Evan didn’t take the bait. Instead, he switched his attention back to Alora. His face softened. “Can we talk?”
Her smile was wobbly. “Sure.” When he held out a hand and she took it, he flashed her a smile and led her out of the room. Hopefully that smile meant good things, because if anyone deserved happiness, it was Evan.
Satisfied, Sam smiled at me. “I have to admit I wasn’t sure if he’d come to see her. Whatever you said to him clearly worked.” She kissed my cheek. “You did good.”
I slipped my arm around her shoulders. “They’ll sort it out.” Or, at least, I hoped they would. I looked at Antonio. “How did the humans take it when they realised all their captives were gone?”
Antonio’s mouth twitched into a smile. “According to Quentin, the whole thing was quite humorous. When they caught the vampires, the humans had thought themselves very clever. To have the captives taken from under their very noses like that…it was a wake-up call; it told them that they truly had no idea what they were dealing with and it was best to leave well alone.”
“It’s doubtful that they will give up on trying to catch and contain some of our kind,” said Sebastian. “But they will have received our message loud and clear.”
Antonio nodded, still smiling. “They were certainly very fast as they packed up and left, or so I’m told.”
It would have been fun to watch. “And all the tainted vampires?”
“Quentin assures me that every last one has been destroyed. There were no other casualties, so all the untainted vampires returned home safely. It was only Sam who was hurt.”
For a second, as I recalled the moment she’d been bitten, the cocktail of dark emotions came back to me. I contracted my arm around her, incredibly thankful that she was okay.
Collins twisted his lips as he looked at her. “At least your recklessness only got yourself hurt this time, Commander Park?” He gurgled as my hand fisted in the collar of his shirt and I slammed him against the wall.
“Hurt? She could have f**king died! And that was because she put everyone else’s safety before her own. That’s the kind of person she is. Me? Not so much. I’m selfish enough to care more about her safety than anyone else’s. Do you know what that means for you? It means that if you keep pushing like this, I’ll push back. Know what else?” I placed my face close to his; he froze and his eyes widened. “You won’t even see it coming.”
“You cannot threaten me,” he said shakily.
“Oh I can. And I just did. You’re making the mistake of thinking that working for the Prelature gives you some kind of immunity; that you can do and say what the f**k you like. No one will keep you safe from me if you keep spouting bullshit like that about Sam.”
He audibly gulped. “Release me.” It was more of a plea than a demand.
“But this is fun.”
Sam sighed tiredly. “Let him go, Jared. I’m sure he’d like to jot the incident down in his little notepad. Just remember to preface it with your aggravating, insensitive, callous, very disrespectful – not to mention totally unprofessional – comment, Mr Collins.”
Sneering, I reluctantly released the mouthy prick and moved away.
Fixing his tie and shirt, a trembling Collins cleared his throat. “I’ll let this one slide.” Because he knew Sam was right. He’d crossed a line, and my reaction was completely justified.
“Good of you,” muttered Sam.
He practically scrambled to the door. As he reached it, I spoke again. “You should know one other thing. Max isn’t very happy to hear what you said about him. But I’m sure you’ll find out for yourself just how unhappy he is soon enough.” Collins licked his lips nervously and scurried out.
Sam shook her head incredulously. “It’s almost like he wants to get hurt.”
“I can’t guarantee he’ll leave here in one piece,” I told Antonio. “If I don’t kill him, it’s possible that someone else will since it’s not just me he’s managed to piss off.”
Antonio glanced at the door, sighing. It had to be disheartening to know that one of his vampires – his first-born, for that matter – was such a damn ass**le. And no doubt it was hard for him to see Collins behave this way toward people Antonio cared for – particularly knowing it could very well get Collins badly hurt. A part of Antonio had to feel torn about the whole thing. “If something bad should happen to him while he is here, it will be safe to say that he dug his own grave.”
Fully aware that talking anymore about the ass**le would only worsen my mood, I quickly changed the subject. “Where are Paige and Imani?” It would be nice to hear that they had changed their mind and decided to leave – however selfish of me that might be – but I wasn’t optimistic about it.
“They are in the Guest House, resting. It is sad that Paige’s presence here could lead to something awful, but there is no denying that she did us the greatest service. It would be dishonourable to treat her badly.”
I knew that comment was for my benefit. “I don’t intend to treat her with anything but respect. I’m not pleased she’s staying, but she saved Sam and the guys. I’ll always be thankful to her for that.” Of course I hated the fact that Paige being at The Hollow could bring danger to Sam, but she would have died without Paige’s help anyway.
Sam frowned. “Was it just me who noticed that she seems kind of paranoid that we want Imani?”
I began toying with Sam’s hair, twining a long, silky strand around my finger. “No, I noticed that too. It’s odd how overprotective Paige is of her. I’m beginning to wonder if the girl needs protecting from something or someone.”
“When I first found Paige,” began Sebastian, “she panicked and immediately ordered Imani to run. I’d say Imani is in fact in some sort of danger. But if there is some kind of secret, Paige is hardly likely to tell us what it is when she’s as wary of us as she is right now.”
“True,” said Antonio. “I am sure Paige will explain eventually, as I’m assuming she will hope that we will be added protection for Imani if that is indeed what the girl needs.”
“On another note, do you think there are still some tainted vampires out there?” I asked Antonio.
“I held a teleconference with the High Masters a few hours ago,” he replied. “They confirmed that they have tracked down all the tainted vampires from their nest and also those in their vicinity, and that they have destroyed them all. As such, I am hoping there are no more.”