Halfway to the Grave

Page 14

"Oh, the sweetness!" was his enraptured reply as he came out the other side of my neck. "Yessss! Give me more!"

I was still coughing, and my throat burned. Whether that was from the liquor or the ghost was anyone's guess.

"Another name," I managed to get out. "Then I'll have more."

Winston didn't need to be told twice any longer. "Violet Perkins, age twenty-two, died last Thursday of strangulation. Cried the whole way up."

He didn't sound particularly sad for her. A hand waved impatiently at me, its edges blurry. "Go on!"

One deep breath later and more moonshine went down the hatch. I coughed just as much as before, my eyes watering.

"Why would anyone pay for this swill?" I gasped when I came up for air. My throat was almost throbbing when Winston exited it and he floated back in front of me.

"Thought you'd taken my 'shine from me forever, didn't you, Simms?" Winston shouted at the passing hooded phantom. It didn't react. "Well, look who's drinking while you're condemned to eternally wander off that cliff! This nip's for you, old John! Carmen Johnson, twenty-seven, bled to death ten days ago. Drink, mistress! And this time, swallow like a woman, not like a gurgling babe!"

I regarded him with amazement. Out of all things, liquor seemed to be what he missed the most. "You're dead and you're still an alcoholic. That's so dysfunctional."

"A bargain's a bargain!" he belted. "Drink!"

"Prick," I muttered under my breath as I eyed the bottle unhappily. This stuff made gin taste like sugar water in comparison. You're going to get Bones back for this, I swore to myself. And not just with a silver stake. That's too good for him.

Twenty minutes later, my notepad had thirteen more names on it, the bottle was empty, and I was swaying on my feet. If I wasn't so dizzy, I'd have been amazed at all the girls who'd been murdered the past couple months. Hadn't the new governor just been bragging on TV about how the crime rate was way down? The names on my list sure seemed to indicate otherwise. Tell those poor girls the crime rate was down, I'd bet they'd all disagree.

Winston lay on the ground, his hands over his belly, and when I let out an extended burp, he smiled as though it had relieved his diaphragm also.

"Ah, mistress, you're an angel. Sure there's not a drop left? I might have remembered one more person..."

"Up yours," I said rudely with another belch. "It's empty. You should tell me the name anyway, after making me drink all that sewage."

Winston gave me a devious smile. "Come back with a full bottle and I will."

"Selfish spook," I mumbled, and staggered away.

I'd made it a few feet when I felt that distinct pins-and-needles sensation again, only this time it wasn't in my throat.


I looked down in time to see Winston's grinning, transparent form fly out of my pants. He was chuckling even as I smacked at myself and hopped up and down furiously.

"Drunken filthy pig!" I spat. "Bastard!"

"And a good eve'in' to you, too, mistress!" he called out, his edges starting to blur and fade. "Come back soon!"

"I hope worms shit on your corpse!" was my reply. A ghost had just gotten to third base with me. Could I sink any lower?

Bones came out from behind the bushes about fifty yards away. "What happened, Kitten?"

"You! You tricked me! I never want to see you or that bottle of liquid arsenic again!"

And I chucked the empty moonshine jug at him. Or tried to. It missed him by a dozen feet.

He picked it up in astonishment. "You drank the whole bloody thing? You were only supposed to have a few sips!"

"Did you say that? Did you?" He reached me just as I felt the ground tip. "Didn't say anything. I've got those names, so that's all that matters, but you men...you're all alike. Alive, dead, undead-all perverts! I had a drunken pervert in my pants! Do you know how unsanitary that is?"

Bones held me upright. I would have protested, but I couldn't remember how to. "What are you saying?"

"Winston poltergeisted my panties, that's what!" I announced with a loud hiccup.

"Why, you scurvy, lecherous spook!" Bones yelled in the direction of the cemetery. "If my pipes still worked, I'd go right back there and piss on your grave!"

I thought I heard laughter. Or maybe it was just the wind.

"Forget it." I tugged on his jacket, leaning heavily. It was that or I was going to fall. "Who were those girls? You were right, most of them had been killed by vampires."

"I suspected as much."

"Do you know who did it?" I slurred. "Winston didn't. He just knew who they were and how they died."

"Don't ask me more about it, because I won't tell you, and before you even wonder, no, I had nothing to do with it."

The moonlight shining down made his skin even creamier. He was still staring off in the distance, and with his jaw clenched, he looked both fierce and very beautiful.

"You know what?" Suddenly, very inappropriately, I began to giggle. "You're pretty. You're so pretty."

Bones glanced back at me. "Bloody hell. You'll hate yourself in the morning for saying that. You must be absolutely pissed."

Another giggle. He was funny. "Not anymore."

"Right." He picked me up. The leaves made small crunching sounds under his feet as he carried me. "If you weren't half dead, what you just drank would kill you. Come on, pet. Let's get you home."

It had been a long time since I'd been in a man's arms. Sure, Bones might have carried me before when I was unconscious, but that didn't count. Now I was very aware of his hard chest against me, how effortlessly he held me, and how really good he smelled. It wasn't cologne-he never wore any. It was a clean scent that was uniquely his and it was...intoxicating.

"Do you think I'm pretty?" I heard myself ask.

Something I couldn't name flashed across his face.

"No. I don't think you're pretty. I think you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."

"Liar," I breathed. "He wouldn't have done that if I was. He wouldn't have been with her."


I ignored him, caught up in the memory. "Maybe he knew. Maybe on some deep, deep level, he could sense I was evil. I wish I hadn't been born this way. I wish I hadn't been born at all."

"You listen to me, Kitten," Bones cut me off. In my rant, I'd almost forgotten he was there. "I don't know who you're taking about, but you are not evil. Not one single cell of you. There is nothing wrong with you, and sod anyone who can't see that for themselves."

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