“I know it’s not exactly strange for vampires to want privacy, but this is isolated even for them,” observed Salem.

Chico nodded. “Unless they’re happy to survive on the blood of each other and the local wildlife, they must have to travel miles before reaching any humans.”

“In my experience, the usual reason for someone to isolate themselves so thoroughly is that they have something to hide.” Sam growled as she elbowed Salem. “For God’s sake, will you keep bloody still.”

Salem just grinned. Much like David, he had an inability to keep still at times like this – like a boxer loosening up before a fight, he’d roll his shoulders and c**k his head this way and that way. While with David it was nervousness, it was anticipation and excitement with Salem. As such, the gift of having a psychic punch that could knock a person into unconsciousness suited Salem just fine.

One might think that David was nervous of the situation. In actuality, the youngest of the squad was actually nervous of his gift. The ability to produce a psionic boom that caused extreme pressure on the skull, completely overwhelming the brain and leading to a temporary coma, was undoubtedly a weighty one to have. If the blast was strong enough, it could even cause death. Sam’s coaching had helped him dramatically, but he still feared accidentally harming or killing one of his fellow squad members.

“Hey, here comes Stu and Den,” announced Max quietly, as he hopped down from a tree. I frowned at the flirty f**ker who, as usual, sat too close to Sam for my liking. While once-upon-a-time he did it because he thought he had a chance with her, now he just did it to piss me off. It worked. If he wasn’t such an asset to the squad in that he had the gift of sensory paralysis, I might have transferred him to another squad. Actually no, I couldn’t have. Sam was protective of them all and would never have allowed it. She was good at getting her own way.

A trail of molecules and a small puddle of mush suddenly approached where we were hiding. Seconds later, the molecules reformed into Stuart, and the mush was once again Denny.

“I’ve done a lap of the perimeter of the forest,” Denny informed us. “There’s no one around other than us.”

I nodded. “Okay, what about inside?”

“The inside isn’t exactly well kept, but it’s liveable.” Stuart flicked his shoulder-length blond curls from his face. “There are four vampires; one female, and three males. They’re not alert. Two are lounging around playing poker and watching T.V, and the other two are f**king. There’s also a basement.”

I didn’t like the tone he used when speaking the latter words. “And?”

“This is where it gets bad. Down there are two rooms and eight cells.”

“Cells?” echoed Sam. “Could you see what they contained?”

Stuart took a long breath. “Vampires. Three are females. Five are males. And they are all deformed and crazed.”

“Deformed and crazed?” I repeated. Unease spread around the entire squad. “You can’t deform a vampire. We’re immortal, we don’t change on a cellular level…so how the f**k could they be deformed?”

Stuart shook his head and shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. There was only one who was relatively lucid. A female Sventé.”

“Long dark hair and green dress?” asked Sam.

“That’s the one.”

Now I really, really wanted to take my stubborn female back to The Hollow. “What about the rooms in the basement?”

“The first room had four male vampires inside – I got the feeling they were scientists by the terminology they were using. I didn’t really understand much of what they were saying, other than they were disappointed that their latest ‘experiment’ hadn’t been successful, and they would have to find a new ‘subject’ soon.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” the telekinetic Harvey muttered, anxious.

Max looked at him incredulously. “Dude, none of this sounds good.”

Suddenly Damien’s head snapped up and he exhaled heavily.

“Hey, welcome back,” said Reuben, slapping Damien’s back.

“Well?” I prodded.

“The only outdoor guards are the two vampires you can see standing on the roof,” said Damien. Although the bungalow was a fair distance away, our enhanced vision allowed us to see them. “They’re not very vigilant, so I think it’s safe to say that they don’t think anyone of any threat is going to come along.”

And wasn’t that dumb of them. “Good, they’re no more prepared than the ones inside.” I looked again at Stuart. “What about the other room in the basement?”

“I couldn’t get inside it. The door and wall were both made of steel, like a panic room. I couldn’t hear any movement at all. It was soundproof.”

Well now I really, really, really wanted to take my stubborn female back to The Hollow. Clearly she sensed it, because her voice was then in my head.

If you want to keep both of your bollocks, behave.

If you get hurt, I’ll spank your pretty little ass and strap you to the bed when we get home. All I got in response was an amused snort – probably because she happened to like it when I did that.

“Do you think these scientists have been trying to come up with some kind of drug that can severely harm us, like chemical warfare or something?” asked Butch, his tone casual. But that was the thing about Butch; he could stand there plotting someone’s death while looking as cool and calm as if he were watching a movie. He liked violence even more than Salem did, he just hid it better. I imagined that it therefore galled him to have a defensive gift as opposed to an offensive one − even though the ability to negate and deflect anything that came at him was a substantial gift to have.

Although Butch’s theory wasn’t a bad one, considering how many vampires liked to battle over territory – particularly the High Masters – I found myself shaking my head. My instincts simply weren’t in agreement, but nor were they offering any theories of their own. “Reuben, I need you to do your thing on David, Salem, and Chico.”

With a respectful nod, the highlander lookalike – who I had to agree with Sam wasn’t the brightest bulb – used his gift of power augmentation to amplify those of three of his squad members. Using only the briefest touch, Reuben had made Salem’s psychic punch, David’s psionic boom, and Chico’s poisonous thorns all fatal.

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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