Kitty's Big Trouble Page 43

Anastasia closed her eyes and wilted. Shoulders slumped, head bent, face drained of what little life it had. “Then it’s over,” she whispered.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “There has to be a way to find him. We can still get it back, we can still stop him. We got away from the cabin in Montana, we can get away from this.”

“Kitty—” Anastasia breathed.

“We can kill him, we have to—”

“Are you sure he can be killed?” Ben said.

Anastasia railed. “None of you understand. None of you know what we’re up against.”

“I’ll go after him,” Sun said. “I’m the one who lost the pearl, I’ll get it back, no problem.” He leaned casually on his staff as if it was an extra, familiar limb.

“What can you possibly do?” Anastasia spat.

Sun waved a confident hand. “Leave it to me. That way the rest of you can get out of the tunnels entirely. Go home, have a cup of tea, and forget you were ever here. And you—” He pointed at Grace. “You should know better than that, bringing these people here. You know what’s down here, and I’m not talking about crazy Western vampires.”

Grace had been staring at him, mouth working like she wanted to say something but couldn’t decide what. She finally shot back, “Who are you?”

I looked at him. “I thought you said you knew her.”

He shrugged. “I said I knew her. I never said she knew me. But I think she does—she just doesn’t know it yet.”

Riddles, conundrums, secrets. I hated it. We’d had our chance to finish off Roman, and we’d lost it. We’d tried to fight him, and we couldn’t. We’d lost Henry. It was time to go home, circle the wagons, and hope Roman didn’t come after us. I went to Ben and Cormac, who slouched against the wall, looking terrible. Ben guarded him. I touched their arms, as much for my comfort as for theirs.

Anastasia lunged toward Sun, hand outstretched and pointed as if dispensing a curse. He stood his ground.

“How old are you?” Anastasia said to him.

“Really old,” he said. She stared, but her vampiric gaze had no effect against him. “Older than you, even.”

“All right,” I said, turning on them. “What the hell are you? You’re not a vampire. What else is that old?”

“Yeah, that’s the question, isn’t it?” he said, his smile growing broad. Still smiling despite everything. Made me want to either punch the guy, or laugh.

Anastasia backed away, suddenly fearful. I’d seen that expression on her before—when we’d seen the nine-tailed fox in the cage.

While Anastasia showed fear when regarding Sun, Grace showed wonder. Maybe even a little hope. “Sun Wukong.”

He lifted the staff, twirled it once, and gave a playful bow. He seemed pleased. “I knew you’d know me.”

“What are you doing here?” she said.

“What I always do, Grace Chen. I’m protecting what must be protected. Getting into trouble.” He winced at this last.

I drew close to my pack of three. Cormac was watching the exchange through a swollen eye. Red and puffy now, it would turn impressively black in a day or two. He was still holding his side as if ribs were broken. We needed to get him someplace safe to rest.

He gripped my shoulder. “Sun Wukong. The Monkey King.”

I’d heard the name before—a Chinese folk hero, a character in a story. I still didn’t know what that meant in terms of the man standing before us. He seemed so … ordinary.

“Am I talking to Cormac or Amelia?” I said.

He frowned and gave a curt shake of his head. “He never should have attacked that vampire. I tried to tell him it was useless but he wouldn’t listen. He so rarely listens.”

That was Amelia, speaking with Cormac’s voice. Berating him with it.

He shook his head again; this time the gesture was tired. “She’s never hunted vampires, not like I have. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

And that was Cormac. This was weird, even by my standards.

“You two are arguing like married people,” I said.

“You should hear it on the inside,” he answered, and I didn’t know who was talking that time.

“I’ve helped you about as much as I can—and caused enough trouble, I think,” Sun said. “This isn’t your fight, not anymore. Anastasia, you’re blinded by your own history. You need to let it go. Be at peace for once in your life.”

“Don’t feed me your Buddhist drivel!”

Sun shook his head. “That’s the trouble with you vampires. You step out of the world and think it makes you free.”

“But you don’t understand, if Roman has the Dragon’s Pearl—”

“It’s not the end of the world. Trust me. Go home and rest.”

His words were persuasive. They were meant to be, to ease us out of this crazy underground world and back into the mundane one. Back to my normal werewolf life. This wasn’t my problem. Larger powers were at work here, and I wasn’t one of them. Didn’t I keep saying that?

Ben and Cormac were both looking at me, as if they could tell what I was thinking. As if they knew I wasn’t going to let this go. Neither of them argued. I ran my hand over Ben’s head, brushing my fingers through his hair. He nudged my hand, wolflike. More in-depth communication would have to wait. I so wanted the chance to curl up in his arms and believe that we were going to be safe.

“We have to try to find Henry,” I said.

“He’s just a vampire,” Sun said. I glared at him.

“That’s not the only problem,” Grace said. She’d started pacing, only a few steps in the confines of the passageway. “How did that vampire—what’s his name?”

“Roman,” I said.

“How’d he get down here?” she went on. “How’d he find his way into the tunnels, much less through them, without getting lost? Who’s his guide?”

Sun’s expression didn’t change, and Grace looked grim, but Anastasia had turned apprehensive again—as if she knew exactly the shape of the world outside her control.

A sound reached us, muffled, blocked by a wall or a door, but close enough to track. I held my breath and listened—it sounded like a baby crying. I knew that sound; the hair on the back of my neck prickled, and my gut turned cold.

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