Twice Tempted Page 47

Then my father's features hardened. ’’You can't expect my blessing on this disastrous mistake.’’

The words were directed at me, but Vlad responded.

’’I wouldn't insult you by asking. We both know you disapprove and we both know that I don't care. Leila's opinion is the only one that matters and she said yes.’’

My father cast a calculated look at the items on the silver serving tray in front of him. Vlad flashed him a charming smile.

’’You'd never succeed.’’

For a second, I didn't understand. Then my mouth fell open.

’’Dad! You were not thinking of stabbing my fiance with a silver knife!’’

Marty leapt over to my father. ’’Hugh, you need to settle down,’’ he muttered while shooting wary looks at Vlad. ’’Let's go for a walk, hmm?’’

’’That's not necessary, I won't kill him,’’ Vlad said in the same tone most people used to talk about the weather.

’’This is too twisted,’’ Gretchen muttered. ’’I'm about to have Dracula for a brother-in-law.’’

I ignored that, still glaring at my father.

’’I didn't expect you to be happy about this. I did expect that you wouldn't get homicidal. I've lived with a vampire for years, remember? They're not so different from us.’’

’’You think I object because he's a vampire?’’ my father snapped. ’’If you were marrying Marty, I'd give my blessing because he's a good man. He’’ - a finger stabbed in Vlad's direction - ’’is not.’’

I sighed. ’’You saw the corpses on the lawn, didn't you?’’

My father let out a scoff. ’’As if I couldn't tell before that. I told you, Leila, I can read people, and without a doubt, Vlad is the most violent person I've ever met.’’

’’You're right.’’

Vlad hadn't shifted from his relaxed position, nor had his genial smile slipped. He waved a hand at Gretchen and Marty.

’’You're both resigned to this wedding, so give us the room.’’

Gretchen got up, casting a sideways look at my hand. ’’Still no diamond ring. This is what happens when you don't play hard to get, sis.’’

I rolled my eyes. ’’If you want to help me design the dress, meet me in the library in half an hour.’’

Marty gave me a long look. ’’I hope you know what you're doing, kid,’’ he said. Then he followed Gretchen out of the room.

I glanced back at Vlad, noting that he and my father were engaged in a staring contest. Vlad's eyes were their normal deep copper color, but even without vampiric enhancement, Hugh Dalton didn't stand a chance.

’’Dad, I know you have certain opinions about Vlad, but once you get to know him, I'm sure - ’’ I began, only to have Vlad's chuckle stop me.

’’That won't help because he's right. I am a violent man and I always have been. Why, when I was half his age and human, I invited the local nobles to my home for a feast. While they still had food hanging from their lips, I slaughtered them all and counted it an excellent evening.’’

’’TMI,’’ I muttered.

He ignored that, meeting my father's harsh blue stare.

’’Here's what you don't know: I am never violent without cause. Those nobles had betrayed my father, resulting in him being blinded and buried alive. Some of them had walled him into his grave themselves, yet they still came to my home without fear because they underestimated me. You don't, which is one of the two reasons I respect you.’’

Then he leaned forward, his smile fading.

’’The other reason is this: loyalty. You've seen the riches I possess and the power I wield, yet you've never thought of using your daughters to garner those things for yourself.’’

’’That's not loyalty. It's being a father,’’ my dad gritted.

’’My father bartered me and my younger brother to his worst enemy in exchange for political security,’’ Vlad said flatly. ’’I've seen far worse in the centuries since. Fatherhood isn't why you value your daughters more than money, power, or even healing your leg, which I can do. It's loyalty, and I expect you honor it more now because of the loss you suffered when you betrayed it before.’’

I didn't know which shocked me more - Vlad saying he could heal my father's crippled leg, or him throwing up my dad's former adultery. Vlad knew about it because of the guilt I still carried over my mother's death. I'd told her about the incriminating letters I found in my dad's bag because I was angry that she was moving us away from my trainer to join my dad in Germany. At thirteen, I cared more about making the Olympic team than my mother's heartache. Her leaving him put us at my aunt's, where she died trying to help me after I touched that downed power line.

My dad also looked stunned, but then he rose, jabbing the end of his cane at Vlad. ’’How dare you.’’

The words trembled with wrath. Vlad didn't even blink.

’’I dare because I want no misunderstanding between us. I am everything you think I am, but I love your daughter, and what I love, I protect with all of the violence in me, which, as you've guessed, is considerable.’’

Silence fell when Vlad finished speaking. Even his staff must have paused in their frenetic preparations because I could've heard a pin drop in the next room. My dad's face remained set in hard lines while I engaged in an inner debate.

He could've left out all the people he'd killed -

Why? A Google search would reveal the same thing.

Fine, but bringing up Dad's affair -

He was impolite while making a point? This is Vlad the Impaler. His points usually come at the end of a long pole.


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