Kitty Rocks the House Page 7

“Kitty, I didn’t say that. I just…”

I waited for him to finish the thought, but he didn’t. “Look,” I said. “Name a time. We’ll get together—”

Matt’s voice cut in through my headset. “You have a minute, Kitty.”

Of course I only had a minute. I closed my eyes and sighed.

“Trey, I’m not sure if this is irony or just a stupid joke, but I have to get back to the show now. I’ll call you.”

“Sure. I’ll take my answer off the air.” I could hear the smirk in his voice. At least he waited for me to hang up first.

I watched Matt count down to the next segment and the ON AIR sign lit. “All right, thanks for waiting. The question we have is how to tell your significant other that you’ve been keeping a pretty big secret. The answer: very carefully. How you tell depends a lot on your significant other, how well you know them, and how well they’re likely to take something like this. But I’ll stand by the answer I always give in cases like this: if this person really loves you, she’ll stick by you and be willing to work it out. Normal human beings really can carry on relationships with lycanthropes and others. I’m not saying it’s easy. But nothing that’s really worthwhile is, is it?” Stupid platitudes. Would that be enough for Trey? Probably not. I wanted to meet his girlfriend, and for his sake I really hoped she could handle it. “Next caller, you’re on the air.”

“Oh my gosh, I’m such a big fan,” the guy gushed. “I’m, like, your biggest fan.”

“Well, thank you very much,” I said, trying to be gracious. “Did you have a question?”

“Oh, yeah. I was just so excited about finally getting through…”

“What’s your question, then?”

“I really just want to know … what do you think about prosthetic fangs? I mean, I know you really discourage people from wanting to become vampires, but if they wanted to pretend…”

Yeah, well. It’s a living.

* * *

ABOUT A week later, Ben and I were at New Moon. One of our packmates, Shaun, ran the place for us, and he’d brought a funky hipster vibe to what otherwise would have been just another downtown bar with brick walls, exposed ductwork in the ceiling, and a lot of pretension. New Moon had good bar food, no TVs, a casual atmosphere, and late hours. It did okay as a business, but it worked splendidly as a central home for the pack. And the menu specialized in steaks and ribs. On any given night, a few werewolves were here, having a beer or grabbing a bite to eat. They felt safe here, and for me that was a victory.

Cormac had joined us tonight at our usual table in back, and I’d taken the jar of Roman’s coins out of the safe so he could study them. Cormac, or Amelia. I’d been having trouble telling the difference lately.

Ben’s cousin Cormac had been a bounty hunter specializing in supernatural targets. He’d spent two years in prison for manslaughter, and while there met the ghost of a Victorian wizard. Lady Amelia Parker died over a hundred years ago, wrongfully executed for murder. When Cormac was released, she came with him. He assured me it wasn’t possession, that she wasn’t hurting him. But sometimes, she was in charge, the one speaking or doing. When Cormac worked magic, it was really Amelia the magician. The two had formed a partnership—she got to leave the prison walls she’d been haunting for over a century, he got access to a different kind of power than he was used to using, since as a convicted felon he could no longer legally carry firearms. However odd it appeared, the system seemed to work.

The man sitting across from me and Ben at a back table at New Moon looked and smelled like Cormac, with his rugged thirtysomething build, lined face and almost permanent frown under a trimmed moustache, and his scent of worn leather jacket and male musk. He usually acted and sounded like Cormac. But sometimes, every once in a while, Amelia came through. I would get a sense of displacement, watching Cormac doing something odd, or say something profoundly out of character. Sometimes, he even smelled different, a taste of burning candle and old books. She had crept into his life that extensively.

Sometimes, I felt as if our territory had been invaded. At the same time, I suspected that Amelia was helping to keep Cormac in line and out of another prison sentence. He had incentive to stay straight now, whereas I wasn’t sure he did before. I was grateful for that.

He held what looked like a jeweler’s loupe, a lens set in an aged brass housing, and examined each of the coins through it.

“Nasser isn’t convinced we can use these against Roman,” I said. “But is there any chance they still carry some of his magic?”

Cormac shrugged. “It’s like I said back in San Francisco, they’re inert. No magical activity that I can see.”

“Just chunks of old bronze, now,” I said.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “They carry traces of what they were. But unless we wake them up, recharge them, I can’t guess what they might do.”

“How do we wake them up?” Ben asked. We all looked at him.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” I said.

“I agree. But we can do some more research,” Cormac said. “Mind if I take one?”

“If you promise you can keep it safe.”

“Sure I can. Probably.”

Probably. What a great word. I gave one to him—the one that had once belonged to Anastasia. He wrapped it in a white handkerchief and put it in his pocket.

“Consider this a job,” I said. “Standard rate.”

He looked away, surly, like I knew he would. “You don’t have to pay me anything—”

Ben grinned at him. “We’re going to force you into business whether you like it or not.”

Cormac just scowled, because while he might argue with me, he wouldn’t argue with his cousin.

Supernatural PI: Cormac was particularly suited to the job, if he would only admit it. We were working on him, slowly.

I put the other three coins back in the jar and went to the restaurant’s back office to lock the jar back in the safe. When I came back to the table, Cormac was gone.

“What, he just left?” I said to Ben.

“Said he wanted to get started.”

“It’s past midnight, the library’s closed.”

He made an exaggerated shrug, indicating his cousin didn’t make any more sense to him than he did to me.

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