Kitty Saves the World Page 16

“Hey, assuming we get him, there won’t be a body and no way to prove what happened.”

That was logical. Didn’t make me feel any better.

Cormac glanced at his watch, then out the place’s big picture windows, as if he didn’t trust what the watch had told him and needed external confirmation. The sun was setting, casting a muted orange light across the sky. “Let’s get going. Everyone good?”

No. I was not good. But I wasn’t going to get any better than I was right now, so I supposed I was good. Nobody else said anything, yes or no. My limbs were stiff with tension.

We should Change, my Wolf said from behind the bars I kept around her most of the time. We can be stronger. This is a hunt, let me hunt.

It’s not the time for that, I murmured.

But it might be, before the night is over.

If it came to that, yes, it might very well be time for it.

Chapter 5

A STARK DESERT sunset haunted the sky, unfiltered light across a washed-out landscape granting a red tinge to the dust. The breeze had the chill of spring and smelled chalky. The wildness of it called to Wolf, but I shivered and crossed my arms, unwilling to expose myself, uncertain what else lay out there.

Ben and I were hidden in a stand of junipers near the mesa, too far away to be of any use if things went bad. Hardin waited at the other end of the mesa with a pair of binoculars. I could smell her, but her nervous energy seemed eager, full of anticipation. She was a hunter, too.

Tina had driven herself over in Ben’s sedan, the only car in the parking lot right now. I hoped Roman wouldn’t notice the Colorado plates and grow suspicious.

The reason Cormac wasn’t worried about hiding: he had some kind of spell or potion or thing from Amelia. It didn’t make him invisible, but it somehow convinced onlookers that he wasn’t there. I didn’t understand it, but I also didn’t see him, so it must have been working. I smelled him, his leather and determination, but only because I knew he was there.

It didn’t matter, because Roman the vampire would sense all our heartbeats. He’d smell our blood on the wind. He’d read our minds across the distance. We weren’t fooling anyone. Cormac insisted we didn’t have to fool him—Roman would stay because he’d be curious, no matter what, and Cormac only needed one clear shot.

I tried to tell myself to stop worrying.

Tina sat at one of the picnic tables, her back very straight, her hands folded on the surface in front of her. She looked like an arcane practitioner, a modern psychic channeling a Victorian woman. She must have learned something about Amelia on the trip down.

“What if he’s wearing body armor?” I’d said, cranky.

“You ever see him wear body armor?” Cormac countered.

I hadn’t. Huh.

We wouldn’t see him approach. Roman was a vampire, and they had strange ways of moving, of hiding in shadows, of making themselves invisible. Roman would simply appear, maybe standing off a moment to take stock. We wouldn’t see him until he wanted to be seen. Yet another of our disadvantages.

We waited half an hour past the agreed-on time. This was okay; we expected it. He wanted Amelia—Tina, all of us—off balance. He wanted the higher ground, the control. The desert air grew cold, and as time passed Tina hugged her coat around her.

I smelled Roman before I saw him. An even colder twist in the already chill air, a sharp odor that smelled dead, but not rotten. A heart stilled, but preserved. A corpse, but one with a mind, will, and motion. Close, and getting closer. Ben’s nose flared; he smelled it, too. Tina looked across the park the same time I did—she felt it.

I couldn’t risk saying anything to warn the others. The sound would carry. We had to wait and see what happened.

He appeared, a shadow taking form, breaking off from the night beyond the orange glow of the lights in the parking lot. He was dressed in black, long coat flapping around him, arms loose at his side. His dark hair was close cut, militaristic, and he walked with purpose across the asphalt.

He stopped about twenty paces away from the picnic table, as if giving Tina time to notice him.

Tina stood, mouth open, and I was glad we’d forgotten to warn her that Roman would likely appear out of nowhere. He’d have expected her to be surprised, and so she was. He actually smiled at her, a thin and somehow calming expression. Setting her at ease after the pain of so much anticipation. In our few encounters, I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen him smile with anything other than disdain.

He came closer until he stood across the table from her. He could have reached out and touched her. She was frozen, staring—had she forgotten not to look into his eyes? I couldn’t tell from here. She smelled afraid.

“You’re Tina McCannon,” he said. “Not Amelia Parker. Or—are you? It’s my understanding you’re able to channel the dead.” He waited for an explanation.

Now, now she should get out of the way, let Cormac take his shot—

Before she could answer him, a shiny black town car pulled into the parking lot. Incongruous, suspicious, it stopped without turning into a marked slot. Somebody having a look around before getting chauffeured to the airport? Seemed unlikely. I braced to run—but I didn’t know which way to go. Help Tina, stop Roman—or what? She should duck, Cormac should shoot now, while we were all distracted.

The car also attracted Roman’s attention. He looked over, frowning. So, not part of his plan, either. The uniformed driver got out, stepped over to open the passenger door, and stood at attention as Mercedes Cook emerged.

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