“Ava and Cristiano will insist on going,” Luther pointed out.

It was clear that the idea troubled Antonio, but he shrugged. “It would be unfair to request that they remain behind when they wish to avenge what has happened to their friends. We all know a little about the need for vengeance. If they wish to take the risk of being attacked and tainted, we must respect that.” Turning his attention back to Jared and me, he spoke. “I want you and your squad to concentrate on freeing the vampires that have been captured.”

I rolled my eyes. “You mean you don’t want us fighting the tainted again because some of us were bitten last time.”

“True. But my decision is also based on the fact that your squad is, by far, the stealthiest. All your practice on the tactical field has helped tremendously with that. You have members that can get in and out of places without being seen. You also have members that are deadly enough to kill a tainted vampire without even touching them – both of you included. You are, without a doubt, the best people to deal with this side of the assignment.”

Jared nodded. “Where exactly are they within the rainforest? I don’t want to waste time searching.”

Antonio handed him a slip of paper. “According to one of Quentin’s vampires who has the ability to teleport, these exact coordinates will take you one hundred feet from the humans’ camp.” Once Jared had tucked the paper into the pocket of his jeans, Antonio added, “He and Quentin will be waiting for you there.”

“You should leave as soon as possible.” Luther’s anxiety was obvious in every line of his face. “We are not sure how much longer the humans will wait around.”

In total agreement with that, I slipped my hand in Jared’s and he immediately teleported us both to the arena. Since we had only minutes ago tanked ourselves with NSTs, we didn’t need to make a pit-stop at our apartment.

As usual, the squad was patiently waiting for us in the arena. Thankfully, nobody was late because we didn’t have time to hang around, and we still needed to find Ava and Cristiano to give them the option of coming along. We quickly briefed the squad on the situation. It was no surprise when they began cursing at the news of the humans being involved, but they were raring to go. No doubt feelings of helplessness had been plaguing them just as they had been plaguing myself and Jared. This assignment meant that they were doing something.

“Ava and Cristiano will want in,” said Denny. “After seeing Ava so distraught when she heard the vampires from her nest were dead, I don’t think it would be fair to leave her or her brother out of it.” Salem didn’t appear happy about that, but he said nothing.

“We plan to take them,” I told Denny. “I don’t suppose anyone knows where they are?”

“They’re with Jude and Alora in the canteen,” Chico said. Alora and Jude had immediately ‘clicked’ – probably because they both knew what it was like to live without someone that meant everything to them. I knew from Chico that Jude had tracked down her baby just to check on her. The little girl had been adopted by a really nice human family, so at least Jude had that knowledge as comfort – however little comfort that may be.

“When do we leave?”

Frowning at that, everyone spun to look at the beady-eyed male who was tucking his notepad and pen into his coat, ready to go.

“You’re not going anywhere,” I firmly stated to both Collins and a half-naked Eloise, who was licking her lips as she eyed Jared. No shame. She had absolutely no shame.

Collins lifted his chin. “Our purpose here?”

“Seems to be purely to be a pain in our asses,” finished Damien. Collins flushed, shrinking under the disapproval of the squad.

“Haven’t we been through this once before?” Eloise huffed, bored. “We must accompany you on assignments in order to accurately complete our report. We did so last time, and we will do so this time.”

I really didn’t have the patience to deal with either of them right now. I took a calming, steadying breath. It didn’t help much. “We allowed you both to come with us when we spoke to Quentin Foy because there was minimal danger involved. This assignment is totally the opposite.”

“Which supports the complaint that you take your squad on very risky missions,” Collins said with a smug grin.

“I was just about to say the same thing.” Eloise was wearing a similar smirk.

I could only shake my head at them. “It’s pathetic that you think we have time for this crap.” With that, I gave them both my back and marched out of the arena with Jared at my side. Everybody followed as we made our way to the canteen. Unfortunately, that included Collins and Eloise. I won’t set them on fire. I won’t set them on fire. I won’t, I won’t. But I’d dream about it.

Collins hurried to my side, breathless as he attempted to match my pace. “Commander Parker, it is important that I?”

“Back off, Collins,” Jared ground out. “We’re not taking you or your colleague on this assignment. Deal with it.”

The bloke honestly looked like he was chewing on a bee or something. “I will be forced to contact my superiors?”

I smiled. “Good idea. Tell them I said ‘hi’.”

He gasped in outrage. “Commander Parker!”

Ignoring his rant, I entered the canteen. The purpose in my strides made Ava, Cristiano, Jude, and Alora instantly tense.

Cristiano stood. “What’s happening?” I swiftly gave them a rundown on everything.

“I’m coming,” both Ava and Cristiano declared in unison. Salem scowled at her for that, but Ava gave him a cute smile and patted his chest.

“I’m coming, too,” stated Jude, rising from her seat. When Chico went to object, she added, “It’s possible that a human will spot one of you. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to wipe their memory than kill them?” Jude’s gift would enable us to do that. She was only able to delete twenty minutes worth of memory, but that would be enough.

Alora got to her feet. “I want to come too. Like I said, I need to do something.” When I hesitated to respond, she said, “You’ll be surprised what a substantial gift communicating with animals can be – they can tell us things that we wouldn’t otherwise know. It helped when The Hollow was attacked by Bennington and his supporters.”

Jared sighed. “Your mind isn’t in the best state, Alora. I don’t need someone there who’s going to take unnecessary risks. Been there. Done that.”


Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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