Once Burned

Page 8

If I lived through this, I was kicking Marty's ass for not telling me some vampires could fly! What if Marty could fly, too? What if all vampires flew? My escape chances would be blown to hell if that were the case-

"Who is Marty? You didn't mention him before." Vlad's cool voice interrupted my train of thought.

Marty's a vampire, too, I thought, still trying to absorb this new information. But he's not involved in any of this except for probably being worried sick about me.

"You belong to another vampire?"

A note of suspicion was back in his voice, and the way he said "belong" implied sexual or edible benefits. Or both. I scowled, forgetting Vlad couldn't see it.

No! We work together and we're friends, but that's it.

Ew, I couldn't help but add. Marty was like a second father to me. The idea of him poking his fangs-or anything else-into me was repellent.

What's taking you so long? I thought, getting back to the most important topic. It's been hours. Did you change your mind?

It sounded like he snorted, but with the whooshing wind all around him, I couldn't be sure.

"I didn't change my mind. I was very far from Florida."

So he was still coming. Relief competed with anxiety. They made me find you again, I told him. I tried to stall, but they threatened to eat a family. Said telling them you were at your house wasn't good enough and they'd need to know where you were when you were away from that place.

A grin stretched his mouth. I didn't find anything funny in my statements, but we must have a different sense of humor.

"Are they with you now?"

I couldn't see them at the moment, but I knew Jackal, Twitchy, Pervert, and Psycho were still clustered around me.

Yeah. They wouldn't leave me alone this time.


If I didn't know the others could hear me, I would've let out an audible scoff. Vlad could at least pretend to care that my neck was in danger of becoming a Capri Sun.

He chuckled, flipping up his coat sleeve to glance at something. Whatever it was seemed to please him, because his teeth flashed in another grin.

"I want you to start narrating, Leila. Tell the others exactly what you see me doing."

Why? I almost blurted aloud, catching myself just in time.

That emerald gaze seemed to laser on me. "Because I told you to," he said, his tone implying that he didn't appreciate having his directives questioned.

I hope this doesn't get me killed, I sent to him irritably. My hand tightened around the silver knife. It might be my only hope if this stunt backfired and Jackal realized that my tie to Vlad went both ways.

"I can see him," I said out loud. If I believed in God, I would've started praying.

In the midst of the wind whistling around Vlad, I heard Jackal's voice. Felt his hand shaking my shoulder.

"In the present? Or future?"

"Present," I said, again hoping I wasn't signing my death warrant. "He's not in his house anymore. He's flying."

The shaking grew rougher. "What's he flying over, Frankie?"

"How should I know?" I replied truthfully. "It's dark. I can't see much . . . wait."

Vlad had angled his body downward. The noise from the wind increased. In the distance, I saw tiny dots appear.

"He's over somewhere populated now. I can see lights. Lots of them."

A slap burned the side of my face. "Where? I need something more specific than 'populated' and 'lights,' you stupid bitch!"

I wanted to cradle my cheek, but didn't because I needed all my attention on my link with Vlad. I hope you go medieval on his ass when you get here! I mentally spat.

Vlad's grin widened, showing those sharp-looking upper fangs. "I'll remind you that you said that."

Then he angled his body in a steeper slant. The glow of lights beneath him became brighter, objects forming distinguishable shapes instead of blank nothingness. I squinted to try and see better, hoping he wasn't hours away.

"It looks like . . . he might have just flown over an amusement park," I continued. He was going so fast, it was hard to be sure. "I think I just saw a roller coaster."

He didn't slap me again, but if Jackal shook me any harder, he'd dislocate my shoulder. "What park?"

"Stop that!" I snapped, anger getting the better of me. "You want me to lose the link? Then keep breaking my focus by roughing me up."

The shaking stopped, but Jackal's hand felt like a concrete boulder on my upper arm. "What park?" he repeated.

"Too late to tell, he's past it now. I see lots of roofs and buildings coming up . . ."

And water. Excitement threaded through me. Florida had theme parks set near water and large cities. If Vlad had just flown over Disney World, he might only be about an hour away.

Is that where you are? I sent to him. Florida?

Another grin was the only reply I got, but the blur of scenery below him began to take clearer shape. It took me a second to realize why.

"He's slowing down. Dropping lower . . ."

My heart began to beat faster. I wasn't adept at recognizing landmarks from a bird's-eye view, but I thought the cluster of buildings Vlad just flew over looked familiar.

"Well?" Jackal's grip tightened again. "What do you see?"

That thumping in my chest continued to increase when I saw a harbor that I was now positive I recognized.

"He's over a marina. I can't see any street names yet, but he's . . . he seems to be slowing down even more."

"A marina?" All of a sudden, Jackal sounded uneasy. His hand loosened on my arm.

I clutched the silver knife like it was a lifeline. "Yes. Now he's heading toward a city. I see lots of buildings . . . he's dropping down even lower . . . I see a sign on one of them-"

"What does the sign say?" Jackal interrupted, his voice tight with urgency. "What's it say, Frankie?"

I dropped the link to Vlad, not needing it anymore. The hotel room seemed to rush around me in a series of colors, swallowing up the inky darkness that had surrounded Vlad. My heart pounded like it was trying to free itself from my chest and sweat slicked the knife in my hand.

"It says," I rasped, nerves and determination making my voice rougher, "Red Roof Inn, Tampa."

I only had a moment to savor the shock in their expressions before the hotel window imploded from a large form hurtling through it.

Time seemed to switch into fast-forward. One second I was being pelted by flying glass, the next I was shoved into a corner, staring at the back of a dark-haired man in a trench coat. Before my next blink, flames coated the walls in orange and red waves, covering every inch of the room except the section where I was.

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