Kitty Saves the World Page 14

The two women shook hands and exchanged polite greetings before Tina turned to join Cormac at the Jeep.

“You going to be okay?” I asked her quietly.

“Sure.” She shrugged. “He’s kind of cute, you know.”

“Then have fun.” Should I warn her? Should I warn him?

Cormac, the man himself, shut the Jeep’s back door and gave us a cursory glance before climbing in the driver’s seat.

“You did tell him I was coming,” Hardin asked.

“Yeah. Briefly.”

She pursed her lips, considering. “Separate cars. Good idea. I’ll be asleep in the backseat if you need me.” She stomped off to Ben’s car and climbed into the back.

“Keep your phones on,” Cormac said through the lowered window, then started the engine and pulled into the drive. Tina waved back at us.

“This is going to be a very long drive,” Ben observed.

I sighed. Yes, it was.

*   *   *

SEVEN HOURS, a couple of stops for gas, and a terrible fast-food lunch later, we pulled into Albuquerque in the middle of the afternoon. Apart from a week a few years ago when I was on the road, I’d never spent time here. The place was an unlikely city in the middle of a very wide desert. Kind of depressing.

Tina pulled me aside at one of the stops. She seemed to be surviving the drive with Cormac, but she obviously needed to talk. We walked across the gas station parking lot with the excuse that we needed to stretch our legs. She’d put her hair up, and was still bundled in a sweater and jacket. I wondered if the heater in the Jeep worked. She was right on the edge of saying something, trying to find the words. I waited.

Finally she said, “Anyone who has any kind of relationship with him is going to have to have a relationship with both of them. Does he know that?”

I looked at her, part astonished, part horrified. “Are you considering it? A relationship? With Cormac?”

“I don’t know—he’s got that rugged thing going. But I’m kind of thinking he’s already taken.”

I had absolutely no response to that. They were both grown-ups, they could do what they wanted. But I shied away from trying to actually picture the reality of the pairing. I’d had my chance with the guy. Long time ago now. But he still looked at me sometimes in a way that made me wonder.

Let it go.

“Do you ever hear from Jeffrey?” I asked. Jeffrey Miles, another professional psychic, a good friend, and another victim of that damned reality show. Like Tina, he’d been shot, but he hadn’t recovered. Tina could communicate with the dead—sometimes.

She smiled, but the expression was sad. “Sometimes I think I do. Just the feeling that he’s looking over my shoulder. Nothing in words, you know?”

“Yeah. I have my own ghosts looking over my shoulder. We could maybe use a few guardian angels looking out for us on this one.”

This seemed to cheer her up. “Maybe Anastasia’s out there keeping an eye on us.”

Wasn’t that a nice thought? Ben waved us back over to the cars, he and I switched driving, and we continued on.

We arrived in the city with a few hours of daylight left to scout, to choose our ground. To set the trap.

Cormac and Amelia had negotiated a meeting place at the southwest edge of town, at Petroglyph National Monument. I couldn’t decide if this was good or bad. My impulse toward safety wanted us to meet in a very crowded restaurant or shopping mall, surrounded by lots of people, witnesses who meant everyone would be on good behavior, maybe impede potential fireworks. On the other hand, if there were going to be fireworks, best we go where no one would get hurt, yes?

Both Cormac and Roman, I gathered, wanted a location where they had a good line of sight, with few to no places to hide. Their mutual suspicion wasn’t, apparently, suspicious. Powerful magicians always acted this carefully, with this level of paranoia, Amelia assured us. Powerful magicians, and hunters. Cormac fit right in.

The place was bleak, dried-up sage and scattered juniper on a chalky plain, lined by low mesas of volcanic rock. The tract housing across the highway seemed unlikely, and a dusty smell tickled the back of my throat. The spot they’d chosen was a parking and picnic area a quarter mile or so from the visitors center. Nice place for a weekend outing, I thought. It would look lonely and desolate after dark.

We wanted to scout the site, but didn’t want to be seen scouting the area. Roman would have his own people out here, and they had the advantage—they knew us, and we didn’t know them. Ben and I walked the perimeter of the immediate area, taking careful stock of the scents as we went. We weren’t walking side by side, but staggered, a few paces apart, both of us looking in different directions—wolves on the hunt.

“No lycanthropes,” Ben said after a minute. His chin was up, his nose working, taking in the air. “Wolf or otherwise. I’d have thought this region would be filled with werewolves, there’s so much open space. Nobody’d bother them.”

“A few are around, but they’re not organized. I asked Rick about it once. He said there’s too much competition, too many other kinds of magic. Native American peoples maintained more of their traditions here. The Spanish and Mexican curandero traditions stayed strong. There’s too much magical protection against things like werewolves. At least, there’s a reputation for it. Keeps the riffraff out.” As far as I knew, Albuquerque didn’t have a Master vampire. That may have been part of why Roman agreed to meet here.

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