Once Burned

Page 11

I was about to tell him that I only pulled impressions of sins from people through a first touch, but the feel of him when he drew me close distracted me. It wasn't just his hands that were unusually warm. His entire body gave off heat, searing through my flimsy leotard as he enveloped me in his arms. Normally vampires were room temperature, but Vlad felt like a furnace. Before I could ask what was up with that, or why the impromptu hug, he vaulted us into the air, the wind snatching away my yelp of surprise.

Chapter 7

After a pulse-pounding half hour of flying, Vlad set us down in a large patch of dry vegetation. Once my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw the small plane ahead in the clearing. So he had more than one way to fly, but that didn't mean I was game.

"You can't expect me to go anywhere in that," I stated.

His brow arched. "You'd rather stay and be a feast for mosquitoes? I can think of better uses for your blood."

If he meant to intimidate me with that comment, he'd succeeded, but it didn't change anything. "I didn't get a chance to grab my rubber glove when I was kidnapped, so you put me in that and my hand will fry every circuit it touches-"

"Then we won't let it touch any circuits," he interrupted, clasping it firmly as he led me forward.

I tugged away, but that had no effect on slowing his stride. "Even if I agreed to get on that plane, which I haven't, you can't hold my hand the whole time we're in the air. You should've figured out that I don't just zap someone once. The longer you touch me, the more voltage you'll absorb, and eventually, it'll cook you from the inside out."

And then I'll cause the plane to crash and get killed, too, I mentally added, which was what concerned me the most. Even Marty had to limit his contact with me to no more than an hour when we trained, or risk his entire body breaking out in what looked like radiation blisters.

The grin Vlad flashed me was amused and a touch feral-a combination I wasn't sure I liked. "And you should have figured out that I'm fireproof. You can't harm me, Leila, no matter how much voltage you channel into me."

That stopped me in my tracks. Yes, I'd seen him wield fire without the slightest burn to show for it. Even his clothes seemed immune to the flames, but I was so used to my touch being dangerous that my mind immediately rejected Vlad's statement that I couldn't harm him.

He didn't attempt to pull me forward this time, but waited as I digested this information. It seemed inconceivable, but I supposed if there was someone in this world I wasn't able to harm, it would be a vampire who could call forth fire from his flesh. The danger from electrocution was stopping someone's heart-not an issue for any vampire-and the inevitable, ever-increasing burns. If burns didn't affect Vlad due to his pyrokinesis, he really was immune to me.

No wonder I hadn't taken him down when I'd shot him full of voltage earlier. All that must have done was annoy him.

I looked at the plane with a sense of exhilaration this time. I'd never thought to fly in one again. Sure, I could keep protesting, but why? Vlad didn't need to go elsewhere to torture or kill me; this deserted area would make a great spot, if that's what he intended. The most logical assumption was he did want to talk, and if he wanted to do that while on a plane . . . well. Hopefully he wouldn't talk the whole time. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend it was before the accident, when there was nothing special about me except my aptitude for gymnastics . . .

"Okay," I said, trying to suppress my grin.

His snort told me I hadn't been successful. "Then come."

He jumped into the plane, pulling me along as if I was weightless. Once inside, I admired the plush cream interior with its sleek tables and leather reclining chairs. I'd only flown coach before, which was night and day compared to this luxurious aircraft. Vlad said something to the two pilots in a language I didn't recognize, and then they closed a small curtain, giving us the illusion of privacy.

"Where's Marty?" I asked, seeing no other passengers.

"Taking a different route," he replied, shrugging off his coat. "Here."

The air-conditioning felt like it was on full blast. Since I was no longer in his toasty embrace, I was chilly. Had he read that from my mind? A glance down made me stifle a groan. Nope. With nothing more than thin spandex covering my chest, even the blind would notice that my ni**les were so hard, they could cut glass. I took his coat with a mutter of thanks, not looking at him as I settled it around me. It felt like an electric blanket from his body heat, cocooning me in warmth. The inner lining had heavier objects in it, but I didn't explore. Probably silver knives, though Vlad's most formidable weapon was his hands.

Guess we had that in common.

He sat in one of those the comfy-looking leather chairs and I followed suit, choosing the one to his left since he'd need to keep my right hand in his throughout the flight. The plane immediately started to taxi, no safety instructions or admonitions to buckle up, and I was surprised to feel it lift off moments later. Must not need much of a runway.

Vlad's hand was still warm, but it didn't give off the same scalding heat it had before. It felt strange for anyone to touch my right hand, let alone for this long. If he wasn't a dangerous vampire whose intentions toward me were still suspect, I'd have reveled in a smolderingly attractive man holding my hand. For the past decade, that had only happened in my dreams.

With a flash of discomfiture, I remembered Vlad could hear my musings. A current slid into him, powered by my embarrassment. Instead of pretending that he hadn't caught my thoughts, his mouth curled into a sly smile.

"That one tickled. If electrocution is your way of flirting, I commend you on your originality."

"Yeah, well, I remember you weren't impressed by the word please," I responded tartly, my brief embarrassment gone.

"Were you born with these abilities?" he asked, changing the subject.

"I was electrocuted by a downed power line twelve years ago. It kept me in a coma for months. When I woke up, I had extensive nerve damage and this scar." My finger swept from my temple to my wrist for emphasis. "The nerve damage eventually healed, but that came with unexpected side effects."

I couldn't stop the memories that followed my summary of the accident and its aftermath. Me going back to school, trying not to notice how the other kids stared at my awkward gait or extended scar. Then my horror when I glimpsed people's darkest secrets through my right hand, let alone the realization that I shocked everyone I came into contact with. The whispers I was meant to overhear in the halls and classrooms. She's a monster now . . . All scarred and weird, like some sort of Frankenstein monster . . .

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