The grin he flashed me said I'd made a critical mistake.
"Don't you dare," I said out loud.
He closed the space between us, that charming wolf's smile never leaving his face. Then his arms went around me. I remained stiff despite things inside me reacting to the feel of his body.
Seriously. You try it and there will be DIRE consequences.
His lips brushed my ear again. "Imprison my new bride in our bedroom? I'd be a walking Dracula caricature."
He wasn't giving up that easily. That's why I didn't relax my rigid posture even when he sensually nibbled on my earlobe.
"But if you use your powers again," he murmured, "I will coat you in enough of my aura to suffocate them for months."
Son of a bitch! For all I knew, he was doing that right now. I shoved him, but he didn't budge this time.
"You're safe for the moment, and you're right - I can't stop you from doing what you feel you must. But then I'll do what I must, and you can't stop me, either."
Using the words I'd once challenged him with against me. Now he decided to act like a modern man.
His mouth slid to my jaw, showing the slight curl to his lips. "Be careful what you wish for, isn't that the saying?"
Before I could answer, he kissed me with such raw carnality that I responded despite my frustration. Anger gave an edge to my lust, and I grabbed him hard enough to yank out a few strands of hair when I pulled his head down to kiss him back.
A chuckle vibrated against my mouth before he flung me to the floor and ripped off my skirt with one hard swipe.
"Looks like we're having angry sex after all."
Hours later, I got up, wrapping the sheet around me as though it were a huge towel.
An amused snort sounded from the other side of the bed. "It's a little late for modesty."
My bladder urged less talking and more walking to the nearest bathroom. "It's not for you. It's in case one of your staff decides to clean the lounge when I'm crossing through it."
"I take it you didn't notice the new addition to the bathroom this morning."
I went into the black marble bathroom, which I hadn't used earlier because I'd showered in my old one out of habit. In the space that used to bridge the enormous tub and glass shower was now a gleaming black toilet. Such an ignoble item, yet its presence was like being surprised with a room full of roses.
"Vlad, it's . . ."
"You're supposed to use it, not compose sonnets about it."
I shut the bathroom door. He could mock all he wanted, but I was touched by the gesture anyway. A few minutes later I returned, hair combed and teeth brushed, too. The toilet hadn't been the only new addition. Half of the marble vanity was now stocked with everything I'd ever need.
"Your people must've been crazy busy yesterday," I noted.
"Those weren't put in yesterday."
He said it without opening his eyes. Firelight played across his body, turning his pale skin into a warm amber shade. I got back into bed and traced the groove in his chest before following it down to his hard, flat stomach.
"You had it done when I was comatose?"
His eyes remained closed. "I had everything done the day after you told me you were leaving."
I was speechless, but my mind wasn't. What? Why? You didn't act like you wanted me back. You avoided me for days and didn't even say good-bye before I left!
"I thought you would change your mind." Sardonic smile. "My pride wouldn't let me believe you'd actually leave, so I upgraded the bathroom while waiting for you to apologize."
A strangled sound escaped me. Vlad's mouth curled downward.
"Imagine my shock when you boarded that plane. Then I reasoned that in a week or two, you'd realize how much you missed me and return. And so I waited again, but the only call I received was from Martin telling me about the explosion. Once I realized you hadn't been killed . . . I was through waiting."
I'm coming for you, he'd said the first time we spoke after that. I'd thought it was a dream, and then later figured he was just keeping up his reputation as a formidable protector of his people. Looked like we'd each underestimated the other.
"You've never asked why I offered to make you a vampire."
The statement caught me off guard for more reasons than the abrupt change of subject. Vlad opened his eyes, the rings of emerald encircling his copper irises almost shimmering.
"I'm not changing the subject, in fact."
I swallowed to relieve the lump that rose in my throat. "I thought it was because you're worried my powers will kill me."
"That's a reason. Not the main one."
He traced the scar from my temple down to my fingers before he spoke. "I offered before that, and if your powers killed you now, you've had enough of my blood to be brought back as a ghoul. You'd be no less immortal, so that's not the reason why."
"Then what is?" I asked softly.
"For one, most vampires don't recognize our marriage."
He smiled slightly at my tone. "Vampires honor only a blood vow in front of witnesses, and you must be a vampire to make that vow. My people consider you my wife because I say you are, but in vampire society, you aren't."
Now that he mentioned it, Marty had told me the same thing years ago when I first asked him about his species. It also explained Vlad's comment about this being our first ceremony.
"You want to change me into a vampire to make an honest woman out of me? How chivalrous," I teased.
"Normally I don't care about others' opinions, but you'd only be granted certain protections in my world as my legal wife. That I care about, yet it's not my primary reason."
Vlad caressed my hand. My currents were muted from all the electricity I'd released making love to him, so only a faint crackle remained. That didn't compare to the jolt I felt at the sudden intensity in his gaze.
"I despise flowery speech since those who use it are usually guilty of the worst betrayals later. That and the type of life I've lived have made me incapable of saying the pretty words you deserve to hear, yet if I made you a vampire, you'd feel my emotions as clearly as I hear your thoughts now."
Then he drew my hand to his chest, placing it over his heart.
"I never turned any of my previous lovers because I didn't want them to feel how little I cared. You I loved, yet you left me because I wouldn't verbalize my emotions. That will probably happen again, but if you could feel what you mean to me, Leila" - his voice deepened - "words wouldn't matter."
His heart was silent beneath my hand. It had been that way for centuries, yet Vlad was more alive than anyone I'd met. He was also the most complex man I knew, so the thought of peeling away his layers through connection to his emotions filled me with voracious longing. I wanted to know his feelings, his secrets, and everything else that made up the man I loved. But as much as I wanted that, it wasn't enough to make me say yes.