Twice Tempted Page 80

Only one other vampire had guessed how Vlad really felt about me even before he'd admitted it to himself. The same vampire had attempted to use my abilities against Vlad before I even met him. It had been the reason we were first thrown together, but Mihaly Szilagyi had died in an inferno months ago.

Hadn't he?

I took another step closer. Cynthiana thrashed in her restraints, eyes flashing emerald and fanged mouth snapping while she spat out threats as vicious as they were futile.

’’Shut her up and hold her still,’’ I said quietly.

Vlad had her jaw in an unbreakable grip before the last word left my mouth. His other arm slammed across her waist so hard that I heard several ribs snap. Unlike the time Shrapnel pulverized my rib cage, her pain would last mere seconds until she healed. Unless she kept struggling, that was.

I closed my eyes when I touched her, glad my abilities let me relive a person's worst sins only once. Then I let my right hand drift, seeking out other essences on her skin.

There, on her upper arm. A fresh one embedded with rage that I recognized instantly as belonging to Vlad. My hand roamed further, finding another one on the back of her neck. I didn't recognize the imprint so I moved on, stroking her face while ignoring the furious noises she made in her throat.

Someone who loved her had left an imprint on her forehead, and with a pang, I recognized Shrapnel's essence.

I continued on, not finding anything else on her upper body. I'd reached her left wrist when I felt it. A thread with a very familiar essence, made from someone touching her with enough threat to leave a permanent imprint in her skin.

I dropped my hand and opened my eyes.

’’It's him,’’ I said simply when I met Vlad's gaze.

His eyes seemed to burst into green flame and a lava flow of rage poured over my emotions.

’’What must I do to kill that man?’’ he muttered.

Then he released Cynthiana. By the time he strolled to the front of the pole, his thunderous expression had changed to a charming smile and that lava flow of rage to a glacier of determination.

’’Tell me about how you conspired with Mihaly Szilagyi, and you can start with how the hell he managed to survive that explosion.’’

’’I think I know the answer,’’ I said, staring at Cynthiana without pity. ’’Burn something on her.’’

Both her legs went up in flames. She screamed, thrashing in her restraints. Shrapnel began to yell, too, pleading with Vlad to stop. He didn't until everything from her thighs down was covered in charred, blackened flesh.

As I watched Cynthiana start to heal with only the regular abilities that all vampires had, the final piece of the puzzle fell into place.

’’You didn't work that fireproofing spell for yourself. You did it for Mihaly Szilagyi, the only vampire who was both as strong as Vlad and as committed to hurting him as you were.’’

My gaze swung back to Vlad. ’’That's why he didn't hesitate to set off that explosion when you had him trapped on the mountain. He knew if you found him there, the only way he'd get out alive was if you thought he was dead. Just like he did centuries ago.’’

’’The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist,’’ Vlad murmured, sounding like he was quoting from memory.

Then he smiled at Cynthiana. ’’Now, dearie,’’ he said in his most genial tone. ’’You're going to tell me where he is.’’

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