"I'll be as gentle as a lamb, honey."
Geri really had come a long way since the person I'd trained months ago.
Cannelle caught Geri's wrist, put her palm up to her lips, and did some licking of her own.
"We shall see."
Then Cannelle put her arms around Bones and kissed him. Through Geri's microphone, I could almost hear Cannelle grinding against him, her muted moan of enjoyment, and his masculine rumble as he pressed her closer.
A full two minutes later, he lifted his head. By then, I almost wanted him dead.
Vlad watched me without pity. "Someone else could be doing this."
He was right. I'd insisted on being the relay. I didn't trust anyone else for something so important, no matter that it was brutal for me.
"Get him moving," I said to Geri, very low.
Geri stepped between them. "I don't need foreplay," she said, her throaty voice almost a purr. "Do we have to get to know each other? I just want to f**k like you can't imagine."
Bones disentangled himself from Cannelle to take Geri's hand. "Hate to keep a lovely girl waiting. Come on, Cinnamon. This is who I want tonight."
"Don't I get to choose?"
I heard the pout in Cannelle's voice. It was all I could do not to scream.
"Not this time, luv."
"Cheri - "
"Everyone else has been your choice," he interrupted, leading them through the crowds. "Keep whinging, and I'll make you wait until I'm done before you have her."
"Bastard," I spat, unable to help it. Everyone else? Wasn't that just great!
Bones stopped at a curb. I tensed. Had he heard me through Geri's earpiece?
But then they were moving again. I let out my breath. So far, so good. Bastard.
"Keep heading toward the church," I said to Geri, almost inaudible.
Then I removed my headset and spoke into my cell phone.
"Okay, Don, deploy. They're on their way. Tell Cooper not to drop the ladder until he's fifty yards away."
"Got it, Cat."
I readjusted the headset. Geri was telling Bones that she wanted to have sex on the church's roof, but Cannelle was protesting.
"Non, there could be rats! Why can we not leave here for an evening? I told you I have very beautiful friends in Metairie I want you to meet."
"Tell you what, sweet. We'll go tomorrow. You've wanted me to meet these lasses for days, they must be terribly special."
"Oui. Tres magnifique."
So Cannelle's been trying to draw him out of the city, right to Gregor, I thought, anger rising. Maybe Vlad's impalement hobby wasn't such a bad idea. What was the matter with Bones that he hadn't wondered at her insistence? Was he that blinded by lust?
"Tomorrow we'll do what you fancy, and tonight shall be my evening," Bones went on. "I promise you'll see a new side of me."
And me, too. I was really looking forward to seeing Cannelle in person again.
I couldn't see the three of them anymore. They were off my satellite since they started walking. "Look around, Geri. Are you being followed?"
"You don't think anyone will catch us climbing up onto the roof, do you?" Geri asked, sounding coy.
Bones kissed her. I couldn't see it, but I could hear it. "Not at all."
Okay. It was clear. God, I wanted this to be over soon. Safely, and soon.
"Ah, here's the church. Now, my lovely, look at me for a moment. You don't need to fret about my eyes or my teeth, right? You don't notice anything unusual about them. You're not afraid, because you know I won't hurt you. Say it."
"You won't hurt me," Geri repeated. "I'm not afraid."
So, that's how Bones got around the glowy gaze and pointy teeth when he f**ked humans. I'd thought as much but never wanted to ask. I knew more about his past than I already cared to. This scene was for Cannelle's benefit, I guessed, since Bones knew Geri was in on his secret. Just going through the usual motions.
I thought I'd puke.
"Cinnamon, shall we?"
"If we must, cheri."
After a few moments of noisy rustling sounds, Bones spoke again.
"The roof at last. No rats, petite, quit cringing."
Vlad, get the chopper's ETA.
He complied with the mental directive and took my cell, hitting redial.
"They're on the roof," he informed Don briefly. "How long?...Yes." He set my cell back down. "Six minutes."
