Kitty Goes to Washington Page 11

“You may very well be right.”

I looked away, because her gaze was on me, searching, looking for the layers to peel back. Legends said vampires could entrance you with the power of their gazes. That was how they lured their prey to them, and why some people were all too happy to bare their necks and veins to them.

I wasn't tied to anyone. I wanted to keep it that way. She said, “If you are right, and there is nothing more to you than what I see before me, then I would be honored if you would accept my hospitality, which is, if I may be so bold, some of the finest in the city.”

I would. I knew I would, probably the whole time I'd been here. Maybe because the room was nice and comfortable, and as intimidating as she was, she didn't make my hairs stand on end. Her use of the word hospitality seemed to have an Old World meaning behind it: it was more than offering a meal and bed for the night. It was a mark of pride and honor. It was an insult to refuse.

“Thank you,” I said, striving for politeness though I felt ragged beside her.

Alette stood. Automatically, I stood with her, smoothing out my jeans and wondering if I should buy some nicer clothes while I was here.

“Welcome to Washington,” she said and offered her hand, which I shook, a normal gesture that I accepted gratefully, even if her skin was too cold. “I've set aside a room on the second floor for you. I do hope you like it. Emma will show you to it. The kitchen is also entirely at your disposal. Tell Emma anything you need and she'll take care of it.” A young woman, Emma I presumed, had appeared, called by some signal known only to her and Alette. She was fully human, bright-eyed and eager. Old World hospitality indeed. Alette had maids. “My only request, Kitty, is that you tell me if you plan to leave the house for any reason. I have offered you my protection and I will see the offer through.”

That almost sounded like a challenge: could I get out of here without her knowing? What would she do if I tried?

And what if there really were ravening werewolves waiting to find me alone? That was a tough call.

“All right,” I said noncommittally, and Alette gave me a skeptical look.

“If you'll excuse me, I have other business. Good evening to you.”

She left Emma and me at the foot of a set of narrow, curving stairs outside the parlor.

“This way,” Emma said, smiling, and gestured up.

Sometimes human servants were vampires in training, waiting for their masters to initiate them into true undeadness. Sometimes they were simply servants, although their brand of service usually involved a bit more than dusting the furniture. I looked around the collar of her blouse for telltale scars, signs of old bite marks. I didn't see any, but that didn't mean they weren't there, somewhere.

We reached the top of the stairs and entered a narrow hallway. More framed photographs and portraits decorated the walls. They represented different times, different eras; the hair, clothing, and demeanors of the people changed from portrait to portrait as we continued. Did Alette have some kind of obsession with collecting these images?

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” Emma said. She was probably about nineteen. Hell, she might have been working her way through college.

I had to ask. “Do you know what she is?”

She smiled wryly and ducked her gaze. “My family's worked for her for generations. We followed her here from England two hundred years ago. She's been good to us.” She opened a door at the end of the hall, then looked at me. “You know better than anybody, they aren't all bad.”

I couldn't argue.

My duffel bag had already been brought up to the bedroom. The suite included a full bathroom, with brass handles on the sink and shower. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea. I might even get spoiled. Emma showed me an intercom by the door, a modern amenity in the antique house. “Just ring if you need anything.”

I asked for a sandwich. Then sleep. Sleep was good. Sleeping meant I wasn't wondering where the rest of Alette's vampire clan was hanging out, because human minions could only do so much and I was pretty sure she didn't rule her empire all by herself.

Chapter 3

Alette wanted me to tell her if I planned on going out. Well, of course I planned on going out. But by the time I woke up, it was full daylight, which meant she probably wasn't around.

So I left a note. I scribbled it on a piece of notebook paper and lay it on the coffee table in the parlor.

It wasn't completely honest of me. Tom and Bradley were probably on call. Alette probably meant for me to tell one of them. I could have gotten a private chauffeured tour of the city—nice, protected, safe.

I'd put my hand on the knob of the front door when I heard footsteps trotting down the stairs behind me.

“Miss Norville!” It was Emma, her brown hair pinned up in a sloppy bun, wearing jeans and an oversized sweatshirt. The clothes made her look young. “Are you leaving?”

I took a guilty step away from the door. “Call me Kitty. I, ah, just wanted to look outside to see what the weather was like.” She wasn't going to buy that. I had my backpack hitched over my shoulder. “Alette puts you to work on Sunday, does she?”

“Oh, no. She lets me use the library upstairs to study. It's my last day to catch up on homework before class tomorrow. I was just heading to the kitchen for a snack.”

Wow, she really was working her way through college.

“You go to Georgetown?”

“George Washington,” she said. She stayed there, leaning on the base of the banister, smiling helpfully. “Have you had breakfast? You want me to fix you something?”

“No, thanks, I'm fine.” I wanted to leave. No offense or anything. I fidgeted.

The awkward pause continued. I wasn't fooling anyone. I'd even convinced myself that if I left my car in the driveway out back and used public transportation, they'd just think I was sleeping in late or something.

Finally, she sighed and said, “I can't stop you from leaving. But Alette won't be happy about it when she finds out you went out alone.”

Now that didn't make me feel guilty at all. “Are you going to get in trouble if I run off?”

“No. Alette doesn't get angry, not like that. But she'll be disappointed.”

And no one liked to disappoint Alette.

“It won't be long. I just want to look around. I'll be back before she even wakes up for the evening.”

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