"Makes me grateful my mind-reading skills were on the fritz earlier."
Bones grunted. "Lucky you, pet."
Since I'd made Bones's blood my regular diet, I had more days where I could read humans' thoughts than not; but every once in a while, that ability blinked out. I chalked it up to mind reading being a power Bones had only recently inherited when his co-ruler, Mencheres, shared some of his formidable abilities through a blood bond. Too bad I didn't also catch occasional breaks from my inner ghostly paging system, but then again, the spectral juju juice in Marie Laveau's blood had had centuries to ferment.
At last, we turned onto the final gravel road that led to our house. Since it was at the top of a small mountain, it still took a few more minutes until we pulled into our driveway. Numerous ghosts lounged on our porch and in the surrounding woods, their energy making my skin tingle with a faint pins-and-needles sensation. Every head turned my way when our car came to a stop, but at least they didn't rush me when I got out. I'd had to explain several times that while I appreciated their enthusiasm, only my cat was allowed to twine around me when I came back from an outing.
"Hello, everyone," I said in greeting, turning in a circle to encompass the lot of them. Then I held out my hands, my signal that whoever wanted could do a fly-through on them. At once, a steady streak of silvery forms came at me, my hands almost burning from the multiple contacts the ghosts made with them.
This still felt like a very odd version of giving a group high five, but I'd come to discover that ghosts craved contact even though they passed through whoever-and whatever-they touched. And at least my hands were a far more appropriate body part for them to poltergeist than other areas that some of them had "accidentally" flown through. Implementing an automatic eviction order on any ghost who did a flyby below the belt put a stop to those incidents.
Bones gave a sardonic snort as he strode past me into the house. I knew I wasn't the only ones counting down the days until the voodoo queen's borrowed powers faded from my blood. Even though he understood the reasons behind it, Bones liked a bunch of different men and women zinging through my flesh about as much as I liked running into his countless former flings.
Once I was done with my unique form of saying hello, I went into the house, dropping my jacket onto the nearest chair. Bones's voice stopped me from flopping my body there next, his English accent sharper with annoyance.
"Fabian du Brac, I trust you have a good reason for this?"
Uh-oh. Bones didn't use Fabian's full name unless he was ticked, and there were only a few rules we'd set down when we agreed to let Fabian live with us. When I came into the living room, I saw which one of those rules Fabian had broken.
"Um, hi," I said to the female ghost floating by Fabian's side. She wore a dark, rather shapeless dress that did its best to conceal what must have been a Marilyn-Monroe-like figure when she had skin, and her severe bun only highlighted how naturally beautiful her face was.
Bones didn't appear impressed by the new ghost's lovely visage. He continued to give Fabian a quelling look, dark brow arched in challenge. Fabian knew that only he and my uncle were allowed to float inside our home. We'd had to set some ground rules to protect our privacy, after all. Otherwise, we'd have ghosts trailing us from room to room, even following Bones and me into the shower or running a stream of commentary about our bedroom activities. That whole traveling through walls thing made most ghosts forget about what was appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
"I can explain," Fabian began, throwing me a beseeching look over Bones's shoulder.
"Allow me," the female ghost replied in an accent that might have been German. "First, let me introduce myself. My name is Elisabeth."
She dipped into a curtsy, first to Bones, then to me as she spoke, her voice even despite her obvious unease.
Some of the tightness left Bones's shoulders as he bowed in return while extending his leg in a manner that had gone out of style centuries before I was born.
"Bones," he replied, straightening. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance."
I hid a smile. Bones might be able to snub Madigan's extended hand without a second thought, but he'd always had a soft spot for women. I settled for giving Elisabeth a smile and a welcoming nod while I told her my name. Hey, curtsying wasn't something I'd ever done before, but I'd learn just to see Bones do that courtly bow again. He somehow managed to make even the formal gesture look sexy.
"Fabian did not think it wise to reveal my presence to the others," Elisabeth went on, yanking my attention away from my musings. "That is why he bade me to wait inside for your return."
She spoke mainly to me though her gaze flicked to Bones more than once in mild consternation. Guess word had traveled that Bones was less than thrilled with my new popularity among the living-impaired.
"Why is it a big deal if the others know you're here?" I wondered out loud. Sure, some of the ghosts might grumble about Elisabeth's being inside when they'd been given strict orders not to breach the house's walls, but it wasn't every day that Fabian enticed a hot babe to come home with him-
"I am considered an outcast by many of my kind." The words were whispered so low, I almost wasn't sure I heard her.
"An outcast?" I repeated. I hadn't even known ghosts had outcasts. Jeez, looked like no group could totally get along no matter what side of the dirt they were on. "Why?"
Elisabeth squared her shoulders as she met my gaze. "Because I am trying to kill another ghost."
Both my brows went up while a dozen questions sprang into my mind. Bones let out a low whistle before turning to give me a slight, jaded smile.
"Might as well be comfortable to hear the rest of this, so why don't we have a seat?"
Fabian nodded toward the curtained windows. "Perhaps you could arrange for more privacy first, Cat?"
Right. The other ghosts might not be able to see our new, enigmatic visitor, but if they floated too close to the house, they might accidentally overhear the rest of our conversation with Elisabeth. I sighed.
"Wait here. I'll be right back."
Once I'd politely insisted that all transparent persons vacate the premises for the next hour, I returned to the family room. Bones sat on the couch, a half-empty whiskey glass in his hand. Vampires were one of the few who could honestly claim to drink for the taste since alcohol had zero effect on us.
Fabian and Elisabeth hovered in sitting positions above the couch opposite Bones. I sat next to my husband, tucking up my legs more for warmth than comfort. Predawn in the early fall at these altitudes meant chillier temperatures. If I hadn't hoped to be in bed soon, I would've started a fire. Luckily for me, my cat, Helsing, took my seated position as a cue to jump from his window perch onto the couch next to me. His furry body was like a mini furnace as he settled himself across my legs.