Dead and Loving It (Page 20)

“I can imagine,” Bev said, impressed.

“But the problem is, I think some of them are, um, scared of me. And the ones who aren’t scared don’t like me.”

“I can imag—uh, go on.”

“So there’s the mate thing.”

“You mean, finding a husband?”

“Yeah. It’s a real drive among us, because compared to you guys, there aren’t hardly any of us. And the thing is, nobody wants to be my mate. They don’t know if their children will, um, be like me. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to be nice to guys, right? Even though, if I fooled a guy into mating with me I wouldn’t have much respect for him. But still. It doesn’t matter if I’m nice or awful. Nobody wants to take a chance on a deformed cub.”

“Oh.” Bev’s heart broke a little for the beautiful woman leaning against the ledge. If someone that thin and that pretty can’t get married, there’s no hope for the rest of us, she thought grimly. “So maybe you’ll meet someone in Minneapolis?”

“Well, all my—my visions, I guess you’d call them. All my pictures of the future—and it really is like there’s some sort of divine camera in my head, and the pictures she takes are never wrong—anyway, they were always about somebody else. Michael, your future wife is going to be on the third floor of your building on such and such a day. Derik, you have to go save the world. Mom, if you go out driving in this weather you won’t come back. But they’re never about me, you know?”


“So, I’m twenty-five, right? That’s old to be an unmated female. And there isn’t a werewolf in Massachusetts—maybe the whole world—who wants me to bear his cubs. So I sat down last week and thought and thought. I was trying to make a vision happen, which I’d never tried before.”

“And it worked?”

“Duh, it worked. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Oh, you’re back,” Bev said. “Good; it’s harder when I feel sorry for you.”

“Save your pity, monkey. Anyway, this thought pops into my head: If you help the queen, you’ll get what you need.”


“And that’s it. Well, almost it… an address popped into my head right after. So off I go.”

“To help the queen and get what you need,” Bev repeated thoughtfully.


“Why aren’t you flying? Or is it so you can occasionally stop and help a monkey stop doing something silly?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. Fly? Stick myself in a tin can that hurtles through space at a zillion miles an hour, a thousand miles up on the air? Breathing recycled monkey farts and choking down peanuts?” Antonia shuddered. “No no no no no no no.”

“Werewolves are claustrophic?” Bev guessed.

“And the monkey gets a prize!” Antonia patted her, mussing her short red curls. “Good, good monkey!”

Bev knocked her hand away. “Stop that. I can’t help not being as evolved as you are.”

“That’s true,” Antonia said cheerfully. “You can’t.”

“Is that your big problem with humans? We can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound?”

“Not hardly. Although, that’s a good one.”

“So what else?”

“This wasn’t part of our deal.”

“Yes, but…” Bev smiled at her, and Antonia actually blanched. “You’re dying to tell me. You can’t wait to tell me. So… tell me.”

“Okay, you asked for it. Not only are you not evolved— which, granted, you can’t help—but you’re the most rapacious, bloodthirsty species the planet has ever seen. You go to war over money, religion, land, and drugs. If there isn’t a war on, you make up a reason to have one. You kill when you’re not hungry, and you kill when you’re fat and don’t need it. And you stink.”

“We stink?”

“You reek. It’s awful! You don’t take enough showers, and when you do shower, you slop nine kinds of perfumed soap, body powders, scented shampoos, and aftershave or perfume all over yourselves. I had to take the subway once in Boston— never again! I had to get off after one stop—after I threw up.”

“I don’t think all of us stink,” Bev said carefully. “I think your sense of smell is developed to such a high degree that it seems like—”

“No. You all stink.”

“Oh. Well, sorry about that. Thanks for answering my questions.”

“Thanks for not jumping—I’m almost out of Advil.”

“It was nice meeting you.” Bev stuck out her hand. After an awkward moment, Antonia shook it, and Bev tried not to wince at the bone-crushing power in the woman’s grip. “Good luck with the queen.”

“Good luck with your life. You might try ratting your boss out to the IRS. He hasn’t paid taxes in five years. That could put a little excitement in your life—he’s a big fish and the feds would love to get him on that, if nothing else.”

