Kitty Saves the World Page 25

“We should go east next,” I said.

Ben nodded. Our eastern den, the spot on the plains we went to when the mountains were snowbound, would take three hours to drive to. I’d be at this all night if I didn’t watch the time. That’d be okay.

Dusk would come soon, and I could finally track down Angelo.

“Let’s get going,” Ben said.

East, we drove past farmland, some newly plowed fields, and some still covered with the stubble of last year’s harvest. Prairie, gullies filled with cottonwoods, and flatness that was in contrast to the mountains. Dusk fell, but that didn’t matter. We needed our noses, not our eyes. Our den out here was a dry creek bed lined with cottonwoods, grasslands surrounded by ranches but remote enough to be relatively safe.

We didn’t come out here often, but the place still smelled like us. We caught a few other trails, cattle passing through, a few pronghorn antelope, some coyote, but they didn’t stay long. They knew this was our spot.

Still no sign of Shaun and the pack. Ben came up next to me and put his arms around me. I leaned hard into his warmth, and he kissed the top of my head.

“I was supposed to keep them safe,” I said.

“Don’t bring on the guilt yet. We still have a lot of looking to do.”

We headed back into town.

*   *   *

NIGHT FELL on our way back to the city, and we drove straight to Psalm 23.

I was a mess, sleep deprived, and in need of a shower. Somehow the change of clothes hadn’t gotten rid of the smoky, ashy smell that seemed to live inside my lungs now. I’d never forget the smell of my destroyed building.

Angelo still wasn’t answering his phone. His minions weren’t, either. Maybe he was in the same trouble the pack had gotten into. On the other hand, maybe he knew what had happened to them.

I hadn’t showered, and after a day—no, two days—of running around, I wasn’t really fit to go out. When I found him, Angelo would wrinkle his nose at me, but he’d do that anyway.

Ben found a parking spot a couple of blocks away from the nightclub, which even on a weeknight was pretty good luck.

“Let me do the talking,” I said as we walked to the entrance.

“When have I ever not let you do the talking?”

“Courtroom appearances. Senate hearings.”

“Well, yeah,” he said. “Is this a courtroom appearance?”

“It kind of feels like it.”

We turned the corner, and the club’s low-key printed sign, dimly lit, came into view. Ben said, “Everything here looks normal, at least.”

Psalm 23 was the kind of place with bouncers and velvet ropes and a long line of young, well-groomed people in slinky cocktail dresses and silk shirts and tailored slacks waiting outside, not quite able to hide their desperation to be cool. You could go your whole life and not realize that Denver had this kind of nightlife. One of the reasons this particular club had lasted so long, with relatively few changes in identity: the vampires owned it. It was their hunting ground. Because why go looking for food when you can set bait and lure it in? Vampires didn’t need to kill their prey—a few swallows of blood kept them alive and kept the streets clean of bodies that raised too many questions. If they could make the experience alluring, enjoyable, and terribly hip—why, they’d never run out of willing victims.

And that was why vampires hung out at trendy nightclubs.

When Rick was Master, I could often find him here, tucked away in the back, quietly surveying his realm.

Ben and I had both rounded the corner from scruffy into disheveled. He had a pretty good start on a beard. We walked past the line of pretty young people, ignoring their stares. The bouncer was one of the Family’s younger vampires—younger meaning decades old rather than centuries old. A tough-looking black guy, Braun wore a suit and glowered professionally. We stopped, Ben looking over my shoulder at him.

“Hi,” I said. “I need to talk to Angelo, is he here?”

Braun didn’t say anything. Usually, the bouncers here, particularly the vampire ones who didn’t seem to like werewolves—or maybe it was just me—on principle, argued for a minute as a matter of form, then stepped aside to let me in.

“Well?” I said, crossing my arms and glaring without meeting his vampiric gaze.

Still nothing. The guy was a brick wall, blocking my way.

My hackles went up; my lip curled, showing teeth. Well, if he wasn’t going to argue with us he at least seemed like he wasn’t going to stop us, either. I glanced at Ben and we started to go around him to the front door.

Braun put out a hand and clapped it on my shoulder. Snarling, I batted at him and swerved out of reach, fingers curled into claws. Also snarling, Ben jumped in between us, lunging forward, daring the vampire to strike again. Someone in the line of people screamed.

Wolf rose up under my rib cage, pressing out, ready to fight. When I tried to dodge around Braun again, he went to grab me, but Ben shoved. The vampire backhanded him, and he hit the sidewalk with a rush of breath. Braun came after me, yanking me back so hard my shoulder hurt. He moved too fast for me to get out of the way, too fast for me to see. Even for his size, he was shockingly strong.

I kicked, and he lifted me, my toes just scraping on the sidewalk, to the level of his face. I bared my teeth, and Wolf growled in my throat. I could let her go, I could tear out his throat—

“Put her down,” Ben growled, crouched, ready to pounce.

Braun looked at him sidelong. “You really want to start something here in front of all these people?” he said, his voice a low purr.

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