The first-ever story collection from theNew York Times bestselling author, including two all-new works!Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody's favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she's fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She's done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-notgood- then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty's Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty's further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.In ""Conquistador de la Noche,"" we learn the origin story of Denver's Master vampire, Rick; with ""Wild Ride,"" we find out how Kitty's friend T.J. became a werewolf; and in ""Life is the Teacher,"" we revisit Emma, the human-turned-unwilling-vampire who serves the aloof vampire Master of Washington, D.C.This entertaining collection includes two brand-new works: ""You're On the Air,"" about one of Kitty's callers after he hangs up the phone; and the eagerly awaited ""Long Time Waiting,"" the novella that finally reveals just what happened to Cormac in prison, something every Kitty fan wants to know. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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August 16, 2011
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Excerpt from Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn
IL EST N?
Hugging himself, shivering, David curled up under the reaching bows of a pine tree. A moonlit drift of snow glowed silver just a few feet away, outside his shelter. More snow was falling, and he was naked. If he simply relaxed, he wouldn't be that cold. But he was afraid. More afraid every time this happened.
He didn't know where he was, but that didn't bother him so much anymore. And how strange it was, that something like that didn't bother him. That was what bothered him. Not knowing, not remembering, had become normal. He didn't know where he was, but he knew exactly how he got here. It was getting harder to claw his way out of this space, to keep this from happening. He was losing himself.
The fire had taken him again. Blood rose and changed him. In a helpless surge, another body of fur and teeth, claw and sinew overcame him. The hunter, the wolf. He couldn't stop the Change. He could flee, stumbling into a wild place where no one would see him, where he wouldn't hurt anyone. Better that he stay here, because the pull was getting harder to resist. Easy to say that this was where he belonged, now.
Sometime in the last year, since this curse had landed on him, his thinking had switched. He wasn't a human who turned into a wolf. Instead, he was a wolf trapped in human skin. The wolf wanted to run away forever. Might be easier, if he just never returned to human. But he did.
At some point, he drifted back to sleep and woke to bright sunlight gleaming off the snow. Blinding, almost. It would be a beautiful day, with a searing blue Colorado sky, crisp snow, chilled air. And he couldn't really sit here under a tree, bare-ass naked, confused and depressed, all day.
Ultimately, that was what drew him back to civilization. He was still human, and the human grew bored. He'd walk, find a road, a town, steal some clothes. Figure out the date and how long he'd been out of it this time. Wander in the company of people, until the fire took him again.
* * *
Just because Kitty couldn't go home for Christmas didn't mean she had to be alone.
At least, that was the reasoning behind forcing herself to spend part of the day at a Waffle House off the interstate. It was the holidays, you were supposed to spend them with family, with voices raised in celebration, toasting each other and eating too much food.
Not that any of that was happening here. It was her, a couple of truckers, the waitress, the cook, a glass of middling nonalcoholic eggnog, and Bing Crosby on the radio. All in all this was one of the most depressing scenes she'd ever witnessed.
She was reading Dickens while sipping her eggnog. Not the obvious one, which hadn't lasted long, but Bleak House. The title seemed appropriate, and at three inches thick would last her a good long while.
Just a couple more hours, she thought. Long enough to have supper in the company of other people--no matter that no one had said a word to each other in half an hour. Then she'd go to her rented room, call her family to wish them happy holidays, and go to bed.
The music cut off, and Kitty looked up, ready to complain. The Christmas carols had been the only thing making this place bearable. How pathetic was that, clinging to old-school carols piped through the speakers of a cut-rate stereo? Behind the counter, the waitress pulled over a footstool and used it to reach the TV, sitting on a shelf high on the wall. She popped a VHS tape into the built-in slot.
As if she felt Kitty watching her, she--Jane, according to her name tag--looked over her shoulder and smiled.
"It's a Wonderful Life," Jane said. "I play it every year."
Oh, this was going to make Kitty cry.
The fact that Jane had spent enough years here to make it a tradition, not to mention she had the movie on videotape rather than DVD, somehow added to the depressing state of the situation. That could have been a lot of Christmases. Jane wasn't young: wrinkles had formed around her eyes and lips, and her curling hair was dyed a gray-masking brown. Waitressing at Waffle House didn't seem like much of a career. A stopgap maybe, a pay-the-bills kind of job on the way to somewhere else. It wasn't supposed to become your life. No one should have to work at Waffle House on Christmas every damn year.
Kitty set her book aside and leaned back in the booth to get a better view. There were worse ways to kill time. She'd watch the movie, then blow this Popsicle stand.
