Jared nodded. “Most importantly, we move now in case the Handlers decide to leave soon.”
After Jared had relayed the plan to Stuart via telepathy, we all abandoned the four cars at the campground – planning to return to them after the attack. Quickly and stealthily, we made our way to the trees that surrounded the farmhouse.
Time to split up, Jared told me. Stay safe, baby.
You, too. Oh, and keep an eye on Jude. We don’t want her doing anything stupid.
Don’t hesitate to call on Dexter if you need to. It was an order. It was an order because he knew me well enough to guess that I was too protective of Dexter to want to expose him to this kind of danger. Yeah, I know that might sound kind of backwards since Dexter was supposed to be there to protect me. But every time I recalled him limp on the floor after a harsh blow from Magda, I felt ill.
Fine, I lied, knowing Jared would push if I didn’t give him an answer.
I know that you’re lying. Christ, you’re so damn stubborn.
Then why bother me? Ignoring his flow of curses, I led my team – Chico, Butch, Salem, David, and Harvey – to the trees that were on the left of the large stretch of land at the rear of the house. That placed us directly opposite the rest of the team, who were hiding in the trees parallel to ours. Despite my enhanced vision, I wasn’t able to spot any of them – not even the glow that would undoubtedly be coming from their irises.
It was as I sat there studying my surroundings that I realised something; due to the many acres of land around us, this place looked a lot like an open field. The same open field that Luther had seen in his vision? I’d like to think not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. In fact, I’d suspected that the attack in his vision would be something to do with the op. I’d just kind of hoped I was wrong. Great.
Although I heard two vehicles approaching in the distance, it didn’t occur to me that the cars might be intending to stop at the farmhouse. Why would it? None of the others that had approached had stopped here. But not only did one of these particular cars do so, they both did.
I cursed silently. Nobody liked a spanner in the works, especially when the plan was ready to put into action. Indicating for the team to remain in position, I silently hurried toward the trees that were closer to the front of the house. My new Pagori speed got me there in an instant. It still felt strange to be so much stronger, but at this particular moment, I wasn’t going to gripe about it.
From my hiding spot, I could see that two cars had parked beside the Handlers’ SUV. Four male Pagoris exited one vehicle, but didn’t pass by the other; instead they waited just behind it. It seemed to be a gesture of respect, an acceptance of their position in the hierarchy of vampires there.
Two vampires exited the other car, and one of them then went to the rear door and opened it courteously. It was reasonable to assume, then, that this just might be ‘the boss’. Well that would make sense. The only thing left to happen at this stage of the operation would be for the baby to be handed over to the Buyer, and it was probable that he would wish to be present at each transaction. This worked out quite nicely, as it meant we could kill him.
I cursed again when who was potentially ‘the boss’ exited the car.
Obviously sensing the cocktail of surprise, agitation, and anger circulating through me, Jared asked, What’s the matter?
Their boss has arrived, and he’s brought seven vampires with him. But that wasn’t what had me feeling enraged. The rage was owed to the fact that we knew this person, we’d been in their presence, and had we known that they were behind the op, we could have ended this some time ago. At the idea of that, nausea swirled around my stomach.
What is it?
It’s f**king Orrin. The vampire’s walk was nothing like it had been at his home. Back there, he had seemed somewhat bashful and introverted – ‘seemed’ being the key word. The bloody bastard had played us, and he’d played us well. Now his walk was confident, purposeful, and imposing. In the place of the timid smile that he had worn for us was a harsh scowl.
Oh he was sooooooo going to die tonight. And very, very painfully.
The bastard, I’ll kill him, growled Jared. I sensed that he was as frustrated with himself as I was with myself for not looking closer at this particular vampire, at not even considering him. All right, maybe it was fair to say that there hadn’t been anything to make us link Orrin with this op, but had we paid more attention, we might have sensed his little act. Might have questioned just why he was putting on a little act.
Returning to my team, I took a calming breath. “The boss…it’s Orrin.”
Salem, who had gone inside Orrin’s home with us a few evenings ago, blew out a breath. “I never would have guessed.”
That made me feel slightly better. “He’s brought seven vampires with him.”
“That takes the people count up to thirteen versus sixteen,” said Chico. “Still good odds, though.”
Too pissed off to stall any longer, I contacted Jared again, staring at the spot that he and his team were waiting. I’m ready to move.
Good, let’s do this.
Whereas usually I would have had to absorb the energy around me, things were very different after the brothers’ meddling. Now the energy − both kinetic and solar − was already clinging to me, filling me. I let it buzz through me, invigorating me. On three. One, two, three. And then I manipulated some of the energy into a fireball and threw it. As I’d planned, it caught the clothesline that was hanging at the rear of the house, setting alight some of the garments pegged on it.
As we’d hoped, several of the vampires came dashing outside to investigate. Before they could even think to act, a bolt of lightning struck the small shack behind the clothesline. Suddenly all of them, other than one female, were there, ready to fight…and away from the baby. This not only gave Butch a chance to get inside, but it meant that the battle was happening away from the baby.
“Go,” I told Butch, watching with satisfaction as he slinked through the trees, heading toward the front of the house. There wasn’t room for optimism yet, however.
Jared was the first to attack. Remaining under the cover of the trees, he projected a massive lightning bolt at the vampires. The bolt hit one of them, reducing him to ashes. The hope was that the action would lure them away from the house and toward the trees. It sort of worked. Everybody other than Orrin and Blake began to move.
My mouth almost dropped open when Rudy – who I recognised from Orrin’s home – swiftly changed into a white tiger. Well that could be a problem. One of the others – a muscular Keja – wiggled his fingers, and they suddenly turned into black, oily tentacles. Ew. Startling me more than any of that, however, was when another Keja faded, becoming invisible. No, not invisible, I realised as he turned toward where Jared and his team were hidden. When he moved, it was possible to see him ever so slightly. But when he literally dashed away, I couldn’t see him at all. Apparently then, he was only slightly visible when he moved reasonably slowly − which wasn’t something he was liable to do in an attack. Oh joy.