Home for the Holidays Page 4

"Come along. If I have to wear this dreadful robe a moment longer, I'll stake myself."

Dawn was near by the time Bones slipped into bed. I'd come up a couple hours ago, not to sleep, but to just mull over the evening's surprising events. On one hand, I was thrilled at the prospect of Bones finding a member of his presumed dead family. On the other, my initial excitement over Wraith had become tempered by nagging questions. Maybe Ian's negativity was just rubbing off on me, but why hadn't Annette mentioned to anyone that, oh, by the way, she was bringing Bones's long lost brother with her tonight? It was one thing to surprise Bones with the news, another to drop that bomb on everyone else, too.

And why hadn't she mentioned Wraith when we arrived at the hotel? For God's sake, we could have accidentally killed him while looking for her attacker! When Ian asked Annette this question, she didn't have an answer, seeming a little baffled by her actions, too. I found it rather strange. Granted, I might have assigned a few uncharitable words to Annette over the years, but "airhead" wasn't usually one of them.

Then there was the tidbit Fabian revealed after I excused myself to go upstairs. In his hurry to tell us that an unfamiliar vampire prowled around our property, Fabian had neglected to mention what he saw him doing. According to Fabian, Wraith had been circling the lower part of the hill while periodically cutting his hand to sprinkle blood on the ground.

Even for a vampire, that was plain weird. Wraith's family ties to Bones so far seemed solid, but being family didn't automatically make someone honorable. I knew that better than most people. Still, I didn't want to immediately attack Bones with my doubts, so I rolled into his arms with only three words.

"How was it?"

Wraith was in one of our guest rooms below, but I wasn't worried about being overheard. Due to recent events, we'd modified our bedroom. It was now soundproofed as well as ghost-proofed, thanks to copious amounts of weed and garlic between the thick insulation in the walls. With that and our low voices, not even an attentive vampire could catch our conversation.

Bones ran his hands along the length of my back, causing me to scoot closer in enjoyment. He always came to bed na**d, and the feel of his hard, sleek body was enough to make me want to skip talking altogether, but this was important.

"Pleasant, for the most part." Then he paused, seeming to choose his words. "Bluebloods often sired bastards in both the upper and lower classes, so I have fewer doubts about Wraith being my relation than I do about the type of man he is. The former, he seems eager to discuss. The latter, he's reticent about."

That mirrored my own concerns, but I'd let him go first. "How so?"

"His sire was killed, nothing unusual in that." Bones paused again, and I could almost feel his cynicism battling with his desire to believe Wraith. "Yet he continues to claim no real association with vampires since then. Even if he stayed out of political alliances for safety reasons, our kind isn't known to be solitary."

"Maybe he doesn't want to admit he's pals with some of your enemies because he's worried it'll affect your opinion of him?" I had my doubts about this, but for Bones's sake I'd suggest an optimistic reason.

"Perhaps," he mused. "What do you make of him?"

"With the resemblance, name, documents, and portrait being so easy to authenticate, I think he's probably your brother, but that doesn't mean I trust him," I said honestly, and proceeded to outline my concerns.

His expression tightened as I spoke. By the time I was finished, he let out a sigh.

"Nothing to do but investigate him, then. If he can't accept my doing that, then we've no hope of a relationship. I wouldn't fault him for looking into my life before seeking me out. Two centuries is too long to throw caution to the winds for sentiment, even if we are family."

"You're two hundred and forty-five," I reminded him, changing the subject. We both agreed that Wraith needed checking out, plus we had to hunt for the vampire who attacked Annette, but we could do those things later. Right now, I wanted Bones focused on pleasant things, not more stresses. It was his birthday, after all.

I slid my thigh between his, brow arching in challenge. "So, you ready for your other present? Or now that you're almost a quarter-millennium old, maybe you want to take a nap instead?"

His laugh was sin at its most tempting. "For that, luv, I'll make you beg."

