Twice Tempted Page 13

’’Looks like the furniture melted around her,’’ one of them muttered, disbelief clear in his tone. ’’How is she still alive?’’

I knew the answer, but it was the least of my concerns. Marty and Dawn would've gone back to the RV to change after their final show. That was only a few trailers away. What if the explosion had reached them, too?

’’My friend is a dwarf,’’ I said despite how much it hurt to talk. ’’His trailer isn't far. Has anyone seen him?’’

No response, but they exchanged pitying glances. Then I remembered the words I'd woken up to. We've got a live one! Fear mixed with pain shot through me. Marty was a vampire, yet he wasn't fireproof. Only I was. What if Edgar hadn't been the only person killed tonight?

I angled my head until I moved the oxygen mask partially aside. Then, forgetting the pain, I began to scream as loud as I could, hoping desperately that he was alive to hear me.

’’Marty! Marty, where are you?’’

Heavy hands forced the mask back in place. Someone said to give me a sedative. I kept screaming, anguish rising as only more medical workers appeared. Marty should've come by now. Even with all the other noises, he should've heard me. I screamed louder in desperation. Please, Marty, please be okay!

Suddenly a path cleared as the people clustered around me were shoved aside with inhuman force. Relief turned to confusion when I got a look at the vampire who knelt down next to me.

’’Leila, you're alive,’’ Maximus breathed.

He started to say something else, but my hearing faded and a cottony taste filled my mouth. The last thing I saw were his eyes changing to blazing green as he rose and turned around.

This time when I woke up, I wasn't in pain. That awful stench was still there, though, as if someone had overcooked a roast and rubbed it all over me. I coughed, relieved my lungs didn't feel like closed fists anymore. Then I opened my eyes.

Walls the color of old mustard met my gaze. Not pretty, but better than a charred skull. I rolled over, seeing the rest of the tiny room in that single glance. It made the blond vampire on the opposite bed look even larger and more imposing.

I had so many questions, like why I was naked under the covers, but my primary concern hadn't changed.

’’Marty. Is he . . . ?’’ I couldn't finish the sentence.

’’He's gone, Leila.’’

Maximus's tone was gentle, but the words hit me with more force than the downed power line I'd touched when I was thirteen. I sucked in a breath that ended on a sob. At the same time, something dark rose in me, causing my right hand to spark. I wanted to do so much more than cry. I wanted to lash Maximus with all the voltage I had in me for saying such an awful thing that couldn't - couldn't! - be true, yet all I could do was fight for control while absorbing the news that my best friend was dead.

Maximus didn't attempt to comfort me. Either he could sense the danger in my sparking hand or he didn't care how I felt. Then my sobs subsided as suspicion broke through my grief.

’’What happened? And what are you doing here? You were supposed to be back in Romania by now!’’

His mouth twisted. ’’I didn't set the explosion, if that's what you're thinking. If I had, I would have killed you when I saw you survived. Your being alive proves I'm not behind it.’’

Currents still throbbed in my hand. ’’Who is behind it?’’

’’I don't know.’’

Maximus got up and began to pace, difficult since three of his strides covered the length of the room. His clothes were ripped and soot smeared, making me wonder again why he'd been Johnny-on-the-spot when the explosion went off.

’’The fireman said a gas line ruptured,’’ he continued. ’’They're calling it an accident. Since it ruptured right next to Marty's trailer, I doubt that.’’

’’But why would anyone want to kill Marty?’’ I burst out.

He swung a hard glance my way. ’’I don't think anyone did.’’

The explosion was meant for me? If so, it almost worked. Despite my fireproofing, I'd nearly been crushed to death. Maximus must have given me some of his blood to heal me.

’’If someone wanted to kill me, why didn't they just shoot me in the head?’’ I asked, grief making my voice dull.

’’They must have wanted it to look like an accident.’’

I swiped my eyes. Tears wouldn't help me find who'd killed my best friend. ’’What does Vlad think?’’

Maximus stopped pacing and turned around, an inscrutable look on his face. ’’I didn't tell him about the explosion, let alone that you survived it.’’

’’Why not? We're broken up, but I doubt he'd be happy to hear that someone tried to kill me.’’

Maximus said nothing. Underneath those closed-off, rugged features, I caught a glimpse of pity. And understood.

’’No,’’ I whispered. ’’He wouldn't.’’

Maximus let out a grim snort. ’’Oh? You came as close to humiliating him as anyone has since Szilagyi faked his death centuries ago. And you saw how Vlad reacted to that.’’

’’I humiliated him?’’ If I hadn't been so torn up over Marty's death, I would've laughed. ’’I told Vlad I loved him only to have him make it clear where I'd always rank in his life, which was just a few notches above 'undead bed buddy.'’’

’’True,’’ Maximus replied without hesitation, ’’but that's more than he offered any of his other lovers, yet you turned him down. Then you had the temerity to leave him.’’

’’Temerity?’’ I repeated in disbelief.

’’No woman has ever left Vlad. Cynthiana, his lover before you, even seduced Shrapnel trying to make Vlad jealous after he ended things between them.’’

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