Twice Tempted Page 44

I went into his room without knocking. He never locked his door, probably because anyone who entered without permission was tempting death. I'd already died once this week, so that wasn't about to stop me.

’’We need to talk,’’ I said.

Thankfully, the lights were on so he must be awake. Though I was determined to have this out, Vlad was not Mr. Sunshine when he first woke up. I shut the door, my gaze skipping around. His room was broken into four sections: the mini-library, as I called the part with couches and wall-to-wall bookshelves;the bedchamber;the bathroom;and his walk-in closet.

Vlad came out of that closet in pants and a jacket the color of storm clouds. His raw silk shirt was a few shades lighter, as was the thicker, long silk scarf that hung with casual elegance around his neck. I must've caught him before he was done dressing because his feet were bare, which made his approach even more soundless than usual.

I held up a hand. ’’Before you say anything, hear me out.’’

Not waiting to see if he agreed, I plowed ahead.

’’I know you, the real you, and while I don't like everything because you've got a master's degree in medieval torture, not to mention a reluctance to admit to feelings beyond affection or lust, which any shrink would tell you were commitment issues’’ - deep breath for the next part - ’’I still love you, Vlad. You, the dragon, not the imaginary knight, and I'm not letting you kick me out because I - I think you love me, too.’’

I was out of breath from too many words with too little oxygen in between them. Throughout my emphatic if ineloquent speech, Vlad kept coming toward me. The scent of cinnamon, spice, and smoke filled my nose. This must be his natural scent, something I hadn't noticed before my nose received its upgrade.

I stared at him, wishing I had his mind-reading abilities because his expression gave nothing away. All I gleaned from searching his face was that his stubble was back to its eight o'clock shadow length and his molten copper eyes were sprinkled with emerald.

’’You're right,’’ he said at last, his tone thick with things I couldn't name.

’’About what? The excessive torturing, commitment issues, or the other thing?’’

His smile was tantalizing and frightening, like being whipped and finding out you enjoyed the pain. I couldn't stop the shiver that ran through me as I looked at the man who still had such a dangerous hold over my heart.

’’All of it.’’

He seized me as he spoke, one hand tangling in my hair while the other splayed across my back. Their heat was nothing compared to his lips when he pressed them to my throat.

’’Do you know what happened the last time I loved someone?’’

Growled against my skin with such tempered violence that my shiver turned into a shudder. I nodded.

’’No you don't.’’ Another lethal growl. ’’You only know how she died. Let me tell you how she lived - in fear. My actions horrified her, as they horrify you. My enemies exploited her, as they exploit you, so it was more than an advancing army that made her throw herself from our roof. It was me.’’

He'd made sure to say this while his fangs were at my throat, as if I needed a literal example of how precarious life would be with him. In response, my arms came up, crisscrossing around his neck. One at a time, I pulled my gloves off. Then I plunged my hands into his hair, letting the electricity surge through him as I held him closer to my neck.

’’I am not her.’’

I was glad the words vibrated from my vehemence. I wanted him to be able to feel them as well as hear them.

’’You're the scariest man I've ever met, but I am not afraid of you. As for your enemies, let them come. I've survived them before and I will again.’’

His laughter teased my neck - hot, harsh, and silkier than the rich material covering him. Then he lifted his head, and his stare held mine captive as if he'd mesmerized me.

’’You should be afraid. Very afraid. Before, I told you if you wanted to end things between us, I would let you go, but, Leila’’ - his voice deepened - ’’I lied.’’

Chapter 26

The words sounded like a threat, yet I was unable to stop a grin from tugging at my mouth.

’’Does that mean you're no longer trying to kick me out?’’

He turned, glancing at the entrance to his closet. ’’Look.’’

With a questioning glance, I went over to the closet. Yes, it was still the size of the RV I'd lived in with Marty, and yes, I still thought the automated system that moved his outfits along with the flick of a switch was cool. So what was -

My indrawn breath coincided with him drawing me against him, his arms encircling me from behind.

’’Does that answer your question?’’

It did, and I'd completely misunderstood Oscar's statement, ’’You're not staying here any longer.’’ I thought he meant Vlad's house. What he meant was that room. All the clothes that had been in my armoire and dressers were here, down to the bras that took up the section once occupied by Vlad's ties.

Even when I'd been his live-in girlfriend, none of my stuff had been kept here. It had been in the adjoining bedroom where I sometimes slept, too. Vlad couldn't have been clearer about wanting me back, but in his usual way, he'd assumed because he wanted something, it was his.

If we were going to work things out, that had to stop.

I turned around, trying to rein in my roiling emotions. ’’You can't move my stuff into your room without talking to me first. What if I don't want to take things that fast?’’

A snort escaped him. ’’You nearly died to prove I am the man you love, yet this is excessive to you?’’


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