“She’s only just getting started, Sam. This is just a taste of what you’ll have to deal with. I don’t want our time together being spoilt by her. I don’t want her causing problems for us.”
As I met his gaze, I realised something. “You’re waiting for me to leave you, aren’t you?” I knew why: it was hard to trust that someone you wanted so much could really want you back.
“I’m waiting for you to try. I won’t let you go.”
“There are only two people who have the power to mess this up. You and me. I have no intention of doing that and neither do you.”
“We’re tight, I know that. But she only needs one crack, Sam. One crack and she’s in.”
I smoothed my hands up and down his t-shirt. “And if she gets in, I’ll kill her. But the only way she can get in is if we aren’t as solid as we think we are. We could look at this as a test. If she manages to mess this up, it was never going to go the distance and the Binding would have been a mistake.”
He shook his head. “That’s a nice way of looking at it. But you’re wrong, baby. She’s poison, and it doesn’t matter how strong a person’s body is, poison can still have the intended effect. It can still hurt and it can still kill. Like I said, all she needs is one crack. One crack and that poison will get into our relationship and spread.”
“She’s getting to you. If she gets to you badly enough, she’ll get in here” – he gently poked my temple – “and she’ll poison your mind. She can make you destroy what we have.”
“I’m too strong a person for her to do that.” Even I heard the doubt in my voice. With everything that was going on, I wasn’t at my strongest. Still, I insisted, “She can’t do that. It’s not possible.”
He gave me a gentle, sad smile. “Neither is a vampire becoming deformed or crazed.”
A knock on our office door was quickly followed by the entrance of Antonio, Luther, and Sebastian. I was glad. A distraction was just what both Jared and I needed right then.
Antonio gave me a soft smile. “How have you been?”
“No more pain, if that’s what you mean.”
“Good. You will both be glad to hear that my researchers were able to clear up the meaning of ‘Orrin’. As it turns out, Orrin is a Pagori vampire living in L.A. He is not a Master Vampire, but he has Sired a large number of vampires.” Antonio placed the folder of information on my desk. Inside it was a photograph of a blond, blue-eyed Pagori.
“That’s not either of the brothers,” I said.
“It’s possible that he does not know the brothers at all, that ‘Orrin’ isn’t a person and, instead, stands for something.”
“Still, it’s worth following this up.”
The grinding of Jared’s teeth was audible. “Sam, please don’t tell me that you think you’re going.”
I gave him a pointed look. “Jared, please don’t tell me that you’re going to be a prat.”
He cursed. “I don’t want you leaving The Hollow while you’re ill. Fuck Sam, vampires aren’t supposed to be ill.”
“I’m not ill, it’s just that my gifts are playing up.”
“And there’s the unbearable pain, remember. I don’t want you out there while you’re vulnerable.”
“Vulnerable to what? We’re just visiting a Pagori vampire in L.A, who may or may not be linked to the Brothers Grimm. Besides, I have Dexter.”
Antonio neatly stepped in. “Sam is right, Jared. This isn’t an assignment. You will simply be paying another vampire a friendly visit.”
Naturally Jared hadn’t been happy with that response, which was why he sulked the entire time we gathered the squad, and right up until we reached the gates of Orrin’s Spanish style duplex in L.A. Although we had taken the entire squad, we decided it would be best to leave most of them outside so that we didn’t appear threatening. As Antonio had said, this was supposed to be a social visit, nothing more.
Jared’s knock was answered by a large, sleazy-looking Pagori who I would bet had an affinity for banjos. He ran his gaze over Jared, myself, Max, Salem, and Denny, scowling. When his eyes focused again on Jared, he demanded, “Who the f**k are you?”
Ignoring his tone, Jared simply said, “I’m here to see Orrin.”
“And who—” Realisation must have dawned on him, because his eyes widened and he spluttered. “Jared…For a second there, I didn’t recognise you. Come in.”
Entering, we found ourselves in a small, bright hallway. Branching off it was a living area on our left side, and a dining area on our right side. In both rooms, a number of vampires were lazing. They tensed at the look of Jared, but bowed their heads respectfully.
Have you met any of them before? I asked Jared.
No. But they’ll recognise me as being the Heir. Antonio made sure that would be the case worldwide.
“I’m Rudy, by the way,” the large vampire informed us after chasing the vampires out of the dining room. “Take a seat. Can I get you anything before I go tell Orrin that you’re here?”
Jared shook his head. “No thanks.”
Rudy nodded and left the room.
No sooner had we all seated ourselves at the large, glass dining table than Rudy returned with the lanky, blond Pagori from the photograph. He wore a timid, shy smile as he walked toward us. He had an awkward way about him, much like one of those school geeks who totally lacked social skills. Not that my social skills were much better.
“Jared,” he greeted simply, shaking his hand. “A pleasure to meet you.”
Jared nodded. “Likewise. This is my fiancée, Sam, and three of my squad.”
Orrin must have looked at me a little longer than Jared was comfortable with, because he stiffened beside me. Personally, though, I didn’t feel that Orrin was ogling me. His gaze was studious, searching.
“It’s an honour to meet you all.” Having taken a seat directly opposite Jared, Orrin again smiled shyly. “I’m not in trouble, am I?”
Jared returned the grin. “No, nothing like that. I’m hoping that you can help us with something.”
Orrin suddenly looked eager, perhaps flattered that the Heir would come to him for any assistance.
“The Grand High Master is looking for a vampire with a certain set of skills. Namely, someone with the ability to alter DNA. But he needs one strong enough to alter the DNA of vampires. We know that one of your vampires has that gift. We’d like to borrow him for a short time.”