“Right, luv.” He looked less suspicious now but still curious.
“What does he want to see me about?” I asked Evan as we left the Command Centre, heading toward the mansion. God I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the recruits had gone whining to him that I’d thrown bits of their past at them.
“Don’t look so worried,” chuckled Evan.
“I’m not worried. It’s just that I feel like I’m been sent for by the School Head Master and escorted to the Head Master’s office to get a rollicking for something.”
“Oh, no, I don’t think it’s anything like that.” He held the door open for me and we stepped into the grand hallway of the mansion. “He probably just wants to make sure you’re okay after what happened yesterday.” After a moment of walking in silence along the hallway he said, “So, are you okay?”
“No offence, but I’d rather not keep going with this conversation considering that I know exactly what course it’ll take.”
“It’ll take a course?” he asked, amused.
“I’ll say I’m fine, then you’ll say I can’t really be fine, then I’ll try to convince you I am, then you’ll say how it must have been really hard for me kill him.”
“Well it must have been.”
“Jared, Max and Fletcher said the same thing and all three times it made me feel like shit.”
“Because it wasn’t hard. I did it without thinking.”
“You did it to protect Antonio, that’s nothing to feel bad about.” Gently Evan squeezed my shoulder, giving me the sort of smile that begs you to smile yourself. So I did. And that’s the moment – while Evan had his hand on my shoulder and we were smiling at each other widely – that fate decided it would be fun for Jared to walk down the same hallway, heading in our direction. His face was a picture of fury. Oh bugger.
Where’re you taking her? I heard in my head. Did Jared realise he’d sent that thought to me instead of Evan?
Antonio wants to see her. Why are we talking about this telepathically? Evan’s confusion didn’t show on his face.
Then I understood what was happening. Absorbing a little of Jared’s power must have made it possible for me to listen to telepathic conversations around me. I didn’t let it show that I could hear.
Jared, nearly at us: Why are you taking her to him?
Evan: I was asked to go get her, what’s the problem?
Jared: No problem. You can both do what you want, it’s none of my business.
Evan, amused: Oh, I get it, she won’t let you screw her, will she?
“Hi,” said Jared to both Evan and me as he stopped before us. If I hadn’t been able to hear the frustration in his telepathic voice, I might have bought his aloof expression.
“Alright,” I greeted, trying for aloof too.
“Where you off to, bro?” Evan asked him.
Evan, amused: Oh I bet this is all new for you. I was starting to think there wasn’t a girl out there who wouldn’t spread her legs for you. She just gets more and more interesting.
Jared: Evan, I’m not in the mood for this. Oh and don’t think she’ll let you in her panties either.
“Going back to the squad,” replied Jared. “Dawson supervised them for me while I came to speak to Antonio and Luther.” He gestured with his head to the room across the hallway.
Evan, still amused: Oh my God this has really got to you, hasn’t it? It’s not just killing your pride, you’re -
Jared: Luther’s just told me there’ll be trouble ahead, he obviously meant you.
Evan, even more amused and singing: There may be trouble ahead...
Jared turned to me, all business but still friendly. “I need to update the recruits’ files. You done with them for today?”
“Yeah, they’re on my desk,” I replied in the same tone.
Evan, still singing: But while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance...
“Let’s face the music, and dance,” I finished, watching both of them gawp at me unattractively. “I’ll see you both later.” And then I strolled off whistling the tune of the song that might very well end up stuck in my head all night long. I could feel their glares still on me as I, called in by Antonio, advanced into the room that only a minute ago Jared had come out of.
“Alright,” I said to Antonio and Luther who offered me greeting smiles. I then nodded to the guards who nodded back, and then I was licked half to death by the dogs. Nero was especially attentive.
This room was absolutely huge and amazing. I’d been expecting another parlour room seen as Antonio seemed to love them, but this was different than anything I’d seen. In the centre was a large rectangular aviary; inside were canaries, rabbits, guinea pigs, and some other types of birds that I didn’t know the names to.
The aviary was made of glass and had a tiny little stream covering the perimeter of it. Antonio and Luther were standing side by side, staring through the glass of the aviary at the trees and animals and other plants. I was already thinking what Antonio was thinking before he said it.
“It’s such a peaceful place.” He was still staring through the glass. “I come here whenever an emotion overwhelms me. So I thought this would be an extremely good place for me to speak with you today. I can imagine you might be quite overwhelmed.”
As I reached his side I grumbled, “Not you as well.”
He laughed at that, as did Luther. “You know, if a number of people are interested in your emotional state, maybe you should consider this a good thing: it shows that you are finally accepted, and cared about.”
“It might be a good thing to someone else, but I’m not really a ‘let’s hold hands, cuddle and share all’ person.”
He laughed again. “Maybe one day you will learn that it is not a fault to care.” Turning to face me – his expression all business now – he continued, “My guards have never failed to protect me. They would have reached Victor before he was able to reach me.”
“And yet you intervened in spite of that.” It was half-question, half-statement.
“I would not go as far as to say that I owe you my life, because I do not believe that it was ever truly in danger. But your intervention was much appreciated, and I thank you for it.”
“You also have my appreciation,” said Luther. The guards mumbled something like ‘and ours’.