Bones rolled, yanking me on top of him. He gripped my wrists in one hand, the other urging up my short silk nightie. Unlike him, I never went to bed na**d. Not when it was so arousing to let him peel the clothes from me.

"Let go of my hands," I said, aching to run them over his body and feel the myriad of muscles beneath his pale, smooth skin. Already his power flowed over me, vibrating along my nerve endings like seeking, invisible fingers.

He chuckled as he used his free hand to part my legs. "You forgot to say the magic word."

Then he slid down the bed, letting go of my wrists. I tried to move them, but found my wrists still held in an unbreakable grip, this time with invisible bands of power instead of flesh.

"I see you've been practicing with your new telekinesis," I said breathily. "That's cheating."

He laughed again as that flex of power kept me where I was. Strong fingers kneaded the small of my back as he pulled me closer, bringing my lower half to his mouth. I sucked in a gasp when his lips caressed my stomach, tongue teasing my navel with flickering strokes before continuing downward. His fangs snagged on the top of my panties, tugging them, but far too slowly. My straddling him hindered their removal, too, but when I tried to swing my leg around, he stopped me.

"Something you want?" he murmured.

His mouth was so close that his lips brushed against the lace underwear I now cursed myself for putting on.

"I want these off," I said, arching toward him. For a split second his mouth pressed to my flesh, shooting red-hot pleasure through me as his tongue snaked out with devastating skill. But then it was gone, leaving me throbbing with need.

"Bones, please," I moaned.

A dark laugh made everything flame where his breath landed. "You call that begging? Oh, Kitten, you can do much better than that . . ."

Chapter Six

I awoke to a vampire leaning over me, nothing unusual since I'd gone to sleep wrapped in one's arms. But what made this out of the ordinary was that the vampire wasn't Bones.

Ian's hand clapped over my mouth before I could snap out an indignant demand for him to leave. I grabbed his arm, intending to break it in several places, when my sleep-fuzzy vision cleared enough to note the gravity in his expression.

"Shh," he whispered.

I nodded, torn between thinking he better have a damn good reason for this stunt and being afraid that he did. Ian removed his hand and I sat up, my gaze darting around. No one else was in the room, and he had the door closed.

"What's wrong?" I asked at once.

Ian kept his voice very low. "Crispin is acting strange."

"Crispin as in Bones, or Crispin as in Wraith?" We had two of them now, and Bones had seemed fine when I last saw him.

"The only Crispin I give a shite about," Ian snapped. "Really, we don't have time for these games."

I couldn't agree more, which was why I didn't appreciate Ian sneaking into my room and gagging me just to tell me he thought Bones was acting oddly. For God's sake, his heretofore unknown brother was in town and he'd resolved to investigate that brother for possible nefarious intentions. It would get under anyone's skin.

Still, in case Ian wasn't overreacting . . . "Strange how?"

"He's inordinately cheerful, and he seems almost oblivious to anyone but Wraith. Same with everyone else. I tell you, something is going on."

If I weren't na**d, I would've shoved Ian out the door right then. "I knew you were shallow, but really? Bones just found out he has a brother and he's not sure what type of man that brother is. The rest of us aren't, either. So yes, for a little while, Wraith might get more attention than you. Man up and stop acting like a brat who hates the new baby because now Mommy and Daddy don't play with him as much!"

"This isn't about my shallowness," Ian said curtly. Then he strode to the door. "When you realize that, meet me at the Hampton Inn in Asheville, unless you've been affected, too."

"You're staying there?" Part of me was relieved. Now I didn't have to deal with him through the holidays.

"Yes," was his short reply. "Someone has to find out what rock Wraith crawled out from under."

He left then, shutting the door behind him. I heaved a sigh and got out of bed. He's as shallow as a kiddie pool, I told myself, but my own niggling seeds of doubt had made me speed through showering and getting dressed. Ian was egotistical, perverted, and morally bankrupt, but he wasn't prone to overreacting about anything except involuntary abstinence. Could something be wrong with Bones?

