Twice Tempted Page 75

He was silent for a long while. Then he said, ’’You've never even seen her face.’’

Not a Hell, no! I began to feel a tingle of anticipation.

’’Don't worry. I've seen enough to spot her.’’

I couldn't remember the last time I'd been surrounded by so many people. Maybe it was American snootiness that made me assume a Romanian subway wouldn't be much busier than some of the larger carnivals I'd worked;maybe it was being underground that made everything feel more crowded. Whatever the reason, as I crossed the fourteen platforms of the Gara de Nord, I actually had to fight back a sense of claustrophobia.

At least I didn't have to worry about electrocuting any of the commuters that brushed past me on their way to or from one of the Metro's many trains. Underneath my business casual pants and blazer was a full body wetsuit, the rubber thicker because it was normally used for icy water dives. A silk scarf hid where the suit rose to the base of my neck, while theater-thick makeup covered my scar.

Aside from the annoying squeaking noises it made when I walked, the wetsuit could be a new wardrobe staple. I hadn't been able to pass through a crowd without worrying about electrocuting people since I was fourteen. If it wouldn't have attracted undue attention, I might have hugged a stranger just because I could.

Of course, there was another issue that being so close to thousands of people brought up. My hunger. Everywhere around me, countless veins bulged with the tantalizing nectar I now craved like a drug. Under normal circumstances, I'd be slowly introduced into limited-contact settings with humans to make sure I had enough control to handle it. Going into an underground Metro at rush hour was akin to jumping in the deep end to sink or swim. More than once, my fangs popped out and I had to hastily put a drink to my face to hide it. Good thing Vlad had suggested getting a cup of coffee as a prop.

The unpleasant smell of my surroundings helped curb my hunger, actually. With the bustle of people and the different sections of tunnels came all types of odors. Certain parts of the Metro were only a few shades more aromatic than Vlad's dungeon. My first trip by a public bathroom almost made me throw up.

A screeching noise preceded a train on the M1 line coming to a halt. I sipped my coffee and watched the throngs of people load and unload, paying special attention to the women. No thick walnut-colored hair or telltale skin a shade too creamy, plus the only vibes I felt came from the electricity running through the tracks. I glanced at my watch. Six fifty-nine p.m. Time to check the next set of tracks at the Basarab stop.

Yes, Vlad had a Metro station named after him. No wonder he said it was obvious where Cynthiana would expect to meet Shrapnel. The M1 side of the tracks was done in bland shades of white and gray, but the M4 side had orange walls, black granite floors, and yellow neon lights. Somehow, I thought the bolder-colored section was where I'd find Cynthiana. If its vividness reminded me of Vlad, it would probably remind her, too.

We had an appreciation for him in common, after all.

Another ear-splitting screech announced a train coming into the M4 station. I leaned against one of the wide columns, my hair falling over part of my face as I studied the commuters. Could that brunette be her? Nope, she had a fresh pimple, something no vampire could get. Maybe the woman in the ball cap . . . no, not with that deliciously throbbing vein in her neck from how she hurried off the track.

I muttered a curse as my fangs sprang out again. Now I knew how teenage boys with unwanted erections felt. I pretended to take a long sip from my coffee as I silently willed them back into my gums, and then I felt it - an aura of power, invisible yet potent, like a cloud of perfume, and coming right toward me.

I kept the coffee cup in front of my face as I sought the source. Not there, not there . . . there. Oh yes, I'd know that thick, walnut-colored hair anywhere, not to mention her gliding grace made her stand out like a ballerina amidst a stampede of bulls.

With my gloved hand, I pinched the wire my scarf concealed and whispered two words into the microphone.

’’She's here.’’

Then I stared, finally getting a full look at the woman who'd wreaked so much havoc in my life. Taken piece by piece, her face was full of flaws. Her mouth was too wide, nose a trace too long, and cheekbones so high they looked artificially enhanced. Put together, though, she was beautiful in a way you'd find hard to forget because it wasn't ’’pretty’’ beauty, but the bold, striking kind that made it difficult to look away.

And that's why I recognized her even though our previous meeting had only lasted seconds. No wonder Cynthiana had used a spell that not only made it impossible to get a fix on her location, but also blocked me from seeing her face. That spell hadn't just prevented us from hiring a sketch artist to discover her identity sooner. Unintentionally, it had also kept me from recognizing her as the same vampire who'd watched Dawn and Marty's last performance the night of the carnival explosion.

Then dark topaz eyes met mine as Cynthiana looked up and stared straight at me.

Chapter 44

As casually as possible, I glanced away, pretending to smile at someone farther down the walkway. Just another vampire meeting a friend, nothing to see here. When I could still feel her gaze on me, I headed in the direction I'd been looking, hoping the skin-scouring version of a deodorizing treatment I'd undergone had removed all traces of Vlad's scent from me. Then I picked a person at random, coming toward her while saying, ’’Hello!’’ in Romanian as if we were old friends.

Something punched me in the back, a hard double tap that made me spin around so fast, I splashed coffee on the person closest to me. As that man began to sputter out a curse, another hard double punch hit me square in the chest.


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