Taste of Torment Page 31

“I wanted to tell him that I would be leaving his line and why,” she explained. “After everything he’s done for me, it would have been insensitive not to do it face-to-face.”

True. “And he’s okay with it?”

“Yep.” Evan grinned. “He even offered us his best wishes for the future.”

Fletcher gently tapped his watch. “Time’s-a-ticking, people.”

I took a deep breath. “Then let’s go.” Before I vomited with nerves. “See you three later.” They each gave us a smile just before Jared teleported us both to the mansion. Standing outside the room in which the teleconference would take place, he took both my hands in his and searched my eyes. “You sure you’re okay about this?”

I knew that if I said no, he would teleport me straight back home – no hesitation, no judgemental comments, and no temper tantrum. He would put me before what Antonio wanted and even before what he himself wanted. And that was what gave me the strength to nod and reply, “I’m fine. Let’s do this.”

Flashing me a smile filled with pride, he dropped a kiss on my mouth. Then, keeping one of my hands in his, he opened the door and led me inside. From their spot in the corner, Antonio’s personal guards gave us a nod. Sitting at the long table were Antonio, Luther, Sebastian, Bran, Covington, and a male who I presumed was Robert Langley. Each of them immediately rose to their feet.

Antonio smiled widely. “Punctual, as always. Sam, Jared, you know Bran and Harry Covington.” He then gestured to the unfamiliar balding, podgy Keja. “This is Robert Langley, Paige West’s Sire.”

Scowling, Langley simply grunted at us.

Covington shook Jared’s hand and then mine. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both in person.”

“Likewise,” I replied.

Bran’s mouth curved ever so slightly at the sight of Jared, who he had a clear soft spot for. “It will be an honour to follow you. Both of you.”

I hadn’t been expecting that. “Thanks.” Sebastian and Luther must have picked up on my nerves because they gave me a reassuring smile. No amount of smiles would calm me at a time like this, but I appreciated their efforts.

Antonio gestured for us to take a seat. “As Bran is here, it makes sense for him to sit in on the teleconference, considering he is one of the High Masters. Covington, Langley, you may both stay if you wish.”

“I’d love to,” said Covington. Langley gave a grunt of affirmation.

Seemingly satisfied, Antonio swerved to face the wall which displayed several T.V. monitors. He pressed a button on the platinum remote control in his hand. With that, each of the screens switched on, and we were then looking at the faces of all of the High Masters. “Good evening.” They each returned his greeting. “As you can see, I’m joined by Jared, Sam, Luther, Sebastian, Bran, his Heir Harry Covington, and one of Covington’s vampires, Robert Langley.” The rest of us then exchanged greetings with the High Masters, who all looked extremely curious. “I am calling because I have an announcement to make.”

Here we go. I had to hope that Antonio was right and I truly had won them all over, or this could be bad. Jared’s reaction would be creatively violent if someone even hinted at me not being suitable for the position.

“In three weeks’ time,” Antonio continued, “I intend to step down from my position as Grand High Master.”

He gave everyone a moment to absorb that, and I watched as surprise and a hint of sadness entered their gazes. Everyone liked and respected Antonio. I, too, was sad that he was stepping down. It would be weird not to have his guidance.

“At that point, Jared and Sam will replace me. I am confident that you will all support this and that you will follow them as you have followed me.”

I hadn’t been so confident, but it appeared that Antonio was right. They were now all smiling at Jared and me, and nodding supportively. Well, that was a relief. One of the High Masters began to speak, but not a word registered in my brain because a shard of pain lanced through my forehead. But it wasn’t really my pain; it was coming from Jared. What is it?

He rubbed at his temples. Something’s wrong. I’ve got over a dozen voices shouting at me all at once.

Saying what?

He took a moment to concentrate, and then his face paled and his eyes widened.