"You've got six minutes, Geri. Remember, Bones has to have both you and Cannelle when he jumps, and she won't want to go."
"Come here, lovelies. That's better."
Bones's voice changed. Became the luxurious purr that used to melt me. Listening to it now only made me pissed. Worse, next there was breathiness and the soft chafing noises of kissing.
Then Geri said, "Hey now, sugar. Ease up a bit."
"Why?" Cannelle's voice was belligerent. "I am ready for you to please me."
I glanced at the time. "Two more minutes. Stall but be cool, Geri."
"Cinnamon, don't be so greedy. I'll sweeten her up for you. You'll like it better for the wait."
I beat my fists against my legs but didn't scream anything. Instead, I watched the seconds tick past and tried to listen with clinical detachment for signs of danger. Unfortunately, most of what I heard wasn't the sounds of danger.
Thirty seconds to go. Even if someone overheard, we couldn't wait any longer. "Tell him the score, Geri," I said.
"Bones, a chopper's going to do a pass over the church about two hundred yards up. He'll have a chain ladder dangling. When you see him coming, you blast your ass up with both of us and grab it. As soon as we're clear of the city, you'll leapfrog onto the back of another plane. Spade will be on it."
"What is this?" Cannelle hissed.
"Ten seconds," I rasped. "Nine, eight, seven..."
"Know something, Cinnamon?" Bones lost the seductive timbre to his voice, and it turned into cold steel. "I'm sick of your complaining."
"...one," I yelled.
Then there were only the sounds of the helicopter before I heard a clanging of metal, a thump, and the words I'd been waiting for from Geri.
The chopper had special silent blades, which reduced its normal noise. It made Cooper and the two copilots inaudible, however. Geri still wasn't, of course.
"Is she still breathing?" Geri asked. "You hit her pretty hard."
There was a sliding noise, then Geri said harshly, "Try to shove my head between your legs, huh? Who's happy now, bitch?"
"She can't feel you kicking her," Bones said, no criticism in his voice.
"Yeah, well, I can feel it, and I'm enjoying it!"
More thumping sounds ensued. I didn't want to interrupt. Cannelle being kicked pleased me too much.
"Where is she?" Bones asked.
I froze. Geri let out a final "oof!" that sounded like a grunt from a coup de grace kick and replied.
"When you get on the plane, you'll be flown to her."
Bones didn't say anything, but his silence seemed to say it all. There's no need to see him face-to-face, I thought bleakly. Everyone else has been your choice, Bones had said to Cannelle. Yeah, that was all I needed to hear to know it was over. Vampires might be able to forgive cheating as an acceptable form of revenge, but I must be too human for that. I'd put up with a lot from Bones and consider it justified payback, but not this.
I waited until Bones had transferred to Spade's plane as planned before unhooking my headpiece. Geri was probably delighted not to have my voice pumping into her eardrum anymore. Only Bones was doing the aerial jump; Geri and Cannelle were staying in the helicopter. Spade's plane was supposed to rendezvous with me at one of Don's locations, but that wasn't necessary now.
I called my uncle. "Change Bones's flight plan," I said. "Don't tell me where to, but don't fly him where I'll be."
My uncle didn't ask unnecessary questions. "All right, Cat."
I hung up. Vlad had been watching me the entire time. I managed to muster what would have been a terrible imitation of a smile.
"That answers that."
"It's not as if his prior habits were unfamiliar to you," Vlad replied, no false sympathy in his voice.
No, they weren't. But I hadn't expected to listen while Bones admitted to numerous affairs. Or had I? He might have told me the same thing to my face had I met with him. God, at least I could avoid that. I'd burst into tears and lose the very small shred of dignity I had left.
Two hours later, we landed at the base, though I didn't know where. From the outside, most military installations looked the same, anyway, not that I was looking. I had my eyes shut and my hand on Vlad's arm as I got off the plane.
"Hello, Commander," a male voice said.
