Home > This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress #5)(10)

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress #5)(10)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

Or in my case, the life of the freaky, mostly dead vampire with the occasional heartbeat and really weird diet. I wouldn't be given another alternative like Joan, considering I'd already changed over. If the vampire nation made that deal, the world wasn't big enough for me to hide in. Not with how ninety-five percent of all vampires would suddenly be screaming for my head to prevent an all-out species clash.

And Bones would die defending me from his kind, no matter if our situation was hopeless. I knew that, because I'd do the same for him. Now his ruthlessness with Ed, Scratch, and even Dave, whom Bones considered a friend, made a lot more sense. Stopping Apollyon from inciting war between the species wasn't good enough. We had to stop him before things even got close to that point. If not, I was toast, and Bones along with me.

"Well, then." My voice was very calm. The situation was so serious that it pushed me past my usual nerves. "We'll just have to work that much faster, won't we?"

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Timmie's voice was a hoarse croak, but I turned to him with a grateful, though somewhat forced, smile.

"I'm so glad you asked."

City lights blurred by as Bones whizzed down the freeway. I had my arms around his waist more for comfort than fear of falling off the motorcycle. Even though I wasn't afraid of riding them anymore - being dead tended to cure a lot of phobias - I still didn't think I'd ever grow as fond of them as Bones was. Plus, you wouldn't catch me riding one without a helmet like he did. Not with all the bugs that congregated in the warm summer air. Ew.

We'd spent the past ten days fruitlessly club hopping, hoping we'd seem so clueless and relaxed that some rabble-rousing ghouls wouldn't be able to resist attacking us. No such luck, as it turned out. Ed and Scratch hadn't seen any of those ghouls recently, either. Timmie, who'd agreed to help us, also hadn't come up with any promising leads through his sources yet. Dave, trolling the places Ed and Scratch said the ghouls had frequented, had likewise struck out while he masqueraded as a ghoul looking for a nice bunch of bigots to hang with. So far, the score was Apollyon, one; us, zero.

The logical part of me knew this was to be expected. That Apollyon was too smart to be lured in so easily, but I was still frustrated. Every day I spent chasing that zealot's minions was one less day I had to convince my uncle and mother not to do the equivalent of riding hell-for-leather into death, as both of them seemed determined to do. For once, couldn't the bad guys be a little accommodating?

Obviously not, so it was time to switch tactics. Maybe Bones's and my presence in Ohio had made Apollyon's ghouls move on to another city. Maybe they were waiting to attack us until they had more forces in place. Who knew? All that was apparent was our current strategy wasn't working, and we didn't have the time to wait and see if another ten days of the same activities would net better results.

I'd had an idea for a potential Plan B: trotting out in public several times without Bones.

Mencheres could always claim to need his co-ruler for some fabricated, urgent business so Bones would have an excuse for not being there. Bones had flatly refused to go for it, however. Too dangerous, he'd stated, and it was either drop the subject, or do what I'd sworn never to do again - go behind his back and take the risk anyway.

That had been my modus operandi several times in the past, but no matter how it seemed like the only way to handle things at the time, it had always backfired. I was determined to show I'd learned from my mistakes, but the rebellious part of me knew if I wasn't his wife, Bones would agree that using me as bait was our best option. Still, we'd promised to fight our battles together instead of one of us - usually me - dashing off into the fray while leaving the other person on the sidelines, and I intended to keep that promise.

Stopping the bad guys would be hard, yet sometimes, making a relationship between two strong-willed people work seemed like an equally challenging goal. Of course, if Bones had a meek personality and I could easily bulldoze over him, I wouldn't love him like I did. The same unyielding determination that frustrated me now was what had drawn me to Bones in the first place. He'd said much the same thing about me once. Guess we were both masochists in addition to being stubborn.

