"Don't underestimate Gregor," Mencheres said. "He managed to escape my prison a month ago, and I still don't know how. Gregor seems to be more interested in Cat than in getting revenge against me. She's the only person I know whom Gregor's contacted through dreams since he's been out."
Why do these crazy vampires keep trying to collect me? My being one of the only known half-breeds had been more of a pain than it was worth. Gregor wasn't the first vampire who thought it would be neat to keep me as some sort of exotic toy, but he did win points for cooking up the most original plan to do it.
"And you locked Gregor up for a dozen years just to keep him from altering my future with Bones?" I asked, my skepticism plain. "Why? You didn't do much to stop Bones's sire, Ian, when he tried the same thing."
Mencheres's steel-colored eyes flicked from me to Bones. "There was more at stake," he said at last. "If you'd never met Bones, he might have stayed under Ian's rule longer, not taking Mastership of his own line, and then not being co-Master of mine when I needed him. I couldn't risk that."
So it hadn't been about preserving true love at all. Figures. Vampires seldom did anything with purely altruistic motives.
"What happens if Gregor touches me in my dreams?" I asked, moving on. "What then?"
Bones answered me, and the burning intensity in his gaze could have seared my face.
"If Gregor takes ahold of you in your dreams, when you wake, you'll be wherever he is. That's why he's called the Dreamsnatcher. He can steal people away in their dreams."
I'D ARGUED, OF COURSE. BOTH MEN GAVE ME looks that said how stupid it was to debate something they knew for a fact. Gregor's ability normally just worked with humans, since vampires and ghouls had a supernatural mind control that prevented such subconscious kidnappings. But since I was a half-breed, it was possible that Gregor's trick would work on me, too.
Wait until I told my uncle that there was a vampire who could do this. He'd shit himself.
"Gregor will attempt to coerce you in your dreams," Mencheres said in parting. "You would do well to ignore anything he says and to wake yourself up as quickly as possible."
"You can bet your ass on that," I muttered. "By the way, what's the significance of Paris? You said we'd chosen to come to Paris like that was significant."
"Gregor is French," was Mencheres's reply. "You chose to visit his home of nearly nine centuries. I doubt that's a coincidence."
I bristled. "What are you implying?"
"The obvious," Bones said, almost yanking on my arm as we walked up to a picturesque chalet partially concealed by clinging vines. "Gregor told you to come here."
We were greeted by a lovely French couple, both vampires, who met us at the entrance with welcoming words I didn't understand. Bones spoke to them in the same language, his accent sounding as authentic as theirs.
"You didn't tell me you knew French," I murmured.
"You didn't tell me you'd had multiple dreams," he shot back in English.
He was still pissed. I sighed. At least we'd had a couple of peaceful weeks between us.
Introductions in English were made. Sonya and her husband, Noel, were our hosts for our stay in Paris.
"You're married?" I asked in surprise, then flushed. "I didn't mean to sound so shocked, I just - "
"You're the first bonded vampire couple she's met, mes amis," Bones smoothly filled in. "I think she was starting to believe she had a monopoly on the status."
They both laughed, and the awkward moment passed. Sonya never even batted an eye at the half dozen vampires who took up position around the perimeter of her home.
They showed us to our room, with views of the surrounding gardens. Sonya was a horticulturist. Her gardens could have been used as a blueprint for Eden.
"Diligence and patience, ma cherie," she said when I complimented her. "All things can benefit from the proper application of both."
She eyed Bones in a pointed way after she said it, letting me know she hadn't missed his earlier curt comment.
"My dear Sonya, I'll try to remember that," he replied dryly.
"You'll want to refresh yourselves and settle in, of course. Cat, there is fruit, cheese, and chilled wine. Bones, should I send someone up for you now, or later?"
"Later. First I must speak with my wife."
Again, his tone held a note of challenge when he said those two words. Sonya and Noel left. Before their footsteps faded away, Bones started in on me.
"Blast it, Kitten, I believed we were past this, yet once again you've decided what I can and cannot handle without discussing it with me."
Some of my remorse left me at his accusing tone. "I thought it was nothing, that's why I didn't tell you."
"Nothing? That's a fine way to describe a notorious vampire's attempts to steal you straight from our bed."
"I didn't realize that's what was happening!"
"You knew something was off, but you hid it from me. I thought you'd learned six years ago that hiding things from me was a mistake."
That was a low blow. Several months after we met, my inhuman status was blown when I was arrested for killing the governor of Ohio. I didn't know that Don, the FBI agent who interrogated me, was the brother of my deadbeat vampire father, who'd only impregnated my mother because he'd had sex with her so soon after turning. I also hadn't known that Don had been aware since my birth that I was a half-breed. I'd just thought Don was a high-ranking FBI agent who knew about vampires - and who'd kill Bones if I didn't take his offer to join Don's elite secret team.
So I tricked Bones and went away with Don, believing it was the only way to save his life. Bones didn't take being left behind very well. It took him over four years, but he found me, then he showed me how wrong I had been in thinking it was impossible for us to be together. I still had horrible guilt over what I'd done, and here he'd just shoved a hot poker in that old wound.
"How long are you going to punish me for that? If your last comment is any indicator, I guess I'll have this thrown up at me for years."
Some of the anger went out of his face. He ran a hand through his hair, giving me a frustrated - but less damning - look.
"Do you have any idea what I would have gone through, waking up to find you vanished without a trace? It would have driven me mad, Kitten."
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. If I thought Bones could disappear on me in his sleep, taken by a strange vampire for unknown purposes, I'd lose all semblance of rationality, too. Get it together, Cat. Now's not the time to keep score on remarks neither of you means.
