Kitty Saves the World Page 12

I tried to sip slowly, to enjoy the atmosphere, looking around at this thing we’d made. Ben and I started the place to be neutral ground, a safe haven where the members of our pack could gather as human beings, where they wouldn’t be inclined to let their wolfish instincts overwhelm them. The plan had been a success, and being here usually gave me a warm feeling of pride. But tonight, this all felt suddenly fragile. Mercedes Cook and her cohort would like nothing better than to come into Denver, take over the vampire Family, and shut this place down.

That was what I fought for, and why I wanted to stop Roman. Good to have the reminder.

Finally ready to leave, I nudged Ben. “Go on ahead. I’m going to talk to Shaun.”

“You want company for that?”

“Naw. Don’t want to scare him.”

He nodded. “Right.” He squeezed my hand, looking as grim as I felt.

Leaning on the bar, I waited for Shaun to finish pouring a couple of glasses of wine for a pair of after-work professionals, a man and woman who seemed to be deep into an evening of flirting. I wished them well.

“What’s up?” he said, coming over.

He was another manifestation of my good luck: if I hadn’t been able to win him over when I came back to Denver, I never would have been able to confront the old abusive pack alphas, and I never would have been able to take over the pack and build what we’d done here.

I said, “Hey. Shaun. I just wanted you to know—if anything happens to us, you’ve got New Moon.”

“Yeah, I’ve got you covered until you get back—”

“No. I mean, it’s yours. It’s in the will and everything. Ben did the paperwork, and I thought you should know. I hope you’ll look after the pack, too, but that’s going to be up to everyone else.”

His expression was slack. “But you’re coming back.”

“That’s the plan. But, you know, just in case.” I’d fed Shaun and the others the interview story, not the real story. Not because I didn’t trust them, but because I didn’t want them following me, trying to help. I wanted to protect them.

“What’s really going on?” he asked. He could smell the anxiety on me. We’d known each other for years, human and wolf. We’d seen each other naked. I couldn’t hide.

“I can’t say,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“Kitty—” He glared, and it was a challenge. I just stood, looking back calmly, waiting for him to settle. After a moment, he dropped his gaze.

“See you in a couple of days,” I said, and brushed his hand before turning to follow Ben out.

Chapter 4

WE MET at Cormac’s place at dawn.

He had a second-story studio apartment off the Boulder turnpike and I-25. I sometimes worried about him being stuck by himself in a run-down place in that part of town, but he didn’t seem to mind. I wasn’t sure he even noticed. It was out of the way, nobody bothered him. I was the one who wanted the nice house in the country. He probably didn’t understand that any more than I understood him.

Tina hugged her jacket around her against the morning chill as we went to his door. The sky was gray, misty, but it looked like we’d have a dry drive south. It would take about seven hours—we’d get there before nightfall, in time to scout the area before Roman made an appearance after dark. We assumed he’d have nonvampire minions keep watch for him. Our plan was to avoid them as much as possible, and distract them from Tina otherwise.

“Come in,” Cormac called after Ben knocked.

“Should you be leaving your door unlocked?” I said as we pushed in. I’d never get used to this, the tiny kitchen in one corner; the slept-in futon with makeshift bed stand; secondhand bookshelves filled with books, boxes, jars, and artifacts; an open closet leaking clothes, and a table stacked with just about everything. It all seemed so temporary. The place smelled old.

“I knew you were coming,” he answered. He was busy. Two crossbows sat on the rickety kitchen table. Several spears—five-foot lengths of wood sharpened to nasty-looking points—leaned against the wall nearby. He was packing a bundle of a dozen or so steel-pointed, wooden crossbow bolts into a leather quiver. “I could use some help loading this.”

Each of us took an armload and managed to get it down the stairs to the parking lot without dropping anything. It was a bit disconcerting seeing Ben handle the spears easily, clasped in an arm, leaning against his shoulder, perfectly balanced. He kept a gun at home, and in the glove box of the car. He’d taught me to shoot, but I didn’t enjoy it. I forgot sometimes that he’d grown up with them. Heavy weaponry would never be second nature to me the way it was for these two. I wondered what exactly the rules said about ex-cons and weapons possession, if it was just guns Cormac wasn’t allowed to own anymore or if it was anything. He didn’t seem too concerned.

“Um, I should probably mention Detective Hardin wants to come with us.”

A crossbow in each hand, Cormac looked at me sidelong. “Why’d you tell her what we’re doing?”

“She asked?” I said. “I thought she could help. Run interference if the cops get involved.”

He grumbled, but didn’t argue. Ben and I exchanged a glance; me encouraging him to back me up, him being noncommittal. That was the thing with Ben: he was never going to take sides between us.

Ben went to the trunk of the sedan, but Cormac called out, “I’m taking the Jeep.”

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