Twice Tempted Page 61

’’Don't even think of trying anything,’’ she gasped.

Shrapnel's eyes were fixed on her while the sticklike things growing from his shoulders and hips twitched. Soon his arms and legs would be fully regenerated and the damage to his insides healed. I was about to warn Gretchen that he would try something when three forms dropped next to them with the abruptness of crashing meteors. The fourth landed next to me, green eyes ablaze and dark hair whipping wildly as he tore his wrist open before shoving it against my mouth.

Vlad. Someone must've spotted the smoke after all.

As I began to drink from the deep slash, Vlad's guards hauled Shrapnel up, one of them removing the knife before he could spare himself by taking his own life. Then my vision went completely dark. I swallowed again, but the pain wracking my body didn't lessen. Instead, it grew until it felt like razors were being shoved into my skull while the tightness in my chest spread to engulf the rest of my body. I couldn't swallow anymore. I couldn't even summon the strength to take another breath. When coldness swept over me, replacing the pain with its icy caress, I knew he'd arrived too late.

’’No!’’

Vlad's shout held me down, but only for a moment. Then inner chains I'd never felt before broke and I burst forth like a bullet being fired through a gun. I wasn't broken on the ground anymore. I was soaring, and it was more exhilarating than any of the dreams I'd had where I could fly. My vision was no longer an ugly haze of crimson and darkness. Instead, everything was bathed in brightest light while the comforting scent of rainwater and freesia enveloped me. I'd smelled that before, so long ago I'd forgotten it, but now I knew at once who it belonged to. And then I saw her.

The streaks of silver in her black hair looked radiant. So did the tiny lines on her face when she smiled. All at once, the guilt I'd carried fell away. She didn't say anything. She didn't need to. I felt that she'd never blamed me for her death and that she'd forgiven me all my other wrongs. I rushed toward her, but with that lovely smile, she held out a hand to ward me off.

Not yet, baby, whispered across my mind.

Then something yanked me down with brutal force. Her sweet scent vanished, as did the crystalline sunshine I'd been flying in. I began to fall with terrifying speed, every attempt to catch myself countered with another relentless tug. The ground was fast approaching, yet I could do nothing to fight the invisible grip that pitilessly continued to wrench me downward.

When I landed on that unyielding surface, the impact broke me apart. I waited for the soothing cold caress of death to come, but it didn't.

Instead, all I felt was fire.

Chapter 36

Blood.

My mouth was wet with it while its scent perfumed the air, no longer coppery and sharp, but heady and intoxicating. I swallowed and inhaled simultaneously, trying to fill myself in every way with the blissful liquid that made the pain go away. For a few moments, I was lost in satiation so complete it was like coming and cresting an incredible high at the same time.

Then, like every high I'd relived through my abilities, the crash left me shivering, hurting, and desperate for another hit.

Someone snarled, ’’More,’’ in a tone I'd expect from a rabid animal if it could talk. The response was a wet, chilly cloth to my face. It took away the blood I'd been licking, and my eyes snapped open in outrage. Once they did, everything was so bright and vivid that for a second, I couldn't focus.

’’I said more!’’

Two things registered at the same time. That savage voice came from me, and I hadn't breathed in between speaking. Feeling tiny daggers jab me in the lip was almost redundant.

You've really done it this time, my inner voice mocked.

My teeth ground, driving what I knew were fangs deeper into my lower lip. Seemed that dying and being brought back as a vampire still hadn't killed my hated internal voice.

Then the kaleidoscope of colors became distinct shapes and Vlad came into focus. His black pants and indigo shirt reeked of smoke and burnt rubber, but under that, I caught the rich aroma of blood, and everything else vanished.

I leapt on him, seeking those luscious traces with an urgency that had me tearing into his skin and clothes with my new fangs. He murmured something I didn't comprehend in my search for the source of that scent. Part of me was appalled at my savageness, yet the rest only cared for one thing.

Blood. Need it. NOW.

Vlad shoved me away, one hand holding my snapping mouth at bay while the other reached behind him. That inner burning had returned, ravaging me with pain so intense I couldn't think past the need to make it stop. Then ambrosia slid down my throat, dousing my anguish so thoroughly that grateful tears slid down my cheeks. I swallowed as though I was trying to drown, my eyes closing with relief so profound I thought I might pass out.

Then something else edged through my relief. Anger, followed by a tidal wave of the rawest, most unbridled emotion I'd ever felt. Calling it love was likening a spring shower to a hurricane, and when I realized it didn't come from me, but the vampire still holding my jaw in an iron grip, I was shocked.

’’I can feel you.’’

The whisper made his gaze gleam brighter than I'd seen before, yet now, it didn't hurt to hold his stare.

’’Because your shopping deception cost you your humanity.’’

The harshness in his tone would've made me flinch except for the fresh surge across my emotions. More anger, yes, but born from fear of losing me. I hadn't thought Vlad was capable of being afraid, yet it threaded through my subconscious along with another wave of love's seething, unhinged second cousin. I thought his controlling behavior stemmed from arrogance, but it came from a pathological need to protect me. If I wasn't still fixated on thoughts of blood, I'd be amazed at all he'd acquiesced to while that compulsion raged in him.


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