* * *
Amazing what people left on their clotheslines in the dead of winter. It was a small-town characteristic he'd come to depend on. Blue flannel shirt, worn white tee, wool socks. He wasn't desperate enough to steal underwear and went without. He found baling twine in a trash can and turned it into a belt to hold up a pair of oversized jeans. The work boots he found abandoned behind a gas station were a size too small. He didn't look great. He looked homeless, with shaggy brown hair and a five-o'clock shadow--five o'clock the next day. He was homeless. He only bothered because he felt he ought to. Walk through town and remind himself what it was like to be human. He wanted to be human. Wearing clothes reminded him. He'd loved his job--raft guide in the summer, ski instructor in the winter. Stereotypical Colorado outdoor jock. He and some of the guys wanted to start their own rafting company. He was going to go back to school, get a degree in business--
David cleaned up as well as he could at the gas station restroom. The nice thing about stealing clothes off a clothesline--at least they were clean. He scrubbed his face, his hands, slicked back his hair, guessed that he didn't smell too awful. Squared his shoulders and tried to stand up straight. Tried to look human.
He regarded himself in a cracked mirror and sighed. He wasn't a bad-looking guy. He was young. He should have had his whole life ahead of him. But he looked at himself now and saw only shadows. His eyes gave off a shine of helplessness. Hopelessness. Their brown seemed more amber, and something else looked out of them. He was trapped in his own body. He washed his face again, trying to get rid of that expression.
He could usually find an evening's work somewhere, washing dishes or sweeping up, if someone felt sorry enough for him. Enough to pay for a meal--a cooked, human meal. He hadn't yet resorted to panhandling. He'd rather run wild in the woods and never come back.
Near the interstate, the minimalist main street of this small town seemed quiet for an early evening. No cars drove by, only a couple were parked on the street. The only place open, with its sign lit up, was the Waffle House at the edge of town.
The smell of the town seemed strange after his days in the forest. His nostrils flared with the scent of oil, metal, and people. An inner voice told him this wasn't his place anymore. He ought to flee. But no--he was here, he'd make a go of it. Trying to soften the tension in his shoulders, willing himself to stay calm, he headed to the restaurant.
* * *
The bell hanging on the door rang as a man walked in. What do you know, another angel gets his wings.
Kitty glanced over to see him, but his scent reached her first: wild, the musk of lupine fur hiding under human skin. In instinctive response, her shoulders tightened with the motion of hackles rising. She sat up, her hands clenching, the ghosts of claws reaching inside her fingers.
He was a werewolf. Just like her.
He froze in the still open doorway, his eyes wide. Clearly, he'd scented her as well, and was shocked. He looked like he might bolt. Their gazes locked, and Kitty's heartbeat sped up. A stare was a challenge, but this wasn't right, because the guy almost looked terrified. Like he didn't know what to do.
"You want to close that, honey? You're letting the warm air out." Jane smiled over the counter at the guy, and that broke the tension.
Kitty looked away--another bit of wolf body language, a move that said she wasn't a threat, and she didn't want to fight. She forced herself to settle back--and could sense him relax a notch as well, lowering his gaze, turning away. She desperately wanted to talk to him. What was he doing here? She didn't know of any werewolves within a hundred miles.
It was why she was here.
The man--young, disheveled, wearing ill-fitting clothing and a haunted expression--slouched inside his flannel shirt and moved to the counter.
He spoke softly to Jane, but Kitty held her breath and made out what he said. "Uh, yeah. I'm a little hard up, and I was wondering if there was anything I could do to earn a cup of coffee and a pancake or something."
Jane smiled kindly. "Sorry, there's nothing. This is our slowest night of the year." The man looked around, at faded tinsel garlands strung around the walls, at the movie playing on the TV, and blinked at Jane in confusion. "It's Christmas," she said.
He glanced at the TV again with a look of terrible sadness.
This scene pushed all Kitty's curiosity buttons. The urge could not be denied.
It was all she could do not to rush straight at him, but if he'd been startled and tense with her just looking at him, she could imagine what that would do. He was on edge--more wolf than human almost, even though the full moon was over a week away.
She walked toward him, her gaze down and her posture loose. He backed up a step at her approach. She tried to put on a pleasant, nonthreatening face.
"I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt, but you look like you could use a cup of coffee. Can I buy you one?" She laced her hands behind her back. He started to shake his head, and she said, "No strings, nothing funny. Consider it a Christmas present from another one of the tribe who doesn't have anywhere else to go." She glanced at Jane, who smiled and reached under the counter for a cup and saucer.
"Hi. I'm Kitty." She offered her hand. Didn't really expect the guy to shake it, and he didn't. It wasn't a wolfish gesture. She'd never seen a lycanthrope look so out of place in human clothing.
He took a moment to register the name, then pursed his lips in a stifled laugh. He actually smiled. There was a handsome guy under the hard times. "I'm sorry, but that's the funniest thing I've heard in a while."
