Kitty Raises Hell Page 29

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“I suppose I’m an investigator. Of a sort.”

“And I suppose you’re trying to get inside to investigate?”

A single nod answered.

Rick said, “Who are you?”

“Roman,” he said. He traced the door, running his hand along the hinges. “I noticed the blood around the outside, but that isn’t what’s blocking me. You haven’t done anything specific to the entrance, have you? You’ve simply filled this place up with you and yours. Made it your own, keeping people like me out.” He almost sounded admiring. Almost.

“There’s really not much to see here. Not anymore. There was a fire,” I said.

“You have no idea what you’re dealing with, do you?” he said, sounding amazed, like he couldn’t believe we really were that stupid.

“If you’re trying to endear yourself to us, it’s not working.”

“And you might want to think about endearing yourself. At least to me,” Rick said.

“Ah. Yes. You must be Rick. Or is it Ricardo?”

“I don’t stand on ceremony. Rick is fine.”

“Is there someplace we can talk? Since you don’t seem inclined to invite me in.”

“There’s my place,” Rick said. “A club, it’s not far.”

Rick wanted to get this guy on his home turf and thereby get some kind of advantage. I didn’t argue.

The vampire Roman looked like he might want to try. When he gazed at Rick, eyes narrowed, he seemed to be calculating. Weighing the cost of refusing the request against his need to get what he wanted. I for one definitely wanted to find out why he was here, what he knew about demons, and what he knew about what the Band of Tiamat had released on me.

At last he said, “Fine. Shall we?”

He gestured sideways, across the street—in the direction of Rick’s club, like he already knew where it was. He’d scoped the place out already. This guy was a real player.

Rick stepped off the curb and walked on. Roman fell into step beside him.

What could I do but follow?

Chapter 10

I did not want to walk for six blocks with these two glaring at each other, sizing each other up, while I trailed behind like a stray dog. I knew that’s what would happen, them marching together and posturing, and me prowling off to the side. I could holler at them and say that I was taking the car. Then again, I didn’t want to miss anything good.

So, I skulked along, listening hard to catch everything they said. Except they didn’t say a word. By nature and profession, I could not abide silence.

“So. Roman. Where’s home for you?” Like I was trying to strike up a casual conversation with just anyone. But hey, that was my motto, wasn’t it? Vampires and werewolves are people, too.

Too bad some of them didn’t go along with my attempts at normality.

He didn’t answer. Not a word. Silly me, I couldn’t let it go. Had to keep poking until I got a reaction. “Come on, just a little hint?” I said. “You don’t have to tell me where you’re from originally. It took me years to get that out of Rick. I’m just asking where you hang your hat lately. Can I guess? San Francisco? Miami? Although I can’t imagine a vampire enjoying someplace like Miami.”

Vampires didn’t need to breathe, but I could almost hear Roman’s exasperated sigh before he said, “I don’t appreciate vapid attempts at conversation.”

Now what did I say to that? “Huh. Vapid. That’s a new one. I usually just rate irritating.”

Rick chuckled.

We arrived at Psalm 23.

Along with Arturo’s blood, control of the city, and a slew of vampire minions, Rick inherited God knew how much property around town in the form of corporations and holding companies, which formed the basis of his predecessor’s wealth. Places like Obsidian. Another of those places was the trendy nightclub Psalm 23. It was dark, stylish, with a reputation as a hip young nightclub, a place to see and be seen. A meat market for the cool people. Maybe even a literal meat market. The place had a lot of shadowy corners and sheltered booths, and after dark, a few vampires could always be found lurking there, drawing in prey. Like spiders, as Rick had said.

I usually wasn’t dressed well enough to get in without an argument. Or maybe it was the fact that some of the bouncers were vampires and didn’t like me on principle. Not that I ever spent any time there for fun.

Tonight I was really not up to dress code in my jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers, but Rick waved us through and guided us to an alcove behind the bar, containing a small table and several chairs. This was his equivalent of my table in the back of New Moon. Impromptu office and vantage point. Rick offered me a drink; I took a soda. He did not offer Roman a drink.

While Rick and I sat, Roman remained standing a moment, surveying the main space of the club.

The place was surprisingly hopping for a Sunday night. Two bars, a large one in front and a small one in back, had people lined up, hip and well-dressed twenty-somethings in packs and in couples, most of them flirting. A DJ booth presided over a dance floor, which was empty now. Small tables here and there held another dozen people, nibbling on appetizers and sipping cocktails. Martini glasses glowed with a rainbow of concoctions smelling of alcohol. The air was heady with it. Some terrible hip-hop remix of an old eighties song thumped in the background.

We were quiet for a moment, watching Roman. He watched us in turn, and none of us twitched, none of us revealed a flicker of emotion.

Roman sat. “Hunting grounds for you and your people, I suppose?”

Rick didn’t blink, didn’t react. He regarded him with his thin, amused smile.

The stranger continued. “I suppose you even have your regulars, the ones who come here again and again, who’ve fallen under your spell and offer themselves to you. Your own herd. Like milk cows.”

Vampires could draw blood from a person without killing, and I never asked too much about where Rick and his followers acquired the human blood that maintained their existence. They could even use a strange hypnosis to lull their prey and make them want to be bitten and fed on, which could be erotic for them both. They could also make their prey forget entirely what had happened. Clubs like this became prime feeding grounds. A suave, alluring vampire could come here, attract a young, vibrant creature who was also on the prowl for some kind of fulfillment, and if all the victims remembered was that they’d had a really good time, they’d probably come back for more. The parasitic circle of life—or undeath—was complete.

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