"Don't be gentle. I love it when you lose control. I want you to lose it again."
I slid lower, tasting the part of him that was salty with something other than sweat. My lips wrapped around him, taking him into my mouth until he overflowed it, then moaning as he twisted position to reciprocate.
Everything blurred into a haze of skin, lips, tongues, and hard flesh. My need grew the more he fed it, and he kept feeding it. After what seemed like an hour, I squinted over his shoulder at the light intruding into the room.
"Did you turn on a lamp?" I gasped, wondering when he would have done that.
Bones craned his neck, squinting also at the new shaft of light coming from the corner.
"That can't be," he muttered.
"What?" I asked as he jumped from the bed.
More light came in when Bones tugged back what I now noticed was a curtain. He turned to me and raised his brow.
"It's the sun."
It couldn't be morning already. But the proof was there with those yellow rays illuminating the front of him.
Bones stared at me before closing the drapes with a snap. "I don't care," he said, getting back into bed. "Now then, where were we?"
YOU WHORE !"
The first punch rocked me back before I even registered who'd thrown it. Another one came, then another. I tried to defend myself, but my arms weren't moving. Neither were my legs. It took me a second to realize why. They were bolted to the floor. Gregor knelt next to me, beating me without mercy.
"You'll be sorry for this," I got out as soon as he paused.
"You threaten me?" A brutal punch to my stomach doubled me over as much as the metal clamps would allow. Goddamn, who ever said you couldn't feel pain in dreams? "I am your husband, even though you don't deserve to call me that, you traitorous bitch!"
Suddenly the punches stopped, and Gregor caressed my cheek. "Cherie, why do you do this? Why do you persist in angering me? You know I must punish you for your adultery, but it pains me to do so."
I managed to laugh even through the pain. "Oh sure. This hurts you more than me, huh? You are the world's biggest a**hole, Gregor."
"You will do as I say!" That false sweetness was gone. He was back to whacking me with every other word. "You will return to me right now, or you will wish you had."
"Go ahead. Show me everything you've got! I've been beaten and tortured before, but with you, it all goes away as soon as I open my eyes. You don't scare me, Gregor."
He seized my hair, yanking it so hard I felt clumps pull out. "If you let him turn you into a vampire," he hissed, "I will make sure you suffer. Do you understand me?"
I stared at him. "When I was sixteen, I used to care about you. When I first got my memory back, a little part of me still did. Now, however, as God is my witness, I swear I will put you in the ground. Do you understand me?"
He hit me so hard everything went black, but his temper was to my advantage, because it knocked me right back into reality. I heard an anxious voice.
"Kitten, wake up!"
Bones was shaking me. My cheek stung faintly, and I knew it wasn't residual pain from Gregor's fists. Bones had been doing more than shaking me.
"Stop that, I've had enough of being beaten," I muttered, trying to brush his hands away.
He didn't let go, but he did stop shaking me. "He was beating you? You were crying out in your sleep because he was striking you?"
I sat up, pulling the covers over me and trying to shake off the remnants of the dream. The phantom pains from it were dissipating with every second. "He was pissed."
Bones growled low in his throat. His whole body was tense. "You only slept 'round an hour, but should you stay up? Or do you still have those pills? I can't bear the thought of him abusing you if you fall asleep again."
"No pills." I grimaced at the memory of how they'd made me feel. "Gregor's never come at me twice in one night - or day, I guess. I think it takes too much power for him to make a first attempt, and he needs time to rest up before his next one.
"He won't get a next one," Bones said in a grim voice.
No, because later tonight, I'd be turned into a vampire. That's why Gregor had been so pissed. He knew he'd lose access to me once that happened. Bye, bye, Gregor. Hope you sleep tight. I know I will.
Bones kissed the top of my head. "Then try to go to sleep, luv. Soon this will be over."
No, I thought. It won't be over until I kill Gregor. And once I'm a vampire, I'll be another step closer to doing that.
