Twice Tempted Page 8

’’Leila,’’ Vlad began.

’’Don't.’’

The word snapped out with all the force of my shattered hopes. I got up, almost overturning my chair, but it was either get out of here now or burst into tears, and I still had enough pride not to do that in front of everyone.

’’I need some air,’’ I muttered.

And some razors to finish the job you started when you were sixteen, my hated inner voice supplied.

I ignored that, blasting the first song that came to mind to hide my thoughts. It turned out to be ’’Taps.’’

Figures.

Then I left as fast as my new high heels could carry me.

Chapter 4

I went straight to the small, rubber-lined room in the basement level that Vlad had set up for me. Once inside, I yanked off my right glove. As soon as I did, electricity spat out of my hand in sizzling strands as the emotions I tried to control manifested in miniature energy bolts. I gathered those currents into a single pulsating rope and then whipped it toward the stone statue in the room.

Its head came off, bouncing onto the base it was welded to. Another snap of currents and the statue lost an arm. Then the other arm. Then everything above the waist, yet my seething hurt, disappointment, and humiliation didn't lessen. Instead, I felt like I could go nuclear at any moment.

I didn't stop lashing the statue until it lay in dozens of ragged pieces. Before Vlad, I'd only worked to suppress my power, much as I'd done with the loneliness that came from my inability to touch anyone without harming them.

Vlad had changed all that. He taught me to turn my abilities into an asset and awakened feelings in me I'd never thought to experience. He was more than my first lover. He was also my first love, yet I'd let myself fall too deeply. Despite all the warnings, I'd dared to hope that one day, he might feel the same way about me. This is where that hope had led me: to a basement, taking out my crushed dreams on an inanimate object.

I looked at the remains of the statue and felt a grim sort of kinship. Like me, it used to be solid and whole. Now, also like me, it was so shredded from destructive emotions that neither of us would be the same.

’’Damn you,’’ I whispered, and didn't know if it was directed at me, or the vampire I'd foolishly fallen in love with.

My gorgeous dress was now damp from my exertions, but I didn't care. I wasn't going back to dinner. Everyone had figured out the reason why I left so they'd understand my continued absence. If they didn't, screw 'em. I was done being the evening's entertainment.

Worn out, I climbed up the multiple flights of stairs to my room, glad I didn't pass anyone along the way. With luck, Vlad would be up late with his guests and I wouldn't see him until tomorrow. It would give me some much-needed solitude.

That's why I groaned when I saw that my bedroom wasn't empty. Vlad stood by the settee, hands clasped behind him, that cursed jewelry box thankfully out of sight. A rake of his gaze took in my sweaty, disheveled appearance.

’’Feeling better now?’’ he asked with his usual bluntness.

Not even close. Just seeing him shattered the fragile control my electrical workout had given me.

’’I'm glorious,’’ I said curtly. ’’In fact, aside from intending to get blackout drunk, I've never felt better.’’

An emotion I couldn't name flickered across his face. Then his expression became impassive again.

’’I regret how tonight turned out. I should have discussed my offer with you in private, but I never expected you to misinterpret it in such a way.’’

I don't know what I'd wanted to hear after this fiasco, but whatever it was, he'd missed it by a mile. His ironclad self-control was also salt on the wound. I was barely holding myself together, and he'd never looked more cool and collected. Anger joined all my other roiling emotions.

’’The dress, the fancy dinner, all your flattering words, then the jewelry box.’’ I ticked the items off on my fingers. ’’Really, what was I supposed to think?’’

His snort cut me to the bone. ’’Anything but that. You and I have been together mere months. Do you know how insignificant that is to someone my age?’’

A fresh wave of hurt made my tone scalding. ’’Yes, you're almost six hundred years old, but in today's world, when you say things like 'eternal bond'before giving your girlfriend a ring-sized box, there's usually only one kind of ring in it!’’

’’For centuries, every vampire I've made has been given a replica of my ring because it's proof of membership in my line. That's useful if my people are captured by allies. Or enemies.’’

I believed him, but it did nothing for the acid continually being poured over my emotions.

’’You don't get it,’’ I said sharply. ’’We haven't been together long by my standards, either, but your scorn at the thought of marriage shows how differently we value this relationship. That's the real problem, and I can't ignore it anymore.’’

His mouth tightened and flames erupted in the fireplace as that shell cracked and his temper flared. I didn't care. I was the one who'd been emotionally filleted in public and now again in private.

’’I do value our relationship. I've never shared my private bedchamber with anyone except you - ’’

’’Yet you can't be bothered to install a toilet,’’ I interrupted. ’’It's like you keep showing me 'This far, no farther'every chance you get.’’

Now his gaze blazed pure emerald, all traces of copper gone. ’’I offered a different solution to that issue tonight.’’


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