When he opened his eyes again, they were a little calmer. “Two minutes. You’ve got two minutes, and then I’m getting you out of here.”

Any other time, I’d have whipped his ears off for speaking to me like that. “Yes, then we can go.” Sucking energy into my palms, I released it as an air blast that was strong enough to blow her cell door open. As we all stepped inside, she didn’t react other than to slowly turn her head to look at us.

When her eyes met mine, her frown melted away. “You…You c-came.”

I wanted to go to her side and give her some form of comfort, but the eleven males with me were feeling mighty overprotective right then and had planted themselves in front of me. Managing to shove Salem aside just enough to have a clear view of the female, I asked, “What did they do? What’s happening to you?”

She swallowed hard and her eyes drifted shut. “D-d-didn’t work.”

“What didn’t work?”

Her words weren’t audible even to vampire hearing.

“Do you have any idea who they were or where they would have gone?” Jared’s voice was gruff with anger.

Without opening her eyes, she stammered, “O-Orr-in.”

Jared frowned. “Orrin? Is that a name, a place, what?”

She gasped as a spasm hit, making her back bow from the floor. Even through her groans of pain, she heard my wince. Her expression was almost sympathetic when she looked at me. “Y-you c-c-can’t help m-me.”

“What were they trying to do?”

“Make…m-make me—” She was cut off as yet another bad spasm racked her body. It was agonising just to watch. Her eyes shut and she seemed close to drifting off, but then they fluttered opened again. “Kill me,” she croaked out.

I stiffened. “No.”

“Pain. Hurts.” She cried out as a particularly violent spasm shook her body and her back arched so unnaturally that I heard a bone break. There were tears in her eyes when she looked at me again. “Pl-please?”

“I’ll do it, Coach.” Chico squeezed my shoulder.

Salem nodded. “Yeah, you go see Antonio. We’ll take care of everything. We’ll make sure there’s nothing left of the place.”

I might have told them to stop coddling me if I hadn’t sensed that Jared was going to lose his composure any second now. No sooner had I slipped my hand in his than we were back in Antonio’s mansion. We found him in one of his many posh parlours with Luther.

Jared didn’t even give them a chance to speak. “Sam got hurt. I don’t know what the f**k they did, but you need to do something.”

Antonio double-blinked. “Hurt? Hurt how? And who are ‘they’?”

“We have no idea.” He told Antonio about what had happened, giving full details on the condition of the captives, and carefully quoting every word the brothers had said. “All we could really get out of the female Sventé was the word ‘Orrin’. Do you have any idea what she could have meant?”

“I’ll have my researchers look into it.” Antonio studied me intently. “How are you feeling?”

I took stock. “Fine. The pain’s gone. I don’t feel ill. I don’t feel any different at all.”

Releasing a heavy sigh, Antonio shrugged. “I suppose all we can do is watch and wait.”

“Watch and wait?” repeated Jared. “You’ve got to be kidding me. They could have done anything to her!”

“Exactly, it could have been anything. Sam says she feels fine. You say you do not know what their gifts were. I have nothing to go on. Until I know what type of help she needs, I cannot know who I need to summon to help her. I doubt that my own gift will do her much good, no matter the problem.”

Jared scrubbed a hand over his face. “Maybe we should postpone the celebrations.” Well that got my back up, and he obviously felt it because he raised a placatory hand. “I want that Binding ceremony, Sam − you know that. But I don’t trust outsiders around you; not when those vampires said they’d be seeing you again soon.”

I snorted. “They wouldn’t be stupid enough to try to infiltrate The Hollow.”

“Bennington tried it, and he was just as f**king weird as the brothers.”

“They wouldn’t even know where to find me. They don’t know who I am.”

“No,” agreed Antonio. “But they will have known who Jared is. He’s recognised worldwide; he needs to be. However, I do not believe it necessary for the Binding ceremony to be postponed. I appreciate that you are feeling particularly protective at this moment, Jared. I fully understand that, as does Sam. But she is very well protected here, and nothing can get in or out of here without my knowledge or permission. It is also worth noting that having the High Masters here for your ceremony will mean that she is even better protected than usual. And I know that the last thing you really want is to postpone the ceremony.”

It was a few moments before Jared exhaled a heavy sigh and nodded.

Distracting myself from the shard of pain I’d felt at hearing him propose to postpone the ceremony, I asked Antonio, “How could they have mutated those vampires like that?”

“There are vampires who have the gift of genekinesis and similar abilities which allow them to manipulate a person or animal’s DNA. In fact, my Sire’s life-partner – who you will meet at the informal gathering tomorrow evening – has such a gift. But these gifts would not work on vampires. It is a shame that the female Sventé in the cell was not able to tell us more.”

I thought about mentioning Luther’s earlier vision, but there was a good chance that Jared would kill him for not having warned him. Instead, I waited until Jared was in deep conversation with Antonio before approaching Gandalf’s doppelganger. He had remained uncharacteristically mute and made himself busy in the far corner of the room. “What’s going to happen to me, Luther? The vampires tried to change me in some way. What did they do?”

His expression was sad, apologetic, and anxious. “Do you know what one of the hardest things is about having my gift, Sam? That sometimes I can see a very trying time ahead, but I also know that to do something would be to affect the future.”

“There you go again with those sodding riddles. Is it something bad? At least tell me that much.”

“That depends on what way you look at it.”

“Oh for the love of God, Luther, throw me a bone here.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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