Well this was fun. Although the conversation centred round me, not one person was addressing me. Jared, Antonio, Luther, Sebastian, Wes, Lena, and Evan were all pacing around my living area while I sat quietly on the sofa. Even the normally composed Antonio seemed unable to sit down. I could see panic on each and every face. It was the same panic that I was feeling.

Lena sighed. “For someone to have changed her to the extent that it is interfering with her gift, they must have changed her at a fundamental level.”

“What level?” Jared was pale even for him. The incident had sent his protectiveness into overdrive, and he looked on the verge of snapping.

“It would be the same as for me to alter a human’s internal system so that they can no longer digest their food. Sam can feed on the energy around her, but she cannot shape or control it. Much like a human would vomit in the case of being unable to digest their food, Sam had an abrupt release of the energy that she had absorbed.”

“Isn’t that what happens when a Feeder first develops their power?” Evan asked me.

“Yes,” I replied. “Because we don’t even realise we’re absorbing energy, and when we do, we can’t control it.”

“So, what, she’s digressing?” Jared asked Lena.

She exhaled heavily. “I truly have no idea, though it would appear so.”

I finally asked her the question that was taunting me. “Will I lose my gift?”

Her expression was sympathetic. “Possibly.”

Silence hit the room, and I felt as though I’d been dealt a blow to the chest as the breath practically whooshed out of me. My gift wasn’t simply an ability to me. It was part of who I was. The truth was that I’d be kind of lost without it; it would feel like losing a part of myself.

Knowing that, Jared came and squeezed my shoulder. “How about your ability to Merge? Has that been affected?”

I exhaled heavily. “Let’s find out.” Standing, I placed my hand on Jared’s chest and attempted to meld into him. Nothing. Well f**k a duck. Half-sighing, half-growling, I slumped back down onto the sofa.

“Has there been anything else happening to you that is out of the norm?” asked Antonio, his tone sensitive.

“Pain,” I told him, swallowing hard. “There was this awful, unbearable pain…but I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream, couldn’t do anything. Jared didn’t even sense it through our connection.”

The look on Antonio’s face told me that that wasn’t good at all. “I would say, then, that Lena is right. What’s happening to you is happening on such a fundamental level that it can interfere with almost anything; your gifts, your body, and even your connection to Jared.”

“Will it stop the Binding from working?” Jared’s voice was low.

“No,” Antonio assured him. “Nothing could do that.”

Lena nodded in agreement. “It is likely that whatever is happening will be over before the ceremony anyway.”

Jared, who was far from placated by the answers he’d been given, scrubbed a hand over his face. “There has to be someone who can help. Someone who can undo what’s happening, or who can at least tell us what’s happening.”

“The only people who can help with that are the vampires responsible,” Lena told him. “Had Sam been human or an animal, I could have aided her in some way. But my gift, though strong, is not that powerful. Technically, this particular gift should not be as strong as to have any effect on a vampire.”

A thought came to me. “What if we had Reuben enhance your gift, make it stronger, would that do any good?”

She cocked her head as she considered it. “I cannot say for sure. It’s worth a try, I suppose.”

Jared’s enthusiasm and hope was almost visible. “I’ll go get him.” Then he was gone.

Evan turned to me, sighing. “Hard seeing him like that, isn’t it? Jared’s usually so self-assured and at ease.” I nodded. “He’s scared of losing you.”

“I don’t think I’m dying, Evan, I really don’t.”

“I don’t either. But if this situation was the other way around, if Jared was in pain and losing control of his gifts, would you take any chances? Would you allow yourself the luxury of trusting that he’ll live?”

No, I wouldn’t. “In other words, you want me to not give him a hard time about the overprotectiveness.” Evan’s smile was sheepish. I sighed. “Fine.”

We all smiled as Jared returned with good ole Reub.

“Ah, Reuben,” drawled Antonio. “Good of you to come.”

My squad member nodded at him running his gaze over me. “Coach, you okay? That was some release of energy back there. Don’t worry, we didn’t tell anyone that your gift went weird, we just said that you and Jared were having a fight.”

“Focus, Reuben,” said Jared. “We need you to use your gift on Lena.”

“No problem.” One brief touch to the shoulder had Lena’s gift more powerful. “Is there any other way I can help?”

I shook my head. “Hopefully, we won’t need any more help.”

When Jared reached for him, Reuben raised a hand and headed for the front door. “I can get back to my apartment myself. You guys look like you need to be together right now.”

Wasn’t he lovely? “Thanks for coming. See you tomorrow.” He nodded and left.

Lena shook her head a little. “Strange how different, stronger, I now feel.”

“Do you think you’re strong enough to help Sam?” asked Jared.

She inhaled deeply. “I can try. I would appreciate it if no one speaks while I study her.” She came to sit beside me on the sofa, but she didn’t touch me. Her attention was all on me, though her eyes seemed slightly out of focus. Minutes later, she took a deep breath and graciously accepted the NST that Sebastian was holding.

“Do you see DNA strands?” I asked.

“It’s like looking at numbers and equations. I see what adds up, and what doesn’t, in which case I can spot abnormalities. I see weak points, and I see strong points; therefore I know a person’s strengths and weaknesses. I am able to shuffle the numbers around, make different equations, thus making a person stronger or weaker or different. Providing those equations make sense, there will be no problems.”

“So…the brothers’ equations weren’t adding up,” I surmised. “That was why the vampires they held were deformed.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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