Twice Tempted Page 43

I closed my eyes, guilt assailing me. Yes, this was the second time Gretchen had seen me teetering on the edge of death, but unlike my suicide attempt at sixteen, this had been an accident. Not that it made it less emotionally scarring. In many ways, that power line accident had put Gretchen through as much hell as it had me, only she didn't get the occasional perks.

’’I'm sorry,’’ I said, opening my eyes.

Another shrug as she acted like it didn't matter. ’’Have your boyfriend add therapy bills to my expense tab.’’

’’You'll take nothing else from him, and he's not her boyfriend anymore.’’

My dad used his lieutenant colonel voice. It usually garnered instant obedience from Gretchen, but this time, it rolled right off her.

’’I'm taking it, and if he's not her boyfriend, someone should tell him that. You saw how he freaked when she almost died. Then he wouldn't budge from her side until she woke up.’’

’’Vlad stayed here the whole three days?’’ I was shocked.

She nodded. ’’Like one of his stone gargoyles.’’

My father gave Gretchen a look that, if she'd been anyone else, I'd swear was a prelude to him throwing a punch.

’’That's enough,’’ he ground out.

’’No, it's not,’’ I said sharply. ’’You have no right to shush her because you don't like the truth. Whatever problems Vlad and I have had, at worst he's been a loyal friend who's saved my life, yours, and Gretchen's more than once, so as Mom used to say, if you can't say anything nice . . .’’

Then shut the hell up, my flinty expression finished.

My father rose, his lips compressed into a thin, tight line as he limped to the door.

’’I'm glad you're better, but I don't want your sister ensnared in this walking dead underworld, and no matter how you dress it up, that's what it is.’’

I didn't reply because anger would've made me say something I'd regret. I hadn't asked for the abilities that made me a kidnap magnet for the undead and drew my family into danger because they made great bait for the bad guys. My dad knew that, yet he was still blaming me anyway.

Gretchen waited until he'd left before she spoke, too.

’’Wow. That was bitchy of him.’’

For once, my little sister and I were in complete agreement.

Chapter 25

With some help from Gretchen, I took a shower, glad to wash away the results of three days of being comatose and briefly dying. Then I had a bowl of soup and napped, awakening to another checkup from Dr. Romanov and more visitors as Sandra, Joe, and the other humans I'd befriended stopped by. In the evening, Marty and Gretchen came by again. Even my father dropped off books so I had something to do aside from watch my IVs drip, but the person I most wanted to see never showed up.

The next morning, Dr. Romanov pronounced me well enough to leave the infirmary. I was thrilled. Being stuck in a small, windowless room while on saline-and-vampire-blood IVs might've healed my body to top condition, but it was hell on my overly stimulated mind. Why hadn't Vlad come back? He'd spent three days at my side when I was in a coma, but now that I was better, I didn't even warrant a drive-by wave?

Maybe he was only worried that he would lose his psychic weapon, my inner voice taunted. Now that you're better, he has no reason to be near you until he needs something.

Shut up, I snapped in reply.

Vlad hadn't asked me to pull an impression from a single object since my return. True, I'd spent most of that time unconscious, but that didn't mean he was concerned only because of my abilities. My nasty little inner voice could whisper all the poison it wanted. It didn't take away from the fact that something still burned between Vlad and me. As for why he'd avoided me the past twenty-four hours, I intended to find out.

When I left the infirmary, I went to my bedroom, taking a shower after releasing my pent-up electricity in the lightning rod Vlad had set up outside my window. Then I went to the antique wardrobe, opened the doors - and stared.

Empty. Not even a single hanger remained. I went to the dressers next, opening each one with increasing disbelief.

Every last stitch of clothing was gone. If not for the towels and robe in the bathroom, I'd be naked.

I tightened that robe around me and pulled the long tassel by the door. After a couple minutes, the albino-looking vampire named Oscar appeared.

’’How may I help you?’’ he asked with a bow.

’’Do you know what happened to the clothes in this room?’’


I waited, but when he said nothing else, I gritted my teeth and tried again.

’’And they're not here anymore because?’’

A slow blink. ’’Because you're not staying here any longer.’’


’’I'm not?’’ I repeated in case I'd briefly coma-d out and misheard him.

’’That's correct,’’ he said with another bow.

Vlad was kicking me out? Sure, he was angry I'd overused my powers, but I couldn't believe he'd do something so drastic.

Told you he didn't really care! my inner voice crowed.

Eat me! I roared back at it.

’’Where is Vlad now?’’ I asked, hoping it was my overly sensitive hearing that made the question sound like a screech.

’’In his room.’’

I brushed by Oscar with a muttered ’’Thanks’’ before marching to the staircase. Then I went up, holding the bottom of my robe together so I didn't flash anyone.

No one passed me on the staircase. The long slate hallway on the fourth floor was also empty. I took the fork on the left, mentally gearing up for the fight ahead. I was not letting Vlad do this. We had too much unfinished business between us.

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