“Holy shit, Nine!“ said Peter, holding his hand over his pounding heart. “Were you trying to scare the life out of me?”
The woman shook her head, her dark hair waving over her face.
Catching his breath, Peter folded his arms and studied the nude woman sitting on the mortuary table. It didn’t seem like Nine to go to so much trouble for a practical joke. He had no doubt funerary workers produced off-beat pranks, but not this level of commitment. And unprofessional going against everything he knew about Nine. Hiding in a casket, sure, but stripping all her clothes off and chilling herself to play dead? Madness.
“Aren’t you freezing?” said Peter. He shivered, partly due to the cold room. The distant look on her face frightened him.
She held up her arms. “Peter Gray, come warm me.”
Peter walked over and hugged her. Wrapping her arms and legs around him, burying her face in his chest, she held him tight. His chin touched her cool hair. He rubbed her backside working warmth into her flesh.
“Nine, what’s this all about?”
“Father shot a man and brought him in,” she said. Her voice sounded flat and uncaring. “The man wasn’t dead, so Nine cut his head right off with an amputation saw. Big bloody mess that was.”
“Jesus Christ,” said Peter. He held her tight, but he doubted it would be enough to fight the demons off. Anything that bad took time and care.
“Ever fucked in a mortuary?”
Pressed against him she became difficult to resist, but she wasn’t herself.
“Peter, I know you want it.”
“Not like this, Nine.”
Peter grabbed her legs and pulled himself free of her grip. He stepped back, and she hopped off the table. Her gaze locked on him; hunter stalking prey. She slinked closer in a way he hadn’t ever witnessed before so unlike Nine.
Or Nine on drugs. Worry washed over him as he considered the possibilities.
“Nine, let’s get you dressed and somewhere warm.”
Turning around, he grabbed clothing from the pile on the table. Dirt streaks marked the jeans on the knees and rear. A cloud of dust puffed from the long-sleeve top. It looked as though Nine had been crawling in the dirt recently.
Playfully poking him in the ribs, Nine didn’t seem the least bit interested in her clothes.
Kneeling, Peter held her panties out to her feet. He talked her into lifting one foot after the other. As he pulled the waistband up, he spotted a tattoo on her lower back just above her tailbone. Fangs taking a bite out of her ass. He had assumed she had more tattoos, but inked fangs surprised him. Dressing her felt erotic, and she played along letting him do all the work. As soon as she was dressed, he took her by the arm and pulled her towards the door.
Something caught his eye.
On a tray beside a mortuary table, he found a syringe containing a small amount of a clear liquid. He knew the contents immediately as if someone had whispered the name in his ear. Vampire ice. Along with a car and weapons, he had also inherited bags of Kandy’s blood and a bag of clear serum, a substance Tigris believed to be the basis for the vampire ice. Tigris had tried explaining the properties, but he couldn’t recall the details. Now with the possibility Nine had been dosed, he wished he had paid better attention to his bartender.
Upstairs, the funeral home had a small library and he felt grateful to take her in there instead of the house. Finding a kitchenette, he put the kettle on. Searching the cupboard, he selected a box of bagged tea. Back in the library, he found her sitting on a leather chair, legs curled beneath her. The warmth seemed to have lifted her out of her state as her face became more recognizable.
“Peter, I’m sorry,” she said. She sipped her tea and lowered the cup onto her leg. “After murder I must seem quite mad.”
He knelt by her chair and felt her arm. Warmer, but still cold.
“So your dad took the wrap for whole thing?”
She nodded. “Of course he did.”
Peter agreed to keep her company for an hour. She became more herself, but not quite right. He couldn’t put his finger on it. She spoke differently, but close enough he thought considering her recent traumatic event.