Jared, what’s

The door behind us suddenly burst open, and strange vampires rushed into the room surrounding us in under the time it took to blink. Instinctively, I slammed up my shield, sheltering both Jared and me. But I couldn’t shield the others. Couldn’t because Luther and Sebastian were now contained in some kind of grey jelly-like bubble, Antonio’s guards were a clump of ashes, Bran was being held in a chokehold by Langley, and – so much worse – Covington had a curved, jagged-edged knife pressed to Antonio’s throat. In addition, over a dozen vampires were boxing us all in. Well, f**k.

“Move, and your Grand High Master is dead,” rumbled Covington. Going by the way the knife in his hand glowed, it was enchanted in some way. His once kind face was now a mask of callousness.

Jared narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?” Covington gave an almost imperceptible nod to Langley, who instantly snapped Bran’s neck. A millisecond later, the High Master was nothing but ashes.

I gasped, too stunned to speak. I understood his message – he didn’t give a shit about his own mentor, so he wasn’t going to care about ours.

“You f**king bastards,” growled Jared, itching to attack but knowing that he couldn’t. I was feeling just as pissed and helpless.

Sebastian and Luther hurled some obscenities as they struggled to pierce the bubble containing them, but Covington and Langley just laughed. The sound of absolute mayhem suddenly reached me over their maniacal laughs. Something was going on outside…something bad. I wanted to run to the window that overlooked The Hollow, but I didn’t dare move, didn’t dare take my attention off Covington.

What the f**k’s going on? I asked Jared.

The Hollow’s been infiltrated, Jared told me, enraged. I don’t know how bad it is yet. But according to Evan, a quarter of the legion is missing from the fight. Alora’s checking with the animals to find out if the missing squads are in the rainforest.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! I wasn’t someone who stood back while everyone endangered their lives. And I hated the idea that my squad was out there fighting without us leading them. But right now, I couldn’t afford to f**king move. This crazy f**ker obviously wanted to die because I was going to kill him for even touching Antonio.

The High Masters all began shouting in outrage. Covington quickly spoke. “Before you all jump on your white horses and come here to defend these people, you might want to know what exactly you’ll be defending. You might want to know the truth about why the Heir’s mate is so powerful.”

Oh, shit. Jared stiffened beside me. Each of the High Masters quieted, willing to listen. Well that really wasn’t good. It suggested that maybe they had suspected that I was something ‘more’ all along.

The door behind us opened again, but I resisted the urge to look, wanting to keep Covington in my sights. The click-clack of heels – two sets of heels, I instantly realised – was soon followed by the appearance of a strange female Pagori and that bloody bitch Eloise. There were more footsteps and then more strange male vampires came in. Worse, the males had Paige and Imani with them. Imani was crying while Paige fruitlessly struggled like crazy to get free.

Langley walked right up to Paige, grabbed her by the throat, and smiled evilly. “Eloise assured me that you and Imani were here, but I wasn’t so sure. I missed you.” She spat in his face. Nice move. But that move earned her a slap.

Half-naked as usual, Eloise sidled up to Covington while smirking at me.

“I’m going to kill you,” I told her simply.

Her smirk faltered slightly. “No, Sam. You’re the one who’s going to die tonight. You’ll soon be a lump of ashes just like Bran, Collins, and all the other vampires that are now dying.”

I wondered whether it was Eloise or Covington who had killed Collins. It made sense that he hadn’t been allowed to live; as Antonio had pointed out, Collins was a stickler for rules. He wouldn’t have supported a plan such as this.

It’s worse than I expected out there, Jared practically growled. Luther had said there were so many of them in his vision – he was right. There are at least four hundred. We’re totally outnumbered. The squads that were training in the rainforest are dead.

Fear began to curdle in my stomach. How are the vampires getting in?

Through the tunnels that are connected to the underground bunkers in the mansion. Only the guards and the vampires in this room knew where they were.

And I would bet that Eloise got that information from the guards who she’d been shagging, and she had then given that information to Covington. Fuck.

They’ve been slipping into the bunkers and making their way up, taking over from the inside.

