One Grave at a Time Page 2

I winced, but he was right. I'd thought being born as the offspring of a vampire and a human was the height of improbability, but that only showed my lack of faith in Fate's twisted sense of humor. My turning into a full vampire put me firmly in first place as the World's Weirdest Person. I didn't feed off human blood like every other vampire. No, I needed undead blood to survive instead, and I absorbed more than nourishment from it. I also-temporarily-absorbed whatever special abilities the owner of that blood contained. Drinking from a ghoul who just happened to have incredible ties to the grave had made me irresistible to any ghost who happened to be in the same area code as me. Privately, I worried that my new, borrowed abilities might be one of the reasons Don couldn't cross over yet. I'm sure the thought had occurred to him, too, hence his grumpier-than-usual attitude with me.

"Ask them to keep it down, Kitten," Bones muttered when he came in the room. "Can't hear myself bloomin' think."

I raised my voice to be sure that it carried not just around the house, but the porch and backyard, too.

"Please, guys, a little softer with the chatter?"

Dozens of conversations instantly become muted even though I'd made it a request instead of an order. I was still uncomfortable with how my new, unwanted ability meant that ghosts had to obey whatever I commanded. I didn't want that kind of power over anyone, so I was very careful in how I phrased my communications with the spectral dead. Especially my uncle. How things have changed, I mused. For years when I worked as one of Don's team of elite soldiers, I'd chafed at having to follow his orders. Now he'd have to follow mine, if I chose, something I'd longed for back then-and couldn't wait to get rid of now.

Bones sank into the chair nearest me. His lean, muscled frame exuded a heady mixture of sexiness and coiled energy even though he sat in a casual sprawl, one bare foot propped against my thigh. His dark hair was damp from his recent shower, making his short curls cling even tighter to his head. A stray bead of water lazily trailed down his neck toward the hard grooves in his chest, making me moisten my lips at my sudden urge to trace its path with my tongue.

If we were alone, I wouldn't have needed to suppress that urge. Bones would be all too willing to indulge in some afternoon delight. His sex drive was as legendary as his dangerousness, but with two ghosts watching us, my tongue explorations would have to wait until later.

"If more noisy ghosties keep showing up, I'm going to plant garlic and weed 'round the entire house," Bones stated in a conversational tone.

My uncle glowered at him, knowing that both those items in large quantities would repel most ghosts. "Not until I'm where I should be."

I coughed, something I didn't need to do since breathing became optional for me.

"By the time it would grow in, this power should be out of my system. The longest I wielded borrowed abilities was two months. It's been almost that long since . . . well."

It still wasn't common knowledge that Marie Laveau, voodoo queen of New Orleans, was the reason I was now the equivalent of a ghostly den mother. It had been her blood I was forced to drink. Yeah, I understood later why she'd made me do it, but at the time, I'd been more than a little pissed.

"I knew a ghost who once took three weeks to cross over," Fabian spoke up from the doorframe. At my grateful smile, he came all the way in. "I'm sure Cat will think of something that will help you make the journey," he added with supreme confidence.

Bless Fabian. True friends came in all forms, even transparent ones.

Don wasn't convinced. "I've been dead for over five weeks," he replied shortly. "Did you know anyone who took that long to cross over?"

My cell rang, giving Fabian an excuse not to reply as I answered it. Good timing with the interruption, too, because from his expression, Don wouldn't have liked Fabian's answer.

"Cat."

I didn't need to glance at the numbers to recognize Tate, my former first officer, just from that one syllable. He was probably calling to talk to Don, but as a ghost's voice didn't travel well through technology, I'd have to act as relay.

"Hey, what's up?" I said, waving Don over while mouthing, It's Tate.

"Can you come to the compound tonight?" Tate's voice sounded odd. Too formal. "The team's operations consultant would like to meet you."

Operations consultant? "Since when do we have one of those?" I asked, forgetting that I hadn't been part of the team's "we" in a while.

"Since now," Tate replied flatly.

I glanced at Bones but didn't wait for his acquiescing shrug before answering. We didn't have important plans, and my curiosity was piqued. "All right. I'll see you in a couple hours."

"Don't come alone."

Tate whispered the last part right before hanging up. My brows rose, more that he'd made the sentence inaudible to anyone without supernatural hearing than the words themselves.

Something else was clearly up. I knew he wasn't asking me to bring Bones since Tate knew he always accompanied me on trips to my old workplace. Tate must mean someone else, and there was only person I could think of.

I turned to Don. "Feel like going on a field trip?"

From the air, the compound looked like a nondescript single-story building surrounded by a lot of wasted parking lot space. In reality, it was an old military nuclear fallout shelter that had four extensive sublevels underneath its deliberately plain exterior. Security was rigid here, as you'd expect for a secret government facility that policed the activities of the undead. Still, I was surprised when we had to hover for ten minutes before our chopper was given clearance to land. It was not like we were dropping in unexpectedly, for crying out loud.

Bones and I exited the chopper but were stopped by three helmeted guards when we attempted to go inside the roof's double doors.

"ID," the guard closest to us barked.

I laughed. "Good one, Cooper."

The guards' visors were so dark that I couldn't see any of their features underneath, but they all had heartbeats, and Cooper was the only one of my old human friends who was smart-ass enough to attempt such a stunt.

"Identification," the guard repeated, drawing the word out enough to determine that his voice was unfamiliar to me. Okay, not Cooper, and not a joke, either. The flanking guards tightened their grips ever so slightly on their automatic weapons.

"I don't like this," Don muttered, coming to float on my right. None of the guards even flinched in his direction, but of course, as humans, they couldn't see him.

I didn't like it, either, but it was obvious these guards were bent on seeing our ID before letting us enter. I began to dig through my pocket, having learned the hard way to always carry a wallet even if I didn't think I'd need it, but Bones just smiled at the trio.

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