Ignoring a ghost is a lot more difficult than you'd think. For starters, walls don't hinder their kind, so although I shut the door in the face of the specter loitering outside my house, he followed me inside as if invited. My jaw clenched in irritation, but I began unloading my groceries as though I hadn't noticed. Too soon, I was done. Being a vampire married to another vampire meant that my shopping list was pretty short.
"This is ridiculous. You can't keep shunning me forever, Cat," the ghost muttered.
Yeah, ghosts can talk, too. That made them even harder to ignore. Of course, it didn't help that this ghost was also my uncle. Alive, dead, undead . . . family had a way of getting under your skin whether you wanted them to or not.
Case in point: Despite my vow not to talk to him, I couldn't keep from replying.
"Actually, since neither of us is getting any older, I can do this forever," I noted coolly. "Or until you ante up on everything you know about the a-hole running our old team."
"That's what I came here to talk to you about," he said.
Surprise and suspicion made my eyes narrow. For almost three months, my uncle Don had refused to divulge anything about my new nemesis, Jason Madigan. Don had a history with Madigan, a former CIA operative who'd taken over the secret government unit I used to work for, but he'd kept mum on the details even when his silence meant that Madigan had nearly gotten me, my husband, and other innocent people killed. Now he was ready to spill? Something else had to be going on. Don was so pathologically secretive that I hadn't found out we were related until four years after I started working for him.
"What happened?" I asked without preamble.
He tugged on a gray eyebrow, a habit he couldn't break even after losing his physical body. He also wore his usual suit and tie despite dying in a hospital gown. I'd think it was my memories dictating how Don appeared to me except for the hundreds of other ghosts I'd met. There might not be shopping malls in the afterlife, but residual self-image was strong enough to make others see ghosts the way they saw themselves. Don had been the picture of a perfectly groomed, sixty-something bureaucrat in life, so that's what he looked like in death.
He also hadn't lost any of the tenacity behind those gunmetal-colored eyes, the only physical trait we had in common. My crimson hair and pale skin came from my father.
"I'm worried about Tate, Juan, Dave, and Cooper," Don stated. "They haven't been home in weeks, and as you know, I can't get into the compound to check if they're there."
I didn't point out that it was Don's fault Madigan knew how to ghost-proof a building. Heavy combinations of weed, garlic, and burning sage would keep all but the strongest spooks away. After a ghost had almost killed Madigan last year, he'd outfitted our old base with a liberal supply of all three.
"How long exactly since you've seen them?"
"Three weeks and four days," he replied. Faults he may have, but Don was meticulous. "If only one of them was away that long, I'd assume he was on an undercover job, but all of them?"
Yes, that was strange even for members of a covert Homeland Security branch that dealt with misbehaving members of undead society. When I was a member of the team, the longest undercover job I'd been on was eleven days. Rogue vampires and ghouls tended to frequent the same spots if they were dumb enough to act out so much that they caught the U.S. government's attention.
Still, I wasn't about to assume the worst yet. Phone calls were beyond Don's capabilities as a ghost, but I had no such hindrances.
I pulled a cell phone out of my kitchen drawer, dialing Tate's number. When I got his machine, I hung up. If something had happened and Madigan was responsible, he'd be checking Tate's messages. No need to clue him in that I was sniffing around.
"No answer," I told Don. Then I set that phone aside and took another cell out of the drawer, dialing Juan next. After a few rings, a melodic Spanish voice instructed me to leave a message. I didn't, hanging up and reaching for another phone from the drawer.
"How many of those do you have?" Don muttered, floating over my shoulder.
"Enough to give Madigan a migraine," I said with satisfaction. "If he's tracing calls to their phones, he won't find my location in any of these, much as he'd love to know where I am."
Don didn't accuse me of being paranoid. As soon as he'd taken over my uncle's old job, Madigan had made it clear that he had it in for me. I didn't know why. I'd been retired from the team by then, and as far as Madigan knew, there was no longer anything special about me. He didn't know that turning from a half vampire into a full one had come with unexpected side effects.
Dave's phone went straight to voice mail as well. So did Cooper's. I considered trying them at their offices, but those were inside the compound. Madigan might have enough taps on those lines to locate me no matter how I'd arranged for the cell phone signals to be rerouted.
"Okay, now I'm worried, too," I said at last. "When Bones gets home, we'll figure out a way to get a closer look at the compound."
Don regarded me soberly. "If Madigan has done something to them, he'll expect you to show up."
Once again, my jaw clenched. Damn right I'd show up. Tate, Dave, Juan, and Cooper weren't just soldiers I'd fought alongside for years when I was part of the team. They were also my friends. If Madigan was responsible for something bad happening to them, he'd soon be sorry.
"Yeah, well, Bones and I had a couple months of relative quiet. Guess it's time to liven things up again."
My cat Helsing jumped down from my lap the same time that the air became charged with tiny invisible currents. Emotions rolled over my subconscious. Not my own, but almost as familiar to me. Moments later, I heard the crunch of tires on snow. By the time the car door shut, Helsing was at the door, his long black tail twitching with anticipation.
I stayed where I was. One cat waiting at the door was enough, thanks. With a whoosh of frigid air, my husband came inside. Snow coated Bones, making him look like he'd been dusted with powdered sugar. He stamped his feet to dislodge the flakes from his boots, causing Helsing to jump away with a hiss.
"Clearly he thinks you should pet him first and deal with the snow later," I said.
Eyes so dark they were nearly black met mine. Once they did, my amusement turned into primal female appreciation. Bones's cheeks were flushed, and the color accented his flawless skin, chiseled features, and sensually full mouth. Then he took his coat off, revealing an indigo shirt that clung to his muscles as if reveling in them. Black jeans were snug in all the right places, highlighting a taut stomach, strong thighs, and an ass that could double as a work of art. By the time I drew my gaze back up to his face, his slight smile had turned into a knowing grin. More emotions enveloped my subconscious while his scent - a rich mixture of spices, musk, and burnt sugar - filled the room.