Halfway to the Grave

Page 28

They each groaned theatrically.

"Come on, one drink! It's hard to be the fleshies around here, we have to stick together."

The entreaty so clearly mirrored my own thoughts that I relented with another smile.

"One drink. That's all, okay? What are you two doing here, by the way?" They both looked my age and way too innocent.

"Oh, we like it here, it's exciting." Martin bobbed his head up and down like a bird, watching as Ralphie again gestured to Logan for another refill.

"Yeah, exciting enough to get you killed," I warned them.

Martin dropped his wallet when he fumbled for the money for my gin, and I got down to help him pick it up. They looked too gullible by half. Giggling, Ralphie handed me my drink with a flourish.

"You're here. You can't say you don't understand."

"You don't want to know why I'm here," I muttered, more to myself than to them. With a slight salute, I raised my glass. "Thanks for the drink. Now you'd better go."

"Aren't you going to finish it?" Ralphie asked with almost childish disappointment.

I opened my mouth to respond, but a familiar voice beat me to it.

"Sod off, wankers."

Bones loomed threateningly behind them, and they gave him one frightened look before scampering off. He slid into the seat next to me after shoving its occupant aside. The person left, unoffended. Guess it wasn't that uncommon.

"What are you doing here? What if he comes in?" My voice was a low hiss as I pretended not to look at him for the benefit of anyone watching.

He simply laughed that infuriating chuckle of his and held out a hand.

"We haven't met. My name is Crispin."

I ignored the hand extended to me and whispered furiously to him out of the corner of my mouth, "I don't think that's funny."

"Don't want to shake my hand, do you? That's not nice manners. Didn't your mum teach you better?"

"Will you stop?" I'd passed the point of furious and headed straight into enraged. "Quit playing! I have a job to do. The real Crispin's going to be here and he'll be put off by your blathering! God, don't you have any sense?" Sometimes he was too cheeky for his own good.

"But I'm not lying, pet. My name is Crispin. Crispin Phillip Arthur Russell III. That last part was merely a bit of fancy on my mum's part, since clearly she had no idea who my da was. Still, she thought adding numerals after my name would give me a bit of dignity. Poor sweet woman, ever reluctant to face reality."

It occurred to me with mounting anxiety that he wasn't kidding. "You're Crispin? You? But your name-"

"Told you," he interrupted. "Most vampires change their name when they change from human. Crispin was my human name, just as I said. Don't go by it much anymore, because that bloke is dead. When Ian turned me, he laid me in the natives' burial grounds until I rose. For hundreds of years they'd buried their dead in the same place, and not too deeply, either. When my eyes opened for the first time as a vampire, all I saw about me were bones. I knew it was what I was then, for from bones I rose and Bones I became, all in that night."

The imagery was haunting, but still I persisted. "Then what kind of game are you up to? You want me to try and kill you, is that it?"

He laughed indulgently. "Blimey, no. In fact, this is all your doing."

"My doing? How could I have anything to do with..." looking all around, adequate words failed me. "This?"

"You said last night when you were moaning about your life that you'd never been to a club just to have fun and go dancing. Well, pet, this is it. Tonight you and I will drink and dance and absolutely murder no one. Consider it your night off. You will be Cat and I will be Crispin, and you'll send me home with a dry mouth and aching balls just like you would if we'd never met before."

"Was this all some trick to get me to go on a date with you?" With a scowl I drank my gin, courtesy of the two human boys who had run for the hills after one dirty look.

His eyes glowed with dark lights and that sly curl returned to his lips.

"Let you keep your knickers on, though, didn't I? Can't even appreciate the little things, you can't. Come on, luv, finish your drink and let's dance. Promise I'll be the perfect gentleman. Unless you request otherwise."

I set my glass on the counter.

"Sorry, Crispin, but I don't dance. Never learned how. You know, whole lack of a social life and all that."

His eyebrows nearly swept his hairline. "You've never been dancing? That deflowerer of yours never even took you out for a twirl? Bloody sod."

The memory of Danny continued to smart. "Nope. I don't dance."

He shot me a measured look. "Now you do."

He practically hauled me to my feet, ignoring my protests and vain attempts to pull free. When we were well inside the hoard of human and inhuman gyrators, he spun me around until my back was to him. He had one arm wrapped around my waist while the other still gripped my hand. His body was pressed along the length of mine, hips intimately touching front to rear.

"I swear if you try anything..." My threat was drowned out in the music pumping and noise around us.

"Relax, I'm not going to bite." Laughing at his own joke, he began to sway in time to the beat, hips and shoulders rubbing against mine.

"Come on, it's easy. Move the way I do, we'll start you out slow."

Out of lack of other options except to stand there stupidly, I followed the line of his body, mimicking his movements. The pulsating beat seemed to jerk my nerve endings like invisible puppet strings, and soon I undulated against him of my own accord. He was right, it was easy. And sexy as hell. Now I knew how a snake felt when the charmer played his flute, slavishly twisting along to the music. Bones whirled me around to face him, still gripping my hand as if fearing I would bolt.

He needn't have worried. I was curiously enjoying myself. The lights and sounds seemed to blur together. All of the bodies brushing by us made me feel drunk from their collective energy. It was a heady feeling, to let my body move any way it wanted, directed by the rhythm and nothing else. I raised my arms and let my head fall back, surrendering to the sensation. Bones slid his hands to my waist, lightly holding me, and a mischievous impulse surged through me. He had blackmailed me, beaten me, and forced me to endure unbelievable rigors of training. Time for a little well-deserved payback.

I splayed my hands across his chest, seeing his eyes widen, and brought him closer until our bodies touched and my br**sts rubbed against him. Then I gave a slow twist of my hips against his as I'd seen another dancer do.

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