Don bristled. "Now wait a minute-"
"No, I won't," Bones said, his anger blazing forth. "It's obvious that you knew Madigan had connections with other vampires, and yet you didn't inform us. If you'd been honest, we could've anticipated his actions instead of being caught off guard at the cave. But no, you chose to keep silent about that."
"You don't understand. I . . . can't tell you everything about him. Not yet," Don said roughly.
Bones stabbed his finger through my uncle's chest. "Keep all the secrets you fancy about things that don't endanger her life, but it's clear Madigan has an interest in her and an agenda beyond climbing the corporate ladder. Either tell us everything you know about him now or stay away from your niece."
Don backed up at the vehemence in Bones's tone. So did Tyler. I admit to flinching because his aura crackled with enough power to make it feel like I was standing in a sandstorm. I'd only seen Bones more upset one time, and that incident was still burned on my memory.
Bones turned to me then, his gaze dark and steady.
"I'm sorry for how that will hurt you, but I can't have him near when he's withholding information that might get us killed. What if Madigan had showed up at the cave with his vampire associates instead of juiced-up humans? What if he had informed our enemies where we were? We had no idea the sod had connections to our world beyond the team members I sired, yet Don knew, and he kept it to himself."
Back at the cave, I'd also noticed that Don hadn't looked surprised when Madigan proved to have soldiers hyped up on vampire blood that didn't come from Tate or Juan. In the midst of everything that had happened, I hadn't had a chance to question him about it to see if I was right, but now there was no need. My uncle's guilty yet defiant expression confirmed it all.
"You need to spill what you know before anyone else gets hurt, or worse," I said, drilling him with my gaze.
"If I tell you everything, he'll just kill Madigan because that's all he knows," Don snapped with an accusing wave at Bones. "But killing him before I find out what I need to know might end up costing innocent lives. You want that kind of blood on your hands?"
Bones's laughter cut the air like a whip. "Know whose blood I care about? Hers. And those women the ghost is after, I care about their blood, too. So you're right that I'll kill Madigan if he's a threat to them. In truth, if we weren't so busy, I'd be tempted to kill the sod so he couldn't interrupt us the next time we attempt to trap that ghost."
Don's expression was wary now, as those flatly delivered words clued him in to how serious Bones was. "You can't do that. Cat, promise me you won't let him do that."
I thought about the years I'd known Don. He had some truly noble qualities, and I knew he loved me, but he'd always been secretive and somewhat Machiavellian in his actions. I'd been okay with that back when I worked for him, but I wasn't okay with it now, considering how it had endangered me and Bones in this latest incident.
Bones was right-Madigan's unknown vampire ties meant he could've brought a far more dangerous entourage with him to the cave. Plus, if we'd known that Madigan was more than a puffed-up suit, we would've picked a place that had no ties to my former team. I thought of everything I'd read in the Malleus Maleficarum about what Kramer did to those who were at his mercy. About Elisabeth's face as she described her rape, torture, and death, and Francine and Lisa being the latest in a long line of women Kramer had marked for the same horrific fate.
My mouth hardened. "Either you come clean with us about Madigan, or Bones is right. You need to go."
"How can you say that?"
I hated the betrayal in Don's voice. I loved him like the father I'd never had, so it struck me right in the heart, as did the repelled look he gave me.
"Every Halloween, three women are kidnapped, raped, tortured, and burned alive by the ghost that Madigan's interruption prevented us from trapping," I replied, meeting the gray gaze that was identical to my own. "Bones and I might not get another chance to trap that ghost, and if we don't, many more women will die." I drew in a breath for courage. "I love you, Don, but you can't keep treating me like an employee on a need-to-know basis. Even if you don't trust Bones to react rationally to whatever you know about Madigan-and I disagree with that-after all we've been through, you should at least trust me. I've more than earned it."
Bones slid his arm around me, his aura changing from dangerous spikes of anger into strength, pride, and compassion. Those emotions flowed over me and through me, seeping into the very fiber of my being until it felt like we'd melded into the same person.
Don's expression hardened into a stubborn mask that I well recognized, and I knew with deep sorrow that my words had fallen on deaf ears.
"I can tell you this-Madigan doesn't have ties to the undead world like you're thinking. Any vampires he's getting blood from are his captives, not his allies, and no, I don't know who they are or where they are."
He didn't say anything else. He just dissipated with that mixture of stubbornness and how-could-you still stamped on his features. I blew out a long, slow sigh, leaning in closer to Bones's embrace.
"Looks like that's another problem we need to deal with," I said. If these captive vampires were random Masterless murderers, then Madigan could keep them and tap their veins like tree trunks for all I cared. But if they were innocent vampires snatched up while minding their own business, or they belonged to a powerful Master who might take revenge on their capture by wiping out my entire former team, we needed to act.
Right after we found a way to lock up a homicidal ghost, that was.
"Indeed. Madigan's playing on dangerous ground, and so is your uncle," Bones said, his tone still edged in anger.
Tyler patted his shoulder in a comforting way. "Family. Aren't they a motherfucker sometimes?"
That summed it up so well, there really was nothing else left to say.
A thick cloud of smoke hung in the air, its acridness stinging my eyes. The cellar had no windows, and the single door that opened into the farmhouse pantry was always closed when Bones and I were down here. If I were human, I'd have passed out within the hour, but of course oxygen wasn't an issue for me. Neither was the darkness. The only light came from the orange halos around the sage as the flames curled the plants into blackened, smoking remains, but Bones and I had no trouble seeing as we pieced together hunks of limestone, quartz, and moissanite into another trap. We'd spent the majority of the past five days down here, working toward that single goal. Good thing we'd helped Chris and the team make the last trap so we knew what we were doing, and if we spent the next week down here, we'd have it done in time.