Once Reuben was done with that, one of Evan’s squad asked, “Coach, will you be letting us know in advance who has what gift?”
“Will the vampires who attack The Hollow stop, smile and fairly announce what their gift is?” When he looked sheepish I nodded. “Then don’t expect my squad to.” Evan and I then went to stand in the spectators’ box. Although during the attack we would be there to guide them, we had both agreed that it was best for them to learn not to depend too greatly on our presence. Listen to our orders, yeah, but depend on our guidance, no. So we decided to simply observe for today. I could see that Evan was confident his own squad would win but I didn’t comment.
Just as they’d practiced, Damien, Max, Chico and Harvey covered the front boulder. Denny, Reuben and Stuart covered the boulders behind them, and then Salem, David and Butch covered the rear of the squad. Evan’s squad looked as though they were hoping to make the first move but I’d learnt my lot not to give the enemy a chance.
First Damien astral projected around the first boulder of the enemy which served two purposes; firstly, he could distract the enemy; secondly, he could then inform Chico, Max and Harvey how many were hiding there. Taking advantage of the enemy’s distraction, Harvey used his telekinesis to zoom Max to the boulder and he quickly stole the four members’ senses. Chico used this opportunity to aim his thorns at them. Three other members of Evan’s squad from behind a separate boulder aimed their gifts at Chico but soon they were eliminated when Stuart and Denny travelled as mush and molecules: Stuart distracted the vamps and Denny then oozed them while their backs were turned. Meanwhile Reuben had been hit by the enemy but not before having weakened some of them so their gifts were pretty useless.
The rest of the enemy – there were only four left – decided to spring forth and get rid of Max and Chico who were of the ultimate threat so far. They were successful, but sadly for them they hadn’t known of David’s and Salem’s gift. While Butch shielded them both, David sent psionic booms and Salem used his psychic punches. At the same time Harvey was sending other members of Evan’s squad crashing into the walls.
Done and dusted: Evan’s squad had been eliminated. There were still seven left of my squad. Evan and his entire squad looked equally stunned. My lot, of course, were looking rather smug and proud. And so was I. But we behaved like adults and didn’t jump for joy…until Evan and his squad had left, of course. Then they begin basking in their own greatness and I somehow then ended up in the centre of a huddle while a very odd and crap song was sung in my honour while they bounced around me. Max, however, didn’t participate. I pulled him aside as the others were leaving.
“You and me need to have a little chat if this is how you’re going to behave,” I told him.
He shrugged. “What’s there to chat about?”
“You’re acting like a jilted, betrayed boyfriend and, worse still, you’re acting it in the arena. For God’s sake, Max, The Hollow’s going to be attacked soon.”
“Yeah, and I’ll be ready. It doesn’t mean I have to respect your ass.”
I placed my face close to his. “Actually, it means exactly that. Not only do you need to respect me, you need to listen to me and follow instructions. And not just mine, but Commander Michaels’ as well. If I can’t trust you to do that then, I swear, I’ll leave you behind.”
He snickered. “Oh you will?”
“Oh I will. So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to take fifteen minutes and then you’re going to come to my office. After I’ve been to see Commander Norton I’ll go there for your answer about whether or not you’re going to get your act together. If you don’t come, I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”
Predictably, he stormed off.
A smile dripping with pride surfaced on my face when I caught up with Evan to tell him about the meeting that was on shortly for the commanders only to be told that mine and Sam’s squad had kicked the ass of Evan’s. As much as I hated to admit it – and I really, really hated to admit it – I had been totally wrong. Sam had been indispensible to having the squad in tip-top shape. I doubted I’d ever admit it aloud but stranger things had happened.
“You’re not trying to tell me it’s the squad who deserves the glory, not her,” observed Evan.
I just shrugged. Yep, I was right: I couldn’t admit my mistake aloud.
Evan narrowed his eyes, looking at me curiously and probably wondering why I was smiling like a Cheshire cat. It was a smile that had been on my face all evening. “Don’t tell me there’s something going on between you two. I mean, I know you wanted there to be. But I kind of got the feeling that she wouldn’t be up for the consort lifestyle.”
“She’s not,” was the only answer I gave him, but Evan wasn’t dumb. He could guess the rest.
“Why do I get the feeling that you’re not going to let it be a one-off thing?”
“Because I’m not.”
“I’d say don’t hurt her, but I’m sure she’s the last person who needs protection and I’m just as sure that she could kick your ass herself if she needed to.”
She already had – not a good memory for my ego.
“But I’m asking as someone who considers her a good friend: when you do decide you’re done, don’t do it harshly the way you usually do when it comes to women.”
I didn’t like the way he thought he had a right to be protective of her. I felt like that was my job, which made no sense and yet that was how I felt all the same. Just like since the day I’d met her I’d thought of her as mine, no matter how much I’d tried to ignore it. Again it was something that made no sense but it was there. And with that thought I just had to see her. Immediately I teleported to the office…and the sight that I found made me feel like I’d been hit on the chest with a sledgehammer.
There was Sam sitting on the edge of her desk with her arms and legs locked around Max who she was kissing so hard and urgently while he skated his hands down her back. An ache started in my stomach and quickly blossomed until every single part of me hurt. I was in agony both inside and out. I wasn’t even sure if I was breathing, it was like I’d been winded. As much as I wanted to dive on Max and snap every limb off his body I couldn’t seem to move. Shock had me rooted to the spot, paralysed. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them. I didn’t want to watch but I couldn’t seem to look away. Then the shock and hurt swiftly gave way to anger, and a deep, dark rage surged through me.