As I mentioned last week, for amusement – and perhaps some nostalgia – I re-wrote most of the first chapter of Halfway to the Grave from Bones’s point of view (if you haven’t read it yet, it’s HERE.) Then I posted it, thinking, “The handful of readers who still remember this book might enjoy this.”
Over five hundred of you left comments across my social media pages saying the equivalent of “MORE!” For comparison, I normally get only a few comments per blog post. I can’t tell you how touched I was reading them. After seven novels, two novellas and a book-size outtakes collection, I was pretty sure that readers had had enough of Cat and Bones. Looks like more than a few of you would disagree :). Group hug, Night Huntress fans! And, as you requested, here’s more.
Now, it’s not a lot more because (1) I write slow and (2) I still have to work on the book that I’m contracted to write or my editor will literally kill me. But here’s the rest of the first chapter from Bones’s point of view. Same disclaimer as before: It’s unedited so there are probably spelling and/or grammar errors. It also might not read the way YOU think Bones would see things because I don’t think I could ever match what’s in people’s minds when they think of Bones. But again, I hope you enjoy it :).
Chapter One, part two
On paper, Catherine Kathleen Crawfield was a small-town girl whose most notable accomplishment was a recent scholarship to Ohio State University. She lived with her mother and grandparents on the latter’s cherry orchard, which, according to recent tax returns, barely covered the bills for the household.
Catherine had no social media presence; a bit unusual for a twenty-two-year-old. The only online images of her were from yearbook pictures and an old family photo on the Crawfield Cherry Orchard website, which of course neglected to mention that at least one vampire was buried in the back of it.
Bones discovered that when he followed Catherine last night. She’d switched vehicles back at the club, transferring Devon’s body from the trunk of his Volkswagen to the back of a Ford pickup that looked to be twice her age. Then she’d driven home, parked on the far edge of the orchard, and planted Devon in the ground as if he were nothing more than a new tree.
She’d gone to sleep after that. Soundly, from the snores he heard from his perch in a nearby tree. He hadn’t slept at all. He’d spent the rest of the early morning hours looking up everything he could find on Catherine.
By appearances, she was a normal college girl who should have no reason to want him dead. But she’d zeroed in on him last night, and it couldn’t be coincidence that she’d tried to pick up the only other vampire at that the club. No, someone must have sent Catherine after him. Which of his many enemies had done it? And how did Devon fit in? Simple misidentification? Catherine might have confused Devon for him, if she’d only been told to look for a blond male vampire.
Then again, the shadowy head of the cabal Bones was investigating could have found out that Bones was after Devon. Perhaps he’d decided to get rid of them both as a precaution. If so, a human woman was a poor choice of assassins, although Devon might disagree.
Catherine went to the same club the next night. As soon as she entered, she did what Bones was starting to realize was her usual sweep of the premises. When she didn’t find what she was looking for, she sat down at the bar. Bones was behind her before she could order a drink.
“I’m ready to fuck now.”
A line offensive enough to send all except a person with ulterior motives running. Last chance to show you’re a lamb instead of a wolf, Catherine.
“What?” she gasped, spinning around. The outrage in her expression died as she recognized him. Oddly, she flushed as if embarrassed by remembering what she’d said. Then her chin lifted and determination filled her gaze.
“Ah, yes, well…umm, drink first? Beer or…?”
“Don’t bother,” he said, waving away the bartender she’d started to hail. “Let’s go.”
“Now?” She looked startled.
“Yeah, now.” When she hesitated, he said, “Changed your mind, luv?” and turned as if to leave.
She grabbed her purse and practically lunged toward him. Not a lamb at all, then. “Lead the way.”
Bones grinned. As if he’d turn his back on her even once tonight. “No, no.” His arm swept out. “Ladies first.”
She glanced over her shoulder at him so much, he was surprised she didn’t trip on her way to the parking lot. When they were outside, she opened her mouth as if to speak, but he beat her to it.
“Well? Get your ride and let’s be off.”
“My ride?” she all but stammered. “I-I don’t have a ride. Where’s your car?”
“I drove a bike here,” he lied. “Fancy a ride on it?”
“A motorcycle?” she said with such obvious consternation, he stifled a laugh. Was she imaging how difficult it would be to transport his body on one of those? “Um, we’ll take my vehicle instead,” she offered. “It’s over there.”
She began to walk toward the old Ford, staggering after a few steps as if remembering that she was supposed to act drunk. Bones let her act out the pretense for a moment before calling out, “Thought you didn’t have a ride?”
She stopped, turning around guiltily. Sweet bleedin’ hell, she was terrible at improvisation once off her game. Perhaps he’d pegged her wrong. She might be more of a lucky one-off murderess than a human hitwoman someone had sent after him.
“I forgot it was here, is all,” she said in a too-bright tone. Then she started to slur her words. “Think I drank too much. You want to drive?”
“No thanks,” he said at once.
Anger flashed across her features before she covered it with a sloppy smile. “Really, I think you should drive. I’m feeling woozy. I’d hate to wrap us around a tree.”
And be distracted while she launched a new attempt to murder him? Not a chance. “If you just want to beg off until another night…” he said, turning away again.
