Tolvai hustled me up the stairs and into an upper bedroom closet. Meanwhile, the battle sounds continued. From the shouts and how the walls and floors shook, Szilagyi had attacked with overwhelming force. Maximus, Shrapnel, and the other guards wouldn't have a chance. Tears burned my eyes, but I refused to face my enemy crying. I waited, hoping Tolvai's grip on my wrist would let up enough for me to do something, but it never did.
When the shouts and tremors finally stopped, the silence drowned me in a tidal wave of dread. Were Maximus and Shrapnel still alive? Then a man's voice called out, of course not in English. Tolvai responded in the same language, and he sounded relieved.
"What?" I asked.
He didn't reply, which was no surprise, but he did move away as though being in close proximity to me had been distasteful. Before I could snap a current at him or connect to Vlad, an ominously familiar person appeared in front of me.
"Hello again," purred the silver-haired vampire who'd left me to die in a burning club.
I didn't see his fist. Only felt the explosion of pain that darkness quickly snuffed out.
I had no idea how long I was out, but I awoke with a chemical taste in my mouth and ropes digging into my wrists and ankles. No shocker there, but my head wasn't pounding, which did surprise me until I remembered how much of Vlad's blood I'd been drinking recently. That would accelerate my healing. It wouldn't help with the biting cold temperature, however. Immediately, my teeth began to chatter, but before another thought could cross my mind, I began to recite the lyrics to Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy." Not an eighties song, but sufficiently irritating on endless repeat.
When I risked opening my eyes, I didn't see gray concrete walls, Szilagyi, or Marty. Instead, I was in a wooden stall, the straw-covered ground smelling strongly of horses, and I was naked except for a scratchy blanket tucked around me.
I wasn't, however, alone.
The silver-haired vampire lounged on top of the high stall door, balanced effortlessly on the narrow strip of wood. He stared down at me with a little smirk that would've made me shiver even if I wasn't already doing so from the cold.
"Expecting someone else?" he asked in a smug tone.
I allowed a single Oh crap to slip through my thoughts before I buried that under lyrics declaring that I was too sexy for my shirt-not that I was wearing one at the moment. Just because Szi-lagyi wasn't in sight didn't mean he wasn't close by, tuning in to my head.
"In fact, I was," I said, and my reply would've been smooth if not for my teeth chattering. "Where's Szilagyi?"
Silver Hair jumped down, sticking the landing perfectly, of course. He was dressed for the cold in a long suede jacket over a cream sweater, and the material of his chocolate-colored pants looked like corduroy. But what drew my gaze were his gloves. He wore the same oversized, industrial ones I'd used before Vlad got me the normal-looking pair. They weren't the only things in Silver Hair's hands, either. He also carried a wooden mallet and a knife that looked like it was made from ivory.
My previous Oh crap upgraded to an Oh shiiiit!
"You told Szilagyi you've had a change of heart about joining his side, but he's not convinced," the vampire replied cheerfully. "Until he is, he's not letting you near him in case you try to summon Vlad and ambush him."
I schooled my features not to show fear, but I felt like my stomach had dropped to my knees.
"How am I supposed to summon Vlad if I don't have anything of his to link through? And more importantly, how can I convince Szilagyi of my sincerity if I'm nowhere near him?"
The vampire's grin widened, and his flipped his weapons in the air before catching them. "That's where I come in."
It was the answer I'd expected-and dreaded. He'd even made sure to pick torture items made of wood and bone instead of the more highly conductive steel, and his gloves would provide protection against any currents that did slip through. Despair knotted in me. I'd wanted to give myself to Szilagyi to trap him, but Vlad had vetoed that plan. He'd said Szilagyi wouldn't believe me and would torture me into telling the truth. Looked like he was right.
"You leave her alone!" a familiar voice called out.
"Marty?" I asked in astonishment.
I looked around, but although I was in one of many stalls, the walls were so high that I couldn't see into any of them.
"Yeah, I brought him," Silver Hair said. "I doubt you're tough, but you surprised me once before. So even if you can hack what I do to you, I bet you'll break at what I do to him."
"Why don't you light up your peepers and use vampire hypnotism to ask if I'm a double agent?" I snapped, trying a different tactic.
He laughed. "Because Marty tells me that due to your condition, you're given regular doses of vampire blood." He tapped the corner of his eye. "Means you're immune to these."
I knew that, which was why I'd hoped to trick him with my answers, but my gamble that Marty hadn't told them of my need to imbibe vampire blood had backfired. All of my gambles had backfired, from the look of things. Tremors kept wracking me from the freezing temperature, and the macabre thought came that it would make my blood run slower when Silver Hair cut me.
My gloves were gone, wrists tied to two separate wooden posts, but I could still touch my right hand with my fingers. As unobtrusively as possible, I slid them over my palm. Vlad's thread jumped out like a flare embedded beneath my thumb, but no one else's. Silver Hair must've used his own current-repelling gloves when he transported and then restrained me.
The bad news kept coming. I'd assured Vlad that even tied up and naked, I could direct him to my location, but I'd counted on Szilagyi taking me to where he was. Not having Silver Hair tie me up in a stable where the only essences I could pull from the wood beneath my hand were from horses.
Silver Hair yanked the blanket off. The stables weren't windy, but it still felt like the cold punched me all over. I thought I'd been freezing before, but without the slight retention of body heat from the blanket, I shook so hard that the rope around my wrists and ankles began to cut into my skin.
Either Silver Hair liked seeing everything jiggle or he really enjoyed his pre-torture interlude. His cornflower-blue eyes became flecked with emerald as he perused me.
"Where oh where shall I start?" he wondered aloud.
Marty began to yell again, cursing and promising revenge if Silver Hair hurt me. It only seemed to amuse the vampire. My despondency grew until it felt like it was choking me. I could contact Vlad, but all I'd be able to tell him was that I was in a stable. I didn't even know if I was still in Romania, or how long I'd been unconscious to give him any sort of a search grid.