Twice Tempted Page 28

I was torn between wanting to laugh from relief and wanting to crawl back to the railing and throw up until I passed out. I'd wanted to kill my captors and I had, yet I hadn't been ready to know the full extent of my abilities. As usual, life hadn't waited until I was ready to show me what it had in store.

The sound of several hard thumps yanked my focus from the terrible sight around me. They came from below deck, and caution mingled with hope. Was that Maximus? Or another guard trying to lure me down to the same lethal trap I'd used on his buddies?

I went over to the narrow staircase, looking at it with resignation. My whole body was drained but the fight might not be over. Bad guys didn't stop for time-outs and neither could I.

I didn't bother to creep down the staircase. At my stealthiest, I couldn't sneak up on a vampire who knew I was coming. My only defense was my right hand, and it felt like a light bulb that was one switch flip away from burning out. The thumps continued, coming from underneath the floor despite me being below deck now. Did this boat have another level to it?

I flinched at every pitch and roll of the boat, anticipating a sixth attacker about to pounce on me. The only open door along the narrow hallway was the one filled with bodies, but I wasn't alone. The continued sounds proved that.

I'd reached the end of the hallway when a thump vibrated right underneath my foot. I jumped back, weak sparks shooting from my hand, before noticing the latch in the floor.

A cargo hold locked from the outside. That ruled out an imminent attack by a sixth guard. Another thump sounded. Maximus, I thought, relief making me drop to my knees. I pulled out the bolt, flung open the trap door . . . and stared.

’’Please,’’ a red-streaked girl mumbled. Her eyes were closed and more bloody forms were beside her.

I wanted to pull her up but didn't touch her. Even drained, the juice in me would harm her and she looked near death already. Hannibal's directive to Stephen rang across my mind. F*k someone in the hold instead. I hadn't been the only cargo Hannibal had picked up.

’’It's going to be all right.’’

Fury made my voice sound stronger than I felt. The girl's eyes fluttered open.

’’Who're you?’’ she mumbled.

’’I'm the person who killed every last vampire on this boat,’’ I told her. After seeing the contents of the cargo hold, I was no longer repelled by my abilities. In fact, I was glad I'd blasted the fifth guard to smithereens.

She smiled weakly, then that faded and her eyes closed. I rattled the door to get her attention.

’’Don't. You need to stay awake, and if anyone else is alive, you need to wake them, too. Tell me you understand.’’

Her eyes opened, their blue color reminding me of Gretchen's. They looked to be the same ago, too. My anger grew.

’’Got it.’’ Then she began to shake the closest form to her.

’’Get up, Janice. Help is on the way.’’

I rose, filled with fresh determination. Damn right it was.

Then I opened every door in the tiny hallway. Two were storage closets, one was a bathroom, and the fourth . . .

I rushed forward. Maximus was on the floor in a tiny bedroom, duct tape around his mouth and something that looked like silver razor wire binding him from ankles to neck. It wrapped so tightly around him that it disappeared into his skin in places, as if his struggles had driven it deeper.

I'd cut my fingers off if I tried to mess with that wire, but I could help with the gag. I ripped it off, slapping his face when he still didn't open his eyes.

’’Maximus, wake up!’’

No response. If not for the fact that vampires turned into withered husks when they died, I would've sworn that I was too late. Then, with excruciating slowness, he opened his eyes.

I stared at him in horror. The whites were streaked with dark gray lines. A closer look revealed that underneath all the dried blood, his skin bore similar streaks.

’’They never got the liquid silver out of you,’’ I whispered.

No response from Maximus. His eyes rolled back and he shuddered so hard that the wire tore away chunks of flesh. Marty had told me what would happen to a vampire if liquid silver stayed in their system long enough. It wouldn't kill Maximus. It would do something worse: degrade his brain until he became a madman, and once it reached that stage, it couldn't be reversed. Even if I cut the razor wire off him, the real poison would still be destroying him from the inside out.

Maximus couldn't help me save the dying humans in the cargo hold. He couldn't even save himself.

Chapter 16

I searched the dead vampires'bodies. Hannibal had the only cell phone, yet it was cut in half along with the rest of his upper body. Then I spent a futile several minutes trying the boat's communications system, but I'd overloaded that when I killed the vampire slumped over it. Even if a 1 - 900 - VAMPIRE helpline existed, I had no way to reach it. I didn't see lights from nearby boats, either, not that I could steer toward them. The engine was as fried as the communications system.

I wanted to scream out of sheer frustration. There had to be something I could do!

Then my frustration began to fade as logic took over. I could wait until I eventually drifted to land or the path of another boat, but that would be too late for everyone else. There was, however, one vampire I could reach without the aid of technology, and despite the many reasons why I didn't want to, unless I was willing to let Maximus go mad and the humans die, I had no choice.

I sat down on a section of the deck that wasn't covered in body parts. With the cool breeze whipping my hair, I ran my right hand over my skin until I found a familiar essence trail and followed it. Within seconds, the deck vanished and I found myself looking at the parking lot of the Motel 6 in South Bend.

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