Kitty's Big Trouble Page 9

Dan put his hands to his temples and made a noise like a growl.

“Dan—hey Dan,” Mike said, reaching for his friend, tentative. “You okay?”

Taking a deep breath, getting ahold of himself, Dan straightened. “One more time. What are you doing here?”

“I already told you,” I said, quiet and straightforward this time. I didn’t want to push him any further.

“You’re not here to take over?” Dan said.

“Why the hell would we want to take over Dodge City, Kansas?” Ben said.

Mike and Dan didn’t answer, because Ben had a point. Instead, Dan nodded at Cormac. “And who are you? You’re not a werewolf.”

“Nope,” Cormac said. “I’m just along for the ride.”

Dan looked at us, disbelieving. We must have made a strange picture.

“Look, seriously, I’m really sorry if we freaked you out,” I said. “We have rooms in a hotel on the other side of town, but if you don’t want us here, say so, and we’ll just … we’ll just…” Oh God. I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

“Get the hell out of Dodge?” Dan said, raising his eyebrows.

I shrugged. Ben was holding his forehead like he had a headache.

“No offense,” Dan said. “But I’d feel better if you weren’t anywhere within a hundred miles of here.”

There wasn’t much of anything within a hundred miles of here. Leaving would mean driving all night. But staying meant picking on these guys, which didn’t feel particularly productive or necessary.

“All right. We’ll leave. Thanks for understanding,” I said. I waved at the guys, and we headed for the car. Dan and Mike stepped out of the way.

Then the pair had a brief, whispered conference. Dan still looked sullen, but Mike was bouncing. Dan gave a frustrated shrug, throwing his arms up and stalking away, and Mike turned to me. He really was bouncing, his eyes alight. Confused, I regarded him until he slunk toward me.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I really don’t mean to bother you. But—could I get your autograph?”

* * *

MIKE GOT his autograph on a piece of scratch paper, and then we were driving west, looking for a hotel that wasn’t within a hundred miles of Dodge City. I’d been looking forward to a hot, cleansing shower at the hotel. I itched, and every time I scratched, a fine powder of ash rose up from me. I pulled out my ponytail, shook my hair, and created a cloud of dust. Ben, who was driving, sneezed.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

“Don’t apologize,” he said. “The whole thing’s pretty funny when you think about it.” He was smirking. I couldn’t tell if he was laughing at the situation or at me.

“I’m trying not to think too hard about it,” I said.

From the backseat Cormac said, “We probably could have just checked into the hotel and those guys never would have known.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “I told them we’d leave so we left.”

“I’m just saying,” he said.

“It’s too late to bitch about it now.” My phone rang, and I dug it out of my pocket and flipped it open. Someone calling at this hour of night could only have bad news. “Hello?”

“Kitty. It’s Anastasia.”

Bad news. Right. The hair on the back of my neck rose, tingling. I didn’t need this now.

“Hi,” I said. Ben glanced at me, concerned at the sudden change in my tone of voice.

“I need help.”

“Is it Roman?”

“Yes, it is,” Anastasia said. Her voice was hushed but not panicked, as if she was in hiding but not in immediate danger. Not that she’d stop to call if she was facing down Roman right now. At least, I hoped not.

“What’s happening? Where is he? Where are you?”

“San Francisco. When can you get here?”

I blew out a breath. “Not for a while—I’m in a car in the middle of Kansas right now.”


“Never mind. Are you in trouble? What’s going on?”

She took a deep breath, gathering air for a speech. “I’m safe for the moment. I’ve kept ahead of him. Roman is here looking for an artifact of immense power. I know where it is—I can get to it first. But he’s brought allies with him.”

“You need foot soldiers, then,” I said, frowning. I wanted a chance to stop Roman, certainly. I didn’t really want to be cannon fodder.

“I wouldn’t have called you if I didn’t think you could handle it,” she said, and maybe she believed that, and maybe she just wanted to use me as a decoy while she got the goods, this artifact. Which, I had to admit, made me curious. Immense power, huh?

Cormac had shifted forward to lean in between the front seats, and Ben was glancing at me from the driver’s seat.

“It’ll be a few days before I can get there,” I said.

“He hasn’t moved yet,” Anastasia said. “If I have to do this on my own, I will, but I could use help. Should I wait for you?”

Glancing at Ben and Cormac I said, “Let me call you back.” I clicked off the phone and put it away.

“Well?” Ben said. “I heard ‘Roman’ and ‘help.’”

“A terrible combination, isn’t it? So—do you want to go to San Francisco?”

“And do what? Stand between two ancient, all-powerful vampires? Not particularly.”

“You know how I feel about vampire politics,” Cormac said, grimacing.

“This isn’t exactly vampire politics,” I said. “It’s bigger than that. I think.”

Ben chuckled, but the sound was bitter. “So we run off on the next quest before the last one is even done. You keep getting us wrapped up in this shit, and you want to have kids? How would that work?”

I sank back in the seat and glared out the window. “It’s a moot point anyway so why bring it up?”

“There’s adoption. We’ve talked about this.”

I didn’t want to talk about it. Not right now. Ben was making me face the question, yet again—did I have any business being a mother? How did someone be a mother and a crusader at the same time?

If I had kids, would Roman come after them?

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