Kitty Goes to Washington Page 19

“Why should you go with them?” He spoke over his shoulder, without shifting his gaze from the vampire.

“They're holding my car hostage,” I said. Luis didn't look convinced, but he didn't say anything else. I was still in bed, holding the sheets over my chest. I glared at Leo and Bradley. “Could you close the door so I can get dressed?”

“No,” Leo said. “I don't trust you. I'm not taking my eyes off you this time.”

Luis started to close the door anyway, but Bradley put out his arm to block it. Bradley tried hard to brace it, leaning forward and putting his weight into it, but Luis was stronger, and slowly pushed him back. Bradley put his other hand against the door. They'd break it before Luis got it closed. They glared at each other.

“Never mind,” I said. I didn't want to start a fight. Not that I didn't think Luis couldn't handle himself. But I hated to think that I was the one who dragged him into it.

I climbed out of bed and made a point of not shrinking under Leo's gaze. Bradley was polite enough to look away, and Luis was still guarding his territory. But Leo watched me walk naked across the room to where I'd abandoned my dress on the floor. He was trying to aggravate me, which made it a little easier to ignore him. I'd run with a wolf pack; they'd seen me naked. I turned my back to him to pull the dress over my head. I found my shoes and handbag and met Luis by the door.

“Very nice,” Leo said.

I said to Luis, “I had a good time. Thanks.”

“Be careful with them.”

“I'll watch my back.” I leaned forward for a kiss and he gave it to me, gently, warmly. I closed my eyes and sighed wistfully.

“I'll see you later,” he said. A statement, not a question.

I smiled. “Yeah.” I lingered, thinking he might kiss me again—hoping he would.

“Finished?” Leo said. Scowling, I stepped out and Luis closed the door.

Leo and Bradley flanked me on the way out, my own personal Secret Service.

The vampire sat in the front seat of the sedan while Bradley drove.

“You're a fucking loose cannon,” Leo said cheerfully over his shoulder. He crossed his arms and smirked. The sky was graying; he was cutting it close. I couldn't tell if he was anxious about it. His blase attitude might have been an act to cover up how annoyed he really was, for all I knew.

“Thanks,” I said. He rolled his eyes.

If I'd felt like a teenager on the way to her prom on the way out, Alette waiting up for me when we arrived back at her place completed the image. Bradley and Leo guided me to the parlor, where she was waiting, seated regally in her wingback armchair. At a gesture from her, they left.

Frowning, she rose. “I begin to understand why you're a wolf without a pack. Have you always been this contrary?”

“No. It took me years to develop a backbone.”

“Your last pack kicked you out, did it?”

“I left.”

“Leo tells me you found your way to the Crescent. What did you think of it?”

The question put me off balance. I was all ready for her to chew me out, and I was all ready to be, well, catty about it.

“I really liked it,” I said. “It's been a long time since I felt like I was with friends.”

“I've tried to give you that here.”

Then why did I feel like a teenager being dressed down by her mother? “Leo made it difficult.”

“He must find you easy to provoke.”

I wasn't going to start this argument.

“Before I forget.” I reached back and undid the clasp on the necklace. I hadn't taken it off all night, lest I end up a pathetic character in a de Maupassant story. I gave it back to her. “Thanks. I think it was what made Luis finally hit on me.”

She narrowed her gaze. “Do I even want to know?”

“Probably not.”

“We'll have to continue this tomorrow evening. I trust you can find your way to your room? Everyone else is asleep.”

I had a feeling that was a very subtle, guilt-inducing dig. “Um, yeah.”

“Good morning, Kitty.” She swept past me, down the corridor and away.

Morning. Sleep. Yeah. What a night.

I was bleary-eyed when I met Ben in front of the Dirksen Senate Office Building at noon.

“What the hell happened to you?” he said by way of greeting.

I peered at him through slitted, sleep-encrusted eyelids and smiled self-indulgently.

“I went out last night.”

He shook his head and took a sip of coffee out of a paper cup. “I don't want to know.”

I blinked, trying to focus and feeling like I was only now waking up. I knew this was Ben standing in front of me. The figure certainly looked like Ben, and sounded like Ben. But his suit was pressed. His shirt was buttoned. He wore a tie, and his hair lay neatly combed back from his face.

I should have known it would take the U.S. Senate to polish him up.

“What are you staring at?” he said. I could only grin sheepishly.

We went inside and managed to find the room the hearing was being held in with only a couple of wrong turns. We sat in the back of the room, which was nicer than I was expecting: blue carpet, wood-paneled walls, the desks and tables in the front made of an expensive-looking wood. The place had a formal, legal air. The chairs for the audience were padded, which was nice.

The space for observers wasn't huge, but it was filled. A lot of the people looked like reporters. They held tape recorders or notepads. A couple of TV cameras stood off to the side.

No one noticed us. I considered it one of the perks of radio that I could be well known and completely unrecognizable at the same time. The reporters focused all their attention on the front of the room: the row of senators, eight of them, each with an identifying nameplate, and Dr. Paul Flemming, sitting at a long table facing them.

Ben leaned over. “You met him. What's he like?”

“I don't know. He's kind of cagey. Nervous. Territorial.”

“He looks kind of mousy.”

“Yeah, that too.”

C-SPAN live wasn't any more exciting than C-SPAN on TV. I paid attention anyway, waiting for McCarthy to burst out of some unassuming senator's skin and ravage the hearings with Cold War paranoia. No such luck. The proceedings were downright sedate, very Robert's Rules of Order.

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