"We are all more than the sum of our sins," he said in an even voice. "You know that better than most people, Leila."

Then he held out his hand. I stared at it, what I'd experienced through the multiple essences contained in those manacles making horror flit over me. Then other images covered those, my memories of Vlad, so different in comparison. Very slowly, I placed my hand in his and let him help me up. I walked back to the manacles, repressing a shudder. The second time is always easier, I reminded myself. Vlad had ordered my family pulled in, but Maximus had been unable to reach Marty. He might be fine or he might need help, and the only way to find out was to follow the essence trail Marty had left in these restraints the day Vlad had questioned him.

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Before I grasped the wrist manacles again, I fingered the edge of Vlad's coat and gave him a faint smile.

"Nice choice. You looked great in this."

His brow arched. "Of course I did."

His indefatigable arrogance made me shake my head, but it also gave me the last bit of strength I needed to grab the metal clamps again. That same swarm of horrendous images bombarded my mind, but as expected, they were fainter, allowing me to fight through them and find the essence thread I was looking for. Once I did, I concentrated until everything else fell away.

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To my dread, the new surroundings I found myself looking at didn't appear much better than the ones I was actually in. Instead of dark stone walls, concrete was all around me, the few splashes of color a wooden door in the corner and blood staining the front of Marty's shirt.

Mihaly Szilagyi stood in front of him, wearing another nondescript outfit and holding a knife dripping with red. The silver-haired vampire who'd snapped my legs and left me to die was there, too, restraining Marty while chewing an unlit cigarette and looking bored.

I dropped the link with a snarl that came from a part of me I hadn't known existed.

"I found Marty. Szilagyi's got him."

"No," Vlad said again.

I paced in front of the fireplace. Despite him turning it into an inferno that was barely contained by the gilded grate, I still felt chilled to the bone.

"I have the right to talk to the bastard who kidnapped my friend," I snapped. "Since we don't have his phone number, linking to him through my abilities is the only option."

Vlad settled back into the crimson Louis XV chair, an elbow propped on the armrest, chin balanced on his hand. He looked completely relaxed except for his eyes, which focused on me with unrelenting intensity.

"You link to Szilagyi, and his response will be to torture your friend to a level designated to break you. That's why he took Martin. He wants you to see what he does to him, but if you're not looking, then he won't spare the effort."

My hair swung with my furious strides. "Marty was already cut up pretty good, so Szilagyi isn't waiting for anyone!"

"That's for information" was his pitiless reply, "but Martin can't relay anything of real import, so his primary effectiveness lies in your affection. Once Szilagyi realizes he can't use him to force you to betray me, Martin's usefulness ends, so if you want to keep your friend alive and in the best possible condition, you won't link to Szilagyi."

"Why doesn't he find another psychic?" I muttered. "I'm not the only one: psychics work with police all the time."

"A regular psychic isn't enough. You can track people in the present and get accurate glimpses of the future. I've only met two other people with that ability. One is dead, and the other is having what you might call technical difficulties with his power."

My fists clenched, currents pulsing so strongly inside me that I half expected the nearest light socket to short-circuit.

"You wouldn't abandon one of your people to this fate, so don't expect me to respond any differently, Vlad."

"You were at that club less than two hours before those vampires attacked," he stated. "When you spied upon Szilagyi, he was fully clothed while resting under several blankets. He made sure you saw him in nothing but a nondescript concrete room, and a nondescript concrete room is where he has Martin."

"What does this have to do with anything?" I demanded.

"It means that he's not far," he replied, tone implying it was obvious. "Szilagyi gave the silver-haired vampire orders to kill or retrieve you after they saw surveillance footage of you at the club, so that puts him at less than two hours away. He hasn't left Romania since or he wouldn't be so concerned with you seeing details of where he's hiding, and I doubt it's a modern or even refurbished house because most of those have heat, yet he used blankets when vampires don't easily get cold."

He ticked off the items as he spoke. Put together, they made sense, and I cursed myself for not seeing it, too.

"I have my people scouring all abandoned or seldom used buildings within a two-hundred-mile radius," Vlad continued. "It's a large area, but soon we'll either find Szilagyi or force him to run. Once he surfaces, then you, my beautiful psychic, can link to him and see exactly where he is."

It was a logical plan that tightened the noose around Szilagyi's neck, yet left Marty to the whims of fate. Maybe Szilagyi would kill him before he ran. Maybe he wouldn't. Problem was, I didn't have a better idea. That didn't mean I was settling for coin-flipping odds on my friend, however.

"If I come up with a way to stick it to Szilagyi and save Marty, promise me you'll act on it."

Vlad's gaze was hard yet steady. "I don't want him to die since it would hurt you and he was acting under my orders when he was captured. So if you find a way that doesn't pose more danger to my people, you have my word that it will be done."

Chapter 33

I walked through the huge hall, catching glimpses of a few vampires in their discreet yet vigilant positions as I passed. Vlad told me he had some things to attend to before dinner, but I think he sensed that I wanted to be alone. My emotions had been put through the wringer and today still wasn't over. Soon, I had to sit across from my family and keep up the witness protection charade. If their lives hadn't been upended in a spectacular way because of me, I would have pled a headache and stayed in my room, but I couldn't be so selfish.

"Leila," a familiar voice hissed.

I blinked, seeing my father come out from around the back of the staircase as if he'd been hiding behind it.

"What are you doing?" I wondered.

He walked over, his limp more pronounced from his haste. The effects from the roadside bomb that precipitated his early retirement would stay with him forever.

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