Before we get to Chapter Six of THE OTHER HALF OF THE GRAVE, I have exciting news: for a very limited time, you can buy the first Night Rebel novel, SHADES OF WICKED, for only $1.99 in ebook. So, if you love the action, adventure, heat, and humor in the Cat and Bones books, you’ll find that same blend in Ian and Veritas’ novels, and you can try your first one for only $1.99. Order (#Ad) Amazon, B&N, Apple Books, Kobo
Now, onto the new chapter! Usual reminder: THE OTHER HALF OF THE GRAVE is not an entire book, nor is it a new Cat and Bones novel. For more information and to read the previously-posted chapters, go HERE. Disclaimers and sale alerts aside, happy reading!
Bones had let the first several tugs go despite their revealing more and more of his body to the cave’s chilly air. But when she yanked the last of his blankets off him, he ceased being a gentleman.
“If you’re going to take all the covers, you can bloody well sleep on the floor!”
Cat’s eyes opened, then widened when she saw him next to her in bed. Horror suffused her features, and she jumped up with such alarm, she banged her head on the room’s low ceiling.
“Owww,” she moaned while her gaze darted around, looking for a way to escape. When she realized the small room was sealed, she backed into the corner. Then she glanced down at herself, relief suffusing her expression when she saw that she was still fully clothed.
He suppressed a scoff. She thought he’d assault her while she was unconscious? Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Why am I not in a hospital?” she asked with more alarm than relief.
Bones sat up, moving slowly so as not to startle her. “I healed you.”
She blanched, fingers flying to her throat. As if she could wake up as a vampire and not realize it at once.
“How?” she demanded. “How did you heal me?”
He leaned back. “Blood, of course. How else?”
She paled more, if possible. Then her voice elevated to a shriek. “Tell me what you did to me!”
He hid his urge to comfort her behind an eye roll.
She tracked his every movement, her body tensed and coiled to fight while her heart rate tripled. To show he had no interest in harming her, he fluffed his pillow and pulled it nearer.
“Gave you a few drops of my blood,” he said in a neutral tone. “Figured you wouldn’t need much, what with you being a half-breed. You probably heal fast naturally, but then you were banged up a bit. Your own fault, of course, having suggested that stupid match,” he added just to rile her.
He could stand her anger, but her fear hit him places he had no defense against yet. They were too new.
“Now, if you don’t mind, it’s daylight and I’m knackered. Didn’t even get a meal out of all this,” he said as further ammunition for her ire.
She barely seemed to hear that last part. “Vampire blood heals?” she asked in a shocked tone.
He closed his eyes. “You didn’t know? Blimey, but you’re ignorant about your own kind.”
“Your kind is not my kind,” she said at once.
Neither was humanity. Eventually, she’d have to reckon with that. But he only replied, “Whatever you say, Kitten.”
She was quiet for a moment. He resisted the urge to open his eyes because if he did, he might stare at her sleep-tousled crimson hair. Or her eyes, dark as an approaching storm. Or the elegant curve of her throat, the soft swell of her breasts, and the round arse she’d unwittingly snuggled against him earlier…
“Would too much blood turn me?”
The question interrupted his thoughts. Good thing, too, or he might have tented the sheets over his hips.
“How much is too much?” she went on.
He opened one eye. It was all he dared, considering where his previous thoughts had taken him.
“Look, school’s out now,” he replied in a gruff tone. “I’m going to sleep. You’re going to shut up. Later, when I’m awake, we’ll go over all these niceties while I prepare you for our arrangement. Until then, let a fellow get some rest.”
She drew herself up with a huff. “Show me the way out and you can sleep all you want.”
He snorted. “Hows about I fetch your weapons for you as well, then I’ll just close my eyes while you plug holes into my heart?”
She glanced away quickly.
He stifled another snort. She’d been thinking that exact thing. Time to give her something else to think about.
“Not likely,” he said, tone hardening. “You’re in until I let you out. Don’t bother trying to escape, you’d never make it. Now, I suggest you get some rest, because if you keep me awake much longer, I’m going to want breakfast. Understand?”
To punctuate his point, he shut his eyes, yet heard her suck in an appalled breath.
“I’m not sleeping with you.”
Not yet, Kitten, but if I have my way, you will soon.
Instead of saying that, he yanked the blanket off and threw it in her general direction. A peek through his lashes revealed that she let it hit her in the face. Bloody hell, the woman needed to learn how to duck.
“Sleep on the floor, then. You’re a cover hog, anyhow.”
For the next half hour, he listened to her move around as if searching for a softer spot. She wouldn’t find one. The cave floor was hard limestone, not mud. Would she swallow her pride – and hatred – enough to share the king-sized bed with him?
She didn’t. Eventually, she settled down in one spot and her breathing became regular and deep. Then snores filled the room.
Bones’s lips twitched. Somehow, despite avoiding this feeling for nearly two hundred and fifty years, he was now head-over-heels for a prissy, murdering half-breed who hated the sight of him and snored. If this wasn’t repayment for his many sins, he didn’t know what was.
Wait until he told Charles. His best mate would hurt himself from laughing too hard.
