Halfway to the Grave

Page 52


"Hi," Spade repeated, and then threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Well, hallo to you, too, darling! I'm very pleased to meet you now that you're not flogging me unmercifully."

He had tiger-colored eyes, and they gave me a thorough once-over while he shook my hand. I did the same to him. Fair was fair. Next to Bones, Spade looked two inches taller, which made him about six-four. He had lean attractive features, a straight nose, and inky hair that spiked up from his crown before hanging past his shoulders.

"Spade. You're white. Isn't that kind of...politically incorrect?"

He laughed again, but this time it was with less humor. "Oh, I didn't choose that as a racial slur. It was how the overseer in South Wales used to address me. A spade is a shovel, and I was a digger. He never called anyone by their names, only their assigned tool. He didn't feel the convicts were worthy of more."

Oh, so he was that Charles. Now I remembered the name from when Bones had told me about his past imprisonment. There were three men I became mates with-Timothy, Charles, and Ian.

"Sounds pretty demeaning. Why'd you keep it?"

Spade's smile didn't slip, but those striking features hardened. "So I'd never forget."

Okay. A change of subject was in order. Bones beat me to it.

"Charles has some information on a flunky of Hennessey's who might prove useful."

"Great," I said. "Should I grab my slut clothes and pile on the makeup?"

"You should stay out of it," Spade replied in a serious tone.

That made me want to fling more rocks at him. "My God, is it a vampire thing to be a chauvinist? Or just an eighteenth century one? Keep the girl in the kitchen where she won't get hurt, right? Wake up and smell the twenty-first century, Spade! Women are good for more than cringing and waiting for men to rescue them!"

"And if Crispin felt differently for you, I'd bid you good luck and tell you to have at it," Spade responded at once. "Yet I happen to know firsthand how devastating it is when someone you love is murdered. There's nothing worse, and I don't want him going through that."

A part of me was inwardly pleased that Bones had told his friend he had feelings for me. I still didn't believe he loved me, but it was nice to know I wasn't just another warm body to him.

"Look, I'm sorry vampires killed someone close to you, truly I am. But-"

"Vampires didn't kill her," he interrupted me. "A group of French deserters cut her throat."

I opened my mouth, paused, and shut it. That told me a few things right there, aside from the fact that I'd been wrong about what race killed her. She'd been human, whoever she was.

"I'm not like everyone else," was what I ended up saying, giving Bones a questioning look to see if he'd told him that as well.

"So I've heard," Spade said. "And you certainly caught me off guard earlier, but whatever your extraordinary abilities...you're easy to kill. That beating pulse in your neck is your greatest weakness, and if I'd had a mind to before, I could have flipped you over and torn it out."

I smiled. "You're pretty cocky. So am I, when it comes to certain things. We'll get along just fine. Wait right here."

"Kitten..." Bones called after me, no doubt guessing where I was headed.

"Oh, this'll be fun!"

"Where's she off to?" I heard Spade ask.

Bones made a noise that was almost pitying. "To hand you your arse, and for the record, if I thought I had a chance of keeping her out of this, I would. Woman's stubborn beyond reason."

"Stubbornness won't keep her alive. I'm astounded you'd allow her to-"

Spade stopped talking when he saw me, probably because of what was in my hands.

"Okay, you're a big bad vampire who's gonna rip my throat out, right? You see I'm armed-with steel, by the way, since this is a demonstration and I don't want you to end up smelly-and you don't care because you're all that and I'm just an artery in a dress. If you get a mouth on my throat, you win, but if I plug your heart first, I do."

Spade's eyes slid to Bones. "Is she joking?"

Bones cracked his knuckles and stepped aside. "Not at all."

"Dinner's getting cold," I taunted him. "Come and get me, bloodsucker."

Spade laughed-and then feinted right before leaping at me with blurring speed. He was a breath away when he looked down in surprise.

"Well, strike me pink!" he said, pulling himself up in midtackle.

"I don't know what that means, but okay."

Two steel blades were in his chest. He stared at them before ripping them out and turning to Bones in amazement.

"I don't believe it."

"That's just what I said, mate," Bones replied dryly. "She has a real talent with knives. It's a damn good thing she hadn't practiced throwing them before we met, or I might not be here."

"Indeed." Spade was still shaking his head when he looked my way next. "All right, Cat. You've made an excellent point that you're far deadlier than you look. I see I can't sway you to leave this business with Hennessey alone, and Crispin clearly has confidence in you, so I bow in defeat."

He actually did give me a bow, his long dark hair brushing the cave floor with the graceful motion of it. It was such a courtly, refined gesture that I laughed.

"What were you before they sent you to prison, a duke?"

Spade straightened and smiled. "Baron Charles DeMortimer. At your service."

The streetlight above me was broken. Farther down the alley, a cat snarled at some unknown threat. On the opposite corner, the sandy-haired vampire bounced on the balls of his feet, almost hopping in place. He was clearly excited.

I wasn't. It was two a.m. and most people were in bed, which sounded good to me. Thanks to the hyper vampire I was walking toward, however, that wasn't in the cards.

"Hey, man."

I twitched as I approached, flicking my gaze in several directions and hunching my shoulders. With my fresh bruises, scratches, and dingy clothes, I looked like the poster child for drug addiction. It wasn't hard to pull off. I'd just refrained from taking blood after Bones roughed me up for authenticity.

"You got some horse, man?" I continued, rubbing my arms as if fantasizing about a needle.

He let out a high-pitched giggle. "Not here, chickie. But I can get some. Come with me."

"You're not a cop, are you?" I backed up as if wary.

Another giggle. "Not that."

Had a sense of humor, did he? Well, wait until he heard my punch line. "I don't have time for you to call someone, I'm hurtin' here-"

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