When I woke up again, Bones was gone. The curtains were still drawn, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was well after one. My last morning as a half-human had passed. This could be the earliest I'd be waking up for a few months after I became a new vampire, unless all those years being a half-breed would help shave time off that.
Now that the day had arrived, a twinge of nervousness wormed in me. What if changing over didn't make me stronger but weaker, like I was starting from scratch? God, I'd hate to wake up afterward and find out I was a wimp. Furthermore, what did not breathing feel like? How would I handle never hearing my heart beat again? How long would my new bloodlust last? A few days, a week?
And what would it be like to no longer be the rare half-breed but just be plain old Cat, the newbie vampire? Actually, that thought pleased me. Nothing unusual to see here, folks. Move along. Yeah, I'd wanted that my whole life.
The door opened, and Spade strode in. I snatched at the sheet, since I was still na**d, and gave him an aggravated look.
"Don't you know how to knock?"
"I heard you were awake," Spade replied. "Here. Brought you breakfast, or I suppose lunch, considering the time."
He set a tray down on a nearby table before giving me a wicked grin.
"I see you and Crispin resolved your differences. Indeed, the pair of you kept the whole house up last night."
I closed my eyes. By now I should be over the embarrassment of having anyone with undead ears privy to hearing my intimate moments, but it looked like that still wasn't beyond me.
"Hope I didn't make you lose your beauty sleep, Spade."
The acid in my voice didn't dissuade him. He waved a hand.
"Not at all. Put Crispin in a better mood, I daresay. He's been such a foul-tempered sod lately."
Which brought up a question I'd been wondering. "Where is Bones?"
"Fetching Mencheres. Can't tell you from where, of course, just in case you catch a nap before the big event tonight. He'll be gone for hours."
Oh. I understood, but I wished I'd seen him before he left. With how bad things had been between us, I was greedy for more time with Bones now that they were better.
"Thanks for bringing me breakfast," I said.
"No trouble. Now I'm off to get my own breakfast."
With Spade gone, I debated over what to do with myself for the next few hours. Eating and showering would only take up so much time. Maybe I should notify some people about what I was about to do.
I could call Denise. But then again, Denise didn't need reminders about vampires in her life right now. After Randy's brutal death, it had been too much for Denise to see Spade making a mess out of that man's head at the rodeo bar. I'd tell Denise once it was over. That way she wouldn't have to worry about something going wrong. Giving her one less thing to worry about sounded like the least I could do as her friend.
Next I considered calling my uncle, but then I decided against it. Don's first words wouldn't be congratulations, even though it was something he probably knew was inevitable.
I certainly wasn't going to call my mother. I already knew everything she'd say, and the words "don't do it!" would factor in repeatedly. What was nice was that no matter how much she'd hate this - and she would loathe it to the bone, no question - it wouldn't mean the end of our relationship. I couldn't have said the same years ago.
I should call Vlad and tell him his offer to sire me wasn't needed. Somehow I didn't think that would surprise him. But even as I was about to pick up the phone, I thought of another person I wanted to speak to.
I shut the door and knelt by the bed. Hi, Lord, it's Catherine. Been a while, I know...
I heard Bones come in the house. He asked Spade where I was, then his long, booted stride headed toward the parlor I'd met him in yesterday. I'd been on the couch reading, not wanting to inadvertently learn my location by watching TV and seeing a local channel. I rose when Bones walked in, taking in his appearance. He wore black pants, a short-sleeved black shirt, and black shoes. Dark colors looked great on him. They made his skin even more incandescent by comparison.
"Very appropriate," I noted, to cover up any butterflies in my stomach. "You look like the perfect Grim Reaper."
He stared at me for so long that I cleared my throat. "Okay, it was a bad joke..."
"Are you certain about this, Kitten? It's not too late to change your mind."
"I want this." And I did. I was ready.
