At graves end, p.24
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       At Graves End, p.24

         Part #3 of Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost
 
Chapter Twenty-Four

 

  WHEN I GOT BACK TO THE HOUSE, THE BED'S yawning emptiness taunted me. See, it mocked,my sheets are straight. There's no dip in my mattress where a long pale form lay waiting. Bones is gone. He's never coming back.

  With impotent wrath I flipped the bed, smashing it into the wall. All it did was expose the antique box with the letter inside I couldn't stand to read and destroyed a perfectly good bed. A waste, like all my plans for a future.

  I dressed in sweats and a T-shirt and went downstairs, the box wrapped in a blanket I'd yanked from the wreckage of the frame. The clock had just chimed two a. m. , and no one was asleep.

  Spade and Rodney were in the drawing room with Ian. Mencheres wasn't, and it didn't disappoint me. Seeing Patra had upset him, it was clear. Some part of me felt sorry for him. When he'd married Patra, he'd loved her. Not a wise judge of character on his part, but then no one was perfect. Even thousands of years later, that mistake was still haunting him.

  "You did well tonight, Cat," Ian said. "Though you look like shit. "

  Normally I would have responded with something sarcastic, but it took too much effort. Instead I settled myself on the couch, tucking the box on the floor next to me. "Whatever. "

  "You need to sleep," Spade said for the hundredth time.

  "If I could fall asleep, then I wouldn't be sitting here listening to you guys bitch at me. Has Anubus divulged anything interesting yet?"

  Ian had been the one spending most of the time with him. Well, Ian and a few sadistic friends. Anubus no doubt wished they'd just kill him. They wouldn't, of course. No matter how much he might ask for that.

  "Blasted little, as it were. " Ian grunted in exasperation. "The sod doesn't even know how Crispin was taken or who else was at that train station besides the vampires we saw. It doesn't make sense why he wouldn't know more, but he's maintaining that he doesn't. "

  "We'll just have to try harder," Rodney grimly said. "Be more inventive. "

  "Even so," Spade agreed.

  My fingers rubbed my temples to try and stem the migraine that had grown worse.

  "Ian's right, you know," Spade said briskly. "You're in terrible shape, and you won't last much longer without rest. Shall I-?"

  "You can't help her. I can. "

  Spade glowered at Tate as he entered the room. Ian and Rodney followed suit. If it bothered him, he gave no sign of it, and sat on the couch next to me.

  "Tate," I sighed. "Maybe you should leave. They're all mentally playing catch with your skull. "

  He ignored that and handed me a prescription bottle. "I called Don. This is measured for your bloodline, Cat, and it'll make you sleep. That's why I've been gone for hours-I walked to the pharmacy so no one could trace a car or get plates if someone was watching. "

  The three other men in the room were as astonished as I was. I took the bottle.

  "Thank you. " The anticipation of the brief nothingness sleep would bring me made it even more sincere. For a few hours, maybe, I'd be released from grief.

  He held out a glass of water. "You're welcome. "

  I swallowed the required dose and then lay back into the couch. The wooden box was still beside me, those words locked away inside it the closest substitute I had for Bones. After a few minutes, I felt the tension lessen in my body. The pills were strong and I had a fast metabolism.

  "Well done, lad," Spade said as I started to drift off. "Perhaps you'll be of use after all. "

  "Bones and I agreed that we wanted what was best for her," was Tate's hushed response. "We just differed in what we thought that was. "

  Bones. . .

  His name echoed in my mind as I slipped into the waiting unconsciousness.

  Maybe I'll dream of you.

  Noise woke me. Somewhere in the house, there was a scream. Then the running of footsteps. Those sounds intruded inside the restless sleep the narcotics held me in.

  "What the hell-?" I heard Spade say, his voice rising in pitch.

  "Bugger me dead!"

  Was that Ian? Couldn't they keep it down?

  There was a shriek that sounded like Annette, and in such a high octave, I pulled the pillow over my head. Even that small effort exhausted me. If I could have, I would have bitched about the commotion. They wanted me to sleep, but then they made this kind of racket? Hypocrites.

