Twice Tempted Page 62

Then another crippling pain hit me, erasing the rest under a hunger so severe it was like starving to death a thousand times in the space of seconds. I would've collapsed if not for Vlad's grip, and before I could scream from that awful inner burning, a new mouthful of ambrosia took the agony away.

I swallowed as greedily as before, this time returning to my senses before he pried the sodden shreds of plastic out of my hands. Plasma bags, I noted while licking my hands clean with an impulse I couldn't control. How modern of him. If memory served, I'd be a blood-crazed maniac for days until I garnered enough strength not to murder the first living person who crossed my path. The thought was depressing.

Then another realization belatedly struck.

’’How am I a vampire instead of a ghoul? I remember dying . . .’’

And seeing my mother. That stunned me into momentarily forgetting my question. She hadn't been a dream or an illusion;I knew that as surely as I knew my own name. That meant there was something after death. I'd never believed it because I hadn't seen it from the other deaths I'd relived, but maybe glimpsing what lay beyond had to be personally experienced.

Vlad's grip loosened until he stroked my throat instead of restrained my jaw. ’’My blood wasn't enough to heal you this time. It did, however, start the transformation process.’’

’’How?’’

His teeth flashed in a humorless smile. ’’In normal transformations, I'd drain you to the point of death before having you drink my blood. You drained yourself to the point of death with your injuries, and you had enough of my blood in you that the additional amount I gave you tipped you over the edge.’’

Then his hand dropped, rage-infused anguish scraping across my emotions before he went on.

’’Of course I didn't know that until after you died, when suddenly, you began tearing at my throat.’’

I didn't remember that, nor did I have any recollection of being brought here. The last thing I remembered was seeing Shrapnel hauled up by guards and Vlad kneeling beside me.

’’Gretchen. She's okay, isn't she?’’

’’Minor injuries only.’’

This time the relief I felt wasn't fueled by ingesting a bellyful of blood. ’’And Sandra?’’

’’More serious injuries, but she'll recover.’’

I didn't want to ask, but I had to know. ’’Shrapnel?’’

His mouth tightened. ’’Where he belongs.’’

That meant the dungeon, no doubt. Maybe that's where we were, too. This room looked like a fancier version of one of Vlad's prison cells since the walls, ceiling, and floor were solid rock with no apparent exit, but there were two stacked mattresses in the corner covered by several thick blankets. That hadn't been standard in the dungeon accommodations I'd seen, though the absence of lights was -

And I could still see perfectly. I blinked as if expecting that to change, which of course it didn't. No light illuminated the tight quarters, yet I saw every inch down to the red smears streaking the walls that smelled so good I wanted to lick them. When twin pinpricks of pain jabbed me in the lip, I knew my new fangs had sprung out again.

I closed my eyes, feeling overwhelmed. I hadn't wanted this so soon and I didn't know if I could handle it. But ready or not, I was now a vampire. My hand slid down my chest to my heart. Twenty-five years of beating, and yet forevermore it would be as silent as a drum that someone had abandoned.

When I opened my eyes, Vlad was staring at me. He said nothing, yet an odd mixture of empathy and ruthlessness strafed my subconscious. You brought this on yourself, his emotions seemed to relay, but you will not face it alone.

I stared back, noticing a tiny scar by his nose that I hadn't seen before. That wasn't the only thing. His skin no longer seemed pale;it looked faintly luminescent, as though covering a light he carried within. His hair wasn't merely dark brown, but a rich collage of black, umber, and chestnut. The air around him crackled with energy, and when he stroked my throat again, his hand tingled as if he were the one suffused with inner electricity.

’’You're different now, too,’’ I said in wonder.

His mouth curled;half mocking, half amused.

’’You're a vampire. You see details humans are blind to, sense powers they don't understand, and feel emotions more strongly than they can even imagine.’’

Then he grasped my hair, using it to pull my head back before lowering his mouth.

’’Now feel this,’’ he muttered.

The rough caress of his stubble and sensual suppleness of his lips paled next to emotions blasting across my subconscious. Lust tore through me like a flash fire, almost dropping me to my knees. It burned my nerve endings as thoroughly as the hunger had, but not with pain. Instead, I was overwhelmed with a need to dominate by pleasure until rapturous screams rang in my ears, and to do it right now.

My mouth opened, tongue tangling with his while I grasped his shirt. It fell apart in my hands as easily as wet paper, and then his heat made me gasp when he yanked me to him. He'd always been warm, but now he felt like flame encased in flesh. He ripped off my dress, bra, and panties just as ruthlessly as I'd destroyed his shirt before flinging me onto the nearby mattress.

I moaned when his body covered mine, shocked at how different this also was. Every brush of his skin heightened sensations that had me arching against him with primal demand. Each caress seemed to penetrate into hidden parts of me that were starved for his touch. Everything before faded to a colorless memory like the psychic glimpses I caught of the past. It was as though this was the first time we were making love, and when he pushed my thighs apart and his mouth descended between them, a flare of ecstasy made me scream.


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