Twice Tempted Page 4

Soft amber illuminated the creamy marble, highlighting its gold and celery-green veins. A glass shower the size of a compact car also lit up, as did the vanity counter. I'd been awed when I first saw all the fancy fixtures. Now I muttered under my breath as I hurried to the discreetly screened corner.

’’Fifty-yard sprint every morning because he won't add a toilet to his bathroom. It's not like he doesn't spend more each night on the dinner he never eats.’’

Part of me knew my griping was to mask my uneasiness about the increasingly empty bed, but my bladder twisted as if in agreement. After I'd dealt with it, I got in the shower, careful to only touch things with my left hand. Although the currents radiating from me were muted at the moment, there was no need to fry the pipes by accidentally sending a dose of voltage through them.

After I showered and dressed, I descended four flights of stairs to the main level. At the bottom of the staircase, a hallway with soaring ceilings, stone pillars, antique shields, and ornate frescos spread out in front of me. Only the indoor garden kept it from looking like Bill Gates's Gothic Getaway.

At the end of that hallway was my frequently absentee boyfriend, Vlad. Yes, that Vlad, but few people made the mistake of calling him Dracula. His dark hair was the same color as the stubble that shadowed his jaw in something thicker than a five o'clock shadow. Winged eyebrows framed eyes that were a blend of copper and emerald, and sleek material draped over a body hardened from decades of battle when he was human. As usual, only his hands and face were bare. The rest of him was covered by boots, black pants, and a smoky gray shirt buttoned up to the neck. Unlike most well-built men, Vlad didn't flash a lot of skin, but those custom-tailored clothes flaunted his taut body as effectively as running shorts and a sleeveless muscle shirt.

My appreciation was cut short when I saw that he had a coat draped over his arm. He hadn't just slipped in and out of bed while I was asleep;he was also leaving without a word.

Again.

Ever have a moment where you know exactly what you shouldn't do . . . and you do it anyway? I didn't need my missing psychic abilities to know that snapping ’’Where are you going?’’ while striding down the hall was the wrong way to handle this, but that's what I did.

Vlad had been talking to his second-in-command, Maximus, a blond vampire who looked like an avenging Viking come to life. At my question, two gazes settled on me, one gray and carefully neutral, the other coppery green and sardonic. I tensed, wishing I could take the question back. When had I turned into one of those annoying, clingy girlfriends?

Right after the main reason Vlad became interested in you vanished, my inner insidious voice mocked. You think it's coincidence that he began acting distant right after you lost your ability to psychically spy on his enemies?

At once, I began to sing KC and the Sunshine Band's ’’That's the Way’’ in my head. Vlad wasn't just an extremely powerful vampire whose history inspired the world's most famous story about the undead. He could also read humans'minds. Most of the time.

His lips curled. ’’One of these days, you'll at least take requests on your method of keeping me out of your head.’’

If I didn't know him, I would've missed the irony that tinged his tone, heightening his subtle accent and adding an edge to his cultured voice. I doubted he'd ever forgive the vampire who taught me how to block him from my thoughts.

’’Some people consider that song a classic,’’ I replied, berating myself for what he would've heard before I stopped him.

’’Proving again that the world doesn't lack for fools.’’

’’And you didn't answer my question,’’ I countered.

Vlad put on his coat, that slight smile never leaving his face. ’’That wasn't an accident.’’

My hand tingled as the currents within me surged to it. Thanks to an incident with a downed power line, my entire body gave off electricity, but my right hand was the main conduit. If I didn't lock down my temper, it might start sparking.

’’Next time you want to brush me off, do what modern men do.’’ My voice was rougher than sandpaper. ’’Be vague and say you're running errands. Sounds more polite that way.’’

That coppery gaze changed to glowing emerald, visible proof of his inhuman status. ’’I am not a modern man.’’

Of course not, but would it kill him to be a little less complex, infuriating, and enigmatic? At least some of the time?

Maximus slid a glance my way before returning his attention to Vlad. ’’Everything will be ready upon your return,’’ he stated, then bowed and left.

What's that supposed to mean? hovered on the tip of my tongue, but I wouldn't get an answer. That didn't mean I was letting this slide. I was done wondering what his increasing absences spelled out for our relationship. If my being psychically neutered meant his feelings for me had changed, he needed to tell me. I paused in my mental singing long enough to think, When you get back, we're having a talk.

This time, his smile was wide enough to show his teeth. His fangs weren't out, but his grin still managed to carry shades of both lover and predator.

’’I look forward to it.’’

Then the spot where he stood was empty. Only the massive front doors closing indicated where he'd vanished through. Vampires couldn't dematerialize, but some Master vampires could move so fast it appeared that way.

I sighed. In the past couple months, dating Vlad had proved to be as passionate and tumultuous as the movies portrayed. I only hoped Hollywood wasn't also right about the fate of every woman who fell in love with the infamous Dark Prince.


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