Kitty Saves the World Page 36

“Hello, you’re on the air, what have you got for me?”

“This is Roman. Dux Bellorum, if you prefer.”

I went numb, just for a minute. Then Wolf snarled, and my lips parted in a smile. I’d gotten him. Kicked him hard enough he had to come out of hiding. This was a hunt, cat and mouse, and I didn’t know which of us was which. I let my radio self loose.

“Roman, hello, thanks for calling in. You have a problem you need solving? Or a comment on what we’ve been discussing? Hm?”

“At the start of all this you asked what vampires want. What I want. Tell me—what do you want?”

I pursed my lips a moment. “You know that’s the second time in as many days I’ve been asked that?”

“Then you’ve had time to think about it.”

“I want what everyone wants. A nice life.”

“You aren’t going to get that, pitting yourself against me.”

Any quip died on my breath. “Yeah. I know.”

“It isn’t too late for you to drop out of the game,” Roman said. “I’m not unreasonable. If you run, I will let you run. I don’t like giving myself more work by chasing inconsequential mice. But you have been given so many warnings. You have had so many chances. And yet you’re still here.”

“I keep telling you, I’m not part of the game, I’m just trying to kick the board over. Scatter the pieces.”

“The board and all the pieces are still here. Nice work.” His tone cut.

He wasn’t wrong. We’d been kicking at each other for years. We were both still here. “Where is my pack, Roman? What have you done with my wolves?”

He answered, “I haven’t done anything. I don’t know where they are.”

He sounded amused, an adult scoffing at the antics of a child. My rage stayed at a low simmer, because I believed him. He didn’t know.

I would have been speechless, except I had a microphone in front of me, and after some ten years in radio I was constitutionally incapable of keeping quiet in front of a microphone.

“Something’s got to give,” I murmured. “You’ll screw up, and I’m going to make sure I’m there to see it.”

“One last warning, Katherine Norville, and this is the very last one. For you and all your allies. All your deluded listeners. Leave the field quietly, and you can keep your ‘nice life.’ For at least a little while.”

“Just tell me one thing—am I right? About the volcano, about Pompeii and the Manus Herculei—is that right? How close are we to stopping you? Is that why you called, because I’m close enough that you feel like you have to threaten me to get me to back off?”

The line clicked. He’d hung up, he was gone.

“Well, dang, Roman must have had something else he needed to do because he’s gone away. And to think I was going to ask him to stick around and maybe take a few questions from my callers—”

But the monitor was blank. All my callers had hung up. Even the regulars.

This was my nightmare—the show worked because people kept calling in. What would I do if people stopped calling? Did it make a difference if they stopped because they were scared?

How much time did I have left to fill, when I just wanted to run home and hug my husband, my sister, my niece and nephew, my parents, and all my friends? When I wanted to turn Wolf and stand before them to protect them? Find the pack, circle the wagons—

Just five minutes. Less time than I thought. More than I wanted. There was a metaphor in there somewhere.

“Right, then,” I said. “I think I may leave off there, because how will I ever top that? And I’m a little overstimulated, I’m thinking, which isn’t a surprise, is it? Such prestigious callers! Such intense discussion! All this talk about games, and wants, and taking over the world.

“It’s not a game. And not because there isn’t actually a board with pieces on it like we’re both trying to get enough houses to set up hotels on Park Avenue. That makes it sound so me versus you, us versus them. Good versus evil. And it’s not, really. Making it about good and evil … misses the point, I think. I’m not fighting for good like some kind of—” A moment of hesitation, as I self-edited the expletive. Radio training, ha. “—avenging angel. I just want to protect my family, my pack, my friends. I don’t want too much—I want just enough. And I don’t want to have to put up with crap. That’s what I want. Is that so hard?

“Once again, and as always, thanks for listening. This is The Midnight Hour, signing off. Don’t forget to leave a porch light on so you can find your way home after dark.”

And that was a wrap. Matt cued up the credits, which played along with a howl—my Wolf, recorded back in the day. A territory signal, a declaration of existence. I wanted to howl back.

I sat back in my chair. I expected to be exhausted, but I felt strangely hyper. The spike of adrenaline was still with me. My shoulders were stiff, my hackles tensed up—Wolf was on the surface, watching. I took off my headset and scratched my head.

Matt had come to the door of the booth to look at me with an expression of concern, and I offered a wan smile.

“Weird, huh? Is that what you meant?” he said. “What the hell was that all about? That guy—I get threatened by callers all the time, that I need to put them on the air or else. I usually just hang up on them. But this one…” He shook his head; he had no words.

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