Halfway to the Grave

Page 55

"Right, then, mate, terribly sorry for my unspeakable rudeness, and I do beg your pardon," he said with admirable humbleness when Timmie cracked it open. Only I could pick up the slight edge to his voice as he went on. "I can only say that it was caused by my natural affront to the notion of her as my sister. Since I'll be shagging her tonight, you can imagine how I'd be distressed at the thought of rogering my sibling."

"You schmuck!" I burst as Timmie's jaw dropped. "The only thing you'll be shagging tonight is yourself!"

"You wanted sincerity," he countered. "Well, luv, I was sincere."

"You can get right back in the car and I'll see you later, if you're not being such an ass!"

Timmie's head swiveled back and forth between the two of us, his jaw still swinging open. Bones gave him a smile that was more just a baring of teeth.

"Nice to meet you, mate, and here's some advice: Don't even think about it. You try anything with her and I'll neuter you with my bare hands."

"Leave!" I stamped my foot for emphasis.

He swept past me and then swiveled, kissing me hard on the mouth before jumping back to avoid my right hook.

"I'll see you later, Kitten."

Timmie waited until Bones had driven out of sight before he dared to speak.

"That's your boyfriend?"

I let out a grunt that I suppose was an affirmative.

"He really doesn't like me," he said, almost a whisper.

I gave one last look in the direction Bones disappeared to before shaking my head at his bewildering behavior.

"No, Timmie. I guess he doesn't."

I made it to class just as the professor was handing out the tests. My dirty, bruised, disheveled appearance caused a few looks and nudges that I pretended not to notice. Then, I was so tired, I didn't even know what I scribbled down for answers. The rest of the classes were even worse. I nodded off in physics and had to be poked awake by the person next to me. When I got back to my apartment, I discovered my period had made its appearance.

It was official. My day sucked.

I used my last remaining energy to shower before flopping into bed. Five minutes later, there was a knock on my door.

"You'd better run," I muttered, eyes closed.

The knock became louder. "Catherine!"

Oh shit. It was my mother. What's up, God? Wanted to see how much I could take?


I answered the door, bleary-eyed, in my pajamas. My mother brushed past me with a disapproving frown.

"You're not dressed. The movie's in less than an hour."

Double shit! Today was Monday and I'd promised her we'd see a movie together. With everything going on, I'd completely forgotten.

"Oh, Mom, I'm sorry. It was a really late night and I'm just now getting to bed-"

"Did you get one of those monsters?" she cut in, her frown magically erased.

"Is that all you care about?"

The sharp question surprised both of us. Instantly, guilt swarmed over me at the hurt look on her face.

"I'm sorry," I said again. Jeez, I sounded like Timmie. "Um, in fact I did get two bad vampires last night."

That was partly true. I'd just left a few details out she didn't need to know about.

"Bad?" she asked with a gleam. "What do you mean by bad? They're all bad!"

She can't help it, I told myself, fighting guilt of another kind now. The only vampire she ever met raped her.

"Nothing. I'm just really tired. Can we do the movie another night? Please?"

She went into my kitchen, all four square feet of it, and opened my refrigerator. What she saw made her face draw even further together.

"It's empty. You don't have any food. Why don't you have any food?"

I shrugged. "I haven't been to the store yet. I forgot you were coming over."

I'd eaten the last of the ramen noodles for lunch yesterday, and what I couldn't tell her was that Bones usually took me out to eat. It was one of the few normal things we did together, albeit picking low-key places to avoid being spotted.

"You look very pale."

Again, she said it as if it were an indictment. I yawned, hoping she'd take the hint.

"Nothing new there."

"Catherine, you're paler, there's no food in here...have you started drinking blood?"

My mouth was still open from the yawn, and at that comment, it stayed that way.

"You're serious?" I managed.

She backed away a step. Actually backed away. "Have you?"


I stomped toward her, hurt and mad to see her cringe. "Here." I grabbed her hand and pressed it to my throat. "Feel that? It's a pulse. I don't drink blood, I'm not turning into a vampire, and my fridge is empty because I haven't been to the store! For God's sake, Mom!"

Timmie picked that moment to poke his head into my apartment. "Your door was open..."

He stopped, startled at the thunderous expression on my face. My mother dropped her hand from my neck and straightened her shoulders.

"Who's he, Catherine?"

Timmie quailed at her tone. Poor guy didn't know it was her normal one. "Be nice!" I hissed. First Bones had scared him, now my mother would probably give him a heart attack.

"Is this your boyfriend?" she asked next in a stage whisper he could clearly hear.

An immediate denial sprang to my lips, and then something happened in me. Something crafty, calculating, and opportunistic. I looked at Timmie and saw exactly what my mother saw. A living, breathing young man. One who was a hundred percent not dead.

In my defense, I was probably crazed from lack of sleep, my period, and being accused of having a liquid diet.

"Yes!" It came out of me with reckless abandon. "Mom, meet my boyfriend, Timmie!"

I ran to him, hiding his dumbfounded expression from her line of sight, and gave him an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek.

"Please go with it," I begged in his ear, hugging him while I said it.

"Ouch!" he squeaked.

Oops. Squeezed too hard. I let him go with a wide smile. "Isn't he just adorable?"

She came toward us, looking him up and down. Timmie gawked at her before holding out a trembling hand.

"H-hello, Mrs...?"

"Ms.," she corrected at once.

He blanched at her emphaticalness, having no idea of the many reasons why that was a touchy subject. To give him credit, however, he didn't run out the door.

"Ms.," he tried again. "Nice to meet you, Ms...?"

"You've slept with him and he doesn't even know your last name?" my mother demanded, scowling.

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