The second we appeared beside the pool, Sam twirled as her shrewd eyes searched her surroundings. Her gaze landed on something – no, someone – and she made a hissing sound that would have made Dexter proud. Before I had the chance to calm Sam down and stop her from doing anything that she would later regret, she was stomping over to an unsuspecting Eloise. Well, shit.“Sam?”
“What the f**k do you think you’re playing at?”
Startled, Eloise lifted her head from where she was lying on a sun lounger – all vampires enjoyed moonlight bathing. “Excuse me?”
Hands on her hips, Sam glared down at her. “You were inside my apartment!”
That sure surprised me.
Eloise blanched. “I don’t know what?”
Sam laughed, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound. “Sweetheart, did you really think that if enough time went past for your scent to fade, I wouldn’t have known you’d been there? You can’t hide an energy signature. Feeders like me are all about energy. And your energy signature was all over my f**king apartment! What I want to know is what you were doing in there.”
Eloise desperately looked around for some form of help. That was when I noticed that we were no longer alone. Antonio, Luther, and Antonio’s personal guards all stood near the patio doors, clearly baffled.
“Well?” demanded Sam.
“I-I, um, I was looking for Jared.”
“You know what? I don’t believe you.”
Sam chuckled, regarding Eloise with mock pity. “Because you’re lying, silly. After all, it’s not like you were going to find him in my set of drawers – and you had a good root through them, didn’t you?”
Her eyes danced from side to side. “I was, um...”
“I’ll tell you why you did it. You did it…because you thought you could. No other reason. Just like Collins, you have a strong sense of entitlement purely because you’re a representative. Well, let me be very clear: you can pester me during my work hours and invade my office, but my personal time and my apartment are out of bounds. So unless you want to know just how ‘reckless’ I can be, I suggest you quickly learn to respect my personal boundaries.”
Despite being a nervous wreck, Eloise maintained, “You can’t hurt me.”
“Sweetheart, why would I waste energy hurting you when it would be much more effective to chop off that mane of yours?”
Eloise let out a gasp as her hand flew to her hair. “You wouldn’t.” Oh but Sam would, and Eloise knew it.
“I advise you not to test me on that. Now piss off.”
I’d honestly never seen the woman move so fast.
Antonio came and put a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I must apologise on Eloise’s behalf. Her behaviour is truly unacceptable, and I shall have a conversation with her about it later.”
Sam waved a hand. “I wouldn’t bother yourself with the whole thing, Antonio. Let her dig her own grave.”
“If you are not too busy, could I speak with you both for a moment?” Without waiting for a response, he gestured for us to follow him and Luther through the patio doors. Exchanging a look with Sam, I shrugged and took her hand. We trailed behind them down the eternally long hallway, not stopping until they reached one of his parlour rooms. With his hand on the doorknob, Antonio said, “There’s someone here to see you both.”
When he opened it wide, Sam and I stepped inside. Almost instantly, we froze. I wasn’t in the f**king mood for this. I groaned at Antonio. “Why is she here?”
“I think you should listen to what she has to say.” He motioned at the empty sofa that was positioned opposite an identical one on which a nervous redhead sat gingerly.
I was ready to object when Sam squeezed my hand and tugged. Let’s just hear her out. There’s no harm in that.
Fine, but two minutes is the most I’m staying here.
Alora smiled nervously as we took a seat opposite her. Antonio sat beside her and took her hand in his. Luther sat at her other side. After a moment of silence, she cleared her throat. “I know you don’t want me here?”
“So why are you here?” I snapped. I winced when Sam pinched my arm.
Tears shimmered in Alora’s eyes. “Because it’s Evan,” she said simply – there was a confusing amount of adoration in her voice.
“You love him,” whispered Sam. She nodded.
In my opinion, her actions said something totally different. “Then why did you reject him?”
Alora seemed bewildered. “I didn’t reject him. I just…I couldn’t give him what he wanted.”
Cryptic shit. I hated cryptic shit. “What does that mean?”
“He didn’t tell you?” When I shook my head, she straightened in her seat as if bracing herself for impact. “I’m Bound to someone else.”
I could only gape at her. “What the f**k?”
She averted her gaze, seemingly embarrassed. “Please understand I was only nineteen years old. What’s more, I was no more than eighteen months old in vampire years and I didn’t truly understand just how serious a Binding actually was.”
I looked down at the third finger of her left hand and saw a bulky emerald ring that no doubt covered a Binding knot.
“I bought every lie that Gregory ever told me. I agreed to Bind with him after only being with him for three months. It wasn’t until after the Binding that things changed, he changed.” She sounded as angry with herself as she was with him.
“He hurt you,” Sam guessed.
“In about as many ways as a person can hurt another.”
“Does Bran know?” I asked.
“Yes. Bran saved me from him. It’s a long story, but he got me away and he kept me as his ‘consort’ to give me added protection. I think you know why he really keeps female consorts. The arrangement worked well for both of us, in that sense.”
I considered that for a minute. “So your loyalty to Bran kept you with him? Bran refuses to let you leave him?”
“No. Bran would let me leave if I wanted to do so. In fact, he doesn’t think there’s any safer place for me to be than here, with Evan. But Gregory wants me back. Because we’re Bound, he knows exactly where I am at all times. But he’s not powerful enough to take on a High Master vampire and he’s not stupid enough to try. But it means that I’ve always felt trapped, knowing that if I left Bran, Gregory would be able to take me back to him. I hate him, hate him, but I’m stuck with him.”