He tilted his head. “Is that why you took the job? To get away from your Sire?” He didn’t say it judgementally.
“That played a factor in it. But I wouldn’t have taken up Antonio’s offer if I didn’t think I could make a difference. If you’re really that immature that you can’t bring yourself to work with a woman then we’ll split the time. You can have the recruits from dusk till before lunch break, and I’ll have them from after lunch break for a few hours.”
“Sounds fair. But I still say I don’t need the help.”
“Anyone who’s so narrow-minded needs help, being prejudiced just holds people back.”
“Is that right?” he asked, smiling and crossing his arms over his chest.
“I can guarantee you that within seven nights you’ll see a difference with our new recruits’ control of their gifts. When that happens, you’ll owe me an apology. A public one.”
He strolled over, stopping only when he reached my bureau. The challenge in his eyes made me stand up. “Care to make that bet interesting?”
“Bets are always interesting.”
“If you manage to improve their control in five nights -”
“Five? I said seven.”
“What, you don’t think you could make a difference within five nights?” His smirk was triumphant as he knew I wouldn’t show any weakness.
“Fine. Five nights.”
“So, as I was saying, if you manage to improve their control in five nights, I’ll apologise. I’ll even make a public apology if that’s what you want. But if you don’t make any difference” – he leaned across the table, leaving only inches between our faces – “I get to taste you.” His gaze wandered down to my throat and his irises began to glow red again. I’ll reluctantly admit that I liked that tasting my blood was so appealing to him.
My instinct was to say ‘You can sod off.’ But that would be the equivalent of me saying that I wasn’t one hundred percent confident in my ability. His grin was smug; he knew he had completely cornered me. “Fine.”
“I’ll look forward to collecting on my bet.”
“Why would you want to give yourself false hope?”
In the space of two seconds there was a tiny knock on the office door, a female voice calling out ‘It’s only me, sweetie!’ and then a girl had barged into the office. Immediately I didn’t like her because she was obviously Jared’s girlfriend. With her shoulder-length pitch-black hair, her penetrating Keja-amber irises, chunky scarlet lips, and coal-black dress, she made me think of a witch. She was beautiful, yeah, but she was also so skinny to the extent that she was all bony. Her skimpy dress perfectly illuminated this fact.
I sent a thought to Jared. Oh come on, there’s no meat whatsoever on those bones. And she doesn’t even make up for it in the boob department – they’re like bee stings. I really thought you’d have better taste than that.
He looked amused. Jealous?
Of a stick insect? Yeah, right.
He didn’t look convinced, and well he shouldn’t. I was jealous, which surprised me.
Her eyes narrowed slightly as she saw Jared leaning across my bureau, but she quickly pasted a wide smile on her face and paced over to him. She held my gaze as she planted a kiss on his cheek. Possessiveness twinkled in those eyes. I really didn’t like that. I was pretty sure that I’d later question why on earth it had bothered me so much.
I smiled pleasantly at her. “Hi, you must be Nancy.” Damn if I knew any Nancy. I just wanted to enjoy seeing the possessive twinkle become paranoia.
Her own smile faded. “I’m Joy,” she said emphatically before turning to Jared. “Who’s Nancy?” Although she had clearly tried to sound aloof, she hadn’t at all pulled it off.
Jared gave me a knowing smile. “One of the human girls.” No idea why he was playing along. “Joy, this is Commander Parker.”
She sniggered. “Since when does a woman – or a Sventé, for that matter – work here?”
“Since she kicked my ass.”
“So she’s the one who did that. But she looks so, well, ordinary.”
Before I could snap her head off her twig-like body Jared said, “Joy, it’s really not smart to irritate someone who could kill you easier than she can breathe.”
The phone on my bureau rang, snapping me out of my planning what would be the most rewarding way to watch her die. I answered quickly, “Hello?”
“Sam, luv, Sebastian’s here to see you,” Fletcher informed me.
“Send him in, Fletch. Thanks.” No sooner had I hung up the phone than Sebastian was stood before my bureau. Jared backed away with Joy nibbling on his ear. He was more interested in what Sebastian had to say, though, by the look on his face. I already had a pretty good idea what this was about.
“One of my assistants managed to reach Victor and inform him of your new circumstances.” I guessed right. Sebastian puffed. “He more or less indicated that...”
“I should get back there or he’ll hunt me down and drag me back himself?” I supplied. That was the kind of stupid thing Victor would say, considering he had always viewed me as a possession. Losing me also meant losing his consort and his main weapon.
“Something like that.”
Is Victor your Sire? Jared asked.
“The threat is pointless, of course,” continued Sebastian. “There is no way that Antonio will hand you over to Victor unless you wish to go of your own free will. However, Victor insisted on you being personally given the message and for you to respond imminently as to whether you will be going back to him.”
With all seriousness, I replied, “I’d rather lick my own arsehole.” Sebastian, apparently now accustomed to my occasional harsh language, only smiled. “You be sure he gets that message, word-for-word.”
Sebastian nodded his head obligingly. “I shall do so, Commander. With extreme pleasure. Oh, I almost forgot to inform you that your apartment is ready for you.”
“You didn’t think Antonio was going to ask you to stay in shabby accommodations, did you?” He threw me a key card. “I’m sure Fletcher will take you when you’re ready.”
“Thanks.” And I sincerely meant it.
Before leaving, Sebastian shot Jared a look of distaste, just as nauseated as me by how Joy was now moaning while dabbing Jared’s neck with noisy kisses. I decided to take a leaf out of Sebastian’s book and get out of there. Hearing Victor’s name had made my skin crawl, I just wasn’t in the mood to listen to some twig drool all over my colleague who I inconveniently found so gorgeous.
Tidying the documents on my bureau I spoke to Jared as one professional to another. “Fletcher said he’ll have the personal files on the recruits done by dusk, so could you leave them on my desk once you’re finished with them? I’ll need them before lunch break.”
“Where’re you going?”
He had asked that as though he actually thought he had a right to know. “Why? Do you need me for something?”
His brow arched suggestively as a devious smirk surfaced on his devastatingly gorgeous face.
I corrected, Do you need me for something that doesn’t involve tasting my blood?
Five nights and I’ll be tasting you whether you like it or not.
I snorted. You keep telling yourself that if it helps you sleep in the day.
Fletcher, the gem, insisted on accompanying me to the Residence Hall that he had earlier pointed out as the place where the commanders all reside. In front of the hall was a spacey garden with a pebbly path that wound toward the entrance. The main doors were black and bulky yet easy to open thanks to my vampire strength.
It was even quieter inside than it was outside. Quieter than I thought anything could be. You know that feeling when everything’s so quiet that you can actually hear a weird little buzzing sound in your ear?
Fletcher’s voice was like a boom in the silence, “All of the personal assistants of the commanders, me included, live on the ground floor and basement. Our apartments aren’t as big as yours but they’re nice and cosy, that’s all I ask of life.”
“Have you always been a personal assistant here?”
“Oh yeah. When my Sire got the position of one of the security guards about forty years ago he brought some of his vampires with him – one being me. I’ve only been Jared’s assistant a few years. Before that he had a dozen different women. I think Antonio appointed me for Jared because he just wanted Jared to have an assistant he couldn’t shag.”