Halfway to the Grave

Page 15

My head lolled on his arm. After a minute, my depression lifted, and I began to giggle again.

"Winston liked me. As long as I have moonshine, I've always got a date with a ghost!"

"I hate to inform you, luv, but you and Winston don't have a future together."

"Says who?" I laughed, noticing that the trees were tilted sideways. That was weird. And they seemed to be spinning as well.

Bones lifted my head up. I blinked. The trees were straight again! Then all I could see was his face as he leaned very close.

"I say."

He seemed like he was spinning also. Maybe everything was spinning. It felt that way.

"I'm drunk, aren't I?"

Since I'd never been drunk before, I needed clarification.

His snort tickled my face. "Impressively so."

"Don't you dare try to bite me," I said, noticing his mouth was only a few inches from my neck.

"Don't fret. That was the furthest thing from my mind."

The truck came into view. Bones carried me to the passenger side and deposited me on the seat. I slumped, tired all of a sudden.

His door shut, and then the engine vibrated to life. I kept shifting to get comfortable, but my truck didn't have an extended cab and the interior was cramped.

"Here," Bones said after several minutes, and pulled my head down to his lap.

"Pig!" I screamed, jerking up so fast, my cheek banged on the steering wheel.

He just laughed. "Isn't your mind in the gutter? You shouldn't be so quick to label Winston a drunken pervert. Pot calling the kettle black, if you ask me. I only had the most honorable of intentions, I assure you."

I eyed his lap and the extremely uncomfortable truck door, weighing my options. Then I flopped back down and put my head on his thigh, closing my eyes.

"Wake me when we get to my house."

Chapter Five

I T WAS WEEK FIVE. I TRUDGED INTO THE CAVE, wishing Bones would just beat me unconscious again instead of what I knew was coming. My makeover, courtesy of a vampire.

He wasn't perched on his usual boulder. Maybe he was still sleeping. I was about ten minutes early. It didn't take as long this time to give my mother the latest in a long line of lies about where I was going. The first few weeks, I told her I'd taken a job waitressing, but with always being broke, I knew I had to get more inventive. At last I settled on telling her I'd signed up for an intensive exercise program people took to prepare for boot camp. She'd been aghast at the thought of me being exposed to the military, but I assured her that all I wanted was the training to help with my extracurricular activities. Very extracurricular activities, since killing vampires was on no college course I'd read about.

"Bones?" I called out, traveling further into the cave.

A whoosh of air came from above me. I pivoted on one leg and struck out forcefully with the other, knocking my attacker to the side. Then I ducked in time to avoid the fist that shot toward my skull, and backflipped out of range from the next lightning punch.

"Very good!" The pleased voice belonged to my undead trainer.

I relaxed. "Testing me again, Bones? Where did you come from, anyway?"

"There," he replied, pointing up.

I followed his gesture and saw a small crevice in the rock about a hundred feet up. How in the world had he gotten up there?

"Like this," he answered my unspoken question, and propelled himself straight upward as though he'd been yanked on a string.

I was openmouthed. Five weeks and he'd never done anything like that before.

"Wow. Neat trick. Something new?"

"No, luv," he said as he plummeted down with grace. "Something old, like I am. Remember, just because a vampire isn't in front of you doesn't mean he's not right on top of you."

"Got it," I murmured. Five weeks ago I would have blushed like crazy. Now I didn't even blink at the possible innuendo.

"Now, then, let's move on to our final phase. Turning you into a seductress. Probably going to be our most difficult yet."

"Gee, thanks."

We reached what was the makeshift family room, which was rather normal-looking, if you didn't count the limestone and stalagmite walls. Bones pirated electricity from a nearby power link and rerouted it cleverly into the cave. Thus he had lamps, a computer, and a television plugged in by the sofa and chairs. He even had a space heater for when he tired of the cave's natural mid-fifties temperature. Hang a few paintings and add some decorative throw pillows, and it could be a subterranean feature in House Beautiful.

Bones grabbed his denim jacket and led me back toward the entrance of the cave.

"Come on. We're going to a salon, and I expect this will take a while."

"You can't be serious."

I looked with a mixture of revulsion and disbelief at my reflection in the full-length mirror Bones had propped up against the wall. Five hours at Hot Hair Salon had given me an exact understanding of what it was like to go through the washer and dryer. I'd been washed, waxed, plucked, snipped, blown dry, manicured, pedicured, sloughed, exfoliated, curled, primped, and then covered in shades of makeup. I hadn't even wanted to look at myself by the time Bones had returned to pick me up, and I'd refused to speak to him on the way back to the cave. Finally seeing the end result made me break my silence.

"There is no way I'm going out in public like this!"

It seemed while I was being tormented at the salon, Bones had been out shopping. I didn't ask where he got the money from, images of old folks with their necks bleeding and their wallets missing dancing in my head. There were boots, earrings, push-up bras, skirts, and something he swore to me were dresses but only looked like pieces of dresses. I was wearing one of those now, a bright green and silver number cut about four inches above my knees and way too low in the front. That, combined with my new leather boots, curled hair, and makeup, made me feel like a twenty-dollar whore.

"You look smashing." He grinned. "Can't hardly stop myself from ripping your clothes off."

"You think this is funny, don't you? This is all a big...bloody chuckle-fest to you!"

He sprang forward. "This isn't a joke, but it is a game. Winner takes all. You need every advantage you can get. If some poor undead fellow is busy looking at these"-he flipped the material of my dress outward to get a peek before I slapped his hand away-"then he won't be looking for this."

Something hard was pressed against my belly. I wrapped my hands around it and squared my shoulders.

"Is that a stake, Bones, or are you just happy with my new dress?"

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