Wicked Bite Page 2

She kept speaking, reiterating apologies, regrets, and other platitudes he paid no attention to. He was too stunned by sold your soul. He would’ve sworn she was lying, except his vampire sire, Mencheres, was one of the few people in the world he would have sold his soul to save. And had, if Leila were to be believed.

This must be why his blood tasted wrong. He hadn’t told Crispin this, either, but since he’d woken up in that whorehouse four days ago, his blood had been altered. He’d hoped there was another reason aside from being branded by a demon who now owned his soul. Apparently not.

After everything he’d overcome in his life, he’d been taken down by a simple trick involving a glamour spell? Gales of harsh laughter broke from him. Leila backed away, her electric whip growing until it coiled at her feet.

“No need,” he finally managed to say. “I’ve never harmed someone for merely being the bearer of bad news.”

“And Vlad?” she asked in a cautious tone.

Another burst of bitter laughter left him before he controlled himself. Oh, he would like to kill Vlad, but he couldn’t. His own fault was glaringly clear. “I should’ve sensed the glamour Vlad used on the poor bloke he killed. I also should have verified that Mencheres was dead before bargaining away my soul. I didn’t do either, so that’s on me, not Vlad.”

Leila’s whip disappeared back into her hand. Then she sprang forward, taking his hands. “Once again, I am so sorry.”

Ian jerked away from her pity. Leila gasped, then her eyes narrowed and she tried to run her right hand over every inch of his skin that wasn’t covered by his clothes.

“Stop that.” What sort of pity-pawing was this?

“It’s gone,” Leila said with shock. She got in a few more swipes before he held her wrists in front of her. She only rubbed his hands with her fingers, repeating “It’s gone.”

“What’s gone?” Her sanity, clearly.

“Everything! Take off your pants. I need to see if that’s still there, too.”

Ian rolled his eyes. “It is, and while I would’ve found it hilarious to cuckold Dracula under his own roof a short time ago, I’m not interested now—”

“Neither am I,” Leila interrupted. “But I am interested in seeing if you still have Dagon’s demon brand on your groin since nothing else on your skin is the same.”

Ian loosened his grip on her wrists. “Explain.”

“You remember that I pull psychic impressions from people when I touch them with my right hand?” At his impatient nod, she went on. “When I touched you months ago, I saw your worst sin, same as when I touch anyone for the first time. Your skin was also littered with emotional imprints from other people, but now, they’re all gone.” She tapped him with her right hand for emphasis. “Makes you wonder what else might be gone, right?”

 

Could he have somehow gotten out of the soul deal? Ian let her go and unzipped his trousers. Leila knelt down, whisking the hem of his shirt out of her way. At the same moment, the drawing room doors opened, revealing Vlad and Crispin.

Ian began to laugh. “For once, I can honestly say this isn’t what it looks like.”

“I imagine it’s not,” Vlad replied coolly. “Were you examining his cock because you suddenly decided you were in the market for erotic piercings, darling? If so, I would have modeled some for you. I’m a much better subject.”

Ian snorted his disagreement while Leila sputtered, “I was looking for demon brands, not that!”

“Yes, so could someone either look under my cock or hand me a mirror?” Ian interjected. “I’m flexible, but even I can’t bend that far.”

Leila backed away, flustered. Crispin strode over, frowning as he bent down. “No brand of any kind,” he said after a moment.

“I’m telling you, it was there,” Leila insisted. “I saw Dagon put it on Ian when he sealed their soul bargain!”

Crispin rose to shoot a horrified look at Ian. “You bargained your soul away to a demon? Why?”

“What you’d expect—more power,” Ian said, giving Leila a warning glance. He couldn’t have word of his real reason reaching Mencheres. His sire didn’t deserve that pain.

“But now the brand’s gone,” Leila said. “So is the original memory of Ian’s worst sin and a bunch of other stuff. I need to check the rest of him to see what else is missing. Take off all your clothes, Ian.”

Ian drew his shirt off and stepped away from his crumpled trousers. Then he couldn’t help himself—he winked at Vlad over Leila’s shoulder as she began to run her right hand over his naked body. Vlad glared at him, but not a hint of fire or smoke escaped him. Must be secure in their relationship.

Leila was brisk yet thorough. When she was done, she said, “Not only is the demon brand gone, there’s no psychic evidence that it was ever there. In fact, your whole body reads as new.”

“I’m more than two hundred and fifty years old,” Ian reminded her.

“Your skin isn’t,” Leila said bluntly. “It’s so new, there are only essence imprints from four people on it. You left one, Bones, when you were very worried about him. Cat left a worried one, too, and the essence trails by Veritas are practically screaming with worry and regret. Lastly, some terrifying creature left one on your head, but aside from that, you’re a blank slate, and unless you were recently skinned or you somehow regrew a whole new body, I have no idea why.”

Those phantom pains stabbed him in the head again. For a terrifying moment, he felt swallowed by darkness. Then his vision returned and he saw Crispin glance away as if he knew something he didn’t want to admit.

“Mate,” Ian drew out. “Have something you want to add about the story you fed me concerning how I spent my last month?”

“I might have left a few pieces out,” Crispin began.

Ian was gripping Crispin by his collar before Leila could finish gasping. “Holy crap, you can teleport!”

“What?” Ian bit out.

“She said it was safer if you didn’t know,” Crispin said, hedging.

Crispin had been hiding the reason why Veritas had left him? “Know what?”

Now Crispin’s gaze didn’t waver. “Four days ago, Veritas called me and Cat to retrieve your mostly withered body from an abandoned amusement park. You were surrounded by dozens of demon corpses. Don’t know how either of you survived such an attack, but Veritas said that your marriage was a sham, your memory was gone, and more powerful demons would be after her. She made us promise to feed you lies about your whereabouts this past month, saying you would only be safe if you stayed far away from her.”

She’d left him to protect him? And Crispin, who definitely should have known better, had let Veritas face that danger alone while stalling Ian’s attempts to find her? He’d roast Crispin’s arse and shove the burnt pieces down his throat! But first . . .

Ian pushed Crispin away, then turned to Leila. “Your psychic abilities include finding people in the present through essence trails, do they not?”

She sighed. “Yes. Come here.”

Leila placed her right hand on Ian’s cheek. The voltage she emitted made his jaw ache, but he didn’t flinch. After several minutes, Leila dropped her hand. “I can feel Veritas, but I can’t see her at all.”

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