He looked distraught. “Sam, how did this happen?”

“How do you think it happened?” Jared snorted. “She did what she always does. She put herself in the line of fire. If she had just let me teleport her out of there when I suggested it, she?”

“I’ve told you, you can lecture me later.” I returned my attention to Antonio. “I need to know something. Will Jared become tainted too because of our bond?”

“No.” Antonio sighed, his voice low and filled with regret. “But he will gradually deteriorate and weaken as you do. Then when you die, he will die also.”

Fuck, f**k, f**kety, f**k.

“Let me take a look at the bite.” Antonio gently eased back the towel. The combination of horror, repugnance, and confusion in his expression made my stomach plummet. “David, I need a wet pad to clean the wound.”

In vampire speed, David was back with the pad. “Here.”

“Thank you.” Each gentle dab only made the wound itchier. It was driving me bloody mental and I had to ball my fists to keep from clawing at it. When Antonio was done, he gasped. David’s mouth fell open. The others had similar reactions.

Oh God, now what?

“What’s wrong?” Jared cupped my chin, turned my head, and leaned over to get a good look. “It’s almost fully healed,” he said incredulously.

“But not in a good way,” warned Antonio.

I frowned. “How can it be bad if I’m healed?”

Antonio’s gaze darted from me to Jared. “This is something we need to discuss in private.”

So this was related to my hybrid status, then. Well there was no way he could clear the room, since the injured were being tended to here.

“Then we talk alone,” Jared stated. Understanding, Antonio held onto my hand while Jared lifted me into his arms. Then suddenly we were in our apartment and Jared was positioning me on the sofa.

I tried to sit up, but he urged me to lie back down. Huffing, I humoured him.

“Now what did you mean?” Jared asked Antonio, keeping his hand on my shoulder.

“Do you remember how swiftly Sam healed during her duel with Magda? She had gaping holes in her shoulders?”

“Thanks for the reminder,” I grumbled.

“You shut up,” Jared said, but his tone was surprisingly gentle despite the anger surging through him.

“My point is that she healed unnaturally fast, which we all attribute to her being a hybrid. Vampires have accelerated healing, but if our injuries are quite severe, we can take hours to fully heal. In the case of The Call, the bite marks worsen. They do not heal at all. As you can see, Sam’s wound has closed. But the teeth marks remain, and they look ugly and angry.”

“Ugly?” I echoed. “Someone get me a mirror. I want to know what all the fuss is about.” Truthfully, I wasn’t as calm as I sounded. But if I was to express my panic, it would feed Jared’s fear and make him ten times worse. When no one moved, I pressed, “A mirror!”

Cursing, Jared disappeared into the bedroom. He was back at my side in a blink with my handheld mirror. At the same time, there was a knock at the door.

“That will be my guards. I lost them in my haste to get to Sam.” It turned out that Antonio was right. The guards entered with Luther and the pit-bulls in tow.

Jared arched a brow at Luther. “You didn’t foresee this happening?” The Advisor had been known to keep things to himself for fear of altering a person’s path too much.

Grim, Luther shook his head. “Believe me, this is not something that I would have kept from you. In fact, I would have locked her away myself to keep her safe.”

Any other time, I might have scowled at him for that comment. But I was too busy panicking about the bite mark on my throat. Dear God, it looked disgusting. Just as Antonio had said, the mark was in fact seriously ugly. Although the skin had healed, it was in a weird zigzag fashion, like someone had done a really bad stitching job. Furthermore, the patch of skin around it was blotchy and a blazing red. “All right,” I said shakily, placing the mirror on the coffee table. “What does this mean?”

“I can only speculate, because I have never seen this happen before.” Antonio sighed. “But it seems to me that although the skin has strangely closed, your system is tainted.”

That was my guess as well. I swallowed hard. “You know what needs to be done.”

“We’re not locking her up,” Jared quickly and vehemently stated.

Luther laid a supportive hand on Jared’s shoulder. “I hate to agree with her, Jared, I truly hate it. I do not like the idea of her caged any more than you do. But it is important that she is isolated.”

He shook off Luther’s hand and stepped away. Denial was pasted all over his face. “She can’t pass it on unless she bites someone.”

“She might lose rationality quicker than the others did,” Antonio cautioned in a sensitive tone. “She’s a hybrid, Jared. We have no idea how she will react to The Call. But we do know that she will not survive it,” he added in a low voice that was loaded with anguish. The resolve in Jared’s expression didn’t even slightly lessen.

“Can you give us a few minutes alone?” I asked Antonio and Luther.

Antonio nodded. “Certainly. I will make the appropriate preparations.” In other words, he’d ready me a cell.

Once Jared and I were alone, I sat up and appealed to him with a look. “I know it’s hard for you to do this. But I don’t want to hurt someone. I don’t want to taint someone. Please don’t put me in a position where I might do that. It’s bad enough that I know you’re going to die because of me.”

He snickered, but his anger was gone now. There was only a sense of defeat. “You think I’d want to live without you? You think I even could, whether we were Bound or not?”

A lump of emotion suddenly clogged my throat and my eyes filled. “I’m so sorry.”

He crouched down in front of me and tucked my hair behind my ear. “We knew when we Bound in that ceremony that it would mean we depended on each other to live. I don’t regret it, and I’d make that commitment all over again.”

“Then you’re a dumb prat.”

He swiped my tears away with the pads of his thumbs. “And you’re a crazy bitch.”

I gently curled my hands around his wrists. “You have to let them confine me, Jared.”

“Sam, don’t?”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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