Kitty's Big Trouble Page 16

“You came,” she said.

“I said I would. Ben, this is Anastasia. This is Ben O’Farrell, my husband.”

She studied him; he tensed.

“Hi,” he said flatly.

“It’s good to finally meet you. Kitty speaks well of you.”

He gave me a wry glance, and I managed to look innocent. “We need to talk,” I said. “Roman’s wolves attacked us.”

“Yes, I know. You’re covered in dried blood.” She brushed the collar of my shirt, and I managed not to flinch away from her. I wouldn’t meet her gaze—that hypnotic vampire gaze. “We should talk in private. Would you like to call your friend over?”

I’d been about to gloat that Anastasia hadn’t known Cormac was there, standing watch. But of course she’d known about him—she could sense his beating heart and warm blood.

Without being called, Cormac appeared from around the last row of shelves. He was tall, lean, a stereotypical tough guy in jeans. I couldn’t guess what Anastasia saw when she looked at him. After all our history together, I just saw Cormac.

He held his left hand at his side, closed around some small object. An amulet, probably. Maybe even a cross—defense against vampires. He hadn’t done that sort of thing before going to prison. He’d depended on brute force and firearms, before. Whatever amulet he held belonged to Amelia, really.

“And who is this?” Anastasia asked.

“Cormac Bennett. He’s a friend.” She must have noticed that he held something, maybe even suspected that he was a hunter with experience killing vampires. If she didn’t, I wasn’t going to volunteer the information.

Anastasia waited a moment, but Cormac didn’t say anything. I didn’t expect him to. He’d staked more vampires than he’d conversed with.

Finally, Anastasia nodded. “You have your own entourage, I see. The tables are turned this time.”

When I first met Anastasia, she was flanked by a young vampire protégé and her very handsome human servant. They were both dead now. I certainly hoped the tables weren’t turned. Not like that.

I masked my discomfort with a smile and an offhand shrug. “Yup. My own little wolf pack. I guess I expected you to have a friend or two along for this.”

“No,” she said. “Not anymore. From now on I think it’s best if I have only myself to look after. Why don’t we step inside?” She gestured through the doorway to what looked like an adjoining warehouse.

“Is there another way out of there?” Ben asked.

“Of course,” she said, arcing an offended brow as she led us inside.

Cormac took one last glance behind him before closing the door.

This was a good-size room, obviously storage for the import shop, but lots of cardboard boxes and wooden crates made the place feel cramped. Dim lighting didn’t help. Ben and Cormac were looking around, marking the lay of the land, the exit marked by a red light across the room.

“Do you own this place?” I said, gesturing around. The stuff showed a clash of cultures—rolls of an American brand of toilet paper stacked on top of cardboard boxes labeled in Chinese holding who-knew-what, exotic paper lanterns resting on shelves that also held mundane cleaning supplies, with mops and brooms propped in the corner. “Is that why we’re meeting here?”

“I’m calling in favors,” she said. “I used to have a lot of contacts here. Turns out I still have a few. We’ll be safe. Now, tell me what happened.”

“Ben and I were attacked. Werewolves. I tried to call you after it happened, but you didn’t answer.”

“You appear to have handled them without any trouble,” she said. Her expression didn’t change—I was looking for a show of surprise, of fear. That I didn’t see any reaction didn’t mean anything. I realized I’d have felt better if she’d found a new protégé or human servant. Anastasia by herself wasn’t worried about protecting anyone.

“That, or we got lucky.” I glanced at Cormac, then looked away. Anastasia caught the gesture.

She considered a moment, then said, “We can assume that Roman knows you’re here now.”

“Does that change anything?”

“No. We’re still ahead of him. Let him think we’re stronger than we are.”

I looked around. “Even though it’s just the four of us?” The four of us were pretty badass, but still.

“No. There’s one more.” Her twitch of a smile chilled me. “Kitty, what I’d really like for you and your pack to do is stay on the streets and serve as a distraction. Roman knows you’re here—we can use that. It will give me more time to find the pearl.”

Next to me, Ben bristled. I stared. “Cannon fodder. That’s why you called me here, so you could throw me in Roman’s path while you get away.”

“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t think you were capable,” she said.

I huffed. “There’s a saying: you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than the other guy.”

She crossed her arms and glared, her dark eyes shining. “If you want to help me—”

“I can’t help you if you send me away.”

Vampires didn’t breathe—they no longer needed oxygen to survive. So when Anastasia sighed, it was on purpose, and a mark of her frustration. “As much as I would like to end Roman’s existence, and will if I ever have the opportunity, the pearl is more important. Keeping it away from him is my priority.”

“A pearl?” Ben said. “This is all about a piece of jewelry?”

Anastasia surveyed and disregarded him with a glance, which made me want to get in her face even more. How dare she diss my guy. An older vampire, Anastasia wasn’t used to werewolves talking back. I’d seen her get pissed off, and I wondered how far I’d have to push her before she got pissed off at me. Wasn’t going to find out this time. I eased Wolf back and stayed civil. “Anastasia, I want to know what we’re fighting for here. Tell me about this pearl.”

“The Dragon’s Pearl,” she said. “It’s an artifact of great age and power.”

I wrinkled my nose. “What’s it do?”

Cormac, who’d been lurking and nigh unto invisible, stepped forward and said, “It’s a bottomless container. The stories say you put it in a jar full of rice, the jar will produce an endless amount of rice. Or gold. The artifact itself was said to be a gem or a pearl, carried by divine dragons. But more likely it was a charm created by a human magician, probably as an imperial gift or status symbol.” On second thought, it was Amelia who said all that, but Anastasia didn’t have to know that.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies