Sandra let out a knowing laugh. "But Vlad must intend for something to happen to make it known that you're his."

Not without me agreeing to it, I thought grimly.


Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ben shake his head. "I should've known something was up when Vlad came himself after you fainted. If any of us gets sick or injured, we get sent a doctor, but we don't see him."

Several murmurs of agreement. I still said nothing, but I filed that away for potential mulling later.

"Tell me about this club," I said, changing the subject.

From their description, even on a winter week night it would be busy since it was the only one in a town of about three thousand. We arrived in thirty minutes. I was by the door, so I got out first, looking around.

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FANE'S was on the front of the two-story, wood and stone building. A long stone chimney puffed smoke into the clear night. The other buildings on this street looked closed, but across the street, some of them had their lights on. I liked how the streetlights resembled iron lanterns on tall poles. It added to the aged feel of the town.

Maximus got out of the limo but stayed close to me. "What, are you my babysitter tonight?" I grumbled.

He shrugged. "Call it what you like."

Wait until I saw Vlad. This sort of crap might have worked in the fifteenth century, but it would backfire on him now.

"Do me a favor," I said, not bitching at Maximus only because I still felt guilty over yesterday. "Stay far enough away so I don't look like I've got a Viking-sized backpack?"

Maximus smiled slightly and held open the door. "I'll try."

I went in, surprised to see that on the inside, Fane's didn't look very different from the bars back in Gibsonton. A smattering of tables took up the space leading to the long, curving bar, with a fireplace adding to the restaurantlike atmosphere. Sandra first took me to the coatroom, where all of us unloaded our heavy outerwear. Then I followed her to the bar and took the seat she kindly saved for me.

"What will you have to drink?" she asked.

Red wine was normally my drink of choice, but tonight, I wanted something harder.

"Vodka and cranberry juice, if they have it. If not, vodka and whatever they have to mix it in."

She grinned. "Oslow!" she called out. The bartender turned. "O vodka si un suc de coacaze in contul voivode."

The only word I recognized out of that last sentence was voivode. Prince. "What did you say?"

"I ordered your drink and told him to put it on the prince's tab."

"Does everyone know who Vlad is?" I asked in surprise.

Sandra ran a hand through her golden-red hair before answering. "In this town, many know, but few speak of it, and never to outsiders. Romanians revere the heroes of their history and they know how to keep secrets."

Then she slanted a glance at me. "As the object of the prince's desire, many would consider you a very lucky woman."

"It's the 'object' part I have the biggest problem with," I muttered, picking up my drink as soon as it was set in front of me. "And I'm going to need a lot more of these before I feel anything close to lucky."

Six vodka cranberries later, I allowed Sandra to talk me into going to the second floor where the dance area was. Sandra, Ben, and the others seemed to get a kick out of forming a protective circle around me. I kept my right hand glued to my hip and danced like I didn't have a care in the world. I might not understand the lyrics, but a good beat needed no translation.

A few more drinks later, I'd decided that tonight was the best night I'd had in years when a crashing noise sounded above the blaring music. The floor shuddered, too, making me look around in confusion. Did Romania get earthquakes? I wasn't the only one peering about, but then I heard Maximus's roar.

"Hunter, get her out of here!"

That was when I smelled the smoke. Another tremendous boom shook the dance floor, and people began to scream.

"Fire!" Sandra shouted, in case the smoke and panic hadn't clued me in.

My circle of friends disintegrated as the crowd scrambled en masse toward the staircase. I tried to keep my right hand from touching anyone, but the crush became too tight. The person next to me dropped to the floor when she was shoved into me. Grayish images of shoplifting filled my mind, and when I blinked back into reality, I didn't see her anymore. The rough jostling had propelled me away. I tried to find her, afraid she'd get trampled.

I tucked my right hand into my armpit to prevent any more accidental contact and fought my way through the crowd, heading away from the staircase. I couldn't risk trying to get out with so many people around me. I might kill someone, if I hadn't already. Maybe Maximus or Hunter could help me with the woman I'd electrocuted. Where were they?

I finally made my way to the balcony. Something blurry caught my gaze below, and another crash shook the rapidly emptying dance floor. That blur became a flash of blond and brawn-Maximus, shaking debris off him as he advanced toward three people who weren't moving even though dozens in the crowd surged against them.

When I saw the distinct flash of silver in the strangers' grips, I understood. This wasn't an accident. It was an attack.

Something hard closed around my arm, whirling me around. I had a second to recognize Hunter the limo driver before he threw me over his shoulder and headed not for the staircase, but the window across the room.

"Wait!" I said, pounding on his back. "Grab the woman, too. She's somewhere on the floor, and she's hurt!"

He didn't stop. "You're important. She's not."

"Asshole!" I spat, pounding harder. "Turn around now-"

Glass shards tore the back of my legs as another boom sounded, only this one wasn't below us. It was in front of us.

"Ah, there she is," an unfamiliar voice stated.

Hunter stilled, and I craned to see around him, but his grip on me was too tight.

"Vlad will kill you," he hissed at whoever had smashed through the window.

"Not if we kill him first," the other man replied without concern, and then I was dumped on the floor, my head banging painfully against the hard wood.

Even though stars went off in my vision, I had enough sense to scramble back. The smoke was getting thicker, making me cough as I blinked to clear my gaze. The first thing I saw was Hunter and a young man with prematurely silver hair locked in a death match that lasted only long enough for me to grab the balcony rail and pull myself to my feet. Then Hunter fell back, a knife protruding from his chest, his features starting to shrivel before my shocked gaze. The silver-haired vampire looked up from him to smile at me.

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