Twice Tempted Page 68

’’It's for your sister's protection,’’ Vlad stated, striding over to Gretchen. She looked like she wanted to run but she didn't move when he loomed above her.

’’Hold out your hand,’’ he told her in that same crisp tone.

Haltingly, she did. Vlad grasped it and then pulled out a knife, his grip tightening when she tried to yank away.

’’Vlad,’’ I said, drawing his name out in warning.

He didn't glance at me. Instead, he drew that blade across his hand, coating my sister's palm with his blood.

’’Drink,’’ he told her, ’’and be known as one of my people.’’

Gretchen gave the blood on her hand a distasteful look. Then she glanced back up at Vlad.

’’Aren't I already as your sister-in-law?’’

His smile was coldly pleasant. ’’Not in the vampire world.’’

She looked at me next. ’’What's the catch?’’

I remembered when I'd asked Vlad a similar question before an equally irrevocable situation.

’’If you do this and then betray him in the future, he'll kill you,’’ I summarized bluntly.

Instead of being intimidated, she snorted. ’’Like he wouldn't do that now if I betrayed him. On the upside, if I do this and then someone messes with me, he'll have to answer to Vlad, right?’’

Emerald glinted in his gaze. ’’That's exactly right.’’

She looked at her hand and then clapped it over her mouth as if thinking about it longer would make her lose her nerve.

’’Yuck,’’ she said as she licked the red smears clean.

I closed my eyes. Gretchen wasn't a child and she'd made this decision of her own free will. That didn't stop me from worrying that she'd taken one more step away from the human world. Not to mention Dad is going to lose it when he finds out.

’’Wow, that's like liquid speed,’’ she muttered. Then she stared in amazement as her scrapes, scabs, and bruises began to disappear as though wiped away by an invisible eraser.

’’What is going on here?’’

My father's furious tone cut the air like a machete. I cringed at how I must look, blood soaked and restrained by two burly guards, and that surge of emotion made my fangs pop out.

Which, of course, was the wrong reaction.

’’No,’’ my father whispered as he stared at me, horror pinching his features. Then he began to descend the stairs as fast as his permanently stiff leg would allow.

’’What have you done to her?’’ he thundered at Vlad.

Vlad shot my father a scalding look as he came over and then swept me into his arms, the guards bowing as they backed away.

’’If you say any more of the thoughts in your head, I'll take away your ability to speak for a week.’’

My father's jaw dropped. I squirmed in Vlad's arms. This was not how I'd imagined breaking the news to my dad, either.

’’Put me down, I'm not feeling bitey anymore.’’

’’It's dawn,’’ he replied, still glaring at my father.

’’Okay, so I'll be tired, but that doesn't mean - ’’

My mouth stopped working. Then so did every muscle in my body. Before my father's next heartbeat, I was completely unconscious.

Chapter 40

I came awake so suddenly that it startled me. One second, I was dead to the world, the next, I was on my feet and hungry as hell, my gaze darting around in search of food.

’’There,’’ Vlad said, pointing to the open slot in the wall.

I fell on the bag it contained, tearing into it like the shark from Jaws. When I was done, blood dripped from my face, hands, and chest. I only became aware that I'd started licking myself when Vlad's low laugh broke my hunger-induced trance.

’’I must admit, this gives me ideas.’’

Embarrassment rose, giving me the strength to stop cleaning my hands like some deranged cat. Vlad sat on the mattress, back braced against the wall and legs casually splayed. He'd changed since I last saw him, and though his deep purple shirt was spotless, as were his ebony pants, with one whiff, I knew where he'd been before coming here.

’’You went back to the dungeon.’’

His smile held more than a hint of grimness. ’’Perhaps I'll have it sprayed with Febreze after all.’’

I ran my hand through my hair after one final lick. ’’We agreed I'd look for Cynthiana the other way.’’

’’With you asleep, I had some time to kill.’’

His voice was light, but an undercurrent of tempered irritation brushed my emotions. I sighed.

’’I know you're not used to explaining yourself, but that's marriage. I'm not used to waking up with an uncontrollable hunger, so we're both going through an adjustment phase.’’

Now a different kind of smile curled his lips. ’’Yours will only last a week. Mine, a lifetime.’’

I laughed dryly. ’’If you wanted a wife who never questioned your actions, you shouldn't have married me.’’

Something else teased my emotions, sliding through them like swaths of sensual fire. A richer, warmer scent filled the room, reminding me of simmering spices and wood smoke.

’’Agreed. But I wanted you more than subservience.’’

His voice was throatier, tightening things low within me. I swallowed, hunger of a different sort making my fangs lengthen. He looked so polished in his tailored clothes, so relaxed leaning against the wall, yet his emotions told a different story. I might be the one bloody and disheveled, but I wasn't the real feral creature in the room.

And I wouldn't have him any other way.

Then I shook my head to clear the explicit thoughts starting to crowd it. I had a murderous vampire to hunt plus a traumatized father to calm down. My dance card didn't have room for hours of se* and Vlad didn't do quickies.

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