Kitty Rocks the House Page 20

“Everything’ll be fine.”

“Get there at twilight. We run as a pack.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I scowled. Now he was just being patronizing. “Oh, and if you hurt Becky we’ll all rip your face off.”

He blanched, just a bit, but covered it up with his winning smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not crazy.”

Becky watched him as he returned to their table; they hunched in close, to confer. I felt suddenly tired, but didn’t dare slouch.

Shaun had politely removed himself to the other end of the room, but drifted back over after Darren left.

“It’s all cool?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” I finally took a drink of the beer that had been waiting faithfully for me on the bar. It had gone a bit warm. “I guess we’ll find out.”

Ben wasn’t meeting me tonight, which meant I’d have the one drink and head home. By then, most of the buzz from the show would wear off and I’d be ready to sleep. Or if the buzz hadn’t worn off, maybe I wouldn’t be ready to sleep, and maybe Ben wouldn’t be, either …

My face was buried in the mug when Shaun said, “Hey, look,” and nodded at the front door.

Rick was standing there and tapped the glass when I spotted him. Rick, finally.

I opened the door and let him inside. “You’ve been invited. You can come in.”

“Yes, but I thought I’d be polite,” he said. “Since I’m here to talk and not drink.” He eyed the few people at the bar and scattered at tables appreciatively. I was pretty sure he did it to be funny.

“And for that, I thank you,” I said.

I guided him to a table in back. He sat across from me and, folding his hands before him, regarded me with a serious expression, lips pulled down. I focused on his chin instead of his eyes. He’d never used his vampiric influence on me before—that I knew of—but he looked like he might be willing to start.

“What is it?” I said.

“You and your hunter friend have been digging,” he said.

Oops. My cheeks flushed to burning. “Well, I mean … It was broad daylight, how did you even know?”

He raised a brow at me, indicating that I should know better than to ask such a question. However he’d found out, he wasn’t going to tell me. They were vampires, and that should be enough to explain anything to a mere mortal such as myself.

“You all are very invested in your reputations for omnipotence, you know that?” I said.

“As you say,” he answered.

Omnipotence and inscrutability. How did I ever expect anything different? I said, “I’m just worried. About you. About that guy. I’ve been trying to call you—we need to talk. Detective Hardin’s looking for him. He’s wanted for arson and murder in Europe.”

“That’s really not your concern,” he said, and I started getting angry.

“Yeah, until Hardin comes to me asking questions and I have to cover your ass.”

He turned a hand in apology. “I appreciate that. But this is my business, mine alone. Hardin won’t find him, even if you do help her. In the meantime, it would be better for you and Cormac if you stay out of this.”

“I’d solve a lot of my problems by just staying out of things,” I said. “But if Hardin is right and Columban caused that trouble in Europe, what’s to say he won’t cause the same trouble here?”

“He won’t. Nobody’s in any danger—”

“He makes me nervous,” I said.

“Are you worried because he’s a vampire, or because he’s a Catholic priest?”

“Um, yes?”

He took a deep breath, measuring his words. “You’ve trusted me for years now, Kitty. Have I ever given you a reason not to?”

He never, ever had. In fact, he’d been one of the true friends, an anchor I could count on. He’d helped me more times than I could count. He was my first and strongest proof positive that being a vampire did not make someone a villain.

“No, of course not. You’re right, I shouldn’t be going behind your back and I shouldn’t be worried about you.”

“I don’t know about the second of those,” he said with a wry smile. “Trust me, if I need help, I’ll call.”

“You really should check your messages occasionally, you know. The Mistress of Buenos Aires is going to be showing up in a week. We need to plan.”

“Yes, I know.” He sat back and gazed around the dining room. I watched him take stock of each face, each mundane story unfolding before him. As he usually did in public crowds, he seemed amused, satisfied. He’d said it before: he liked people and being around them. It kept him human. Made it hard to see the five-hundred-year-old vampire in him.

He glanced toward the table where Darren and Becky were sitting. Darren laughed at something, she curled a short lock of hair around her finger. They may have been werewolves but those mating signals were all human. “Who’s the new kid?” Rick asked.

“That’s Darren. A lone wolf who wants to join the pack.”

“How is that working out?”

“This is one of those times I wish this alpha gig came with an instruction manual. So far, so good.” I made an expansive shrug, as if to take in the universe. “We’ll find out for sure on the full moon.”

“Good luck with that.”

“Yeah, no doubt. But you—you’re sure you’re okay?”

“Never been better,” he said.

I needed a moment to consider what a statement like that might really mean for a vampire.

* * *

THE FULL moon pulled at me. The sun was setting, the moon would rise soon, and Ben and I needed to be in the hills west of the city, with the rest of our pack, letting our wolves loose. But I couldn’t, not yet. This happened every month, a battle in my mind, in the core of my being. Part of me could already taste the blood on my tongue. I needed to hunt, because nothing felt so good, so real, so right. My four legs and furred body would burst through this weak human skin. The feeling burned through me, stronger than the anticipation of sex. It must have been what addiction felt like.

Each of us stewed in our own roiling emotions, listening more and more to the wolves in our bellies, increasingly unable not to listen. We locked up the condo and headed to the car. Soon, soon, I whispered to my Wolf, begging her to stay calm. Just for another hour, just a little while longer.

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