Jared snickered, crossing his arms over his chest. “The brothers said the same thing. Then she went through nights of agony and all kinds of weird stuff happened. Forgive me if I’m not reassured.”

“Then look at it this way: harming her would totally go against what I’m trying to achieve. Therefore, it makes no sense that I would hurt her, does it?”

Scepticism dripped from Jared’s smile and voice. “And I suppose you’re going to let me and the guys go free.”

Orrin jiggled his head. “If Samantha agrees to drop her shield and come with me, I shall agree to simply have Moira put you to sleep for a while – long enough for Samantha and I to be gone. I do not like to kill for killing’s sake.”

Unreal. “But you don’t mind mothers being butchered and their babies being sold?”

“That’s just business, nothing more.” He returned his attention to Jared. “You know what it’s like to yearn for things like power, respect, and status. Unfortunately, nobody came and took me to the Grand High Master. I had to get those things for myself. And I have.” He seemed to take pride in that. “Once Samantha agrees to drop her shield, Moira will put you to sleep long enough for Samantha and I to leave.”

I cocked my head. “And just what would make me agree to drop my shield? There’s no point in threatening me. You can’t get inside this shield to reach either of us.”

“No,” he allowed, “but I can always ask Moira to make the squad’s sleep more permanent. She can do that, you know.”

“I don’t believe you. I think you’re just calling my bluff.”

“Do you really want to take that chance? Do you really—” He gasped as two strong hands manacled his ankles. Lying on the ground behind him was a drained-looking Reuben. Orrin managed to kick him aside, but it didn’t matter because Reuben had touched him long enough to have the desired effect.

“My good squad member there has the ability to temporarily amplify a person’s gift,” Jared told Orrin. “He can also make it temporarily weaker. You feel it, don’t you? See how quickly you’re becoming substantial?”

Orrin peered down at himself and smiled. He was beyond weird. “It’s an admirable gift.” He focused on me, losing his smile. “I suppose you’re going to kill me while my gift isn’t working.”

I pursed my lips. “No. But someone else is.”

Jared locked his hand around Orrin’s throat and dragged him inside the house.

“If you’re looking for the child—”

“Don’t worry, Orrin, the baby is safe and sound,” assured Jared as we stopped inside the kitchen. “I’m not sure I can say the same for Moira, though.”

He definitely couldn’t say the same for Moira, considering that Jude was in the hallway holding her beloved knife and that it was dripping with blood. Looking a combination of irate and keyed up, she slowly began advancing toward us. Her gaze never moved from Orrin, who Jared was holding directly in front of him, presenting him to Jude.

“Good ole Moira won’t be joining us,” she told Orrin when she came to stand before him. “Which is a shame, really, because I’d happily kill her twice. If you’re thinking that the memory guy might run to your rescue, I’ve got news that’ll kill that dream. He jumped into one of your SUVs about five minutes ago. Couldn’t get away fast enough. You just can’t get the staff these days, can you?”

In a rather sluggish movement, Jude ran the tip of her blade down Orrin’s chest, over his navel, and continued downwards. It finally came to a stop when the tip was pressed against the space between his bollocks and his arse hole.

Orrin gulped. Of course he did. Right at that moment, Jude looked far from sane…and fully capable of relieving him of his crown jewels.

Shakily, he asked, “Who might you be?”

“That’s not important,” Jude told him calmly. “What’s important is that you’re in agony when you die. It’ll never match the kind of agony I went through when my child was taken from me. No, nothing can match that. But it can certainly be damn well close.” And then, as if to demonstrate that, she thrust the knife upwards.

Jared winced, though not in sympathy with a screaming Orrin. He winced again when she twisted the knife before withdrawing it. Damn, that would hurt.

“I’ll take it from here,” Jude told us, though her gaze hadn’t left her victim.

Had I not seen what an accurate shot she was with that knife, I might have worried about leaving her alone with him in case he tried to fight her off and make a run for it. It was like she and that knife were one entity.

Understanding that she needed to do this – and do it alone – in order to find some measure of peace, I gestured for Jared to release Orrin. The vampire dropped to his knees, still crying out in agony. “It should be about an hour before his gift begins to strengthen again,” I told Jude.

Still, she didn’t look away from him as she spoke. “Then I’ll make those minutes count.”

Taking the hand that Jared offered me, I allowed him to lead me out of the house towards where our squad was lying, still dozing – and snoring, in some cases. It seemed that Reuben had returned to dreamland.

As we were walking away, we heard Jude speaking again to Orrin. “Do you know what’s great about how quickly you heal? It means I can do this to you over and over again before I finally kill you.” By the sound of his squeal, she had just made that evident.

I was pretty sure the next hour was going to feel very long for Orrin.

It was impossible not to balk as I watched Harvey repeatedly poke his arm through the hole in Damien’s stomach. Both seemed to think it was absolutely hilarious. The hole was slowly shrinking in size now that his body was healing, but it would be a few hours before it finally closed over.

They were the only squad members who weren’t lying on one of the infirmary beds around them. The others hadn’t yet woken from Moira’s induced sleep, but their wounds had healed nicely.

Antonio came to my side, frowning at Reuben. “I do not think I have ever heard anyone snore so loud.”

“Me neither,” said Jared as he came up on my other side. Tension was still thrumming through him and I had a feeling he was thinking, just as I was, that if Moira’s gift had been to induce a fatal sleep as opposed to a temporary one, the squad would be nothing but ashes now. It was scary to think that no matter how well we trained them, it might only take a vampire with a unique gift to kill them all − and us, for that matter.

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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