Kitty Goes to Washington Page 73

“Tom? Is she here?” Striding briskly, Alette followed her voice in from the parlor. She wore a silk dress suit, and her hair was tied in a bun. I'd never have guessed the trauma her household had been through. “Kitty, I'm so glad you came.”

Tom stepped out of the way, heading to the back of the house for some business of his own.

“How is she?” I said immediately, without even saying hello.

Alette smiled thinly. “I think she'll be all right. Eventually.”

She led me to the parlor.

The rug had been replaced. This one had more blues than reds in it. Emma sat on an armchair, gripping a thick gray blanket tightly around herself. She stared, blank-eyed, at the curtains, which had been put back over the window. Her skin was sickly pale, and her hair limp. She smelled dead but not rotten—cold, static, unchanging, unliving. She smelled like a vampire.

Alette waited by the doorway while I pulled a chair closer to Emma. I put myself between her and the window, hoping she'd look at me.

“Hi,” I said. Her gaze nickered. “How are you feeling?” Which was a stupid thing to ask. But what else could I say? I wanted to apologize.

“I'm cold,” she said in a whisper. The words wavered, like she might start crying, but her expression remained blank. Numb. She pulled the blanket higher over her shoulders.

“Is there anything I can do?” I remembered what it was like, waking up and realizing that the world smelled different, that your body had become strange, as if your heart had shifted inside your chest.

She closed her eyes. “Should I do it? Should I open the curtains when morning comes?” And let the sun in. And kill herself. “Alette doesn't want me to. But she said she wouldn't stop me.”

“I don't want you to either,” I said, a bit shrilly. “You had this done to you, you didn't want it, and it's terrible. But it's not the end of the world. You're still you. You have to hold on to that.”

She looked at me, her eyes glittering, fierce and exhausted at the same time, like she was on the edge of losing her self-control. “I feel different, like there's an empty place in me. Like my heart's gone, but there's something else there—and it feels like being drunk, a little. If I open myself to that—” She laughed, a tight, desperate sound, and covered her mouth. “I'm afraid of it.”

“That's good,” I said. “If you're afraid of it you won't let it swallow you up.”

“I just keep thinking of all the things I can't do now,” she said, shaking her head. “I can't see the sun ever again. I can't get a tan. I can't finish my degree—”

“There's always night school,” I said.

“But what would be the point?”

“You tell me.”

Her gaze was becoming more focused. I felt like she actually saw me now. Alette was right—she was going to be okay. She didn't really want to open the curtains.

“I'm still me,” she said. I nodded. She held the blanket in a death grip—probably for more comfort than from the cold.

I stood, getting ready to leave her alone. She was curled up, staring at the arm of the chair, looking like she needed to be left alone.

“Kitty?” she said, glancing up suddenly. “Can I call you? Your show, I mean. If I need to talk.”

I smiled. “I'll give you the private number.”

Alette brought me to the kitchen for tea. She already had a pot made up. The kitchen seemed too bright, after the shadows of the parlor. It seemed too real, too normal.

She talked as she poured. Only one cup—she didn't drink tea. I wondered if she missed it.

“She didn't say it, but she's also upset about Bradley. We all are. I'm so glad Tom had that night off. I don't know what I'd have done if I'd lost them both. All three of them, in some ways. Emma will never be the same. She was so full of life, and to see her like this—”

“But you still have her, and Leo doesn't, for which I'm very grateful.” I couldn't imagine what he'd have done with her, what she'd have done with him lording himself over her. Actually, I could imagine it, that was the problem.

“Yes,” Alette said wryly.

“Something's been nagging me,” I said, after taking a sip of tea. “Leo was a lackey. He couldn't move against you without help. He said something about this plot going beyond Flemming. That Flemming only thought he was in control. I've been wondering—who was Leo really taking orders from? The DOD?”

Alette frowned, her lips tightening. “Flemming was the military's contact, not Leo. Leo needed Flemming to get his military support. If Leo had ulterior motives, they served another purpose entirely. I wish I knew for certain. I wish I could give you a name. But the answers lie in shadow. There are stories that vampires tell each other, late at night, just before dawn, to frighten each other. To frighten ourselves. If vampires are truly immortal, there could be some very, very old beings in this world. They may be so old, their motives are alien to us. Some say that even the Master vampires have their Masters, and you would not want to meet them, even in bright daylight. I have kept quiet, kept myself and mine away from those who would seek such power.”

People scared themselves with vampire stories. So what scared the vampires? A thing I hoped I never met. A thing that this brief mention of would haunt my mind. My hand held the teacup frozen, midway to my mouth.

“Are these beings like Elijah Smith?” I said.

Like I was afraid she would, she shook her head. “Creatures like Smith, the sidhe, come from another world entirely that rarely crosses paths with ours. They are isolated dangers. This has always lurked in the shadows of our world.”

“What? What's always lurked?”

“Evil.”

That sounded too damn simple. And yet, it opened a range of sinister possibilities in my imagination. I wasn't sure I'd ever met evil: madness, illness, ambition, confusion, arrogance, rage, yes. But evil?

“Just when I thought I was starting to figure things out,” I muttered.

Alette straightened and brightened her tone. “I am confident that with Leo's failure, and Flemming's failure, we will not need to concern ourselves with such possibilities. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” I whispered. That left one more question. I continued awkwardly. “I know this is a personal question, and if you don't want to say anything that's okay. But how did this happen? You becoming a vampire—is it something you wanted?”

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