Halfway to the Grave

Page 38

"How long have you suspected this? You told me before you'd been chasing Hennessey eleven years. You've known what he's been doing that whole time?"

"No. It's only been the past two years that I've gotten specific information. Mind you, I didn't know who or what I was chasing at first. Took me a few dozen blokes to get a whisper of what was going on. A few more dozen to get a name of who might be running it. As I said, he'd covered his tracks. Then I hunted down those under his line who had prices on their heads. Sergio was one of them, for example. I've been picking apart his people for years, but only doing it to those who had bounties on them. That way, Hennessey didn't know I was on to him. He just thought it was business. Now, however, he knows I'm out to get him, and why. And so does whoever else is involved, because he can't be doing this alone."

I digested that for a minute. "So, even if you take Hennessey out, it still might not end. His partners could start right up where he left off. You don't have any idea who they could be?"

"I've come very close a few times to finding out, but-well. Things happened."

"Like what?"

"Like you, actually. If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were one of Hennessey's. You have an incredibly bad habit of killing people before I can get any information out of them. Remember Devon, that bloke you staked the night we met? I'd been tracking him for six months. He was Hennessey's accountant, knew everything about him, but you plugged silver through his heart before I could say Bob's your uncle. I thought Hennessey knew I was getting close and sent you to silence him. Then you went after me the very next night. Why do you think I kept asking you who you worked for? And tonight-"

"I didn't mean to kill her!" I cried, lashing myself over that for a different reason this time. What information had Stephanie died with? We'd never know.

Bones got up, speaking to me as he disappeared behind one of the cave's natural walls.

"Believe me, luv, I know that. You wouldn't kill a human unless it was by accident or they were wearing a Vampire Henchman badge. You didn't seem to know Stephanie had any such connections-and from the look of scene, I'd reckoned you were wrestling for the gun when it went off. She probably had a good grip on it, too. From the smell of her, she'd been hyped up on vampire blood. Would have made her quite a bit physically stronger and she'd need that, for what her job was."

So that explained why she'd had the strength of a linebacker in her petite feminine frame. I'd underestimated her all the way around.

"Why haven't you told me about all of this before? You trained me to fight, and then you kept me out of the real battle."

He answered while still out of eyesight. "I didn't want you involved. Blimey, I'd just as soon you not risk your life going after vampires to begin with, but that's what you want to do, so I trained you to be better at it. Not like you'd listen to me if I told you to stay home, is it? Still, Hennessey and his blokes are different. Your part with them was supposed to end after Sergio, but your little physics chit ruined that tonight. You should be patting yourself on the back for killing her. Those other 'potentials' certainly would, if they knew what she'd had in store for them."

"Was safety your only reason for keeping this from me, or is there more I don't know about?"

There was the sound of water being poured. "No, there's one more reason I kept it from you. I didn't want to give you another reason to hate vampires. It's not like you aren't already predisposed to it. You tend to judge people for what they are, rather than what they do, if they don't have a pulse."

I was silent for a moment, because I had no defense to that. No truthful one, anyway.

"You should know something, Bones. I lied to you when we made our deal. I was going to kill you the first chance I got."

I heard a dry chuckle. "I already knew that, luv."

"About Hennessey...I want to help. I have to help. My God, I was almost one of those girls who never would have been heard from again! I know it's dangerous, but if you find out where this Club Flame is, if you get a lead, I want to be there. Hennessey has to be stopped."

Bones didn't reply.

"I mean it," I persisted. "Come on, I'm the perfect wolf in sheep's clothing! Really, do you know any other half-breed girls living in an area that's currently being harvested? You're not talking me out of this!"

"I can see that. Here." He returned with a bowl of water and a cloth, setting it near me and then handing me one of his shirts. "You've got blood on the front of you. If you go home like that, you'll scare your mum into thinking you've been hurt."

I looked down at myself. The red smear of Stephanie's blood stained my stomach in a wide circle. In yet another example of my prejudice, even though I didn't mind killing her so much anymore, I snatched my blouse off and immediately began to scrub my skin.

It was only after I cleaned the last of the blood from me that I felt the weight of his stare. When I looked up, his eyes were fixed on me and laced with green.

"Hey." I slid back a few inches on the couch. "Dinner's not served. Don't go all glowy at the blood."

"Do you think blood has anything to do with the way I'm looking at you now?"

His voice had a strange timbre to it. Thick with things unspoken.

I struggled not to show any reaction, but my heart had just sped up, and it wasn't from fear. "Green eyes, fangs peeking out...pretty incriminating, I'd say."

"Indeed?" He sat down, moving the bowl aside. "It seems I've neglected to inform you of what else draws such a reaction, but I'll give you a hint-it isn't blood."

Oh. I drew in a breath. "Considering last weekend, I don't have anything you haven't seen before, and I doubt you're overcome with desire by seeing me in my bra."

"Kitten, look at me," he said flatly.

I blinked. "I am."

"No, you're not." He slid closer, his eyes all green now. "You stare straight through me as if I'm not even there. You look at me...and you don't see a man. You see a vampire, and therefore accord me less substance. One of the few exceptions was last weekend. I held you and kissed you, watched your eyes light up with desire, and knew for once you were truly seeing me for all I was. Not just a non-beating heart with a shell around it. I dare you to look at me that way again, now, with no excuse of chemicals to fall back on. I want you." A slight smile twisted his lips as he made the blunt statement. "I've wanted you from the moment we met, and if you think sitting next to me in your bra doesn't overwhelm me with desire, you're very wrong. I just don't force myself where I'm not invited."

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