Paige smiled, but it wasn’t a nice sight. “Yes, but Langley’s mine.” Then she slapped her hand over his chest and he screamed as something seemed to ripple down her arm and onto his body – Stuart’s injury. When Langley was finally nothing but a clump of ashes, Paige stood upright and released a deep, cleansing sigh.

When she didn’t hit the ground crying out in sheer agony at the breaking of her blood-bond to him, I frowned. “I thought Langley was your Sire.”

“He was,” she replied.

“I cut their bond a long time ago,” said Imani as she helped Stuart stand. He nodded in thanks at Paige.

“That was why Langley hadn’t been able to track Paige,” I mused. Shrugging off the matter, I returned my attention to a snarling Covington. His gaze was darting in all directions, clearly noticing what I’d already sensed. Everyone was now circling us, watching intently. The battle was over. His vampires were dead. He was the only one left…and there was absolutely no way that he was getting out of this alive.

At my signal, Alora urged the panther away from Covington. Laughing humourlessly, he got to his feet. “I guess you’re very pleased with yourself, aren’t you, Jared?”

“Pleased that a lot of lives were lost tonight? No, far from it.”

He rolled his shoulders, preparing for a fight. “Ready for me, Jared? Think you can take me?”

Yeah, I did, but…“Whatever made you think we’d be duelling?”

His gaze narrowed and he stilled. “You want me dead.”

“Sure I do. And I will kill you. But I never said that I’d do you the honour of duelling with you.”

Covington gawked while the majority of people around us gasped.

“Ouch,” said Harvey. “Now that’s cold.” His voice was approving.

He was right; it was cold to deprive someone of a duel. It said that they weren’t worth the effort. “Why would I duel with someone who has no decency or integrity? You tried to take Antonio’s position, and you tried to take The Hollow. You like to get things the easy way, like to cheat. So tell me why the f**k should I do you the honour of a straightforward duel, knowing that you’ll cheat? What would be the point?”

My peripheral vision picked up the crowd parting, and that was when I sensed Sam coming towards me with Dexter curled around her waist. I’d known through our bond that she was fine, but seeing her alive and unharmed still eased my mind.

Covington’s eyes found her, and he grunted. “Still alive, little hybrid? What a shame. I’d really thought that Dana and Eloise would take care of you.”

She didn’t answer until she reached my side. “They tried – bless their little hearts. Dana’s not actually dead yet. But Dexter’s venom will take care of that within the next twenty minutes or so. I’m afraid Eloise has met a sticky end, though. You can thank Joy for that.”

I frowned, totally confused. “Joy?”

Sam smiled up at me. “She had a score to settle.”

And that score would undoubtedly make absolutely no sense to anyone other than Joy, but whatever. Did she attack you?

No, we came to a truce. I have a feeling it’s just temporary, though. Now, when are you going to kill this little twat?

The crowd parted again, this time allowing Antonio to come forward. But he didn’t enter the circle; I realised that he was handing the matter over to Sam and me, demonstrating his trust in us for everyone to witness. He looked down his nose at Covington. “Being surrounded is not the most pleasant experience, is it? I believe that you were in fact warned that you would not leave here alive.”

“They all were.” Sam shook her head in wonder. “And yet they didn’t just go home. I’ll never understand why people insist on ignoring our warnings.”

Covington’s eyes danced around all the vampires circling him. “You would really back these people? You’re really going to let the hybrid live?”

Sam sighed. “I have a name, you know.”

“She’ll Turn humans! She’ll create her own line!”

“That’s the thing, though, Covington,” said Sam. “I have no intention of ever Turning anyone. I mean, really, do you think Jared would ever tolerate another vampire drinking from me for any reason whatsoever?”

No, I f**king wouldn’t. She was mine – I didn’t want anyone else touching her, let alone drinking from her. And, if I was honest, I’d be jealous of any blood-link that she had with another person. I only wanted her to be linked to me. Yeah, that was unhealthily possessive but I’d never pretended to be anything else.

“I’ll have enough responsibilities with ruling alongside Jared. I don’t need or want the responsibilities that come with having my own line of vampires to care about.”

“That’s the very same reason that I don’t intend to begin my own line,” I told him. The truth was that I’d never even considered beginning one. I wasn’t the ‘paternal’ type.

“You’re an abomination,” Covington spat, breathing hard as he glared at Sam. “An abomination that will destroy us all!”

Sam snorted. “And why, exactly, would I do that? What, pray tell, would make me decide to rid the world of my own kind? How could that possibly benefit me in any way? You’re making absolutely no sense. But then, you already know that, don’t you? You’re just coming up with excuses to try to justify what you did tonight. You’re trying to make the High Masters here turn on me.”

“If anything, her being a hybrid is a good thing,” said Antonio. “Not only does it mean that she can protect our kind better than anyone else, but it means that her being so powerful will discourage vampires from beginning wars in the future.”

That was true: they wouldn’t want to chance what she would do to them, or what I would do to anyone who even dared to harm her. “By trying to kill her and failing miserably, all you did was demonstrate to everyone just how powerful she is. I’m not thankful for that, because too many people have died tonight. But what it means is that all this was totally f**king pointless.”

“Others will come for her,” growled Covington.

“Not if they want to live,” I replied with a menacing smile.

From his place beside Antonio, Luther spoke. “Antonio is right. Considering that vampires would avoid committing crimes purely for fear of her response, Sam is more likely to bring peace to our kind than war – if they can let go of any ignorance they may have, that is.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires