Halfway to the Grave

Page 59

"That's enough!"

Bones was in front of her in a blink. He didn't touch her, but his voice was like a whip.

"I seem to remember a very young girl who had similar views 'round ninety years ago. Now, to answer your condition, yes, I'll take you as one of mine after I kill Hennessey. Furthermore, should any information you pass to me prove instrumental, I'll pay you accordingly when it's over. You have my word on both counts. Is that sufficient for you?"

Francesca's eyes were streetlight green, but slowly they darkened back into the brown they had been when I first saw her. She sat down, chewed on her lip for a moment, and then nodded.

"We have an agreement."

Things wrapped up pretty quickly after that. Francesca didn't know Switch's identity or who Hennessey's new connections were, so Bones gave her ways to contact him while leaving out his actual location. Spade mentioned that he was going out of town to try finding different leads on Hennessey and he would call Bones later. That was that. Francesca and I didn't exchange goodbyes. She stayed in the hotel room. Bones and I left, but we didn't take the elevator this time, even though we were twenty floors up. He indicated the stairs and I started climbing down. At least that gave me something to do aside from simmer.

"You never told me about vampire society before," I remarked calmly. One floor finished, nineteen more to go.

Bones gave me an inscrutable look. He didn't have my hand any longer. My hands were stuffed in my jacket.

"You never asked."

My first instinct was to get angry and call that a copout. I opened my mouth to say something scathing, thought things through for once, and shut it.

"I guess I didn't."

If he were shallow like me, he'd say all I'd ever asked or shown an interest in about vampires was how to kill them. That anything to do with culture, beliefs, values, or traditions hadn't concerned me, unless I could use it to hunt more efficiently. It was a very scary moment to realize that I thought with the mind of a killer. I was only twenty-two. When had I gotten to be so cold?

"How did it happen?" I asked very softly. "How did vampires begin?"

Such an elementary question. I'd never bothered to ponder it before.

Bones almost smiled. "You want the evolutionary or the creationist version?"

I thought for a second. "Creationist. I'm a believer."

Our feet made little staccato noises as we kept heading downstairs, and he kept his voice low. The stairwell made for echoes, and though it was late at night, there was no need to alarm someone accidentally overhearing.

"We began with two brothers who had different lives and functions, and one was jealous of the other. So jealous, in fact, that it led to the world's first murder. Cain killed Abel, and God drove him out, but not before putting a mark upon him to make him distinguishable from everyone else."

"Genesis, Chapter Four," I breathed. "Mom was big on me learning the Bible."

"This next part wasn't in any Bible you read," he went on, casting me those sideways glances. "The 'mark' was his transformation into becoming undead. For his punishment in spilling blood, he was forced to drink it for the rest of his days. Cain later regretted killing his brother and he created his own people, his own society that existed on the fringe of the one he'd been expelled from. The children he 'reproduced' were vampires, and they made others of their kind, and so on. Of course, if you ask a ghoul, they have a different version. They say Cain was turned into a ghoul, not a vampire. Been a cause of bickering ever since about who was first, but Cain isn't around to settle that."

"What happened to him?"

"He's the undead version of the Man Upstairs. Watching over his children in the shadows. Who knows if he really is? Or if God finally considered his debt paid and took him back?"

I mulled this over. Bones picked up his pace.

"Makes you think your mum is right, doesn't it?" he asked jadedly. "That we're all murderers? We're the offspring of the world's first, unless you side with the notion that vampires and ghouls are a random evolutionary mutation."

I kept up with him. Twelfth floor...eleventh...tenth...

"The first of my kind has gotten a lot of shit for what she did also," I finally said with a shrug. "That whole apple business makes it harder for me to criticize."

He laughed-and then whirled me up in his arms so fast, my feet were still flexing for another step. His mouth crushed down on mine, taking my breath away, and the same mindless compulsion that had led me to act so bizarrely upstairs manifested in another form. My arms went around his neck, my legs wrapped around his waist, and I kissed him as if by willpower alone I could erase the memory of every woman before me.

I heard a rip. Felt the wall at my back, and then the next moment, he was inside me.

I clung to him, nails digging into his back with mounting need, mouth locked onto his throat to stifle my cries. He moaned into my skin, free hand tangled in my hair as he moved faster, deeper. There was no gentleness to him, but I wanted none, exulting in the unbridled passion between us.

Everything inside me suddenly clenched, and then relinquished in a rush of ecstasy that streamed down to my toes. Bones cried out as well, and a few shattering minutes later relaxed against me.

There was a creak, a gasp, and him snapping, "Walk away, you've seen nothing!" before a door slammed. That's when the haze lifted and a tidal wave of embarrassment swept over me.

"My God, what is the matter with me?"

I pushed at him, and he set me on my feet with a lingering kiss.

"Not a bloody thing, if you ask me."

My jeans were torn from zipper to thigh. Whoever had tried to enter the stairwell was long gone, but I was still cringing with shame at the glimpse that person had caught. Who's the slut now, huh? Hypocrite!

"First I publicly grope you, almost stab our potential Judas, then, for the grand finale, I molest you in a stairwell! And I thought you behaved rudely with Timmie! You should demand an apology!"

Bones chuckled, taking his jacket off and placing it around me. It covered the tear in my pants, at least. His own clothing hadn't been damaged. After all, the man never wore underwear himself, so he'd only needed to pull down a zipper.

"You didn't molest me, and I will never ask you to apologize for tonight. Any of it. I'm relieved, to be frank."

"Relieved?" I glanced at the front of him. "I guess that's one way to put it..."

"Not that." Another amused snort. "Though it applies there as well. Do you know what you acted like tonight? Like a vampire. We're territorial, every last one of us, which is why I had such a harsh reaction when I saw Timmie gaze at you with those smitten-calf eyes. Your similar, decidedly hostile response with Francesca showed me...that you consider me to be yours. I have wondered what you felt for me, Kitten. Hoped you cared beyond mere rapport or physical attraction, and so while I assure you that you have nothing to fear from her, I was selfishly pleased to see how deep your emotions ran."

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