Twice Tempted

Page 22

Despite having slept only a few hours the past couple days, I was wide awake. Maximus, on the other hand, seemed to fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

I glanced at the plastic baggie on the table between us. At least the smell from Adrian's crispy . . . whatever was contained. I couldn't risk using it to link to the female vampire again for a few days. I needed regular doses of vampire blood to stay alive even when I wasn't overusing my abilities, or dealing with the lingering aftermath of a pyrokinetic aura embedded in me.

Once again, I found myself envying vampires, this time for their instant healing. If I wasn't human, I could start tracking Adrian's killer now instead of in a few days. Being limited by my fragile mortality was frustrating, but I'd turned down my chance to switch sides. With Marty gone and Vlad and I broken up, there wasn't another vampire I'd trust enough to "sire" me. Vlad had been right about it being an unbreakable bond. I doubted I'd ever feel close enough to another vampire to want that permanent connection with them.

Still, some rest, regular nutrition, and vampire blood should recuperate me enough to track down my would-be killer without risking another hemorrhage and heart attack. Even if it didn't, I'd try again in a few days. The brunette vampire's pretty face flashed across my mind, bringing a fresh surge of determination. Marty and Dawn deserved to be avenged and my family deserved to be safe. Stopping that woman - and whoever had sent her - was worth the risk.

I floated inside a luxurious private aircraft, knowing at once where I was. Vlad's plane. He was only a few feet away, wearing a charcoal trench coat over black pants and a black shirt. It was the same outfit I'd imagined him in at the morgue, but he wasn't threatening anyone now. His eyes were closed, hair spilling over his shoulders to blend into his dark clothes.

This had to be another dream. Since none of this was real, I could do what I'd secretly longed to do the past couple weeks. I floated over to Vlad and lowered myself until I hovered next to him, reaching out to stroke his face.

I didn't feel the stubble that clung to his jaw. Instead, my hand disappeared through his face. Still, touching him fulfilled a need that had clawed at me night and day since I left him. Even though everything had gone to hell and Vlad might be the very person I was running from, I couldn't stop myself from stroking his cheek, his brows, and finally his lips. Part of me hated him for his callous treatment, but the rest of me still missed him so much it hurt.

"I see your powers are back, Leila."

I jerked away, fleeing to the far side of the aircraft. Vlad's eyes were still closed, but the sardonic curl to his mouth told me I hadn't imagined the words.

"This is only a dream," I stated, more to myself than him. "And we're on your plane because you told Maximus you were flying to America, so my subconscious used that detail."

See? Nothing to worry about, I reassured myself. Too bad he wouldn't shut up so I could siphon off a few more moments of solace. Figures even in a dream, Vlad wouldn't be cooperative.

"You're with Maximus." A statement, not a question.

I shrugged even though he couldn't see it. "That's none of your business."

Flames appeared, crawling up from his hands to his upper arms. "Oh, but it is."

Then his eyes opened and he sat up, looking around as if to pinpoint my location. I waved my hand back and forth, pleased when he didn't so much as glance in my direction. Vlad always seemed to know where I was before when I spied on him, further proof that none of this was real.

"It ceased to become your business when you walked away from us without a backward glance," I said, relishing the chance to unload some hurt. Thank you, subconscious!

"I walked away?" His snort managed to be both contemptuous and elegant. "I offered you everything, yet you spurned it all. I've had enemies be less merciless in their dealings."

I grabbed his shoulders but my hands went right through. So much for shaking some sense into him!

"Me merciless? All I wanted was for you to love me, but according to you, THAT was asking too much."

Those flames extinguished. Good. I didn't want to dream about him accidentally blowing up his plane.

"Words." His tone sharpened. "I shared my house, my bed, and my blood with you, as well as offered you a place in my life forever. What are words compared to that?"

I sighed, my anger dissipating as quickly as his flames had. "Oh, Vlad, if you believed that, you would've told me what I wanted to hear to just appease me. You didn't, which proves saying 'I love you' means more to you than everything else."

His brows drew together like thunderclouds. "Enough of this. Tell me where you are."

I almost said, "South Bend, Indiana" because what was the harm in telling Dream Vlad? Then I paused. Why would I gratify Dream Vlad, either?

"I'm at the corner of None of Your Business and Screw You."

His fist slammed down, knocking the armrest off. "Don't test me. You know the gas line explosion wasn't an accident."

"And I also know who might've been behind it," I countered nastily even though I didn't believe it.

His fists clenched and unclenched. If this wasn't a dream, I'd swear I smelled smoke. "You can't think it was me."

Another shrug he couldn't see. "Maximus says your pride might have prompted a little payback for me leaving you."

A noise escaped Vlad that was too visceral to be called a snarl. "He's signed his own death warrant twice, then."

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