Kitty Rocks the House Page 57

They looked at me, and might have shown some concern for my state of mind. I felt fur prickling just under the skin, and wished Ben were here, because all he’d have to do was touch my arm and I’d calm down. But hell, if me threatening to shift uncontrollably got them to stand down, so be it.

Rick lowered his arms, but Cormac wasn’t moving that stake an inch. If I had to stay here all night, I would. I wasn’t going to let them near each other.

Hardin had been at the curb along the street, talking to the uniformed officers she’d brought. They’d walked off, probably searching the area for any evidence, or random destruction, or whatever. I doubted they’d find anything. Seeing the three of us in a standoff, she put her hand on her holster and walked over.

“There a problem?”

I wasn’t going to say anything—let one of them back down. When none of us answered, she continued. “Right, then who’s going to explain to me what the hell just happened?”

Good question. I wanted someone to do the same for me. But Cormac and Rick kept glaring daggers at each other.

Maybe if I started thinking out loud. “Columban knew he was being hunted. I’m betting that fire in Hungary was part of it. He knew how to protect himself, but when the shield was destroyed—”

“I got all that,” she said. “What about you and him? All that stuff she said at the end about being traitors? And Dux Bellorum? That’s Roman, right? That megalomaniac vampire freak who came through a couple years ago? And where did she go?”

Right to the heart of it. How big was this really? Was this a backstreet scuffle, or a battle in an ongoing war? I knew where I was putting my money.

“You don’t really want to know,” I said weakly.

“Oh, yes I do.” Her expression blazed.

“The Long Game,” I said, swallowing to get control of my voice, to pull Wolf back to her cage.

“I’ve heard you both talk about that before. It’s got something to do with Roman?”

“He’s worse than you think, detective,” I said.

“Kitty,” Rick said. “You don’t have to explain to her. You don’t have to bring her into this.”

On the contrary, I thought it was long past time we explained everything to her. I said to him, “We’re looking for allies. I consider her an ally.”

He nodded at Cormac. “You consider him an ally, too, and look what happened.”

“Rick—” I begged.

The vampire glared at Cormac, who might very well have turned to a flaming crisp if he hadn’t been wearing sunglasses to protect him from meeting Rick’s gaze.

“I do not ever want to see you again,” Rick said. “Be grateful I’m not forcing you to leave my city.”

“What makes you think you could?”

“Don’t push me.”

For a moment, I thought Rick was going to try, right then and there. A demonstration, because however brash Cormac acted, Rick could get around that stake and overcome him. But I kept myself between them. I even caught Rick’s gaze. Looked him in his blue eyes. He could have used his hypnotic power, commanded me to step aside, brought me under his control. But he didn’t. Please, I tried to tell him, even though he wasn’t telepathic. I was pretty sure he wasn’t telepathic.

Rick turned and stalked off. In three strides, he’d vanished into the church’s shadow. If I ran after him, he’d be gone. Again, he was gone.

“A little uptight, isn’t he?” Cormac said. Humor covering nerves. He was still holding the stake in a white-knuckled grip.

“Lay off him.” My lip curled in a snarl.

He glanced at Hardin, back at me. Frowned. “You want to know where that demon came from, I’ve got some research to do.” He stalked away, to the street and his Jeep.

“Cormac—”

He ignored me, just like I expected him to.

Where did that leave me? I looked around. The place didn’t look any different than it had a week ago. The confrontation hadn’t left any evidence behind. Not so much as a streak of soot on the concrete. Even the air smelled normal, full of people and cars, brick and asphalt, with a hint of distant mountains. A fire engine siren echoed somewhere.

Columban’s markings, the ones that drew out the boundary of his protective circle, were gone.

“Are you okay?” Hardin asked. She’d put her gun away and stood, arms crossed.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess I will be.”

“Can I take you out for a cup of coffee?”

That sounded like a marvelous idea to me.

We ended up at a twenty-four-hour diner a few blocks away, on Colfax. The waitstaff recognized Hardin and sat us in a booth in back, in relative quiet and privacy.

I called Ben.

“Hey,” he said. “I was just going to call you. Shaun and I tracked Darren. He’s out of here. Loaded up his car and drove. I don’t think we have to worry.”

“Okay,” I said, my voice flat. “Good.”

“Kitty—what’s wrong?”

My breath shuddered out of me. I didn’t know where to start. “We had a bit of a showdown at the church. It … didn’t go well.”

“Are you okay? Where are you? I’ll come get you—”

“I’m fine, I’m with Detective Hardin.”

“You’re not under arrest, are you?” He didn’t sound like he’d be surprised if I were, which made me smile.

“No. We’re having coffee and talking. I’ll come home straight after, probably in an hour or so.”

“You’re sure?”

“It makes me really happy that you’d rush over here to get me, you know that?” Even after a thirty-second conversation with him, I felt better.

“Good, I guess. But I don’t think I’ll be happy until you get home. So hurry.”

“I will.” I clicked off the phone.

The coffee arrived, and Hardin looked at me. “I don’t want to hold you up too long, but I really need to know what happened, and what I’m supposed to tell my Interpol guy about Columban.”

I took a long drink. What was it about hot caffeine that made everything better? Even Wolf settled. My skin stopped itching with prickling fur.

“I don’t have all the answers. I can only tell you my side of it.”

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