I ran my gaze along Antonio, Luther, and Sebastian. “Do you think The Call will go dormant again now that all the tainted are dead? I mean, how much damage to the population does it usually do before it stops?”
Luther delicately shrugged one shoulder. “It differs each time.”
“And that could either be because all the tainted were destroyed or because The Call was ready to go dormant again,” added Sebastian. “It’s reasonable to assume that it is the first. That would be my guess.”
“We have another very big issue.” Luther suddenly looked troubled. “Collins and Eloise will no doubt spread the news of how Sam, Evan, Max, and Stuart have been healed. In addition, Quentin is quite aware that Evan was tainted, so he will get quite a shock when he realises Evan is alive and well. Others will want to know how they were saved. We need to have some sort of story ready.”
“Do not worry,” said Antonio. “I will think of something.” And I had no doubt that he would come up with something good, just as he had when explaining the changes that Sam had undergone. “Now that the tainted have been dealt with, I will soon be making the announcement about the upcoming Coronation. I will schedule the Coronation for in three weeks’ time. By then, if there are any more tainted vampires, it will be apparent.”
“Are you making the announcement by teleconference?” Sam’s nervousness wasn’t obvious in her voice, but I could feel it. Who wouldn’t be nervous about ruling all of their own kind?
“Yes. I would like you both to be there.”
I nodded my agreement. “When are you planning to do it?”
So that gave Sam and me five evenings before everything changed for us forever.
“For now, set aside your worries, and enjoy your evening. I hear the squad are throwing a party.” Antonio smiled. “We have all been invited, so we may make an appearance.”
“Then maybe we’ll see you there.” I took Sam’s hand in mine. “Just be aware that when the squad throws a party, they really party.”
Jared couldn’t have been more right. Although the party was supposed to be taking place in Chico’s apartment, the entire apartment block – which housed all ten squads of the legion – was celebrating and partying hard. Music was blasting, food and NSTs were being passed around, and intoxicated humans were lounging in almost every room.
Jared and I made our way up to Chico’s apartment, which proved to be packed with people. Exchanging nods and smiles with everyone, we shouldered our way through the crowd until we found the squad. All ten of them were gathered in the kitchen, laughing at a story that Fletcher was telling them. As Jared and I walked in, the squad turned as one and endowed us with huge grins and back-pats. Of course Max kissed me smack on the mouth just to piss Jared off. Predictably, Jared shoved Max across the room. Everyone, including Max, thought that it was hilarious.
“I’m so glad you came!” squealed Ava as she wrapped her arms around me. I realised then that Cristiano, Norm, Jude, Paige, and Imani were also there. It was certainly a surprise to see the latter two. “And I’m so glad you’re healed! When I heard you’d been bitten and then saw you in that cell, I was in tears.”
Yeah, I remembered seeing Ava so distressed. Touched, I smiled. “I’m fine now, thanks to Paige.” I shot the female a grateful smile. Her answering one was awkward and shaky.
“She and Imani didn’t want to come to the party,” Ava whispered, “but Butch and Stuart dragged them here. As far as the boys are all concerned, those girls are the best things since sliced bread.”
Yes, it did look as though the squad was determined to make the new additions part of our group. Paige and Imani would find it incredibly hard to resist them since Butch and Stuart weren’t the type to take ‘no’ for an answer.
“My darlin’ girl,” drawled Fletcher, pulling me away from Ava and into a huge hug. “I swear I had palpations when I found out you were tainted.” He pulled back and pointed hard at me. “Don’t you ever do that to me again! My heart couldn’t take it a second time.”
Rolling his eyes at his boyfriend’s dramatics, Norm pushed him aside and kissed my cheek. “I could make fun of him, but in all honesty, we were both bawling like babies when we heard what had happened to you.”
“You should know better than to think I’d ever let her die,” interrupted Jared, snorting. Both Fletcher and Norm melted at the sight of him. Oh for the love of all that was holy!
When Jared smiled at someone over my shoulder, I turned to see Evan and Alora coming over. He flashed me a wide smile. “Thanks for being an interfering bitch and keeping Alora so busy that she couldn’t leave until I’d talked to her.”
“I was hoping that Jared would talk some sense into you. Does this mean that you’re keeping her here?”
Evan tugged Alora close. “How could I not?” She blushed, leaning into him.
Hearing a throat clear, I swerved to see Cristiano. This time, there was no smug smirk. I was surprised at how…awkward he seemed. Cristiano was nothing if not terribly sure of himself.
“It’s good to see you…healed.”
“Thanks,” I said simply, waiting for his seemingly ever-present smug smirk to surface. It didn’t come. I wasn’t sure whether to be suspicious or simply glad.
“It was a shock hearing that you’d been bitten, seeing you hurt. I suppose I’ve always thought of you as invincible after the amount of duels I witnessed you have for Victor.” Gruffly, he added, “Just be more careful in future.”
That had my brows flying up. I was expecting Jared to call him a dickhead and tell him to f**k off for giving me a warning like that. But although Jared slid an arm around me in a very possessive gesture, he didn’t curse at Cristiano or order him to bugger off. In fact, Jared nodded at him in greeting. Cristiano even returned the nod. They were practicing civility? What had I missed? Have you two reached a truce or something? I asked Jared.
He kissed my temple. Nope. I’ve just decided to let him live. For now.
Jude came forward, her expression oddly calculating. “I, um, just wanted to ask…would it be so bad if I slit Eloise’s throat?” She was totally serious. Jude did love her knife and would latch onto any excuse to use it.
Before I could answer, Chico came up behind her and began pulling her away. “Jude, remember that talk we had about…” His voice faded as he moved away and the music overrode his words. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know what that ‘talk’ had been about.