Once 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. 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. Also, this was a more challenging chapter to write because in it, Bones realizes he’s falling in love with a stranger who wants to kill him. In the Night Huntress series, it was easier to describe Bones’s feeling because he simply tells Cat that he loves her about halfway through book one. By then, many readers had guessed at that even if Cat was still oblivious to it. Now, I’m trying to detail what was basically an emotional lightning strike. Like real lightning strikes, emotional ones are unpredictable and they don’t always make sense, do they? Well, love is sometimes like that, too.
For example, if you asked me when I got married at nineteen how I knew my husband was The One, I couldn’t have given you a bunch of logical reasons. *snorts* It would have been easier to give you a bunch of reasons why we shouldn’t get married. After all, I was only nineteen, he was twenty-three, we were both naive, broke and unreliably employed… our friends literally had bets on how soon we would get divorced. But, twenty-seven years later, we’re still going strong, and from a logic-driven standpoint, that doesn’t make sense. But, when it comes to love, I kind of believe in magic. So, what happens to Bones below is more magical than logical, which makes it really hard to describe without just saying “abracadabra, people!” Because of that, my apologies in advance if I fall short showing what he was feeling, and why.
Lengthy disclaimers aside, happy reading!
“Bloody hell, look at your eyes,” Bones breathed out, staggering back from shock.
She said nothing. Just stared at him with eyes that, impossibly, were now the same glowing emerald green as his own.
Bones gripped her head. “Look at your bloody eyes!” he thundered, stunned into repetition.
Her expression was half terror, half annoyance. “Don’t need to look at them, I’ve seen them. They change from gray to green when I’m upset. Happy now? Going to enjoy your meal more?”
He let her go before shock made him forget his strength and he accidentally hurt her. Then he began to pace, too wound up to stay still.
“Bugger, you’re telling the truth.” No vampire was compelling her or controlling her. Somehow, she was the offspring of a human and a vampire. “You have to be,” he went on, as if some part of him still needed convincing. “You have a pulse, but only vampires have eyes that glow green. This is unbelievable!”
“Glad you’re excited,” she said in a suddenly weary voice.
He stopped pacing to stare at her. Her hair tangled around her shoulders and her gaze lost some of its glowing intensity now that his fangs were nowhere near her throat. Did she have fangs, too? No, he only saw flat teeth when she nibbled on her bottom lip, and if she was upset enough for her eyes to transform, her canines would have, too, if they could.
Vampire eyes, human teeth. It shouldn’t be possible. She shouldn’t be possible, yet here she was. Half human and half vampire…and pathological in her hatred of one of those races.
That hatred would get her killed. She had no idea what was happening in Ohio right now, but if she kept throwing herself in vampires’ paths, she’d find out. The mass grave he’d uncovered two weeks ago flashed in his mind. If she kept on this path, she’d be one of those skeletons, tossed away like rubbish after the most hellish of existences…
Rage suffused him, followed by a stronger swell of determination. It didn’t matter that she’d tried to kill him. Didn’t matter that she wasn’t one of his people. Didn’t matter that his near-pathological need to protect her made no sense, either. He wouldn’t let her become one of the lost.
She wanted to kill vampires? He could work with that as motivation. “This is perfect!” he said as if he’d been looking his entire life for a half breed. “In fact, it could come in right handy.”
“What could come in handy?” she asked in an irate tone. “Either kill me or let me go already. I’m tired.”
He turned the light back on. She blinked under its brightness, then scowled at him. He grinned. Oh yes, she’d stake him right and proper if she could. Now, to give her a compelling reason not to.
“How would you like to put your money where your mouth is?”
“What?” she asked with open suspicion.
“I can kill you or let you live.” His tone was bland, as if either option meant nothing to him. “But living comes with conditions. Your choice, your pick. Can’t let you go without conditions, you just try to stake me.”
“Aren’t you the smart one?” she muttered.
