Wearing a crooked smile, Jared came up behind me and curled his arms around my waist. “As much as I love this dress on you, it’s making me want to take it off and have my way with you.”
“I fully plan to take it off, it’s too revealing.”
He frowned. “No, leave it on. It’s not revealing, it’s flattering.”
I groaned again. Now Fletcher’s little phrases were rubbing off on Jared. Wasn’t that special.
He just chuckled. “Cheer up, baby. We’re about to go on a dinner cruise as part of the celebrations for our Binding.”
“I know. But I can’t help feeling guilty for enjoying myself when that organisation is still up and running.” Jude hadn’t taken it well when I told her that we wouldn’t be calling the Deliverer. We didn’t want to do anything that would be considered out of the ordinary for Leon, and he’d said that she contacted him. So we needed to wait for the Deliverer to get in touch before we could make our next move, but naturally Jude’s patience for vengeance was running low. I couldn’t blame her for that.
Jared nuzzled my neck. “I know what you mean. I feel bad shoving this matter aside, but how else are we going to enjoy this week unless we keep the assignment and the celebrations totally separate in our minds?”
I sighed. “All right, smart arse.”
Having let Jared talk me into not changing my dress, we then headed for the beach. I should have guessed that Antonio – the flashy sod – wouldn’t have just any yacht, but a luxury almost futuristic-looking one. The interior was more like a five-star hotel; it had a spacious lounge, a classy dining area, and several private cabins. Additionally, there was an outer dining area on the deck where two long tables were set up and a band was waiting. Wow, Antonio had gone all out tonight.
While the squad, the Master Vampires, Fletcher and Norm sat at one table, the High Master Vampires sat at the other with me, Jared, Evan, Antonio, Luther, Sebastian, Wes, and Lena. Just as they had at the informal gathering, Marcia, Rowan, and Ricardo were quite standoffish with me. They even went as far as to ignore my presence at the table, running their gaze along everyone but me as they spoke.
The fact that no one had stepped in to defend me would speak volumes to these prats – Jared, Antonio, and the others all believed me capable of protecting myself. Still, I could feel Jared’s frustration, knew that he wanted to say something anyway, but a few cautioning pinches from me stopped him.
To my surprise, it was Marcia who was the worst. She had some nerve, considering that she wasn’t even a powerful vampire; she was simply Bound to one – quite different. I wanted to seriously dislike her, but it was hard to dislike someone who was a silent partner in many human charities. I was in the same situation with Rowan and Ricardo. Neither of them were what anyone could call ‘bad people’.
Rowan, though largely unpleasant, had his good points. I had learned that the reason he had such an extensive bloodline wasn’t because he was quite the biter. It was that whenever he had encountered a human who knew a little too much about vampires, he hadn’t immediately killed them as necessary. He had given them the choice: death or vampirism. Not many would want to be responsible for so many vampires. But despite that his numbers were large, he continued to make this offer.
In his human years, Ricardo had been a priest. He had done a lot of good back then. Even now, although he wasn’t the nicest soul, he still had a kindness about him. He was the most supportive Sire out there. He was sure to remain in contact with each of his vampires, always helping those who might need it. They all respected him and followed him, which wasn’t always the case with Sires – I was a prime example of that.
Marcia’s words pulled me from my thoughts. “I imagine this kind of extravagance is something you had not encountered until coming here.” It was a jab, and had Jared still been sitting next to me as opposed to talking to one of the Master Vampires on the neighbouring table, he’d have said something. No doubt she had purposely waited until he was absent. “I heard that you lived in a poverty stricken area of London. Is that also where your Sire is from?”
I casually took a sip of my red wine-flavoured NST, hiding my irritation. “I’m actually not sure where Victor was from.”
“Your Sire is deceased?”
“Yeah. A crazy bitch killed him.” I saw that Antonio, Sebastian, Luther, and Evan were fighting the urge to smile.
“I have been told that the physical pain of losing a Sire is almost unbearable.” Connelly’s comment came out sounding like a question.
I shrugged. “It was far from a tickle.”
Marcia sighed. “Well, I suppose if you’re going to base yourself in an area that has a high crime rate, you’re going to meet your end sooner rather than later. I imagine that is why you came here. You sought sanctuary after his death.”
“Sam’s here because I recruited her,” interjected Sebastian, agitated. “She was made Jared’s co-commander because she earned the position. It is a job that she is very good at.”
Rowan clenched his fists. “But she is a Sventé.”
I gently swirled my NST as my eyes flickered from him to Marcia. “I was wondering…You know when you act like this, do you feel much like those kids in the Harry Potter books that are prejudiced against muggles?”
Holding out his hands, Rowan said, “See this from our perspective.”
“But then I’d have to ask Jared to jam my head all the way up my arse.”
Apparently Rowan decided to ignore my comment. “You are of the weakest breed, both in terms of your physical capabilities and your gift. Yes, granted you have a powerful gift, and you are in control of it. But will you always be able to control it? That is the question. If you were a Pagori, I might be inclined to think so.”
I snorted. “If I was a Pagori, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Ricardo leaned forward. “I will be honest with you, Miss Parker. I believe you have some good qualities. You appear to be bright, strong-willed, and bold. They are qualities that I admire. I can see why Jared is taken with you, particularly as you also have…physical attributes.” Everyone ignored Marcia’s snort. “But that is not enough for me.”
I smiled. “Oh I don’t know. Haven’t you heard what they say about us? Once you’ve had a Sventé, you’ll never go back.”