Spade was in the bedroom attached to this bathroom, lounging in a chair. He gestured to something lying over a nearby chair. "Brought you some togs. Didn't know if you wanted me to borrow a brassiere or knickers, too, or if you'd be skittish about that."
Discussing underwear with Spade wasn't helping my mood. "Where are my clothes?"
His grin widened. "Threw them into the furnace. I shouldn't dare bring your reeking suitcase inside Crispin's home."
I took a deep breath. "You didn't have any right to do that," I managed to say in a very calm tone.
Spade got up. "Let's just skip the morality issue and go onto whether or not you want me to rustle you up some knickers."
"I'm not wearing some unknown chick's panties, thanks. I'd rather go commando."
Spade winked. "That's the spirit. Make Crispin more amenable to whatever you ask, I daresay."
I pointed to the door. "Goodbye."
He just laughed as he left. I wished I were as amused.
I eyed the dress with dread. Once I put this on, there would be no more stalling.
"Fuck it," I announced out loud. I'd present my offer to Bones, probably get turned down, and be on my way to Vlad's. I zipped myself up, put on the matching shoes that were a tad too tight, and marched out of the guest room. My hair was still damp. I gave it a shake and glanced around, not seeing anyone.
"Hello?" I called out. Damned if I'd start peeking in doors. Where was Spade? Or Fabian?
It was Bones's voice. I fought a shiver, giving myself a mental slap. Get a grip.
"Am I supposed to say 'Marco'?" I asked, going down the stairs.
I heard his amused snort inside the room to the left of the landing. "If you'd like."
Enter freely and of your own will. I squared my shoulders and did just that.
Bones sat on a brown leather sofa that was a few shades lighter than his eyes. The walls were rust-colored, with white crown molding, and the floors were a darkened oak with thick rugs. He almost matched the room with his outfit; a cream shirt that was unbuttoned at the neck, sleeves rolled up, and tan pants. And he was so friggin' gorgeous that it hurt just looking at him.
"I wasn't expecting you, so I don't have any gin," he said, filling a glass. "Care for a whiskey instead?"
"Sure. Thanks," I added as an afterthought, lingering by the door.
He gave me a look as he poured another one. "You didn't come all the way here just to hug the doorframe, did you?"
Left with few options, I sat, choosing the couch opposite him. As soon as I did, however, I stiffened, remembering my lack of underwear. The dress was a few inches north of my knees. What if Bones thought I was trying to flash him?
"Er, do you mind?" I stammered, quickly taking a seat on his couch, but as far away from him as I could scoot.
An eyebrow rose. "Not at all."
He handed me the whiskey. I gulped it down in one swallow.
"Thirsty, are you?" he remarked, taking it and filling it to the top. "You must be. Otherwise, one might think you needed liquor in order to speak with me."
His dry tone told me I was being obvious. I took the glass but only gave it a sip this time.
Bones leaned back, studying me. I felt so self-conscious. If only I had a shield of makeup, some perfectly arranged hair...and oh yeah. Some panties.
He didn't say anything. The silence extended. Somehow, I couldn't bring myself to just spill out the reason I'd come. Maybe I hoped he'd pick it from my mind, and I could skip the whole conversation part.
I glanced away, but I could feel his eyes on me. Bones was still half-reclined, sipping his whiskey, watching me until I squirmed. If this was an interrogation technique, it was working. I'd soon be spilling my guts just to break the silent tension.
"Okay, then...let's get down to it."
I tried to look at him when I spoke, but I couldn't. It wasn't fair that seeing him was so devastating to me and yet so clearly meaningless to him.
"I'm, uh, ready to become a vampire," I blurted.
Talk about a graceful way to broach the topic. I flicked my gaze to his for a second. Dark brown eyes met mine before I looked away.
The tension made me jumpy. I got up, ready to start pacing, when he set his glass down and his hand shot out to grab me.
I yanked back at once, but his fingers tightened. "Sit down," he said in a quiet, steely tone.
Short of bracing my legs against his chest and pulling, I wasn't getting my arm back. Frustrated, I flopped onto the couch. "I'm sitting, now let go of me."
"I don't think I will," he replied with that same metal undertone. "I'm not hurting you, so quit glaring at me, and if you tug away even once more, I'm going to fling myself on top of you until we're finished with this conversation."
That stilled me. Bones never made empty threats. The thought of being pinned under him had me alarmed for several reasons, and none of those was fear.
"That's better." His grip loosened, but he didn't release me. "Right then, I have some questions, and you're going to answer them."
Why hadn't I insisted on discussing this over the phone? I mentally groaned.
"Ask. You've got me anchored. I can't go anywhere."
I wished he'd let go of me. I kept glancing at his hand as if I could make it disappear from my arm.
"You're blocking me again."
He said it casually, but his eyes narrowed. Green began to swirl in their depths, then it blazed forth to swallow the brown.
"Nice try," I barked, "but I thought we'd already established that I have good defenses."
Uh-oh. I'd jerked away while I said it, an instinctive reaction to him trying to pry into my mind. In a flash, I was flattened on the couch, Bones holding my wrists and tangling his legs in mine.
"Get off me," I demanded.
Instead, his hold tightened. I became acutely aware that further thrashing would only ratchet my dress up higher. Considering the position I was in and the fact that it was already well past my knees, not wearing any underwear was about to become a real issue right away.
"Bones." I stopped moving, trying another tactic. "Please get off of me."
"Why do you want to become a vampire?"
Guess he wasn't going to budge from his position. He wasn't balancing his weight, either. He was letting all of it hold me down while flexing to counter my smallest twitch. I was having a hard time trying not to think that it had been, wow, weeks since he'd been on top of me. Furthermore, at this proximity, it was impossible to avoid his gaze.