I smiled still with my eyes closed. "Cooper, I'd say nice to see you, but give me a minute."
He grunted, which was his version of a belly laugh, and soon I was inside the facility.
"You can open your eyes now," Cooper said.
His familiar face was the first thing I saw, dark-skinned and with hair even shorter than Tate's. I gave him a brief hug, which seemed to surprise him, but he was smiling when I let go.
"Missed you, freak," he said, still with a smile.
I laughed even though it was hoarse. "You too, Coop. What's the news?"
"Geri's chopper arrived thirty minutes ago. The prisoner was secured and awake. Ian is here. He's been questioning the prisoner."
That made me smile for real. I'd had Ian flown here because he was a cold-blooded bastard - and right now, I liked that about him.
"You can stay here or come with me, it's up to you," I said to Vlad.
"I'll come," he replied, giving Fabian, who'd just floated up, a cursory glance. The ghost hovered over the ground next to Cooper, who couldn't see him because he was human.
"Fabian, you've been incredible," I said. "No matter what, I'll take care of you. You'll always have a place to stay."
"Thank you," he said, brushing his hand through mine in his form of affection. "I'm sorry, Cat."
He didn't need to say what for. That was obvious.
My smile turned brittle. "Whoever said ignorance was bliss was shortsighted, if you ask me. But what's done is done, and now I have an acquaintance to renew."
The ghost looked momentarily hopeful. "Bones?"
"No. The little bitch inside, and you might not want to follow me for this one. It's going to get ugly."
I didn't have to tell him twice. In a whirl, Fabian vanished. Neat trick. Sucked to have to be a phantom to do it.
My uncle waited for me farther inside the hallway. He looked...bad.
"Is something wrong?" I asked, instantly worried. Had Bones's plane been tailed, or attacked, or worse?
"No." He coughed. "I just have a cold."
"Oh." I gave him a hug hello. It surprised me when he squeezed back and held on. We weren't a cuddly family.
Vlad sniffed the air. "A cold?"
Don let me go and gave him an annoyed look. "That's right. Don't concern yourself. I'm not contagious to your kind."
He said it harshly. Jeez, maybe Don really did feel like shit. My uncle wasn't normally so surly, even though vampires weren't his favorite group of people.
Vlad looked him up and down and shrugged.
Don went right to business. It was his defining characteristic. "I just came from the downstairs cell. The prisoner hasn't been very forthcoming about her role in this."
"Then it's time for me to see my old friend."
CANNELLE DIDN'T APPEAR TO HAVE AGED A day in the twelve years since I'd seen her. In fact, only her reddish brown hair was different with its new, shorter length. I guessed it was where she got her name. Cannelle. French for cinnamon.
She sat on a steel bench that took up an entire wall in the square, boxlike space. Cannelle wasn't restrained, since Ian and Geri were in the room with her. Even if by some miracle she got past them, there were still three more guards outside the door. Her eye was black, and blood dripped from her mouth and temple, but she wasn't cowed.
When I walked in, she blinked, then laughed.
"Bonjour, Catherine! It's been a long time. You finally look like a woman. I am very surprised."
I felt a nasty grin pull my lips. "Bonjour yourself, Cannelle. Yep, I grew tits and ass and a whole lot more. What a difference a dozen years makes, huh?"
She went right for the throat. "I must compliment you on your lover, Bones. Qu'un animal, non? In this instance, his reputation was...not gracious enough."
Bitch. I wanted to rip the smirk right off her face.
"Too bad he didn't seem bowled over by your bedroom skills. I mean, the fact that you couldn't get him to leave the city for a menage a cinq doesn't speak well, does it?"
Ian chuckled with malevolent humor. "Oh, you two ladies have a history, do you? You might want to start speaking now, poppet. I've been gentle with you, but Cat has a wicked temper. She'll likely kill you before I can reason with her."
"Her?" Cannelle flicked her finger contemptuously at me. "She's a child."
Boy, did she pick the wrong girl in the wrong mood.