“Does your head in?” Unfamiliar with the terminology, it would seem.

“It annoys me,” I amended.

“Sam, this is Commander Dawson.” Jared gestured to the bloke beside him who had quite a gangly look and buck teeth.

“Hi,” I said. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist after just waking up.

“Heard about your performance at the tryout.” Dawson’s voice was gruff, making him sound aggravated, which perfectly suited a Pagori vampire. “Controlling the elements is a hard thing to do.”

“And this is Commander Marsh,” said Jared as he pointed to the vampire beside Dawson. Marsh flashed me a smile that was obscured by a badly-in-need-of-a-trim moustache. Both his moustache and his hair were bushy and silver.

“And I’m Donnie,” said a wide-eyed, incredibly cute vampire in a flirtatious voice. “Or Commander Rodney.”

Just then more vampires piled into the room, laughing and joking amongst themselves. I recognised two of them as the blokes who judged at the tryout with Jared. If I remembered rightly, the dark-skinned Keja was Commander Lou Sherman and the auburn Pagori was Commander Will Norton. Both nodded at me, looking a little awkward.

I knew it was childish that I didn’t nod back, but both of them should have done the fair thing and told Jared not to be so biased against women and give me the place I’d earned in the tryout. Well, here I am sitting in a meeting with them as their equal so who’s laughing now?

Jared introduced me to three more commanders: McGowan (a German tall, miserable-looking Pagori), Baker (a dark Pagori who laughed like a hyena) and Rowan (another Pagori who turned out to be a whistler).

“And, of course, there’s me,” said a familiar voice. I turned to find Evan doing his cocky strut into the room. “Hello again,” he said to me before turning to the bloke beside me, Commander Baker. “Move along, Laugh-a-lot.” After a short game of musical chairs, Evan was seated next to me.

“I see you two have met.” If I didn’t know any better I’d think Jared sounder sour about it.

“I tell ya something, bro, that consort of yours – Joyce, or whatever her name is – is weird. She’s just pulled me aside and asked me to keep you away from Sam.”

“Why?” I asked, amused.

“Because she’s weird,” Evan repeated. “Not that I mind keeping you company.”

Going by the odd expressions being exchanged between the brothers, I’d say they were having a telepathic conversation. And it wasn’t altogether pleasant.

“But won’t that upset your consort?” I said to Evan, teasingly.

“Oh I don’t have one.” He waved a hand as if the whole concept was dumb. I liked Evan.

Just then Antonio, his two guards, his two Pit Bulls, Sebastian, and a strange, tall Keja bloke who had long white-grey hair and a matching long beard entered.

That’s Luther, Jared informed me. He’s Antonio’s Advisor.

Someone should tell him that he’s not living in the film Lord of the Rings.

Jared coughed to hide his giggle.

The brindle dog, Nero, nuzzled my hand then lay by my feet almost protectively. Instantly there was whispering in the room. My God these blokes were like little old women the way they gasped and gossiped about every little thing.

Antonio only rolled his eyes at Nero’s behaviour. The red Pit, Achilles, sat up straight beside Antonio’s chair. “You will no doubt all be wondering why I was in such a great rush to have this latest squad prepared so quickly,” said Antonio as he gracefully sank into the chair at the head of the table. Apparently he didn’t like to beat about the bush. “You will also be curious as to why I have ordered for the other squads to be pushed to their limits these past few weeks.” After a long pause which I assumed was for dramatic effect, Antonio spoke, “Luther had a vision.”

With those words, all eyes fell on the Gandalf lookalike. The odd bloke was staring at me.

“He foresaw that The Hollow’s walls would be attacked in the near future. It was not possible at the time to be sure of when, but just two nights ago he had another vision. It was clearer, and Luther saw a great number of vampires preparing for battle, lead...by the Sventé High Master vampire Bennington.”

Bennington, British like me, had quite a reputation for collecting gifted vampires. I’d met him a few times. He had tried to buy me from Victor, but even though Victor barely had any money he refused to hand me over for any price.

“As you are all aware, Bennington is a Sventé vampire with no impressive gift to boast of. His gift is to measure the power voltage coming from other vampires. Using this gift, he has compensated for his own ill defence by selecting extremely gifted vampires to build himself a team of bodyguards. We are now thinking that perhaps it was not a security team he was building, but an army to aid him in overtaking The Hollow. We must be ready in every sense of the word, which is why I have employed Commander Parker to assist with training the new recruits in controlling their gifts.”

“How many did Luther see?” asked Evan, all seriousness now.

“Approximately three hundred, which leads us to believe that Bennington will add more and more to his own numbers as he makes his way here. I would imagine that he will try and rally supporters during Rupert Connelly’s gathering in a few weeks’ time. I am hoping that some of those High Master vampires will refuse his offer and then journey here and aid us in guarding the exterior of the walls. We can only be glad that Luther’s vision has enabled us to have the time to properly prepare.”

“You said you wanted the new squad ready in a month,” said Jared. “You don’t think they’ll be here before then?”

Luther answered that. “No. In my vision during the attack I was rounding up the humans to take them into hiding and there were Summer Sales signs up in one of the clothes’ stores. After I’d had the vision I asked the manager of the store when those signs will be put up. That is not for another four weeks. So I would say that it will be a minimum of one month before the attack is made.” Again Luther’s eyes found me. His gaze was searching...like he was trying to see through me.

Uncomfortable, I looked away quickly. “Antonio,” I began, “you say you’re going to protect the walls...?”

“Yes, we will attempt to stop them before they enter.”

“I’m sorry but it sounds like the battle for Troy all over again.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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