All the breath seemed to leave me and my heart began to pound. I couldn't resist reaching out and resting my hand on his chest, feeling his taut body beneath that crisp gray shirt. His muscles bunched as a current slid into him, and then his hand closed around mine. He pressed it flat, inch by inch dragging my palm over his chest, up to the smoothness of his neck and past the seductively rasping stubble of his jaw until it finally reached his mouth. My breath came faster, both from touching him this way and the look in his eyes as he placed a kiss onto my palm, his tongue flicking out to tease my flesh.
The gymnasium door banging open made me jump as though burned. Vlad released his grip on my hair, but not my hand, and his gaze slid to the left with visible irritation.
"What?" he asked coldly.
Maximus walked over, one glance taking in our compromising position. I backed away, shame replacing the desire that seized me the moment I licked Vlad that second time. I'd agreed to give Maximus a week to see if we clicked, but only a day later, he'd caught me nearly kissing his boss. Slut, I lashed myself.
"You have visitors," Maximus stated. His face was impassive, but I still cringed, trying to discreetly tug my hand out of Vlad's.
He let me go and folded his arms, smiling in that scary, pleasant way at Maximus.
"And they are so important that you had to find me at once and enter without knocking?"
I heard the threat behind those silky words and blanched. He wasn't about to throw down on Maximus over this, was he? Don't, I sent to him, not adding please only because I knew the word didn't work on him.
"Forgive me, but it's Mencheres and his co-ruler," Maximus stated, not sounding apologetic even though he bowed. "Their wives as well."
I started to slink away, sanity returning now that I wasn't caught up by Vlad's mesmerizing nearness. What had I been doing? Nothing smart, that was for sure.
"Leila, stop," Vlad said.
I kept heading for the door. "You have company, so I'll just make myself scarce-"
I did at his commanding tone, and then cursed. I wasn't one of his employees-he had no right to order me around.
"No," I said defiantly. "I'm sweaty and bloody and I want to take a shower, so whatever you have to say, it can wait."
Maximus lost his impassive expression and looked at me as if I'd suddenly sprouted a second head. Vlad's brows drew together and he opened his mouth, but before he could speak, laughter rang out from the hallway.
"I simply must meet whoever has put you in your place so thoroughly, Tepesh," an unfamiliar British voice stated.
"Did I mention they were on their way down?" Maximus muttered before the gym door swung open and four people entered.
The first was a short-haired brunet whose grin made me assume he was the one who'd greeted Vlad with the taunt. He was also handsome in a too-pretty way that made me think with less muscles, a wig, and some makeup, he'd look great in a dress.
Vlad's scowl vanished into a smile as the brunet's gaze swung in my direction as though he'd somehow heard that.
"Looks as though she's put you in your place as well, Bones," Vlad drawled.
"So it seems," Bones replied, winking at me. "But while I've worn many disguises, I draw the line at a dress."
My mouth dropped. Another mind reader?
"You're shit out of luck, because almost all of us in this group are mind readers," announced the redhead by his side. She gave me a sympathetic smile. "Annoying, isn't it?"
"Yes," I said emphatically.
Behind the brunet and the redhead was an Arabian-looking man with black hair as straight and long as mine, and a slender blonde who must be the other aforementioned wife. If most of them were mind readers, then I guessed none of them were human.
Maximus bowed once more and then left the room. Vlad walked over to me and rested his hand on my shoulder.
"Leila, this is my friend and honorary sire, Mencheres, and his wife, Kira," he said, indicating the long-haired Middle Eastern man and the blonde. "Also let me introduce my friend, Cat." The redhead, and for some reason, she looked familiar. "Her husband, Bones"-here Vlad smiled coolly at the short-haired brunet-"is not my friend."
"You two," Cat muttered, shaking her head. Then she held out her hand to me. "Great to meet you, Leila."
I looked at it and cleared my throat. "Ah, sorry."
"Leila has unusual abilities," Vlad said, breaking the awkward moment. "She gives off electricity, particularly her right hand. She also divines psychic impressions through touch and can glimpse events from the past, present . . . or future."
Cat whistled through her teeth. Mencheres blinked once before turning his unsettling black gaze onto me.
The way they all looked at me made me feel like the instrument Vlad once casually likened me to. I also jump through flaming hoops for REAL, ran through my mind before I could squelch the derisive thought.
"Oh, you're right," Cat said, aghast. "We're giving you the freak stare! How rude."
"I'm used to it," I replied. At least they hadn't gawked at my scar as openly as most. Then I looked at Cat again. Now I knew why she'd seemed familiar! She was the really depressed girl I'd glimpsed when I touched the door frame in my room. Whatever she'd been upset over at the time had been strong enough to leave a mark.
"Huh?" Cat said, frowning. "I've never met you before."
I rubbed my head. "No offense, everyone, but it was bad enough when only Vlad was eavesdropping in my mind. I don't think I can handle a group of people doing it."
Mencheres stepped forward and laid his hand on Vlad's arm. "Leila, a pleasure to meet you. Vlad, my friend, walk with me."
He didn't move. "I'll see Leila to her room first. She injured herself only a short time ago."
Bones looked at Vlad and then at me. He sniffed, oddly, and a slow smile spread across his features.
"No need, Tepesh, we'll be glad to escort her. If it's the same room my wife stayed in, she'll remember where it is."
Vlad bristled, and if I didn't know better, I'd swear I smelled smoke.
"What makes you think you can tell me what you will do with my guest in my house-"
"Vlad," Mencheres said, drawing his name out with a touch of censure. I expected him to round on the other vampire with even more anger, but he let out a frustrated sigh.
"You brought him here. You knew this would happen."
"Let them escort her," Mencheres said in a more cajoling tone. "Besides, you requested that I come here because you have a question to ask, and you won't want to ask it with Cat or Bones nearby."