Twice Tempted Page 74

’’I know why you're goading me, but you will not get me to act rashly out of injured pride.’’

’’You wouldn't,’’ I said, holding his gaze. ’’But she would. Since news of our marriage must've reached her by now, I bet she's hit a whole new red zone of woman-scorned rage.’’

Vlad stared at me. ’’Perhaps,’’ he said at last.

I couldn't help but glance at the bed again. In fairness, I shouldn't point fingers at Cynthiana for crossing into insane jealousy territory. The thought of the hours, days - hell, years! - Vlad had spent entwined with her in that bed upset me far past normal ’’vampire possessiveness.’’ In fact, my urge to manifest an electrical whip and start lashing the bed into pieces was so strong, my hand began to spark.

Vlad glanced at my hand and then at my face. Before I could say anything, the bed burst into flames.

My mouth opened in disbelief. In the few moments I took to close it, the wooden frame had buckled from the extreme heat and nothing was left of the blankets, pillows, and mattress except a smoldering black heap. Instead of that delicate floral fragrance, the room now stank of burnt foam and smoke.

The violently tender emotions sweeping mine told me why he'd done it, and it had nothing to do with his anger toward Cynthiana. He simply wanted to destroy something that hurt me.

I said nothing. Neither did he. Words were unnecessary now.

Chapter 43

I woke with the same suddenness as on the past five days, going from unconscious to on my feet in less time than it took to say, ’’Good evening.’’ The only difference was that tonight, my first thoughts weren't of hunger.

’’Did she buy it?’’ I asked at once.

Vlad had been standing by the open slot in the wall. In response, he held out the blood bag I hadn't leapt upon.

I ignored it despite my fangs popping out and my stomach clenching as though it were a fist opening and closing. Four days ago, Sandra left a message for Cynthiana telling her where Shrapnel wanted to meet. The next day, the bookstore owner, also mesmerized into betraying Vlad, drove seventy miles away to make a call that wouldn't be routed through the cell tower Vlad owned. Today, while I was asleep, Sandra went back to the bookstore to see if The Odyssey contained Cynthiana's RSVP.

’’Did she?’’ I repeated.

’’Yes and no.’’

He stroked his jaw in a seemingly absent way, yet he only did that when he was in deep contemplation.

’’She agreed to meet him tomorrow at seven, but changed the location to the Bucharest Metro.’’

I'd never taken the main Romanian subway for obvious reasons, but it wasn't hard to figure out the problem.

’’She picked rush hour in a busy public place.’’

We'd chosen a warehouse in a sparsely populated town. Easy to surround, fewer bystanders to worry about. Cynthiana must've figured that out, too. Looked like Vlad and I were both right about her. She might be arrogant enough to come, but she wasn't stupid enough to do it without adding protections. ’’It presents several difficulties, starting with being impossible to secure.’’ He gave me a brief, sardonic smile. ’’Many members of the Romanian government are in my line, yet I can't order the entire Metro shut down. Even Mencheres couldn't freeze tens of thousands of commuters and dozens of trains to catch her.’’

’’And if the Metro is suddenly filled with vampires, she'll get suspicious and bolt.’’ I sighed. ’’Is tracing the bookstore owner's call the next move?’’

Vlad continued to stroke his jaw. ’’Already done. It went to a burner phone that led to nowhere. That leaves the Metro.’’

’’Did she even say which station?’’

He snorted. ’’No, but it's obvious.’’

I let that alone. ’’Vlad, if she catches sight of you, she'll run. In fact, after living with you for three decades, I bet she knows most of the vampires in your line and your allies, so a glimpse of one of them would make her a rabbit, too.’’

He didn't dispute any of the above. ’’After tomorrow, she'll realize Shrapnel has been compromised. I'll put a large bounty out on her, but catching her will take time. Difficult or not, the Metro is still my best chance.’’

’’Yes,’’ I said steadily, ’’it is, but you're forgetting something important.’’

A brow arched. ’’And that is?’’

’’Me.’’

’’Not this again,’’ he muttered.

’’I'm the obvious choice. She doesn't know what I look or smell like, so I could be standing right next to her and she wouldn't feel the slightest bit threatened.’’

’’Why should she? She's three hundred years older than you.’’

His tone was scathing, but I wasn't going to let him sidetrack me taking it personally.

’’When we met, you insisted that I learn how to use my electrical abilities to fight, and you were right. They ended up saving my life when I took down vampires a lot older than me. But more than that, you keep saying 'I'when this isn't only about you. Cynthiana killed my friends at the carnival. She had me kidnapped. Then it was her spell that stole my mortality from me before I was ready to give it up. If I was the type of person who'd let all of that slide, you wouldn't love me because that sure as hell isn't who you are.’’

His stare could've bent a laser from its intensity.

’’You expect me to forgo my vengeance in favor of yours?’’

’’No,’’ I said, adding with an inward smile, ’’they call you Vlad the Impaler, not Vlad the Emasculated. All I want is to go into the Metro and find her. Then I'll either flush her out or tail her and give you her location. Either way, you'll be the one to bag and tag her, but she'll know - and so will I - that I helped take her down.’’


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