes. His dark hair and beard were perfectly trimmed, aristocratic. He looked like he should have been riding camels with Peter O’Toole. But instead of flowing white robes, he wore a charcoal gray three-piece suit with a white shirt and conservative burgundy tie. The style of it should have dated him, making him seem more at home in the 1950s than the modern era. Instead, Nasser was timeless. He’d be at home anytime, anyplace, and pinning an age to him became impossible. Rick thought he was at least a thousand years old. That he’d come to Denver himself instead of sending a minion said something about how important this was to him. I was flattered, and wary. He’d brought an entourage of sorts, a trio of male vampire bodyguards who looked the part, with linebacker physiques and dark suits. They waited outside, sizing up Rick’s own entourage, the vampires of his Family.

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