2013. 02. 14.

Twice Tempted 1. fejezet

Alig várjátok már a Twice Tempted megjelenését? Nem bírjátok ki ép ésszel a még több, mint egy hónapos várakozást? Szerencsére az Avon összeállított egy ingyenes könyvet, melyben 14 hamarosan megjelenő könyvből találhatók részletek, köztük a Twice Temptedből is. Rossz hír, hogy a beígért 2 fejezet helyett, csupán egyet kaptunk, viszont az mindjárt a legelső. Sajnos csak USÁból és Canadából lehet letölteni, de mi elhoztuk nektek. Jó olvasást ;)

Four weeks earlier
I stood under a waterfall of flames. Vermillion and gold spilled over me, twining through my hair, separating into rivulets along my body before sliding between my fingers to fall at my feet. The flames were so dense that I couldn’t see through them, reducing my world to a glowing arena of sunset-colored hues. Being engulfed this way should have killed me, but I was unharmed. I wasn’t even afraid. A strange sense of longing filled me instead. I kept trying to catch one of the flames but I never succeeded. Fire might cover me from head to toe, yet it still managed to evade my grasp.
     “Leila,” a voice called, too faintly for me to discern who it was. “Leave before it’s too late.”
  Logic urged me to do what the nameless person said, but I didn’t want to. The flames didn’t seem to want me to go, either. They kept gliding over me, caressing instead of burning my flesh. See? I thought in defiance. They wouldn’t hurt me.
     “Leila,” that voice said again, more emphatically. “Leave.”
     “No,” I replied, and tried to clasp the fire to me again. As usual, those brightly lit bands slipped from my hands, but this time, their lustrous color darkened. When they landed at my feet, they looked like ribbons made of tar. Then the waterfall above me abruptly dissipated, leaving me naked and shivering in the sudden, overwhelming blackness.
  Fear turned my insides to ice. The voice was right. Something bad was about to happen…
  I didn’t have time to run before fire lit up the darkness again. It didn’t spill gently over me like it had before, but crashed into me from all sides. Pain ravaged me as the flames attacked me with all their devastating power, charring and burning every inch they touched.
      “Why?” I cried, betrayal second only to the agony I felt.
      “I warned you,” that unknown voice replied, safe outside of the wall of fire. “You didn’t listen.”
  Then I didn’t hear anything but my own screams as the fire pitilessly continued to annihilate me.
  In my head the word was howled in anguish; in reality, it left my lips in a whisper. It was enough to wake me up, though, and I jerked away in horror until I realized I was covered in sheets, not flames. The only fire was safely contained in the hearth on the other side of the room.
  It took several deep breaths to shake off the aftereffects of the nightmare. After a minute, my heart quit thudding and settled into a more normal rhythm. With a stab of dismay, I saw that the bed was empty. Now I wouldn’t have to admit I’d had the same nightmare again, but I didn’t like that more and more frequently, I went to sleep alone and woke up that way, too.
  If I were superstitious, I’d worry that the recurring dream was an omen, but when I got warnings about the future, they didn’t come as vague metaphors in my sleep. They used to come as merciless re-enactments where I had a full sensory experience of whatever was going to happen, but I hadn’t had one of those in weeks. I’d long wished that I didn’t pull impressions – and images of worst sins – through a single touch, but now that I needed the ability, it was on vacation.
  That thought chased me out from under the covers. I swung my legs over the side of the mattress and stepped off the raised dais that made the large, curtained bed look even more impressive. Then I went straight to the fireplace and knelt in front of it. Most of the flames had died down during the night, but the collapsed logs still smoldered. I pushed the grate aside, held my hand over a log for a second, and then plunged it straight into the crumbling wood.
  The stab of pain made me gasp with relief until I realized it only came from one finger. The rest of my hand felt fine despite being immersed up to the wrist in the hotly glowing embers. I waited another few moments to be sure and then pulled it out. Aside from a splinter jutting from my index finger and a decade-old scar, my hand was unmarred, not a hair singed on it

