"It is old. I rescued it from the ruins of the monastery where I grew up. That and the cross you're wearing are all I have left of that life."
Shanna touched the crucifix. "Once I'm safe, I need to give this back. It must be precious to you."
"It is yours. And nothing is more precious to me than you."
She had no idea how to respond to that. I like you, too, seemed a little lame. "Radinka said she was doing some research for you and I should discuss it with you."
"Radinka talks too much." He took another sip of blood. "The red folder." He pointed to the lab table nearest her.
Shanna approached the folder slowly, wondering what on earth this research could be. She opened it and found herself staring at an eight-by-ten glossy of a golden retriever. "Oh. It's a.. dog." She turned to the next photo and the next. A black Labrador, a German shepherd. "Why am I looking at dogs?"
"You said you wanted a big dog."
"Not now. I'm on the run." She lifted a photo of an Alaskan malamute and gasped. Underneath it lay a picture of a house. A large, two-story, white-framed house with a big front porch and a white picket fence. Prominently displayed in the front yard was a For Sale sign. Her dream house.
But more than a dream house. It was a proposal of a dream life that Roman wanted to share with her. Shanna's throat constricted, leaving her speechless and short of air. She'd been wrong. Her tolerance level for shock was not nearly as tough as she thought. Her eyes filled with tears. Her hand trembled as she turned the photo over. There was another house with another picket fence. This one was an old Victorian with an adorable tower. It was also for sale.
She'd told him what she wanted most in life, and he was trying to give it to her. By the time she reached the eighth and last picture, she could hardly see. Her vision was blurred with tears.
"We could see them at night." Roman set down his empty bottle and walked toward her. "You can pick out which one you like. If you don't like any of them, we'll keep looking."
"Roman." Her hands shook when she closed the folder. "You are the dearest man. But - "
"You don't have to answer right away. The sun will be up soon, so we need to be going. We could teleport back to my bedroom. Will you come with me?"
And be alone with him. Even if he attempted a seduction, once the sun came up, he would have to stop. He wouldn't be able to raise a finger, much less his..
The door burst open and a huge Scotsman entered. He was breathing heavily. His green eyes glittered with unshed tears.
"Angus?" Roman turned toward him. "What happened?"
"Yer wee chemist is gone. The bastards have kidnapped him."
"Oh no." Shanna covered her mouth. Poor little Laszlo.
"The phone in his lab was off the hook," Angus continued. "We traced the call to Petrovsky's house in Brooklyn."
"I see." Roman's face paled.
"And Ewan. Ewan Grant was guarding him." Angus's expression hardened. "They killed him."
Roman stepped back with a stunned look. "Are you sure? They might have kidnapped him."
"No." Angus shook his head. "We found his dust. The bloody bastards staked him."
"God's blood." Roman grabbed the edge of a table. "Ewan. He was so strong. How could he.. ?"
Angus's breath hissed between his gritted teeth. He clenched his fists. "We believe they may have used nightshade on him like the guard in the restroom. He.. he would have been defenseless."
"Goddammit!" Roman hit the table with his fist. "Those bastards." He paced across the room. "When does the sun rise? Do we have enough time to retaliate?"
"Nay. The bastards timed it this way on purpose. The sun is rising in about five minutes, so it is too late."
Roman muttered another curse. "You were right, Angus. We should have attacked tonight."
"Doona blame yerself." Angus looked at Shanna and frowned.
My God. Goose bumps spread across her skin. He thought she was at fault. Petrovsky wouldn't have targeted Laszlo if he hadn't helped her escape. And without Laszlo as a target, their Scottish friend would still exist.
Roman continued to pace. "At least they won't be able to torture him for long."
"Aye, the sun will put a stop to their evildoings." Angus paused with a hand on the doorknob. "Then ye agree. Tomorrow night, we go to war."
Roman nodded, his eyes blazing with anger. "Yes."
Shanna gulped. Then more Vamps would die. Maybe even Roman.
"The lads and I are taking refuge in the cellar. We'll be making our plans till the sun rises. Ye should find a place to sleep while ye still can."
"I understand." Roman stopped at a table.
As Angus closed the door, Roman propped his forehead onto his hand and closed his eyes. Shanna wasn't sure if it was grief or fatigue. Probably both. He must have known the dead Highlander for a long time.
"Roman? Maybe we should go the silver room."
"It's my fault," he whispered.
Ah, so he was feeling guilt, too. Her eyes welled with tears. She knew all about feeling guilty for a friend's death. "It's not your fault. It's mine."
"No." He looked surprised. "I was the one who made the decision to protect you. I called Laszlo on the phone and told him to come back. He was following my orders. How can you be at fault? You were unconscious at the time."
"But if it wasn't for me - "
"No. The trouble between Petrovsky and myself goes way back." Roman swayed on his feet.
She grabbed his arm. "You're worn out. Let's go to the silver room."
"Not enough time." He looked around the lab. "I'll be all right in the closet."
"No. I don't want you sleeping on the floor."
He gave her a tired smile. "Sweetness, I won't notice any discomfort."
"I'll have the daytime staff move you to the bed in the silver room."
"No. They don't know about me. I'll be fine." He stumbled toward the closet. "Close the blinds, please."
She rushed to the window. The sky was lightening to gray with a pink tint in the east. Just as she closed the blinds, a ray of golden sun shot over the rooftop of Romatech.
Roman had made it to the closet and was opening the door.
Suddenly a loud blast deafened her. The ground shook. She grabbed at the blinds to steady herself, but they swayed, causing her to stumble. Alarms rang out. And another sound that Shanna realized was people screaming.
"Oh my God." She peeked out the window. In the glare of the morning sun, she spotted a plume of smoke.
"An explosion?" Roman whispered. "Where?"
"I'm not sure. All I see is smoke." Shanna glanced back. He was sagging against the closet door, deathly pale.
"They timed it this way, so I couldn't do anything."
Shanna peered through the blinds again. "It's the wing across from us. The cafeteria! Radinka was there." She ran to the phone and dialed 911.
"There.. will be many people there." Roman pushed away from the door, stumbled forward a few steps, and fell to his knees.
When an operator answered, Shanna yelled into the phone, "There's been an explosion at Romatech Industries."
"What is the nature of your emergency?" the woman asked.
"It's an explosion! We need ambulances and a fire truck."
"Calm down. And your name is?"
"Will you hurry it up? There are injured people here!" She hung up and rushed toward Roman. The poor man was crawling across the floor. "There's nothing you can do. Go and rest."
"No. I have to help them."
"I called the paramedics. And I'll go over there myself, just as soon as I know you're all right." She pointed to the closet and tried to look authoritative. "Go to your room."
"I can't bear to be helpless when people need me."
With tears in her eyes, she knelt beside him. "I understand. Believe me. I've been there. But there's nothing you can do."
"Yes, there is." He grabbed the lab table and pulled himself to his feet. He reached for the beaker of greenish liquid.
"You can't! It hasn't been tested yet."
He gave her a wry look. "What could it do to me? Kill me?"
"That's not funny. Roman, please. Don't."