I jerked out of my musings when Bones turned off the highway. With how fast he drove, it hadn't taken us long to get to the Chicago suburbs where Mencheres was staying so his girlfriend could be close to her family. It was still strange to think of the mega-Master vampire in a relationship, but Mencheres was fangs over heels for Kira. She seemed to be a nice person, too, instead of a homicidal bitch like his former wife. Otherwise, the world should fear. When Mencheres fell for a woman, he fell hard. If Kira asked for her own continent as a birthday present, Mencheres would probably have one conquered for her before she blew out her candles.

After going down a few windy roads and announcing ourselves at the security camera by the gate, we pulled up in front of Mencheres's home. The three-story house was far less grand than his other residences, being able to sleep a mere fifteen instead of fifty. But once again, this scaled-down residence was due to Kira's influence.

"This isn't a house; it's a hotel," she'd commented about the place Mencheres initially picked out, and the former pharaoh acquiesced to living somewhere smaller without a single word of protest.

"See?" I'd whispered to Bones, nudging him with a grin. "He never argues with her. Isn't that sweet?"

A snort preceded his response. "Keep dreaming, pet."

Bones put the Ducati in park just as the front door opened and Gorgon, a Nordic version of Alfred to Mencheres's Batman, came out. I took off my helmet, pulling out my iPod earphones at the same time - hey, I hadn't needed to pay attention to traffic as a passenger - only to have something aside from Norah Jones's latest CD assail my ears.

Gorgon's features were perfectly composed, as if there wasn't a symphony of moans and groans coming from one of the upper rooms of the house behind him.

"Bones, Cat. Mencheres is regrettably detained at the moment, but please, come in." It was only my new vampiric control that allowed me to keep a straight face, but Bones just laughed.

"He clearly hasn't gotten his bedroom soundproofed yet, so we're quite aware he's not regretting his 'detainment' in the least."

A crashing sound followed by an extended feminine squeal made me look up at the house in bewilderment. What was he doing to her?

Gorgon blinked even as Bones's chuckle grew wicked. "I don't know, but I'll be sure to ask him later."

Oops. Must've said that out loud. I cleared my throat, once again fighting to appear nonchalant, despite what all of us could still hear in graphic detail.

"Um, what lovely gardens in the back," I stammered. "I don't think we got a chance to check them out the last time we were here, Bones."

"We'll be back in round an hour," he told Gorgon, raising his voice so more than the blond vampire could hear him. From the continued noises upstairs, I doubted Mencheres got the message, but I didn't stay around long enough to find out. I walked into the field behind the house, popping my iPod speakers back into my ears. With my pace and a few clicks of the volume, soon I could hear nothing but Norah crooning on about young blood and ghosts going home. Much better than listening to Bones's co-ruler and his girlfriend getting their freak on.

Bones caught up to me in a few long strides, not saying a word, though his twitching lips spoke volumes about how my discomfort amused him. Nothing embarrassed him, of course.

Working as a gigolo for London's wealthy, bored wives had killed any shame in him long before becoming a vampire killed his humanity. This wasn't the first time I'd overheard people ha**ng s*x, having preternatural hearing since I was a child. But this was Mencheres, the solemn, somewhat scary vampire whose extensive powers unnerved me ever since I'd first met him. So it was another shade of weird entirely, hearing him hoot and holler like, well, a normal person.

"At least he'll be in a good mood when we finally speak to him," I told Bones without taking my earpieces out.

He pulled me to him in response, his mouth covering mine before I could even formulate a word. A long, hungry kiss seemed to ignite flares along my nerve endings as his tongue caressed mine with deep strokes and tantalizing flicks. Lust filled my senses from my connection to him and my own response, a double punch to my emotions that made me arch against him despite my surprise.

"We'll be in a good mood, too," he murmured after taking the earphones out, then began to undo my jeans while his mouth burned a sensual trail down my neck.

My head fell back even as I sputtered out a protest. "You can't be serious. Someone could see."

The house was only about a hundred yards away from where we stood. Sure, it was dark out and the grass around us was high, but not that high! Anyone undead looking in this direction would be able to see what we were doing, not to mention they'd be able to hear us.

Bones's laugh was dark and decadent. "Of course I'm serious. Why do you think I said we wouldn't be back for an hour?"

