Twice Tempted Page 39

’’What are you doing?’’ I managed.

His expression was nothing short of ferocious, and if his gaze grew any hotter, I'd burn beneath it.

’’You've never had angry se*. I'm about to show you what you've been missing.’’

At those words, the throbbing between my legs became painfully intense. In spite of that, I stopped him when he swooped down to kiss me again.

’’You said you'd never take an ex-lover back.’’

His mouth descended to my neck with devastating effect. ’’You've proven to be the exception to my rules.’’

Those burning lips made the cool pressure of his fangs feel that much more erotic. Still, a deep-seated hurt overrode the passion slamming into me.

’’Not all of your rules.’’

Vlad made a sound too harsh to be a growl. ’’You won't be satisfied until you've brought me to my knees, is that it?’’

’’Why not?’’ It shot out of me with all the recklessness of my still-broken heart. ’’You brought me to mine.’’

He released me so abruptly I had to use the couch to steady myself. Without his body against mine, I felt cold despite the pleasant warmth of the room.

’’I told you that you can't have it both ways, and that's true for us as well.’’

Did I miss something? ’’What are you talking about?’’

’’I'm Vlad the Impaler,’’ he said, biting off each word. ’’I've survived for over five hundred years because if someone crosses me, I kill him, and if I am betrayed, I exact my revenge. I told you this when we met, yet you're still upset when I act on it.’’

’’Oh, you don't have to remind me how merciless you are,’’ I said, bitterness leaping to the surface.

’’Obviously I do,’’ he replied. Then he cupped my face with hands so heated they felt like brands.

’’You claim to love me, but the man you love doesn't exist. That man wouldn't have survived years of beatings and rape as a boy because sheer hatred kept him from breaking. That man wouldn't have impaled twenty thousand prisoners to terrorize a larger advancing army because fear was the only tactical advantage he had, and that man wouldn't have imprisoned one of his closest friends for lying to him over a woman he was enamored with. I am not that man.’’

His hands dropped and he stepped back, his expression still frighteningly intense.

’’You see, you don't want me to love you. You want the version you've made up. The knight, even though I'm the dragon and I always will be.’’

Then he left. This time, despite my calling out, he didn't stop. In the seconds it took me to get to the hallway, he was gone, the two open windows at the far end still vibrating from his exit through them.

Chapter 22

I went down to the second floor, so upset over Vlad's accusations, I walked right by my family without seeing them.

’’Leila,’’ Gretchen snapped, jerking my attention to the sitting room I'd just passed. ’’What is your problem?’’

’’What's my problem?’’ Hysterical laughter bubbled, but I choked it back. ’’I wouldn't know where to begin.’’

My father's gaze swept over me, taking in my mussed hair, swollen mouth, and sparking right hand.

’’Gretchen, I want to have a word with your sister.’’

She shrugged. ’’Go ahead, I'm not stopping you.’’

’’He means leave,’’ I said wearily.

This was the last thing I needed, but I'd put him through hell recently, and everyone knew how paybacks worked.

She got up, muttering, ’’You're lucky Vlad covered my expenses for the year,’’ under her breath.

’’What?’’

’’Gretchen, go,’’ my dad ordered.

She did, leaving me alone with my father. I plopped onto the couch opposite his, noting the differences between this sitting room and the one I'd left. The colors were lighter and there were no weapons or barbaric shields over the fireplace. All at once, I hated the apricot and cream decor and the white hearth with the insipid oil landscape above it. This room lacked complexity, fierceness, passion . . .

It lacked everything that Vlad was.

’’So he's covering Gretchen's expenses for the year.’’ Of course he hadn't told me that. Vlad seldom mentioned his thoughtful deeds. ’’That's very generous of him.’’

My dad glanced around pointedly. ’’He can afford it.’’

’’He can also mesmerize her into forgetting she ever met him and drop her back at her apartment without a cent,’’ I said in a crisp tone. ’’Come on, Dad. Give credit where it's due.’’

That salt-and-pepper head snapped up. ’’I do. He promised to bring you back safely and he did. He promised to let us return to our lives when the danger had passed and I believe him. But he refused to promise to leave you alone, and from how you look now, he's made good on his intentions not to.’’

I was a grown woman, but I didn't think I would ever feel comfortable discussing my se* life with my dad. In this case, though, he had nothing to worry about.

’’It's not what you think. We're not back together.’’

’’You're still in love with him,’’ he said flatly.

Not according to Vlad! my inner voice mocked. He thinks I'm in love with a version of him that doesn't exist.

I drew in a deep breath. If I could pull that voice out, I'd send it to the moon with all the currents I'd shoot into it. But thinking that way made me one step up from Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Soon I'd be arguing with my own reflection.

’’When does love solve anything?’’ was what I replied.


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