Kitty Raises Hell Page 28


“What in the world is that?”

I shrugged. I was putting a lot of faith in this. “Ancient Egyptian protection spell. My attacker’s been active the last couple of days.”

“Yes. I heard about New Moon. Is everything going to be all right?”

“I think so. But I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. I don’t want to take any chances, so—here. If you want it.”

He didn’t seem any more enthusiastic about it, staring at the jar, vaguely repulsed. “We’re resorting to witchcraft now?”

“You say it like you don’t believe it’ll work.”

“It won’t, against a vampire.” Spoken with true vampire smugness.

I was starting to lose patience with him—it was like he wasn’t listening to me. “I know you think this is part of some vampire plot. But it wasn’t a vampire that tipped that van over or tried to burn down New Moon. This is something else entirely, and I could really use your help.”

“Kitty, I promise, I’m doing everything I can.”

“Like what? What are you doing? Pulling the Batman stunt on the tops of skyscrapers waiting for someone to walk along wearing a sign that says ‘I’m the bad guy’? Do you have minions scouring the far corners of the globe for information? What are you doing?”

He studied me, calm and unflustered. Very little flustered Rick. When it did, he didn’t panic. He just got angry. Calmly and pointedly angry.

“Here’s what I know: This thing is invisible. It displays sentience and motivation. It’s chosen the moments of its attacks carefully. The attacks are elemental, tied to fire. That makes it an old kind of magic—the kind of magic a vampire might use.”

I tried to be calm like Rick. Calm like a vampire. “You’re hunting for vampires. But what if this has nothing to do with vampire politics? This isn’t about vampires, it’s about revenge against me. ”

“A group led by a vampire is making attacks in my territory. This may not have begun with vampire politics, but I find it hard to ignore the implications. Magic like this doesn’t come cheap. Is all this really a simple revenge plot?”

I had assumed it was pure revenge. We’d killed their head lycanthrope and several members of their cult and ruined their ritual. Revenge seemed like a good enough reason. “Now who’s being paranoid?”

“When vampires are involved, the web is more tangled than you think,” he said.

He had a point. Damn stupid vampires and their stupid sense of stupid superiority—

Rick turned aside to answer his cell phone. I hadn’t even heard it ring.

“Yes?” A few moments of listening. I couldn’t hear a thing, and I tried. “I’ll be there in a minute. Stay out of sight.”

He folded the phone away. “One of my people spotted a stranger nosing around New Moon. A vampire. We should go check it out. This might be what we’ve been waiting for.”

He might as well have said “I told you so.” Full of purpose now, Rick strode out the door, grabbing his black trench coat from a stand on the way out. I went with him, trying to be dignified and not scurry to keep up. A strange vampire lurking around New Moon? Of course I wanted to check it out; it made me territorial, and I wanted to growl.

I drove, with Rick in the passenger seat. New Moon was only a few blocks away, but speed seemed important. “So how did vampires report in before cell phones?”

“Telepathy,” he said.

“Wait a minute. That’s a joke, right? Because if it was telepathy, you wouldn’t need cell phones.”

He just smiled. Sometimes I really hated vampires.

I pulled into the alley behind the restaurant. Yellow caution tape was stuck over the back door, waiting for the inspections and repairs that would get the place back on its feet. I hadn’t noticed any strange figures lurking around. I climbed out of the car and took a deep breath.

I could still smell the fire, a tinge of wet soot coming from the building. But I didn’t sense anything else. Rick, however, marched straight around the side of the building without hesitation. Again, I had to scurry to keep up.

At the front of the building we found a man standing at the door, regarding it like he was considering breaking it down. Frustration tightened his already sharp features. This, I decided, was a man who was used to getting his way. He wanted into New Moon, and he couldn’t cross that threshold, and not because the door was locked. He acted like that wasn’t what was stopping him.

He was a vampire. On a cool night like tonight, warm bodies made something like rivers through the air, trails of heat, living smells left behind. But a vampire was an island of cold. Almost, I couldn’t sense him at all. Even the clean, dead smell I associated with vampires was muted on him, as if his scent had faded over the years.

I found that idea terrifying.

He turned to watch Rick and me approach. He was tall, thin, his face craggy. His whole body was probably lanky, but it was hidden under a long overcoat, turtleneck, slacks. Expensive shoes. His dark hair was very closely shaved, giving him a severe, stern appearance. He frowned at us.

“You’re Kitty Norville,” he said, looking each of us over. Sizing us up. His expression revealed no conclusions. “What have you done to block the door?” His voice was nondescript. Steady, not particularly deep. Not particularly conversational.

Rick said, “May I ask: Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

He looked at Rick, taking him in in a glance, then gave me the same cursory look-over. Rick may have considered himself more laid-back than the average vampire Master, but he bristled at the perfunctory attention.

“I can help with your problem,” the stranger said to us.

“How do you know we have one?” I said.

“The demon sent by the Band of Tiamat. Your problem.” He turned his gray-eyed gaze on me. I avoided meeting that gaze.

How did he know this? My back went stiff, like hackles. This guy wasn’t suave, blasé, bored, arrogant, or any of the other things I was used to seeing in vampires. Not even constantly, vaguely amused, which even the nice vampires were, like they’d seen it all and viewed the world as a humorous diversion. This guy was impatient, almost. On a mission.

“Demon?” Weird, having a name for it, an identification, whether or not he was right. “Are you some kind of demon hunter?”

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