Twice Tempted Page 60

’’You're overreacting,’’ she said, and the boredom in her tone hit me like a splash of acid. ’’Even if there are suspicions, they won't lead anywhere. Whatever she might have been worth to him alive, she's less dangerous to us dead.’’

My laugh was harsh. ’’One day, you'll tell me the real reason you don't want Vlad to know about us. Until then, the only motive I see for you killing Leila is jealousy.’’

I'd intended the accusation to sting, but I hadn't anticipated the venom in her response.

’’My reasons don't matter. What does matter is you are the one who gave me her location. He'll kill you for that, dearie, and only after years of torturing you. Unless that sounds appealing, you have no choice but to keep this a secret.’’

I hung up, my sense of despair equal to the knowledge that she was right. Vlad would respond only one way to my part in Leila's death, and he wouldn't stop there. He'd do the same to her, and despite my anger, I couldn't let that happen. I loved her, and if lying would keep her safe, then I would lie.

The alley dissolved and I expected to fall back into my own reality, but without even trying to, I linked to Shrapnel's accomplice next. For a split second, I saw her, wearing a skirt suit and reclined on a couch with a martini in her hand. Before I could focus on her face, her features blurred, leaving nothing but a blob surrounded by lustrous walnut-colored hair.

Then a wave of dizziness assailed me, as if someone just whacked me over the head with a two-by-four. I dropped the link, returning to the present where I was curled on my side, coughing between tortured gasps for air. Blood dribbled from my mouth and the pressure in my chest increased until it was excruciating.

This wasn't from the beating Shrapnel had given me. No, I recognized this pain. My abilities had hit the lethal zone, and the only vampire near enough to heal me wanted me dead.

Frustration made me want to howl at the unfairness of it all. I was only supposed to use my abilities on Sandra to see if she was guilty or innocent. I hadn't meant to pull Shrapnel's worst sin, let alone link to the bitch who'd started this whole mess with the carnival bomb. Now those things would kill me.

A groan made me open my eyes. Through a haze of red, I caught a glimpse of Shrapnel. The current I'd blasted into him had thrown him over a dozen feet away. Both his arms were now missing in addition to his legs, and his skin looked like meat someone had put through a grinder. Despite all the damage from the current, he was still alive. Then his head lolled toward me and our eyes met.

A sliver of surprise threaded through my fading consciousness. I hadn't expected any empathy from him, but I was unprepared for the mixture of relief and pride in his expression. Relief made sense;he wanted me dead, and from the crushing pain in my chest, he'd soon get his wish. But why pride? He had nothing to do with my abilities overloading enough to put the final nails in my coffin . . .

Far too late, I figured it out.

How did you break her spell to reach her? Shrapnel had asked. I thought he meant the brunette vampire had cooked up something magical to prevent me from getting a clear look at her face if I linked to her, but it was more than that.

The spell was also meant to kill me.

Chapter 35

’’Leila!’’

My sister's voice cut through the agony that made me want to stay in the fetal position or die, whichever hurt less. Gretchen. Sounds afraid penetrated past my pain, followed by an ominous memory. The limo's on fire.

I pushed myself to my knees, a gurgling scream escaping me. Through vision that was starting to blacken, I caught a gleam of orange. The flames had spread farther up the vehicle. They could reach the leaking gas tank any second.

I lunged at the limo, blood spewing from my mouth as I tried to breathe through the almost paralyzing pressure in my chest. My vision was too blurry to find the knife I'd dropped, and the pain made me feel like I was on fire. Maybe I was and didn't realize it. Still, I couldn't stop. I focused on my sister's screams and they were like a shot of adrenaline, giving me the strength to lunge forward again, and again. The side of the car hit me in the face as I staggered into it.

My vision was now totally black and Gretchen's voice was fainter, but my mind still worked. With my left hand, I fumbled until I found the lock for the seat belt. Then I dragged my right hand over my arm until it reached the spot. With the last bit of energy I had, I sent a bolt of electricity through it.

The sudden thump of weight onto my shoulders was the most wonderful thing I'd ever felt.

’’Save Sandra,’’ I tried to say, but all that came out was an unintelligible gurgle.

Something shoved me roughly, blasting more pain into me. Had Shrapnel come back? I wondered, and then didn't care as a lovely numbness began to creep over me. Not good, a shred of rationale warned. Don't pass out! You won't wake up!

I tried to force my way past the darkness and the addictive bliss of diminishing pain. It felt like swimming in quicksand - the more I struggled, the deeper I sank. Then consciousness returned at the brutal sensation of being dragged. My ribs felt like twigs someone snapped within me, but I managed a few ragged gulps of air. That and the fresh deluge of pain chased away the ominous lethargy. Then a thunderous noise snapped my eyes open, an orange haze momentarily blinding me.

The fire had reached the gas tank at last.

Through the tiny slits that remained of my vision, I saw I was now behind some trees, their trunks taking the brunt of the exploding debris. Sandra was unconscious nearby, and Gretchen . . .

I had to be hallucinating. If I wasn't, then my sister was about twenty feet away, crouched on top of Shrapnel. She had the knife he'd killed Oscar with sticking out of his chest, and though her expression showed she was terrified, both her hands were firmly wrapped around the hilt.


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