Kitty Saves the World Page 10

“That bad, huh?” I said, wiping a stray tear.

“I’ve never seen you look so happy and sad at exactly the same time,” he said.

“I will be so damned relieved when this is all over.”

“Yeah. Come on, ice cream will make you feel better.”

And it did, at least briefly. Rocky road. Sometimes it was the little things.

As we left, I made sure to give everyone extra-big hugs, even though Jeffy wiggled and escaped as soon as he could. Cheryl was the one who pulled back, her brow furrowed. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

Oh, was it. I almost gave into an impulse to fall sobbing into her arms. Instead, I offered her a crooked smile. “No more so than usual,” I said, which wasn’t a lie. Usually I said something like, I’m a werewolf, of course something’s wrong. But she already knew that.

“Well. Be careful.” She brushed a loose blond strand out of my face, and suddenly I was thirteen again and wishing I could be just like her.

If Roman ever went after them … And that was why we were going to Albuquerque. That was why the risk was worth it.

*   *   *

THE KIDS had early bedtimes, so we were back on the road by nine. After dark, I could finally call Alette, Mistress of Washington, D.C., and arguably one of the most powerful vampires in the U.S. She knew where the bodies were buried—or where they weren’t, in some cases.

One of her people answered the phone—I hesitated to call them human servants, even though most vampires would. She had housekeepers and drivers and bodyguards, people who looked after her during daylight hours, people who were devoted to her. But many of them were her own descendants. She’d had children before becoming a vampire, and she still took care of them. She was a however many greats grandmother to them all, and they knew it and loved her for it.

Once I said who I was, I didn’t have to ask to speak to Alette.

“Mercedes Cook is back,” I said.

“Yes, so I’ve heard,” Alette replied in her prim English accent. I kind of suspected she had.

“Any idea what she’s up to?”

“What is she ever up to? She’s gone to ground, I’m afraid. You should keep vigilant, of course.”

Exactly what Hardin had said. “I think Roman’s on the move. We’re going after him, Alette. We’ve got a plan. It’s—it’s a good one, I think.”

She hesitated a moment before answering. “Well. I know you wouldn’t act on anything less.”

“That’s probably more of a vote of confidence than I deserve.”

“If he’s moving on his plan, he likely summoned Mercedes Cook here to be part of it. When you confront him, you’ll make provisions for facing her as well, won’t you?”

“How many vampires is he likely to have with him at any given moment? I’ve only ever seen him by himself. He has followers, but he seems to travel and act alone. He finds his minions where he goes.”

“That’s one of the mysteries, isn’t it? I have no idea who else he might have along. You might be facing an army.”

I groaned. “I’m thinking part of the plan should be a well-defended escape route.”

“See, I knew you’d have thought this through,” Alette said pleasantly. I wished I could see her face, to see, and smell, what kind of anxiety she was hiding.

“All these years, it all comes down to this.”

She chuckled. “As someone who has lived quite a number of years longer than you, my dear, it rarely all comes down to ‘this.’ You’ll make yourself sick with worry if you aren’t careful.”

“Too late,” I grumbled.

“Just remember, you are Regina Luporum and we all have great faith in you.” I couldn’t tell if she was making fun of me.

Regina Luporum: Queen of the Wolves. Based on the legend of the wolf who mothered Romulus and Remus, she was a werewolf who’d helped found Rome, who’d defended her kind against all comers. A twenty-eight-hundred-year-old Babylonian vampire bestowed the label on me; a three-thousand-year-old vampire made it stick. Destiny, indeed. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I believed in her at all. Other times, I needed to believe in her. Believing that someone like me had done something like this before made it seem a bit more possible.

“I still don’t know what I think about that.”

“Well, if the rest of us do, it doesn’t matter what you think, does it? Kitty. Katherine. Do be careful.”

“You’ll let me know if you hear anything through the grapevine?”

“Oh yes, certainly. And I won’t say anything about what you’re up to until I hear from you.”

“Thank you, Alette. For everything.”

I hung up before I could hear any more wishes for good luck. We’d either have it or we wouldn’t, at this point.

“You okay?” Ben asked, glancing at me. I was leaning forward, my head in my hands. I wanted to run, to let it all go. But I had work to do.

“She’s one of the most powerful vampires I know. Why am I doing this and not her?”

“Because Roman’s been targeting you?”

Right. I was the one with the radio show.

We continued on to New Moon. I had one last meeting tonight.

*   *   *

ANGELO WAS already there. I’d called and asked to see him so I could warn him in person—without warning him. I’d told Detective Hardin what was going on, and I’d told Alette, because I trusted them. I didn’t trust Angelo.

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