I cleared my throat. "I'm sick of being a walking transmitter to Gregor, for one. If I'm a full vampire, Gregor gets locked out. No more shutting my eyes and plugging my ears when I travel, no more being bothered while I sleep."
He didn't glance away. "Is that the only reason?"
If I said yes, this conversation was over. Bones would never think that was a good enough reason. Only the truth was, even if saying it made my eyes fill with tears.
"You were right." It was a whisper. "I did still think being a vampire was in some way evil. After all I'd seen, I was still prejudiced. What a fool, huh? You're probably proud now that you shoved it in my face. Who could blame you?"
His fingers weren't biting into my wrists anymore. No, they were doing something worse - stroking them with little circles. His eyes hadn't turned all the way back to brown yet. I hoped it was just residual anger.
"No, I'm not proud for railing at you the way I did." His voice was very low. "It took me fifteen years to come to terms with what I was after Ian turned me. Little wonder you still had mixed feelings over it."
I hadn't expected this. I'd steeled myself to hear a resounding agreement that yes, I had been a total ass over my discrimination. I swallowed, blinking to clear my eyes from the tears.
"Okay...so does that mean you'll change me over?"
"Not so fast. The only reason you've listed for wanting to change is to thwart Gregor."
"Do you just not want the responsibility of being my sire?" I asked, getting frustrated by the interrogation. "If so, Vlad already agreed to do it."
Something glittered in his gaze. "I'm sure he did, but if anyone's changing you over, it's me. I daresay I've earned that. And if you think to do it behind my back, I swear right now that I'll kill whoever sires you, no matter who he is."
He'd kill anyone who changed you, Spade had said. Guess he was right. Damn possessive vampires.
"If you take my old prejudice out of the way, there's no reason for me to remain part human," I answered steadily. "As a half-breed, I'm easier to kill, and my abilities have a definite ceiling on them. As a full vampire, my potential is what I make it, not what my pulse and breathing limit it to. Plus, I can never go back to pretending to live a normal, human life. For all intents and purposes, I'm already a vampire. I just don't have fangs yet."
"Do you really believe that?" His voice was silky, but his gaze was rock hard.
"Yes." No hesitation.
"Then prove it. Let me in your mind to see for myself."
Oh hell no. No way was I about to drop my mental shields and expose myself like that. It wasn't because I was lying about what I'd said. I was too afraid of everything else he'd see.
"Sorry, Bones, but you'll just have to take my word for it."
He didn't say anything for a long moment. It was all I could do not to hold my breath.
"All right, then," he replied at last. "I'll do it tomorrow."
I'd almost sighed in relief when he spoke again.
"On one condition."
Figures. "What is it?"
"Oh, nothing too taxing. You'll just have to share my bed tonight."
I waited a beat, but he didn't follow it with a punch line.
"You're serious?" I got out.
He looked at me like I was slow. "Very."
"Is this because I'm not wearing any underwear?"
That made him grin. "No, but it doesn't help your cause."
"You're being ridiculous!" I pushed at him, but it was like shoving a brick wall. "What is this, some kind of undead dominance crap?"
"I'm testing your resolve," he said calmly. "You refuse to let me into your mind to see if you're just doing this because of Gregor or the ghouls. If you truly want it for your own reasons, then it would be worth my price. There's always a price with vampires, Kitten. You know that." He shrugged. "Or, let me in your mind to see for myself that you want this only for you."
Strip bare either my emotions or my body. What a choice.
"I'm surprised you'd be able to clear your bedroom schedule on such short notice," I said, hoping to piss him off into changing his mind.
His brow arched. "We all do what we must."
I didn't know how I'd be able to manage either option. Both would leave scars on my heart. "And the fact that I absolutely don't want to have sex with you doesn't matter?"
He turned my cheek until his lips brushed my throat. "Well, luv...I consider that my job to change your mind."
His voice was filled with promise of pleasure. I couldn't help the shiver that ran through me when he nuzzled my skin. Damn my sensitive neck. It was betraying me even as I fought to appear unmoved.
But the thought of him looking into my mind, seeing how deeply he was still buried inside my every thought, was far more frightening than anything else. Checkmate, Cat. You lose.
That didn't mean I was going to be magnanimous, however. I gave him a bitchy glare.
"I hope it's the worst f**k you've ever had, you ruthless, manipulating bastard."
"Pillow talk already?" he replied with a slight grin. "Now you're just trying to switch me on."
I only wished I hadn't showered before this damned meeting - and where was a festering yeast infection when I needed one?
"I have a condition of my own," I said. "I showered in an empty guest room. We can do the deed in there." The last thing I needed was to roll around with Bones in his bed, considering he might have rolled around with another woman in it the night before. Ew.
"Whatever you like." He still had that curl to his lips. Apparently I couldn't antagonize him into changing his mind either. "We can even use this couch, if you prefer."
The way he traced his tongue on the inside of his lower lip told me he was thinking about it. That sent a flush of heat through me even as I cursed him. This'll be a neat trick. Keeping my emotional distance while ha**ng s*x with him.
"The guest room will be fine," I managed.
His eyes glowed. "Right, then. Shall we?"
There was so much more than a simple query in those words. I looked around in futile hope that something would happen to delay this. An earthquake. Fire. Alien attack. Whatever, just bring it!
But there was nothing but him and me and the agreement I'd just made.
"I guess so."
BONES EASED OFF ME IN A SINGLE LITHE motion, drawing me to a standing position along with him. I couldn't help but flinch as his hands stayed on my waist, and I couldn't have kept my heart from speeding up unless I'd put a bullet in it.
He walked very close next to me, a hand on my back propelling me forward. I didn't drag my feet, but oh, I wanted to. We passed a person or two as we headed up the stairs, but I kept my head lowered, concentrating on everything but what would happen once we got to the room.