“What is it you intend to do?” It was more of a dare by Jared – a clear ‘just f**king try to harm her in any way and I’ll kill you’.
“Eloise and I intend to spend the next few months observing Commander Parker.”
I double-blinked. “Say again?”
“We will observe you as you train your squad. Observe you as you work. When we are done, we will make a report recommending whether or not we believe you should be allowed to keep your position as a commander.”
Jared gawked. “You can’t do this! You don’t have the authority to pull this shit!”
Collins looked sincerely affronted. “I can and I do, Commander Michaels. I am a representative of the Prelature. Even the Heir’s mate is not immune to its authority. It operates outside any other vampiric laws.”
Scrubbing a hand down his face, Jared inhaled deeply. “I don’t believe this.”
“Believe it. Now, I’d like to meet your squad.”
I arched a brow. “And why is that?”
“Eloise and I need to interview each of them separately and ask them some questions about you and how they feel about having you as their commander.”
I shrugged one shoulder. “That’s fine.” He and the Keja bitch seemed surprised; clearly they had expected me object. “Why would I have an issue with it? There’s nothing negative for you to find. Come on, they’re probably in the basketball court.”
With Jared hot on my heels, I rounded the desk, and exited the office. Collins, Eloise, Antonio, the guards, and the pit-bulls all followed closely behind us as we led the way to the court. I buried my rage as best I could, determined to keep a hold on my temper, but it wasn’t easy. If it hadn’t been for Jared’s warm presence beside me, it might not have worked.
I had been right about the squad being at the basketball court. Jude, Ava, and Cristiano were also there. Hearing us approach, they turned as a unit, suddenly alert – and probably hoping we were there to give them some good news.
“Everyone, this is Fredrick Collins and Eloise Montana,” announced Antonio reluctantly. He looked totally defeated. “They are representatives of the Prelature and they are here to investigate Sam and judge her suitability as a commander.” Ignoring the gasps, curses, and mutters, he continued, “They will explain everything.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you all.” Smiling widely, Collins stepped forward, seeming both awed and excited. He made me think of someone who was in the presence of their favourite rock band. “Eloise and I would like to take each of you aside and ask you some questions.”
Chico’s expression was hard. “Yeah? Fuck that.”
Collins seemed taken aback. Prick. That was called ‘loyalty’. It strangely hadn’t seemed to occur to him that they might be a little pissed off by all this.
“We’re not talking to either of you.” Salem turned to me, gesturing at the newcomers. “Coach, what the hell is going on?”
“Oh do elaborate, Mr Collins,” I said with a smile. There was no chance I was giving explanations for him.
He clearly didn’t want to answer – probably because he didn’t want to be the focus of the squad’s anger. “A number of complaints were made about Commander Parker.”
David gaped. “Made by who?”
“One of you, of course.”
Harvey shook his head madly, slashing a hand through the air. “No f**king way.”
“None of us would do that!” maintained Denny.
“It is so,” said Collins shakily. “The complainant wishes to remain anonymous, so I will not be revealing their name.”
“It is protocol for us to interview each of you.” Eloise went to Collins’ side. “We need to get a distinct picture of what it is like to have Samantha Parker as a commander.”
Butch snorted. “Then I’ll draw you one.”
Collins licked his lips nervously. Who wouldn’t be nervous having a gang of powerful pissed off vampires rounding on you? “As Eloise said, this is purely protocol.”
“No, it’s bullshit,” snapped Damien.
“Total and utter bullshit,” agreed Reuben, so wound up he was close to crushing the basketball he was holding. I had the feeling he was imagining that it was Collins’ head.
“I’m not having any part of it,” declared Denny, wearing a mutinous look.
Realising that the squad was close to attacking the representatives, I sighed. “It’s fine, talk to them.”
Chico looked at me like I was simple. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“We’ve got nothing to hide, have we?” It wasn’t a question from me, it was a confident statement. “There’s obviously been some kind of misunderstanding. The sooner we get it cleared up, the better. We’ve got more important things going on right now.”
After a long silence, Chico ground out, “Fine.” He pointed hard at Collins. “But then you stay the f**k away from me. You got that?”
Still somewhat nervous, Collins gestured at Eloise, who gave Jared a secret smile as she past him. “If you could follow Eloise, she will take you to the mansion where we intend to?great, thank you.” Grumbling and scowling, each of them practically stomped after her. Seeing that Ava, Cristiano, and Jude – who were clearly seriously pissed – hadn’t moved, Collins turned to them. “I’m sorry, are you all members of the…?” He let his sentence trail off when Salem came up behind Ava and glared down at Collins. The bloke swallowed hard and forced a smile, taking a step backwards.
Ava peered up at Salem. “Aw, it’s my hero again.” His sudden scowl didn’t seem to bother her in the least. “You really are too sweet.”
Salem growled but, again, Ava didn’t appear to be affected. “Be good,” he told her gruffly before joining the rest of the squad.
It was hilarious watching big, bad Salem turn protective and possessive of small, bubbly Ava. I would never have expected the two to match, but just maybe Ava was what Salem needed. He was too serious and work-focused. Ava’s personality wouldn’t allow for that. Oddly, though, despite that Salem behaved so protectively, he was also very distant with her and brushed off her attempts to talk more intimately with him.
Jared went to follow Collins. “I’ll come too.” He was seemingly just as worried about the squad being alone with Prick Number One and Prick Number Two as I was.