“No!” she replied with such obvious desperation, he almost laughed. She must have realized she’d revealed too much because at once she tried to backtrack. “I mean, you’re so good-looking and”-her brow furrowed as she thought up more flattery-“I really, really want to get it on,” she finished.
This time, he couldn’t stifle all of his laughter. She blanched and he almost pitied her, except he’d seen how coldly she’d dispatched Devon. That could have been him. Nothing about her hinted at “assassin” so he’d never have suspected the danger. Little chit might have plugged silver into his heart while he was being a Good Samaritan and driving her home.
His tongue traced the inside of his lip as he stared at her until she flinched. But then he said, “Right, then, let’s be off.” Relief filled her face until he added, “You’re driving.”
With that, Bones climbed into the passenger seat of her pickup truck. Your move, luv.
She shifted on her feet for a few moments. Then, decision made, she got into the truck.
Bones didn’t take his eyes off her as she drove. She must have felt his gaze, but she didn’t look at him. Instead, her breathing hitched, her heart rate sped up, and her scent wavered between fear and resolve. Didn’t she know vampires could scent emotions? She should have worn perfume. The harsh chemical odor could’ve helped mask her true feelings.
Ten minutes into the silent standoff, she said “What’s your name?” in a sharp, tense tone.
Trying to verify your target? “Does it matter?”
She finally looked his way. Uncertainty filled her features before an almost desperate form of determination tightened her jaw.
“I just wanted to know. Mine’s Cat,” she said as she left the freeway for a gravel road.
“Cat, hmm?” he mocked. “From where I sit, you look more like a Kitten.”
She shot him an irritated glance. “It’s Cat. Cat Raven.”
“Whatever you say, Kitten Tweety,” Bones drawled.
That upset her so much, she slammed on the brakes. “You got a problem, mister?”
I don’t, but you do. Temper, temper. Bones raised his brows as if confused. “No problem, pet. Have we stopped here for good? Is this where you want to shag?”
She flushed again, then looked away. His would-be murderess was a prude. How priceless.
“Um, no,” she said. “A little further up. It’s prettier there.”
And well off the main road so no one could stumble across them. Prude or no, she was still doing her level best to kill him. Pity he’d have to disappoint her.
“I just bet it is, luv,” Bones said with a chuckle.
After a few minutes, she stopped at the edge of a lake. Bones didn’t move. He only watched with more amusement as she fidgeted and kept glancing at the pocket on her right thigh. Even though her trousers were oversized, Bones could still see the outline of her weapon inside it. She couldn’t pull it out without being obvious, and without the element of surprise, he could snatch it from her before she could raise it to stab him.
She had to know that. How would she attempt to distract him? She couldn’t play the helpless, frightened victim if she wasn’t being attacked. Frustration nearly boiled off her as the minutes ticked by. Bones hid his smile. She had no idea what to do now, did she?
“Don’t you want to go outside and…shag?” she said at last.
Bones didn’t attempt to conceal his grin. “Oh no. Right here. Love to do it in a truck.”
He could hear her teeth grind as she said “Well…” while doubtless searching for an excuse to leave his sight long enough to pull her weapon. “There’s not much room in here,” she settled on, and began to open her door.
“Plenty of room, Kitten,” Bones replied. “I’ll stay here.”
“Don’t call me Kitten,” she said, anger sharpening both her tone and her scent.
Lucifer’s bouncing balls, she had to be the worst faux-seductress he’d ever encountered! Devon should be spinning in his grave over letting her slay him. With only a little more prodding, her pretense would fall away entirely.
“Take off your clothes,” Bones said while raking her with a gaze. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Now the red in her cheeks was from rage. “Excuse me?”
“You weren’t going to shag me with your clothes on, were you, Kitten?” he taunted her. “Guess all you’ll need is your knickers off, then. Come on. Don’t take all bloody night.”
She shot him a look of pure hatred before her expression turned crafty. “You first.”
She thought modesty would be his downfall? Bones grinned. “Shy bird, are you? Didn’t peg you for the type, what with walking up to me and practically begging for it and all. How about this? We’ll do it at the same time.”
Her expression mottled with more fury, but either she gave up on her attempt to kill him, or she continued on with the seductress charade. She chose the charade and began to unbutton her trousers. When Bones undid his and pulled up his shirt, her fingers actually shook.
Once again, he almost pitied her. Then he saw her hand slip to the weapon in her pocket. As soon as she touched it, her trembling eased. She wanted him dead so much, the prospect of it calmed her.
She’d made her move. My turn, Kitten.
“Look here, luv, see what I have for you,” Bones said, pulling his cock out.
Her cheeks flamed and she looked away. It was all the distraction he needed.
His fist shot out and connected with her head. She slumped into his arms, her right hand still curled around the weapon she’d tried so hard to murder him with.
Bones pulled it out. A wooden stake? That wouldn’t kill any vampire…wait. It was heavier than it should be.
Bones broke off a piece of the wood…and smiled. “Well,” he said to his unconscious companion. “Aren’t you full of surprises, Kitten?”