“Explain this, Covington!” demanded one of the High Masters, Ricardo. He hadn’t always been my biggest fan, but I’d won him over when he came to the Binding ceremony. He then proceeded to rant at Covington. The other High Masters did the same, outraged.

“I’ll explain everything,” Covington vowed. “But first…Drop the shield, Sam.”

“What? Are you high?” I loved Antonio, but I wouldn’t risk Jared for anything or anyone. My expression pled with Antonio to understand, and his gentle smile said that he did and that, furthermore, he approved.

For the first time, I understood just how Jared had felt when he was placed in a position where he had to choose between my safety and that of his brother. It was different when the decision was placed in your own hands, when the risk was to someone you cared about and not to you. I truly adored Antonio, but Jared’s safety came first to me and it always would.

Covington held the blade tighter against Antonio’s throat. “Now.”

Jared reflexively made a move toward them, but I grabbed his arm and held him back. Don’t let him trick you into moving out of the shield. And tell Antonio I’m sorry. Glaring at Covington, I shook my head. “Not happening.”

He gazed at me curiously. “You would risk the Grand High Master’s life?”

“I won’t leave my mate vulnerable.”

He was silent for a moment, and I realised that he truly hadn’t been expecting that response. But he eventually shrugged. “No matter. Dana can deal with you.”

The Pagori female beside Eloise smirked at me. “I think I’m going to enjoy this.” Wow, her voice was surprisingly and painfully squeaky. She raised her arms, palms out, in a move that was very familiar. Then I felt the pull on the energy around me, causing my shield to wink out for a second. Startled, I quickly reinforced the shield.

What the f**k is she doing? demanded Jared.

Bollocks, the bitch is a Feeder. A Feeder who didn’t like that her efforts weren’t working as well as she’d like. But she was still a threat, because the one guaranteed way of weakening a Feeder was using another – fighting Feeder with Feeder.

“I want the shield gone,” Covington snapped at her.

She was practically pouting. “I’m trying.” And she really was. There was no denying that she was extremely powerful, which was a real worry. I couldn’t suck in more energy without dropping the shield, and that wasn’t something I was able to do. That meant I’d have to rely on the supply of hybrid energy that filled me to defend myself. But it was only really a matter of time before she’d absorbed it all and my shield fell. It wouldn’t leave me physically weak, but it would mean my gift was worth shit…kind of like running on an empty tank. Still, I’d fight her efforts for as long as I could.

“Try harder,” he gritted out, impatient.

“You’ve got what you wanted,” Imani said to Covington, licking her lips nervously. “You’ve got me. Let them go.”

It hit me then. “It was never really Paige that anyone wanted, was it?”

It was Langley who answered me. He glared at Paige as he spoke. “I sent her to retrieve Imani for me. She never returned. She completely disappeared, and I knew that she had taken Imani with her. Finding Paige would lead me to Imani.”

“And now you have me,” said Imani. “You don’t need the others.”

Covington gave her an indulgent smile. “Yes, we do have you. But it’s not just about you anymore.” He looked at Jared. “Eloise told me all about the conversation that you had with your brother in the infirmary. She had been lingering outside the room.” He briefly glanced at the High Masters. “Samantha Parker…is a hybrid.”

Shit, shit, shit.

In response to the shock and disbelief on their faces, Covington laughed. “Oh I didn’t believe it myself at first. That can’t be possible, right? But let’s look at the facts. Here she stands with Pagori strength and Keja hypnotic beauty. And you’ve all seen the mercury glow to her irises that are currently glowing with anger. Who else do you know who has that? No one, no matter how powerful they are. And I’ll tell you why: it’s a marker – a marker that signifies that she’s a hybrid.” He zeroed in on me. “It’s true, isn’t it? Tell them.”

I thought about calling him a liar, but what was the point? Seeing the fear in his eyes, it was more than obvious what he intended to do – kill me. Whether I denied it or not, he’d still do it, he’d still kill me out of blind fear. “It’s true.”

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