Kitty Rocks the House Page 28

“I can’t believe he broke his arm. All the crap we got into as kids, everything he’s done since, he’s never even smashed a toe. And then he fell?”

I frowned. “I need to talk to Rick.”

“He taking calls now?”

“He’d better be.”

* * *

RICK WAS not, in fact, any more diligent in answering his phone or returning calls than he’d been the week before. Whatever was keeping him busy, Father Columban or otherwise, must have been fascinating.

I decided to track him down at Obsidian, assuming I didn’t get distracted like I had last time. And who in their right mind walked into vampire lairs and knocked on the door? Me, that’s who.

One of the younger vampires—young being under a hundred—answered. She had pale tan skin, which meant she’d probably started life brown, probably Latina. I’d met her once or twice—Christina.

“Hi,” I said brightly. “Rick here?”

“No,” she said and moved to close the door.

I stuck my foot in the way. She kept pushing, and I leaned forward to keep it open, just enough to talk. If we got into a battle of brute force, I’d lose, so I talked fast.

“Where is he, then? I really need to talk to him. We’ve got a meeting with that Argentine vampire set up for Friday, and we need to strategize. Not to mention some weird stuff going on out at the Auraria campus, and he’s not answering his phone—”

“He’s not here.” Her expression was so neutral, so still, she might have been painted on wood.

“Is everything okay?” I said.

She gave an extra hard shove to the door, and I fell back as it slammed shut.

Okay, fine. I had another spot to check.

Some stereotypes were stereotypes because of the seed of truth at the heart of them. Psalm 23 was a vampire nightclub to its core. Filled with beautiful people in startlingly hip clothing drinking from sleek martini glasses. Tailored jackets, skintight sequined cocktail dresses, very high heels. Not a beer bottle or pitcher of margaritas in sight. I was always a tiny bit shocked to realize that former cow town Denver had—had always had, really—this kind of club scene. I didn’t go to places like this before I became a werewolf and started hanging out with people like Rick.

There was a method to the madness of a vampire club. Make it hip and beautiful, and people would swarm, flies to sugar. Why go hunting, when you can set a trap that your prey gladly walks into? The vampires made themselves attractive, and the club gained a reputation as a glorious place to seduce and be seduced. By the time morning rolled around you’d never remember what exactly happened the night before, only that you’d had a great time, even if you did feel a little light-headed, and you wanted to go back.

Psalm 23: the one about walking in the valley of shadows and not fearing evil, that was read at my grandmother’s funeral. The previous master of Denver’s idea of a joke no doubt. The reminder of the funeral made me sad.

A bouncer stopped me at the front door. Normally, someone wearing jeans and a wrinkled blouse wouldn’t be let past the rope, but the bouncers—all of them either vampire minions or human servants of Rick’s—knew me. We’d had the argument before.

“I’m here to see Rick,” I told the guy, big and burly, wearing sunglasses.

He smiled, showing a bit of fang. “He’s not here.”

“Yeah, I thought you’d say that. Mind if I head in and look around for myself?”

“I’m telling you, he’s not here.”

“Is Angelo? Stella? Someone else who can tell me he isn’t here, too?”

Scowling, he unhooked the rope and let me in.

Even compared to the nighttime outside, the interior was dark, with mood lighting of various dim colors tucked in aesthetic locations. Couples and small groups sitting at chrome tables around the edges of the dance floor seemed like shadows come to life, flashes of movement between sparks of light. The music was techno, something upbeat and remixed to within an inch of its life. No one was dancing yet.

I let my vision adjust, scanned the room, and found my target sitting in the far corner, on the other side of the bar. Rick’s usual spot. Seeing Rick’s lieutenant there instead of Rick made my heart trip for a moment. If anything ever happened to Rick, this was what I’d see all the time.

Angelo was young, full of himself, but many vampires were. Nice clothes, perfect hair, and so on. He often served as Rick’s doorkeeper—chief minion. Nice enough guy I supposed, for a vampire. But he wasn’t Rick, and he didn’t look at all pleased to see me when I approached. He sat straight in his chair, studied me up and down, sneered. He fit the atmosphere here better than Rick ever did. The Master of Denver had inherited the place from his predecessor, a very different kind of vampire. One more like Angelo, who played the part and cared about appearances. Who bought into the mystique and made sure to behave as aloof and alluring as all the stories said he should. Unlike Rick, who was just Rick. A few hundred years ago, Rick would have been the kind of nobleman who kept a music room because he liked music, not because it was the stylish thing to do.

Angelo, like most vampires, didn’t much like werewolves, and wouldn’t deign to speak to me if he didn’t have to. Not even to tell me to leave.

“I’m looking for Rick,” I said, standing directly in his line of vision so he couldn’t ignore me. “I hoped he’d be here.”

“He isn’t,” Angelo said, a dismissive curl to his lips.

“If he’s not here, then where is he?”

“That’s not any of your concern.”

Rick would have offered me a drink by this time. “You think you could pass a message on or something? I really need to talk to him. About this meeting coming up, with the Mistress of Buenos Aires?”

He gave a wave of his hand that might have meant, consider it done, or why must I converse with peons? It was all posing, and I told myself to be patient.

“If I didn’t know better,” I said, “I’d say that he was avoiding me and you all are covering for him.”

“It does sound like a reasonable explanation, doesn’t it?”

“No,” I said, “it doesn’t. Not with Rick.”

“All you need to know is that he isn’t here, and if he wished to speak with you, he’d contact you. It’s undignified, you chasing after him like this.”

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