Kitty's Big Trouble Page 32

Scrambling forward despite my injury, I made to tackle Ben’s captor. The other vampire was there to grab me from behind. I hadn’t even seen him move. He wrenched my arms back and dropped me to my knees. Despite the pain stabbing in my shoulder, I kept lunging forward, futilely trying to break free and reach Ben.

“We don’t want to hurt you, really,” the vampire holding me said. “Please just come with us.”

The please did it. I stopped struggling and nodded, because my voice still wasn’t working right. All Wolf wanted to do was growl.

“I let you go, you stay calm?” he said. “You’ll tell your mate to stand down?”

I nodded again.

“Can you even talk anymore?”

I swallowed, concentrated very hard on human words, and said, “I’m having a really bad night.”

He let me go. I slumped forward and rolled my shoulders, working the kinks out. “Ben, please. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

The wolf settled. The other vampire cautiously lifted his hands and backed away. As soon as the pressure was gone, Ben lurched to his feet. He stared at the vampire a moment and seemed to debate about risking another attack. Then he lowered his head and trotted to me, pressing close, twining himself in my arms. I hugged him hard, and he licked my face.

The first vampire was talking on a cell phone. A moment later, a shiny black Cadillac pulled around the corner and stopped at the curb. I couldn’t see the driver through the tinted windows, but I assumed it was another vampire. And Rick said the Family here was laid back.

The first vampire, the one in the Havana shirt who still hadn’t given his name, opened the back door and gestured us inside. The other, Joe, opened the front passenger-side door and climbed in.

I didn’t want to go. Ben stood between me and the car like a wall—he didn’t want to go, either.

“You’re from the San Francisco Family,” I said, stalling, trying to get my bearings.

He looked at me and sighed—specifically to demonstrate his frustration, it seemed. “Yes. My name is Henry. Now will you please get in so we can get off the street?”

I looked at Ben, cupping my hands around his face, smoothing back his fur. “What do you think?”

He licked my chin. Leaving it up to me. Leaning against him, I pulled myself to my feet and hobbled to the car.

“You’re hurt,” Henry said.

“I said I’ve had a bad night.”

“Broken bone?”

I glared at him. “I’m fine.”

He shrugged. When Ben and I were inside, he closed the door after us. He got in the front with Joe, and the car drove smoothly away.

Chapter 12

THE DRIVER WAS human. Living, breathing, though tainted with the scent of vampire. A human servant, then. Average size, he had pale skin and wore a designer leather jacket. Both Henry and Joe sat in front, even though it had less room, leaving the back to us. I had to admit I felt safer this way. I had room to breathe—and a possible escape route. Ben found an awkward position, sitting braced across me, still protecting me, and half twisted forward so he could keep the vampires in view. His lip stayed curled, showing sharp teeth. I rested an arm across his back and breathed in the warmth of his fur.

Henry was tall, meaty—almost stout. He had the build of a retired athlete. Joe had Mediterranean features. His dark hair had curl to it, and I would have called his skin tanned if he hadn’t been a vampire.

“You two are a long way from home,” Henry said.

“Not so long,” I answered.

“What brings you to the city by the bay?”

“The sights.”

“Which is why you’re gallivanting around Chinatown at midnight.”

“Ghost tour. We got separated from the group.”

Joe craned around. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

Such a loaded question. I wasn’t sure if my identity would make things better for Ben and me, or worse. Complete toss-up. “That depends. You listen to much radio?”

The looked of recognition dawned. “You’re Kitty Norville.”

Henry looked at him. “What? Are you sure?”

“Yeah. It’s not the voice so much as the sarcasm.”

I rested my head on Ben’s back. We were so doomed.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Henry said.

“Because saying something is just as likely to get me shot in some circles as not,” I said.

They both chuckled. The driver glanced at me in his rearview mirror, and even he was smiling.

“Boss is going to love this,” Henry said.

I hugged Ben.

We drove for maybe fifteen minutes. I couldn’t see out the tinted side windows, so I tried to watch out the front windshield. We’d entered a neighborhood of Victorian-looking townhouses with bay windows, on pleasant, tree-lined streets.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“The Haight,” Henry said. “We own a few buildings here.”

“Like, Haight-Ashbury?”

Henry nodded. At another time—during daylight and with no injuries, for example—I’d have been excited. Site of the Summer of Love, home to icons of psychedelic rock, I’d have loved to just wander, to see if anything was left of that old hippie atmosphere or if it had all been swallowed by twenty-first-century commercial tourism. But right now all I wanted to do was go home.

Finally we turned down a sloped driveway into an underground garage and stopped.

“Everybody out,” Henry said.

I leaned around Ben to open to the door, and he jumped out ahead of me. Again, we stood side by side, to face whatever came next. The garage looked as if it was used for a motor pool of some kind. A couple of other sleek sedans were parked here, along with a zippy red sports car and a big SUV. The place was lit with flickering fluorescents, which made my eyes hurt. The driver waved at the vampires and went into an office. Joe opened one side of a set of double doors and gestured inside. Henry led the way.

Past the doors, a hallway led to what must have been the building’s basement, which meant we were entering a vampire’s lair. Underground meant no windows, and no sunlight. And no exits. Joe closed the door behind us and followed.

The place reeked of vampires—cold and stale blood, not a hint of fresh life. Keeping one hand on Ben, clinging to his fur, I walked. Ben stayed pressed against my hip. His steps were slow to match mine, and his claws clicked on the linoleum. I kept telling myself that if they’d meant us harm, they wouldn’t be saying please, and they wouldn’t be letting us walk under our own power. They just wanted to talk. Vampires did this kind of thing all the time—they had to be the ones in control, they had to talk on their own turf. I was still nervous, and the muscles on Ben’s shoulders and back were stiff. They might have given us champagne and fresh steaks and we’d still be nervous.

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