His lips twitched, but he held out my chair without comment. It wasn't until after I sat down that he responded to my mental gauntlet.

"If your goal is to dissuade me from seducing you, taunting me with promises of failure won't work." He settled himself into his chair with an easy, arrogant elegance. "I enjoy challenges, but I don't think it will be long until you're in my bed."

I'd been in the process of unfolding my napkin, but at that, I froze. He did not just talk about me with the same casualness as a dessert he'd eventually get around to eating.

Out loud, I said, "Ooh, someone's got an ego."

He picked up his wineglass, taking a sip before replying. "It's not ego, I'm used to women chasing me. With your age and inexperience, you normally wouldn't stand a chance. But your abilities cut a swath of darkness through all that youth and innocence, making you quite intriguing."

"Lucky me," I gritted out, still steaming at his presumption.

Vlad smiled, as threatening and enticing as a whip curled around a champagne bottle. "Yes. People frequently bore me, sometimes amuse me, most often irritate me, but rarely intrigue me. You do, which is why I'll enjoy having you as a lover."

I couldn't decide which was more insulting-him lumping me together with women who had "chased" him, or his continued conviction that I'd fall into bed with him. I glanced at the room with its cathedral-like ceiling, barbarically gorgeous chandelier, and seating for two dozen.

"No wonder you need such a huge house. Your overconfidence wouldn't fit in anything smaller."

He shrugged. "Confident I might be, but it's not without cause. You think I'm dangerous and you're angry at me over Marty, but even before your vision, I could tell you wanted me."

"You're hot, big deal," I shot back, refusing to let his knowledge of my most intimate thoughts daunt me. "I'm attracted to a lot of hot guys. If Chris Hemsworth were here, I'd light him up like a firecracker with how fast I'd jump on him."

"And that would kill him," Vlad noted.

"Him and everyone else with a heartbeat, which is why I couldn't date after the accident. I could've branched out to vampires, but Marty told me to avoid them because he was worried they'd try to use me for my power." And he was right, I thought emphatically before going on. "Now I'm thrown together with an attractive man I can't kill, and you feel special because I responded like any normal, healthy woman would?"

I leaned back with a huff. "Give me a break. Another reasonably good-looking dead guy would rev my engine, too, so don't break your arm patting yourself on the back."

"You're deluding yourself, but as I told you, I don't run away from challenges," Vlad said, stroking the tight stubble along his jaw. I refused to follow the movement; staring at his mouth would only lead to more thoughts of that vision.

"Let's put it to the test," he went on. "Maximus!"

He hadn't raised his voice, but the blond vampire appeared almost instantly.


"He's just one of many men available for you to choose from," Vlad stated with an arch smile. "All muscular, virile, single, and good for at least an hour before you'd electrocute them into oblivion."

I had a sense of where this was going, and I squirmed in my chair. Drop it, I thought warningly.

He ignored that, gesturing to me with his wineglass. "Now look at our guest, Maximus. Full lips, ice blue eyes, long black hair, and strong, shapely body. Beautiful, isn't she? So beautiful I'm confident you and several others in this house would like to f**k her, yes?"

I gasped at his bluntness. Maximus blinked, his gaze flicking to me and then to Vlad. "Is this a trick question?"

"Not at all," Vlad said, eyeing him with cool appraisal. "For the length of Leila's stay, all of my people are free to pursue her, if she's agreeable. Or, if she wants to skip the preliminaries and f**k one of you right now, that is allowable as well."

I could feel the heat rise to my face, but I wasn't sure if it was embarrassment or fury. Maximus seemed at turns uneasy and interested, like he didn't know whether to leave in case I was about to electrocute everyone in my rage, or stay and see if I demanded that he whip out his c**k and get started.

"I have a question," I said, my tone bright although I was still seething inside. "Who do I have to screw to get any dinner around here? You have all these shiny plates but no food. It's like you're a terrible tease."

A little smile played about Vlad's lips. "Sorry, Maximus. Seems our guest has chosen other cravings."

"Or maybe I'm not into him or anyone else being ordered to service me as if they're sex slaves," I countered.

"He's not ordering me; he's telling me the normal rules concerning guests don't apply to you, if I'm interested."

Maximus stared at me as he spoke, and he'd dropped the formal vernacular he'd used in our prior conversations. Guess with this topic, formalities were redundant.

Then he looked at Vlad. "You want her. Why are you offering us this chance?"

"Because she's wrong about me," Vlad said with that infuriating sureness, "and she needs to realize that. Besides, in the unlikely event that she's right, then she's not worth my time."

I threw my napkin on the table and stood. "I'm done listening to this."

Maximus touched my arm. "Please, wait. I am interested. Before anyone else jumps into the equation, I want a chance." A hint of green flickered in his dark gray eyes. "Not to be too blunt, but working with Vlad doesn't leave much time for meeting women. Besides, you're beautiful, ballsy, and your abilities fascinate me. So if you're interested, too, I'd say yes, and it would have nothing to do with being ordered."

My gaze flew to Vlad, who continued to stroke his jaw in relaxed contemplation. You smug bastard, I thought, and then turned my attention to Maximus, torn between my anger over Vlad's ruthless manipulation and awkwardness because Maximus did seem genuine in his offer.

"It doesn't have to be sex tonight or nothing," Maximus went on. "Say you'll let me show you around the house tomorrow."

Again I looked at Vlad, but his brow rose as if daring me to decline. I cursed. This was what I'd wanted-an attractive, nondangerous man I couldn't easily kill asking me out. Vlad might be convinced that I held a special attraction for him, but I'd prove him wrong and have fun doing it.

"A tour sounds great," I told Maximus, sitting down again. "How about one p.m. tomorrow, or is that too early for you?"