Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 3

“Be careful,” I said.

“No worries,” he said with a smile. “I just drive the car and bail him out of jail. He's the one who likes to live dangerously.”

He opened the door of his dark blue sedan, threw his briefcase onto the front passenger seat, and climbed in. Waving, he pulled away from the curb and steered back onto the highway.

On the way back to my cabin, 1 stopped in the even smaller town of Clay, Population 320, Elevation 7400 feet. It boasted a gas station with an attached convenience store, a bed and breakfast, a backwoods outfitter, a hundred-year-old stone church—and that was it. The convenience store, the “Clay Country Store,” sold the best home-baked chocolate chip cookies on this side of the Continental Divide. I couldn't resist their lure.

A string of bells hanging on the handle of the door rang as I entered. The man at the cash register looked up, frowned, and reached under the counter. He pulled out a rifle. Didn't say a word, just pointed it at me.

Yeah, the folks around here knew me. Thanks to the Internet and twenty-four-hour news networks, I couldn't be anonymous, even in the middle of nowhere.

I raised my hands and continued into the store. “Hi, Joe. I just need some milk and cookies, and I'll be on my way.”

“Kitty? Is that you?” A woman's face popped up from behind a row of shelves filled with cans of motor oil and ice scrapers. She was about Joe's age, mid-fifties, her hair graying and pulled into a ponytail that danced. Where Joe's eyes frowned, hers lit up.

“Hi, Alice,” I said, smiling.

“Joe, put that down, how many times do I have to tell you?”

“Can't take any chances,” he said.

I ignored him. Some fights you couldn't win. The first time he'd done this, when I came into the store and he recognized me as “that werewolf on TV,” I'd been so proud of myself for not freaking out. I'd just stood there with my hands up and asked, “You have silver bullets in there?” He'd looked at me, looked at the rifle, and frowned angrily. The next time I came in, he announced, “Got silver this time.”

I went around the shelves to where Alice was, where Joe and his rifle couldn't see me as easily.

“I'm sorry,” Alice said. She was

stocking cans of soup. “One of these days I'm going to hide that thing. If you'd call ahead, I could make up some chore for him and get him out of here.”

“Don't worry about it. As long as I don't do anything threatening, I'm fine, right?” Not that people generally looked at me—a perky blonde twenty-something—and thought “bloodthirsty werewolf.”

She rolled her eyes. “Like you could do anything threatening. I swear, that man lives in his own little world.”

Yeah, the kind of world where shop owners kept rifles under their counters, while their wives lined healing crystals along the top of the cash register. She also had a cross nailed over the shop door, and more crystals hanging from the windows.

They each had their own brand of protection, I supposed.

I hadn't decided yet if the werewolf thing really didn't bother some people, or if they still refused to believe it. I kind of suspected that was how it was with Alice. Like my mom—she treated it like it was some kind of club I'd joined. After full moon nights she'd say something like, Did you have fun at your little outing, dear?

A lifetime of believing that these things didn't exist was hard to overcome.

“How do you two stay married?”

She looked at me sideways, donned a wry smile, and didn't answer. Her eyes gleamed, though. Right, I wasn't going to press that question any further.

Alice rang up my groceries, while Joe looked on, glaring over his rifle. I had to think of myself as a goodwill ambassador—don't make any sudden moves, don't say anything snide. Try to show him that just because I was a monster didn't mean I was, well, a monster.

I paid, and Alice handed me the brown paper bag. “Thanks,” I said.

“Anytime. Now you call if you need anything.”

My nonchalance only went so far. I couldn't turn my back on Joe and his rifle, so I backed toward the door, reaching behind to pull it open, and slipped out, to the ringing of bells.

The door was closing behind me when I heard Alice say, “Joe, for God's sake put that thing away!”

Ah yes, life in a small mountain community. There's nothing like it.

Chapter 2

The front half of my cabin held a living room and kitchen, while a bedroom and bathroom made up

the back half. Only part of a wall separated the two halves, giving the whole place access to the cabin's only source of heat: a wood-burning stove in the living room. The hot-water heater ran on propane, electricity powered everything else. I kept the stove's fire burning to hold back the winter. At this altitude I wasn't snowbound, but it was still pretty darned cold, especially at night.

The living room also had my desk, or rather a small table, which held my laptop and a few books: a dictionary, a dog-eared copy of Walden. Shoved underneath were a couple of boxes holding more books and a bunch of CDs. I'd spent my whole adult life working in radio—I had to have something to ruin the quiet. The desk sat in front of the large window that looked out over the porch and the clearing where I parked my car. Beyond that, trees and brown earth climbed up the hill, to blue sky.

I'd spent a lot of hours sitting at that desk, staring out the window at that view. I should have at least made the effort to find some place with a nice mountain vista to occupy my long stretches of procrastination.

When twilight came, deepening the sky to a rich shade of royal blue, then fading to darkness, I knew I'd wasted another day and not written a single decent word.

But it was Saturday, and I had other entertainments. Very late, close to midnight, I turned on the radio. It was time for Ariel, Priestess of the Night. I snuggled up on the sofa with a fluffy pillow and a beer.

The front page of Ariel, Priestess of the Night's Web site was all black with candy-apple-red lettering and a big picture of Ariel. She seemed fairly young, maybe my age—mid-twenties. She had pale skin, a porcelain smooth face, dyed black hair falling in luxurious ripples across her shoulders and down her back, and black eyeliner ringing bright blue eyes. That blue, they had to be contacts. She seemed to be in a radio studio, but for some reason the table in front of her was covered in red velvet. She draped herself suggestively across the velvet, her black satin gown exposing not a small amount of cleavage, and leaned toward a microphone as if preparing to lick it. She wore a pentacle on a chain around her neck, silver ankhs on each ear, and a rhinestone nose stud. Animated bat icons flapped in all four corners of the page.