Kitty Rocks the House Page 42

I patted the top of the skull. Its work here was done.

* * *

WE RUSHED to New Moon after the show.

I’d tried to make myself as presentable as possible, dressing as nicely as I ever did on a Friday night, in slacks and a blouse, and unscuffed pumps even. But after two hours of The Midnight Hour, I couldn’t hide the fatigue pinching my features or the sweaty perfume I’d acquired. Getting there as quickly as I could was more important than looking nice. Presentable was good enough.

The envoy from Buenos Aires was already at the restaurant when I got there. I’d left tonight’s manager—Shaun had the night off—instructions to invite him in and show him to my table in back. The vampire was sitting there now, alert and interested without being tense, elbows propped up and hands steepled before him, gazing over the place with a frown. He wore jeans and a dark blazer over a white T-shirt. His dark hair was cut short, and he had strong, square-jawed Latino features. He gave off an action-hero vibe at odds with the vampire stereotype.

By the warm cast to his olive skin, I guessed that Angelo had offered him some kind of hospitality. I knew the Denver Family didn’t kill to eat, but apart from that, I didn’t ask for details. Most Families had human servants who willingly donated, or they had hunting grounds that they protected and used sparingly, to avoid drawing attention. All that mattered was the Denver Family didn’t draw attention. Angelo himself was nowhere to be found, naturally. Leaving the dirty work to me.

I asked Ben to wait near the front of the restaurant, at the bar, to keep watch. Concern pinched his face, but he didn’t argue. If I was going to prove I was strong enough to lead, strong enough to fight, I had to do this on my own.

“Titus,” I said when I arrived at the table and sat across from him. “Welcome. Thanks for coming to see me.”

His lip curled in what I hoped was amusement. “Indeed.”

Oh, this was going to go well … “I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place.”

“This setting is a bit … common.” He glanced around the bar, which was experiencing a late after-theater rush. Raised voices created a flood of noise against the backdrop of the rock music on the stereo system. A few of my pack were here, including Darren, who once again was with Becky. They were sitting at the bar, knee to knee. Not causing trouble, thank goodness. I found myself wishing Shaun was here for backup.

“I kind of like it,” I said, smiling fondly.

“Keeps you rooted in the world, does it?”

“Yeah. Rick would say that.” I wanted to like this guy. His manner seemed straightforward. I tried to take the measure of him, without meeting his hypnotic gaze, staring instead at the collar of his shirt.

“Are you certain Ricardo isn’t available?”

“He’s following up another lead.” My chin was up, my back was straight, my stance confident. Alpha-like, even. Not inviting argument.

“What am I supposed to tell my Mistress, then?” he said. He had a Spanish-flavored accent, his tone only mildly annoyed, as if he hadn’t expected anything different out of this meeting.

“Everything Rick knows, I know.”

“Oh, I doubt that.”

I gritted my teeth. “All right, just about everything Rick knows, at least about the Long Game, I know.” Still, with that skeptical lilt to his brow. Flustered now, I said, “I’ve faced Dux Bellorum twice and survived.”

“Really?” He sounded disbelieving rather than impressed. I wasn’t going to be able to convince him I had any credibility at all. Was it anti-werewolf prejudice, or was I selling myself badly?

“Yeah. Have you ever met the guy?”

“My Mistress has. Many years ago. He offered her power. She walked away. Fled, rather, to the colonies. She opposes him by staying out of his reach.”

“How much longer do you think she’ll be able to keep that up?”

A trace of anxiety furrowed his brow. “That is why I am here. I had hoped to speak to Ricardo of this.”

“I’m telling you what he’d tell you. You have allies. We’ve already exposed Roman and a number of his followers. The more of us watching for him, the better chance we have of stopping him. He can be beaten.” I hoped he could …

Another long moment of sizing each other up passed. I had the impression that he could see through me, read my mind even. My skin itched, but through an act of will I didn’t fidget.

“I am supposed to tell Mistress Bianca that the Master of Denver has more important business than speaking with her chosen representative?”

Etiquette wasn’t my strong suit, and I couldn’t help but fail miserably at it where vampires were concerned. I sighed. “I keep forgetting you people have so much time on your hands you have nothing better to do than take offense at everything.” He flattened his hands on the table and opened his mouth to speak, but I gestured to stop him. “I know, I know. Sending a werewolf to talk to you is an insult. You’ll just have to believe me that Rick is dealing with a serious matter than no one else can handle, and that I really do know what he does about Dux Bellorum.”

Titus seemed mollified. “I believe you know enough. This is all so very … chaotic.”

“Yeah. Tell me about it. We just have to keep paddling along, yeah?” He rewarded me with a thin, amused smile. “Can we contact you if we need to? Will you contact us, if you learn anything?”

He hesitated, and every moment he did my hopes sank a notch. He drew breath and said, “I’m skeptical, I confess. The situation in Denver seems less stable than I was led to believe. Are you and Ricardo truly strong enough to mount an opposition against Roman?”

“We’ve stood up to him before. Yes,” I said, because I had to.

“Then I’ll return home and report to my Mistress. She’ll send word of her response.”

He started to push back from the table, but I rushed out a question while I had the chance. “Before you go, can I ask you something? Do you know anything about vampires working for the Vatican?” Argentina was a Catholic country, right? What could it hurt to ask?

“You’re joking, yes?”

“Never mind,” I said, sighing.

He stood and walked out without further acknowledgment, without giving me another chance to talk at him. To convince him. Bianca, Mistress of Buenos Aires, was the only vampire Master in South America we were absolutely sure didn’t belong to Roman. Not that South America was swarming with vampires, but I didn’t much like the feeling of facing an entire continent outside our influence.

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