“One of my vampires came home with a huge bite,” said Quentin. “He said that he was attacked by another vampire in a town that was miles away from our own. His opinion was that his attacker had been a newborn vampire who was a little undernourished; he’d felt guilty for killing him. We didn’t think it was anything odd as many newborns are kept isolated and weak by their Sires while they get their bloodlust and gift under control.”
He was right about that. It had happened to Sam. “So you just figured that it had been a newborn who escaped his nest?”
“Yes,” replied Quentin. “But my friend’s bite wouldn’t heal. It just kept getting worse. I didn’t know enough about The Call to realise that it was a symptom. It wasn’t until he and some of the others started vomiting that I realised what was happening. By then, it was too late. He’d fed from many vampires within the nest, and they’d fed from others, who’d fed from others, and so and so on – the taint had already spread amongst the nest.” His eyes took on a faraway quality. I knew his mind was back in those tunnels.
“That was when you left?” Sam gently prodded when he failed to continue.
Quentin’s gaze met hers, once again focused. “Yes, the few of us who hadn’t fed from any of the tainted vampires then left and sealed them inside, hoping to find a cure to bring back to them.”
Ava stepped forward. “Did three Sventés escape the tunnels with you?” Salem reached out and tugged her back to his side in a protective move.
Quentin shook his head. “No, I’m sorry.”
She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and bowed her head. Salem began rubbing her back at the same time that Cristiano curled an arm around her shoulders. The two males then took to scowling at each other. It was something they did a lot since, according to Sam, Cristiano was very protective of his sister and had never liked other guys being around her.
Returning my attention to Quentin, I said, “It would have been helpful if you had alerted people that The Call had surfaced.”
“I couldn’t risk it. I was worried that people would come and destroy my nest before I’d had a chance to search for some way to save them. Yes, I know history says that there’s no way to fight The Call, but I didn’t want to accept that. I couldn’t.”
That was something I understood all too well. I was still pissed that he hadn’t told anyone, but I could admit to myself that I might have done the same in his position. “This vampire who was the first to become tainted…Did he tell you the exact place that the supposed ‘newborn’ attacked him?”
“If you’re wondering if there are more tainted vampires out there, the answer is yes. I’ve had some people hunting for them in that area, but they haven’t been easy to find.”
Sam frowned. “How can they be difficult to find? I mean, they’re not exactly inconspicuous. Surely the taint should be widespread in that area by now if some are loose in society.”
“Not if the bitten vampires realise they’re tainted in the early stages and then isolate or kill themselves. It is what many tainted vampires have done throughout history to prevent The Call from doing too much damage to the population – and, of course, because they feared attacking those they cared for. My people have found the occasional lone one roaming in that area, but there haven’t been many. Each one they found has been destroyed.”
Well that was good news…Just not the good news that I’d wanted.
His astute gaze landed on me. “Some from The Hollow are tainted,” he guessed. “Antonio?”
I shook my head. “No, he’s fine. But I can’t say the same for my twin brother or some of my squad.”
Quentin’s face softened. “I’m sorry. I understand your pain. My sister was tainted. Trust me when I say that if there was a cure out there, I would have found it. If I were you, I’d end their suffering now.”
“I can’t,” I choked out.
“You’re not prepared to give up. It does you credit. But there really isn’t anything you can do to save them.”
“You cannot fight The Call.” Collins’ voice had me gritting my teeth again.
Butch’s lopsided grin slowly surfaced as he again glared at the prick. “You’d be surprised what we can do.” Such simple words, and yet they carried a dark threat that made Collins audibly gulp and Eloise back away slightly. Yeah, Butch unnerved everyone.
“Give us the exact location where the tainted vampires are loose,” Sam said to Quentin. “We can have a squad from the legion help your people hunt them down.”
He nodded. “I would appreciate the extra help.”
“If you need a place to stay for a?”
Quentin shook his head. “Thank you. Really. But I won’t rest until The Call is dormant once more.”
Because that was the only form of revenge for him, I understood. It was the same reason that Ava and Dickhead had stuck around. I knew that if Evan was ever to be killed by anyone or anything, no revenge would ever be good enough for me.
“Do you have the authority to make such a decision, Commander Parker?” Eloise perched a hand on her hip. “You’re a commander” – for now, she didn’t say but it was clear in her voice – “but you do not command the entire legion. Surely such a decision should be for Antonio, and Antonio alone, to make.” I knew that Eloise truly wasn’t concerned about that; she simply wanted to slap down Sam in front of everyone, undermine her authority and embarrass her.
Sam cocked her head. “This makes you happy? Really?” She shook her head, like she pitied Eloise. Her posture almost regal, Sam gave the bitch her back. “Thanks for being so forthcoming, Quentin.” After all, he could have given us the silent treatment for destroying his nest and his home. “Help will be with you soon.” The dismissal of Eloise’s ‘concern’ had the woman turning an amusing shade of purple.
When we returned to The Hollow, Sam and I found Antonio and Luther in one of the parlour rooms, where we recounted the night’s events. They didn’t seem surprised that we hadn’t obtained a lot of helpful information, but they were saddened by it. At Sam’s suggestion, Antonio agreed to arrange for one of the squads to aid Quentin in locating any loose tainted vampires – rolling his eyes at our tale of Eloise’s behaviour.
“No doubt she and Collins will come to see me soon enough to complain about it.” Then he revealed something that neither Sam nor I wanted to hear. “According to the vampires I spoke to from the Prelature, the complaint made about you, Sam, is in fact authentic. I still do not believe that it was made by anyone from your squad. But someone made it. No doubt Collins is enjoying the idea of hurting you, Jared, by upsetting your mate. But he truly believes that the complaint was made by someone from the squad.”