One Grave at a Time

Page 9

"Of course," Elisabeth replied, smoothing her long skirt as she floated into a standing position. "I will be very discreet."

"Fabian can also fill you in on the house rules. We'll talk more once my wife and I have rested for the day."

Both ghosts took the hint, vanishing with more murmured thanks. I waited until I felt the energy in the room dissipate before turning to Bones.

"You sly matchmaker, you."

His grin held more than a hint of wickedness. "If I didn't give the bloke an edge, he'd likely spend the next century working up the courage to pay her a compliment."

"Shameless," I teased him, being sure to keep my voice low since I didn't know how far Fabian and Elisabeth had spoofed off to.

Bones's laugh flowed over me, dark and promising. "Indeed, as I intend to prove once we're in bed."

Tired I might have been, with too many things on my mind and on my plate, but only an idiot passed up that kind of invitation.

"Race you there," I whispered, and dashed up the stairs.

Chapter Five

I snapped the cover over my iPad, not crumpling up the device in a fit of anger only because it was too damn expensive.

"What a sick, crazed ass**le!" I spat.

Bones glanced over at me before returning his attention to the road. "Told you not to start reading that book."

Yeah, well, it was a long drive to Washington, D.C., the book was available to buy online, and studying my target was my first step when I began a hunt. I knew the Malleus Maleficarum would be filled with superstitious bull crap, but I had underestimated the depths of its viciousness. I didn't know what disgusted me more: the precepts set forth by Kramer, or the knowledge that hundreds of years and countless deaths occurred before the average person stopped believing that he was correct.

"The accused had no chance," I continued to fume. "Evidence was something none of them cared about. All someone needed to do was get a 'feeling' that a person was a witch, and boom, an Inquisitor could take her. Confessions were extracted by torture-described in sickening detail, I might add-and even if the poor woman confessed before being tortured, she'd be tortured anyway just for 'confirmation.' And if any of the accused managed not to confess no matter what horrific things were done to them, they were burned to death anyway because then they were considered to be unrepentant. Jesus!"

A grunt. "Don't think He had anything to do with it, luv."

"Bet your ass," I muttered. Religion might have been the excuse, but power and depravity were the real culprits. "Do you know Kramer considered women responsible for everything from impotence to failed crops-and that's not getting started on his obsession with their inherently evil, insatiable slutty natures, of course."

Bones's mouth curled. "Want to kill him a great deal now, do you?"

"Oh, so much." My hands itched with the urge to do violence to Kramer, but since he'd only be solid when he was burning new victims alive on Halloween, that would be too late. I'd have to settle for finding a way to dispatch him while he was still in vaporous form, and that-sadly-wouldn't involve dismemberment, I'd bet.

The look Bones threw my way said he could guess my thoughts. Or maybe he noticed me clenching my hands into fists.

"Chin up, Kitten. Perhaps the chap we're meeting will find a particularly brutal way to banish the sod for good."

"You seem pretty relaxed about this whole situation," I said with mild exasperation, noting the nonchalance in his tone and vibe.

Bones all but rolled his eyes. "Why wouldn't I be? For the first time in years, our relationship is solid, no one's actively trying to murder us, and our closest mates are happy. Blimey, Kitten, if I were any more relaxed, I'd need a smoke."

I was about to point out that things were hardly rosy considering my uncle's stuck-in-between state, the potentially troublesome Madigan, and a murderous ghost on the loose, but then I paused. Wouldn't there always be something stressful going on in our lives? If I didn't learn how to savor the positives-and everything Bones pointed out was a big positive-then I would march through life with a permanent case of Glass Half-Empty syndrome.

"You're right," I said, reaching out to squeeze his thigh. "Things have never been better."

Bones caught my hand and raised it to his mouth, lips brushing over my knuckles in a whisper of a kiss.

We'd always have challenges, but like everyone else, we would tackle them one at a time. Right now, Kramer was first on the list, and for all the problems the spectral schmuck represented, there were also positives. He might be able to terrorize and harm humans, but once I had Kramer in my sights, he'd be picking on someone his own size. I didn't scare easily, and a ghost could never beat a vampire in a fight. He couldn't even throw a punch until Halloween, and we'd lay the smackdown on him well before that. My mood improved even further.

"I bet this medium is going to give us great news," I added, voice throatier from Bones's tongue flicking between my fingers with the barest of touches.

Elisabeth had said mediums couldn't get the job done before, but she'd only been able to get a few to try, and the last attempt had been over fifty years ago. Bones's best friend, Spade, knew some noted demonologists who'd recommended the medium we were on our way to see, and if we were lucky, he'd prove more efficient than the others. If he didn't pan out, we still had a few other tricks up our sleeves. Good thing, too, because October wasn't far away.

At least we had an ace in the hole. As a ghost, Elisabeth was limited to traveling long distances by either physically hitching a ride on a car or using a ley line, which was a supernatural version of a speed train. Ley lines usually led to various supernatural hot spots, so then she'd have to pit stop at each one during her attempts to locate Kramer, but put me within a hundred mile radius of him, and I could use the borrowed power in my blood to lure Kramer to me. Then, once he was there, I could command him not to leave until we were done exorcising him. I'd detested that one of the side effects of drinking the voodoo queen's blood-in addition to becoming catnip for spirits-was the ability to strip ghosts of their free will, but that ability would come in handy in this situation. I didn't feel comfortable using that power on the ghosts who found their way to me, but on a prick like Kramer, I'd wield it with a smile. And a distinctly witchy cackle.

As for the accomplice, well, a human would be so easy to dispatch, it took the fun out of contemplating it.

"We're here," Bones said, letting go of my hand to pull into a strip mall parking lot.

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