Halfway to the Grave

Page 84

Bones and Rodney were seated at the table. My mother glared at both of them, but said nothing. For her, that was being nice.

"Take your pick of the guest rooms, one upstairs and one in the basement," Rodney offered.

"Show me the one in the basement," I said instantly.

"Of course, follow me."

I took my mother's arm and we went down a flight of stairs to the basement. Rodney opened a door to a guest room complete with fluffy blankets and, more importantly, no windows.

I gave my mother a light push inside. "This'll be perfect for you, Mom."

She stared stupidly at me as I started to leave.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Upstairs. With Bones. Good night."

I slammed the door and watched with grim contentment as Rodney locked it from the outside. The mere fact that he had a downstairs bedroom with a lock on the outside was cause for comment, but none of my business.

There was a pounding on it almost at once.

"Catherine! You can't mean to-"

"We'll talk about it tomorrow, Mom, when we're alone. Tomorrow. Don't cause a fuss, you're making Rodney hungry."

Although I had no way of knowing the truthfulness of that statement, he winked at me and made a low rumbling noise in his throat. The room inside at once became quiet.

"Thanks for that," I whispered gratefully. "She would have banged all night."

He smiled as we walked back up the stairs. The door to the basement he also locked and gave me a meaningful glance.

"In case she's really feisty."

Bones waited for me in the other guest room and I went straight into his arms, breathing in the scent of him. For several minutes we just held each other. Selfishly I tried to drink in the feeling of him next to me. I might know this was the only way, but oh God, did it hurt.

"I told you we'd make it through the night, luv. You didn't believe me."

"No," I softly answered. "I didn't. But you were right, and both of you are alive. That's all that matters. It means more than anything to me."

"You mean more than anything to me."

He lowered his head and brushed his lips across mine. In response I wound my hands around him and pressed him to me so tightly, I knew I'd have bruises in the morning.

"Why are you crying?" he whispered.

I swiped at the tears I hadn't realized were there. "Because...I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you."

He kissed me. "Nothing will happen to me, I promise."

I promise too. In fact, I'm going to bet my life on it.

"I want you to know that despite everything, I'm so glad I met you," I choked out. "It was the luckiest day of my life. If I hadn't, I never would have known what it was like for someone to love me, all of me, even the parts I hated. I would have gone through life empty and guilt-ridden, but you showed me a whole new world, Bones. I'll never be able to thank you for all you've done for me, but I will love you every day until I die."

Maybe he'd remember this after I was gone. Maybe he wouldn't hate me for what I had to do.

"Kitten," he moaned as he drew me down onto the bed. "I only thought I was living before I met you. You'll love me until you die? That's not nearly long enough..."

I cursed each ray of sunlight that mocked me with its appearance. Bones already told me he and Rodney would be leaving for about four hours to make the final arrangements for our departure. They would take Rodney's car, leaving me the Volvo just in case they had to summon us to meet them. All that was left now was for him to leave, not knowing that we would never see each other again.

Rodney, the domesticated ghoul, made breakfast. Pancakes and omelets for my mother and me. Under my threatening glare she ate hers, looking as though she would choke with each swallow. Out of courtesy I ate far more than I wanted, not having an appetite but not wanting to appear rude. One of the few things I was thankful for was that Rodney was waiting until later to eat...whatever his normal breakfast consisted of.

When Bones started toward the door, I surprised him by grabbing him and throwing my arms around him. I buried my head in his neck. I can't let you go yet. I can't do it. It's too soon!

"What's this? Miss me before I've even left?"

My heart constricted. "I'll always miss you when you're gone."

It was treading the tightrope a little dangerously, but I couldn't help but say it.

He kissed me, achingly tender. I held him and desperately tried not to cry. This hurts so much! How can I let you go? How can I let you walk away?

How can you not? my logic countered. You love him? Then prove it. Keep him safe.

Ruthlessly I swallowed back my tears. It's better to do this now than later. You know this is the right decision. He'll live long past your lifetime, and he'll forget about you eventually.

I pulled away, touching his face very softly. "Give me your jacket."

Even in the midst of reveling in his last embrace, I was adding the final nails to the coffin. Bones shook it off, raising a dark brow in question. "In case we have to leave and meet you," I said in explanation. "It's cold outside."

Bones handed me the faded denim coat he'd worn yesterday while causing a forty-car pile-up and I folded it under my arm. He gave one last brush of his lips on my forehead as I prepared to shut the door behind him. You can do this. Let him go. It's the only way.

"Be careful, Bones. Just please...be careful."

He smiled. "Don't fret, luv. I'll be back before you know it."

I watched through the peephole long after they drove off and then fell to my knees, letting myself feel all the pain of a shattered heart. I cried until my eyes burned and I could barely breathe. This hurt so much worse than those bullets had.

Twenty minutes later I stood and was a different person. There was no more time for weeping. I had a job to do. You play the hand you're dealt, Bones had always said. Well, I'd been born a half-breed for a reason, and now was my chance to prove it. Come one, come all, bloodsuckers! The Red Reaper's ready for you!

I advanced on my mother and spoke in low clipped tones. First things first.

"Get dressed, we're leaving. Now, I'm going to tell you exactly what you'll say, and God help you if you don't follow every f**king word of it..."

The helicopter hovered overhead, a large mechanical beetle in the sky. Don Williams was wheeled over the uneven ground at his insistence and ten other agents fanned out around the perimeter. In the middle of this scene I huddled around Switch's body. It hadn't been hard for me to find him. Bones had told me he'd left him in the woods near Cedar Lake. With my new nose, I'd scented him out soon after arriving. Switch was now wearing a denim jacket over his decomposed remains, and a silver knife protruded grotesquely out of his back.

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