What a fucking little shit.
Instantly there were murmurs and gasps, whether those were of surprise or disagreement I didn’t know. I didn’t care to find out. “Congratulations,” I said to Max and the Keja beside me. Then I twirled sharply and paced away.
“Sam!” Max caught up with me and sighed. “You should have gotten a place. You deserved it more than any of us.”
“It’s alright,” I said though my tone made it clear that it wasn’t. I let my eyes track down Jared who was staring at me with a crease between his eyebrows. As I spoke to Max I continued to look hard at Jared, “I wouldn’t want to work for a sexist twat anyway.”
As I stormed away, I couldn’t decide what incensed me more; the fact that I hadn’t been given a place in the legion even after proving myself, or the fact that this bothered me so much. It was now that I realised that I hadn’t just wanted a place to spite Victor or to escape him, or even to annoy Jared. The truth was that I’d wanted to be a part of the picture that Sebastian had tried selling me, to make the most out of the life I now had whether it had been my choosing or not. I wanted to be part of something important, to have a purpose beyond Victor’s plans for me.
Sebastian travelled with vampire speed to my side. “Sam, I -”
“It’s fine. Really.” But I’d said it too sharply, I didn’t sound in the least bit convincing.
“I intend to dispute Jared’s decision. His judgement was impaired by his -”
“Really Sebastian don’t bother,” I advised him gently as we entered the museum-like house. “If I had to see Jared’s ugly mug every day, I’d probably stake him.”
“Yes, I’d imagine you would,” agreed an amused, unfamiliar voice before me. It belonged to a Latino-looking Keja, though he spoke in a very clear American accent, with shoulder length, thick, coal-black hair and the widest eyes. Everything about the way he conducted himself while he slowly circled me spoke of pure power. This had to be the Grand High Master himself. Flanking him were two Pagori vampires, both looked robotic and fearless.
Sebastian whispered down my ear, “This is the Grand High -”
“Oh I know,” I said, irritated, “I’m not thick.” I simply gave the Big Man a half-smile. I knew I wasn’t being very respectful but he couldn’t do anything worse to me than what Victor would do when he found out what I’d done. No doubt my good ole Sire would taunt me about how I wasn’t successful.
“Miss Samantha Parker,” he greeted. “I am Antonio.”
“Well, hi. And bye.” I proceeded to walk passed him.
“Might I have a few moments of your time?” Antonio asked.
I twirled round intending to tell him no, he could do a run and jump because I was getting out of this place that was stuck in the 1700s. But then he smiled at me and his eyes held tightly to mine. Suddenly I didn’t feel so angry anymore. Damn the Keja hypnotic beauty! “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just that I have to be getting back.”
“To Victor? I have to say that I don’t much approve of your Sire. Everything I’ve heard about him from my researchers has indicated him to be a vampire of cruelty.”
At that I stiffened. I felt defensive at the thought of people checking up on my personal business, especially considering what my life with Victor was like.
“You intrigue me, Miss Parker. Your presence. Your self-expression. Your determination. Fascinating.” He gestured for me to follow him. “I promise not to keep you long.” Instantly he began walking, all elegance and grace, down the everlasting hallway.
Sebastian nodded encouragingly at me. Rolling my eyes, I followed Antonio and his hefty bodyguards. Antonio didn’t halt until we reached the most eastern point of what was proving to be a gigantic mansion. The room he urged us into was bigger than mine and Victor’s flat. Some sort of parlour. Very posh. The walls were lined with books. The fireplace was marble. In the corner sat an old-style piano. In the centre were two black leather sofas that framed a glass coffee table. The room was a library slash sitting room.
Instantly two dogs dashed toward us, growling and barking.
“Quiet,” said Antonio simply. They quieted.
“I love Pit Bull Terriers,” I told him. One was reddish brown while the other was brindle.
“I would not approach them if I were you, they can be quite -” Antonio watched, stunned, as the two dogs approached me and nuzzled my hands, hinting for a stroke. “Oh dear.”
“What?” I said as I patted their necks.
“Well they are usually only so friendly with me. That is how I like it.” He frowned at the dogs.
Well it made sense that he’d want them to only be loyal to him. “I think it’s because I can absorb any excess energy they’ve got, it makes them more relaxed.”
His frown morphed into a smile. “Please sit,” he invited, gesturing to one of the sofas.
Feeling completely out of place among all the luxury I gingerly sat. Sebastian lounged beside me, fitting the atmosphere like he was an ornament.
Holding my gaze the entire time, Antonio sat opposite me and crossed one leg over the other. “You’re a Feeder,” he eventually said, his tone soft and curious.
“Did you know that the gift has only ever run through Pagori bloodlines before you? This means that not only are you the first female Feeder, you are the first Sventé Feeder.”
“So I’ve been told.” Victor had been thrilled about it. I was his key to more territory.
“I observed the tryout from the spectators’ box. I deeply enjoyed your duel with Jared.”
I snorted on hearing that name.
Antonio smiled in amusement. “You’re not a fan of his? I do not think I have ever before met a female who was not.” The guards laughed at that – oh so they weren’t robots.
I snorted again. “I can’t think why. If you observed the tryout then you must have seen the way he carried on.”
Antonio jiggled his head. “Admittedly, he was a little discourteous.”
“Oh let’s just call it what it is, shall we? He’s an ignorant, arrogant, narrow-minded bigot.”
Again Antonio was amused. “He’s also my Heir. Out of hundreds, I made him my Heir six years ago.”
“Bad decision on your part.” I could feel Sebastian’s eyes drilling into me, cautioning me.
“It is fine, Sebastian,” Antonio told him, waving a hand. “I like her frankness.” Antonio looked at me again. “I know that Jared does still have things to learn. In fact, his biggest weakness is that he does not realise that there are still things for him to learn. But pride aside, he is an asset to me. He is very devoted to me and my legion. He, much like you, has great drive about him. And he is an excellent trainer. I could hand him a newborn vampire and within a month Jared would make him a model warrior.”
Antonio seemed to be waiting for me to respond, maybe concede that there’s more to Jared than what I’d seen. Hardly likely. “That’s great,” I said in a flippant tone.
“I want my new squad trained quickly. Physically, they will be prepared. I am confident that Jared will ensure this. However, with regards to learning the new recruits how to control and best utilise their gifts, I believe that Jared may...struggle to have them prepared so quickly. He’s an excellent motivator, but not the best teacher. You, on the other hand...I believe that you are just what I need. I want you to work with Jared.”
Oh this had been a surreal twenty-four hours. “Say again?”
His laugh was silent. “You will be thought of as an employee, a commander in your own right. An equal to Jared and the other commanders.”
I waited for the punch line but there didn’t appear to be one. “You think I’d make a good commander because I’m a Feeder?”
“No, because you have tremendous control of your gift. Not many can boast of that. For a Feeder, a type of vampire known for being too overwhelmed by their own gift to live much longer than two years, to have such tremendous control is astonishing. Yes, I am confident that you would be an asset to me and my legion.”
I cast a look at Sebastian. His face was all ‘go for it’. I looked back at Antonio. “You know that Jared would hate this, right?”
Antonio raised his brows. “You would allow that to influence your decision about accepting such a position?”
“No. But I don’t want to accept your offer and then later be told to go back home because Heir Boy had a tantrum.”