Twice Tempted Page 36

Checkmate.

’’I'll secure permission to let you through,’’ the redhead guard said. He wasn't so easily deceived. Must be married.

In response, I let myself go entirely limp. As expected, I didn't hit the floor before strong arms caught me. Then I was lifted up, the wind rushing past me from how fast whoever had grabbed me ran down the narrow staircase that led to the dungeon. I kept my eyes shut and my head drooping as we were ushered through more checkpoints. None of Vlad's guards wanted to be responsible for me dying, yet they were all too afraid of him to give me their blood.

By the time the fourth and final door creaked open, I sat up and pushed at the arms supporting me. No need to make it easier for me to be hauled away once the jig was up.

’’Let me down,’’ I told the guard, who turned out to be the blond instead of the redhead. No surprise.

My feet had barely hit the ground before Vlad's voice thundered through the cavernous darkness around us.

’’What the hell is she doing here?’’

Chapter 20

An orange glow preceded his appearance, showing the stone monolith in the center wasn't empty like the last time I'd been in the dungeon. Two vampires hung from the spiked silver chains embedded in the rock, a third impaled in front of them. When Vlad came closer, more light from his flaming hands showed which part of him the long wooden pole had entered by first.

’’That's sick,’’ I breathed, temporarily distracted.

He ignored that, stabbing a flaming finger at the guard. ’’You've bought yourself some painful time to think, Jameson.’’

’’But she's bleeding!’’ the guard protested, giving me a little push forward.

’’So you come and get me,’’ Vlad said icily. The flames on his hands vanished as he seized my jaw, turning my head and forcibly preventing me from looking at his prisoners.

’’You don't bring her down here without permission, ever,’’ he continued, still speaking to Jameson while he stared at me. ’’A week on the pole will remind you of that.’’

’’I wasn't about to let you pull one of your usual disappearing acts, so I tricked him by pretending I'd fainted,’’ I snapped, trying without success to knock his hand away. ’’You want to punish someone? Punish me.’’

He grasped a handful of my hair. Between that and his grip on my jaw, I couldn't move as he leaned down, placing his lips directly over my ear.

’’I am punishing you,’’ he whispered. ’’You'll suffer from guilt every day he's on that pole. Then perhaps next time, you'll think twice before tricking my guards.’’

I shoved at his chest the same instant he released me, so I ended up pushing away only air. Vlad stood a few feet off, almost invisible against the darkness with his charcoal-gray shirt and black pants. If not for the emerald glow coming from his eyes, I wouldn't have known where he was.

’’Now, apologize for intruding.’’

Not whispered. Instead, the command resounded in the cavernlike interior. Despite that, I couldn't contain my snort.

’’I'd rather bleed to death.’’

’’If you were anyone else, those would be your last words.’’

All of a sudden, I was reminded that the dungeon was a place where most people that entered never left. I'd looked at storming in here from my perspective: I was going to tear my ex-boyfriend a new one for his underhanded way of breaking a promise, and I had to get through a few of his cronies first.

From a vampire's perspective, I'd deceived highly trained guards into betraying their Master by taking me into what was supposed to be the most secure area of his house. That I'd done so in front of enemy combatants probably made it worse. I suppose the human equivalent would be bitch slapping my ex-boyfriend at his wedding while telling everyone what a small pen** he had, though that would have short-term consequences. With the fear-based, feudalistic system vampires lived under, the repercussions from this might reverberate for centuries, and I couldn't even claim the girlfriend exemption anymore.

’’At last, you begin to understand,’’ Vlad said, irony threading into his tone.

I no longer saw the blond guard I'd duped into taking me down here, but even if Jameson had left, he was still listening. All the guards I'd fooled would be listening, and they'd repeat my next words to the rest of Vlad's staff, who'd repeat them to other vampires, who'd eventually repeat them to his enemies. I might prefer whatever retaliation Vlad would be forced to dish out to apologizing, but this was about more than me.

That didn't mean I was overlooking what he'd done to Maximus. I'll play along now, but if you refuse to see me after this, I'll make you impale me with the fit I throw, I thought defiantly. Then I cleared my throat and uttered an apology I never intended to give.

’’Please forgive the intrusion. I shouldn't have come down here and I'm sorry.’’

My tone was good, but if tiny sparks shot out of my right hand in protest, I couldn't do anything about that.

A smile flitted across Vlad's face.

’’I forgive you, but only because you said 'please.'’’

Smartass, I thought. Then I groaned at the instant chorus of ’’Please!’’ mixed with cries for release from Vlad's prisoners. No wonder he got so sick of the word.

’’I'm only merciful to one person a day,’’ he threw over his shoulder. ’’As the saying goes, today isn't your day and tomorrow doesn't look good, either.’’

Then his gaze landed back on me. ’’Now, ask me to heal you.’’

You are REALLY pushing it, I thought, glaring at him.


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