Vlad slowed down, dropping us onto the manicured part of the lawn that surrounded the fortress as if keeping the forest at bay. “Stay here,” he said, striding toward the entrance.
I caught up to him instead. “What part of ‘we do this together’ did you translate as ‘leave Leila behind?’” I hissed, keeping my voice down since we weren’t the only ones with supernatural hearing.
His aura broke through his inner shields. Even though he’d released only a sliver of his power, it still felt as if I’d just gotten subconsciously scalded. If I were anyone else, I’d be terrified at pissing off the legendary Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a Dracula, a.k.a don’t-ever-call-him-that-if-you-want-to-live, but I was Mrs. Vlad Dracul, thank you very much. Uncrowned prince of darkness or no, Vlad wasn’t pulling this crap with me.
“We can fight about it until Branson hears us, or we can get him together quietly,” I went on. “Your choice.”
The high-arched portico covering the fortress’s main entrance exploded, jetting out fire and pieces of stone. I ducked out of instinct, but Vlad walked right toward the burning chaos, the fire parting to let him pass.
“Does that answer your question?” he asked.
Before I could respond, a wall of fire sprang up, spreading until it encompassed the entire castle. Guess he’d changed his mind about being stealthy! Worse, now I couldn’t follow him. Unlike Vlad, I wasn’t fireproof.
“That’s cheating!” I shouted. No need to talk softly now.
I thought I heard him laugh, but between the roar of the fire and the cracking of stone, I couldn’t be sure. Damn Vlad and his archaic ideas about women in combat, particularly me. He’d rather I be under heavy guard back at his castle in Romania. I probably would be, if an enemy hadn’t blown up his castle and kidnapped me from its rubble months ago. Otherwise, Vlad would never have agreed to go back on his “no wife allowed on killing missions” rule.
Or, I thought, eying the wall of fire only he could pass through, it seemed he’d just partially gone back on it. My teeth ground. I could stand here and futilely seethe, or I could make myself useful. Besides, revenge was a dish best served cold, and I would get him back. I just had to wait until everything around me wasn’t on fire.
I rubbed the belt buckle again, seeking the essence imprint on it. Once I had it, my surroundings changed into the richly-furnished room that our quarry was still standing in. Branson wasn’t looking at his phone anymore. He was staring out the window in horror at flames that went up all the way to the roof. Branson knew only one vampire in the world could control fire this way, and it was the same vampire he’d been caught betraying.
Then Branson ran, which I expected, but he didn’t head for the door. Instead, he pressed a panel near a one of the room’s many paintings. A hidden door swung open, and he darted inside a steel-lined room and closed the door before I could mentally switch channels.
Branson has a panic room! I sent to Vlad once I was tuned into him.
Vlad paused on his way up a long, curved staircase, giving an amused glance toward the second floor. “Then he’s in for another surprise.”
His words reached me through our link instead of the normal way, so the continual portico collapse must be drowning out everything else. Once, I had hated my psychic abilities so much that I’d attempted suicide, but now, they came in handy.
A red Porsche bursting through the wall of fire surprised me into dropping my link to Vlad. The car’s speed caused it to fishtail as soon as it hit the grassy terrain. Glowing green eyes revealed that the driver was a vampire, but it couldn’t be Branson. He’d locked himself in the panic room. With Vlad busy trying to bust into that, I was the only person standing in the way of this driver and his freedom. Decision made, I chased after the car. If it reached the driveway, I’d be screwed. Unlike Vlad, I couldn’t fly, and the Porsche could go much faster than me once it was on flat, paved ground.
The car shot forward with a burst of even greater speed. Damn, the driver must’ve spotted me. He was only a dozen feet away from the driveway. I put everything I had into a desperate lunge. If I could reach the car’s bumper, I could flip it –
I ducked when multiple cracks smashed through the back windshield. Two bullets whizzed over my head, and the third one struck me in the shoulder instead of the heart. From the burn that grew instead of going away, the bullets were silver. Of course. Any other ammunition was useless against vampires, as another vampire would know.
Pain caused my powers to flare. A long, sizzling whip shot from my right hand and I cracked it toward the car. The electricity it contained caused it to tear through Porsche’s frame as if it were butter. More gunshots had me spinning to avoid another volley of bullets, and I used my velocity to full advantage. When I swung back around, my electrical whip had lengthened, and I lashed the car with all the force I had in me.
It split in two, the front section still going several feet before the car’s weight caused it to cave in. A fire broke out, and I couldn’t tell if it was those flames that made the driver scream or if I’d sliced through more than the car’s frame. I stayed low as I circled around to the driver’s door, my whip crackling as I readied it to strike again.
“Drop the gun and get out, or -”
I didn’t get a chance to complete my threat. Flames shot over the car, too thick and numerous to be from the electrical fire. Then Vlad slammed down next to me, the ground shuddering from the force of his impact. He shoved me behind him and rounded on the burning car.
“You shot at my wife?” The flames intensified. High-pitched, panicked screams made me wince from more than their assault on my enhanced hearing.
I grabbed his arm. “Stop it, we might need him alive.”
Vlad glanced at me and saw the blood from the bullet wound in my shoulder. At once, his arm became so hot that my hand started to catch fire. I let him go, and he turned back to the car with a smile that made further argument useless.
I knew that smile. It meant someone was about to die.