So she was intensely aware of me too. I couldn’t resist teasing her: If you really want to know, I was getting a good look at your ass.
That made her swerve on the spot, her mouth gaping open as she glared hard at me. I could’ve sworn she looked a little self-conscious.
The truth is I was thinking about what that blood of yours tastes like.
She scowled. You should know that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
You know you’ve wondered what it would feel like to have me sink my teeth into your skin.
Oh yes. Sarcasm. I want you Jared, I need you. Eye roll. Haven’t you got a twig to go snuggle in to?
Joy doesn’t sleep in my apartment. Come see for yourself if you want.
Another eye roll. Good night. Looking a little flushed, she retreated into her apartment.
As much as I teased her about our little bet, the truth was that I didn’t really want to win it. Did I want to taste her? Oh yes. But I wanted to taste her because she wanted me to, not because of some bet. I’d make sure she wanted that. I knew it wouldn’t happen if I started giving her leeway or showing signs of weakness. Sam was spirited, and it was letting her exercise that spiritedness that got her going. Whether she realised it yet or not, this betting stuff and the constant conflict between us was foreplay.
I should have sliced off his salami. I should have. Then I wouldn’t feel all flushed right now, imagining him biting and tasting me. God this was ridiculous. How could you be attracted to someone who made you so pissed off that you’d considered burning their balls with a lighter? I wanted to twat myself over the head for being so relieved that he didn’t share his apartment with the twig. I didn’t want to want him or think about him or be jealous about the twig. Maybe it was nothing to do with Jared, maybe Fletcher was right and I needed a good shag to set me straight. Maybe getting a once-over by a stranger would help me burn off these stupid feelings. With horniness out of the equation, I wouldn’t want Jared anymore. Right?
I’d think on that a little more at dusk. For now, as much as I was curious to know if I also had internet access and satellite channels, I was way too tired for that or anything else. Without undressing I plonked myself on the bed and immediately entered dreamland and slept like, well, the dead...until about fifteen minutes after dusk had settled.
I dug out the last of my clothes from the duffel bag – a pair of black denim, slim-fitting jeans and a white long sleeved top that hung loosely over one shoulder – and dressed with vampire speed. Then I enjoyed three NSTs (greedy, I know, but I’d burnt off a lot of calories yesterday and I’d have a busy evening tonight) before heading out my door.
As I descended the final set of stairs I saw a blonde bloke coming my way that I’d never met, but who at the same time found familiar. It wasn’t his tallness that was familiar, or his athletic yet slim build, or his cocky strut which I really liked. I’d remember someone that appealing. But there was something about his smile and his eyes...hazel eyes.
“You must be Commander Parker,” he said in a friendly, chirpy tone.
“Commander Michaels – the other one – but just call me Evan.”
I took the hand that he offered. He had a firm handshake. “You’re...Jared’s brother?” I hadn’t known he had one.
“We’re twins. Both got Turned into vamps at the same time. I heard you’re a Feeder.”
“And you use an energy whip...?” His smile turned a little roguish.
“Not in a Dominatrix kind of way.” What was it with blokes and whips?
“Shame.” His eyes ran over me, but not in a slimy way, as he continued passed me. “See you at the meeting.”
The meeting was being held in the mansion in one of Antonio’s many conference rooms. Inside there was a long table that seated thirty people. Only Jared and a few other blokes were in there when I arrived. I was fifteen minutes early.
“Evening Commander Parker,” said Jared with a smirk as I sat opposite him near the head of the table. We’d be the nearest to Antonio, by the looks of things. Jared was wearing that same expression that he wore when he proposed his little bet. A bet that I was having a hard time not thinking about.
“Stop calling me that, you know it does my head in.”
“Does your head in?” Unfamiliar with the terminology, it would seem.
“It annoys me,” I amended.
“Sam, this is Commander Dawson.” Jared gestured to the bloke beside him who had quite a gangly look and buck teeth.
“Hi,” I said. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist after just waking up.
“Heard about your performance at the tryout.” Dawson’s voice was gruff, making him sound aggravated, which perfectly suited a Pagori vampire. “Controlling the elements is a hard thing to do.”
“And this is Commander Marsh,” said Jared as he pointed to the vampire beside Dawson. Marsh flashed me a smile that was obscured by a badly-in-need-of-a-trim moustache. Both his moustache and his hair were bushy and silver.
“And I’m Donnie,” said a wide-eyed, incredibly cute vampire in a flirtatious voice. “Or Commander Rodney.”
Just then more vampires piled into the room, laughing and joking amongst themselves. I recognised two of them as the blokes who judged at the tryout with Jared. If I remembered rightly, the dark-skinned Keja was Commander Lou Sherman and the auburn Pagori was Commander Will Norton. Both nodded at me, looking a little awkward.
I knew it was childish that I didn’t nod back, but both of them should have done the fair thing and told Jared not to be so biased against women and give me the place I’d earned in the tryout. Well, here I am sitting in a meeting with them as their equal so who’s laughing now?
Jared introduced me to three more commanders: McGowan (a German tall, miserable-looking Pagori), Baker (a dark Pagori who laughed like a hyena) and Rowan (another Pagori who turned out to be a whistler).
“And, of course, there’s me,” said a familiar voice. I turned to find Evan doing his cocky strut into the room. “Hello again,” he said to me before turning to the bloke beside me, Commander Baker. “Move along, Laugh-a-lot.” After a short game of musical chairs, Evan was seated next to me.
“I see you two have met.” If I didn’t know any better I’d think Jared sounder sour about it.
“I tell ya something, bro, that consort of yours – Joyce, or whatever her name is – is weird. She’s just pulled me aside and asked me to keep you away from Sam.”
“Why?” I asked, amused.
“Because she’s weird,” Evan repeated. “Not that I mind keeping you company.”
Going by the odd expressions being exchanged between the brothers, I’d say they were having a telepathic conversation. And it wasn’t altogether pleasant.
“But won’t that upset your consort?” I said to Evan, teasingly.
“Oh I don’t have one.” He waved a hand as if the whole concept was dumb. I liked Evan.
Just then Antonio, his two guards, his two Pit Bulls, Sebastian, and a strange, tall Keja bloke who had long white-grey hair and a matching long beard entered.
That’s Luther, Jared informed me. He’s Antonio’s Advisor.
Someone should tell him that he’s not living in the film Lord of the Rings.
Jared coughed to hide his giggle.
The brindle dog, Nero, nuzzled my hand then lay by my feet almost protectively. Instantly there was whispering in the room. My God these blokes were like little old women the way they gasped and gossiped about every little thing.
Antonio only rolled his eyes at Nero’s behaviour. The red Pit, Achilles, sat up straight beside Antonio’s chair. “You will no doubt all be wondering why I was in such a great rush to have this latest squad prepared so quickly,” said Antonio as he gracefully sank into the chair at the head of the table. Apparently he didn’t like to beat about the bush. “You will also be curious as to why I have ordered for the other squads to be pushed to their limits these past few weeks.” After a long pause which I assumed was for dramatic effect, Antonio spoke, “Luther had a vision.”
With those words, all eyes fell on the Gandalf lookalike. The odd bloke was staring at me.
“He foresaw that The Hollow’s walls would be attacked in the near future. It was not possible at the time to be sure of when, but just two nights ago he had another vision. It was clearer, and Luther saw a great number of vampires preparing for battle, lead...by the Sventé High Master vampire Bennington.”
Bennington, British like me, had quite a reputation for collecting gifted vampires. I’d met him a few times. He had tried to buy me from Victor, but even though Victor barely had any money he refused to hand me over for any price.