I laughed. “My ego adores you.”
“I probably shouldn’t feed it, since it’s big enough.”
“Oh no, you should definitely feed it.”
She softly shaped my back with her hands. “I’m sorry I hurt you earlier. Even if you don’t care that I did it, I’m still sorry.”
“I know you are. I’d hate myself if I ever hurt you. I’d rather die than do it. But like I said, that wasn’t really you.”
“What if it happens again?”
“I don’t think it will. Not if you do as Lena said and drink more than you usually do. Our refrigerator is already stocked full of NSTs. And I’m totally fine with you drinking more from me than usual…especially if it means a lot more sex.”
“If we shag any more than we already do, there’s a chance your dick will fall off.”
I shrugged. “It’d be worth it. You’re good in the sack.” She just shook her head, like she pitied me. I kissed her lightly. “Come on, let’s go for a swim in the pool before we go for the meal. We’ll see if you’re good in the water, too.” Before she could say no, I teleported us to the bottom of the pool. I got a huge slap for that.
I was jealous of a snake. That was something I never thought I’d say.
Yeah, it was true. The second Sam had returned Dexter to his tattoo form, my mood had dramatically improved. In my defence…Okay, maybe there wasn’t really much of a defence if you were jealous of a pet. It was probably fair to say that it was immature and a little unreasonable. But when that pet hissed at you every time you moved to touch your fiancée, it got annoying fast. There were only two reasons why I wasn’t tempted to slice up the slithering little shit – Sam adored him, and he was, as Wes had predicted, extremely protective of her.
With everything that was going on right now, she needed protection. Not simply because her gifts were acting up. No, it wouldn’t be long before Ryder reported to Antonio with the info he had been able to retrieve from the Medics and from the Deliverer. As soon as he did, Sam would insist on being part of whatever happened next. I was kidding myself if I thought I could stop her. As she had told me over and over, sitting in the background wasn’t who she was. Dexter would help me ensure that she was well protected…which meant I couldn’t kill him.
Earlier, we had read the file that Antonio’s researchers had compiled about the brothers. Born into a very prestigious family, they had been given the best of everything all their lives. Both of them had shown great aptitudes for science at an early age and had won many awards in that subject in school and university. One of them had been married and had a son, while the other had been in a relationship with their gardener – male gardener.
It wasn’t clear how they had found out about the existence of vampires, but it was apparent that they had gone to Orrin and had requested to be Turned – not the other way around. Considering that Orrin had Sired many vampires, it was reasonable to assume that he’d had no qualms about Siring two more. Consistent with Orrin’s story, they had only remained with him for the first year. Then they seemed to have gone off alone to begin their own bloodline.
We weren’t any the wiser about the foetal abduction operation either. Unfortunately, neither Max, Harvey, nor Damien had found any documents in the mobile hospital that might help with the investigation. I had heard from Antonio that although Ryder was doing well with the captives, he hadn’t yet acquired all of the info we needed. Being relatively newborn meant that Ryder wasn’t fully in control of his gift yet, so it would take him a little time.
Although I was eager to shut down the operation, I was also grateful for the small reprieve; grateful that Sam and I were able to spend one whole evening with each other. Yeah that was selfish and shitty of me, but I wanted Sam to be relaxed and happy during the week of our Binding. At the moment, she was far from it. Still, she was smiling as we entered the large dining room where the oriental meal was being held.
Our designated waitress led us over to a circular table where several people already sat. Antonio, Luther, Evan, Wes, and Lena greeted us both with, literally, open arms. Bran and Kaiser were cordial, albeit a little stiff. Ricardo, Rowan, and Marcia, on the other hand, were welcoming toward me but very curt with Sam.
I was well aware of why, just as I was well aware that the pinch she gave me was a ‘don’t say anything’ warning. Yeah, yeah, I knew she liked to fight her own battles and I knew it was important that she did so in this instance. While I respected that, it made me want to strangle her sometimes. Who would want to sit back and do nothing while people were being rude to their fiancée?
“The room looks amazing, doesn’t it?” Sam said to me. At that moment, she looked truly happy, and that was all I wanted.
She was right; it really did look amazing. Hanging from the ceiling were several zodiac spirals, an oriental dragon garland, and large red and gold lanterns. The walls were decorated with large oriental fans, amazingly detailed wall scrolls, and bamboo borders.
“That centrepiece is gorgeous,” she said, pointing at the red paper and bamboo oriental lamp that matched the napkins and table cloth.
“It is set up beautifully,” agreed Marcia. Her expression turned devious as she went to continue.
Sam stopped her with a raised hand. “Marcia, I’m happy. Don’t spoil it by speaking.”
“All I was going to say was that the quality of food at The Hollow must be very different to what you were used to before coming here.”
Sam nodded in agreement, but both her self-suffering sigh and her sad tone were forced. And they all knew it. “Yes, it’s quite appalling that I was raised on fish, chips, and mushy peas. Still, I wasn’t completely deprived. There was a Chinese takeout near my flat, and it had a lantern a bit like these. The lantern had splatters of barbeque and curry sauce on it, but the beauty was still there.”
Rowan shuddered. “I do not know how people could eat from places like that. They’re unclean.”
“Nonsense,” objected Sam with a wide smile. “Germs build up your immune system. I never caught any of the diseases that my neighbours had…Other than the time I had oral herpes after one of them forced a kiss on me. That hadn’t been pleasant.”
My mouth twitched into a smile. That was my Sam. She played the game with them, and she played it better.