  There were the unmistakable bawls of Annette in loud, unintelligible bursts. Nearby, I heard something crash to the floor. My hazy mind thought it might have been Tate. He'd been balanced on the back of his chair legs when I passed out. Maybe he'd nodded off as well and lost his equilibrium. Still, that didn't explain his mumbled sentence.

  "You have got to be fuckingkid ding me. . . "

  There was now an unrestrained chorus of voices, numerous doors bashing, and so much uproar I opened one eye with difficulty. Above every other word a name finally penetrated, causing me to stumble from the couch in a heap.

  "Crispin!"

  ". . . need to see my wife," was all I heard before I started to scream, staggering over the coffee table in a blind frenzy to run toward that voice. My eyes were open but unfocused, everything in a hazy double outline that made the figure striding toward me look more like a wraith than a man.

  Arms seized me, pressing me against a body that collided so forcefully with mine, we fell onto the floor. My face was stuffed next to a throat vibrating with that familiar accented voice.

  ". . . missed you so much, Kitten, I love you. . . "

  This is a dream, it occurred to me. A dream, and I will thank Don from the bottom of my heart for this fake chance to hold Bones again. God bless modern science and tons of codeine mixed with sedatives!

  "You're dead," I slurred. "I wish you were really here. . . "

  "Leave me alone with her. All of you, please, give us a moment. Charles. "

  Something was whispered too low for me to hear even though Spade's dark head bent until it grazed my chin. He nodded once and kissed the pale face still blinking out of clarity to me.

  "Anything, my friend. "

  "Please don't wake me up," I begged, terrified someone would shake me out of my dream. I clutched the figure that seemed so real, squeezing my eyes shut. "Just a little longer. "

  "You're not dreaming, Kitten. " Oh God, his mouth covered mine in a kiss that made my heart break. "I'm here. "

  "They saw you dead, a-and shr-shriveled, and you're not r-r-real. . . " Reality and confusion mixed, increased by the pills and doubled with shock.

  He carried me to the couch. "This first, talk after," he said, breaking my water glass and slashing his palm with it. I didn't have much choice, since he clapped it over my mouth in the next moment.

  With each drop I swallowed, my drugged-out haze began to lift, until I could clearly see Bones kneeling in front of me. My fingers shook as I reached out to touch him, half afraid this was another of Patra's dream spells. One that would end with his body cruelly disintegrating before my gaze.

  Bones caught my hand and squeezed it.

  I devoured him with my gaze. Aside from his hair, which was shockingly white, he looked the same. His skin was as incandescent as always, and his dark brown eyes bored into mine.

  "Are you really here?"

  I couldn't shake the terror that he was a mirage. What if I let myself believe, and then woke up to find itwas a dream? I couldn't bear it. I'd go insane.

  With sudden desperation, I took one of those jagged pieces of glass and jammed it into my leg. Bones snatched it out, aghast.

  "What are you doing, Kitten?"

  The instant throb of pain was the most wonderful thing I'd ever felt, because it meant I wasn't dreaming. Somehow, Bones reallywas here. The control I'd had for the past few days evaporated and I burst into tears, launching myself at him even as he tried to push me back to heal my leg.

  "You're alive, you're alive. . . !"

  I couldn't stop r
epeating it even though I was hiccupping with sobs. Feverishly I ran my hands over him, feeling the familiar hard outline of his body under his clothes. Desperate to feel his skin, I ripped his shirt open, fresh sobs coming from me at the reassuring hum of power from his bare flesh.

  Bones held me tightly. He was whispering something in my ear, but I couldn't make it out. The grief and agony from the past few days poured out of me, turning into joy and shaking me with its intensity. All the emotional control I prided myself on having was shattered, but I didn't care. Everything I thought I'd lost was suddenly right here. I clung to Bones like I'd die if I let him go, which was how I felt.

