Kitty Saves the World Page 75

“Kitty, ask your question,” Rick said.

“Hey. I was trying to be polite.”

“Rick warned us about you,” Ruth said. “I for one am not going to tell you how old I am. It’s rude to ask.”

“Yeah, apparently,” I said. “So how about I ask about Yellowstone. How did you end up there? What have you been doing since you left Denver? How—I mean, what is this?”

“You know about the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows,” Rick said. “It’s larger than you might think, a diverse group from all over the world. We find our ways there by different paths, or we’re recruited. But we’re there because we can’t abide Dux Bellorum and people like him. We’re beings of darkness, standing against the dark.”

“That’s a hell of a sales pitch,” Ben observed.

“You didn’t stop Roman,” Cormac said. “Not in the end. It was us. It was Kitty.”

“Don’t think we didn’t notice,” Ibrahim said.

I said, “It was all of us. We all needed to be there.”

“Yes,” Rick said. “A lot of people noticed that.” He was eyeing the wolf amulet, which I’d had under my shirt, but the collar was low enough that it fell out. I tucked it back.

“So,” I said. “Please tell me now that everything’s done you’re back to take over the Family. You have no idea how stressed out everyone was when you were gone. Angelo—he wasn’t a disaster, but, well…”

“He was wearing one of Roman’s coins when he died,” Ben said. “He was a disaster.”

It wasn’t his fault, I wanted to say. I hated speaking ill of the dead. Most of the dead, anyway.

Rick frowned, and my heart sank.

“Our work isn’t finished,” he said, meaning the work of the Order of Saint Lazarus and his cohort. “There are a dozen cities in Europe and the Middle East whose Masters were loyal to Dux Bellorum. They’ll be in chaos now. We—all of us in the order—will need to sort them out.”

“But you can start with Denver, maybe? Find a new Master, someone who won’t freak out.”

“I hope to,” Rick said. “Any suggestions?”

Ruth looked sharply at him, and I had the feeling that asking advice from a werewolf should have been beneath him. But this was Rick.

“Braun. He kept his head, helped us out when push came to shove. I think we can get along.”

“I’ll consider it,” he said.

He told us that he’d been keeping an eye on Denver—mostly through Alette’s network of contacts. We were reporting in with each other regularly enough that she had most of the news. They’d already been in the States since they’d tracked Roman here. They were waiting for him to make a move, and it turned out the bombing out of New Moon was it. I tried to get mad at him for not telling me he was in the States, but I kept quiet. He’d been working, he’d had his reasons. I was supposed to trust him. After all, he’d been there when I needed him most.

They hadn’t literally followed us to Yellowstone, but they’d known to go there. They looked for us, but they could only do so at night, and Yellowstone was really big. Eventually they’d found us. Rick recognized Cormac’s Jeep.

And then they had to go. “We’re scheduled to be in Europe by tomorrow night. This work, following up with Roman’s people—it can’t wait.”

“No. I really don’t want to see what it looks like if someone tries to step into his shoes.”

“Exactly.”

Rick and Ben shook hands. Rick and Cormac didn’t. Ibrahim and Ruth nodded farewells before heading outside, and I walked with Rick to the door.

The other vampires entered the familiar black Land Rover, but Rick and I held back, lingering by the front door, darkened by nighttime shadows.

“Please say you’ll call every now and then this time,” I said. “You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to talk to you, how crazy it’s been.”

“I know,” he said, touching my shoulder. “I’ll call this time.”

His hand moved from my shoulder to the chain holding the stone wolf. I let him lift it out, study it. “What is it?”

“I got it from a couple of Men in Black who said they were angels. They said it’ll give me a year and a day.”

Rick’s brows lifted. He knew what it meant immediately, and I didn’t think I’d ever seen him so startled.

“There will be a price for that, later on,” he said.

They told me I’d already paid it, I wanted to argue, but I knew he was right. As the angels had said, this was a fairy tale, there was always a price, and they would come for my firstborn.

No.

“I’ll deal with that when we get there,” I said, my smile wan. “I figure it’s worth a shot.”

“Yes, I think you’re right. Good luck.”

“Thanks. Rick, do you believe in God?”

He didn’t say anything right away, which was shocking to me, because Rick’s faith was part of what defined him. He’d gone on an honest-to-God crusade, becoming this warrior priest. I had expected an unmitigated yes.

“That’s a more complicated question than most people imagine,” he said lightly, smiling. “Ten thousand years of human civilization, all of it burdened by religion trying to figure out what it all means, and I think we still don’t understand. But ultimately the answer is yes. And what about you, Kitty? After all you’ve been through?”

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