Twice Tempted Page 57

I rolled on top of Vlad, brushing his hair back so I could see every nuance of his expression when I gave him my answer.

’’This word matters. Yes, Vlad. The answer is yes.’’

Vlad was gone when I awoke, but it wasn't a surprise this time. Before I fell asleep, he'd said he was meeting with Mencheres this morning to begin tightening the noose around the traitor. Since Vlad already had all calls, texts, and e-mails monitored, plus his staff wasn't allowed to leave, under the pretense of continued wedding celebrations, I couldn't imagine how he'd further clamp things down, but he must have a plan. I'd find out what it was once he was back.

Until then, I had some issues of my own to take care of, like telling my family about my decision. I wasn't going to take the undead plunge today, but I also saw no reason to put it off for months or years. Between my abilities plus living with two different vampires, there was little I didn't know about what I was getting into. Hell, compared to how my accident had changed my life, turning into a vampire wouldn't even be the biggest transition I'd ever undergone.

I got out of bed, my foot catching on something soft as I headed toward the bathroom. Vlad's shirt. I caught it after an upward kick and then began to pick up the other clothes strewn around the room. He might be used to having servants clean up after him, but I wasn't. When I got to my turquoise skirt, however, the lumpiness in its pocket made me pause.

My stolen stash was still there. When Vlad ripped this off me, I thought its contents would've scattered. Feeling the items through the material filled me with the same temptation Pandora must've experienced when she stroked that box. Was the traitor's identity locked inside one of these? Or were these items the gateway to me losing my mortality sooner than I'd intended?

The idea of eating the occasional meal of ’’long pig’’ as a ghoul wasn't appealing, but how could I shy away from avenging the deaths of everyone at the carnival plus protecting those here? I hadn't suffered any ill effects from using my powers yesterday. Maybe I still had so much of Vlad's blood in me that it countered the damage my powers caused. For now, anyway.

There was another reason I shouldn't wait. Changing into a vampire could wipe out my psychic abilities altogether. At the very least, it could put them out of commission for a long time. This might be the only chance I had to discover who'd betrayed Vlad before anyone else got hurt - or worse.

I can't stop you from doing what you feel you must, Vlad had said, while warning me about what he'd do if he found out. I drew in a long, slow breath before taking off my right glove.

I must.

Then I plunged my bare hand into the pocket. Images overtook me as I touched all the items at once. Through the fast-forward-type reenactment of several staff members, one person stuck out, and it was the last person I expected to see.

What was Sandra doing in there?

Chapter 33

Vlad gave me a look of such suspicion that, had I been anyone else, I'd expect it to be followed by interrogation.

’’You want to go shopping?’’ he repeated.

’’Yes,’’ I said, and it was the absolute truth. ’’Come on, nothing I'm wearing even belongs to me - ’’

’’They do, those clothes are new,’’ he cut me off.

’’ - and you did everything for our wedding down to picking out your own ring. Even if I didn't want to buy a few things for myself, which I do, I also want to get you something. If you go with me, it won't be much of a surprise, will it?’’

That earned me another what-are-you-really-up-to look, but my thoughts agreed with my words and my expression wouldn't have been more innocent if I'd borrowed it from an angel.

’’Come on, you own the town we're going to,’’ I added. ’’It's not like I want to borrow the jet for a quick jaunt to Paris.’’

From his expression, he was weighing his misgivings against the time-tested truism that women liked to shop.

’’Guards will accompany you,’’ he said at last.

’’Of course. I'm bringing Gretchen and Sandra, too.’’

He waved a hand, humans not concerning him. Inwardly I smiled, but continued to think of nothing aside from clothing, shoes, and se*y lingerie. From the flare to his nostrils, that last one pleased him.

’’I'll have your escort ready to leave in twenty minutes.’’

Then he leaned down, his stubble grazing my cheek as he murmured, ’’Don't bother getting me anything. You're all I want.’’

I didn't hold back my smile this time. And you say you're not good with pretty words.

’’I won't be long,’’ I promised.

Twenty minutes later Sandra, Gretchen, and I piled into the back of the limo. Shrapnel drove, since with Maximus gone, he'd moved into the position of Vlad's right-hand man. Oscar rode shotgun, and four more guards followed us in another vehicle.

’’What's with the entourage?’’ Gretchen asked. I shrugged as if I had no idea.

’’As the voivode's wife, guards are expected,’’ Sandra said.

’’What's voya-voda mean?’’ Gretchen asked, sounding it out.

’’Prince, basically,’’ I replied. ’’Voivode was Vlad's title back in the day.’’

My sister slanted a grin at me. ’’So you're a princess now?’’

’’No,’’ I said at the same time that Sandra said, ’’Yes.’’

’’No,’’ I repeated more firmly. ’’I already get bowed to. If anyone calls me Your Highness, my head might explode.’’

Sandra laughed, finger-combing her strawberry blonde hair. ’’If I were a princess, I would insist on it. And on a crown.’’


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