  It might have been several minutes; it felt like only seconds. Bones set me back enough to kiss me again and I slanted my mouth across his, hungry for his taste. He pulled me even closer, letting out a groan when I wrapped my legs around his waist. Now my hands were running over him for a different reason. It wasn't desire I felt. No, it was a need that went beyond passion or compulsion to feel him inside me.

  Bones must have felt it, too, because he didn't wait. There was more tearing of clothes and then the unbelievable ecstasy of his flesh driving into mine. I was gasping through the remains of my tears, pressing myself against him like I wanted to crush him, and then kissing him until I became light-headed from lack of oxygen.

  It was fast and explosive. Bones climaxed moments after I did, with a groan of pleasure that was more than primitive. My heart was thrumming in my chest, which, considering all the chemicals in my system, might have been dangerous. Not that I cared. I could die right now and I'd still count myself as the luckiest person ever.

  "You don't know how much I've missed you, Kitten," Bones murmured.

  "Everyone came back," I breathed with the anguish of remembrance. "Except you. I called your cell. Patra answered. She said. . . "

  I stopped. That brought up the main question that my shock and joy at seeing him had delayed.

  "Bones, whathappened?"

  For the sake of not repeating it multiple times, Bones called in everyone after he'd gotten some new clothes for both of us. I sat on the couch, drinking old coffee and trying to shake the last of the haziness from my brain. Bones's blood had overpowered my drug-induced sleep, but to say I still felt out of it was an understatement.

  When at last Bones let everyone back in the drawing room, he was swallowed up in a mass embrace. The person who almost cleared a path to him with a gun was Annette. She threw her arms around him, kissing him full on the mouth, before he turned away with an apologetic glance to me.

  "Don't begrudge her," I said, for once not jealous. "She was as miserable as I was these past couple days. "

  When Annette finally released him, Mencheres put his arms around Bones with an expression of amazement, fingering his new white hair.

  "I have never been wrong before in my visions," he stated. "I saw you withering. "

  "Don't fret, you don't have a black spot on your record," Bones replied. "But we'll get to that. Thank you for honoring our accord. I won't forget it. "

  Ian was next, hugging Bones with a chuckle that sounded hoarse from emotion. "Bloody wanker, your wife should roast your arse for this dastardly stunt!"

  Bones clapped him on the back. "You're still here, mate. Careful-you're in danger of becoming an honorable man. "

  The rest of the vampires in the house conveyed their gratitude at seeing him again. Some part of me thought I should be embarrassed, considering everyone would have heard both my emotional breakdown and then the physical part of our reunion, but I didn't care. My modesty could burn in hell-I wasn't regret ting a moment of getting another chance to express to Bones how much I loved him, either by my tears or anything else. Life was too damn short to be concerned with the rest of it.

  Finally Bones came to sit by me. I took his hand, still needing to touch him to keep reassuring myself that he was real.

  "I went back to chase the last vampire, as you are aware," he started. "He dashed onto the roof of a train that was passing by. I followed, and as we jumped from car to car, I sensed the others. Patra was there, with an entire car filled with Masters. The clever bitch knew we couldn't feel her until after the train arrived. They swarmed the roof and came for me. It was a brilliant ambush. Trying to fight hand-to-hand on a moving train while dodging silver knives is tricky. "

  The nonchalant way Bones described such a deadly scenario made me gape at him.

  "Why didn't you jump off and run for it?"

  "Arrogance," he answered crisply. "Patra was so close. All I had to do was cut down her guard and this war would have ended right then. So I kept after them, and when there were only six Masters left, it happened. One of them threw a blade that went straight into my heart. The pain dropped me to my knees. The bloke went straightaway back inside the car, telling Patra that he'd killed me. I thought he had, too, yet he'd neglected to twist the knife. "

  I was stricken at this image, and not until something wet touched my fingers did I realize I'd been digging my nails into his hand so hard, I'd drawn blood.

  "Sorry," I whispered.

