As deeply linked as we now were, I knew and understood Sam much more. Every single layer of her was more intriguing than the last. I liked the idea that the longer the bond existed, the more interconnected we would become. I liked that I would always know where she was – no one could take her and hide her from me again, and God have mercy on anyone who even considered it, because I sure wouldn’t. As a matter of fact, neither would Sam, just like she hadn’t had mercy on my ex-partner. Magda had also been responsible for Turning both me and Evan against our will. Some women might buy you a shirt or cologne. Sam would kill your ex for you.

Cristiano, who had been sticking a little too close to Sam for my liking, also noticed that she was stroking the knot and he frowned. “What’s that?”

She only spared the ass**le the briefest glance. “It’s a Binding knot.”

Ava came from behind Cristiano and bumped him aside so she could get a good look at the brail-like mark. “Aw, that’s so nice.” She looked at me, her eyes alight with interest. “Do you have one as well?”

I held up my hand to show her, and she smiled widely. Cristiano, however, grunted with boredom. If it hadn’t been for the fact that he’d saved Sam’s life, I’d be beating him with his own spine right now. Not simply because he seemed to be constantly at her side, but because he looked at her with a longing that made my blood boil. It was a longing that was both emotional and sexual. Oh he was doing his best to conceal it – so much so that Sam hadn’t noticed. But I’d noticed, and I wanted nothing more than to watch the bastard die…slowly and painfully, if possible.

“The design of your knot matches Sam’s,” Ava realised.

“Every Bound couple has their own unique design. Sam’s will only match mine, and vice versa.”

“Aw, how romantic and sweet is that? I want one. But how did it work? I thought vampire skin heals too quickly for us to get tattoos.”

“It just appeared there when we exchanged vows,” Sam told her, smiling. Her aquamarine eyes met mine, and I knew she was recalling that moment, just as I was. Turning back to Ava, Sam said, “I actually have another tattoo as well. The vampire who gave it to me has the gift of making his pictures come to life.” Sam lifted the sleeve of her long-sleeved t-shirt to reveal the black snake twined around her upper arm. When the tattoo wiggled slightly, Ava gasped. “Yeah, Dexter can move around in his tattoo form. He wasn’t a fan of Jared at first because the breed is very protective, but he likes him now.”

He liked me? Ha. “He tolerates me, but that’s pretty much it,” I grumbled. He’d stopped hissing at me whenever I touched Sam, which was progress. But he always seemed to wear this cautioning ‘I’m watching you’ look. It was weird and damn annoying.

Ava clapped her hands a little. “I want one of those as well. Do you think I could get one?”

Standing behind Ava, Salem sighed down at her. “Shouldn’t you be at the rear?” His tone was vibrating with impatience.

Ava twisted to look at him. Her little face was scrunched up in confusion as she cocked her head. “Why?” The question was asked with an almost childlike innocence.

A muscle in Salem’s jaw ticked. “Because something strange is obviously going on and it could be dangerous. It would be better for you to hang back where it’s safer.”

To my surprise, Ava laughed. Even more surprising, so did Sam.

“You don’t need to worry about Ava, Salem.” Sam smiled at him. “Don’t let that tiny figure and innocent face fool you. She can take care of herself. Not all Sventé vampires have defensive gifts, remember?”

Smiling sweetly, Ava patted his chest. “But it’s really nice of you to care.” He frowned at the hand patting him, but Ava didn’t seem to notice. Twirling back around, she gently nudged Sam. “Isn’t he the sweetest thing?”

Sweet? I was pretty sure I’d never heard anyone describe Salem as ‘sweet’ before.

Damien leaned toward Salem, grinning. “Pretty protective of the little one, aren’t you?”

Salem scowled at him. “Shut up.”

Actually, it was kind of odd for Salem to give a shit about the safety of anyone other than Sam, the guys, or me. It was also odd that the anticipation of the assignment didn’t have him bouncing like a boxer getting ready for a fight the way it normally did – it was quite fitting that his gift was a psychic punch that could knock a person unconscious. The only person who got more of a rush from assignments than him was Butch. However, amusingly enough, Salem appeared to find tiny Ava a bit of a distraction.

Sam’s voice blew through my mind like a warm breeze. Well, I wanted something to take my mind off the Coronation. Seems like this might just do that.

The Coronation…Now that was something that I didn’t want to think about. Thinking about it meant thinking about the vision that I’d had through Luther a very long time ago, back when I’d first been made a commander within the legion. I knew that I’d have to tell Sam about it. Hell, I should have told her before we Bound. But I hadn’t because although I knew she was a practical enough person not to let one vision change everything, I’d panicked that it might make her walk away. That was something I wasn’t prepared to risk. I’d tell her soon, and if she did try to walk away…well, I’d tie her up and keep her captive.

A whoosh of black molecules suddenly appeared, pulling me from my thoughts. A mere second later, Stuart was standing before us. As a Shredder, the squad member had the ability to reduce himself to molecules and reform again at will. “This whole thing is weird.”

My words, his mouth. “What did you see?”

“Nothing. I circled the entrance of the caves, but there are no guards anywhere.”

Sam shot me a worried look before asking Stuart, “Could you hear any sounds coming from inside?”

“There were noises, voices, coming from the rear of the caves, but I couldn’t make out any words. The tone was kind of…flat. Drone, even.”

“So people are in there but they’re ignoring us.” Max pulled a face, clearly baffled. “You’re right; this whole thing’s weird.” Ordinarily, it would be Max who lingered around Sam the way Cristiano was doing. In Max’s case, it was simply to irritate me as, fortunately for him, he no longer lusted after her. That meant I could let him live, which was good for the squad since Max’s gift of causing temporary sensory paralysis made him a valuable member.

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires