Twice Tempted Page 38

A shrug. ’’I've honored my word as it was given. If you wanted more, you should have specified.’’

’’I was drugged!’’

’’And I was coerced,’’ he replied, his gaze narrowing. ’’Many would consider that reason enough to invalidate a promise. I don't, and Maximus knew that betraying me would cost him. Because of you, it hasn't cost him as much as it should.’’

’’This is just what you did with Marty,’’ I seethed. ’’Giving me a promise that's useless after you're done playing word games with it, then you get offended when I call you a liar!’’

Vlad set his glass down so hard I was amazed the stem didn't snap. Then he went to the door. When he opened it, I thought he was going to order me out. Instead, he left.

’’Where are you going?’’ I called.

’’To kill Maximus’’ was the reply that drifted back. ’’If I'm a liar, I may as well get full value out of it.’’

’’Wait!’’

He'd already made it to the end of the hall by the time I ran out to him, but at my frantic call, he turned around.

’’You can't have it both ways, Leila. Either I'm a liar or I'm not, and if I'm not, then you have no cause to cry foul over what I've done to Maximus.’’

Frustration made me go right for the jugular. ’’He's the only reason I survived after that gas line bomb. Doesn't that mean anything to you?’’

He came toward me with the unhurried gait of a true predator, making the hallway feel like it shrank around me. The closer he got, the more I instinctively moved away. It wasn't until I saw the mahogany paneled walls that I realized he'd maneuvered me back into the parlor.

’’Yes, it does. That's why I forgave him for telling me he was checking on his people when in reality, he was stalking you. I won't, however, forgive his repeated lies after the explosion. Those weren't to save you. They were to keep you from me because he wanted you for himself.’’

’’He really thought you might've been behind it,’’ I muttered.

Vlad rolled his eyes. ’’You believed that, but Maximus knew I wouldn't murder an innocent woman out of spite.’’

’’He thought your injured pride might've made you more homicidal than usual.’’

’’No, he wanted to f**k you.’’

His even tone vanished, replaced with one that sounded like razors over shattered glass.

’’If he believed any of what he told you, it was only to assuage his guilt for betraying me.’’ His eyes changed from copper to emerald in a blink. ’’He's wanted you since the first. When I discovered you were alive, I wondered if he'd succeeded and the two of you rigged that explosion in order to disappear together.’’

’’You thought I killed a bunch of people to fake my own death so I could run off with Maximus?’’ If my voice got any higher, all of the nearby glass would shatter.

’’You believed I ordered your death out of injured pride because you left me.’’ His gaze raked me. ’’Don't pretend to be the injured party when you also leapt to the wrong conclusion.’’

At that, my temper snapped. ’’Of the two of us, who's more likely to have killed those people?’’

His smile was sharklike;all teeth, no humor. ’’Me, but you still should've known better. Martin, who I tortured the day we met, contacted me after the explosion because he knew I hadn't done it. Yet you, my once-treasured lover, were so convinced I might that you let me believe you were dead.’’

I barely heard the last sentence. My mind seized upon one thing, shock replacing my anger.

’’Marty contacted you after the bombing? But that would mean he . . . he wasn't . . .’’

’’Wasn't killed in the blast,’’ Vlad supplied, his lips curling. ’’Terribly cruel of me to let you believe that someone you cared about was dead, wasn't it?’’

Rage collided with a tidal wave of joy. Those wildly contrasting emotions proved too much. I lunged at Vlad, snarling, ’’Damn you!’’ while happy tears sprang to my eyes.

He caught me, lifting me several inches off the ground. At this height, we were eye level, and the look on his face would've made me take a step backward if I could.

’’Don't,’’ he said, the word falling like a hammer. ’’You're the only one who's struck me without retaliation, but you're not my lover anymore so I won't be as lenient again.’’

I hadn't intended to hit him. True, I'd wanted to shake him until his fangs rattled for letting me believe my best friend was dead - and wait until I got ahold of Marty! - but that urge drained away as I stared into his eyes. His expression was so thunderous I should have been afraid, but something other than fear began to fill me. Unable to help myself, I glanced at his mouth. It looked hard, but if I leaned forward a few inches, I knew it wouldn't feel that way . . .

Suddenly his mouth was on mine, proving that I was wrong. It did feel hard. The stubble on his face felt rougher, too, plus I'd have bruises from how forcefully he yanked me down to him.

And nothing had ever felt better. Rapture burst forth, scorching everything else in its path. I kissed him back so fiercely that I tore my lip on his fangs, yet the sting didn't register. All I knew was his taste, like spiced wine mulled with the darkest of fantasies. How his arms crushed me closer while his heat seared through my clothing. The sensually brutal way his tongue twined with mine, and the overwhelming urge I had to touch him as fast as my hands could race over his body. I needed him as much as the jagged breaths I snuck in between kisses, but another emotion proved stronger, giving me the strength to push him away despite every cell in my body howling in protest.


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