I shrugged at them. “At least she didn’t whip the shit out of you – be grateful, because it hurts like a son of a bitch.”
“Collins, I think it would be a good idea for you and Eloise to leave tomorrow.” When they went to object, Antonio added, “You have caused quite enough damage – to the people here, and to yourselves.” Guided by Luther, a glum Collins and a cursing Eloise left the room. Antonio gave Sam an approving nod, smiling in amusement. “I hope I never end up on the wrong side of you. Do not forget that the announcement about the Coronation will be made on Friday evening.”
Like we could forget something like that. It only gave Sam and me tonight and tomorrow evening before everything changed. Once it was officially declared that Antonio’s rule was reaching an end, he would then begin relinquishing his authority little by little, deferring matters to us.
Seemingly satisfied by my nod, he followed after the others with the guards trailing behind him.
Sam released a cleansing sigh. “I’ve been waiting to say that shit for a long time.” She held her arm out to Dexter, who began to curl himself around it. “It was worth biding my time just to see the looks on their faces just then.”
“It would have been if it wasn’t for the emotional toll it took on you and your gift.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Watching a whirlwind sling her around was fun.” Now that Dexter’s entire body was twined around her arm, she said, “Novo.” He returned to his tattoo form, which began a slow slither upwards. She smiled at me. “Let’s go home. Apparently I need to give all my bottled up emotions an outlet; killing Magda all over again on the PlayStation will make me feel better.”
I smiled back, in the best mood after just watching her slap-down Collins and Eloise. “Sure thing, my homicidal psycho.”
Standing in front of the mirror, I tugged on the sleeves of my white shirt and scowled at my reflection. Many people looked good in suits – smart, sophisticated, and elegant. I was not one of those people. Instead, I looked like a kid playing ‘dress up’. Jeans, combat pants, tank tops, t-shirts – that was more my style…which was exactly why Fletcher had turned up at my apartment with this stuff. When I tugged at the sleeves again, he gently slapped at my hand.
“Stop fussing. You look fabulous.”
I snorted. “I don’t mind occasionally wearing a dress, but a suit? This just isn’t me.”
“Luv, I know you feel uncomfortable, but you can’t wear casual clothes tomorrow night while Antonio announces to the High Masters that you and Jared will soon be replacing him.”
I’d told Fletcher about the upcoming announcement yesterday evening, making him swear to keep it to himself until after it had been officially made by Antonio.
“You like the black high heels though, don’t you? Admit it.”
In truth, I quite liked them, but I was feeling too put-out to admit it. Going for aloof, I sniffed. “They’re all right.”
His smug expression said that he was seeing right through my act. “Shame Collins left last night.”
Surprised by his words, I pulled a face. “Is it?”
“I was planning to put hair remover in his NST.”
I laughed. “I don’t think he would have drunk it anyway. Not after you put laxatives in the last one you gave him.”
Fletcher smiled impishly. “The poor sod had about ten seconds between when a cramp struck him and when a shit actually popped out. Who would have thought he could run so fast? But when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.”
“I think I preferred it when you put a blob of hair in Eloise’s sandwich.”
His smile widened. “Took her at least fifteen minutes to realise it was a chunk of her own precious hair.”
Watching her balk and choke had been fun for everyone. “Right, I better get changed. Jared will be here any minute now to take me to the arena.” No doubt the squad would be just as joyous to not have ‘observers’ anymore while they trained.
Fletcher rooted through my wardrobe and pulled out a t-shirt and combat pants. “Where is that hunk of yours?”
When he plonked the clothes in my arms, I huffed indignantly. “I do know how to pick out clothes.”
He waved his hand dismissively. “Oh chillax and get ready.”
Rolling my eyes, I began to dress. “Bossy little sod, aren’t you?”
“Bossy? Not at all. I just know what you should be doing, wearing, and thinking.” Taking my new – and very boring – clothes, Fletcher hung them up in my wardrobe. “So, how do you feel about being made co-leader of our kind?”
I shrugged nonchalantly. “I knew the day would come eventually.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
I shot him an impatient look. “You’re an Empath; you know exactly how I’m feeling.”
“I can sense that you’re nervous. But you’re also worried. Something’s bugging you.”
Finally dressed, I sighed. “Jared’s keeping something from me.”
Fletcher perched himself on the edge of my bed. “What kind of ‘something’?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s anything really bad, but whatever it is, it’s eating at him.”
“Have you asked him about it?”
“Yeah. He did a typical Jared thing and shut down.” But I wasn’t pissed off with him. Just disappointed and concerned.
“Luv, you know how guarded he can be,” Fletcher gently reminded me.
“But we’ve been working on that. Both of us have, because we’re both as bad as each other in that sense. Sometimes he buries his emotions so deep that I don’t have a prayer of understanding what’s going on in that head of his. This time, though, it’s different.”
“He’s not hiding his emotions or being cagey. He just won’t tell me what the problem is. It’s like he’s torn about it – he wants me to know, yet he doesn’t.” I retrieved a hair-tie from my bedside cabinet and scooped my hair up into a ponytail. “I haven’t poked him about it because so much has been going on – his twin brother was dying, Collins and Eloise showed up and insisted on making our lives hell, I was bitten, and he’s also got the pressure of knowing that Antonio will have us replace him soon. I didn’t want to add to any of that pressure, so I kept quiet. But now that everything’s mostly okay, I’m tempted to ask him about it. He probably won’t tell me without a little pressure anyway.”