Kitty Rocks the House Page 4

Nasser went on, “For centuries, the few of us who knew of him, who knew of his plans, have worked in secret. We couldn’t investigate him and his followers, or we’d risk retribution. Roman is ruthless, and he strikes from afar, sending his followers. But now—I hardly know what to think. We are moving into the open. We have some initiative. We have you to thank for that.”

“Don’t thank me,” I said. “I may have just blown our cover. Given them a target.”

His smile was thin. “Oh no. They have chosen to battle in the arena of public discourse, that is where we will face them.”

“Organized resistance exists, then,” Rick said. “What can we do to help?”

“For now, we need aid and support for those of us who travel, who move from city to city in an effort to identify his followers. Often, we can inspire the followers of a city’s Master to rebel, to free their Family from Dux Bellorum’s influence.”

“Anastasia worked on this,” I said.

“Yes. There are a few others, like her. Have you heard from her? I haven’t had word of her in years.”

Now, that was a story. “She’s … not with us anymore.”

“That’s … that’s terrible news. How was she destroyed?”

“She wasn’t. I mean, she’s not dead. Dead dead. She … there was this goddess, see, and … and I prefer to think of her as battling evil in another dimension.” I blinked hopefully; he regarded me blankly, nonplussed. “Never mind. I’m sorry, I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. She’s fine, really. She’s just not here.”

The perplexed lilt to his brow indicated that my explanation hadn’t helped at all.

“That’s unfortunate,” he said. “She was a good ally.”

“I think she still is.” We just didn’t know where she was, or how to contact her, or what she could do …

Rick said, “How do we proceed, then?”

Nasser said, “If those we must persuade to our cause believe that we’re the stronger side, we have a chance. Kitty, you may be the most important ally of all—you can do this more easily than any of us, through your show and in your writings.”

I was afraid he was going to say that. “I’m getting in a little bit of trouble for that.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a way to persevere.”

If we didn’t come up with a specific plan of action, we at least had an agenda. A mission, of sorts. If enough of us out there were holding the line, maybe we could stop Roman.

Rick and Nasser started trading gossip about acquaintances, more centuries-old beings and shadow histories. I had the feeling of being a fly on the wall, listening to two immortals speak of years as if they were hours. I couldn’t comprehend. But I tried.

Then Nasser turned to me. “Did Marid really call you a Regina Luporum?”

Rick raised an eyebrow, waiting for my answer, and I blushed. Regina Luporum, queen of the wolves. Marid—a twenty-eight-hundred-year-old vampire who I’d met in London, easily the oldest vampire I’d ever encountered—suggested the idea originated with the wolf who’d fostered Romulus and Remus, and who’d helped found Rome. He said he’d called me that because I stood up for werewolves when few others did. It wasn’t an official title, it didn’t mean I was queen of anything. It was more like … a hope. I was still trying to decide how I felt about the label.

“Maybe,” I said, noncommittal. “Not that it means anything.”

“I think it means I shouldn’t underestimate you.” He smiled like it was a joke, which was a bit how I’d regarded it when Marid called me it the first time. Nasser turned back to Rick. “You meet with who, next? Mistress of Buenos Aires, yes?”

“Her representative, I think,” Rick said. “You’re the only one bold enough to leave your city in the hands of your followers.”

“Ironic, as I’m the one advocating rebellion among others. But I trust my Family. As do you, I’m sure, Ricardo? As Kitty trusts her pack.”

I looked at Rick, interested, because I didn’t know his answer to the question. He’d taken over this Family by force. Did any of the previous Master’s followers resent him?

“I believe my Family is satisfied with the current management,” Rick said.

Nasser laughed. “Spoken like an American! You truly are of this country and not of the old Families.” Rick tipped his head in agreement. “She will be a good ally, I think. Her city has not been home to vampires for long—she has been its only Mistress. She’ll not want to give up her place to Roman. I must confess that I worry about the two of you. You have made targets of yourselves, and you’re both so young. I could send you help—extra foot soldiers, perhaps. Guardians to keep watch over you and yours.”

I had a hard time thinking of Rick as young. To Nasser, everyone must seem young. He meant well, I was sure, but I bristled. I didn’t appreciate the suggestion that I was weak. I’d worked so hard not to appear so.

“Thanks, but we’ve done okay so far.”

“Your offer is generous,” Rick added, more politely. “But I think we’ll be all right.”

Sometime after midnight, we stood from the sofa and chairs, made our farewells, as if this were an ordinary dinner party in an ordinary house.

“How long will you be staying in Denver?” I asked Nasser.

“Tomorrow night I leave for Washington, D.C., to visit with Alette. But tonight, Rick has offered me the hospitality of Denver.” The two vampires shared a sly smile between old friends.

I decided I didn’t want to know. Rick had his ways and means, and as long as they didn’t involve dead bodies, I wasn’t going to ask.

“Well then. I suppose I’ll leave you to it.”

“It was very good to meet you, Katherine,” Nasser said.

My throat tightened, thinking of my grandmother. But the moment passed. “Nice to meet you, too. Keep in touch.”

“Assuredly.”

Nasser went ahead to speak with his entourage, and I hung back with Rick.

“You have an opinion,” he said.

I shrugged. “He seems to know a lot. I definitely like the idea of getting more information, of organizing. I just…”

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