"Let's try to get past this, okay? I should have told you about the dreams. If they happen again, I'll tell you as soon as I wake up. Scout's honor."
He came to me, gripping my shoulders. "I couldn't stand to lose you like that, Kitten."
I covered his hands with mine. "You won't. I promise."
The Palais Garnier Opera house was extravagant in every detail, with an antique, old-world architecture that only came from being old-world. Sonya and Noel went with us, as well as our protective entourage. Bones was taking no chances of Gregor's showing up to crash the fun.
This was my first opera. Usually I didn't get to wear a pretty dress without someone to kill, but unless the opera was far more graphic than the brochure detailed, that wasn't happening tonight.
Bones received so many admiring looks on our way to the gilded entrance that my hand tightened on his. Granted, he looked spectacular in his black tuxedo, a white silk scarf draped around his neck, but did women have to stare? Most of the time, I pinched myself over his glittering gorgeousness, not quite believing someone so stunning could belong to me. Sometimes, however, the lustful glances thrown his way made me wish he wasn't such a damned bowl of eye candy.
"They're not staring at me, pet," Bones murmured. "They're looking at you. As I am."
I smiled at the leer he gave me. "It's just the dress," I teased. "The way it drapes makes my h*ps and boobs look bigger."
The vermillion taffeta gown did have extra swaths across my chest, hiding the light boning that held the strapless dress up. Then those swaths gathered at my h*ps before fanning out in a fishtail at the bottom of the long, narrow skirt. It was the fanciest thing I'd ever worn.
Bones gave a low chuckle. "I can't stop wondering how I'm going to take you whilst you're in it. Right now I've decided on from behind, although that may change by the end of the opera."
"Why did we go to this if you'll just be mentally molesting me and not watching the performance?"
"Because that's right fun in itself," he responded with a wicked grin. "I'll enjoy imagining all the things I'm going to do to you once we're alone."
Then he became more serious, and the gleam left his eyes. "Actually, I thought we'd see the opera, have a late supper, then stretch our legs exploring the city. Although we'll have our escorts following us, they shouldn't need to be strapped to our backsides, I suspect. Would you like that?"
My mouth dropped. Walking around without full body armor and a highly armed squad at my elbow? Just sightseeing, like normal people?
"Oui, si, any language the word for yes is in. Please tell me you're not about to say 'psyche'."
"I'm not. The performance is about to start; let's find our seats."
"Very agreeable, aren't you?" That sly tone was back in his voice. "I'll take advantage of it later."
When the curtain came down at intermission, I knew three things: I loved the opera, I wanted a drink, and I had to pee.
"I'm going with you," Bones announced, when I voiced my bathroom necessity.
I rolled my eyes. "They have rules about that."
"I have to freshen my lipstick, Cat, would you mind if I accompany you?" Sonya asked. "Bones, you could fetch some champagne, I'd love a glass as well. It's across from the facilities, so you'll have no trouble finding us."
The translation was obvious. Bones would be close in case there was trouble of any kind, be it misguided dream suitor or murderous undead opera buff, and I'd have a bodyguard.
He nodded. "I can escort you. That's not being overprotective. It's only mannerly."
"Sure." My lips twitched. "Whatever you say."
There was a long line at the ladies' room. Bones let out an amused snort when he saw my speculative glance at the empty entrance to the men's facilities.
"They have rules about that," he mocked.
"I know all these chicks aren't waiting to let out their bladders, they should have a separate makeup room so the rest of us can pee," I grumbled, then turned to Sonya apologetically. "Um, I didn't mean you. Just ignore everything I say, we'll both be better off."
She laughed. "I know what you meant, cherie. Often I've thought the same myself, since the latrines have been of no use to me for a long time."
"Bring me some liquor, Bones, fast, to take my foot out of my mouth."
He kissed my hand. "I'll see you back here."
When he walked away, I wasn't the only one who enjoyed the view of him leaving.
The low exhalation came from a brunette farther up in line. I gave her an arched brow and tapped my engagement ring for effect.
She was human, or I'd have thrown down at the second lingering look she gave Bones before shrugging at me.
"Nothing lasts forever."
My teeth ground. "Except death."
Sonya said something in French that made the woman's mouth curl sulkily before she turned away with a last parting shot.
"If you can't stand for your man to be admired, you would do better to keep him at home."
With her heavy French accent, her h's were almost silent. You can't kill her just because she's a tramp, I reminded myself. Even if you could have her body discreetly disposed of...
"He f**ks even better than he looks," I settled on saying. Several heads turned. I didn't care; I was pissed. "And that beautiful face is going to be clamped between my legs as soon as we get ooome, don't you worry."
From the crowd at the bar, I heard Bones laugh. Sonya chuckled. The woman gave me a venomous glare and stepped out of line.
"Bon, one less person in front of us, we'll be finished before he has our drinks," Sonya observed when she quit laughing.
"One down." I eyed the line of women, most of whom either smiled or avoided my gaze due to that little scene. "About a dozen more to go."
Ten minutes later when we entered the bathroom, I was trying not to hop on one leg in impatience. It had been all I could do to wait my turn and not have Sonya use vampire mind control to get the other women out of my way, but that wouldn't have been fair.
When I came out, Sonya was putting her lipstick back in her small clutch bag. I joined her by the mirror to wash my hands.
"Small world," someone said to my right.
I turned, noticing a cute blonde staring at me. "Excuse me?"
"You don't remember me?" She shook her head. "It was a while ago. I wasn't even sure it was you until you snapped at that woman, but your coloring stands out. Plus, you were antsy the first time we met, too."
From her accent, she was American. And I'd never seen her before in my life.