When I reached Antonio’s side – who was now admiring the animals again – I spoke, “Will I be being sent to bed without dinner, or are you just going to ground me for a while?”
His mouth twitched. “Do you know why I always enjoy our conversations, Sam?”
“Because I’m such a charmer?”
“Because I never know what it is you will say next. You never fail to surprise me.” Luther and Sebastian murmured words of agreement. “I have not called you here to discuss your actions of last night. I knew when I employed you that you were a livewire, and I knew that your reflex to a challenge is to accept it. I am told that the vampire in question attacked first, so I will look upon the incident as a matter of self-defence. This time.”
The message was loud and clear: I’m letting you off with a warning, but don’t go challenging my vampires again unless truly necessary. “Got it.”
“As much as I also enjoy our riveting conversations, I have to ask: what’s with the summons if it’s not to talk about Clark’s unfortunate demise?”
His mouth twitched again. “Has your new gift manifested yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“The suspense is painful,” said Luther.
I turned to look at him. “Are you really that intrigued?”
“No Feeder has ever been given additional power before, no one would have dreamt of it. You are therefore somewhat of a...”
“Science experiment,” I supplied.
“We are keen to observe you, yes. You must appreciate that when one has so much time on their hands and not much to entertain them, the smallest thing can become intriguing.”
The creaking of the door behind me stole everyone’s attention. I swerved to see Jared swooning inside and strolling gracefully toward us like an angel down an altar. As always, it took a lot of control to not gawp at his gorgeousness. Especially when he had that leather jacket on. Feeling a little intimidated, I suddenly became incredibly aware of my own appearance; I didn’t exactly look very appealing in my simple white tank top and my hip-hugging sapphire-blue denim jeans with my hair in a high ponytail. Sigh. Oh well.
It was a good ten seconds before I stopped ogling which meant he’d probably noticed. I will not blush. I will not blush. I will not blush. I didn’t. More so because I was distracted by his confused expression that mirrored my own. He repeatedly studied my face as if for some clue as to what this meeting here was all about. I gave a shrug.
“Sorry I’m late,” he told Antonio after exchanging brief greetings with all the blokes. His dubiousness was apparent in his tone. “I had to find someone to cover the squad.”
“It’s quite alright,” replied Antonio.
Feeling any better today? asked Jared as he positioned himself on Antonio’s opposite side, facing me.
I went for nonchalant. Fine thanks.
He responded with a tiny nod.
“I wanted to speak with you about the Connelly gathering,” Antonio said to Jared.
“What about it?” asked Jared, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jacket. God he looked so good in that jacket. He’d probably look even better without it and any other clothes on. Not that I’m interested in finding out or anything now that I’m thinking straight again. Honest.
“It is tomorrow night, is it not?”
“Yeah,” confirmed Jared, still dubious.
“And you will be attending, I assume.”
“I do every year.”
Antonio nodded. “I want you to take Sam along with you.”
“What?” asked Jared, almost overriding my “Say again?” I didn’t even know what this gathering was supposed to be, or who the hell Connelly was.
“All those invited are welcome to take a guest,” said Antonio. “From what I remember, you always do so.”
“Why do you want me to take Sam?” Agitation streamed through his veins at the idea; I felt it as if it was my own. Oh, cheers Jared. I couldn’t help snorting.
“It is a very worrying time. Soon The Hollow’s walls will be attacked. You can appreciate why I would wish to take precautions with regards to your safety. And as you do not usually take a personal bodyguard with you, people would find it rather odd if you were to do so this year. If there are any would-be-traitors amongst the guests, this might tip them off to our alertness of the upcoming attack. Up to now, although they may suspect that someone within my counsel has had a vision, they will not be sure. So, I propose that you take Sam along as your guest, let her pose as your consort” – I snorted again, to which Antonio smiled – “or your partner, whichever. Then if you do encounter any trouble, you have her as back-up.”
“Again you’re insisting I need back-up and help and protection,” grumbled Jared. “Antonio, I’m a Master vampire. I have a reputation that means most vampires wouldn’t dream of bothering me. And any that have tried taking me on have only ended a pile of ash.”
“Except me, of course.” I couldn’t resist.
Jared ignored me. “It’s one thing to be concerned about me being targeted, it’s another thing altogether to imply that I can’t handle it myself.”
“This is not about what you can or cannot handle,” insisted Antonio. “This is about taking precautions. You are my Heir, I will do as I must to ensure your safety.”
“Ensure my safety? So you’re saying a young, female Sventé vampire is all that’s needed to ensure my safety. Hey, why not get rid of me and make her the Heir then.”
“Oh we’re back to that crap, I see,” I spat. “Honestly, Jared, you’re like a little kid who doesn’t want to hold Mummy’s hand.”
“It’s nothing personal to you,” said Jared.
“Your last words sort of contradict that. What’s wrong – you don’t want to be seen out with a Sventé?”
Antonio interrupted our dispute. “What if this was Evan, Jared? You know he can protect himself from any threat. But would you want him to go alone while such a threat is live?”
“That’s different,” argued Jared.
I snorted. “Oh, you know what? I’m gone. Antonio, if you want me to go tomorrow night I will. But I’m not staying here to listen to him sulk any more than I have to.”
“Understandable,” muttered Sebastian.
I was in so much of a desperate need to put a large distance between me and Jared that human velocity just wasn’t good enough right now. Vampire speed had me at the office within seconds. I slumped down onto my seat. God, what was so wrong with me in Jared’s eyes that made him so horrified by any idea that involved us working closely together? Oh I was good enough to shag, though, wasn’t I? I’ll take that to mean that he’d shag absolutely anything, even if he loathed it.