"We're not going back to the hotel. In fact, we'll be leaving Nevada shortly."
She frowned. "But the fake ID you got me and all the rest of our stuff is back in the hotel."
"I arranged to have our things packed up after we left, and I have both our identifications in my pocket."
Denise gave him a cynical look. "You had this whole thing orchestrated down to the last detail, didn't you?"
Not every detail, else you wouldn't have discovered me killing Black Jack. "I try to anticipate," was all Spade said.
She drew in a deep breath. "And now we go after Web?"
"Now we go after Web."
My new aliases are really racking up the frequent flyer miles, Denise thought as they exited the gangway of yet another plane. She'd flown more in the past two weeks than she had in the previous five years. Web, Spade said, was rumored to live in Monaco, so they were back overseas again. She didn't know what Spade intended to do once he found Web - ring the vampire's doorbell and ask if he could take the source of his supernatural drug trade? Or just kill everyone he came across until the last person standing was her elusive relative Nathanial?
She hadn't wanted to ask, to be truthful, because she already felt like a hypocrite. Here she'd judged Spade for killing Black Jack, but he'd only done it on her behalf. Anyone else he killed during this hunt for Nathanial would be on her behalf, too. By the time this was over, her hands would be just as bloody as his, no matter how she kept avowing her hatred of violence. That knowledge made Denise's emotions range from guilt, to frustration, to fear. She was just as much of a killer as Spade was, and it would only get worse if they were lucky. What if they couldn't find Web at all?
Or what if the next time Spade was in a fight to the death, he wasn't the one who walked away from it?
That thought had been festering in Denise through the past two days of flights and hotel stays. The full breadth of how dangerous retrieving Nathanial would be, even if they could find him, had been underscored by Black Jack's reaction to her blood. Spade initially hadn't wanted to take on the responsibility of looking for Nathanial because he might be another vampire's property. Now they knew it was so much worse than that. Nathanial wasn't just property; he was the sole source of a highly lucrative drug trade, so whoever had him wouldn't hesitate to kill to keep him. How could she ask Spade to keep trying to find Nathanial? Once he did, Spade's chances were about as grim as Randy's had been when he went up the stairs of that house on New Year's Eve.
In many ways, she was right back where she had been that night: huddled away from the danger, while someone else faced the monsters. She was through with that. Spade was right; she wasn't the same person she'd been before. If it was only her life on the line, she'd quit looking for Nathanial and just keep running from Raum, living - and dying - with the demon brands. But Raum wouldn't stop looking for Nathanial, and he'd murder every last member of her family trying to find him. If she stayed on this course, she might get Spade killed. If she didn't, she was condemning her entire family to death - all because an ancestor wanted supernatural power and sought it from a demon.
Whoever you are, Nathanial, Denise thought for the hundredth time, I hate your guts.
Spade collected their bags and they headed toward the airport exit. Once outside, Denise was surprised to see Alten and another person, presumably a vampire, leaning against a parked car.
"Spade," Alten said, smiling as he came forward.
Spade gave him a brief hug, handing their bags to the other man. Definitely a vampire, Denise decided, seeing him take all of them with one hand as if they weren't as heavy as she knew they were.
"Nice to see you again, Denise," Alten said, turning to her next.
"You, too," she replied, and meant it, having forgiven him for the whole bound-and-gagged thing the prior week when Raum came calling.
Spade opened the car door and Denise piled gratefully into the backseat. As long as wherever they were headed had a bed - hell, a floor - she'd be in heaven. It was never possible to get any real sleep on a plane. Their brief stints at hotels the past two days between flights had been more to shower and have Spade make his calls in private than to get any sleep. She was so tired; she'd be happy to fall asleep in the trunk, if she could fit around the luggage.
Spade introduced the blond vampire as Bootleg, making Denise wonder if he'd been changed over during Prohibition. Most vampires seemed to pick the oddest nicknames. She had yet to meet a John or a Sue.
"Everything is set for tonight," Alten said when they pulled away.
"Excellent," Spade replied, but Denise almost groaned out loud, sensing her plans for getting more than a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep had just been demolished.
She shoved back her disappointment. Spade probably wanted to sleep, too. And not spend all his time, money, and safety running around because of her.
"What's going on tonight?" she asked, glad her voice was calm instead of whiny.
Either her acting skills sucked or he could sense how exhausted she was, because Spade gave her a sympathetic glance. "Sorry, but tonight was the only evening we were sure he could attend. You can catch a nap beforehand, though."
"Who? Him?" she asked meaningfully, not wanting to say Web's name in case their search for him was something Bootleg and Alten weren't aware of.
"Indeed, Web will be there," Spade replied, squeezing her hand out of sight of Alten or Bootleg, who were in the front seat. "We'll want his formal approval if we intend to move to Monaco permanently, darling. It's such a small island. I wouldn't want to be at odds with any important locals."
That was the angle he was playing? A courteous, meet-the-neighbors approach? Oh sure, it might be all fangs and fruitcake welcome baskets at first, but then the danger to Spade and the killings would follow if Web did have Nathanial with him.
And Denise couldn't live with that.
Now wasn't the time to discuss it, though. Not with another two sets of undead ears in the car. She settled herself back into the seat, closing her eyes against the bright sunlight streaming in through the tinted windows. Her weariness was making her like a vampire; she would have turned the sun off like an annoying lamp, if she could.
Spade slid across the seat, folding her against his chest. Denise tensed for an instant, but then reminded herself of how she'd act if she really were in a relationship with him, as Alten and Bootleg believed. So she relaxed, settling herself against him with one arm around his lean stomach and the other behind his back, her head resting on his chest. His arms encircled her, hands lightly stroking her back, and she felt his chin rest on top of her head.