Twice Tempted Page 19
I ignored the shout, not that it mattered. Maximus caught me in the next heartbeat, spinning me around to face him.
’’Don't touch me,’’ I snapped, rational thought replaced by a wounded animal mentality. ’’You've got him all over you!’’
His coat and shirt were on the ground before I could blink. At this hour, the stores around us were closed, but streetlights threw every inch of his upper body into stark relief. Like Vlad, Maximus had many faded marks from old scars, but unlike Vlad, his chest was smooth. No crisp dark hair, just pale, taut skin stretched over muscles that rippled when he folded me into his arms. He didn't flinch as currents slid into him from touching my bare flesh. He drew me closer instead.
’’It's all right,’’ he said softly. ’’You're safe now.’’
I hadn't realized how much I needed to hear that until he said it. All the pain, loneliness, and grief from the past two weeks reared up, seeking solace anywhere it could be found. I don't know if he bent his head or if I lifted mine. All I knew was he was kissing me, and for the first time since this whole terrible ordeal began, I didn't feel alone and rejected.
When his tongue slid into my mouth, I welcomed it. He'd kissed me before, months ago, and back then, I'd felt mild enjoyment but no real emotion. This time, I was filled with such aching loneliness that I explored his mouth as thoroughly as he did mine. It didn't matter that he wasn't the man I loved. All that mattered was he was here.
After several moments, Maximus pulled away.
’’I wish I didn't care about you so much.’’
’’What?’’ I asked breathlessly. Vampires might not need oxygen, but I couldn't kiss like that without paying a price.
His eyes resembled the nearby traffic light with how green they were. ’’You're overstressed, overtired, and emotionally vulnerable. I won't take advantage of that, but if I cared less about you, Leila’’ - his voice deepened - ’’we'd be in the nearest alley with your legs wrapped around my waist right now.’’
Heat should have swelled at that explicit image. Instead, an icy bucket of shame washed over me. What was I doing? Despite my actions, I didn't want to start anything with Maximus. I wanted to find Marty's killer - who hopefully wouldn't turn out to be Vlad - murder that person, and then grieve for my best friend while putting my life back together. Getting involved with my ex's right-hand man wasn't anywhere on my list.
Maximus must have sensed the change because he let me go, his gaze turning from glowing emerald back to smoky gray.
’’My point exactly,’’ he said, dryness etching each word.
I crossed my arms over my chest, wishing I hadn't thrown my coat and shirt away. ’’Sorry. I didn't mean to, ah - ’’
’’Save it,’’ he interrupted crisply. Then his voice softened. ’’I understand. You needed to feel something good in the midst of everything crumbling around you, even if it was only for a moment. Humans don't have a monopoly on that, Leila. Vampires need it sometimes, too.’’
Then he picked up his discarded shirt and coat, giving me a single hard stare before he turned away.
’’But right now, we need to get back to the car and then you need to find out who killed that bomb maker.’’
It didn't take long to find the images I sought. Although nothing was more densely packed with memories than a person's bones, death was a stand-out event for everyone. Pity the images only played like clips from a film reel instead of me being inside Adrian's head when his murderer came calling.
’’Who is it?’’ Adrian replied to the knock, as if he wasn't looking at the other side of the door through a security feed.
’’Don't be boring, dearie’’ was the reply he received.
My brows went up. Adrian's killer was a woman. She didn't have an accent so much as a pretty lilt to her speech, but I doubted her nationality was American.
Adrian minimized the screen before he opened the door. The woman walked in, wearing dark glasses and a scarf around her head. To make matters worse, what I could see of her face seemed blurry. What a time for my psychic vision to need a tune-up.
’’Make yourself at home,’’ Adrian drawled, shutting the door behind her. ’’You thirsty?’’
’’Of course,’’ she purred.
That tone would've screamed, Danger! to me, but Adrian didn't seem to notice. ’’What'll it be?’’ he asked.
’’When we're done, your blood,’’ she replied pleasantly.
He turned, startled, and then froze as she took her glasses off. Though her face was still blurred, the inhuman glow from her eyes came through clearly. I could almost see Adrian's willpower being hijacked under that hypnotic gaze. If he hadn't made a bomb that killed my best friend, I would've pitied him.
’’You will erase all records of our dealings, from bank transactions to the camera feed at your door,’’ the woman stated.
No! I thought, but of course that didn't change Adrian's actions. He went to his computer, booted up a bunch of files, and then methodically deleted them. He even erased secondary backups and ghost files, too, much to my dismay.
’’It's done,’’ he said woodenly once he was finished.
The woman took off her scarf. I caught a flash of rich, dark hair before everything blurred again.
’’Time for that drink now, dearie.’’
Then she yanked Adrian's head to the side and bit down on his neck. When his death ended the vision, my frustration grew.
Not once had I gotten a good look at her face.