  "I remember thinking I was finished, and being very brassed off about it. I managed to pull the blade out, but I was in no condition to defend myself. Then I felt the strangest kind of power even as my vision blackened and I couldn't hear. The last thing I remember, we were over a bridge, and I rolled myself off the train into the water. Then there was nothing. Until the blood. "

  Bones gave a soft grunt of remorse.

  "I must have been carried downstream. An indigent found me, probably to check if I had anything useful in my pockets, and I woke up with his body in my arms. I'd chewed his throat open and drank him to the last drop, poor fellow. He had a mate nearby as well, and I drank him before my reason returned enough to stop. When I saw my hands. . . I was horrified. "

  Bones paused to stretch out his hand and examine it. I didn't see anything unusual. His lips twisted.

  "My bones were visible. It was as if I were a partial skeleton. I couldn't concentrate on anything, could barely see, hear or smell, and was weak as a lamb. When the sun broke, I lost consciousness again. "

  "What in blazes happened to you?" Ian demanded. "I've never heard of such a thing. "

  "I have," Mencheres said quietly. "Let him finish. "

  "I awoke past sunset, and my unknown companion awakened around the same time. He tried to run but I grabbed onto his ankle. I could talk, not quite intelligibly, but enough. I told him to drag me to a phone and then I'd let him go. Chap was petrified, of course. Here a murdering half-rotted skeleton wouldn't let loose of his leg; I'm astounded he didn't fall over from a heart attack. We waited until well after midnight, so it was less unsightly for a homeless man to be seen kicking a corpse on his way to a pay phone. "

  The image struck me very inappropriately and I started to laugh. This had to be the weirdest thing I'd ever heard.

  "We arrived at a pay phone, but the bloke didn't have any quid for the call. My mind still wasn't functioning properly-that hadn't occurred to me. All I knew was I needed to get somewhere safe. I had him ring numbers collect, but he told me all the bloody numbers were disconnected or didn't answer. I only remembered a few of them: yours, Mencheres's, Charles's. . . but all of you were in emergency mode and couldn't be reached. There was one last number I recalled, and it worked. I reached Don. "

  My uncle? That made me blink in surprise.

  Bones gave a rueful snort. "Yes, he was taken aback as well. Don said it didn't sound like me, well, that was true. I reminded him that the day we met, I told him I wanted to peel his skin like an orange-somehowthat I recalled-and I'd do it if he kept arguing over who I was. Don had the chap give him our location and said he'd come. So I wasn't on display in the street, I had the man throw me in a Dumpster.

  "Round two hours later, Don opened the lid. When I saw him, I said, 'Took your bloody time, old chap,' and he finally believed it wa
s me-though he did inform me that a dehydrated piece of beef such as myself should be more respectful. Don pulled me into a van and gave me bags of blood. I went through all of them, but I still wasn't back to myself. Don flew me back to the compound with him and continued to give me blood. It took me over twelve hours to fully regenerate. "

  "Why didn't he fucking call me!"

  It burst from my mouth amid my overflowing grati tude toward my uncle. Don didn't like Bones, never had, and yet he'd saved his life. There was nothing I could do to ever repay him for that.

  "For starters, he didn't know the numbers of who to call, Kitten. Not like he knew their e-mail addresses, and you hadn't been checking yours, because he did try that. Also, since I didn't heal right away, he wasn't sure if I'd recover at all. So Don didn't want to give you false hope. Round an hour after I regenerated, Tate called Don asking for a prescription for you. Don gave me the location of the pharmacy. Once I got there, I followed Tate's scent from the pharmacy back here. "

  There was something in Bones's voice that made me belatedly aware there was one person missing in this room. Even my mother lingered by the doorway, pretending not to care about the story as it unfolded.

  "Where's Tate? And why didn't Don call him when he knew you were better? My uncleknew he was with me. "

  Bones met my eyes. There was pity in his gaze-and resolve.

  "Don didn't ring Tate because I told him not to. After all, I didn't want the person who tried to kill me discovering I was still alive. "