Suddenly, he was across the room, his eyes scalding green and a bulge straining against the front of his pants.

"If I don't stop now, I'll forget about searching for your attackers or you still being weak. Rest. I'll see you soon."

Vlad was gone before I had the chance to reply. I blew out a frustrated sigh. Rest, riiiight. As if anyone could rest after that.


Chapter 21

After some pacing drained away the last of my energy, I finally fell asleep. When I awoke, I'd come to two decisions. The first was that I was having sex with Vlad despite the dangers of a relationship with him. The second was that I needed to go back to the club. Right away.

I showered and got dressed, noting that sometime while I'd slept, the dressers and wardrobe had been stocked with clothes from my old room. This room had two doorways, and after determining that one led to an elegant sitting area, I went out the other into a long hallway with only two more doors until it opened into what looked like a set of interior crossroads.

Damn huge house. I should've paid more attention when Vlad carried me here last night, but I'd still been a little woozy.

"Hello?" I called out. Someone else had to be up here. Vlad said his most trusted staff had their rooms on this floor.

I heard a door open, and then Maximus's voice.

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"I'm coming, Leila."

He appeared moments later, wearing the same ripped and soot-stained clothes from last night. Once he saw me, he shocked me by dropping to one knee.

"No apologies are adequate for my leaving you in danger . . . nor can I ever thank you enough for saving my life."

I glanced around, glad no one else was witnessing this. "Maximus, get up," I urged. "You were fighting several vampires. It's not like you decided to go out for a beer."

He rose, but his head remained bowed. "I thought the silver-haired one took you. He escaped while I fought the others, so after I killed them, I chased after him. I should have searched the bar instead. You almost burned because of me."

I smiled bleakly. "And Hunter's dead because of me. We could spend the day piling on the guilt, or you can help me make it right by taking me to those other vamps' bones."

Now Maximus did look up at me. In confusion. "Their bones?"

"Vampires might shrivel into beef jerky when they die, but they leave their skeletons behind," I said with grim satisfaction. "Nothing's filled with someone's essence more than their bones. Let me touch them, and I can tell you who they were, and if we're lucky, who sent them."

Maximus began to smile with such savage anticipation that it made me glad I wasn't on his shit list.

"I'll have them brought here at once. In the meantime, you must eat."

I waved a hand. "Not hungry, thanks."

He gave me a stern look. "You barely ate yesterday and you were almost killed last night. Soon you will use more of your power. Vlad's blood cannot sustain all of your body's needs."

Crap, he was right. All I'd had to eat since breakfast yesterday was vampire blood. I wasn't about to get in the habit of blood being the main staple of my diet.

"On second thought, I'm starving."

I'd finished a large helping of eggs Benedict when Vlad strode into the dining room. He dropped a burlap sack onto the table and then stood behind my chair, leaning down to brush his lips against my cheek.

"Beautiful and diabolical. You make me impatient indeed to claim you."

I shivered at the graze of his mouth and his seductively growled words. If he used that same tone of voice in bed, he could probably get away with skipping foreplay.

He laughed, his hands settling on my shoulders. "I very much enjoy foreplay. Didn't your vision show you that?"

I closed my eyes against the flash of memory those words elicited, trying to will away the instant clenching in my loins. Stop. We have killers to catch, remember?

"Yes, first things first. Maximus, quit lurking and come in, I might need you. Leila, are you finished eating?"

Did he think I'd want dessert before attempting to find who murdered Hunter and tried to kidnap me again?

Vlad came out from behind my chair and swept my dishes aside, his lips curling.

"Straight to business-another thing we have in common. The fire caused the building to collapse so this bag contains random remains, but some are bound to be your attackers."

Maximus entered the dining room, his expression stony as Vlad emptied the bag where my breakfast plates had been. Four skulls and various other bones spilled onto the shiny oak surface, Vlad catching one of the craniums before it rolled off.

"May as well start here," he said, holding it out to me.

I mentally braced myself and then took the skull. A black and white stream of images played across my mind, showing a laughing girl named Tanya who looked to be the same age as my sister and whose worst sin was shoplifting.

I set the skull down, blinking past the sudden moisture in my gaze.

"She's not one of them. She was next to me when everyone started panicking, and she brushed my hand . . ."

And that ended up killing her, whether my touch had stopped her heart or knocked her unconscious long enough for the fire to finish her. I never should have gone to the club last night. If I'd stayed in, this girl would still be alive.

"No, Leila," Vlad said quietly. "Her blood is on my hands because she was killed by my enemies. Even if you'd touched her out of sheer carelessness, without that attack, she would have survived. Don't carry sins that aren't yours."

I swiped my eyes and silently resolved to get another huge rubber glove at once-and never go out without it no matter how much unwanted attention it drew. Then I grasped one of the other charred skulls. Vlad was right. First things first.

More colorless images skipped across my mind. This skull belonged to the vampire Maximus had decapitated. His name was Cordon, and seeing his worst sin made bile rise in my throat. I tried to push past that and the images of his death to see what happened before. It felt like watching a movie on rewind because everything moved so fast as to be mostly incomprehensible. That was one of the drawbacks to pulling information from bones. They held a lot more history than a single object.

Vlad and Maximus remained silent, which helped with my concentration. After several minutes, I caught a scene that seemed promising: Cordon and the silver-haired vampire, their expressions serious as a distinguished-looking man in his forties with a frame like a tree trunk barked at them in a very odd-sounding language.

This was the other drawback to pulling information from bones-I wasn't experiencing everything as though it was happening to me. If I had been, then I'd understand what was being said because I'd be in Cordon's mind, but this was similar to linking to someone in the present. I was merely an invisible observer in the memory I'd stumbled across.

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