“That’s Connelly. Rupert Connelly,” added Jared as he sat on the chair next to mine. “He’s the High Master of the entire Caribbean and other places like Hawaii and Brazil. He’s a Keja. He’s about two centuries old. Worships Antonio. Any time he’s ever visited The Hollow he’s stuck to Antonio like a fly to shit.”

“Is he as friendly as he looks?”

“I’ve honestly never met anyone so giddy. Very sociable. Giggles a lot. One thing I know for certain is that he’d never betray Antonio. If an attack does happen, he’ll align himself with Antonio and do everything he can to help protect The Hollow.”

“Will his gift do much good in an attack?”

“That depends how involved he is during the defence. He has infrared vision, so if he was leading his own legion as opposed to having someone else do it then he’d be able to point them in the right direction of where the invaders are.”

I took a moment to memorise Connelly’s face before then moving on. The bloke on the next photograph didn’t look much older in human years than me, but his almond blue eyes held a twinkle of wisdom so I guessed he’d been around for a while. His facial structure was sculpture-worthy and made all the more appealing by the hood of sandy tight curls that hung down to his cheekbones. Very broad shoulders, I noticed.

“That’s Carlos – he doesn’t use a surname. A Pagori. High Master of quite a few places like Spain, the Canary Islands, Morocco, Portugal...He doesn’t reside anywhere in particular, he likes to travel. Sociable enough but only interested in serving his own interests.”

“So if he deduces that Bennington’s plan of attacking The Hollow has a high chance of succeeding, he could easily align himself with Bennington.”

“Oh yeah.”

“His gift?”

“He’s Psychometric. By touching something he can give details about its past, present, future – that kind of thing.”

“Just objects, or people too?”

“Not sure, actually.” He snickered at the next photograph as I moved on from Carlos. “Rowan Murdock,” he drawled. “Not the nicest of vampires.”

Rowan looked as though he had been Turned when he was in his late forties. He had long, dark incredibly straight hair and the largest eyes, largely glinting amber. Clearly a Keja vampire. With his chunky lips pursed and one dark eyebrow arched he gave off an arrogant vibe. “He looks stuck up.”

Jared giggled. “He mainly lives in Italy, but he’s High Master over Greece, all the Greek islands, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt and more. He’s got an extensive bloodline.”

“So he’s quite the biter.”

“You could say that. He always takes his life-partner with him to the gatherings. Marcia I think her name is. She’s very...prim and proper.”

“A snob,” I offered.

“But she won’t be snobbish to you because she’ll think you’re my consort and she’s never snobbish toward the consorts which I think is weird.”

“She obviously just doesn’t feel threatened by the consorts.”

“You mean the way Joy feels threatened by you?” His smile was cute, inviting and playful. His eyes raked over me again.

I gave him a pointed look. “Oi, we’re talking about these High Master vampires, nothing else.”

“I know,” he said innocently like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

I tapped the photograph. “So what’s this Rowan like with regards to Antonio? A fan or...?”

“He’s not exactly chummy with him but I can’t see him ever betraying Antonio. He thinks that highly of himself, he’d never associate or align himself with any vampires who were challenging Antonio. That kind of thing is beneath him. His gift is pretty cool. He can mimic any non-living substance just by touching it.”

Although I could feel Jared’s eyes on me I forced my concentration onto the photograph, memorising the face, before flipping to the following one. The first thing I noticed about this bloke was his nose; long, wide and turned up. His cropped hair was a reddish gold and his tiny beard was a few shades darker than his hair. There was a large ring of red around his grey eyes, meaning not only was he a Pagori but he was angry, hungry or horny when this photograph was taken.

“Curran. Don’t know his first name.” Jared paused to open another NST. “He kind of keeps himself to himself at any gatherings, but he’s alright once you get him talking. He’s not High Master over many places. Mostly just Canada and Alaska.”

“That could go in our favour. He’ll figure that after the battle there’ll be enough casualties to mean that some countries are without a High Master. If he wants more territory he might join Antonio.”

Jared nodded. “Very likely. But I’d say that the other side will try to coax him to betray Antonio because his gift is pretty impressive. Duplication.”

“So...He can create duplicates of himself or others and scatter them around to join the battle to replace any casualties.”

Jared nodded again. “I can’t see him betraying Antonio though. I’m not saying he’d definitely join the battle, he might want to sit it out completely.”

I knew the bloke on the next photograph. I recognised his chubby face, the thin coal-black moustache, the smarmy expression, and it was impossible to forget the way he combed his dark hair to the side of his head, covering his bald patch (not so well).

“Bennington,” I said.

“That’s right. You’ve met him, right?” I nodded. “Creepy guy. He might want to have a catch up if he sees you.”

“Or try to employ me.”

“He tried to take you off Victor?”

“Yeah, a few times. Out of the two of them, Victor was the lesser evil.”

Jared tilted his head, conceding that. “He’s High Master over Greenland and Iceland as well as Britain. Out of all the High Masters, he’s had the most challenges to his role.”

“I’m not surprised, he makes enemies pretty easy. Bennington’s gift wouldn’t exactly help him in a battle. He can sense people’s gifts, but he has to be extremely up close to do it.”

“I hope he gets up close to me. Decapitating him would be the highlight of my year.”

“Be careful, I might beat you to it.”

“Bennington’s mine,” he insisted with a smile.

I gave him a ‘whatever’ shrug and then slung the photograph to examine the next. Whoa, they were the bushiest eyebrows I’d ever seen – they joined in the middle, making the bloke look like he had a caterpillar hanging above his round dark eyes. His coppery hair was quite tousled, sticking out here and there and tickling his long ears.

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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