Halfway to the Grave

Page 79

Don gave me an appraising look. "It was worth the risk. Ever believe in something enough to kill for it?"

It would be hypocritical for me to say no. "What's your offer?"

Don sat up, wincing at his bent knees. "We want you, of course. You just ripped off a welded metal bar and disarmed a highly trained soldier while handcuffed to a bed, all in about a second. There's no one alive who has that kind of speed, but there are many dead things that do. After seeing your work, it seems to me you aren't averse to killing those things. Lots of them, in fact, but more will be looking for you now. Your anonymity is ruined. I can fix that. Oh, I knew Oliver was dirty, a lot of people did, but we couldn't prove anything because every agent we sent to check him out never came back. You're different. We'd be sending these creatures someone their own size to pick on, and all of these charges won't matter because Catherine Crawfield will die, and you'll be reborn into your new life. Given backing and troops. You'll become one of the most prized weapons the U. S. government has to protect its citizens against dangers they can't even imagine. Isn't that what you were meant to do? Haven't you always known it?"

Wow, he was good, and if Timmie were here, he'd feel absolutely vindicated. There really were men in black, and I'd just been offered a chance to join their ranks. I thought of the opportunity and the advantages, the exhilaration of starting a new life without fear of police or burying bodies or hiding my nature from those around me. Just six months ago, I would have tripped over myself to accept it.


The single word hung in the room. Don blinked.

"Would you like to see your mother?"

He'd taken my refusal too easy. Something was up. Slowly, I nodded. "She's here?"

"Yes, but we'll bring her to you. They'll never let you walk the hall swinging that bedrail. Tate, instruct the guard to have Ms. Crawfield wheeled down here. And ask for another wheelchair as well. My arthritis seems to be acting up." With a glance of pained amusement, he looked down at his knees.

A slight twinge of guilt shot through me.

"You deserved it."

"It was worth it, Catherine, to be proven right. Some things are worth the cost of their consequences."

Thinking of Bones, I couldn't agree more.

The look on the guard's face was priceless when he opened the door and saw Tate Bradley holding his broken arm at an odd angle and Don sprawled on the floor. My bed rail was held in place by my hand and I lay innocently on the bed.

"I tripped and my companion tried to help me up and fell on me," Don offered when it was obvious something had occurred. The guard gulped and nodded smartly. Don was helped out and soon my mother was wheeled in. For a second, I thought of smashing through the window again and making a run for it with her, but then one look at her face told me it wouldn't work.

"How could you?" she demanded as soon as the door closed, staring at me with a look of heartrending betrayal.

"Are you all right, Mom? I'm so sorry about Grandpa and Grandma. I loved them both." Tears trapped inside me burst forth at last and I sat up and reached for her hand.

She jerked back as if I were foul.

"How can you say you're sorry? How can you say any of that when I saw you with that vampire?"

Her voice rose to a shout and I looked nervously at the door. The guard would probably faint. Suddenly there was pleading in her face.

"Tell me I'm wrong. Tell me they lied to me, those animals that killed my parents and took me with them. Tell me that you are not f**king a vampire!"

She had never used that word with me before, and it fell with ugliness from her lips. All of my worst fears were realized when I saw her expression. Just as I'd dreaded, she despised me for what I'd done.

"Mom, I was going to tell you about him. He's not like the others. He's the one that's really been helping me kill them, not Timmie. He'd been after Hennessey and his group for years."

"For money?" Her words were whips. "Oh, I heard a good deal about that while they had me. They kept talking about the vampire that killed for money. And they laughed when they talked about you, said it was always women when it came to him. Is that what you've become, Catherine, a whore for the undead?"

A sob escaped me. How profane she made my relationship sound.

"You're wrong about him. He risked his life going to that house to save you!"

"How could he risk his life when he is dead? Dead, and he brought death with him! It's because of him those murderers came to our home, and it's your fault for involving yourself with him! If you wouldn't have been sleeping with a vampire, my parents would still be alive!"

Out of everything she'd said, this hurt the most. I might not be able to defend my part in their deaths, but she wasn't getting away with blaming Bones.

"Don't you dare, Mom. Don't you dare! You knew what I've been doing since I was sixteen, going out all the time to search for vampires. And you knew how dangerous that was. You of all people knew, because of what happened with my father, and yet you encouraged me to do it, so that's your fault! And I did it, and kept doing it, refusing to stop even though Bones warned me over and over to, so that's my fault! If I had never met Bones, if I had never slept with a vampire in my life, Grandma and Grandpa could still have been killed for what both of us participated in without him, even before him. If anyone's got Grandma and Grandpa's blood on their hands, it's you and me. Not him. We both knew one day it could lead back home, and in that regard, we're more responsible for Grandma and Grandpa's deaths than he could ever be."

Her face went white and her voice, when it came, was low but resonating. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am also responsible for my parents being murdered, and I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life. But I don't have to live with a vampire in it. Catherine, I love you, but if you continue to have a relationship with that creature, I never want to see you again."

Those words struck me harder than the bullets had. I thought I'd been prepared to hear them, but they hurt more than I ever knew they could.

"Don't do this to me, Mom. You're the only family I have left!"

She sat back and straightened in her chair as much as her aching ribs would allow. "I know what's happened to you. You've been corrupted. That creature warped your conscience and brought out the darkness in you, like I've always been afraid would happen. I only wish those other animals had killed me before I found out I was a failure as a mother."

Every word was a knife slicing into me. Being kidnapped and seeing her parents murdered had ruined any chance of reasoning with her about vampires not being automatically evil. She was drowning in her rage, and I had no way to save her.

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