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Kitty's House of Horrors
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Kitty's House of Horrors

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Author: Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Gollancz, 2010
Grand Central Publishing, 2010
Series: Kitty Norville: Book 7
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Synopsis

Stranded in a remote cabin with no power, no phones, and no way to know who can be trusted, Kitty must find a way to defeat the evil closing in . . . before it kills them all!
Talk radio host and celebrity werewolf Kitty Norville has agreed to appear on TV's first all-supernatural reality show. What she's expecting is cheesy competitions and manufactured drama starring shapeshifters, vampires, and psychics. But what begins as a publicity stunt is all too quickly turning into a fight for her life.

Kitty and her fellow housemates arrive at the remote mountain lodge where the show is set, but no sooner does filming start when violence erupts. It doesn't take Kitty long to suspect the show is nothing more than a cover for some nefarious plot. Then the cameras stop rolling, cast members start dying, and Kitty learns she and her monster housemates are not battling for a prize: they are, ironically enough, themselves the ultimate prize, in a very different game. Stranded with no power, no phones, and no way to know who can be trusted, she must find a way to defeat the evil closing in . . . before it kills them all.


Excerpt

Chapter 1

I knew if I stayed in this business long enough, I'd get an offer like this sooner or later. It just didn't quite take the form I'd been expecting.

The group of us sat in a conference room at KNOB, the radio station where I based my syndicated talk show. Someone had tried to spruce up the place, mostly by cleaning old coffee cups and takeout wrappers off the table. Not much could be done with the worn gray carpeting, off-white walls filled with bulletin boards, thumbtack holes where people hadn't bothered with the bulletin boards, and both of those covered with photocopied concert notices and posters for CD releases. The tables were fake wood-grain-colored plastic, refugees from the 1970s. We'd replaced the chalkboard with a dry erase board only a couple of years ago. That was KNOB, on the cutting edge.

I loved the room, but it didn't exactly scream high-powered style. Which made it all the funnier to see a couple of Hollywood guys sitting at the table in their Armani suits and metrosexual savoir faire. They seemed to be young hotshots on the way up–interchangable. I had to remember that Joey Provost was the one with slicked-back light brown hair and the weak chin, and Ron Valenti was the one with dark brown hair who hadn't smiled yet. They worked for a production company called SuperByte Entertainment, which specialized in reality television. I'd looked up some of their shows, such sparkling gems as Jailbird Moms and Stripper Idol.

They were here to invite me onto their next show, the concept of which they were eager to explain.

"The public is fascinated with the supernatural. The popularity of your show is clearly evidence of that. Over the last couple of years, as more information has come out, as more people who are part of this world come forward, that fascination is only going to increase. But we're not just trying to tap into a market here–we hope to provide a platform to educate people. To erase some of the myths. Just like you do with your show," Provost said. Provost was the talker. Valenti held the briefcase and looked serious.

"We've already secured the participation of Jerome Macy, the pro wrestler, and we're in talks with a dozen other celebrities. Name celebrities. This is our biggest production yet, and we'd love for you to be a part of it."

I'd met Jerome Macy, interviewed him on my show, even. He was a boxer who'd been kicked out of boxing when his lycanthropy was exposed and then turned to a career in pro wrestling, where being a werewolf was an asset. He was the country's second celebrity werewolf.

I was the first.

While working as a late-night DJ here at KNOB, I started my call-in talk-radio show dispensing advice about all things supernatural, and came out as a werewolf live on the air about three years ago. Sometimes it seemed like yesterday. Sometimes it seemed like a million years had passed. A lot had happened in that time.

Arms crossed, I leaned against a wall, away from the table where the two producers sat. I studied them with a narrowed gaze and a smirk on my lips. In wolf body language, I was an alpha sizing them up. Deciding whether to beat them up because they were rivals–or eat them because they were prey. They probably had been talking to Jerome Macy, because they seemed to recognize the signals, even if they didn't quite know what they meant. They both looked nervous and couldn't meet my gaze, even though they tried.

This was all posturing.

"That's great. Really," I said. "But what is this show going to be about?"

"Well," Provost said, leaning forward, then leaning back again when he caught sight of my stare. "We have access to a vacation lodge in Montana. Out in the middle of nowhere, a really beautiful spot, nice view of the mountains. We'll have about a dozen, give or take, well-known spokespeople for the supernatural, and this will be a chance for them–you–to talk, interact. We'll have interviews, roundtable discussions. It'll be like a retreat."

