Halfway to the Grave


Page 42


Instead, I just told her not to worry.

"Don't worry? Don't worry! I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to drive into the next couple of towns where no one knows us, and I am going to buy you condoms! You're not going to end up young and pregnant like I was-or worse. There's AIDS now. And syphilis. And gonorrhea. And even things I can't pronounce! If you're going to engage in that kind of behavior, then at least you're going to be safe about it."

She grabbed her purse with a determined gleam and headed toward the door.

"But Mom..."

I followed her downstairs, trying to convince her not to leave, but she ignored me. My grandparents eyed me from the porch, faces drawn together like thunderclouds as my mother got in her car and drove off. It was definitely time to call that landlord.

The landlord, Mr. Josephs, told me I could move in the following weekend. It couldn't come soon enough. I occupied myself with showering, shaving, brushing my teeth, anything but wondering what Bones was doing. Maybe I was worrying for nothing. Maybe it had just been casual for him, and I wouldn't even have to tell him it couldn't happen again. After all, the man was a couple hundred years older than me and a former gigolo. I certainly hadn't robbed him of his virginity.

A car pulled into our driveway around six, and it didn't sound like my mother. I looked out the window, curious, and saw it was a taxi. A familiar bleached head appeared next as Bones got out of it.

What was he doing here? Another panicked look revealed my mother still wasn't back, but if she showed up now and saw him...

I ran down the stairs so fast, I tripped and landed in a heap at the landing just as my grandfather opened the door.

"Who are you?" he demanded of Bones.

I was mentally coming up with a story about him being a fellow college student when Bones answered him in perfectly polite tones.

"I am a nice young girl here to pick up your granddaughter for the weekend."

Huh?

My grandmother poked her head out, too, mouth open at the sight of Bones in her doorway.

"Who are you?" she parroted.

"I'm a nice young girl come to pick your granddaughter up for the weekend," he repeated the odd line, staring her directly in the eyes with a flash of green. She soon got the same glazed look her husband wore, and then nodded once.

"Oh, well, isn't that nice? You are a nice young girl. Be a good friend to her and set her straight. She has love bruises on her neck and didn't come home until this afternoon."

Sweet Holy Jesus, why couldn't the ground just swallow me? Bones stifled a laugh and nodded solemnly. "Don't fret, Grannie. We're going to a Bible retreat to scare the devil out of her."

"Good for you," my grandfather said in an approving voice, expression blank. "That's what she needs. Been wild all her life."

"Go have a pot of tea whilst we pack, both of you. Off you go."

They went, still with empty eyes, and trod to the kitchen. Soon I could hear the water being sloshed into the kettle. They didn't even drink tea.

"What do you think you're doing here?" I asked in an angry whisper. "If only the movies were right and you couldn't come in unless invited!"

He laughed at that. "Sorry, luv. Vampires can go anywhere they please."

"Why are you here? And why did you trick my grandparents into thinking you're a girl?"

"A nice girl," he corrected me with a smile. "Can't have them believing you'd taken up with a bad sort, can we?"

I was in a rush for him to leave. If my mother came back, it would take more than a flash of his eyes to convince her that he wasn't what she'd see him as-her nightmare, come to life.

"You have to go. My mom will have a heart attack if she sees you."

"I am here for a reason," he said calmly. "Not that I want you to be involved any further, but you were very emphatic last night that you wished to be informed if I discovered where that club was. I have. It's in Charlotte, and I'm flying there tonight. I bought you a ticket, if you want to go also. If you don't, I'll just go into your kitchen and convince your grandparents I was never here. That way you won't have to explain my presence later to your mum. It's up to you, but you have to decide now."

I knew what I would choose, but I was still rattled at how this could have been a very ugly scene. "Why didn't you call instead of just coming over?"

His brow arched. "I did. Your grandfather hung up on me as soon as I asked for you. You really ought to get a cell phone. Or remind them that you're twenty-two years old and it is appropriate for a gentleman to ring you."

I left the gentleman comment alone. "Yeah, well, they're old-fashioned, and they kind of lost it when they saw my neck-which was very inconsiderate, by the way! Leaving all those 'Been there, done that!' stamps for them to see!"

A grin tugged at his mouth. "In all fairness, Kitten, if I didn't heal supernaturally, I'd be covered with similar markings, and my back would be a river of scars from your nails."

Change of subject. Change of subject! "As far as tonight," I went on hurriedly, "you know I'll go. I told you I want to stop Hennessey, and I meant it. You already found where the club was? That was fast."

"I knew before, in fact," he said, leaning against the doorframe. "I'd researched it this morning while you were sleeping. Was going to tell you about it when you woke up, but then you ran out like hell was chasing you and didn't give me a chance."

I had to drop my gaze. Looking him in the eye was more than I could handle. "I don't want to talk about that. I'm not so shallow that I'd let my..." What to call them? "My misgivings about last night interfere with stopping a murderer, but I think it's best if we leave that alone."

His half smile remained. "Misgivings? Oh, Kitten. You break my heart."

That brought my head up. Was he making fun of me? I couldn't tell. "Let's focus on priorities. If you want to, we'll, ah, talk about that later. After the club. Wait here while I pack."

He held open the door. "It's not necessary, I brought your game clothes. After you."

"I haven't seen you here before, cherry pie," the vampire said as he slid into the seat next to mine. "Name's Charlie."

Bingo! I was so happy, I almost clapped my hands. We had landed in Charlotte at ten, checked into our hotel at eleven, and arrived at Club Flame just before midnight. I'd been sitting in this disgusting place for two hours, and with the slutty dress I was wearing, it hadn't been a lonely two hours.

"Sweet to eat, and easy as," I replied, mentally gauging his power level. Not a Master, but strong. "Looking for a date, honey?"



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