Halfway to the Grave

Page 25

They both laughed. I didn't, seeing nothing amusing at all.

"Are you finished?"

Sobering, Bones shook his head. "Stay in the trailer for a minute. Something I have to take care of."

"What?" Curiosity killed the cat; I hoped for better results.

"Business. Got a head to deliver, and I want you to stay out of it. The less people know of you, the better."

Made sense. I sat on the edge of the trailer with my feet dangling and then peeled back the cloth to inspect my wrist again. The wound was completely healed, the skin coapted together around the edges and unscarred. There was such a vast difference between vampires and humans, even half-breeds like myself. We weren't even the same species. So why did I tell Bones things I'd never told anyone else? My mother didn't know what happened with Danny, for example. She wouldn't have understood. She wouldn't have understood a lot about me, in fact. I hid more from her than I told her, if I were being honest, and yet for some reason, I told Bones things that I should hide.

After about thirty minutes of contemplating this and chipping the polish off my nails, Bones reappeared. He jumped into the trailer, untied his bike, and carried it one-handed to the ground.

"Hop on, pet. We're finished."

"What about the car? Or the torso?"

I climbed behind him, wrapping my arms around his waist for leverage. It was disconcerting to be pressed so close to him after that near miss earlier, but I didn't want to peel myself off the asphalt if I fell. At least he'd given me a helmet, although he didn't wear one himself. One of the advantages of being already dead.

"Ted's taking the car. Got a chop house that he runs for 'em. It's how he makes his living, didn't I tell you?"

No, he hadn't, not that it mattered. "And the body?"

He sped off, leaving me clutching him at the sudden momentum as the motorcycle weaved onto the road.

"Part of the deal. He plants him for me. Less work for us. Ted's a smart fellow, keeps his mouth shut and minds his business. Don't fret over him."

"I'm not," I shouted over the wind. Actually, I was tired. It had already been a long night.

It was a two-hour drive back to the cave, and we arrived shortly after three a.m. My truck was parked about a quarter mile away from the entrance as usual, since the vehicle couldn't navigate the rest of the way. Bones pulled to a stop at the truck, and I jumped off the motorcycle as soon as it quit moving. Motorcycles made me nervous. They just seemed such an unsafe way to travel. Vampires, of course, didn't share my trepidation of a broken neck, limbs, or skin sloughed off on the pavement. The other reason for my haste was simple-to be away from Bones as quickly as possible. Before any further attacks of stupidity overwhelmed me.

"Off so soon, pet? The evening is young."

He looked at me with a glint in his eye and a devilish curl to his lips. I just collected my keys from their hiding place under a rock and heaved wearily into the truck.

"Maybe for you, but I'm going home. Go find yourself a nice neck to suck on."

Unperturbed, he uncurled himself from the bike.

"Going home wearing that dress with blood all over it? Your mum might worry at seeing you that way. You can come inside and change. Promise I won't peek." The last part was accompanied by an exaggerated wink that made me smile despite my watchfulness.

"No, I'll change at a gas station or something. By the way, since this job is done, when do I have to come back here? Do I get a break?"

I was hoping for a break not only in training, but also in the time spent in his company. Maybe my head needed to be examined, and some time away would help accomplish that.

"Sorry, Kitten. Tomorrow night you're on again. Then after that I fly to Chicago to see my old friend Hennessey. With luck, I'll be back on Thursday, because Friday I have another job for us..."

"Yeah, I get it," I said disgustedly. "Well, you just remember I'm starting college next week, so you'll have to cut me some slack. We might have an arrangement, but I've waited too long already to get my degree."

"Absolutely, pet. Fill your head with volumes of information that will never apply in real life. Just remember-dead girls pass no exams, so don't think you're going to neglect your training. Don't fret, though. We'll work it out. Speaking of that, here you go."

Bones drew out a wide opaque plastic bag from inside his jacket, which had looked considerably fuller than normal, come to notice. Rifling through it for a moment, he pulled out a wad of something green and held it out to me.

"Your share."

Huh? I stared at the multiple hundreds in his hand with disbelief that turned to suspicion.

"What's this?"

He shook his head. "Blimey, but you're a difficult chit! Fellow can't even give you money without you arguing. This, luv, is twenty percent of the bounty Sergio had on his head. It's for your part in him losing his head. See, I reckon since I don't pay anything to the IRS, I may as well give their cut to you. Death and taxes. They go hand in hand."

Stupefied, I stared at the money. This was more than I could earn in six months of waitressing or working the orchards. And to think I had been worried about draining my savings on gas! Before he changed his mind, I shoved the cash in my glove box.

"Umm, thanks." What did one say? Words left me at the moment.

He grinned. "You earned it, pet."

"You just got a big chunk of change yourself. Are you finally moving out of the cave?"

Bones chuckled. "Is that why you think I stay there? Out of lack of funds?"

His clear amusement made me defensive. "Why else? It's not a Hilton. You have to pirate electricity and you wash in an ice-cold river. I didn't think you did that just because you liked seeing your parts shrink!"

That really made him laugh. "Concerned for my bits and pieces, are you? Let me assure you, they're fine. Of course, if you don't take my word for it, you could always-"

"Don't even think about it!"

He stopped laughing, but there was still a gleam in his eyes. "Too late for that, but back to your question. I stay there because it's safer, primarily. I can hear you or anyone else coming from a mile away, and I know it like the back of my hand. Be difficult for someone to ambush me without my turning it around on them. Also, it's quiet. I'm sure there have been many times the background noise from your house has kept you awake. And besides, it was given to me by a friend, so I check on it when I'm in Ohio and make sure all's well, like I promised him."

"A friend gave you the cave? How do you give someone a cave?"

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