My interpretation: we're going to put you all in a house and watch you go at it like cats and dogs. Or werewolves and vampires. Whatever.

"So. . .you're not using the same model that you've used on some of your other shows. Like, oh, say, Cheerleader Sorority House."

He had the grace to look a tiny bit chagrined. "Oh, no. This is nothing like that."

I went on. "No voting people off? No teams and stupid games? And definitely no shape-shifting on camera. Right?"

"Oh, no, the idea behind this is education. Illumination."

Ozzie, the station manager and my boss, was also at the meeting, sitting across from the two producers and acting way too obsequious. He leaned forward, eager, smiling back and forth between them and me. So, he thought this was a good idea. Matt, my sound guy, sat in the back corner and pantomimed eating popcorn, wearing a wicked grin.

I had a feeling I was being fed a line, that they were telling me what would most likely get me to agree to their show. And that they'd had a totally different story for everyone else they'd talked to.

I hadn't built my reputation on being coy and polite, so I laid it out for Mr. Provost. "Your shows aren't exactly known for. . .how should I put this. . .having any redeeming qualities whatsoever."

He must have dealt with this criticism all the time, because he had the response all lined up. "Our shows reveal a side of life that most people have no access to."

"Trainwrecks, you mean."

Valenti, who had watched quietly until now, opened his briefcase and consulted a page he drew out. "We have Tina McCannon of Paradox PI on board. Also. . .Jeffrey Miles, the TV psychic. I think you're familiar with them?" He met my gaze and matched my stare. One predator sizing up another. Suddenly, I was the one who wanted to look away.

"You got Tina to agree to this? And Jeffrey?"

Both of them were psychics; Tina worked with a team of paranormal investigators on primetime TV, and Jeffrey did the channeling-dead-relatives thing on daytime talk shows. I'd had adventures with them both, and the prospect of spending two weeks in a cabin in the middle of nowhere taping a TV show was a lot more attractive if I'd be doing it with them.

"What do you think, Kitty? Do we have a deal?"

I needed to make some phone calls. "Can I get back to you on that? I need to check my schedule. Talk it over with my people." Most of my people were already in the room, but the Hollywood talk amused me.

"Of course. But don't take too long. We want to move on this quickly. Before someone else steals the idea." Provost actually winked at that, and his smile never faltered. Valenti had settled back and was regarding me coolly.

"You're not scheduling this over a full moon, are you?" I said.

"Oh, no, certainly not," Provost said, way too seriously.

"Just one more question," I said. "Have you signed on Mercedes Cook?"

Provost hesitated, as if unsure which answer would be the right one. I knew which answer was the right one: if the Broadway star/vampire/double-crossing fink was on the show, I was staying as far away as possible.

"No," he said finally. "She turned us down flat."

Wonders never ceased. But they'd asked her. And she'd said no, so that was a point in the show's favor. "Ah. Good," I said, and Provost relaxed.

We managed polite farewells and handshakes. Ozzie and I walked the two producers outside to their rented BMW. Provost continued to be gracious and flattering. Valenti stayed in the background. Sizing me up, I couldn't help but think.

After they'd driven away, we returned to the building. The summer sun beat down. It had been a beautiful day, a recent heat spell had broken, and the air felt clean. Smelled like rain.

I turned to Ozzie. "Well?"

He shrugged. "I think it's a great opportunity. But it's up to you. You're the one who's going to have to go through with it."

"I just wish I knew what kooky tricks they have up their sleeves. What are going to be the consequences if I do this?"

"What's the worst that could happen?" he said.

I hated that question. Reality always came up with so much worse than I could imagine. "I could make an idiot of myself, ruin my reputation, lose my audience, my ratings, my show, and never make a living in this business again."

"No, the worst that could happen is you'd die on film in a freak accident, and how likely is that?" Trust Ozzie to be the realist. I glared at him.

"Who knows? At best it'll draw in a whole new audience. To tell you the truth, with people like Tina and Jeffrey involved, it kind of sounds like fun."

"You know what I'm going to say," Ozzie said. "Any publicity is good publicity."

So far in my career, that had been true. I was waiting for the day when it wasn't. "Let me call Tina and Jeffrey and find out why they signed on."

Copyright © 2010 by Carrie Vaughn


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