Kitty Goes to Washington Page 22

I gave him a tight-lipped smile. “All right.”

He waited at the curb, with the motor running. Just so I knew the clock was ticking. I ran.

Maybe Luis would be there, maybe not. Maybe I just wanted to make sure the place was real, that I hadn't dreamed last night.

It was real. In the light of day, the silver on the sign above the restaurant part of the building sparkled. A menu was taped inside the window. I went downstairs.

The door to the lower section was propped open, letting in the slight breeze. I peeked inside. Only a few people were there, before the after work and supper crowds. A man at one of the tables in back drank coffee and read a paper, a couple was talking at the bar, and an old man sat alone at a table and chair, where the musicians had played last night. Hunkering inside a tired, stained overcoat, he stared into a tumbler that he gripped with both hands. He was a werewolf; I could tell without scenting him or sensing anything about him. He was grizzled enough, he looked the part. Wiry, steel-gray hair bristled from his liver-spotted head into thick sideburns, down his wrinkled neck, and under his ears, which were slightly pointed. I caught a glimpse of elongated canine teeth sitting just over his lower lip. His fingers were thick, ending in sharp, narrow nails. He probably terrified small children he passed on the street.

Here was someone who'd been a werewolf for a long, long time, and had spent much of that time in his wolf form. I'd heard of this, but I'd never seen it: his body was forgetting how to be human. If I hadn't known anything about werewolves, I might have looked at him and thought he was arthritic and aging badly. As it was, I expected his eyes to be golden-amber if he happened to glance up.

I somehow found my way to the bar. Bumping into it, I realized I'd been staring. I shook my head to clear it of the image of the old man.

“You're Kitty, right?” the bartender said. He was the same guy from last night, the young one. Now that I had a good look at him, I could tell that he wasn't wolf, or jaguar like Luis. I couldn't tell what the hell he was.

“Yeah, hi.”

“Jack.” He stuck out his hand. I gripped it. He squeezed back a little too hard, giving me a half grin as he did. Trying to prove something. He was strong—stronger than I would have expected from someone his size. But then, so was I. I let go and leaned on the counter like I hadn't noticed.

“Can I get you something?”

“No, thanks, I just wanted to leave a note for Luis.” I nodded toward the old man at the table. “Who's he?”

Jack put his elbows on the bar and raised a conspiratorial brow. He whispered, “People call him the Nazi.”

I blinked at him, startled.

“I don't know if he really is or not,” Jack continued. “But Ahmed says he did fight in World War II, and that he is German. Who knows? He comes here every day at four, drinks his schnapps, and leaves without saying a word.”

“Whether he is or he isn't, he must have some amazing stories to tell. I wonder—” And that was all I did, because the old man tipped his glass to his mouth, drained the last bit of liquid, stood, and settled his coat more firmly on his shoulders as he stalked out of the place. That was that.

I turned to Jack. “What about you? You have any good stories?”

“Me? I'm just a cub,” he said, grinning. “Give me a few years.”

“May your life be so dull that you don't actually collect any.”

“Where's the fun in that?”

Fun? I glared at him.

I left a note for Luis. Not like I had anything to say beyond, Hi, it's me. It felt like high school all over again, which was kind of fun in its own way. I hadn't crushed this hard over anyone—outside of a movie screen, at least—in a long time. I felt giddy, young, and silly—and completely distracted, which meant the timing was horrible. Senate hearings were supposed to be serious, and I kept picturing Luis in bed.

Bradley got me back to Alette's house without any further ado.

Before I'd left that morning, Emma brought me an envelope, thick stationery paper with my name written on it in fancy cursive. Inside was a square of cardstock bearing a handwritten note informing me that Alette requested the pleasure of my company for dinner that evening. It felt very old-school, like something out of Emily Post.

I'd never had dinner with a vampire, and part of me dreaded finding out what that involved. The imagination ran a little wild. But if I was going to have a chance to talk to her, this was it. Maybe I could draw her out a little.

I wondered if she expected me to dress for dinner, in the Victorian tradition, silk gowns and suits in your own parlor. I'd worn slacks and a blouse for my day at the hearings, so I didn't look particularly ratty. But around Alette, I'd feel downright drab. Then again, no matter what I wore, I'd feel drab next to Alette.

In the end, I didn't “dress for dinner.” If slacks and a blouse were good enough for the U.S. Senate, they were good enough for the vampire.

I hoped Leo wouldn't be joining us.

I took a nap, washed up, and Emma brought me to a dining room in another part of the ground floor. Like the parlor, this was classically English, with wood paneling on the walls, which were hung with many paintings, rows and rows of them, landscapes and still lifes of dead birds and hunting rifles, and a few portraits of scowling old men and grim-looking ladies in opulent gowns decorated with flounces and lace. More portraits, like the ones in the parlor and the photos in the hallway upstairs. Were they old friends? Relatives?

A long table ran down the center of the room. Twenty people could have sat there easily, and for a moment I thought this was going to be like one of those comedies where two people sat at either end and had to shout at each other for the salt. But no, Alette stood by the chair at one end, and there was a place setting to her right, one chair away along the side.

“Welcome,” she said. “Thank you for coining.”

“Thanks for the invitation.” I glanced around nervously, but Alette was alone. No Leo. I relaxed a notch. “Not that you gave me much of a choice, with Bradley keeping tabs on me all day.”

She ignored the dig and indicated the chair with a graceful turn of her hand. “Please, sit.”

The table only had the one place setting. By her chair, the polished mahogany surface was empty.

I should have been relieved.

She said, “I took the liberty of asking the cook to prepare your filet rare. I assume this is acceptable.”

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