“Hey bro.” Oh great, Evan’s here.

I nodded a little. It was all I could manage because I knew what was coming next...

“Hey Coach,” he greeted Sam, grinning. Most of the Commanders were calling her that now, though they said it as a pet name whereas the recruits’ said it with an air of respect. She had come a long way with them, completely turned things around.

Her head swerved, revealing that smile that she always had for him. I wish I could say that I thought she did it to get a rise out of me. But it was so obvious that the smile was authentic. “Alright Ev.”

I stiffened. I don’t know why it got to me so much when she abbreviated his name like that. Joy seemed much more relaxed now that he was here. No prizes for guessing why. She loosened her hold on my neck but I still felt like I had a chimp hanging off my body.

Evan stood by Sam’s desk, tapping it with his fingers. “I was hoping you’d still be here.”

She seemed just as surprised as me by that. He had never come specifically to see her before. I won’t lie, I wanted to punch him.

“I’m just leaving for the arena,” she said apologetically as she returned to the desk and tidied the pile of papers on top of it.

“Actually, that’s why I’m here. I was thinking I could come along and watch. I’ll sit in the spectators’ box out the way and I won’t say a word, I swear.”

“Aren’t you working with your own squad?”

“I decided to give them half the evening off because it’s one of the guy’s birthdays.”

“You’re too sweet” – Did she want me to punch her too? – “I said I’d let mine leave early if, and only if, they did good. Why the sudden interest in my squad?”

“Well it turns out that, um, some pranks have been getting played on the other squads, particularly mine. The guys swear it’s payback from your squad, that a certain telekinetic individual called Harvey was responsible. But I thought they can’t possibly be right about that because you’ve only been training Harvey for like a week.”

“Huh, weird.” There was just as much humour in her voice as in his.

“And now I’m all curious. So, can I?” His grin was charming, he’d get his way.

“Alright, but I need a favour from you.”

He shrugged. “Whatever you want.”

“I’d like to borrow your squad some time to spar with mine. It won’t be for another week.”

“Do you think they’ll really be ready for that?”

“Well you can decide that for yourself, can’t you?”

I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to his “Later, bro” or her “See you later”. At least, not anything that wouldn’t be a threat, curse, or insult.

Sam? Hell, I hadn’t even meant to call her. The last time I had spoken telepathically to her was when I had saw Max flirting with her at the pool. I wasn’t expecting a response now just like I hadn’t then, especially since she had continued to leave the office.

Yep? Forced friendliness.

Now I was going to have to come up with a reason why I had called her. I’ll be coming to watch too.

I’m surprised you haven’t sooner, they’re your recruits as well.

Joy grinned at me. “It’s only a matter of time.”

“What?”

“That’s if they’re not already.”

I sighed. “Joy, when have I ever liked riddles?”

“I was saying it’s only a matter of time before those two get together.”

A blazing heat of half-anger half-panic shot through me and I felt like I’d explode. No. I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t let them be together. If she was to ever be with Evan for even one night there would never be any chance of there ever being anything between Sam and me. I couldn’t ever be with someone for even one night who had been with my brother. Too weird for me. And the idea of there never being a chance sparked a dull ache in me. All this over a goddamn f**k?

“Are we going up now?” said Joy sweetly.

“You are. I’ve got somewhere I need to be.” I moved so fast around the table that she lost her monkey grip on me.

“Where are you going?”

“Why don’t you get the chocolate mousse ready,” I suggested in an irritated voice. Not that I had any intention of following her up there.

“It’s chocolate ice cream.”

Oh. Turns out I’d been paying even less attention to her than I’d thought. “That too.” I went at vampire speed to the arena, expecting to see Sam and Evan along the way, but it seemed that they had travelled at vampire speed too.

I joined Evan in the front row of the spectators’ box. He had his arms folded and a hand holding his chin, intensely interested. So was I. But only in Sam.

“Hey bro, I didn’t know you were coming.”

I only nodded at him.

He sighed. “Jared, I could be wrong, but I could swear that I’m supposed to have done something, and if I have, I truly have no idea what it is.”

I forced a mini smile and patted his back. “I’ve got a lot on my mind right now.” That was true. The upcoming attack on The Hollow’s walls wasn’t something that just slips from your brain.

“I’m guessing that it’s mostly Sam.”

“No,” I denied. “Squad stuff.”

“Yeah. Right.” He shook his head grinning before then returning his attention to the scene below us.

Sam was pacing in front of the guys who were all stood side by side in an almost perfectly straight line. None of them were smirking or fidgeting or whistling – which was more than what I could say for when they were training with me. Even Damien was focused. Wow, she ran a pretty tight ship. It was when she said the first few words that I realised exactly what they were focusing so much on doing.

(Sam)

“Harvey, there’s a tiny bit of excess energy around you, suck it in,” I said.

“Yes, Coach.” His expression was aggravated, as always. Harvey still hadn’t rid himself of his arrogant streak so he always got touchy whenever he was singled out for one reason or another. For once, however, he didn’t grunt before doing as I’d asked. I took that as progress. It was a case of baby steps with Harvey.

“Last session, you all met your goal of channelling all your energy. That’s an achievement, but it’s not yet the time to do a sing and a dance about it unless you can channel all that energy under pressure. During an attack, you won’t be in a nice, quiet arena, secure in your safety, with me right here to tell you if you’re doing it right. You’ll be out in the open, you’ll be surrounded by stimuli, you’ll have enemies hunting you down and you’ll have me to answer to if you don’t move your arse.”

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