Twice Tempted Page 77

Cynthiana wasn't done with her tricks. Now it seemed she'd bewitched every rat in these tunnels to attack me.

Despite my revulsion, I began to run toward them. Vampires can't get rabies, I mentally chanted as dozens of the rodents flung themselves onto me as though I were covered in meat. I crushed several of them as I plowed onward, but just as many held on with razorlike teeth and claws. Pain exploded in almost every part of me except what was covered by the Kevlar vest. Some fell off as they chewed through the rubber wetsuit and bit into my current-filled skin, but more of them took their place.

I wanted to dance around madly while shaking them off, yet I continued on while only clearing the disgusting rodents I could reach as I ran. If Cynthiana thought she'd empty a clip of liquid silver bullets into me while I was distracted by the results of her latest filthy little spell, she'd thought wrong.

My refusal to look away from what lay ahead is why I saw them. Large forms hugging the wall of the next corner, covered in so much grime they almost blended into the dank concrete. I caught a whiff of that strange earthy scent even over the stench from the rats and the smell of my own blood, and when I stopped running, they must have guessed that I spotted them because they came out of their hiding place. All dozen of them.

They looked human, but their eyes gleamed with an inner light no normal person had. It wasn't vampire green and they didn't have fangs, yet they moved with a quickness that only came from supernatural ability. When their mouths opened obscenely wide as they charged at me, I knew what they were.

Ghouls, I realized with a sinking feeling. And ghouls ate people, including vampires.

Chapter 45

With rats still chewing on me, I tore off my right glove. A thin line of white pulsed from my hand, growing until it reached the ground. The ghouls looked at it without the slightest bit of fear, which wasn't necessarily a good thing. If they were tunnel dwellers attacking me because I looked tasty, they'd cease once I proved not to be easy prey. If Cynthiana had managed to spell them into doing this, then like the rats, they'd continue to come at me until all of them were dead.

Or I was.

I didn't have time to ask what their motivation was. Three of them covered the distance between us with cheetah-like speed. I cracked the whip and spun in a circle, sending more currents into it as I felt it meet the resistance of bodies. Multiple thumps sounded and the surge of voltage through my body made the rats briefly abandon ship. Then they leapt back onto me just in time for me to see that I'd decapitated two out of the three ghouls. The third lay on the ground, trying to pull his lower body back onto the gaping stump that remained of his upper one.

With a roar, the rest of the pack charged. I spun the whip around me as if it were a large, deadly lasso, the current slicing through anything that dared come into contact with it. Two more ghouls fell lifeless to the ground, joining a growing pile of rats as the voltage in me surged to levels I'd never manifested before. I snapped the whip at another ghoul who got close and he fell in two pieces. The pack circled me more warily now, but from the empty look in their eyes, they weren't in control of their will. They would keep trying to kill me no matter the consequences. If I wasn't in a life-and-death fight, I would've marveled at the extent of Cynthiana's powers. ’’Dabbled’’ in magic, my ass!

Another two ghouls dropped in pieces when their lunges were met by the crack of white across their necks. Only four more to go, and thanks to my new vampire strength, my arm wasn't even feeling tired. More rats began to fall off me as the rubber suit became torn in so many places, electricity leaked out like water through a colander. The rodents'bodies crunched under my feet as I took the offensive, charging at the ghouls instead of falling back, my whip ruthlessly slashing through them and the rats that still came at me from every direction.

Now only one ghoul remained on his feet. When I got him in range, I snapped my whip in victory, but it fizzled where it struck. Instead of cutting through the ghoul, it seemed to bounce off him. He looked down as if confirming that he was still in one piece and then his lips pulled back impossibly far, revealing a smile like the open maw of a snake.

Oh shit. I shook my right hand as if to force more juice into it, but the strand dangling from it only flickered the way flashlights did when they were running out of battery. Then I whirled, ready to run for it, but at the opposite end of the tunnel, new snarls echoed, followed by another wave of musty, earthy air.

My path to escape was blocked.

The ghoul I'd failed to kill started toward me. Panicked and out of all other options, I began throwing rats at him. They bounced off his hulking frame, as ineffectual at stopping him as they had been at stopping me. As if to punctuate this, he caught one, biting its head off and spitting it at me. Behind him, two of the fallen ghouls stirred, one hopping toward me on one leg, the other crawling through a carpet of rat bodies because everything below his waist was gone.

One ghoul I'd have a chance against. Not several of them. Fear made me immune to the spikes of pain as the rats that hadn't been electrocuted continued to chew their way across my body. Soon it would be more than rodents feasting on me. Despite never being more powerful, I was still helpless to stop my own death.

Then I squared my shoulders, kicking the rats from my feet. I'd make them earn their meal. Before they ate me, they'd have to catch me.

Right as I began to take that first step, the tunnel lit up with an orange glow that was both ominous and the most welcome sight I'd ever seen.

Then Vlad's voice thundered out. ’’Leila, get down!’’

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