Imani tugged on Paige’s hand. “Help them.”

Paige was quiet for a minute, seemingly torn. I was pretty sure that everyone was holding their breath. “I have a condition.”

Okay, I could negotiate. “What condition is that?”

“You give Imani and me refuge in The Hollow. Permanently.”

My eyes closed as desolation hit me. If I agreed to her condition, Luther’s vision could come into effect. Through the bond, I felt Sam’s anxiety.

“We’ve been hiding for a long time,” continued Paige. “We want to live again.”

While that was understandable, she truly had no idea what she was asking. Of course I could explain Luther’s vision, but that would likely make Paige demand to leave immediately – especially since she seemed to be so protective of her friend. She was scared of something, and she looked ready to bolt any second.

“It is your choice, Jared,” said Antonio. But it wasn’t really a choice at all. There was no way I could turn Paige down. I’d exhausted every other avenue – she was the only chance we had left to save Sam and the guys.

I sighed inwardly, turning to the crowd. “Harvey, I’ll need you to hold the guys into position while David and Salem put them to sleep.” Swallowing hard, I told Paige, “I’ll grant you refuge if you heal the four of them.”

When Paige hesitated, Antonio spoke. “Jared would never back out of a vow.”

After an encouraging look from Imani, Paige nodded. “I’ll need someone to transfer the taint to.”

Ava clasped her hands together. “Ooh, can we use Collins?” She truly looked excited by the prospect. Salem snickered.

“Unfortunately, no,” replied Antonio. “I have prisoners that have been here for some time who can take on the taint.”

“You haven’t executed them?” Paige asked him.

Antonio’s smile was a little on the evil side. “Why would I do that when it would make their punishment be over quickly?”

“Ah.” There was a wealth of nervousness in that sound. Paige cleared her throat. “Do you have four prisoners?”

“One will not be enough?”

“When I pass on an injury, it’s three times worse. In this case, it’ll mean the taint will be three times more advanced when the vampire gets it. He’ll have to be killed instantly.”

“Well then, it is lucky I have four.”

I could see that she wanted to ask just how many he did have, but she bit her tongue.

Antonio pressed his hand on the imprint that was situated on the glass door of the cell. The door made a hissing sound as it unlocked, but Antonio didn’t open it immediately. “Everyone ready?”

Rolling his shoulders and clearly eager, Harvey said, “Oh yeah.” Salem and David simply nodded.

The second Antonio opened the door wide, the three tainted vampires charged. Harvey stepped inside and used his telekinesis to send all three vampires crashing into the back of the cell. While he held them in place, Salem and David then used their gifts to knock each of them unconscious.

“Harvey, don’t lose your grip on them.” I wasn’t taking any chances. Squeezing past him, I walked into the cell. Paige, Imani, and Antonio came in behind me, and were shortly followed by two guards, who were dragging in an unconscious captive. They placed him beneath where Evan was pinned to the wall. I looked at Paige, who was holding her nose. Yeah, the stench was bad. “Ready?”

She answered by walking to Evan and reaching out to lay her hand on the oozing bite mark, balking at the repugnant sight.

When her hand froze in mid-air, I assured her, “Even if he wakes up, he won’t be able to move.”

Apparently those words satisfied her, because some of the tension left her body and she placed her hand on his throat. What happened next was one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen. It was like something was rippling under her skin, circling her lower arm as it ran from her hand to her elbow. That was when she pulled her hand away and gripped the leg of the unconscious vampire at her feet. The rippling happened again, this time going from her elbow down to her hand and to the now tainted vampire…And it had all happened in a matter of seconds. In a blink, he went from normal to being even more gaunt and skeletal than Evan had been. His eyes snapped open – no rationality there at all – but before he could move, I obliterated him into ashes with a bolt of lightning.

Paige’s eyes widened. “Wow. And I thought my gift was awesome.” Taking the tissue Antonio offered her, she wiped the disgusting ooze from her hand.

Darting to Evan’s side, I could only gawk as I marvelled over the fact that, yep, the bite was gone and the taint had left him. Except for the dark circles under his eyes, he looked totally normal. A lump formed in my throat. Fuck, I’d missed the shithead.

“Is he healed?” Antonio’s voice was dripping with anxiousness.

“Yes, some-the-fuck-how, he’s okay.” Everyone cheered, and I saw Paige flush under the praise that was subsequently thrown at her from the people outside the cell. Knowing that the psychic hit he’d taken to the head would mean Evan would be out cold for a while, I contemplated asking Paige to touch his head and attempt to take away the effects of the hit. But that would mean dragging in a fully aware prisoner to then take on the effects of it – the longer we messed around, the longer Sam would be tainted.

Seemingly reading my mind, Antonio said, “He will be fine in the infirmary until he wakes.” Of course I could teleport him there, but I didn’t want to leave until Sam was okay.

“I will take him,” offered Sebastian as he entered the cell. Flashing Paige a thankful smile, he scooped up Evan and disappeared. The guards then dragged in another two prisoners. Just as with Evan, Paige healed both Max and Stuart by transferring the taint to the unconscious captives, who I then quickly disposed of using my gift. Afterwards, Sebastian teleported both Max and Stuart to the infirmary.

That was when we exited the cell and moved to Sam’s door. She was on her feet now and was leaning against the back wall as if to reassure Paige that she was no threat.

“Sam has only been tainted for a few hours,” Antonio told Paige as he unlocked the cell door. “She is still completely rational.”

Tell her that if she feels more comfortable with Harvey pinning me in place, it’s fine, Sam told me.

“She said that she’s happy for Harvey to hold her still using his gift, if you’d prefer that. I won’t have anyone knock her unconscious, but I’ll agree to her being held in place.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires