My hand left his neck. “Szilagyi said he erased everyone’s memory of him being there so you’d think that. He wanted your guilt over Clara’s ‘suicide’ to crush you, but . . . he told me he pushed her off that roof, and since he’d intended to kill me when he said it, he didn’t have any reason to lie.”
Vlad said nothing. His emotions were still locked down, but from the new rigidness in his posture, he was now questioning what he’d believed for over five hundred years.
If I were still human, I would have held my breath as I waited for his response. He’d loved Clara so much that his self-appointed culpability in her “suicide” marked his worst sin. Besides, judging from his emotions, Vlad had already been tightrope walking between a justified need for vengeance and a near psychotic obsession to bring Szilagyi down. Would this end up pushing him over the edge?
In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have told him.
“Even if he had no cause to lie, I can’t bring myself to trust Szilagyi’s word,” Vlad said at last. “At least in this case, I don’t need to. Your abilities can discern the truth.”
I sucked in a breath of surprise. Serves you right! my inner voice jeered. You just had to tell him about his wife. Now you know that he values her vengeance more than your life.
“Okay,” I said, stumbling over the word while I tried to bury my vindictive inner monologue—and my hurt—under a practical mindset. “You’ve already weapons-proofed the villa, so it should be safe for me to try linking to him again—”
“Not Szilagyi,” Vlad interrupted, his shields cracking to spill frustration and fury over my churning emotions. “You are not linking to him again, Leila!”
How many times do I have to tell you that? his glare seemed to add, but instead of feeling chastised, I was relieved. Suck on that! I shot back to my hated inner voice.
“I meant Clara,” Vlad went on, unaware of the schizophrenic battle going on within me. “You can read a person’s death through their bones. Once I’ve dealt with Szilagyi, I want you to read hers and tell me if she jumped or if he pushed her.”
“You kept her bones?” How oddly sentimental of him.
He gave me a look. “No, but I remember where I buried her.”
“Okay,” I said, wondering why the word came out slurred.
Vlad grasped the blankets we’d kicked to the bottom of the bed and pulled them over me. I would have asked why, but my mouth suddenly didn’t work. My vision went dark, too, but I felt it when he pressed his lips to my forehead.
“Sleep well,” he murmured.
If he said anything else, I didn’t hear it. Oblivion had already claimed me.
My first conscious realization was of chains wrapped around my arms and legs. For a terrifying moment, I thought I was back in my old cell and my rescue had only been a dream. Then my eyes opened and I saw the crystal chandelier above me, and a turn of my head revealed Vlad sitting on the floor a few feet away. Relief that I wasn’t back in my former cell turned to confusion. Why was I tied up? And why did the bedroom look so trashed; it was as if coked-up rock stars had been partying here for a week.
“What’s going on?”
Vlad rose, nailing me with that hard, almost predatory stare. “You don’t remember?”
That didn’t sound good, as if waking up chained in a trashed room hadn’t been ominous enough. “No,” I whispered.
He approached the bed. My restraints wrapped around the four iron posts of the canopy before being nailed into the floor for additional support. His bill for this villa would be astronomical, but that wasn’t my biggest concern at the moment.
“If you don’t remember, then the spell compelled you to act in your sleep,” he said, touching my chains but making no move to undo them. “It makes sense. You’re too newly changed to be awake that soon after dawn, let alone with such strength.”
I looked at the chains, broken furniture, and deep gashes in the walls with new, shocked understanding. “I did this?”
“Most of it,” he said, his gaze never leaving mine. “Some of it I did during our struggle. You were determined to kill anyone who tried to stop you from harming yourself.”
My gut constricted so tightly, it hurt. “I tried to kill you.” Not a question; a realization, and with it came another clenching that was so strong, I began to dry heave.
His hand went to my stomach at once. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong?” Crazed laughter slipped out between my gags. “I tried to kill you, that’s what’s wrong, and knowing it is making me sick!”
“Leila.” His harsh tone snapped my eyes open. I must have closed them in disgust. “I know you’d never harm me of your own volition. It was the spell, so cease your useless guilt. As I told you before, we don’t have time for it.”
The brusque directive shouldn’t have comforted me, but it did. So did his hand on my stomach, his warmth seeping through the thick blanket covering me. I nodded, blinking past the tears that had sprung to my eyes. Then I took some deliberate, deep breaths while I forced my gut to quit its repeated clenching.
“I must have linked to him in my sleep,” I said, trying to make sense of what I didn’t remember. “I’ve never done that with anyone but you, but Szilagyi’s essence is still on me, and I went to sleep without wearing my gloves.”
“That also occurred to me,” he said, fingering my chains. “Another reason for these.”