It’s been a while, so I’m posting a new scene from Bound By Flames. If you haven’t read the first two, they’re here and here. Oh, and you don’t need to worry about spoilers in any of these. I hate spoilers, so I only post scenes that are free of any pertinent plot points. I will say that this (and previous) scenes do contain spoilers if you haven’t read Once Burned or Twice Tempted, though, so if you’re not caught up on Vlad and Leila’s story, then you might want to skip this. And if you didn’t read my previous post, the Night Prince series will now consist of four books instead of three, so Bound By Flames will not be the last book for our fiery hero and electrified heroine. Hope you enjoy!
Gretchen slid her plate away with a groan. “For creatures that only drink blood, your people can cook,” she told Vlad. “It’s their fault I’ve gained five pounds since I’ve been here.”
“Nine,” he replied blandly.
Gretchen’s eyes narrowed. “Mind reader,” she muttered.
I suppressed my smile. Vlad didn’t. He flashed a wicked grin at Gretchen.
“Right. That’s how I knew.”
“How’s Dad?” I asked to change the subject.
My sister gave a final glower at Vlad before she answered. “His knee’s been bothering him, but he refuses to let anyone look at it. Says he’ll wait until we’re home and he can see a living doctor, which is stupid, right?”
She raised her voice until she was yelling the last few words. I winced, both at the assault on my supernaturally sensitive hearing and the reason behind it. Gretchen had run out to see us when we arrived at the lovely Tuscan house Vlad had hidden them in, but my father stayed in his room. He didn’t join us for dinner, either, yet he was listening. Gretchen didn’t need super senses to know that and neither did I.
Vlad caught my gaze, his brow rising. I shook my head. No, I didn’t want him to forcibly heal my father’s knee, just like I refused to use my new mesmerizing powers to make him forget how much he hated my turning into a vampire. Hugh Dalton would have to come to terms with that on his own. If that meant we didn’t speak for a while … well. It wouldn’t be the first time my father and I had been estranged.
“How much longer do we have to hide out here?” Gretchen asked, giving up on my dad coming out and answering her taunt. “This place is better than Romania, but one day, I’d like to quit playing hide-and-seek and get on with my life.”
I winced hearing her give voice to my guilt over their circumstances. “I know, and I’m sorry. We’re working on it.”
She blew out a sigh and then gave Vlad a speculative look. “It’s Szilagyi, isn’t it? He’s not dead after all.”
“Why would you say that?” Vlad asked, his tone dangerously silky. We hadn’t told her. Had one of his staff been loose lipped?
She huffed. “You’re Dracula, so everyone knows your enemies don’t live long, but my dad and I are still locked up, so whoever’s yanking your chain must be the king of badasses. The only person I know who fits that description is the same old vampire you couldn’t kill before.”
Vlad’s nostrils flared while I stared at my sister in disbelief. First calling him Dracula, then bringing up Szilagyi successfully faking his death twice? The nine pounds Gretchen had gained must’ve come from her new brass balls.
“You are correct,” Vlad said, the words barely a hiss. “That is why staying hidden is your only hope. If I’ve had trouble killing Szilagyi, what do you think your survival chances are without my protection?”
“Zero,” she said with a sigh. Then her mouth quirked as she looked at me. “Guess it’s a good thing you’re already dead, sis. Harder to kill you a second time, right?”
“Right,” I said, my voice catching as Vlad’s feelings briefly crashed through his shields, searing my subconscious with echoes of rage and a darker, stronger emotion. To say he didn’t like remembering how I’d died was an understatement.
To punctuate that point, Vlad stood. “I’m sure you would enjoy time alone with your sister before we leave in the morning. Gretchen”—a brief nod—“good night.”
I stared at Vlad as he left. Part of me wanted to go after him, but I hadn’t seen my sister in weeks and who knew when I’d get to spend time with her again? Our trip to Payns gave us an opportunity to swing by Tuscany, but I couldn’t visit often. We had to make sure Szilagyi didn’t get a hint of my family’s location, plus, with their war heating up, Vlad would rather I never left the lavish fortress he called home.
Besides, when Vlad was in a mood, sometimes it was better to leave him alone. At least for a little while.
I forced a smile as I turned back to Gretchen. “Let’s finish catching up over dessert. I think I smell someone hand-firing crème brûlées in the kitchen …”
Vlad’s Tuscan house was small compared to his Romanian castle, but it still had six bedrooms and a servants’ wing. After a couple hours chatting, Gretchen went to bed because she couldn’t contain her yawns. Unlike me, she wasn’t used to being awake all night. It was easy to figure out which of the remaining rooms Vlad was in. Even if I couldn’t tell by scent, I could feel him. His aura filled the house, the power he gave off ominous in its potency even when it also felt relaxed.
Like a sleeping dragon, I thought, spying him through the half-open door at the end of the hall. Vlad was in a chair, his long legs stretched out on a nearby ottoman. He didn’t stir as I came inside the room. He must have fallen asleep while using his tablet. It was still open on his lap, his hands resting on the attachable magnetic keyboard as if he’d drifted off in the middle of typing something.
I stared at him in silence. With the sun rendering me unconscious from dawn to dusk, I hadn’t seen him sleep since he’d changed me into a vampire. Even before that, it had been a rarity. Was it my new, super-sharp vision or did he look a little different with his features relaxed in slumber? Sure, those winged brows were just as prominent, but his lips were parted instead of curled into the sardonic half smile he usually wore. Dark stubble clung to the lower half of his face, but his jaw wasn’t set in its normal, unyielding lines. Closed eyelids hid the penetrating stare he so often leveled at others and for a few moments, the changes let me imagine that I could see hints of the innocence Vlad must have had, once upon a time when he was human.
I came closer, wondering what he’d been like before the brutalities of his life had hardened him into the complex, lethal man I’d fallen in love with. Did he have any happy memories from his childhood? Or had the dangerous political circumstances he’d been born into stolen that from him? As a child, had he ever been afraid of the dark? I leaned down, wanting to touch him but not wanting him to wake up yet—
Flames blasted into me. I screamed, throwing up my arms in instinctive defense. In the next instant, I was seized in a viselike grip, Vlad’s hard chest almost bruising my cheek from how forcefully he yanked me to him. Worse, the emotions that tore through my subconscious were so frenzied, I couldn’t tell if he was alarmed, enraged, or a seething combination of both.
Szilagyi must have found us! I braced for the next attack, wondering why Vlad wasn’t moving. Was he hurt? I tried to push him away to look, but he didn’t budge. Then water hit us, soaking our clothes and filling me with fresh panic.
“Vlad, what is it?” I almost screamed.