Kitty Saves the World Page 11

I would have told his predecessor, Rick.

Lurking in the back near my usual table, Angelo was clearly uncomfortable, scowling at his regular food supply, all the people off-limits to him here. He could only be here at all because I’d invited him. He leaned against the wall, his hands shoved into the pockets of a suit jacket, which he wore over a turtleneck.

He called himself the “acting” Master of Denver. But really, he was in charge, since none of us had heard from Rick, the previous Master, since last year when he ran off on a religious quest, joining a secret order of vampire priests at the Vatican. We’d all been a little shocked at that one. That description wasn’t fair—it made him sound crazy. I didn’t think he was crazy. But he’d been around for five hundred years and took the long view of things, and he thought he could do more good as a vampire priest than he could staying here and helping me. Than protecting Denver, which after all was only one city. I would have loved to have him here for this. I could have asked him for advice—he was one of the few people who’d ever successfully stood up to Roman. He’d know what to do now, and whether or not this trap we were setting was a good idea.

But I didn’t even have a phone number for Rick. I was on my own, and all Denver had was Angelo, who preferred being a minion and hadn’t looked happy once since stepping up as Master.

Ben stopped at the bar to talk to Shaun and get us drinks while I approached Angelo.

“Hey,” I said, trying to sound upbeat.

He glared at me. He looked young, but by my guess he was a couple of hundred years old. He cultivated the stylish ennui a lot of vampires did, but I never forgot they studied everything around them, and they remembered.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Why should anything be wrong?”

“You look like you’re being hunted. Well, you are, given all the trouble you’ve been stirring up, but you don’t usually look it.”

My lip curled. “Have a seat.”

Grimacing to show how beneath him this was, he pulled out a chair and flopped into it, sprawling. I sat a bit more primly, hands folded in front of me.

“Mercedes Cook is back in the country,” I said. “I don’t know for sure that she’s headed for Denver, but she might be.”

His foot started tapping, a show of nerves. “Great. Excellent. Well then. You remember what happened the last time she came through town, don’t you?”

I said, “She orchestrated a civil war to try to destroy Rick but ended up destroying Arturo instead.” Arturo, previous Master of Denver before Rick. Roman had never been able to get his hands on this city. My city.

“She still likely has her eye on the city. You know that, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know, Angelo. What do you want to do?”

He turned away. “I want to stay out of it. I want to stay safe, and I want to stay out. It’s your fault for bringing this down on us.”

Ben arrived then, beers in hand. “I guess you told him,” he said, eyeing Angelo warily.

“She probably won’t even come to Denver,” I said. “What are the odds?”

“I can console myself that she’ll likely attack you before she comes after me. Canary in the coal mine. Early warning system.” He smiled as if this pleased him.

I winced. “I’m not going to be here. I’ve got some work to do in Albuquerque. An interview for the show.” Could vampires smell lies? I worked hard not to look into his eyes, not to let him capture me with his hypnotic gaze, and thereby control me.

He pointed at me. “There’s a reason vampires do not have day jobs—so to speak. Playing the Long Game is a full-time occupation.”

“I’m not playing. I’m trying to throw the board over.”

“Oh, you’re playing, whether you like it or not. Be aware, when you go away on this trip of yours, the city might not be the same when you get back.”

He almost surprised me into meeting his gaze. Instead I picked a spot on his swept-back hair and glared. “Well. That’s ominous.”

“It’s supposed to be!” He swept a hand through already mussed hair. “I’m not strong enough to stand up to Mercedes Cook. I’m just telling you.”

I thought he was, but he was scared, a vampire raised on terrifying stories of the Long Game and Dux Bellorum and what happened to weak vampires who got in the way.

“You just have to hold the fort for a few days. You can do that.”

He stood, stared down at me. “I’m looking at you, and it feels like I’m never going to see you again. You’re such … my goodness, you’re trying so hard, it’s like watching a child try to build a cathedral. You’re like Joan of Arc. You’re doomed.”

“Angelo—what’s gotten into you?”

“Oh, don’t worry about me.” His smile was tight, cruel. “I’ve looked after myself this long, I’m sure I can manage for a while longer. Good evening to you all.”

He stalked out of the place like he was on a mission.

“What the hell was that all about?” Ben asked, watching after him.

I wanted to rush over to Psalm 23, the vampire-owned nightclub and hunting ground, and find someone to ask what was wrong with Angelo. But I didn’t have time.

“Let’s finish our drinks and get out of here.”

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