I took a small step backwards, handing power over to him. Before Magda had a chance to properly process my words, the snake abruptly struck and bit into her chest. Wow, Wes hadn’t been kidding when he said that this breed was fast – the movement had been a complete blur.
She cried out in what seemed to be a mixture of shock, anger, and pain. Still, the dumb crank came at me with her blade flying high. Using more of the natural energy that was coating my body, I directed a flame of fire at the blade – a flame that was wilder and hotter than any I had released before. She squealed and quickly cradled her arm against her chest, which was now back to skin and bone…and blistering again.
Noticing how her now bloodshot eyes were going in and out of focus, I gave her a falsely sympathetic smile. “That’s stage one coming on: temporary blindness.”
Panicked, she stumbled backwards with her arms spread wide. “What’s happening?”
“It’s Dexter’s venom. It can do some extraordinary stuff…as you’ll soon find out.” I could tell that her eyesight was now totally gone. Dexter, who was weaving in and out of my legs, hissed repeatedly at her while his tail rattled like crazy. “I could be wrong, but I’d say that ticking off a venomous snake was a really bad move.”
Suddenly she started to sway and stagger, holding her hands to her head.
“Oh that’s just stage two kicking in: temporary mental disorientation.”
Making strange keening noises, she continued to stumble around for a minute until eventually she fell flat on her back. “Make it stop.”
“I couldn’t even if I wanted to. You didn’t stop when I was in excruciating pain, did you? Maybe a nice, compassionate girl would, nonetheless, try to help you. But I’m not a nice, compassionate girl – especially when it comes to people like you. And especially when you seriously hurt my fiancé. I have a huge f**king issue with that.”
It would be true to say that if she hadn’t Turned him, he wouldn’t be mine now; that if she hadn’t betrayed him, he might never have left her. But I was just selfless enough to prefer for him to have never gone through that pain than for him to be here with me.
Seconds later, she wasn’t moving at all other than to breathe. The little devil on my shoulder thought that that was a real shame. “It appears that now you’ve reached the third and final stage: temporary paralysis. Horrible that. I had a taste of it a few evenings ago. At least you’re not in severe agony at the same time. It’s always best to be grateful for small mercies, I think.”
I crouched down beside her. “Do us all a favour; bear something in mind for future reference. Being sly doesn’t get anybody anywhere. In my opinion, you should know that by now. It lost you Jared, and it lost you this fight, and it’ll also lose you the long-term fight. Maybe you were right in what you said before; maybe he does deserve better than me. But I ain’t going anywhere. Get used to it.” I stood then, addressing the entire arena. “All of you get used to it. Or piss off home, whichever.”
Back at our apartment, all I could do was squat in front of the sofa and stare, open-mouthed, at my beautiful fiancée…and wonder what in God’s name was going on.
The crowd had barely begun cheering when I’d teleported to her and then took us both home. Watching her duel with Magda, watching her in agony, had been an agony all on its own for me. It had taken Antonio, Luther, and Wes to keep me from intervening. Of course I’d understood their actions; if I had interfered in what Magda had implied was nothing more than a friendly challenge, it would have greatly undermined Sam. That would have seriously brought her suitability as a future ruler into question, making things ten times worse than what they already were.
Still, all I’d wanted was to step in and end the duel. And then I’d no longer had to. Well, it seemed that the intended changes were complete, but I was still none the wiser about just what had happened to her.
“What?” she demanded for, like, the twentieth time. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
Dexter, who was settled on one of the vines, lifted his head at her tone. That snake had definitely earned his stripes as far as I was concerned. He didn’t hiss at me for being so close to her, so maybe he was coming to figure out that we had a common interest – keeping Sam safe.
Exhaling a heavy breath, I handed her a small, handheld mirror. Shooting me a put-out look, she snatched it. The feistiness…That was typical of my Sam. Having her irises glint a unique mercury shade…Not so typical of my Sam.
She gaped, looking from me to the mirror. “What’s all that about?”
That had been my question since the second she’d looked up at Magda with those irises glowing while energy seemed to coat the surface of her body. Even now, wisps of it clung to her fingers. I cupped her nape. “How do you feel, baby?”
Shaking slightly, she placed the mirror on the coffee table. “I’m okay.”
“Any idea why energy seems magnetised to you?”
She glanced down at her hands, swallowing hard. “I think it’s just because I’m stronger.”
“I think we can safely guess that when you’re pissed, it’s going to basically envelope every inch of you, just like it did at the arena.” I massaged her nape, unable to stop staring at her. She had always been stunning to me, always so very tempting. It wasn’t that she was suddenly even more beautiful. Other than the striking mercury ring to her irises, not one physical detail about her was different. Not one. Yet, she now had this entrancing effect.
God, this was all so damn weird.
The knock at the door hadn’t come as a surprise. Nor had the entrance of Antonio, Luther, Evan, Wes, and Lena. All five stopped and gazed at Sam, looking a combination of spooked, awed, and anxious.
“What’s happened to me, Lena?” Sam’s own anxiety hadn’t leaked into her voice, but I could feel it.
Just as she had last time, Lena sat beside her and took a minute or so to study her. Just like last time, I held Sam’s hand the entire time. When Lena eventually lounged back into the sofa, Evan handed both her and Sam a NST. They drank them gratefully.
“Well?” I prodded, panicky.
Lena put her empty bottle on the table. “The changes to Sam’s DNA are, as you have probably guessed, complete. Her body is, once again, now frozen in its development − which means there will be no more alterations. The equations, despite being quite complicated, all add up perfectly.”