Twice Tempted Page 69

’’I need to shower,’’ I said, and it sounded breathless even though I didn't breathe anymore.

His smile turned dangerously carnal. ’’Afterward.’’

’’Vlad, really, there's so much we need to do - ’’

’’Remember when you said you wouldn't accept ranking a constant second to others?’’ he interrupted in a silky voice. ’’Neither will I.’’

He was beside me in a blink, pressing an inner button in that retractable drawer. Another blood bag popped out as if it were a vending machine. Before I could speak, Vlad crushed it against his chest, covering himself in crimson rivulets.

Need rose with such ferocity that it annihilated my conscience. I wasn't embarrassed by how I flung myself at him. Didn't care that he tore my clothes off as savagely as I ripped away his in my quest for every last drop, and I really didn't mind when he backed me into the wall and yanked my legs around his waist. Then there was nothing except the taste of blood on his skin and the exquisite roughness of his body plunging into mine, over and over, until the ecstasy searing through me made me forget about my hunger.

It was a quarter after ten when I emerged fully clothed from the bathroom. Vlad was already redressed and waiting since I'd made him shower elsewhere. Otherwise, it would have been even later, which he had no qualms about. Shrapnel wasn't going anywhere, Cynthiana didn't yet know she'd been discovered, and our honeymoon had been ruined enough, he'd stated.

’’Before I get started with Shrapnel, I need to see my dad,’’ I told Vlad. ’’He's pretty freaked out. Can you stay close in case I get slammed with the bloodthirsties again?’’

Vlad had been drinking wine, but at that, he set it down.

’’Many humans who know about vampires have difficulty accepting a loved one's transformation. It can cause feelings of fear, alienation, and helplessness. For someone used to being in control, like your father, those feelings are often magnified.’’

His carefully worded statements made me uneasy. Normally, Vlad was blunt to the point of brusqueness. Something was up. ’’No sugarcoating. What happened?’’

’’He doesn't want to see you right now and he's insisting on leaving with Gretchen,’’ he replied with his usual directness. ’’I do have other houses where they'd be safe, but I refused to let him go unless you agreed to it.’’

I now had superhuman strength, but I sat as though my knees had turned to jelly.

’’Gretchen doesn't want to see me, either?’’ Maybe I'd misread her demeanor before . . .

’’No, your sister was vehement about staying here, which only made your father more determined to take her with him.’’

Then Vlad gave me a jaded look. ’’He doesn't realize it, but he's trying to regain control where there is none. He still loves you. If he didn't, his reaction to you becoming a vampire wouldn't be so emotional.’’

I said nothing, thinking how strange life was. When I was a child, my father's job moved us from place to place without regard for how upsetting those upheavals were. Now it was my circumstances that kept uprooting him from the life he'd built. Karma's a bitch, Cat had said, yet I didn't want my dad to receive any comeuppance. I wanted him to be happy, and be safe.

’’Let him go, but wait until tomorrow morning. I want a chance to talk to Gretchen first.’’

My voice was soft yet steady. I knew what it was like to need to leave, if only to prove to yourself that you could. As for Gretchen, it was better that she go with him. With my ravenous new hunger, I couldn't trust myself to be around her. Besides, things were about to get more dangerous around here, not less.

Then I rose, giving Vlad a crooked smile.

’’Now, let's see if I can find that crazy bitch you used to date.’’

I thought we'd go back to the dungeon and I'd pick up Cynthiana's essence trail from touching Shrapnel, but Vlad led me to the Weapons Room instead. There, he handed me a silver dagger with a Celtic design in its filigreed hilt.

’’Hers,’’ he stated.

It took me a second to remember why it looked familiar. Then I let out a short laugh.

’’It sure was. I touched this when I was going through your other weapons. Shortly after glimpsing the woman connected to it, I started hemorrhaging to death.’’

Just as Cynthiana's linking spell intended, though she hadn't counted on Vlad being there to revive me. Or on Maximus doing the same the other time linking to her caused lethal damage. Now my own inhuman state was all I needed to protect me.

Karma's a bitch sounded just fine for these circumstances.

I pulled my right glove off and touched the pretty weapon. To my surprise, my first instinct was to jerk away. The metal made my skin itch in a way that reminded me of when I'd fallen into a poison ivy patch as a child.

’’That feels . . . wrong. Is that from the silver?’’

His amusement curled through my emotions. ’’You'll get used to it. All vampires do.’’

I tried to ignore how irritated the metal made my skin feel and focused on the essence it contained. After a few minutes of concentrating, colorless images took over.

We reached my door, but when Vlad started to leave after bidding me good night, I caught his sleeve.

’’Wait.’’ Then I drew the knife from the folds of my coat and extended it to him hilt first.

’’For you,’’ I murmured.

He took it, his mouth curling into a half smile.

’’What's this? An early Christmas present?’’

’’Do I need occasion to give you a gift?’’ I asked lightly.

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