Twice Tempted Page 64

I didn't get to say anything else before Vlad whirled, pressing a part of the wall that looked no different from the rest, yet a door suddenly appeared.

’’Waters,’’ he barked into the open space. ’’Secure Sandra immediately.’’

Don't, I mentally yelled. It's not her fault!

He didn't reply. Right, he couldn't hear my thoughts anymore. I'd put that and spectacular se* in the plus column of being a vampire.

’’She didn't know,’’ I said out loud. ’’Shrapnel mesmerized her into doing it. I saw it when I touched her.’’

He turned, his expression no less foreboding, but he did add, ’’Secure her gently, Waters,’’ before closing it by pressing another indistinguishable panel.

’’What else did you see?’’

I couldn't tell if his displeasure curling into my emotions was due to Shrapnel's actions or mine.

’’First promise me you're not going hurt Sandra.’’

He folded his arms across his chest. With his muscular build and the blood spattered on him from my rabid feedings, he couldn't have looked more menacing, but I refused to back down.

’’Promise me,’’ I repeated.

’’I do have other ways to find out,’’ he said silkily.

I let out a grim snort. ’’Why do you think I went behind your back? I'm well aware of your 'ways'for getting information. That's why I wasn't going to subject my friend to them if she'd done nothing wrong.’’

His mouth tightened while echoes of his anger slashed my emotions, yet that wasn't all. As poignant as a bittersweet memory, regret floated into my subconscious. Losing my mortality was my fault, but I realized Vlad blamed himself, too.

Then he pressed the wall and that hidden door appeared again.

’’Well, go on,’’ he said with a sweep of his hand.

I looked at the open entry suspiciously. ’’Aren't I supposed to be in lockdown because I'm a bloodthirsty menace right now?’’

’’Yes, but you're coming with me to see for yourself that Sandra won't be harmed, as long as she didn't knowingly betray me. Unless, of course’’ - a sharklike grin - ’’you end up ripping her throat out yourself.’’

I hadn't expected to return to the dungeon so soon, yet after showering, getting dressed, going into another feeding frenzy, showering and redressing again, here I was. When we entered the first chamber of the dungeon, the stench made me recoil. It smelled like someone had mixed together kerosene, rotten fruit, stale blood, urine, and dog shit, then blown it up. How had I not noticed this before? I wasn't even breathing, but the rancid odor found its way into my nose anyway.

’’This place stinks.’’

’’Did the guards forget to spray Febreze?’’ Vlad asked in mock indignation. Then he gave me a jaded look. ’’It's a dungeon, Leila. They're supposed to smell.’’

Mission accomplished. The stench might have actually killed my new appetite. If Hell could fart, it would smell like this.

’’Leila!’’

I turned toward Sandra's voice. She wasn't restrained to the large stone monolith, to my relief. Instead, she was huddled on the floor, her expression so stricken it was clear she thought she'd never leave this place. As soon as she saw me, she lunged toward me.

’’Please, tell them there has been a mistake!’’

One of the guards appeared out of nowhere, catching her before she reached me. Good thing, too. She'd also showered and changed clothes since the accident, but I could smell dried blood from her scratches, scabs, and the stitched wound in her head even above the horrid stink. Fangs pressed against my gums.

You just ate, I reminded myself, and Sandra is NOT dessert.

’’It's okay,’’ I told her. ’’Vlad just needs to peel back your memories on a few things.’’

We were doing that here because he wanted Shrapnel to witness the exposure of his betrayal and there was only one place he was staying. Despite the challenge to my control, I wasn't leaving until Vlad was finished probing Sandra's mind. I was the only ally she had, and the dungeon was terrifying enough without having a friend at your side. Vlad might taunt me about ripping out Sandra's throat, but he'd never let me do it.

Besides, I also wanted to hear more about the brunette vampire Shrapnel had been getting it on with. Like why she'd been so determined to kill me, for starters.

Of course, being down here meant coming face-to-face with Vlad's dark side, and he wasted no time in letting it out.

’’Take him down,’’ he said, pointing at Shrapnel.

Three vampires again appeared like ninjas, but as they removed the many manacles binding Shrapnel to the stone wall, their movements no longer appeared blurringly fast. Before the last silver chain fell, Vlad picked up a lengthy wooden pole and rammed it the long way through Shrapnel's midsection.

Sandra gasped. I tried not to notice how her heart rate sped up as if trying to catch my attention. Surreptitiously, I squeezed the plasma bag I'd tucked into my jacket. If I felt a hunger stab, I'd rip into that instead, giving the guards more time to protect Sandra. How was that for anticipating?

Vlad carried Shrapnel over to one of the holes in the stone, dropping the end of the pole in as casually as putting a flower in a vase. Through it all, Shrapnel let out several harsh grunts, but that was it. His fortitude was impressive, but the stronger he was, the more he'd endure while Vlad sought to discover who he'd betrayed him to and why. Shrapnel had tried to kill me twice, yet I still couldn't help but pity him.

A sniffle directed my attention back to Sandra. Her head hung low, long reddish-gold hair shielding her expression.


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