Right, because acting jovial while trying to glean facts out of his brother couldn't be a cross-examination tactic - it clearly spells menacing omen, an inner voice mocked.

That was the most logical explanation. Still, I couldn't squelch my unease as I headed downstairs. When you've seen bodies come back from the dead as attack zombies, you pretty much realize that anything is possible. Bones's laughter rang out loud and hearty, and though the sound normally gladdened me, thanks to Ian, it almost sounded foreboding now.

Nothing's wrong, nothing's wrong, I chanted to myself as I followed the sounds into the kitchen. Ian had apparently left, but the others were gathered at the table. Wraith sat at the head, his blond hair gathered in a ponytail that somehow looked masculine, and wearing another shirt that would be in line with Renaissance festival attire.

"Cat," he said, smiling at me. "Do have a seat."

Inviting me to sit at my own table. How kind. I squelched that sarcastic response and pulled up a chair from the other room, our kitchen table merely seating six. Only after I settled in did it occur to me that Bones hadn't offered to get the chair.

Granted, I wasn't the type of girl who waited for someone to open doors or slide out chairs for me, but Bones normally got a kick out of gestures like that. Furthermore, Spade and Mencheres were chivalrous almost to a pathological fault, but they hadn't spoken up, either. It's nothing, I told myself, and pasted a false smile on my face.

"So what did I miss?"

Wraith settled back more comfortably in his chair. "I was telling everyone about the time I absconded with the Duke of Rutland's prized stallion as a lad."

Five hours later, Wraith still hadn't shut up, and aside from me and Denise, no one else seemed to want him to. I'd found exciting activities like starting the dishwasher or doing a load of laundry to avoid Wraith's droning on, but aside from that and Denise's occasional trips to the bathroom, no one else moved except to relocate from the kitchen to the family room. Denise caught my eye a few times and raised her brows as if to ask, what's the deal?

Damned if I knew. It was one thing for Bones to lull Wraith into revealing information by pretending to be interested in his background. Not his usual interrogation technique - that normally involved knives and lots of screaming - but with their probable family ties, I'd buy the gentler approach. I'd even buy that the others were onto this strategy and backing Bones's play by also pretending to be engrossed by Wraith's tales.

But it was one thing to feign attentiveness and another to look almost spellbound. Hell, details of life as an eighteenth-century aristocrat should be boring to Spade and Annette. They'd both been wealthy members of Britain's peerage, too, so Wraith wasn't telling them anything they didn't know from experience.

Right after night fell, Denise came over, her smile too stiff to be genuine. "You mind going for a walk, Cat?"

"Sure. Be back, everyone, we'll round up some firewood while we're out," I said, raising my voice though that shouldn't have been necessary.

No one even glanced up. Okay, the chair thing could've been overlooked, but three normally gallant men not commenting about two chicks gathering firewood in the dark? That was downright uncharacteristic, even if I could see at night.

Fabian gave me a helpless look, swishing around the ceiling in nervous circles. I jerked my head toward the door and he zoomed outside without further prompting. Again, no one seemed to notice. They all kept staring at Wraith like he'd hung the moon, and here he was talking about the most boring-sounding ball ever.

"Guess the honeymoon's over," Denise muttered once we were outside. "Next I suppose I'll be sleeping in the wet spot."

I walked past the stacked logs on the side of the house and kept heading into the woods. Fabian followed behind us, flitting through the trees instead of around them. No one from the house appeared to be paying attention to us, but just in case, I wanted to be far enough away that we wouldn't be overheard.

"I mean, I get that it's a huge deal that Bones's long-lost brother showed up," Denise went on. "I'm happy for him, and I'm not trying to steal Wraith's thunder. But Spade could give me a grunt every couple hours, you know?"

I kept walking at a brisk pace. With Denise's demonically-altered stamina, she was able to keep up with ease. When we were halfway down the hill, I finally spoke.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but . . . Ian was right. Something strange is going on."

Denise stopped, her hazel eyes widening. "Ian said that? Thank God I'm not the only one thinking it!"

Prev page Next page