Kitty's Big Trouble Page 8

Cormac took his turn with it, squinting at it. “I don’t know. But I’m thinking we should get moving.”

Ben held his hand out to me and pulled me to my feet. I brushed myself off, then searched the ground—I had to get back on my knees and feel around for the stake that Ben had tossed aside. It took a few minutes, with Ben and Cormac standing on, impatient.

Ben said, “Kitty—”

“Just a sec.” Then I found it, and held it out to study it. A killing stake, Cormac had called it. Over a century old, belonging to Wyatt Earp once. I didn’t know that for sure, all the evidence was circumstantial, but this was all the proof I had that vampires had been here. I’d take what I could get.

“Okay, let’s go,” I said.

“Good,” Cormac said.

“If you didn’t want to come along you could have just said so,” I said.

“Somebody’s got to look after you two.”

“We were doing fine,” I said.

“Then why did you even drag me out here?”

Ben said, “Everybody shut up.”

The three of us trekked back to the car. The sun had set; the sky was dark. Every rustle in the breeze made me jump. I needed a shower. I kept scratching my hair and having ash fall out.

We were in sight of the car when I smelled werewolf. Ben stopped me, his hand on my arm, the same time I muttered, “Oh, not now.”

“What is it?” Cormac said.

My shoulders tensed in place of hackles rising. Ben and I stood arm to arm, both of us looking outward, tracking the intrusive scent—skin and fur, that distinctive mix of human and wild, neither one nor the other, and something more. Like us, but strangers. Enemies, even. Werewolves were territorial, and this wasn’t our territory. I had in fact considered that we’d be invading someone else’s territory on this trip. I also figured the chances of doing so in the middle of Kansas were pretty low. So much for that.

A nondescript SUV was parked near Ben’s sedan. There were two of them waiting at the car, one leaning on the hood, his arms crossed, the other standing a few feet away, watching our approach. Both were male, midtwenties, wearing T-shirts and jeans. The one by the car was average height, on the stout side, with a shaggy beard. The other was taller, a square-jawed frat-boy type, straight out of a beer commercial.

“What’s the plan?” Ben whispered.

“We talk. What else?” I said.

“There’s only two. We can take ’em,” he said. Cormac had stepped a little ways to the side, to flank them. I shook my head at him.

“Hi,” I said when we reached spitting distance.

“You mind telling us what you’re doing here?” said the tall one. He curled his lip and bared his teeth. Not a happy camper.

I pointed over my shoulder. “You know you had a starving vampire living in a hole back there? Took care of that for you.”

“Wait a minute,” said his companion. “That voice—I know you. You’re Kitty Norville.”

I straightened and beamed at him. “Yeah, that’s me. You listen to the show?”

Bearded guy glanced at tall guy and looked chagrined, ducking his gaze. “Oh, you know. Once in a while.”

Tall guy frowned even harder. “It’s a dumb show. And it doesn’t explain what you’re doing here.”

“C’mon, Dan. Give her a break.”

The tall guy—Dan—just glared at me. I glared right back. Ben and Cormac had taken up tough-guy poses, like bodyguards. I almost yelled at them to just chill out, I could handle it.

“I’m doing some research,” I said. “I didn’t expect to be here long enough to ruffle any fur.”

“What’s this about a vampire?”

This wasn’t going to make any more sense when I explained it to him. “Is there a restaurant or diner or something where we can maybe grab a cup of coffee and talk about this like human beings?”

Dan squinted, apparently confused. “What?”

His buddy tapped his arm. “I told you, it’s Kitty Norville. That’s her thing. You’d know if you listened to her show.” Dan glared at him, and his compatriot’s shoulders slouched, cowering.

I crossed my arms and regarded them. Bearded guy was a fan, which was cool. But Dan was the more dominant werewolf and had decided I sucked. If I appealed to the weaker wolf, that would piss off Dan even more. But Dan didn’t seem inclined to be sympathetic.

“I really don’t want to step on toes,” I said. “We can just get out of here—”

“Tell me about the vampire,” he said, stepping in front of the driver’s-side door.

Ben tensed up and approached the guy—about as aggressive a move as he could make. Cormac looked relaxed, but he held his hands in the pockets of his jacket, probably holding onto something weaponish.

I went to stand in front of Ben, holding his arm, willing him to relax. I didn’t want a fight to start—not because I thought we’d lose, but because I was pretty sure we wouldn’t, and I didn’t want to leave any messes.

“Short version,” I said. “I got some information that a den of vampires settled here about a hundred and fifty years ago, and that Wyatt Earp might have been the vampire hunter to finish them off. Cool, huh? So I came out here looking for evidence. And, well, it turns out Deputy Marshal Earp didn’t get them all, you know?” I held up the stake, as if that explained it all, as if it looked like something other than a stray twig we’d found. “I’d have called to ask for permission first, but werewolf alphas aren’t exactly listed in the phone book.” But maybe they should be. There was an idea …

Dan’s stare had changed from a werewolf’s stare of challenge to a purely human stare of bafflement. “Huh?”

“Oh my gosh, really?” said his friend. “Wyatt Earp hunted vampires?”

“Mike, shut up, let me handle this,” Dan said.

“Yeah,” I said, talking around Dan to Mike. “I want to do a whole show on it if I can get enough information.”

“Both of you, shut up!” Dan said.

“She’s telling the truth. You can smell the damn thing all over her,” Ben said. Their noses wrinkled. Clearly, they could.

“So,” I went on. “Are you guys part of a big pack around here or is it just the two of you?” I tried to look innocent.

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