Twice Tempted Page 58

Would you? I thought coolly, but smiled as if it were a joke. ’’Romanians are used to royalty. Americans, not so much.’’

The limo slanted as we began descending the hill. I glanced out the window in time to see the top of the mansion disappear behind a wall of trees and rock. We wouldn't see much beyond those two things for the next thirty minutes. This was the only road leading to town, and no one but Vlad's people used it.

Gretchen continued to chatter on about how if I was a princess, then that made her famous, too. Like Kate Middleton's sister, Pippa. I didn't bother telling her that no one outside of really old Romanian vampires or Vlad's people considered him a prince. Why spoil her daydreams sooner than I had to?

I waited until we were midway between Vlad's house and the town before I made my move. I hadn't done anything before in case Sandra had been in the communications room because one of the staff was hungry. If Vlad knew I had the slightest suspicion about her, he'd employ his methods for finding out the truth, and I wouldn't do that to a friend when I could get the same results without emotional or physical scars.

So once Vlad was too far away to read my thoughts and Sandra couldn't escape with Shrapnel speeding around corners with a vampire's usual disregard for the steep terrain, I smiled at Sandra, took off my right glove, and laid my hand on her arm.

The shriek she let out at the voltage coursing into her was lost under the instant swarm of images.

I'd just fallen asleep when the sound of my door closing startled me into wakefulness. A dark shadow contrasted against the cotton candy - colored pink walls, and when it came closer, moonlight revealed a vampire I recognized at once.

’’What are you doing here?’’ My voice was thicker from drowsiness. ’’I'm not on the feeding schedule tonight.’’

He didn't speak, but continued to come toward me. For some reason, fear threaded through my emotions. That made no sense. Vlad wouldn't stand for us to be ill treated and I'd fed this vampire many times before. Yet when he reached the bed, I shrank back, a bone-deep instinct overruling my logic.

Not again! I wanted to shriek, yet I still didn't know why. Then terror and guilt rose, the sensations both sickeningly familiar and overwhelming. Before I could speak, an emerald glow blinded me. At once, my concerns vanished. As the vampire whispered his instructions, I found myself nodding. Of course I would relay his message, and I had a message for him, too . . .

Gretchen's scream yanked me back before the last images faded. For a moment, I hung suspended between Sandra's mentality and my own. That's why I didn't react when the vampire in the front seat held up the small device even though I knew what it was. I'd seen one of those before, and while it was no bigger than a cell phone, its presence meant death.

Then the final ties to Sandra's memory dropped. White light suffused my hand as I snapped a current toward the front seat, but it was too late. Shrapnel pushed the button on the detonator the instant before my whip cut through him.

The subsequent boom! shook the limo, but we didn't explode. The car behind us did, and the sudden fireball claimed my attention for a few costly seconds. Long enough for Shrapnel to yank the steering wheel to the left, aiming our speeding vehicle right at the guardrail before he bailed out the door.

Gretchen's scream as we hurtled over the cliff was the last thing I heard before everything went black.

Blood.

Its taste flavored my mouth while its coppery scent hung in the air. I swallowed, expecting the pain radiating through me to vanish, yet it didn't. That's when I realized I wasn't swallowing vampire blood for healing. It was my own.

I forced my eyes open even though it felt like razors had replaced my eyelids. Then what I saw made me forget the pain. Gretchen hung above me, her black hair hiding her face, red drips falling onto the smashed glass that surrounded me. Sandra was also suspended by her seat belt, her blood flowing in a thicker trail. Between us was a thick tree branch, of all things, its leaves spattered with crimson.

Why aren't we dead? was my first thought, followed immediately by Where's Shrapnel? I sat up, trying not to scream from the pain. A glance at the front of the limo showed the driver's side was empty. The passenger side wasn't. Oscar's pale face had an expression of shock that even his rapidly mummifying skin couldn't erase. He was also suspended upside down by his seat belt in the flipped limo, the hilt of a silver knife buried in his chest.

I lurched toward that knife, sending more fiery arcs through my body. It felt like my ribs, collarbone, and left arm were fractured, plus I had more cuts than I could count from all the broken glass. Still, I was lucky. Without the side and front air bags, I'd be dead. I hadn't been wearing a seat belt since I wanted to grab Sandra in case she tried anything. Little did I know the danger came from the front seat, not the back.

Grunts of agony escaped me as I hoisted myself over the broken glass into the front of the limo. Once there, I saw through the smashed windshield that a tree had stopped our descent down the cliff. That was the good news. The bad news was the orange flickers licking up the underside of the hood.

I yanked the knife from Oscar's body, intending to cut the seat belts from Gretchen and Sandra, when noise outside made me freeze. Someone was coming, and I wasn't naive enough to think it was rescuers.

I licked the blood-coated knife so fast that I cut my tongue, but before that pain fully registered, it vanished. In the seconds it took me to lick the other side, my whole body hurt less. By the time Shrapnel ripped off the passenger side door, I was crouched in front of Gretchen and Sandra, holding the knife in one hand while electricity crackled from the other. He immediately leapt back several feet, body tensed to dodge anything I aimed at him.


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