Vampires Kiss Page 40

I scraped a hand through my hair. I couldn\ let myself jump to conclusions we were on an island crawling with vamps. ’’They tortured her because she tried to escape?’’

’’They tortured her for information.’’

I blanched, hoping desperately this had nothing to do with my Lilac sighting. We\d gotten back yesterday plenty of time for Alcántara to find and interrogate her. ’’What sort of information?’’

’’Perhaps they discovered she\d taken a lover who wasn\ Vampire.’’

Ronan. I swallowed hard. Amanda had once insisted I could succeed on this island without kissing any vampires. Looked like she was wrong.

Ronan was watching my every reaction, the muscles of his shoulders, his jaw, all clenched tight. I imagined it was about as upset as I\d ever see him.

Despite all that\d passed between us, my heart broke for him. I\d miss Amanda, but it was nothing compared to what he must\ve felt. He\d once lost his sister, and now he\d lost his girlfriend, too. ’’I\m so sorry.’’

’’As am I.’’

’’No, I mean, I know you two were know...a thing.’’

The look on his face was pure astonishment. ’’Amanda and me? Never. She was with Judge. She...It was always Amanda and Judge.’’

I swayed on my feet, putting out my hand as though I might brace myself on thin air. Ronan and Amanda hadn\ been together? ’’Judge?’’

’’Aye, Judge. Though her death just proves how impossible such things are when you\ e trapped on this island.’’

Amanda and Judge;not Amanda and Ronan. Everything clicked into place. Secret keys, secret looks...Ronan had only been the go-between. Did it mean he was the one in danger now?

’’She was going to escape with Judge?’’ I couldn\ help the stupid question, my tone robotic, me on autopilot.

’’Nobody knows about them, and you\d do well to forget it, too.’’

I glared into space, frustrated, angry, confused, even though it was a waste of energy. Ronan was as helpless as me on this island. My life both our lives were beyond our control. Our world was one of secrets and violence.

And then came the biggest secret of all. Carden appeared as though bidden, looming beside us and casting us in shadow. He addressed me but stared at Ronan. ’’Well, Acari Drew, I see I have some competition for your affections.’’ He\d meant it as a joke, but his smile didn\ reach his eyes.

Ronan stiffened. ’’McCloud. Might I be of service?’’

’’I sensed some trouble,’’ Carden said. ’’You wouldn\ be bothering our wee Acari here, would you? You see, I owe the little spitfire a debt. Silly, I know. But we vampires tend to stick to the old ways.’’

Ronan\s jaw tightened, something sparking in his eyes. Was it realization? Would he be the one to guess our bond, not because he had some magic at his disposal, but simply because he knew me so well?

I found my voice, eager to head off any potential male conflict. ’’He\s not bothering me. I was just going back to the dorm.’’

Carden casually folded his hands at the small of his back and began to stroll ahead. ’’I\ll walk you.’’

Once again, I had no choice but to follow. I glanced back at Ronan, and he looked drawn and pale. ’’Bye,’’ I told him, and I tried to infuse the word with comfort and connection and warmth my own attempt at a bond.

I followed in McCloud\s wake, wondering who this vampire really was and what he now meant to my life, because our bond sure seemed more than skin deep. I\d felt intense emotion, and Carden had appeared, and it terrified me more than any Draug ever had.

Fleeing the island was apparently impossible. Escaping one\s bonded vampire felt inconceivable.

THE DAY OF THE DANCE arrived and, as expected, my moment came to dance the Paso Doble. Alcántara held me on the dance floor, leading me, shooting me wicked grins, and calling me querida as if nothing had happened, though, of course, something had.

Like, things really had.

I felt Carden\s eyes on me. I sensed him from all the way across the room where he was leaning against the wall with a sort of amused disdain, as though he knew a secret nobody else did. He was easy with his smiles, and Guidons swarmed him like a bunch of cats eyeing an open can of tuna.

I told myself the jangly feeling in my belly wasn\ jealousy.

I\d helped save him I should be happy. Mission accomplished. I was a company girl now an agent in the fight of good against evil...or at least evil and a worse evil.

So why wasn\ I happier?

I should\ve felt triumph. Word had gone around that my mission had been a success, and the Guidons were giving me a wide berth. Another girl in my circle had died this time a friend and once more it hadn\ been me.

Yet the only thing I felt was alone. I was rudderless, at sea. And I couldn\ help the nagging suspicion that the vampires who\d trained me weren\ entirely what they appeared.

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