Twice Tempted Page 52

Someone in this house has betrayed me.

I sucked in a breath. An ironic smile twisted his mouth as he typed something else and held it up again.

Aside from Maximus, that is.

I left that alone. How do you know? I thought.

More rapid typing. I became suspicious when my staff tracked Maximus's cell phone to that hotel, yet Hannibal beat me there. You said Hannibal knew details about your powers that were privy only to members of this household. As final proof, an e-mail Mencheres just sent confirmed that more incriminating information leaked that could only come from someone here.

I hadn't forgotten Hannibal's too-accurate knowledge, but getting kidnapped, dying, being comatose, and marrying Vlad, all in less than a week, had pushed it from the forefront for me.

Not for Vlad, obviously. Do you know who it is?

An eye roll preceded his next sentence. Wouldn't I be torturing that person now if I did?

True, and while details of my abilities could have accidentally reached the wrong ears, telling Hannibal's boss where me and Maximus were was no innocent slip of the tongue.

Then the significance of Vlad's typed messages hit me. You think whoever did this is on this floor.

Vampires had great hearing, but Vlad's bedroom was better insulated than most. Plus, his house was always full of people, which meant lots of background noise. Unless he thought the betrayer was very close, Vlad wouldn't type instead of speak.

And only his most trusted staff had rooms on this floor.

I winced. I'm sorry.

Don't pity me, he typed with lightning swiftness. Pity the man who will die a terrible death once I discover who he is.

I probably would pity that person then, but right now, we needed to find him. I held up my right hand with grim purpose.

I'll help you weed him out.

Vlad stared at me, his cold expression changing to an inscrutable one. When I saw his typed response, I read it three times, yet still couldn't believe what it said.

As long as you remain human, you won't.

I descended the narrow steps to the dungeon, guards I'd had to trick before now bowing to me as I passed. Marty walked in front of me, two curved silver scimitars attached to his belt. The knives reached his knees, making him look almost comical, but I knew how fast Marty was. Vlad knew it, too. That's why Marty was my bodyguard now.

I hadn't wanted Vlad to accompany me for more reasons than the fight we'd just had. I'd known our marriage would be tumultuous, but I hadn't anticipated the sparring to start less than twenty-four hours after we said I do.

What's that you were saying about the difference a day made? my cursed inner voice mocked.

I ignored it and kept walking, nodding at the guard who let us through the entrance. Once inside, torches provided enough light that I could see where I was going. The manacle-laden stone monolith was now empty, as were the poles in front of it. Whatever that meant, I wasn't sure and didn't want to ask.

’’This way,’’ Marty said, taking the passage to the right.

I hadn't ventured to this part of the dungeon before, and when I saw the next chamber, I never wanted to come back. Torchlight revealed machines both ancient and high-tech, complete with grisly accessories that defied even my abilities-driven imagination as to their use. It made the part of the dungeon with the impalement poles look as benign as a waiting room.

’’Freaky, isn't it?’’ Marty grunted. ’’When you're a prisoner, the first thing they do is give you the grand tour. Then you're manacled to that stone wall to think about what you saw. Next is the pole, where round one of questioning begins. If you don't answer to their satisfaction, you come here for more incentive.’’

I looked around with a shiver. Why would any of Vlad's people betray him, knowing they'd end up in this little slice of hell if they got caught?

Then again, I was here to see someone who'd done just that.

Marty led me past the chilling machinery room to another tight passageway. This one didn't open to a large antechamber. Instead, a string of cells were hewn into the rock. Most were only as tall as Marty, leaving those unlucky enough to be in one unable to stand. This part of the dungeon was colder, too. My turquoise skirt hung to my ankles and I had on a long-sleeved top, but I should've grabbed a coat, too.

As I passed the smaller cells, nothing stirred in them. They, like the rest of the dungeon so far, seemed empty.

I had to ask. ’’Do you know where the prisoners are?’’

Marty opened his mouth, but another voice beat him to it.

’’Vlad had them all executed in honor of his wedding.’’

Maximus's tone was harder than the stone walls surrounding us. I swallowed and then followed it to the end of the walkway, where the last few cells were regular-sized, at least.

’’How magnanimous.’’

I wasn't being sarcastic. I'd prefer death to experiencing everything this dungeon had to offer, and if someone wronged Vlad enough to end up here, death was the only way out.

Well, almost the only way.

Maximus came into view as I got closer. At some point since I'd last seen him, he'd been given new clothes, but his hair was still reddish from all the dried blood in it. He leaned against his bars, his gray gaze lit up with green. Then he looked at the ring on my gloved finger and his mouth curled downward.

’’I'd say congratulations, but we both know I'd be lying.’’

I rested my hands against the bars. ’’Considering where you are, I don't blame you.’’

’’That's not why.’’

Quick as a striking snake, he had my hands in his. Then his fingers tightened, preventing me from pulling away.


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