“Wow,” Shane said. “This is—” He ran out of words. Claire fully understood why.

It was the girliest room Claire had ever seen. Pale carpet, pink satin couch, pale yellow armchair, also silk. Fairy lights strung around the light fixtures. A bookcase filled not with books but with pictures of Monica, in blinged- out pink frames. A giant cus- tom Andy Warhol– style print, only Marilyn Monroe had been re- placed with Monica’s face. There was a sharp, high- pitched volley of barking, and Claire looked down to see a tiny little teacup Chi- huahua with a frilly pink collar and mean bulging eyes yapping at them from under the yellow chair.

“Channing, hush,” Monica said, and picked up the little thing.

It shivered constantly, studying Shane and Claire with frenzied in- tensity. It stopped barking, but kept growling, in a pitch that wouldn’t have intimidated a butterfly. “This is Channing. Chan- ning, this is Asshat and Nerd Girlfriend.”

“I think that’s my new band name,” Shane said. “Asshat and Nerd Girlfriend. It’s got a ring to it. Did you name your dog after Channing Tatum?”

“He has qualities,” Monica said, and put the Chihuahua down.

It immediately attacked Shane’s shoelaces. He watched it with a puzzled frown, as if he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or . . .

really laugh. It really was ridiculous. His shoe was bigger than the whole dog. “Sit. Don’t touch anything. ”

Claire perched on the pink sofa; Shane evidently decided that the color might be catching, so he took the yellow armchair, which was marginally more manly, and tried to shake Channing off.

That resulted in enthusiastic leg humping. Claire covered her mouth to stop a totally inappropriate burst of giggles, while Mon- ica ignored the drama and poured herself a stiff drink from a bourbon bottle. She didn’t offer to share, not that Claire would have accepted. “So talk,” Monica said, and downed half the drink in one gulp. “Because I can totally still shoot you as home- invasion robbers. Nobody would doubt it, because you’re all jailbreakers and killers and all.”


“We need to get home,” Claire said. As surreal as this whole scene was, from the pastel apartment (was that a pink teapot on the stove?) to Channing having doggy hate- sex with Shane’s leg, the anxiety that had twisted up her guts was sinking deeper. The house needed them. Now. And they were wasting time. “The Daylighters want the Founder Houses destroyed. They’re trying to dismantle everything Amelie’s built, you know that. Myrnin always said the Founder Houses were the heart of Morganville. If they manage to destroy them. . . .”

“We’ll have fewer ugly Victorian eyesores to deal with?” Mon- ica asked, and drank the rest of her bourbon. “Okay, anything those idiots with a sunrise fetish want, I’m against, that’s obvious.

Even if it means associating with . . . well.” She gestured at the two of them, somehow getting across distaste, disgust and resignation all with one twist of her mouth. She poured out another generous slug of alcohol. “Everybody’s all warm and fuzzy about how evil is defeated and the sun’s out again, and it’s morning in America or whatever, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe these jerks give a crap about making anybody’s lives better. They just want people on their side. All this new construction and paint and architectural Botox . . . it’s just smoke. It’s the vamps they want.

And it’s the vamps they’ve got.”

It was a surprisingly accurate observation, coming from Monica, and even Shane forgot about Channing for long enough to stare.

Channing evidently lost interest, since Shane wasn’t being hor- rified anymore. The dog sniffed the carpet, then trotted off to munch miniature crumbs of food from a tiny pink bowl that was decorated with a jeweled crown.

“What do you want from me?” Monica asked them. “Because you know I’m not going to get myself arrested or anything. Not for the two of you, for God’s sake. That would just be epically pa- thetic.”

“First of all, we need a ride,” Shane said. “To our house. Can you manage that, Princess Picky?”

She shot him the finger and finished her bourbon, and Claire winced. That was two shots of bourbon that she’d witnessed, and from the way Monica was moving— not quite wobbling on her high heels, but definitely fluid— there was no way she was sober.

“I’ll drive,” she said.

“Oh hell you will not,” Monica said, and snatched up the keys— on a pink jeweled ring, of course— from the coffee table. Which was white, with pink curlicues. “Nobody drives my car but me.”

“Maybe you ought to not try to drive with the gun in the other hand,” Shane said. Monica looked down at her right fingers, still curled around the purse gun, and seemed faintly surprised. She shrugged and put it down next to the bourbon. Claire had a sud- den, sadly hilarious vision of Monica in thirty years— bloated, saggy, drunk and armed, sitting in this still- pink apartment.

