I had just stroked a sunshine-colored couch in the fourth room when the lounge dissolved, turning into bare concrete walls with a single wooden door. Two vampires I recognized were inside. One was nailed to the wall with silver, the other typing on an iPad while seated on a bed of furs.

Szilagyi cocked his head and then rose. I'd been mentally singing as a defense against any mind readers in Tolvai's house, and the lyrics had announced my invisible presence before I could disconnect.


"My little psychic spy, I wondered when you would return," Szilagyi purred. Then he walked over to Marty and a knife appeared in his hand as if by magic. "You've missed some of the fun, but not all of it."

You don't need to hurt him, I thought, willing to say anything to stop what I knew was about to happen. I, ah, already want to switch sides.

Szilagyi gave me a smile so hard that it could cause ice to fracture. "If that's true, then why are you blocking your thoughts behind that song . . . Leila?"

I ignored his use of my real name. As Vlad said, it was only a matter of time until Szilagyi picked up my paper trail.

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There could be other mind readers here, I improvised. If so, they can't pick up all my thoughts under the music, but I'm risking my life contacting you and that should show I'm serious.

Szilagyi didn't know I'd connected to him accidentally, but his essence on the armrest had been so strong, it had acted like an instant messaging system.

"Ah." Szilagyi appeared to mull that. Then, "Why did you abandon your loyalty to Tepesh? You seemed very staunch in it the last time we spoke."

I cast about for any reason he might believe. Things changed since then. You told me Vlad was faking nice, and you were right.

The best lies were steeped in truth, Marty had once told me. I seized on that and continued, hiding my thoughts behind those endlessly repeating lyrics.

Vlad even seduced me to get me emotionally attached to him, but since the first day he brought me to his house, he's had people monitoring my family. When you kidnapped Marty, he grabbed them to use as ammunition against me. Still, joke's on him because my family and I have been estranged for years. Marty's the only one I care about. That's why I snuck something of yours with me and contacted you as soon as I got here.

"And where is here, Leila?" Szilagyi asked smoothly.

My lies had worked too well, and now they'd trapped me. I paused. Szilagyi ran a hand along Marty's face in a mockery of a caress. Marty said nothing, but he gave the faintest shake of his head. Even after everything Szilagyi had done to him-and was about to do-he didn't want to me to tell Szilagyi. He truly was the most loyal friend I had.

Despite this, I couldn't betray Vlad, not to mention get Maximus and Shrapnel killed by answering Szilagyi because they wouldn't let him take me without a fight. I can't tell you, I thought while my stomach felt like it twisted into knots.

Szilagyi clucked his tongue. "How unfortunate."

Then his knife flashed out. Marty doubled over as much as his restraints allowed. Something thick and red hit the ground.

Stop! I mentally roared.

"I will when you tell me where you are," Szi-lagyi countered. His knife kept flashing. More gore splattered to the floor and Marty screamed in a way that would haunt my nightmares.

I can't! I replied with another mental bellow. Maximus and Shrapnel are with me. If you come, they'll kill me before they allow you to take me.

"Maximus and Shrapnel?" That made Szilagyi pause, but not in fear. In obvious delight. Clearly I'd just added a cherry to the already yummy sundae of my situation.

Yes, and if they realize they're outnumbered, they'll kill me, I repeated, seeking a reason that would dissuade him. I'm no good to you dead, so give me a little time. Vlad's sending me all over the place, as you may have heard. I'll contact you as soon as circumstances are better.

Szilagyi spun away from Marty to stare at what would have been eye level to me if I'd actually been there.

"All right," he said.

I was so surprised by his capitulation that my mind briefly went blank. "But if you're lying to me," he went on, "your friend will experience such pain that hell will be a relief once I finally kill him."

My lack of belief in heaven or hell didn't prevent me from shuddering at the threat. I'm not lying. I'll contact you as soon as I'm under less heavy guard. Vlad's already getting lax by letting me go out without him.

Fear for Marty made every mental syllable ring with the illusion of truth. After a long moment, Szilagyi gave me another frosty smile.

"You have a week to contact me with a location to collect you. Otherwise, your friend will suffer for your betrayal."

Got it, I thought, stuffing down my doubts over how I'd pull that off.

His dark brown stare seemed to reach into my soul. "Then I'll hear from you soon, Leila."

I dropped the link and sank to my knees, still blasting away songs from an era where rockers had longer hair than their girlfriends. That awful gray room was replaced by shades of pale blue, yellow, and peach, the tall windows letting in the radiance of a sunny winter's day. Fear that I'd just condemned Marty to a terrible death battled with determination. You can do this, I chanted to myself. Someone at Tolvai's had a connection to Szilagyi. We'd find out who, Vlad would interrogate the hell out of him, and we'd find Szilagyi's location and save Marty in time. I kept repeating it until I forced myself to believe it.

The attack came less than twenty minutes later.

Chapter 38

I was still searching Tolvai's house to see if I could determine who he'd been in collusion with when the first window shattered. I knew better than to assume anything benign caused it, so I ran to look for Maximus and Shrapnel. In the seconds it took me to see them in the entrance hallway, the house was under a full-scale assault.

Glass exploded inward as vampires crashed through multiple windows, converging on the two men in the hallway. More violent sounds came from outside, too, and gunfire made me instinctively hit the floor. Once there, I froze, not sure if I should try to help, or if I'd only get in their way. My decision was taken away when suddenly I was snatched up from behind, my right wrist held in an iron grip. Whoever grabbed me cursed from the voltage he absorbed, but I couldn't hit him with my full power. I couldn't even connect to Vlad and tell him of the attack because my hand was immobilized.

Then a voice hissed in heavily accented English, "Quit struggling! Szilagyi has ordered me to protect you."

Tolvai. It wasn't one of his people who were in league with Szilagyi. It was him. No wonder Szi-lagyi had capitulated so easily at my refusal to tell him where I was. Tolvai hadn't stormed off in ire over his house being searched, but to message Szi-lagyi about his unexpected visitors. That's how he'd known where to attack. When I first saw Szi-lagyi typing away on his iPad, he'd probably been ordering the assault.

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