Twice Tempted Page 46

My lips twitched but this was too serious to joke about. ’’I do want to marry you, Vlad. Tonight is too soon, but - ’’

’’Why?’’

Not a hint of humor colored the question. Belatedly, I realized he was serious. With that knowledge, my inner antebellum Southern belle burst to the surface.

’’Because all of this is so sudden!’’

After an outburst that even Scarlett O'Hara would scorn, I tried to explain in a more articulate manner.

’’I'd want our wedding to be special. I don't have a dress, you don't have a best man, and instead of flowers, we have corpses on poles decorating the front of the house.’’

’’Flowers are on the way, as is my best man, three seamstresses are ready to make any dress you desire, and I'll have the corpses taken down,’’ he replied without missing a beat.

If he had seamstresses standing by plus flowers and a best man on the way, he wasn't just serious about wanting to get married tonight. He was planning on it.

A colossal tug-of-war began inside me. I loved Vlad and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him;I had no doubts about that. His arrogance and complexity would drive me up a wall, plus I'd never get used to his impalement habit;I had no doubts about that, either. Would a long engagement change any of the above? No, but the saying ’’Marry in haste, repent at leisure’’ was famous for a reason . . .

’’Did I mention I honor the custom of paying a bride price?’’ he asked in a casual tone, as if his gaze hadn't narrowed while listening to my thoughts.

’’In case you aren't familiar, a bride price is where the groom bestows a gift to his new wife,’’ he went on. ’’The gift is supposed to reflect the value a groom places on his bride. Because of your value to me, no matter what you asked for, if it was in my power to grant, it would be yours.’’

I'd stiffened upon first hearing his description, insulted that Vlad thought he could overcome my concerns with money. Then he caressed the words of that last sentence until they shone as brightly as the apple the serpent offered Eve. What did he think I wanted? He loved me - that had been my biggest wish, and I didn't remember singing ’’Material Girl’’ around him lately . . .

Comprehension dawned. Anything in his power to grant, no matter what it was. You MERCILESSLY diabolical man, I thought, aghast and admiring at the same time.

’’Let me guess - you don't pay up until I marry you?’’

A sly smile curled his lips. ’’Correct.’’

’’You really don't play nice when it comes to something you want, do you?’’ I breathed.

His eyes gleamed. ’’You have no idea.’’

A promise and a threat. That described my decision now, which held the hope of incredible bliss as well as the potential for irreparable heartbreak.

’’You told me you wanted to marry me,’’ I said, voice throaty from all my surging emotions. ’’You didn't ask me.’’

He probably hadn't noticed. To him, there wouldn't be much difference between the two, and that exemplified so many issues in our relationship. See? You can't marry him tonight or any other night, you two will NEVER last! my inner voice snapped.

Vlad stared at me, copper swallowing up his gaze until not a trace of emerald remained. Then, his expression the same mixture of challenge and invitation, he slowly knelt before me.

’’Leila Dalton, my one true love, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?’’

I might've brought Vlad to his knees at last, but in so many ways, he would never bend. I knew that as surely as I knew I'd always love him, and it left me with only one answer.

’’Yes, Vlad, I will marry you. Tonight.’’

My hated inner voice had never steered me right before. I'd be damned if I started listening to it now.

Chapter 27

I now knew what Vlad had been busy with yesterday when he hadn't come to see me: preparing for a wedding I hadn't known about yet. He hadn't been kidding about the seamstresses, the flowers, or anything else. His staff hustled about with blurring speed, setting up decorations, making enough food for an army judging from the chaos near the kitchen, and putting out so many candles that the nearby countryside would soon suffer from a wax shortage. Unlike the frostiness I'd experienced before, Vlad's people were all smiles now, and if one more person bowed to me, I'd expect a tiara to magically sprout from my head.

But before picking a dress or any of the other items on my now-urgent to-do list, I had to talk to my family. All my family, even the vampire I shared no biological ties to.

Vlad sat next to me in the Tapestry Room. Images of medieval life, battles, and nature were intricately woven into the huge wall coverings. The ceiling had interior boxes carved into designs that mirrored scenes from the tapestries. The effect was stunning, but I didn't think my father appreciated it at the moment. He was staring at me with the same horror I'd seen on people's faces right before they were executed.

’’You're marrying him tonight?’’

Gretchen, for once, was more urbane. ’’That explains why everyone's running around like you set their asses on fire.’’

Marty's face was carefully blank, but his gaze flicked between me and Vlad in a way that could hardly be called joyous.

’’Why the rush?’’ Gretchen asked. Then she stared at my midsection. ’’You're not pregnant, are you?’’

’’Vampires are incapable of impregnating humans,’’ I said.

Relief crossed my father's face but I was ambivalent. Even if Vlad was human, I'd known since my teens that I couldn't have children. No baby could survive in my high-voltage body.


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