Bound By Flames Page 75

He closed his eyes and cut off our emotional connection, which concerned me. Was it so bad that he didn\ want me to know what he was feeling?

’’Over a hundred years ago,’’ he said quietly, ’’I swore that I would never repeat this to another soul, yet now I am going to break that oath because you deserve to know.’’

’’What is it?’’ I asked, a fearful alarm snaking through my veins like fast-acting poison.

Vlad opened his eyes, torment reflecting in his coppery green depths. ’’I am responsible for the Dracula hype.’’

I stared at him, certain that I must have briefly gone insane and misheard him. ’’What?’’

His jaw clenched with such force that I could almost hear his teeth grinding together.

’’In the late eighteen hundreds, I was in a . . . dark mental state, which probably doesn\ surprise you, and I did something incredibly stupid. I procured a substance known as Red Dragon, which is blood tainted with the equivalent of a vampire narcotic. Either I overestimated my tolerance to its effects or the dose was stronger than advertised, because it rendered me in a state of inebriation the likes of which I hadn\ experienced in over four hundred years.’’

My gaze continued to widen, until it probably looked as though my eyes were about to pop out of my head. ’’And?’’ I managed.

He shot me an irritated glance. ’’I did what all drunken fools do: something I regretted. At a bar, I met a writer who was looking for a nasty historical figure to base his new novel on. In my intoxicated state, I thought it was the height of hilarity to relay the most horrid lies about my past to this stranger. I never touched Red Dragon again, which should have been the end of it. Then, years later, the damn writer\s book came out. I was mortified when I read it, but I thought it would fade into obscurity as most literary works did. Instead, it kept growing in popularity and growing until over a century later, it\s infected every form of media ever invented ’’

I burst out laughing, which part of me felt bad about since this was a huge reveal for him, yet I couldn\ hold it back any more than I could stop the glower Vlad leveled at me.

’’Th-that\s why you can\ s-stand to hear th-that word!’’ I crowed, laughing so hard that I could barely speak. ’’It reminds you of when you did a s-stupid, totally humanlike move. Oh, Vlad, I love you even more knowing this!’’

’’I\m warmed to my soul,’’ he said in an icy voice.

I ignored that and threw my arms around him, still laughing. ’’I\m warmed to my soul, truly. Now I\ll never doubt that you love me. You proved it beyond words or deeds by telling me this.’’

’’And I\m already regretting it.’’

Muttered with no less rancor, yet the arms that settled around me were possessive, and the feelings that he once more allowed to flow into mine were anything but angry or cold.

’’Don\ worry, I won\ tell,’’ I said, finally getting my laughter under control. ’’Your darkest secret is safe with me.’’

The strangest look crossed his features. If he were any other man, I\d say it was sheepishness over his former misdeed.

’’It had better be. We have a necromancer spell to get off you, and I would hate to search for the solution while you were locked away in the new dungeon I\m going to build.’’

I snorted at the empty threat. ’’Don\ we need to build a new house first?’’

That brief hint of sheepishness vanished as he smiled. His smile was so like him: sensual yet predatory, hard and yet filled with humor. ’’The best-laid houses and plans start from the ground up.’’


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