Kitty Rocks the House Page 38

“Can it, Cheryl,” I said, my exhaustion plain.

“Seriously, Kitty—are you okay?” She actually sounded concerned. Not demanding, not frustrated. She was across town, but I could feel her hugging me.

“I will be,” I said, with unexpected honesty. I wasn’t okay, obviously. Not completely. “I’ve just had a lot going on this week. I’m a little on edge.”

“And I tipped you over?”

I smiled. “Maybe just a little.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.”

“Kitty—thanks for calling. You should get some rest, you sound thrashed.”

Yeah, I probably did. Too bad I had a couple of chores first. “I’ll come pick up my car later.”

“Don’t worry about it. If we have to move it we will. You dropped your keys.”

Of course I did. Just another thing to worry about. “I love you, Cheryl.”

“I love you, too.”

As I hung up the phone, Ben glanced over. He was smiling. “See? You didn’t traumatize her too badly.”

“I almost shifted in her kitchen.”

“But you didn’t. Think positive here.”

Yeah, right. “Full moon was just a few days ago. This is supposed to be the easiest time of the month to keep from shifting. But I totally lost it.”

“We’ll just have to be careful, at least until things let up a little.”

I liked that he put the “we” in there. But I didn’t like the feeling that I needed to be looked after. Taken care of. Babysat.

By the time we arrived downtown, streetlights were blazing and the sky was full dark. Ben crawled along the street near our destination, looking for a parking spot. Some of the surrounding offices and classroom buildings showed a few lights in the windows, but the church was dark. It loomed like a fortress over its parklike surroundings.

Ben found a spot in the driveway near the church. Between a couple of NO PARKING signs even. I raised a brow at him. “We’re not going to be here long, right? Nobody’ll know.”

The lawyer was saying this?

In the dead of night, with the engine still, the neighborhood’s silence pressed in. The streetlights seemed muted, and the air seemed hazy. It gave the place a haunted look. At least, my imagination thought so.

“It’s really tough looking for a vampire who doesn’t want to be found,” I said, stepping out of the car. Ben followed.

“Cormac would say wait until daylight and flush ‘em out.”

“Cormac says a lot of things.”

Craning my neck, I regarded the building, a hulking shadow in the city’s nighttime haze. How did I convince Rick that he wanted to be found? I walked around to the front of the church and climbed the wide steps to the front door, to try the only thing I could—the direct approach. This late, I probably wouldn’t be disturbing a lecture.

“What are you going to do, knock?” Ben asked, trailing behind.

Glancing at him over my shoulder, I gave a thin smile and knocked on one of the church’s wooden front doors.

No one answered. I tried again; the hollow thumping seemed to get swallowed up by the darkness, and by the tall bell towers looming over me. Those towers looked like they might be home to bats; on the other hand, the pale stucco of the church’s exterior, still visible even at night, didn’t do much for the gothic vampire atmosphere.

I rattled the door latch. Tonight, this late, the thing was locked. The place didn’t exactly have a window I could crawl through. Behind me, Ben crossed his arms and frowned. Visions of misdemeanor trespassing passing before his eyes, no doubt.

I trotted down the stairs and walked around the building and the rectory next door, looking for a lit window or a door that wasn’t bolted tight, but didn’t find anything and ended up back by the front steps. I knew Columban and Rick were here, I just knew it. The markings that laid out the protective circle were still here. They may even have been touched up since Cormac’s last escapade. This place was still being defended.

Halfway up the front steps, I put my hands around my mouth and called, “Rick! Rick, I need to talk to you! Rick!” I shouted up at those bell towers; their shadowed interiors stared down at me like eyes.

If he was here, he’d heard me. If he didn’t come out, he was ignoring me, just like he’d ignored my phone calls, and Angelo’s, and everything else. And I couldn’t change that.

Ben was at the foot of the steps, not watching me, but the sidewalks around the church. Keeping a look out for me. I worried that I took him for granted. I got in trouble and dragged him with me over and over. It wasn’t a good pattern.

Nothing happened.

I descended, my steps landing heavy. What else could I do but call again, leave yet another message? But I could do it from someplace warm and well lit, after a shower and change of clothes. But it felt like giving up.

When I reached the bottom, Ben put his arm around my shoulders, and together we walked back around the building to the car.

“Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk,” Ben said.

I scowled. “Maybe he’s really not here.”

“But if he’s not here, and he’s not at Obsidian, and the other vampires haven’t seen him…”

“Maybe he’s not here, in Denver.”

Rick had spent most of his life being nomadic. If he decided to leave, I couldn’t assume that he’d tell me first. I’d been alive for a bare fraction of his years—would only live for a fraction of them. Why should he care about what I thought? I wanted to believe our friendship had meant more than that. Him just leaving—that would mean he didn’t consider me a friend at all.

That was still better than thinking he’d been killed, which was an alternative I hadn’t voiced. Rick had lived for five hundred years, he couldn’t just die.

Ben slowed, his arm tugging me to a stop beside him. He nodded toward a back corner of the chapel, where a figure moved, stepping out of shadows from behind a clump of shrubbery. I didn’t recognize him at first—he was wearing a T-shirt and trousers, and his dark hair was mussed, flopped around his ears instead of combed back from his face. Without his trench coat, his shape was different.

“Rick?” I said, walking toward him.

He waited for me, lingering by the doorway he’d come out of, as if wanting to stay near shelter. “Kitty.”

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