His smile was a little sad. “Oh I’m messed up in my own special way, trust me on that. But you went through a hell of a lot worse than I did. That kind of shit makes its mark. And don’t think I didn’t notice that you totally evaded the subject of your own vision, by the way.”
Yeah, well, that wasn’t something I had any intention of touching on. If I was going to talk about it, then Sam deserved to be the first to know. “That’s not important at the moment. We’re talking about you. About your future. Are you really going to f**k it up?” The stubborn shithead said nothing. “She only came here to help find a way to save you,” I reminded him. “You’re fine now, which means she’ll be leaving very soon unless you stop her.”
It was clear how much the idea pained him. “She’s probably already gone.”
A smile slowly surfaced on my face. “Sam’s keeping her occupied.”
“Of course she is,” he said dryly, smiling. “You’re a pair of interfering little shits, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.” I stood. “Come on. I’ll take you back to your place so you can shower and change, because you really do reek. Then I’ll take you to Alora.”
He sighed. “I hurt her badly.”
“So make it up to her. She cares about you, and you care about?” The doors suddenly opened and the entire squad piled into the room. Every one of them was so jovial and keyed up that they looked like a kid in Disneyworld.
Stuart grinned at Evan. “You’re awake. In case you didn’t already know, you look like shit.”
Max was also grinning. “Yeah, like a tornado survivor or something.”
Evan snorted. “You guys don’t look like spring chickens either, you know. Glad you’re both healed, too.”
So was I but, not really good with emotional stuff, I simply said, “Yeah, it’s good to see that you’re okay.”
Max exhaled heavily as he turned to me. His expression was serious now. “I wanted to talk to you about something. The guys told me about that ass**le, Collins. I’ve already told Sam, but I want you to know too that the f**ker’s lying – I did not make any kind of complaint about her.”
“None of us believes that you did.”
He looked taken aback. “Not even you? I mean, I know you don’t like me. And you’re still paranoid that I want Sam.”
“I’m actually not.” It was true. Sure, I could be possessive and jealous and overreact when someone touched or flirted with her. But I knew when someone wanted her and when someone was just trying to f**k with me for their own damn entertainment. The latter applied to Max. “I’ve known for a while that you don’t want her anymore. You even told me that, remember?”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t sure if you believed me.”
“Well, I did.” I snickered. “If I thought you really had said that shit to the Prelature out of bitterness and some kind of ‘if you can’t have her than no one can’, I wouldn’t have asked Paige to heal you. I’d have let you die and not given a shit.” Max tipped his head, accepting that.
“Okay, I’m feeling left out here,” said Evan. “Who the hell is Collins?”
“I’ll explain everything before I take you to Alora.” When Evan grimaced, I added, “You’ll regret it forever if you don’t at least talk to her. Even if it’s just to say goodbye.”
After a moment, Evan nodded and got to his feet. I grabbed his arm, ready to teleport us away, when Chico suddenly spoke.
“Wait, the main reason we’re here is to invite you both to the party we’re having tonight.” He gave us a pointed look. “I’ll expect to see you there. If anything deserves to be celebrated, it’s the fact that everyone’s alive and well.”
I couldn’t argue with that. “I’ll be there.”
“Me too,” said Evan. Only then did the squad leave the room, still giddy and even boyish in their excitement to be a whole squad once again.
I then teleported Evan to his apartment where he showered and changed into fresh clothes. As we both drank some NSTs, I told him all about Collins and Eloise. Evan’s face increasingly darkened until he looked ready to pounce on someone. Yeah, Collins and Eloise seemed to have that effect on everyone.
“I’m surprised by – and kind of in awe of – Sam’s restraint.” Evan chucked all the empty NST bottles into the garbage can.
“So is everyone else.” Tapping into my bond with Sam, I found her exact location and teleported both Evan and I there. This particular room was the only one inside Antonio’s mansion that had a tall glass aviary in the centre which was framed by a narrow stream. Inside the aviary were trees, plants, and animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, canaries, and other species of birds. It was a place Antonio often came when he needed to relax and think.
Sam, Alora, Antonio, Luther, Sebastian, and – God help us – Collins were gathered around the aviary. Talking about him to Evan had gotten me all wound up, and now it was taking everything I had not to punch the smarmy bastard.
“Evan, it is great to see you well again.” Antonio hugged Evan, giving him a paternal smile. “You have been sorely missed.”
Sebastian lightly slapped Evan’s back, smiling widely. “Yes, it’s good to have you back.”
Luther’s expression was grim. “I wish I had foreseen what would happen to you, Evan. If I had?”
Evan raised his hand to halt Luther’s words. “You can’t foresee everything. And look, I’m fine now.”
“Stop hogging my sort-of-brother-in-law,” Sam playfully griped before giving him a brief hug. “I didn’t think I’d ever be glad to see that cocky smirk again.” Evan laughed, returning the hug.
The second Evan and Alora locked eyes, everything in the room seemed to still. It was a pivotal moment, because it could go either way – particularly since I still had no idea what Evan intended to do about the situation. He went to speak, but then Collins stepped forward.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Evan.”
Evan automatically shook the hand he offered. “And who are you?”
“My name is Fredrick Collins.”
Snatching back his hand, Evan glared at him. “I can’t say it’s a pleasure for me.”
Collins started but recovered quickly, forcing a shaky smile as he stepped back. “Yes, well, it’s good to see that you’re well. I must admit that I didn’t believe there was a way to fight The Call. The counteragent must indeed be a substantial one.” It was a hint for more information. No one had told Collins about Paige West – she had requested her involvement be kept secret from outsiders, not wanting her Sire to hear of her location. ‘Not knowing’ was clearing killing Collins.