His mouth slid up to mine again, kissing me with even more passion while working my jeans down enough to reach inside. It only took a few strokes of those knowing, skillful fingers for me to forget about our surroundings and sink to the ground with him, pulling at his pants with an impatience that bordered on urgency.

I hadn't really wanted to see the gardens, anyway.

Chapter Eleven

An hour and a half later, I sat on thesofa in the living room, petting a mastiff that thought he belonged on my lap instead of by my feet. If the dog weighed fifty pounds less, I would've let him, but he was bigger than I was.

Kira came into the room after a few minutes, her amber hair still wet from what had probably been a hasty shower. As a new vampire, she didn't blush at what had obviously kept them from greeting us when we first arrived, but she was almost effusive in her offers to get us something to drink. Bones took a whiskey but I politely declined while hiding a smile. Good to know I wasn't the only one who lacked the blase attitude most vampires seemed to have about their sexual activities.

"Mencheres will be right down," Kira said for the second time, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she glanced up at the staircase.

"How's the Enforcer training going?" I asked her.

She brightened. The process that would eventually turn her into the vampiric version of a cop was Kira's favorite subject.

"Good." Then she laughed. "Though it would go better if Mencheres didn't keep telekinetically flinging people across the room every time they punched me a little too hard. He says it's an accidental slip of his power, but I'll have to ban him from my combat practice, or I'll never get past the first stage."

Those poor bastards are lucky they still have their heads, I thought, even as I returned her smile. Mencheres batting them around a room was almost a love tap compared to what he'd do if he really thought Kira was being roughed up too much by her trainers.

"Bones, Cat. My apologies for keeping you waiting."

Mencheres came into the room, his black hair also damp. He had on a long white garment that on a woman I'd call a shapeless dress, but on him somehow looked like a masculine form of leisure wear. He actually managed to sound sincere about keeping us waiting, too, even though I knew he wasn't sorry in the least. Not that I minded. In fact, I was pretty happy about their earlier delay, considering what it resulted in.


Bones rose, giving Mencheres a hug in greeting. I did, too, though with less affection than my husband. Recent events had Bones forgiving Mencheres for his sins of omission regarding my past, but I hadn't quite gotten over all my grudge against him.

Though if I were honest, I'd admit that even if I had, Mencheres would still creep me out a bit. Despite Bones calling him Grandsire because Mencheres changed over the vampire who later turned Bones, appearance-wise, Mencheres looked like he was only in his early twenties.

Appearances, however, were deceiving. Mencheres had been around longer than most civilizations existed, and his abilities were truly scary. I should know; I'd briefly absorbed some of those abilities after drinking his blood to aid my friends in a fight. It had knocked me out for a week straight afterward, my body fried from power overload. So some residual wariness around Mencheres wasn't too unreasonable, in my opinion.

"Please, sit." Mencheres gestured to the couch we'd recently vacated, playing the part of gracious host. His dog scooted closer as soon as I sat back down, putting his head in my lap for easier scratching access. Mencheres took a seat next to Kira, trailing his hand over her arm before returning his attention to us.

"I assume you're here because you have new information regarding Apollyon?" Some part of me was amused at how staid and proper all of us must look right now, perched on our opposing couches with our very somber expressions. Just a group of vampires discussing a supernaturally dangerous situation with all the solemnity and gothic dignity it deserved, recent sexual indulgences notwithstanding.

"Only thing new is there is nothing new," Bones growled, taking a long swallow of his whiskey before continuing. "We're on our way to New Orleans to speak with Marie. With luck, we'll be able to convince her that Apollyon is as much of a threat to rational members of the ghoul nation as he is to us."

Mencheres nodded thoughtfully. "Marie Laveau would indeed be a powerful ally for whoever can sway her loyalties."

That was an understatement. The voodoo queen wasn't just the master of a large line of ghouls; she also ruled over an entire city, a feat no other undead person I knew of had accomplished. Therefore, the thought of anyone "swaying" her allegiances made me let out a snort.

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