Her boss? Which boss? She couldn’t mean… not the big guy. He had fingers in too many pies for her to count. Besides, she was just a worker bee in one of many hives.

“This is Chicago,” she explained to the werewolf. “Things are different here.”

“But you could change that,” Antonia said, climbing up on the ledge. She balanced easily for a moment, her long coat flapping in the wind. “And they have programs, the police do. They could give you a new name, a new life. Something more interesting than contemplating rooftops, anyway.”

“Yes,” she said dryly, “but there’s always the chance that he could have me killed.”

“Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?” Antonia said, and jumped. She landed on her feet in a perfect little crouch; Bev was instantly jealous. More than jealous. Sure, it was easy for the gorgeous werewolf to give career advice. It was slightly more difficult for the little people, thanks very much.

But the niggling thought

(sounds exciting, doesn’t it?)

wouldn’t go away.

Chapter 1

Antonia paused and then knocked at the door of 607 Summit Avenue. Mansions, of course, were nothing she wasn’t used to, but she had never seen an entire street of them. And this one—across from the governor’s mansion, no less—was nearly the grandest of them all.

It was white, except for enormous black shutters. Three floors that she could see from the front. Wraparound porch deep enough for couches and several rocking chairs. A detached garage as big as most people’s starter homes.

Well, a queen lives here, she reminded herself. Of course it’s going to be grand. What did you expect, a tent?

Still, it was weird. She had no idea American monkeys had started electing royals.

She didn’t bother to knock again; she could hear someone coming. The door was pulled open—the small, skinny woman had to struggle with it—and then Antonia was face-to-face with a beautiful woman (yawn… they were a dime a dozen on the Cape) with skin the color of good coffee. Her eyes were also dark and tip-tilted at the ends, giving her a regal (daresay queenlike?) air. She had cheekbones you could cut yourself on.

“Are you the queen?” Antonia asked. Dumb question; of course she was the queen, who else could be? The woman was born to be on the one dollar bill.

At least this one didn’t stink too badly—she’d had a shower that night and, even better, hadn’t drowned herself in nine kinds of powders, soaps, perfumes, and deodorants.

“I’m here to help you,” she continued when the woman didn’t say anything. “I’m Antonia Wolfton, from the Cape Cod Pack.”

The queen blinked at her, a slow-lidded, thoughtful blink, and then said, “You’d better come with me.” She turned, and Antonia followed her through an enormous entryway, down several hallways (the place smelled strongly of old wood, old wool, and Pledge), and into the largest kitchen she’d ever seen. Several people were sitting on stools, which were grouped around a long, industrial counter, bar-style.

“Guys,” the queen announced, “this is Antonia Wolfton, from the Cape Cod Pack. Hold onto your panties: She’s here to help us.”

One of them, a leggy blonde dressed in linen pants and a sleeveless white blouse, looked up from her tea. Actually, they all looked up. But it was the blonde Antonia couldn’t look away from.

And there was something going on here, wasn’t there? It wasn’t just the group, almost unnaturally still. And it wasn’t their smell—though they’d obviously gone easy on the fake scents and heavy on good, old-fashioned showers—their scents, that was it, she almost had it, could almost taste the problem, the—

She heard someone coming down the stairs and then the door about fifteen feet away swung open and a man walked in.

Well. Not walked. Loped, really. He was tall and lean, with a swimmer’s build—narrow hips and broad shoulders. Shirtless, with a fine fuzz of dark hair starting at the top of his ribs and disappearing into his jeans. He had shoulder-length, golden brown hair—sunny hair, as her pack leader’s daughter would have said—and mud-colored eyes. When he looked at her with those eyes, she had the distinct sensation of falling.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said faintly. Those eyes… they weren’t intelligent. They were just this side of savage. Oh, she liked those eyes. She just needed to fatten him up some; he was far too thin. “How’s it going, Garrett?”

“What?” the blonde said, spilling her tea. “What did you say?”

“Garrett Shea, right?” Antonia asked. “I—saw a picture of you.”

“What?” someone else said, someone with a profound bass voice, someone not to be ignored, but she couldn’t stop looking at Garrett.

Which was a good thing, because Garrett Shea picked that moment to leap at her. Really leap, too. He covered the distance between them in half a heartbeat, tackling her so hard she slammed back into the wall.