  Damn. Six weeks later, and it still hadn’t worn off yet.
  Some women caught venereal diseases from their boyfriends. That was mild in comparison to what mine had given me – an immunity to fire that inexplicably also blocked my ability to psychically discern information through touch. Of course, I shouldn’t be too surprised. Dating the unofficial Prince of Darkness was bound to have consequences.
  I yanked the splinter out, sucking on my finger despite being one of the few people in this mansion who didn’t like the taste of blood. Then I fumbled around until I found a large male shirt, the fabric soft as cashmere. It probably cost more than what I used to earn in a month working the carnival circuit, but it had been thrown on the floor with expectant indifference. I never saw anyone clean this room, but I also never saw it dirty. The servants must wait like ninjas for me to leave so they could render this place spotless again.
  They wouldn’t have to wait long. I had to pee, and despite the splendor of my boyfriend’s bedroom, his bathroom lacked a toilet. Being a centuries old vampire, he didn’t need one.
  I put on the discarded shirt. It was long enough that it covered my tank top and panties, though I’d never run into anyone on my way from his room to the one that was officially mine. The lounge that bridged the two bedrooms wasn’t used by anyone else. Its privacy and elegance made for a more dignified walk of shame, at least.
  Once I was back in my room – a lighter hued, smaller version of the midnight green and mahogany magnificence I’d just left – I went straight into the bathroom.
       “Lights on,” I said, adding, “dim,” when the instant blaze of brightness made me squint.
  Soft amber illuminated the creamy marble, highlighting its gold and celery green veins. A glass shower the size of a compact car also lit up, as did the vanity counter. I’d been awed when I first saw all the fancy fixtures. Now I muttered under my breath as I hurried to the discreetly screened corner.
       “Fifty yard sprint every morning because he won’t add a toilet to his bathroom. It’s not like he doesn’t spend more each night on the dinner he never eats.”
  Part of me knew my griping was to mask my uneasiness about the increasingly empty bed, but my bladder twisted as if in agreement. After I’d dealt with it, I got in the shower, careful to only touch things with my left hand. Although the currents radiating from me were muted at the moment, there was no need to fry the pipes by accidentally sending a dose of voltage through them.
  After I showered and dressed, I descended four flights of stairs to the main level. At the bottom of the staircase, a hallway with soaring ceilings, stone pillars, antique shields and ornate frescos spread out in front of me. Only the indoor garden kept it from looking like Bill Gates’ Gothic Getaway.
At the end of that hallway was my frequently absentee boyfriend, Vlad. Yes, that Vlad, but few people made the mistake of calling him Dracula. His dark hair was the same color as the stubble that shadowed his jaw in something thicker than a five o’clock shadow. Winged eyebrows framed eyes that were a blend of copper and emerald, and sleek material draped over a body hardened from decades of battle when he was human. As usual, only his hands and face were bare. The rest of him was covered by boots, black pants and a smoky gray shirt buttoned up to the neck. Unlike most well-built men, Vlad didn’t flash a lot of skin, but those custom tailored clothes flaunted his taut body as effectively as running shorts and a sleeveless muscle shirt.
  My appreciation was cut short when I saw that he had a coat draped over his arm. He hadn’t just slipped in and out of bed while I was asleep; he was also leaving without a word.
  Ever have a moment where you know exactly what you shouldn’t do…and you do it anyway? I didn’t need my missing psychic abilities to know that snapping “Where are you going?” while striding down the hall was the wrong way to handle this, but that’s what I did.

  Vlad had been talking to his second-in-command, Maximus, a blond vampire who looked like an avenging Viking come to life. At my question, two gazes settled on me, one gray and carefully neutral, the other coppery green and sardonic. I tensed, wishing I could take the question back. When had I turned into one of those annoying, clingy girlfriends?
  Right after the main reason Vlad became interested in you vanished, my inner insidious voice mocked. You think it’s coincidence that he began acting distant right after you lost your ability to psychically spy on his enemies?
  At once, I began to sing KC and the Sunshine Band’s That’s The Way in my head. Vlad wasn’t just an extremely powerful vampire whose history inspired the world’s most famous story about the undead. He could also read humans’ minds. Most of the time.
  His lips curled. “One of these days, you’ll at least take requests on your method of keeping me out of your head.”
  If I didn’t know him, I would’ve missed the irony that tinged his tone, heightening his subtle accent and adding an edge to his cultured voice. I doubted he’d ever forgive the vampire who taught me how to block him from my thoughts.
      “Some people consider that song a classic,” I replied, berating myself for what he would’ve heard before I stopped him.
      “Proving again that the world doesn’t lacks for fools.”
      “And you didn’t answer my question,” I countered.
  Vlad put on his coat, that slight smile never leaving his face. “That wasn’t an accident.”
  My hand tingled as the currents within me surged to it. Thanks to an incident with a downed power line, my entire body gave off electricity, but my right hand was the main conduit. If I didn’t lock down my temper, it might start sparking.
      “Next time you want to brush me off, do what modern men do.” My voice was rougher than sandpaper.                            “Be vague and say you’re running errands. Sounds more polite that way.”
  That coppery gaze changed to glowing emerald, visible proof of his inhuman status. “I am not a modern man.”
  Of course not, but would it kill him to be a little less complex, infuriating, and enigmatic? At least some of the time?
  Maximus slid a glance my way before returning his attention to Vlad. “Everything will be ready upon your return,” he stated, then bowed and left.
  What’s that supposed to mean? hovered on the tip of my tongue, but I wouldn’t get an answer. That didn’t mean I was letting this slide. I was done wondering what his increasing absences spelled out for our relationship. If my being psychically neutered meant his feelings for me had changed, he needed to tell me. I paused in my mental singing long enough to think, When you get back, we’re having a talk.
  This time, his smile was wide enough to show his teeth. His fangs weren’t out, but his grin still managed to carry shades of both lover and predator.
       “I look forward to it.”
  Then the spot where he stood was empty. Only the massive front doors closing indicated where he’d vanished through. Vampires couldn’t dematerialize, but some Master vampires could move so fast it appeared that way.
  I sighed. In the past couple months, dating Vlad had proved to be as passionate and tumultuous as the movies portrayed. I only hoped Hollywood wasn’t also right about the fate of every woman who fell in love with the infamous dark prince.
  The thought was depressing, but I wasn’t going to sit around brooding. Instead, I’d engage in the most time-tested and venerable of feminine distraction techniques.
  I sprinted upstairs to my sister’s room. “Wake up, Gretchen!” I called through the door. “We’re going shopping.”

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