But before he told anyone, he had to show her there far was more to vampires than what she believed. Until she learned that, she’d continue to hate him…and herself.
Yes, it meant upending his life, but the feelings she elicited left him no choice. No wonder poets and songwriters droned on and on about such things. Shockingly, Bones wanted to tell everyone, too, including the snoring redhead who’d go right for her stakes if she had any inkling of what he felt.
No, he’d tell her none of it. Instead, he’d be a stern taskmaster while he trained her to survive against odds that would kill her with her current, under-developed abilities. The rest would have to wait until she looked at him and saw a man instead of a monster…and looked at herself and saw a woman instead of a sin to atone for.
It wouldn’t be easy. Or fast. In the meantime, he’d be reacquainting himself with something he was very unfamiliar with – celibacy. He gave his right hand a wry glance. You and I are about to become a lot closer, mate.
With how long it would probably take for his Kitten to warm up to him, he might well become the first vampire to ever develop calluses.
Six hours later, Bones stood over her. She didn’t stir. No sense of being watched, he added to his list of things she’d need to improve upon. Then he bent and shook her shoulder.
“Rise and shine, we have work to do.”
She rolled over with a groan, then gave him an accusing look as her joints creaked when she sat up.
He only grinned. “Serves you right for trying to kill me. Last bloke who did that ended up with much more than a stiff next. You’re right lucky you’re useful, or you’d be nothing more than a flush in my cheeks by now.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” she muttered. “Lucky.”
Bones wagged a finger at her. “Don’t be glum. You’re about to get a first-class education in nosferatu. Believe me, not many humans get to learn this stuff. Then again, you’re not really human.”
She flinched. “Stop saying that. I’m more human that I am…thing.”
She seemed oblivious to the fact that every time she insulted vampires, she also reviled herself. “Yes, well, we’ll find out just how much shortly,” was all he said. “Move away from the wall.”
She seemed glad for an excuse to get as far away from him as the small room allowed. He’d expected that, but he was surprised that it still stung. Then he chided himself for a fool. Was she supposed to forget everything she’d seen and been taught simply because he hadn’t murdered her in her sleep? She was right not to trust him until he gave her a reason.
Time to start giving her one.
Bones hefted the stone boulder up and moved it aside. “Come along,” he said.
She didn’t move.
She came out of the room, and then glanced around at the antechamber they’d fought in with an embarrassed sort of dismay.
“Um…er, I don’t suppose…is there a bathroom in here?”
Bones stopped mid-step. Right. He should have anticipated she’d have that need-
“One of us still has functioning kidneys,” she added, with a look of distaste in his direction.
Another “dead monster” crack, was it? Very well, he’d treat her with the same rudeness. “Think this is a bloomin’ hotel? What, next you’ll be wanting a bidet?”
She flushed, then ground out, “Unless you like it messy, I suggest you show me an alternative, and fast.”
He sighed as if exasperated. “Follow me. Don’t trip or twist anything, damned if I’ll carry you. Let’s see what we can come up. Sodding woman,” he added. If she was angry, she would no longer be embarrassed about her normal bodily functions.
She muttered under her breath as she followed him. He didn’t catch all of it, but the words “stake” and “heart” were clear. He hid his smile. Not embarrassed at all now, was she?
“There,” he said after leading her to the underground river that cut through the cave. “That waster runs downstream. You can climb on those rocks and do your business.”
She ran over, her lips edging up in a smile that was too triumphant to only be anticipated bladder relief.
“By the way, if you’re thinking you’ll just jump off and swim out of here, it’s a bad idea,” he called out. “That water’s about forty degrees and snakes over two miles before it exits these caves. You’d be suffering from hypothermia long before then. Not a nice way to be, shivering and lost in the dark. Besides, you’d have broken our agreement, so when I found you, I would be really, really displeased.”
Her shoulders stiffened, but she had the grace not to deny any of it. Progress.
“See you in a bit,” he said, walking far enough away to give her the illusion of privacy.
“I suppose toilet paper’s out of the question?” she called out a few moments later.
He snorted in amusement. “I’ll put it on my shopping list, Kitten.”
“Stop calling me that. My name is Cat.”
Not to me, he thought, hearing her come closer. When he could feel her warmth in the air and smell the creamy, vanilla-and cherries scent that clung to her, he closed his eyes and breathed her in. She hit his senses with the impact of a sledgehammer, making his need to touch her almost painful.
He forced that back, surprised by how difficult it was. He’d never lacked self-control before. Granted, his looks ensured that women seldom rebuffed his attentions, so he supposed he was out of practice when it came to this form of discipline.
“What’s your name, by the way?” she asked, a thread of hesitation running through her tone. “You never told me.”
Because she hadn’t truly wanted to know before now. He’d been nothing more than a target to be eliminated to her last night.
“If we’re going to be working together, at least I should know what to call you,” she went on, as if rationalizing to herself why she’d asked him this. “Unless you simply prefer answering to profanity, of course,” she finished in a clear attempt to further distance herself from the question.
Too late, he thought, a grin playing about his lip as he turned around. I caught you treating me – however briefly – like a person instead of a monster.
“My name is Bones.”