Twice Tempted Page 42

He gave my shoulder a last pat before disentangling himself from my IV tubes and sitting back.

’’You're right, but I wasn't in it when the gas line blew. After our last act, I was walking back to the trailer with Dawn. Then I saw this woman across the parking lot, all by herself, just wolfing down a tub of ice cream - ’’

I started to laugh even amidst a pang of sorrow over Dawn. Marty's love of sugar-flavored blood was well-known to me.

’’So your sweet tooth - or fang - saved your life.’’ My laughter faded and I couldn't keep the hurt from my voice when I asked, ’’Why didn't you look for me after the blast? I kept yelling for you but you didn't come. Only Maximus did.’’

He let out a sigh. ’’I knew you were in The Hammer's trailer because I saw you enter it. Then the explosion . . .’’

His features tightened. ’’Everything within a fifty-yard radius was obliterated. Even at twice that distance, the woman I drank from was hurt. I knew it would've killed you but I tried to get to you anyway. The heat melted my skin before I could reach The Hammer's trailer, so I had to turn back. Then all the screams . . . people were trapped in their RVs or running while on fire. I couldn't save you, but I tried to save as many of them as I could. After ambulances took away the worst of the injured, I left. I couldn't stand to stay and watch them dig out your body.’’

His voice cracked at the last word. I took his hand, glad my new gloves allowed me to do that without shocking him. ’’And then you called Vlad,’’ I finished, piecing it together.

Marty let out a grunt. ’’He didn't take the news well. Made me find out where they were transporting the bodies and then jumped on his jet. I told him there wouldn't be enough left of you to raise, but he wouldn't listen.’’

’’Raise?’’ I repeated before comprehension dawned. Ghouls were made by having a person drink vampire blood, then killing that person and switching their heart with a ghoul's heart. Since I was on a regular diet of vampire blood and Vlad knew I was fireproof at the time, he'd know such a transformation was possible, if the explosion hadn't ripped me limb from limb -

That's what he was doing at the morgue when I dream-linked to him! He hadn't wanted to see my body to grieve or gloat, as I'd thought. He'd gone there to bring me back.

’’Raise you into a ghoul,’’ Marty said, not knowing I'd figured it out. He shrugged. ’’You'd look the same, but every so often, you'd need to eat the other, other white meat.’’

I was still reeling from this discovery. Had Vlad known as soon as he saw those bones that I was still alive? Or had he not realized it until he ’’heard’’ me spying on him? And the most important question: Why, if he cared enough to fly overseas and rush to a morgue to raise me from the dead, had he acted so indifferent when I left him?

’’ - look pale, Leila. I'm gonna go, let you get some rest.’’

That I heard, but whatever he said before had been lost.

’’I slept for three days, you wouldn't think I'd be tired.’’

I was, though. Still, I had a few things to do first. ’’Can you find my dad and Gretchen? Vlad ordered them out, but I can handle their heartbeats now.’’

And their voices. I'd just remember that everything sounded like a shout at the moment.

’’Sure.’’ Then Marty cleared his throat. ’’You should know something. When you hemorrhaged so much your heart stopped, Vlad stuck IV lines in your arteries and flooded you with his blood. Then he broke the defibrillator shocking your heart back to life. If that didn't work, you were waking up undead, and there wasn't a thing your father could've done to stop him.’’

I closed my eyes. Was that the shouting match I'd heard in my semiconscious state? I will bring you back by any means necessary, Vlad had said, and apparently he meant it.

Which meant he cared far more than he'd admitted.

Was there hope for us after all?

Chapter 24

Dr. Natalia Romanov was Vlad's in-house physician, and unlike the other members of his staff, she couldn't have been nicer. When I jokingly asked if I was her first patient this year, thinking a doctor couldn't be called upon much in a mostly vampire house, Natalia replied that she monitored all of Vlad's humans to ensure they were healthy enough to feed from and assisted in tortures since she was an expert in neuromuscular manipulation.

Well, I'd asked.

After she left, my dad and Gretchen came back to see me. I apologized for Vlad putting the mind whammy on them, which mollified my father not at all. Gretchen, oddly enough, seemed more fascinated than angry.

’’I didn't want to leave, but my legs took me right out of the room anyway. He could've made me do anything, couldn't he?’’

’’Yes,’’ I said, hating the way my father's features tightened up as though he'd swallowed ground glass. Then he muttered something under his breath that, without my new super senses, I never would've heard.

’’No, he doesn't use mind control on me. For one, all the vampire blood I drink makes me immune to it. For another, if he did, we wouldn't have broken up because he would've made me believe I was delighted with the way things were between us.’’

My father stared at me, suspicion replacing the disbelief in his expression. ’’That you heard me proves how dangerous this man is to you. He's changing you into something inhuman. Leaving him was the smartest decision you ever made.’’

Gretchen shrugged. ’’After seeing how he acted when she almost died, I'm starting to get why she's with him.’’ Then her voice hardened. ’’And really, Leila. That's twice now.’’

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