She wrinkled her nose. "It gets a little old, believe me."
"How did a were--" He cut himself off when Jane returned with the pot of coffee.
"Why don't we go talk about it?" Kitty said, nodding back toward her booth.
A moment later, they were sitting across from each other, each of them with fresh cups of coffee. Jane also brought over a plate of pancakes. David gazed up at her sheepishly, blushing. Embarrassed, Kitty decided. He didn't like the charity. But he drowned the pancakes with syrup and dug into them.
Around bites, he finished his thought. "How did a werewolf end up with a name like Kitty?"
"The better question is how did someone named Kitty end up as a werewolf. That's a long story."
"It's almost as bad as a werewolf named Harry."
Perish the thought. "Oh my God, your name isn't--"
"No," he said, ducking his gaze. "It's David."
"Well, David. It's nice to meet you. Though I have to say, I wasn't expecting to see another one of us walk through the door. Are you from around here?"
"No. I've been on the road awhile."
"That's what I thought."
He hadn't yet taken a sip of his coffee, but he wrapped a hand around the cup, clinging to it like he could draw out its warmth. He hunched over, gazing out at the world with uncertainty. He probably didn't realize how odd he seemed, coming out of the cold without a coat. Werewolves didn't feel the cold as much.
Staring at the tabletop, he said, "I've never met another one. Not ever. But I could tell, as soon as I walked in here I could smell you and I knew. I almost walked right back out again."
"What, let a little old thing like me scare you off?" She'd meant it as a joke, but he flinched. She willed him to relax. His hand around the mug squeezed a little tighter. He set his fork down and pressed his fist to the table.
His voice was taut. "You seem so calm. How do you do it?" His eyes flickered up, and the look in them was stark. Desperate.
She froze, nerveless for a moment. Is that how she looked? Calm? She was exiled from her pack, driven from Denver by the alpha werewolves, and so was spending Christmas at a Waffle House in a desolate corner of the state and not with her family. She felt like she was on the verge of losing it. Without an anchor. She'd lost her anchor--but David had never had one.
"What about the one who turned you?"
"I was camping by myself, something ... something attacked me. It looked like ... I remember thinking, this is impossible, there aren't any wolves here. I knew something was wrong when I woke up, and I didn't have any wounds, no scars, and I didn't--"
He stopped, swallowed visibly, clamped his eyes shut. His breathing and heart rate quickened, and his scent spiked with fur and wild, wolf trembling just under his skin.
He didn't know how to control it at all, she realized. He hadn't had anyone to teach him. He'd been running as a wolf recently. Probably woke up with no idea where he was--no idea that it was Christmas, even.
Suddenly, her own situation didn't seem so bad.
"Breathe slowly," she whispered. "Think about pulling it in. Keep it together."
He rested his elbows on the table and ran his fingers through his hair. His hands were shaking. "I turn all the time. Not just on full moons. I can't stop it. Then I run, and I don't remember what happens. I know I hunt, kill whatever's out there--but I don't remember. I try to stay away from people, far away. But I just don't remember. I don't want to be like this, I don't--" His fingers tightened in his hair, his jaw clenched, teeth gritting. His wolf was right on the edge. Always right on the edge.
"Shh." She wanted to touch him, steady him, but didn't dare. Anything might set him off. And wouldn't that be a Christmas to remember? Werewolf rampage in a Waffle House in southern Colorado.... He might have done okay by Jimmy Stewart, but she'd like to see Clarence the angel fix that mess.
He looked at her. Square on this time. "How do you do it? What's your story?"
"I had a pack," she said. "They found me right after it happened to me. Like you, in the woods, attacked. But they took care of me. Told me what had happened, taught me how to deal with it."
"Does that happen?"
"Yeah, it does. There are probably more of us out there than you think. We keep quiet, stay hidden. At least, most of us do." And that was more story than she should probably go into at the moment.
"Where are they? Your pack."
Her smile turned wry. "I left. Or got kicked out. Depends on who you ask."
He looked crestfallen. The concept of a pack--the idea that he might not be alone--seemed to have heartened him. But that opportunity had once again become remote. "I didn't know. How was I supposed to know something like that was possible? I've been so alone."
What were the odds that his wandering brought him here, to her, perhaps the one werewolf in all the world who'd listen to his problems and want to help?
She said, "It doesn't have to be like that. You can control it. You can lead a normal life. Mostly normal, at least."
"How?" he said, teeth clenched, voice grating. Like she'd told him he could fly to the moon, or dig a hole and find a million dollars.
"You have to really want to."
Donning a smile that was more grimace, he glanced through the fogged window, to a graying, snowy parking lot. He spoke with sarcasm. "You make it sound so easy."
"I didn't say that. It's not easy. I spend a lot of time arguing with my inner Wolf."
