It was a moment later that Sam returned to the kitchen. “That was Antonio,” she said, hopping onto the bar stool to finish her cereal. “He was just letting me know what rumours he’s let circulate that will explain to everyone why I’m suddenly so strong. They’re all now under the impression that a few weeks ago, as a reward for defending The Hollow, he had used his gift of bestowing power on me so that I could develop another gift. The general belief is that this has finally manifested itself by simply making my present gifts and qualities stronger.”
I had to give Antonio full points for his creativity and quick thinking. “People are buying it, without question?”
“He said it seems that people don’t particularly care why I’m suddenly so strong; they’re only interested insofar as it means I’m capable of protecting them. Some had wondered about the mercury ring to my irises, apparently, but Antonio had suggested to them that my having a large amount of power inside me was bound to be visible in some way.”
“I suppose they’re likely to believe it, since they have no reason to think Antonio would lie to them.”
“He said the same thing. I think he feels bad about it and I can understand that, but they can’t know the truth.”
“They won’t. Besides, the brothers will be found soon enough and then they’ll return you to the way you were.”
“You don’t like my new qualities?” she teased.
“I like all your qualities, but I don’t like anything that puts you in danger.”
“Good, because this Keja allure has the potential to severely piss me off.”
Same here, since the ogling would now be worse than it already was. Not that Sam realised just how much people drooled over her. But I’d sure as hell noticed, and I’d sure as hell…strongly suggested…that they didn’t do it again. “People are going to wonder about the Keja allure, too.”
“Antonio’s already on top of that. He told everyone that the new mesmerising effect was a Binding gift from one of the many vampires in his bloodline. No one’s going to question that either − the ability to impart bewitching glamour isn’t an uncommon gift to have.”
True enough. One of Magda’s vampires had had that very gift and had used it on her, which had been the main reason why she had been able to have me so infatuated with her once-upon-a-time. It was probably why Brook was so infatuated with her, too. On that topic…“You’re sure I can’t convince you to banish Magda back to the hole she crawled out of?”
Sam shook her head. “Nope. I think I’ve proven that I don’t need protecting from her. So drop it.”
I shrugged unrepentantly. “I told you, baby, I’ll always try to protect you, even though I know you’re perfectly capable of protecting yourself.” Watching her lick a stray cornflake from her spoon, I couldn’t help feeling a little jealous of that particular piece of cutlery right then. As if she sensed that, an impish grin surfaced on her face. “You’re a tease. Do you know that?”
She copied my unrepentant shrug. “It’s not my fault you’re a randy bastard with a one-track mind.”
“Come on, let’s get ready for tonight’s entertainment. I have a feeling you’re going to love it.”
At any other time, I would have been seriously irritated by the way my previous non-supporters were suddenly giving me respectful nods or admiring smiles – of course I was glad to be finally accepted as the last thing I wanted was for Jared to have to step down from his position as Heir, but it was annoying to know that I was around such two-faced, fickle people. One demonstration of power and they all wanted us to be chums. I don’t bloody think so.
But at this moment, I didn’t give a shit. As Jared had predicted, I was loving tonight’s entertainment. I’d always wanted to go to a Caribbean street party, so this was an absolute treat for me. Jared also seemed to be truly enjoying himself as the colourful floats and parades wound through the streets of The Hollow, lending an extraordinary level of energy to the evening. It was even affecting Dexter: his tattoo form was slinking around and I could sense how stimulated and animated he was feeling.
Live music, torch lights, and flamboyant, vibrant, feathery costumes all added to the feel of the evening. The atmosphere was light and fun, made all the more better by the smells of various Caribbean delicacies that were being prepared at each of the food booths − all of which were delicious by anyone’s standards. There were also craft tents and game stalls, as well as the occasional sideshow.
Every single resident of The Hollow was allowed to be part of the celebrations. And they really were celebrating the Binding now that I’d been totally accepted. Just like the masqueraders, they all practically danced their way along the streets, going from stall to stall, and tanking themselves up on food and rum flavoured NSTs.
With our bodies meshed together, swaying sensually to the rhythm of the music currently playing, Jared and I watched the parade in total awe. Taking the hand that I’d had curled around his neck, he held it in front of him, turning it this way and that way, admiring the speckles of energy that dripped from my fingers like fairy dust.
“I think it’s because of how hectic the night is,” I told him. “So much positive energy around us.” I shaped it into a silvery-blue energy ball, surprised by how substantial it looked. Curious, I told Jared, “Hold out your hand.”
His brows arched in surprise, but he did as I’d asked. Carefully, I rolled the ball onto the palm of his hand. Rather than immediately disintegrating as it should have done since Jared wasn’t a Feeder, it remained in shape.
Jared jerked his head back. “Wow. Does the energy always buzz against your skin like that?”
I smiled. “Yep. Feels odd, but nice, doesn’t it?”
He smiled in agreement, watching with me as the ball stayed as it was for a good ten seconds before visibly weakening, until it sort of winked out.
“My whip’s stronger as well.”
“Which means it will hurt more. That would be a good thing if you didn’t use it on me.”
“Let me have my way in all things and I’ll never have to.”
His snort told me that that would never happen. But then, things would be boring if it did.
I smelt the High Master Vampire before he tapped my shoulder. Swerving around, I felt my eyebrows fly up as Ricardo and his consort bowed their heads respectfully. I repeat, respectfully. “Are you taking the piss?”