“I didn’t ask you, I asked Commander Parker.” Collins raised an imperious brow at Jared. “Do you always make her decisions for her?”

Apparently he was in a suicidal mood. Before Jared slit his throat, I quickly intervened. Jared, he’d love to get a rise from you. Don’t give him the satisfaction.

Jared said, with all seriousness in the same tone that someone might use to ask if he took sugar in his coffee, “Actually, no. She only likes being bossed around when she’s in bed and totally naked.”

As Collins stood there with his mouth bopping open and closed, I buried my face into Jared’s chest and let out a silent laugh. The bloke was a total prude, and Jared knew it.

Jared leaned in closer to him, speaking quietly. “Personally, I blame the Fifty Shades trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, using the tie and the silver balls on her was a lot of fun. But, frankly, the leather crop and the cane make me a little uncomfortable. Still, if that’s what makes her happy…” He let the sentence trail, shrugging.

I risked a glance at Collins to see that his cheeks had turned crimson. Eloise was curling her upper lip at me, the picture of bitterness.

Clearly uncomfortable and itching to get away, Collins said, “Oh, I think Antonio’s signalling for me to return to the table.”

“Shame,” sighed Jared. “Well, I guess you better go.”

He couldn’t seem to get away fast enough. After shooting me one last snarl and flicking her mane over her shoulder in a dismissive gesture, Eloise followed him.

Peeking up at Jared, I smiled. “He really has no idea who he’s messing with, does he?” Thinking he could outwit Jared was just plain dumb. “I almost feel sorry for him.”

Jared just shrugged. “I’m not interested in him. I’m interested in finding out what Ava bought you. Her mischievous smile has me intrigued.”

Same here. “All right, let’s go.”

“But if there’s a crop in there, it’s going to be a hard limit for me – just so you know.”

I could only laugh at the prat.

Chapter Eight

(Sam)

Some people seemed to have a talent for making you want to strip them naked, lather them in fish guts, and throw them into a pool full of hungry piranhas. Fredrick Collins was one of those people. Sitting at my office desk with Dexter curled up on the table beside my laptop, I pointedly ignored Collins as he hovered over me while I again surfed the V-Net for information on The Call.

When I’d agreed to fully cooperate with him, I hadn’t realised just how much of a pain in the arse he was going to be. Every training session, he watched and took notes the whole time. Every session, he was full of questions, despite that he didn’t need to know the answers to most of those questions. And every session, he repeatedly attempted to undermine me and persisted in criticising me. For someone who was there to ‘observe’, he had an awful lot to bloody say for himself. For God’s sake, he even criticised the clothes I wore – suggesting that a tank top was revealing and, therefore, would tease and distract the squad. Was he having a laugh?

It hurt – really hurt – to refrain from whipping the living crap out of both him and Eloise, but I had promised myself that I would be on my best behaviour. The fact was that having people so closely ‘observe’ the sessions and see how the squad worked was actually dangerous; it was information that could be used against us if it ended up in the wrong hands. Although he and Eloise had signed a confidentiality agreement in blood to the effect that they would never share it with anyone other than those within the Prelature, neither Jared nor I was reassured by that.

As such, we had secretly instructed the squad to not use their full strength, to not allow Collins and Eloise to see just all of what they could do and just how well they could truly do it. We had also reduced training hours and given the squad longer breaks, thus giving Collins and Eloise less to ‘observe’ and write about.

But a big issue was that Collins didn’t just observe training. He regularly examined my office, he watched over me as I worked at my desk, he asked to read my reports, and he also liked to witness my interactions with other commanders. In other words, he had become my shadow. And it was getting to the point where I was ready to smash his face into a wall. Or maybe I could just let Dexter bite him. Strongly linked to my emotions, Dexter could sense what Collins made me feel, and my snake was utterly pissed whenever he was around. In fact, he had hissed at Collins three times in the past half hour. He perceived him as a threat, and Dexter liked to eliminate threats. It was so very tempting to let him.

Although she didn’t hang around me like a bad smell, Eloise was just as much of an annoyance as Collins. She accused me of stupid crap like being too firm with the squad, though other times she would complain that I was being too lenient. She also accused me of being ‘too friendly’ with the squad, though it was clear she was insinuating that I was flirtatious – and wasn’t that the pot calling the kettle black. She even went as far as to imply that I was flirting with the squad to make Jared jealous, obviously attempting to create tension between us. It hadn’t worked, of course, which seemed to be irritating the crap out of her. Good.

When she wasn’t with Collins, she was lounging near the bat pool like she was on bloody holiday or something. When she was with Collins, she divided that time between nit-picking at me and staring lustfully at Jared…making me want to rag out every strand of that mane she seemed to love. She persisted in wearing low-cut tops and cut-off shorts. Collins had suggested a number of times that she change into ‘more appropriate clothing’, but his suggestions had been ignored.

She flirted so much with Jared that even Joy was pissed with her. I’d actually come across them arguing a few evenings’ ago. Joy had ripped her a new one and then winked at me conspiratorially. When I’d mentioned it to Jared, he’d informed me that Joy particularly hated Eloise as Joy had been his consort during the time that he had bonked the bitch. In Joy’s weird little mind, Eloise had made Jared cheat on her. Her weird little mind also saw me as the lesser evil in this case. Well, whatever.

One thing Jared was extremely good at was sussing out a person’s strengths and weaknesses. He had pointed out that both Collins and Eloise had one very big fault: they thought that they were untouchable. So silly of them. If they continued as they were, they would quickly learn that things didn’t work that way…because I made sure they didn’t.


Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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