Kitty Rocks the House Page 61

“It’s a version of that thing that happens when two different groups of friends collide,” he said. “You just want everyone to get along. Imagine how nervous Trey probably is right now.”

Yeah, no doubt. Bringing the love of your life to meet the parents, or wolf parents, or whatever.

The front door opened, and I stood. There he was, and I swore I saw his tail wagging. He held the door and guided her in, fussing, hovering near her shoulder, almost trembling with enthusiasm as he gazed longingly at her. I wondered if she recognized the body language and understood how much devotion he was showing her.

She was cute, with short, dark hair, and a round face. Dressed for business in a skirt and blouse, pumps with low heels. No jewelry or makeup, just her own beaming smile. Sensible, friendly. She clasped his hand as Trey led her across the dining room. I decided I liked her.

They reached our table, Trey made introductions, and there was an awkward shuffle while everyone sat. We ordered drinks, and finally we had to get past the small talk to the issue at hand.

“It’s really good meeting you, Sam. Trey hasn’t talked about anything but you for a month.”

Blushing, she smiled at him. Yeah, I liked her.

She pulled a familiar-looking book from her purse. “I’m almost embarrassed to ask, I’m sure you get this all the time—would you sign this for me?”

I did, happy to. “Trey said it answered some of your questions?”

“I don’t know if it answered them … but it did make me feel better. Like maybe this isn’t so weird after all. I have to be honest, I’m not sure what I should think about you all. This pack thing,” Sam said, wincing. “Trey tried to explain it, that you were sort of like family, but not really, or maybe a little like AA, but not really—I’m a little confused.”

Werewolf pack as group therapy? There’s a thought. I considered for a moment and said, “Think of us as a really weird set of in-laws you might have to deal with every now and then.”

A spark of understanding lit her eyes. I asked about her job, their plans, and then let them talk. Under the table, I held Ben’s hand.

* * *

I CALLED my brother-in-law Mark and made him promise to watch the kids on Saturday night, so I could kidnap Cheryl. She complained—10 P.M. was way past her bedtime. Whatever. She only agreed to it when Mark told her she needed to get out and have some fun. She hadn’t smiled in months, it seemed like. Maybe I could help.

“Wear something punk,” I said when I called to tell her I was picking her up.

“Punk? I don’t think I have anything punk, not anymore. Not that’ll actually fit.”

“I’ve seen you wear that ratty Ramones T-shirt you’ve had since high school. That and your grossest pair of jeans.” Which I’d also seen. They were pretty gross, covered in paint streaks and missing both knees. She kept them specifically for housework.

“Since when do you get to tell me what’s punk?”

“I’ll see you in an hour,” I said in my most chipper voice.

She did a pretty good job with the punk thing, in exactly the jeans and Ramones T-shirt I’d told her to wear, with her hair in a ponytail and black eyeliner marking her eyes. Especially considering I didn’t think she’d been out to a club or concert in a dozen years. Well, we were going to change that.

I drove us downtown, wove my way into the nightlife traffic on Broadway, and sprang the cash for the convenient parking rather than trying to hunt for free parking ten blocks away.

“Why can’t you just tell me where you’re taking me?”

“A guy at KNOB told me about this club that does a pretty rocking eighties’ night. I wanted to check it out and thought you might like it.” Also, the only vampires likely to hang out there were any who were made in the eighties, and I didn’t think the Denver Family had any of those. Either way, they weren’t likely to give me trouble.

“This is going to be weird,” Cheryl said, not sounding at all convinced that it would also be fun.

“We don’t have to stay long,” I said. “I’ll put a couple of drinks in you, we’ll listen to the music, and you can not think about kids or getting a job or anything for an hour. Okay?”

She gave a decisive nod. “Okay.”

I followed Matt’s directions to find the club, in the basement of a much hipper bar. We entered through a door in the back. I paid our cover, we got our hands stamped, and I dragged Cheryl inside.

The DJ had just put on “99 Luftballons.” I couldn’t have timed our entrance better for pure emotional nostalgic hit than if I’d done it on a Hollywood soundstage.

“Oh my God,” Cheryl said, stopping at the edge of the room, a cramped dance floor ringed by white vinyl booths, with a well-stocked bar at the far end. Candy-colored lights broke the darkness. “It’s tenth grade all over again.”

Except we were old enough to drink without fake IDs, now. “Rum and Coke?” I asked.

“Yeah. Sure.” Her mouth was open, astonished, like she really had traveled through time back to high school. I guided her to an empty booth and made her sit.

For the most part, the music was a few years before my time. But it hit Cheryl’s adolescent sweet spot exactly. In hindsight, she might have indirectly set me on my path. We were far enough apart in age that she hadn’t wanted much to do with me when she hit her teen years, but I thought she was a goddess and tried to follow in her footsteps. Mostly by listening to her music, which led to me listening to my music, then to deejaying at the college radio station, then to KNOB. And, well, everything else.

Yeah, the music here was a little like time travel.

I got her a drink, me a plain Coke, and headed back to the booth.

Matt must have known I’d like the place, the minimalist design in monochrome, white-and-black checks painted on the walls, just a couple of lighting effects in play. The crowd here was a mix of a dozen different cliques that I could spot right off, and nobody hassled anybody. Goths in black vinyl, some bachelorette party in cocktail dresses and feather boas, young kids laughing at the theme, middle-aged former punks who’d been dancing to this music for twenty-five years. And plenty just like me and Cheryl, in jeans and T-shirts, looking for a good night out.

Everyone here but me was human, as far as I could tell. The smells were all normal—sweat, alcohol, drywall that needed repairs, a floor that needed to be cleaned. No fur under the skin, no chilled blood on the air, no weird magic. I hadn’t felt this mainstream in years.

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