Bones walked over to me with a slow, leashed grace, stopping when he was only inches away. He took my hands, bringing them to his lips. His eyes never left mine.
"You decide when. We can wait until later. There's no rush."
I'd been gearing up for this all day. Waiting wouldn't make me more ready, so there was no time like the present.
"Now. Should, ah, we go somewhere else to do this?"
"Here is fine."
I glanced around the room. It didn't look secure to me, considering the humans nearby, but I didn't expect I'd stay long here after...well, after dying. I wondered how long I'd be dead. If death would be like dreaming, or if I'd not be aware of anything until my eyes opened again. Only one way to find out.
I'd seen people being turned when Bones changed Tate and Juan, so I knew what to expect, but seeing it and being the one it was happening to felt worlds apart. My heart began to thump. Guess that would only help in this case.
Bones's eyes went green, fangs extending from his teeth. He smoothed my hair back, holding me close next to him. I closed my eyes as he leaned down, touching his cheek to mine. His skin was cool. Soon I'd be the same temperature.
"It's normal to be nervous, but there's nothing to be afraid of," Bones whispered. "I've done this many, many times, and at no point will you be going anywhere beyond my reach."
The reassurance was helpful. One doesn't stare death in the face and just give it the finger, no matter the circumstances.
"Are you ready, Kitten?"
Asked against my skin as his tongue probed my pulse. Finding the best place to bite.
That instant's pressure of his fangs ceased. I took in a deep breath.
"No live meals, even if you think the person has it coming. Give me bagged blood. I don't want to wake up with a face full of someone's artery."
Bones pulled back to look at me, stroking the nape of my neck. "It's already taken care of. Don't fret. You'll wake up and I'll be there and everything will be fine."
I slid my arms around his neck, glad it was him who would be bringing me to the grave and back instead of anyone else.
"Make me a vampire."
Certain things I knew I'd always remember. The look in his eye when he lowered his head. That slow, deep piercing of his fangs into me. His hand pressing me closer while the other one curled around mine, lacing our fingers together. That rush of blood spilling into his mouth from a bite far deeper than I'd ever received. The flush of warmth sweeping over me. My heart, beating so fast at first, then gradually, inexorably slowing. Growing sporadic as the life and that warmth began to ebb from me.
My thoughts became chaotic. The buzzing's not as loud now. Can't see much anymore. Funny, there were lights a moment ago, thousands of tiny little specks. Pretty. Where'd they go? Colder. Where'd that wind come from?
What was that? Something's pulling me. Where am I now? Can't talk. Am I moving? Can't see. Why can't I see? Why can't I move? Where am I? Where am I? WHERE AM I?
What? I can barely hear you...yes! Yes, it's me, I'm here! I can see you now. I'll be right there, I'm coming. Wait, don't go away. Come back! Stop, please, I haven't seen you for so long.
No, take me back! I need to see them one more time...
I was in hell.
The fire that ravaged me burned with a ferocity that told me the stuff we had on earth was just a tame impostor. This fire was pitiless, and it was everywhere. Burning me without killing me. Tormenting me with unspeakable agony. I couldn't scream, though I didn't even know if I had a mouth anymore. The only thing I could focus on was the pain. No more stop stop hurts HURTS HURTS!
And then - something cool washed over me, slowly extinguishing the flames. With all the desperation of the damned, I strained for more of it, since at last the pain began to lessen. More, oh God, it still hurts, please give me more, more, oh please, need more, a little more...
Sound again, like a drumbeat. Light. Voices over that sluggish, banging drum. So many different smells.
I opened my eyes and saw not a flaming lake of fire but plain concrete walls. It took a second to recognize the people staring at me, then cognition hit. That's right, I was at Bones's house, and he'd turned me into a vampire. I wasn't in hell, I was changed into a vampire, and everything was okay, because the pain was gone. I could see, hear, feel, smell, taste, oh God, taste -