Kitty Saves the World Page 43

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he answered.

A cornered predator was the worst kind of predator. We knew that very well. “Hello?” I called again.

A figure broke off from the shadows—Braun, standing at the corner of the building, arms at his sides. I felt a tiny bit of comfort—he hadn’t been with Angelo and the others. Maybe he wouldn’t try to kill me.

“What do you want?” he asked, suspicious.

Ben turned and aimed the crossbow at him; I put my hand on his shoulder to calm him. I glanced around—other vampires came out from where they’d been hiding, or from where they’d been stalking us. None of the ones here had been at KNOB. Had the Family broken into factions? Should that give me hope?

Ben turned again, watching the others, covering me while I talked.

“Braun, right?”

“Kitty.”

“I just want to talk,” I said. “You didn’t come after me with Angelo and the others.”

“No. You got a little banged up, I see. What happened?”

Ben and I looked like we’d done a couple of rounds in a cage fight. Cormac wasn’t going to be happy when he saw us.

“Angelo is dead,” I said.

He didn’t seem surprised. I wondered if they’d felt it, because he was the Master. “What happened? How did you survive?”

“He was trying to kill me—under Dux Bellorum’s orders. Did you know that?”

“Some of us didn’t agree with him,” Braun said. “We … we wouldn’t stand with him. He said he’d be back to ‘take care’ of us. I can’t say I’m sorry he’s gone. How did he—”

“I did it. I staked him.”

One of them let out a soft hiss; a couple stepped back. They all looked surprised. And I felt a tiny bit safer—they were scared of me.

I looked. There were maybe half a dozen vampires here in a circle around us, and I recognized most of them, vampires who’d been at Psalm 23 with Arturo, then Rick, then Angelo. They were like coworkers or neighbors you knew well enough to say hello to, but you couldn’t name any details about them. None of them had attacked us at KNOB. I still wasn’t sure I trusted them. We had enough stakes and bolts and holy water to take a bunch of them with us, but they’d probably get us, and it wouldn’t be pretty. But they didn’t look like hunters at the moment. They looked wary, unhappy, nervous—lost. They wanted to talk, or they wouldn’t be standing here.

I found myself hoping Cormac didn’t get here in the next ten minutes to blow everything up. I lowered the stake I’d been holding. At that, Ben relaxed a notch. Just a notch.

“So you wouldn’t back Angelo—what are you doing here?”

“Angelo may be gone but he has followers. We have to hold this place, if we’re going to keep Denver safe.”

“Safe the way Angelo was trying to keep it safe, or safe for real?”

“We’re on your side,” he said. “I think. Against Dux Bellorum, that’s the important part.”

I spoke carefully. “Dux Bellorum is still out there, and he’s close to whatever it is he’s been working toward. Angelo told me to come here, right before he died. I don’t know why.”

Braun said, “Denver doesn’t have a Master anymore. How do you expect us to help?”

I didn’t know. I didn’t know what they were feeling, or what they needed. “Maybe you could just, I don’t know, decide to help? Maybe you could get together and decide what to do next? Maybe elect a new Master? Or do you really need a Master? I mean, aren’t you all still a Family without one?”

One of the women to my left gasped, as if I’d suggested something awful. Braun looked tired. “We can’t just elect a Master; the power doesn’t work that way.”

This was the part I didn’t understand. Something bound Families together; there was a bond between a Master or Mistress and their followers, and that bond had power. Whatever bond they’d had with Angelo had been broken without ceremony. The power in his blood had turned to ash. They had my sympathies, but I was losing patience. “Well, then you’ll have to figure out something else to do about it in the meantime.”

Braun said, “This isn’t your radio show, you can’t just run your mouth and make everything better.”

Ben snorted at that. “She can try.”

I resisted the urge to elbow him. “Formality, is that it? You want some of that old-school formality and structure? Okay, then. As the established alpha pair of the Denver werewolf pack, we are asking you, the established vampire Family of Denver and our longtime allies, for help. This isn’t just to protect the city, it’s … it’s for everything. Will you please help?”

He looked over, and I followed his gaze as it traveled along the line of vampires standing around us. An unspoken vote took place as vampires nodded slightly, or gave brief shakes of their heads. I thought I knew what the problem was, why a decision needed to be made at all: did they want to help us more than they feared what Roman and Ashtoreth would do them? I could understand why someone would want to flee. But my God, I’d managed to stick around, and if I could do it …

“Wait here,” Braun said, while one of the others, a short, prim-looking woman, went down the stairs into the lair.

The rest of the vampires didn’t break position. They reminded me of a wolf pack in uncertain territory, wondering when the attack was going to come. They wouldn’t much appreciate the comparison, but it made me aware of my own body language. I tried to relax, loosening my shoulders, taking calm breaths, lowering my gaze. Imagining my currently nonexistent tail dropping. Wolf for everything’s fine, we’re all fine here.

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