He stifled his laugh. “You see, we’re in the same boat, luv. You hunt vampires. I hunt vampires. Both of us have our reasons, and we both have our problems. Another vampire can sense me whenever I’m close, so that makes it difficult to stake ‘em without them expecting the try and running. You, on the other hand, put them at ease with that juicy jugular of yours, but you aren’t strong enough to bring down the really big fish.”
She stiffened in offense. Bones continued as if he hadn’t noticed. “Oh, you may have beaten some green ones, probably no older than twenty years undead, tops. Barely out of their nappies, as it were. But a Master vampire, like me.” He let scorn drip from his tone. “You couldn’t bring me down with both weapons blazing. I’d be picking you out of my teeth in minutes. Therefore, I propose a deal. You can continue doing what you love most – killing vampires. But you will only hunt the ones I’m looking for. No exceptions,” he stressed when she opened her mouth. “You’re the bait. I’m the hook. It’s a capital idea.”
She stared at him as if he’d taken leave of his senses. Perhaps he had. Recruiting the half dead to kill the undead was a bit unorthodox, but he needed to keep her safe, and she needed to kill vampires, judging from the desperation in her eyes when she’d tried to kill him earlier tonight.
I hunt for her, she’d said of her mother. To ensure no one else suffered what she had to…
Except her. Every time she risked her life hunting vampires, Cat was punishing herself for merely existing. That sort of self-destructive imperative couldn’t be easily remedied. He knew that from experience. He hadn’t become a bounty hunter of people even his kind was afraid of by accident. Once, like Cat, he’d thought it was all he deserved, too.
With time, Cat would realize there was more to life. Until then, he’d keep her safe, and trained to handle the monsters she thought she needed to kill. Until then…
Bones tapped his foot. “Don’t have all night. The longer you wait, the hungrier I get. Might change my mind in a few minutes.”
“I’ll do it,” she said quickly. Then she paused. “But I have a condition of my own.”
He chuckled. “Do you? You’re hardly in a position to demand conditions.”
Her chin jutted out. “Just challenging you to put your money where your mouth is. You said I wouldn’t last against you even with both my weapons. I disagree. Unchain me, give me my stuff, and let’s go. Winner takes all.”
Damn good thing he wasn’t in profile or she’d notice that he’d just turned rock hard. “And what you do you want if you win?” he asked while sending his blood to a less distracting place in his body.
First seething courage, now brutal honesty. She was just trying to switch him on, wasn’t she?
“If I can beat you, I don’t need you,” she continued. “And as you put it, if I just let you walk, you’d come after me. But if you win”-a shrug-“I play by your rules.”
Every bit of him felt like it was waking up. He’d think it was more lust, except it didn’t stop there. No, it grew until it penetrated parts of him he hadn’t realized existed. He’d heard people talk about things like this. They gave it fanciful names like “love at first sight” or “destiny.” He’d always dismissed such claims as nonsense. Now, he wasn’t so certain.
“You know, pet,” he said to cover those new, startling emotions. “With you chained there, I could have a nice long drink out of your neck and go about my business as usual. You’re pushing your luck quite a bit saying this to me.”
“You don’t seem the type that likes a boring drink out of a chained-up jugular,” she countered. Right you are. “You seem like the type who likes danger. Why else would a vampire hunt vampires? Well? Are you in, or am I out?”
She held her breath after throwing down the gauntlet. He came nearer, his gaze raking her while those inexplicable sensations kept growing until they felt as if they’d breach his skin and boil over onto the ground between them. Her breathing hitched and her heart beat sped up, but her gaze remained hard, desperate… and fixed on him with deadly intent.
He almost laughed. Here he was, feeling as if Cupid’s arrow had just pierced his heart, and the source of his affection wanted nothing more than to see him dead. But first, she’d demanded a demonstration of his abilities.
Very well. As she’d soon learn, he was always happy to fulfill a lady’s request.
Bones unlocked her manacles. “Let’s see what you’ve got,” he said, and meant it this time.