While Monica was drunkenly focused on putting the gun down, Claire plucked the keys from her fingers. Shane was up and moving at the same time, and as Monica fumbled to pick up the weapon again, he slid it out of her reach. She tried to punch him, but he ducked and weaved gracefully, avoiding her as easily as breathing. “You’re not driving,” Claire said. “But thanks for the car, and you can come with us, because I don’t want you calling the cops on us for grand theft auto.”

Monica pouted. It was pretty obvious turning them in had immediately bounced to the top of her to- do list. “Give me back my gun.”

“Obviously that’s a no,” Shane said.

“It’s an heirloom!” He gave her a look. “Fine,” she said. “But this isn’t over.”

“It never is, with you,” he said. “Just don’t make trouble and we’ll all get along fine.”

Claire sincerely doubted that, but she opened Monica’s apart- ment door and checked outside. There was no sign of the police cruiser; it had moved on to new territory. “Hurry,” she said, and led the way. Shane kept Monica ahead of him, with one hand grip- ping her upper arm tightly— half to keep her steady on those heels and half to ensure she wasn’t going to bolt and raise hell. But she kept quiet and got into the passenger seat as Claire took the driver’s side. “What?” she demanded, when Shane stood there in the doorway, frowning at her. “Seriously? You are not getting shotgun in my car, loser.”

“At least I can get a choke- hold on you easier from back here,”

he said as he got in the back. “Silver linings.”

“Touch me and die. And don’t scratch it,” Monica said, and leveled a stiff index finger at Claire. Behind it, her eyes were bright with bourbon and malice. “I’ll cut you twice for every dent.”

After having driven Shane’s beast of a car, this was a piece of cake, really— automatic transmission, smooth steering, posh leather interior. Claire had been ready to hate Monica’s car, but it felt . . . well, it felt great. Maybe being rich wasn’t so bad, if you could avoid being a bitch along with it.

She made Monica scream a little by steering way too close to a rusty trash can, but she missed it by inches and swung out of the parking lot onto the main road. It was risky, riding around in this open car (Monica of course had a convertible), but they didn’t have time to put the top up, and anyone who knew Monica would know she never put it up anyway unless it was raining.

Which it so rarely did, in Morganville.

In fact, the night was clear and cool and full of stars— so many stars glittering overhead in the cold black sky that it seemed oddly unreal. The moon was only half full, but it still shed a fiercely focused light, giving edges sharp corners and shadows their own density. It tingled on Claire’s exposed skin like that menthol rub her mom had always put on her when she’d coughed. The differ- ence was that Morganville smelled not medicinal but dusty, with a curious note of raw lumber.

It smelled to her like sunburns felt, and she had a strange mo- ment of thinking that the sunlight the Daylighters worshipped so hard would dry them into parched husks, to be blown away by the constant desert winds.

It wasn’t a long drive to the Glass House, but anxiety contin- ued to beat in her chest like an animal trying to claw free. She expected to see Eve’s hearse pulled up in front, or on the side, but instead she saw a couple of beat- up pickups lining the street in front of the house— never a good sign. She whipped the wheel hard and sent Monica’s convertible squealing in a sharp right, up the house’s gravel driveway. Monica yelped at the sound of the rocks thrown by the tires hitting the undercarriage with glassy pings. “Hey!” she said, and glared as Claire hit the brakes hard, bringing them to a sliding stop. “Where did you learn to drive, freak?”

“Myrnin’s school of demolition driving,” Shane said, which wasn’t true, but it was funny, and Claire didn’t correct him. “Right, thanks for the ride, let’s not do it again, thanks for not making me kill you.”

He dived out of the backseat, moving fast and keeping to the shadows. Claire wondered why, but then she saw the figures mov- ing at the back of the house.

“Get out,” Monica ordered, and forced the issue by practically climbing into Claire’s lap before she could move. “Out out out, stupid!” She jammed the car into reverse just as Claire scrambled out, and Claire only just got the door slammed before Monica hit the gas and sent the car rocketing backward down the drive. It left some scrapes on the street as she bottomed out, and the flare of sparks was pretty noticeable, but Claire supposed that whole “don’t dent it” theory was out the window while Monica was driving.

“What the hell is going on here?” Shane asked, as the sound of Monica’s convertible faded. “Because I guess you were right that it’s something.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But the house was reaching out to me, real y distressed. I can’t believe you don’t feel it.”

Most Popular