“Why not?” Adam asked, his voice quiet.

Mac’s eyes shifted left. “She doesn’t want any trouble.”

“Look, Mac, the fact is that if this vampire we’re looking for really is in town— maybe even in this house you told us about— trouble has come to New Orleans. And sooner or later it’s going to find your friend.”

“You don’t know that.”

I leaned back and crossed my arms. “Actually, I can guarantee it. Because the vamp we’re after is—” I paused and glanced at Adam. To this point I’d avoided mentioning Lavinia’s name, but obviously the time had come to tell Mac so she could warn her friends. “Her name is Lavinia Kane.”

Mac blinked in confusion. “And?” So much for my bombshell. I guess it wasn’t surprising, since Mac was a werewolf and not a vamp.

I decided to put in terms a werewolf could understand. “She’s the Alpha of the entire vampire race.”

That got Mac’s attention. “Holy shit.”

“Exactly. Now you know why we hesitated telling you before.” When Mac nodded with her mouth hanging open, I continued. “But now that this happened? Your friends need to be really careful.”

Adam cut in. “In fact, you should tell your friends not to engage if they see her.”

Mac’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“Lavinia’s one of the oldest vamps alive. Your average vamp won’t stand a chance.”

Her chin lifted. “But you’re planning on taking her on, right? What makes you so tough?”

I tried not to react to the challenge in the were’s eyes. “Because I have the best training for the job and the best reason to want her dead.”

Mac sucked in a deep breath through her nose and pursed her lips. “Okay. I can’t promise my friends will listen, but I’ll try.”

“In the meantime, we’ll check out this address. You tell your pals to let us know if they hear anything else, okay?”

“Maybe you should give me a description of this Domina. Just so they know to avoid her if she shows up.”

“She’s a little taller than me. Dark, dark red hair— burgundy, I guess. But don’t worry, they’ll know her when they see her.”

“How?”

I shrugged. “They’ll have a sudden urge to genuflect before her.”

“Ah. Okay, I’ll tell them.” She rose to leave, looking a little shell-shocked.

“I have one more question,” I said, placing a hand on Adam’s arm when he moved to stand, too. “Has anyone you’ve talked to mentioned seeing an out-of-town mage around?”

Mac frowned and shook her head. “I’m sorry. But since most of the mage residents left a few days ago, a new one would definitely be noticed.”

Mac saw my expression fall and rushed ahead. “But I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, your sister’s bound to turn up soon, right?”

I sighed. “You’re probably right.”

Unless Lavinia had already killed her.

12

When Zen showed us to the garage behind the shop, I was surprised to see an ancient yellow car waiting for us. Not really sure what car I’d imagined a voodoo priestess might choose, but it certainly wasn’t this.

“A Gremlin?” I asked, trying to keep the judgment from my tone.

Zen patted the hood lovingly. “This here’s Saint Expedite.” She chuckled like she’d made a joke. I glanced at Adam, who merely shrugged in return. “Don’t get to do much driving in the city, but when I need to get around this baby gets the job done.”

After that, she apologized for the cluttered back seat and the heavy scent of dried herbs permeating the interior. “Won’t matter too much, since the front windows won’t roll up anymore.”

As we’d gotten ready to leave before Zen showed us the car, I insisted Giguhl put on a little something to ward off the chill. The ensuing argument was why we were leaving Zen’s an hour behind schedule. But after Zen’s explanation about the windows, I shot Giguhl an I-told-you-so look. His tail swished, and he turned his back to me. The position gave me a nice view of his hairless ass sticking out from under a black sweater. The view I could have done without, but being right went a long way toward soothing my aching pupils.

A few minutes later, Zen waved us off merrily and headed out to handle her own business. As we drove out of the French Quarter toward the Garden District, Giguhl perched his little naked paws on the dashboard and looked out the windshield. He ducked and weaved to avoid getting beamed by the chicken foot— used to “kick evil back,” according to Zenobia— hanging from the rearview mirror.

Our first stop was back at Alodius’s butcher shop. We decided to hit there first and get it out of the way before we checked out Mac’s lead. That way I’d also be able to grab some more blood before potentially rumbling with the vampires in the house on Prytania. Normally I didn’t need it every day, but I guess since the blood wasn’t from a human it wore off faster. I can’t say how much I enjoyed having to drink double the cow’s blood to stay strong.

The trip down to the Garden District was much faster this time, despite the Gremlin’s questionable transmission. Adam pulled in front of the shop and left the engine sputtering and wheezing.

I reached for the handle. “Aren’t you coming in? After all, you’re the one who volunteered to get chicken feet for the voodoo lady.”

“Careful, Red, or I’ll think you’re jealous.” Adam smiled knowingly.

Giguhl snickered. Ass.

I looked away. “Whatever.”

“Anyway, I had my fill of the butcher last night. Why don’t you take Gigi with you for protection?”

I snorted, which earned me a glare from the cat. “Mock if you will, but I like that nickname better than Mr. Giggles,” he said.

“I think you just like Brooks better,” I said.

He drew back. “Now you’re jealous of Brooks, too?”

I seriously didn’t have enough breath in my body to argue that point. Instead, I shook my head and grabbed his warm and disconcertingly smooth body from the console.

“You might want to talk to a professional about your emotional IQ,” he taunted as I jogged to the door. I shot him a glare.

“What the f**k is that?”

He wrinkled his pink nose. “If you watched Opry you’d know.” For some reason, Giguhl felt he knew the fabulously wealthy talk-show host well enough to give her a nickname.

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