It’s that time again! Here is this week’s new chapter of THE OTHER HALF OF THE GRAVE, a limited-time free serial detailing Cat and Bones’s earliest encounters through Bones’s point of view. Usual reminder: this 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.
And now, to the chapter! You already know what Cat was thinking during her attempt to take Bones down in this duel. Now, see his side of the story :).
“Give me my clothes back,” were her first words once she was free.
“You are trying to kill me, right?” Bones asked, chuckling. “Those trousers will cost you fluidity.”
And wearing them will ensure I’m not distracted by your lovely form, he didn’t add. She should have known that, and she also should’ve used it to her advantage.
“Fluidity or not, I refuse to fight you in my underwear,” she said between gritted teeth.
Worst. Would-be. Murderess. Ever.
But if these were her terms… “Very well. Wait here.”
Bones left her alone, not fretting about her running away. What this cave lacked in conveniences, it made up for in security. It’s why he’d chosen to stay here while he investigated the cabal he was after. No one would think to look for him in a place like this.
Unlike Hollywood’s common portrayal of vampires in ramshackle castles or dark crypts, most of his kind wouldn’t be caught dead in such hovels when there were modern – and comfortable – conveniences available. Vampires hadn’t survived millenniums without detection because they’d failed to evolve. No, most vampires were very versatile, and they enjoyed their comforts as much as any human.
Bones did, too, especially since he’d had more than his share of poverty as a lad. But growing up rough had taught him an important lesson: never value anything more than he could afford to lose. He might not like staying in a cave, but he didn’t value his comfort more than his advantage over his targets. If they couldn’t find him, they couldn’t ambush him. So, he’d stay here until he’d taken them down. He could return to his normal, posh lifestyle once this was over.
The echoing factor in the cave also gave Bones an acoustical image of everything that Cat did even though he could no longer see her. From the sounds, she didn’t stray far from where he’d left her. Smart. The light bulb only illuminated a small section of that area, and there were several steep drops and crevasses beyond her sight. More natural security, all for the cheap price of temporarily sleeping rough.
He went to the flatter, dry section he used as his living quarters to fetch her things. When he returned, he tossed them at her. “Here.”
She caught them with reflexes far faster than an average human. What other vampire traits did she have? He’d soon find out.
She gave him a pointed look before she pulled on her trousers. “You could pretend to be polite and turn your back.”
He snorted. “With you armed? Shall I put a big red X over my heart for you as well, Kitten?”
“Don’t call me Kitten,” she snapped.
Oh, it was her name forever now. “Whatever you say, luv.”
That earned him another death glare. He only grinned, still basking in the unfamiliar yet wondrous sensations she brought out in him. Yes, she was fantasizing about ripping both of her weapons through his heart while he was feeling things he’d only heard of before, but who said romance was perfect?
“Are we doing this here?” she asked in an abrupt tone when she finished dressing.
Where she could barely see and the uneven terrain could fell her with one wrong step? She had so much to learn. “Start walking straight ahead. Soon, you’ll see lights. That’s where.”
She gave him several wary glances when she passed him, but then she moved with surer steps once she was several paces ahead. He followed, brows raised when she went well beyond the lamp’s glow without a pause in her stride.
Can see in the dark, he added to her list of preternatural attributes.
She stopped when she reached the large antechamber he’d recently renovated. It now had lights strung up in several spots and a desk and chair. He’d intended to add other items now that he knew his stay here would be extended, but his delay in getting those meant they had plenty of room for their duel.
He cracked his knuckles and rolled his head around his shoulders; a prefight ritual dating back to his humanity. Then he steeled himself against his repugnance at the thought of hurting her. She’d demanded this duel. He’d give her the respect she was due by honoring that demand.
“All right, Kitten. Because I’m a gentleman, I’ll let you have the first try. Come on. Let’s do this.”
She charged at him with impressive speed for a human, but too slow to be effective against him. She also seemed to have no strategy beyond pointing her weapons in his direction and lunging. He didn’t bother to criticize her. He showed her how ineffectual that was by whirling and letting her sail past him.
“Going jogging, pet?”
She glared at him before attacking again from his right. He blocked her overhead stab, but – good on her! – she simultaneously scored a slash in his abdomen with her other weapon. Before she could dig it deeper, he gave her a light kick in the midsection.
She sprawled onto the cave floor.
“I liked this shirt,” he muttered, examining the new rip. “Now you’ve gone and ripped it.”
And for what? His heart wasn’t in his stomach, as she very well knew.
She stayed doubled over for a few seconds, breathing raggedly. Insufficient abdominal muscles, he added to his list. How would her reflexes hold up, now that she’d been winded?
He moved at half speed, raising his arm to telegraph his intentions. Her eyes widened, and she ducked, but too slow, and she didn’t let go of her midsection to block his strike. He gave her a glancing blow to the side of her head in reprimand.
Next time, stop clutching your belly and block me!
She staggered and almost fell. Then she attacked him with impressive enthusiasm. For several minutes, he let her, dialing down his strength, speed, and skill until he fought with no more force than an average young vampire.
Under these conditions, could she win in a one-on-one conflict?
No, he realized after several minutes. She kept getting up, though, proving her will was as formidable as her rage. But her reflexes, strength and speed were still too human.
When he’d learned what he needed to know, he flung her off. She landed on the floor with a thud, groaning. Then she opened bloodshot eyes to glare at him. They were glowing green, her gaze a mixture of rage, pain, and desperation.
He’d seen that same desperation earlier. Why did she feel it now? Did she think he’d go back on his word not to kill her? Or was there something else behind that look –
Silver flashed in her hand. In the next instant, agony flared. He looked down to see the hilt of her cross dagger embedded in his chest only a few centimeters above his heart. That’s what he got for allowing his concern for her to distract him!
He snatched it out, snarling “Bloody hell, woman, that hurts!”
Though excellent throwing skills, he silently added.
She got back on her feet, but from her slow, careful movements, it took a great deal of effort.
“Had enough?” he asked, inhaling to see if her scent indicated worse injuries than he could see.
That desperate look leapt back into her gaze. “Not yet.”
She couldn’t win. She had to know that, but she refused to concede. If he was any other vampire, her need to continue this fight would be the last thing she ever did. The thought of that made him feel…bloody hell, more than he could handle right now. He steeled himself against it, and against his near-overwhelming urge to call off this duel and heal her. If he didn’t collect on her agreement to let him train her, her need to kill vampires combined with her human weaknesses would lead to her death.
And if she had even an inkling of knowledge about what he felt for her, she’d use it to slaughter him. But if she thought she needed him to accomplish her goals, he could use her vampire-slaying compulsion to save her.
Bones resumed their fight, now showing her with crisp, ruthless efficiency that he outclassed her in every way. When she fell to the ground and couldn’t get back up, he knelt next to her.
One swollen eye slit open to glare at him. Her lips moved, but no sound came out. Still, Bones could make out what she mouthed at him: Fuck you.
Then she passed out.
Admiration and those deeper, mystifying emotions swelled in him. He bit his wrist and held the bloody gash to her mouth. Even unconscious, she swallowed, at first weakly, then stronger as his blood healed her bruises, cuts and broken bones.
She didn’t stir as he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom he’d made from a cozy alcove in the cave. He set her on the bed, and then he sealed them both in by blocking the entrance way with a heavy stone slab. Now he could sleep without fretting about anything – or anyone – disturbing them.
Dawn was upon them, and his brave, ferocious Kitten wasn’t the only one who could use some rest.