Halfway to the Grave

Page 62

A knock at the door had me glancing in bemusement at the clock. Only fifteen minutes since I'd ordered. My, that was fast.

Courteously Bones started to get up, but I grabbed my robe and stopped him.

"Stay there. You're not eating it anyway."

A grin touched his mouth. He could eat solid food, I'd seen him do it, but he didn't take much enjoyment out of it. He'd once remarked that he did it more to blend in.

I opened my front door-and then slammed it shut with a cry. "Sweet Jesus!"

Bones was up in a flash, still naked but now with a knife in his hand. The sight of that made another scream escape me even as there was an annoyed banging on the door.

"Catherine, what is the matter with you? Open this door!"

I was thrown into a state of sheer, mindless panic. "It's my mother!" I whispered fiercely, as if Bones hadn't figured that out. "Holy shit, you have to hide!"

I literally shoved him toward the bedroom, yelling, "I-I'll be right there, I'm not dressed!"

He went, but with none of my hysteria. "Kitten, you still haven't told her? Blimey, what are you waiting for?"

"The Second Coming of Christ!" I snapped. "And not a moment sooner! Here, in the closet!"

Her knocks were getting louder. "What is taking you so long?"

"I'll be right there!" I hollered. Then to Bones, who was giving me a very aggravated look, "We'll talk about this later. Just stay here and don't make a sound, I'll get rid of her as fast as I can."

Without waiting for his reply, I shut the closet door with a bang and whirled back around, kicking his clothes and shoes under the bed. God, had he left his keys on the counter? What else could be around for her to find?

"Catherine!" It sounded like a kick punctuated my name this time.


I flew over to the door and opened it with a broad, false smile. "Mom, what a surprise!"

She swept past me, more than a little upset. "I drop by to say hello, and you slam the door in my face? What is wrong with you?"

I wracked my brain to think up an excuse. "Migraine!" I said triumphantly before lowering my voice and affecting a pained expression. "Oh, Mom, I'm glad to see you, but it's a bad time."

She was staring at my apartment with a look of amazement. Uh-oh. How to explain?

"Look at this place." Her arms encompassed the small, drastically altered space. "Catherine, where did you get the money to pay for all of this?"

Upon first seeing my apartment, Bones had derisively said he was going to slaughter my landlord for daring to charge me money for it. He hadn't, though from his tone I didn't think he'd been entirely kidding, but what he had done was furnish it from top to bottom. "All of this" meant the couch he'd bought with a comment that he wanted something to sit on besides the floor, the TV so supposedly I could watch the news to look out for any telltale headlines, the computer for similar purposes, and the coffee table, end tables, and appliances-well. I'd given up by then.

"Credit cards," I said instantly. "They'll give 'em to anybody."

She gave me a disapproving frown. "Those things will get you in trouble."

I almost laughed out of dementia. If she only knew how I'd really gotten this stuff, she'd forget all about the dangers of high interest rates!

"Mom, it's great to see you, really, but..."

The way she was staring in shock at the bedroom made a chill creep up my spine. I was afraid to turn around. Had Bones ignored my directive and come out?

"Catherine...is that a new bed as well?"

I almost sagged in relief. "It was on sale."

She came forward and laid a hand on my forehead. "You don't feel hot."

"Believe me," I said with the utmost sincerity. "At any second, I could throw up."

"Well." She looked around the place once more with that little frown and then shrugged. "I'll call next time. I thought we could go out to dinner, but...oh, do you want me to bring you in something?"

"No!" Too emphatic. I softened my tone. "I mean, thanks, but I don't have an appetite. I'll call you tomorrow."

With far less force than I'd used with Bones, I propelled her to the door. She just looked at me and sighed.

"That headache is making you act very weird, Catherine."

I actually pressed my ear to the door after I closed it behind her to make sure she was really gone. Some paranoid part of me thought she'd only pretended and was waiting to fling it back open to catch me with my undead lover.

A noise made me turn around. Bones stood in the bedroom doorway, dressed now. I managed an uneven, fake laugh that didn't even resemble humor.

"Whew, that was close."

He stared at me. There was no anger to his expression anymore, and maybe that's what made me nervous. Anger I could handle.

"I can't stand to see you do this to yourself."

I regarded him with wariness. "Do what?"

"Continue to punish yourself for your father's sins," he replied steadily. "How long are you supposed to pay for them? How many vampires do you have to kill until you and your mum are squared? You're one of the bravest people I've ever met, yet you're scared to death of your own mum. Don't you realize? It's not me you're hiding in a closet-it's yourself."

"That's easy for you to say, your mother's dead!" I sat on the couch with a huff. "You don't have to worry if she'll hate you for who you're sleeping with, or if you'll ever see her again if you tell her the truth! What am I supposed to do? Risk my relationship with the only person in my life who's been there for me? She'll take one look at you, and all she'll see is fangs. She'll never forgive me, why can't you understand that?"

My voice broke over the last sentence and I buried my head in my hands. Great. Now I wasn't faking it. I was getting a migraine.

"You're right, my mum's dead. I'll never know what she would have thought of the man I've become. If she'd be proud...or despise me for the choices I've made. I will tell you this, though. If she were alive, I'd show her what I was. All of it. She wouldn't deserve any less, and quite frankly, neither would I. But this isn't about me. Look, I'm not insisting to meet your mum. All I'm saying is that sooner or later, you'll have to come to terms with yourself. You can't wish away the vampire in you, and you shouldn't keep atoning for it. You should figure out who you are and what you need, and then don't apologize for it. Not to me, to your mum, or to anyone."

He was at the door before I realized what he was doing.

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