Chico made a quick dash for the wall, shooting thorns at Damien’s astral self. David managed to psychically hit Chico before he could reach them, taking him out. But Stuart, still in particle form, took advantage of David being distracted by Chico and literally swished around the wall, reaching Damien before he had the chance to return to his body. Despite that there was only one of Chico’s team ‘alive’, all of them still cheered and made a huge fuss of Stuart.
I was truly impressed. They had done a lot better than I’d been expecting. They hadn’t had to work so hard in a while, and this was the first time that they had been instructed to act without any guidance from Jared or me. They had rose to the challenge, met it head-on, and given it everything they had. A commander couldn’t ask for more.
When Jared and I re-joined them, they instantly quieted and turned to face us. Each one of them looked extremely pleased with themselves, despite that technically only one of them had ‘survived’. “The one thing I love about this squad is that it functions like a well-oiled machine.” They almost flushed at my praise. “If in a situation like this you do exactly as Chico said and you stick to what you know, you’ll continue to function this way and you will survive.” I let a mean smile surface on my face. “And you’ll get revenge for Jared and me.”
Denny’s smile matched mine. “Coach, I can assure you that if, by some fluke, someone managed to kill you, they wouldn’t live to tell the tale. That’s a promise.”
Seeing their fierce expressions, I believed them. I just had to hope that it wouldn’t come to that.
Click. Clack. Click. Clack. Click. Clack.
The noise was driving me f**king insane. After a long evening of training, I had retreated to the ‘bat pool’ for a little down time while Sam went to one of the cafés with Fletcher. All I’d wanted was to have some time to myself, a little peace and quiet, in the hope of relaxing my hyped-up mind. Despite that I was excited about ascending, I was still nervous at the knowledge that Antonio would be making the announcement tomorrow night. It also served to remind me that my time was running out – I’d need to tell Sam about the vision soon. I could delay it until after the announcement, but it wouldn’t be fair to go through with the Coronation without telling her.
As I’d swum length after length, the tension had begun to leave my body, and my thoughts had stopped running wild. But that had quickly changed when Joy appeared ten minutes ago. She had taken to strutting up and down the side of the pool in a pair of stilettos and not much else. I’d hoped that ignoring her would make her leave, but no such luck. She hadn’t broken stride or ceased to attempt to draw me into conversation. I’d give it five more minutes, I decided. If after that she still?
“This again?” a bored and very familiar husky voice asked.
I peered up to see Sam approaching with her head cocked to one side, regarding Joy like she was a freaky yet morbidly intriguing bug. She halted parallel to where I was afloat, but she didn’t move her eyes from Joy.
Fletcher sidled up to Sam, gawking at the sight of Joy. “I take back what I said about her looking like an Azkaban escapee. Right now, she’s making me think of a washed up Playboy Bunny who’s surviving on a diet of paint chips and crack cocaine.”
It was actually a pretty accurate description. Sure, Joy had the Keja hypnotic allure. But dark emotions like hatred and bitterness had a way of distorting a person’s beauty, even making them look haggard and gaunt.
“I can’t see why it should bother you so much, Sam.” Joy did a slow strut toward her, hands on her hips…or where her hips should be. “Unless, of course, you see me as a threat to your bond with Jared…?”
Wearing a deadpan expression, Sam replied in a flat, toneless voice, “Yes, that’s what it is.”
“Or maybe you’re just jealous.” Joy smirked at Sam as she stopped in front of her. “Jealous because you know that I’ve had your mate. That I’ve touched every inch of him. That I’ve had him inside me.”
Scratching her forehead, Sam sighed. “Joy, you might think that gives you some kind of edge, given that your IQ matches that of a vole and your brain works on a different frequency than the rest of us. But, honestly, I actually pity you. Yes, you shook the sheets with Jared a number of times in the past. But come on, it doesn’t make you special because let’s face it, he was a bit of a slut.”
Frowning, I whined, “Hey!” Fletcher gave me a look that said Well you were. I opened my mouth to object, but instead I exhaled a resigned sigh. “Yeah, okay.”
Joy was too focused on Sam to even register that I’d spoken. Her chuckle contained no trace of humour. “Don’t worry; I know that I was only ever a piece of ass to him. I know he doesn’t care about me the way I care about him. But I also know that he’ll never be satisfied with just one woman. He needs more than?”
“Yes, so you’ve said before,” said Sam tiredly. “And I’m sure he’ll go running off to you when he realises this. But until that happens, I can let you both live. So why not run along.”
Joy straightened her shoulders. “I’m not scared of you.” Could the woman possibly get any dumber?
A smile slowly spread across Sam’s face. “But you’re scared that I’ll Merge with you again, aren’t you?”
Fear briefly flickered in Joy’s eyes. When Joy had once attacked Sam, my mate had retaliated by launching herself at her…only to instead accidentally Merge her body with Joy’s and completely take her over. It had left Joy drained and disorientated, not to mention pissed that she’d lost control of her own body to Sam.
Not wanting Sam to have to listen to anymore of this shit, I teleported to the sun lounger that I’d claimed, retrieved my towel, and patted myself dry as I came to stand behind her. But my gaze was on Joy. “I’d tell you that I’m not going to leave Sam, but this is something you’re already well aware of. Deep down, you know nothing that you or anyone else does will ever tempt me away from her.”
Joy’s face hardened. “You need more.”
“I have what I need.” It was true.
“We were happy until she came here. You didn’t love me, I know that. I even know that you love her. But it doesn’t change the fact that she’ll never be enough.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s not like you would be the only Bound male who has a consort on the side, is it?”