Salem assessed the mess of broken cages and the small puddles of blood. “You can see where some of the vampires escaped and attacked.”
Jared’s face scrunched up in distaste. “According to Antonio, the tainted Pagoris got free and killed many of the humans. Come on, let’s get these guys out of here.”
He tugged on the door of the cage that was holding one of Rodney’s squad. The sedated Keja didn’t even stir. Due to the strength of the lock, it took the combined efforts of Jared and me to break open the cage. David and Salem worked as a team to free three of the others while Jared and I helped the remaining two. None of the injured woke, though a few of them made low moaning sounds that seemed more like yells in the silence of the vehicle. Thankfully, there was no contact from any of our squad, so that had to mean that the humans hadn’t heard anything.
After teleporting Quentin’s brother to Gio, Jared moved Rodney’s squad members in two trips; placing them with Butch, Reuben, and Damien. In the meantime, Salem, David, and I concentrated on destroying any evidence in the vehicle. Sure it was fair to note that the humans clearly already had some, but why give them more?
No sooner had a tingle of apprehension crept up on me through my bond with Jared than he appeared before me, his expression dark and anxious. I stiffened. “What’s wrong?”
He grabbed my arm. “We have to get out of here now.”
“Apparently the animals alerted Alora that humans are approaching; they sent her pictures of them coming from every direction.”
Fucking fabulous. “They know we’re here?”
“No. Chico said someone in the tent was talking over a radio a few minutes ago but he hadn’t been able to make out what was said. Now he’s thinking that the humans had ordered all their hunters to return to camp. I don’t know if they’re planning to leave or what, but we need to move because I don’t have any intention of getting shot by a tranquiliser. I told Chico to take the others to where Butch, Reuben, and Damien are waiting with Rodney’s squad members so I can teleport them all in one swoop. I’m going to teleport you three back to The Hollow first and then go back for?”
“No. I won’t leave until my squad is out. Besides, I have a little more evidence here to get rid of. Teleport to the others and take them back first.”
He growled, “Fuck, Sam.”
“Do it. We don’t have time to argue.”
“Pain in my goddamn Pagori ass,” he muttered before disappearing.
Thirty seconds later, we’d destroyed the last of the evidence. I turned to David and Salem. “Come on. Staying in the vehicle won’t be the best idea.”
“Where are we going?” asked David, following me as I quietly scampered to the double doors at the back of the vehicle.
“The trees,” guessed Salem, knowing exactly how my mind worked. Rainforest trees were good for hiding in.
“Yes.” Carefully and quietly I swung the door open…and was knocked flat on my back as a skeletal, grotesque-looking Keja dived on me and clamped his teeth around my throat. Well, f**k. I didn’t even have time to defend myself before it burst into ashes, thanks to either David or Salem – I wasn’t sure. They were both at my side at the exact same time that Jared teleported in front of me, clearly having felt my pain through the bond.
He blanched. “Oh, f**k no.”
It was my own bloody fault. I’d had everyone concentrating so hard on the humans, trusting Quentin and the others to deal with all the tainted vampires. I should have known better than to take it for granted that we were completely safe from them. Jared immediately dragged me against him and took me to The Hollow. It was lucky that David and Salem were holding onto me or Jared might have absentmindedly left them behind in his haste to get me home.
Arriving in the infirmary, Jared laid me down on one of the beds. “No, baby, no – this can’t be f**king happening.” He clasped his hands behind his head, staring down at me in pure disbelief.
A good-natured Keja who liked to act as a nurse – apparently letting go of her human profession had been hard – rushed over with a towel. Salem snatched it from her and pressed it firmly against the bite wound on my throat. Following that, he immediately called Antonio using the infirmary phone. The rest of the squad – who had clearly arrived there with Rodney’s injured squad members and were supportively remaining at their side – surrounded my bed. They cursed, growled, gawked, and hit me with questions that I was too distracted to answer. Fuck, the bite was itching like crazy and it was taking everything I had not to scratch it. Was it supposed to itch? I didn’t recall Evan, Max, or Stuart reporting that.
The nurse, Mary Jane, repeatedly tried to squeeze through the boys to reach me, but they weren’t budging. I internally shrugged. It wasn’t like there was anything she could do to help me anyway.
David swallowed hard. “Coach…Shit, I feel like I tempted fate.”
“This is no one’s fault but my own for concentrating too much on the humans.”
He knotted his hands in his tousled hair. “We should have sensed that vampire out there.”
“If we hadn’t already been surrounded by the scent of rotten fish, we would have done.”
“You just wouldn’t let me teleport you home, would you?” Jared took to pacing beside my bed, which was why people were giving him a wide berth. This was what Jared did whenever I got hurt. Took it out on me. Yes, it was unfair. But logic never prevailed over his panic and fear. I was used to it at this point. “You just had to wait until the others were safe.”
“Yes, I did. And I’d make the same decision again.” That was clearly the wrong thing to say, despite that it was the truth, because everyone looked ready to explode at me. “You can lecture me about it later.” I went to sit up, but Jared pushed me back down.
“No, don’t move.”
“Why? Lying here isn’t going to make any difference. And it’s not like there’s anything anyone can do. The only thing to do now is?”
Jared’s eyes flared with rage, his irises glowing like lasers. “Don’t ask me to lock you up in a f**king cell!”
“You want me to attack people and let the taint spread, is that it?”
“And you’d be perfectly fine with confining me in a glass cage, would you?”
“Well of course not,” I snapped. “But what else do you expect me to?” I double-blinked as there was a whizz of movement through the doors and suddenly Antonio was beside me. Clearly he’d used vampire momentum to get here.