Kitty Rocks the House Page 50

“We should wait until she’s awake and human,” I said, nodding at her. “I think the stress of the last couple of days did her in.” I returned to them, settling on the ground beside her. Ben leaned up against me.

“Mind if I join you?” Rick said, indicating the ground a pace or two away.

Wolf wasn’t sure she liked him out here in our territory, where he hadn’t been invited. We had our meeting places, and we kept our dens separate. But I nodded. He settled himself gracefully onto the ground, crossing his legs, looking as at home and in control here as he did everywhere. As comfortable here as he was in the basement of Obsidian.

He said, “It looks like I need to write a sternly worded letter to Nasser. Something about how ‘allied’ does not mean ‘invited to interfere.’”

“If you think it would help,” I said. “Hey, does this mean you’re back? Still Master of Denver and not haring off on some crusade?”

He gazed at the sky, or the treetops, or at some far-off thought. No lines of anxiety creased his features—but when was he ever anything but calm? I couldn’t know what he was thinking.

He shook his head, and my heart sank.

“I wish I could make you understand how much Columban has helped me,” he said. “To be alone, doubting myself for hundreds of years—”

“You were never alone,” but as soon as I said it I knew I had no idea what I was talking about. Other vampires I’d met had known Rick, I’d picked up bits and pieces of his history and they usually involved other people. But that wasn’t the same as not being alone. I didn’t know anything about him.

His answering smile was wry. “And when could I ever say that I still believed in God, after everything that’s happened? A Catholic vampire—you had that response yourself. Now, to find that there are others, that I’m not alone—if only I have the courage to reach out to them. Maybe it’s time I go on a pilgrimage.”

It was all I could do not to panic. “Am I being selfish, wanting you to stay?”

“I’m grateful for your … faith in me. But you know I never wanted to be Master of Denver.”

“That’s why you’re such a good one.”

“You’re speaking in clichés, now.”

I slumped. Becky slept peacefully. Absently, I smoothed the fur along her flank; her ribs moved with steady breathing.

“Angelo can be Master of Denver,” Rick said.

“He doesn’t want it, either. Did you know that?”

He stood, brushing off his jeans. “I should be getting back. I’d only meant to talk to you about how your meeting went, and I didn’t tell Father Columban I was going.”

My nose wrinkled. “Do you need his permission?”

“I’m … not really sure. But this was important, so I came.”

I felt a lecture coming on. “Rick—” Ben squeezed my arm. A reminder that some tact might be in order. “I understand that Columban showed you something, or offered you something that you’ve been looking for, that you need. If it’ll make you happy—I can’t ask you to walk away from that.”

He said, “If I had never left Spain, if I had been made a vampire in Europe, where Saint Lazarus of the Shadows has been established for centuries, I might have joined them from the start. My life would have been very different. Not better or worse, just different. As it was, in Mexico, cut off from the European vampires … how was I to know?”

“You don’t need a religious order to be a crusader—”

“My religion is what’s guided me all this time. It’s the thing that made me believe I could do good, be good, no matter what demons might take hold of me.”

“But do you need someone with rank and title telling you that?”

“Kitty, when I leave Denver, I’ll tell you. I promise.” He turned and walked away.

I watched him for a long time, until Ben squeezed my shoulder and brought me back to myself.

“He won’t do it,” Ben said. “Not really. We both know how much he likes Denver.”

When I spoke, my voice cracked with stifled tears. “He didn’t say if. He said when.”

Chapter 17

BEN AND I sat with Becky until after midnight while she shifted back. Her fur thinned, vanished; her limbs stretched, and contracted. The metamorphosis was painful to watch, in that it called up a throbbing in my own limbs, a memory of my own episodes of waking up, aching, piecing together how I had arrived at this new place. I thought sometimes that this was why we slept through our shifting back to human—feeling our bodies break and reform once during the Change was plenty. We couldn’t take any more than that.

She slept for another hour, appearing vulnerable, which I knew she wasn’t. But we watched over her, Becky’s head on my lap, my head on Ben’s, as I napped for a few minutes. Becky started awake in a heartbeat, pushing herself up, alert in an instant. The move sent all our hearts racing in communal panic.

“Shh, it’s okay,” I murmured, hands on her shoulders, hoping to transmit calm. “He’s gone, everything’s fine.”

Groaning, she covered her face with her hands. “I feel like crap.”

“You got a little beat up,” I said. Her wounds had healed; the cuts appeared as raised pink scars that would vanish by dawn.

“I suppose that went well, considering.”

“I kind of hoped he’d just walk away,” I said.

“No. He thought he was right. Where’d he go?”

“He ran. Shaun and the others are tracking him.”

She nodded and pursed her lips.

Ben looked across the clearing. “You two ready to get out of here?”

We were.

* * *

WE’D GOTTEN Becky—wrapped in Ben’s ubiquitous coat, since her clothes were a shredded mess—safely back to her apartment and had just arrived back at the condo when I got a call from Shaun. The sky was growing pale, the murky gray of predawn, when I couldn’t tell if the day was going to be overcast, sunny, bright, or dim. My mind felt equally muzzy, as if I couldn’t see my next step clearly. What day was it again?

We waited in the car for Shaun to explain. “We tracked down Darren. He’s asleep. His wolf bedded down in a park in Golden.” Then he wasn’t planning on leaving town. If he had been, he’d have just kept running, or stayed in the hills and circled back to his car. “Can you show me where he is?”

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