Twice Tempted Page 25

His hands slid over my thigh. ’’Too soon for se*, perhaps, but there are other things we can do.’’

I stopped his hands by working down his arms to grip them.

’’Sorry. It's, ah, too soon for that, too.’’

His disappointed sigh made me feel guilty. Tease! my conscience mocked. That devious inner voice didn't care. It urged me to grasp Maximus's hands in a pretense of concern while I searched them for incriminating essence traces.

’’It's fine.’’ Wry smile. ’’I'm not getting any older.’’

Another essence trail was imprinted on his right hand, but it didn't belong to the brunette vampire or to Vlad. Whoever it was felt very guilty when he - or she - touched Maximus, but if it wasn't the female killer, it wasn't my business.

’’Thanks for understanding,’’ I said before dropping my hands and rising. ’’I, ah, think I'll hit the shower now.’’

I wouldn't even need to make it a cold one. For the third time, I cursed Vlad. It wasn't fair that he'd been the only man to inflame my heart and my body. Wherever he was, I hoped my memory still burned him inside and out, too.

Maximus got up, too. Then his head cocked as if listening - and I was on the floor, his big body protecting mine from an explosion of glass. Over the noise from our window shattering, I heard him groan. Felt him shudder so violently that his grip became excruciating, but before I could scream, he let go. Then he grabbed several knives and leapt up.

I did, too, voltage surging to my right hand from a double shot of fear and adrenaline. Vlad must have found us! This was the same way he'd stormed a hotel room when we first met. I expected fire to soon surround us, but it didn't. Instead, another volley of gunfire sounded. Maximus knocked me down and shielded me once again, but this time, he didn't leap up after the barrage stopped. He slumped forward, agony streaking his face as vividly as the bloody holes all over his body.

’’Bullets are liquid silver,’’ he rasped. ’’Run!’’

I was horrified. Even a vampire's regenerative abilities wouldn't be able to expel that, and not only would it near-paralyze Maximus, it would feel like acid burning all through him. I shoved him off me, but not to run. To slice an electric bolt through whoever tried to shoot him with that poison again. I yanked my gloves off, grimly satisfied at the unearthly glow suffusing my right hand. Then I held it up while letting loose a snarl of my own.

’’You want to kill him, Vlad? You'll have to go through me!’’

Mocking laughter met this statement. The door didn't open - it flew across the room to smash against the bed. A cloaked figure appeared in the door frame, face in shadows, but I caught a glimpse of dark hair. I tensed, my heart twisting even as the electricity channeling into my hand became more intense. Could I kill the man I loved to protect the man I didn't?

’’If you want him to live, don't move.’’

Moonlight fell onto the cloaked man's face, revealing short black hair, a smooth jaw, and a wide, full mouth. Not Vlad, I realized, or anyone else I recognized. Who the hell was he?

The stranger smiled, showing fangs. ’’You have questions, but we only have time to answer one. Will he live or die?’’ Belittling nod at Maximus, who writhed in agony. ’’If you want him to die, fight me. You'll lose because I didn't come alone, and then we'll take you anyway and kill him. Leave with me willingly, however, and I'll let him live.’’

’’Don't listen to him,’’ Maximus managed to grit out.

I didn't glance his way because that would require taking my eyes off this stranger;a mistake I wouldn't make.

’’I should trust you why?’’ I asked with heavy sarcasm.

His eyes flashed green. ’’Because I'd rather not lose my best leverage over you.’’

That single sentence spoke volumes. Whoever he was, he wasn't stupid. He also wasn't one of Vlad's men. Vlad wouldn't attempt to use Maximus as leverage against me. He'd know it was pointless since he'd already told me he was going to kill him.

Sirens sounded in the distance. The stranger sighed. ’’Time's up, little bird. Which will it be?’’

My hand ached with the overload of currents coursing into it, but slowly, I lowered it. Now wasn't the time. Maximus cursed between ragged moans of pain. The stranger smiled.

’’I heard you were smart. Let's hope your friend is, too.’’

Something hard jabbed me in the chest. I glanced down, seeing what looked like a dart sticking out of me. By the time I glanced back at the stranger, my vision was already starting to blur and my legs felt like they'd been replaced with jelly.

’’Make sure you get her gloves’’ was the last thing I heard before everything went dark.

Chapter 14

When I came to, I didn't open my eyes or alter my breathing. Instead, I took inventory while pretending I was still unconscious. Headache, no surprise, but other than that I felt okay. My arms were behind my back. Thickness around my fingers was gloves, tightness around my wrists and ankles was restraints. Uncomfortable gag in my mouth, self-explanatory.

Then I moved on to my surroundings. The pitch and roll beneath me had to be waves, which meant I was on a boat. Some of my captors were topside, from the voices, but I could tell someone was in the room with me.

So when I opened my eyes, my gaze landed unerringly on the black-haired vampire who'd shot up the hotel last night. The only surprise he showed was to blink.

’’Didn't expect you to be up already,’’ he drawled.

I glanced down at my gag and back at him, raising a brow.

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