"So do I. I lose."
"Then you have to figure out how to start winning."
He chuckled. "You ever think about going into the self-help business?"
She almost asked him if he listened to the radio much, or watched TV recently. Obviously he hadn't, or he would have already said something about her talk radio show.
She smiled slyly at the tabletop. "The idea had occurred to me."
David seemed calmer. Once or twice, Kitty had been accused of talking too much. But she found that talking improved almost every situation. Talking could make a lone werewolf on the run feel a little less lonely.
Jane marched in from the kitchen, straight toward the TV. Frowning, she pressed a cell phone to her ear. "Okay," she said. "What channel?"
She pulled her stool under the TV again and stopped the tape. A cheerful Donna Reed cut off midsentence.
In place of the movie, Jane turned on a news station, turned up the volume, then moved away to watch.
A young news reporter was standing in a winter landscape, a windblown field in the foothills nearby, a few stray snowflakes drifting around her. She was lit with a harsh spotlight, striking in the evening darkness, and speaking somberly.
"... series of gruesome murders. The violence of these deaths has authorities concerned that the perpetrator may be using an attack dog of some kind. Police would not give us any further details. Authorities are asking residents to stay inside and lock their doors until the killer is apprehended."
Behind the woman a crime scene was in full swing: three or four police cars, an ambulance, many people in uniforms moving purposefully, and what seemed like miles of yellow caution tape. The camera caught sight of a spatter of blood on the ground and a filled body bag before the scene cut away.
A male reporter in a studio repeated the warning--stay indoors--and a scroll at the bottom listed the information: five deaths within the space of an afternoon, violence indicating a highly disturbed, animalistic killer.
Jane folded her phone away, hurried to the door, and locked it. "That's just a few miles up the road from here. I hope nobody minds," she said, regarding her customers with a nervous smile. No one argued.
He said he Changed, and hunted, and didn't remember.
For a long moment, Kitty stared at the stranger across from her. Nervously, he glanced away, tapping his fingers, slumped in the plastic booth like he didn't fit in the confined space.
She shouldn't have automatically been suspicious, but David's situation raised questions. Where had he come from? What had he been doing before he woke up and found--stole--the clothes he was wearing? Was it possible? The only thing she knew: David was a werewolf, and werewolves were capable of violent, bloody murder.
"Get up," she said to him, growling almost. She didn't like the feeling rising up in her--anger, which stirred her Wolf. Quickened her blood. Had to keep that feeling in check. But she'd offered him friendship and didn't want that to have been a mistake.
"What?" he said, voice low.
"Come on. In back. We have to talk." She jerked her head toward the bathrooms, down a little hallway behind her. Glaring at him, she stood and waited until he did likewise. She stormed into the back hallway, drawing him behind her.
Kitty pulled him into the women's restroom. If anyone noticed, let them think what they would. Keeping hold of his collar, she pushed him against the wall. Working on sheer bravado, she tried to act big and strong. He could throw her across the room if he wanted to. Trick was not to let him try. Dominate him, play the alpha wolf, and hope his instincts to defer to that kicked in.
"Where were you before you showed up here?" she demanded.
Whatever attitude she'd been able to pull out worked. He was almost trembling, avoiding her gaze. Mentally sticking a tail between his legs.
She hadn't been sure she could really pull it off.
"I was walking," he said. "Just walking."
"And before that?"
"I was out of it." He grew more nervous, looking away, scuffing his shoes. "I turned. I don't really know where I was."
"What do you remember?"
"I never remember very much." His voice was soft, filled with pain.
She understood what that was like--remembering took practice, control. Even then the memories were fuzzy, inhuman, taken in through wolf senses. He didn't have any of that control to begin with.
"Did you hunt?" she asked, hoping to spark some recollection. "Did you kill?"
"Of course I did! That's what we do, what we are."
He tried to pull away, cringing from her touch. She curled her lip in a snarl to keep him still.
"Think, you have to think! What was it? What did you kill? Was it big? Small? Did it have fur?"
He growled, his teeth bared, and an animal scent rolled off him.
She'd pushed him too far. She almost quailed and backed down. His aggression was palpable, and it frightened her. But she fought not to let that show. Stood her ground. Being alpha was a new feeling for her.
"So you could have killed someone," she said.
He pulled away and covered his face with his hands. She barely heard him whisper, "No. No, it's impossible. It has to be impossible."
He didn't know. Honestly didn't know. Now, what was she supposed to do about that?
She tried again, calmer this time. Pulled out whatever counseling skills she'd picked up over the last year.
"Try to think. Can you remember images? Scents, emotions. Some clue. Anything."
He shook his head firmly. "I don't know what it's like for you, but I don't remember anything. I don't know anything!"