Sighing, I admitted, “I wouldn’t bother thanking me, I didn’t really think about it, if I’m honest. I just did it.”

“Do you not see that for this to be your natural reaction to my safety being jeopardised that this is a tremendous thing?” Antonio glared at me curiously. “There have only ever been three other people to intervene in such a way; Sebastian, and the brothers – and that was after decades of being under my wing, and none of them intervened by harming their Sires. You have known me for all of a few nights and yet you not only instinctually protected me, but you killed your own Sire in order to do so.”

I smiled. “Maybe you didn’t notice that he was a prick who I had no time or respect for.”

“He was still your Sire, Sam. And just like any human would have that small moment of doubt before harming either of their parents, any vampire experiences this before trying to harm their Sire. Most vampires never do it, no matter what the circumstances. A blood-bond is overpowering for the mind. And yet you did not experience that moment of hesitation.”

I bowed my head. “Cold-hearted, I suppose.”

“No,” he insisted but in a gentle voice. “You are not cold-hearted. Harsh at times, yes – but only if you believe it is necessary. Foul-mouthed on occasion, yes – but we don’t mind that so much. Capable of brutal honesty, oh yes – but sometimes the absolute truth is what people need to hear. You are not cold, Sam. Do not ever think that about yourself. Consider that an order.”

“Sir, yes, Sir,” I said light-heartedly, to which he rolled his eyes at.

“I did not call you here just to enquire about your well-being or to thank you.” He made his way to a bench beside on one of the walls – I hadn’t even noticed that before, the beauty of the aviary had taken up all of my focus – and invited me to sit beside him.

“Are you giving me a raise?” I teased.

“You could say that.” I wasn’t expecting for that to be his response. “I told you before that you are not the only individual to intervene to protect me. In each of those cases I called them to me just as I have called you now. I believe in thanking people with actions more than with words. Rewards, you might say.”

“Okay.” Did he mean, like, a medal or something?

“I am a Bestower, Sam – that is my vampiric gift. Have you ever encountered a Bestower before?”

“No, but I’ve heard of Bestowers. You can pass on gifts to other vampires.”

“Not exactly. I can impart power to a vampire, not energy, that is different. Power. It can only be done at my control, but I cannot control what reaction the power has to your own innate concentration of power. In other words, I do not know what gift you will then develop, but it will not be my own.”

Wow, I hadn’t seen this coming.

“It is your decision, Sam. I know that you already have a substantial gift to control, so it is understandable if you do not want another. But if you would like to accept my offer, I will be very happy to reward you as I wish to.”

The idea of having another gift was exciting. Even the idea that I’d have no idea what it would be was exciting. But it had taken me a while to have the control that I have now over my own gift...This wasn’t exactly the best time to be struggling with another gift seen as The Hollow’s walls would be attacked in a few weeks. “Will I be able to control it? I mean, I can control other vampires’ gifts easy enough because it’s just about channelling energy and I’m a master at that. But when I absorbed some of Jared’s energy” – Antonio raised his brows at that but didn’t comment – “I couldn’t get a grip on the teleporting thing.”

“That is not because you couldn’t control it,” explained Antonio. “Teleporting is not as simple as people might think. It is a lot like being a satellite. Your mind picks up and commits to memory the signals and coordinates of places or even people – on a totally subconscious level. For Jared, his initial struggles were due to his inexperience at channelling energy. For you, the problem was obviously that you obviously did not absorb the amount of his energy required to receive enough of the concentration of that power. As such, you were, through no fault of your own, an uncompleted satellite.”

“Oh. Right.” Well that was good news.

“So, do you wish to accept my offer?” He was eager, I could tell. Probably curious as to what gift I’d end up with. I had to admit I was extremely curious myself, and curiosity killed this kitten in this instance.

“What do I have to do?”

Antonio smiled pleasantly and exchanged a pleased expression with Luther before returning his attention to me. “You will need to join your forehead to mine. It might feel a little strange, sort of like a sizzling sensation, but do not withdraw from it. The process is not something I can control; it depends on the reaction that the power I impart has on you. It can take anything from thirty seconds to an entire minute.”

I nodded. “Okay.” Although I was a little hesitant due to the shock and weirdness of it all, I didn’t let it show.

Antonio closed his eyes. Seconds later he spoke, “I am ready for you.”

I almost laughed seen as that unintentionally sounded a little kinky. Slowly I leant in. When my forehead met his there was the strangest bang inside my body, I guessed that Antonio felt it too because he gasped also.

“Antonio?” said Luther, sounding concerned.

“All is well, Luther,” he assured him. I took it that the bang wasn’t normal. “Sam, do not fear, be still.”

Remaining still had to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was the freakiest thing. It felt as though bugs were crawling under the skin of Antonio’s forehead and bursting out and then scraping their way through the skin of my own. Then there was this almost unbearable feeling of bubbles bursting inside my skull. My limbs burned. My heart went ten to the dozen. My lungs pained. My stomach ached, and God I was so thirsty all of a sudden.

It felt like forever before all of it, as abruptly as it started, ended with one more bang which made us break apart.

“Oh. My. God. What was all that?” I was wheezing. Luther thrust NSTs in mine and Antonio’s hands. So efficient. I’d gulped it down so quick that I didn’t even taste it. My throat stopped aching then.

“It would be fair to say that my power has never had such an enthusiastic reaction before to the process of bestowing,” explained Antonio after reservedly drinking his NST.

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires