“What the hell has happened?” My voice didn’t sound like my own, nor did it sound like Joy’s; it was kind of a mixture of the two. I looked down at my body and gasped: it was neither me nor Joy; there was a likeness of us both. I realised then that I hadn’t possessed her body. By merging with her I had made us one being, one stronger being.

“Sam,” drawled Jared in a soothing voice. “It’s alright.”

I looked at him incredulously. “Are you kidding me! I’m far from alright.” I could hear Joy’s voice in my head: it wasn’t a shock that she was cursing me. Oddly, I could pick up everything about her; as though I now had total access to her thoughts and feelings and memories. What I learnt surprised me: she loved Jared, and she believed he loved me. Had she always been daft?

“Holy shit,” muttered Max. “It looks like you’ve developed a new gift or something.”

Then it all fell into place. “Antonio. I’ll kill him.”

Max looked pale even for a vampire. “I think you might be a Merger.”

“Oh really, whatever made you think that?” said Jared sarcastically before turning back to me. “Sam, I can sense how you’re feeling but I swear you’re going to be fine, just concentrate. You can undo this. I know it must be weird and unfamiliar, baby, but you can control it just like you control anyone else’s gift.”

I nodded, sucking in a long breath. His presence was like an anchor, and I so needed one of those right now. I concentrated on my water tank metaphor. I imagined water filling me so completely that there was no room for Joy any longer. I realised that I seemed to be involuntarily draining the energy from her half; taking it into me, soaking it up. Then suddenly I was myself again and she was stumbling away; it was an odd sensation; like peeling away a bulky layer of clothing that was attached to your flesh like Velcro. It left a weird sensation behind on my skin like little bugs crawling over me. Thankfully it quickly faded, as did the feeling of being omnipotent.

Immediately Jared was there, his hand massaging my nape. “You okay?” His concern was beating at me; I could feel it as distinctly as if it was my own. It seemed that drinking his blood had made that weird link stronger. Great.

“I’m fine,” I said. “But I still intend to kill Antonio.”

He smiled a half-smile. “You’ll have your chance soon. There’s a meeting for all the commanders. Bran, Connelly and Kaiser will be there too. Apparently Bennington very briefly hinted at the idea of invading The Hollow and they came to tell tales on him.”

“That’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen in my life.” Max shuddered. Then he looked at Jared, his eyes seemed to be searching for something. “You knew it wasn’t her.” He still seemed confused. His gaze flicked between us both and then he sighed as if he had resigned himself to something. “What happened today at the arena won’t happen again,” he assured me with a semi-smile. Then he strode out, roughly dragging a dazed Joy with him.

Jared pulled me against him, still massaging my nape.

“You alright?” I asked him.

“You’re asking me if I’m alright when you’re the one who’s just discovered you’re a Merger as well as a Feeder?”

I shrugged. “You’re feeling really, really unsettled about something, I can sense it.”

“Of course I am; I’ve just watched you merge with another person.”

But it wasn’t just that, I knew it wasn’t. I wondered if maybe he was just shocked after hearing Joy make it clear she cared about him. It probably wouldn’t be a great idea to tell him she actually loved him. Nor was it a good idea to tell him that I cared about him as well.

Evan was just as freaked as what Max had been when I revealed, on the way to the meeting, I was now a Merger. I almost stumbled in surprise as he stopped statue-still as we entered the conference room. Turning to look at him, I saw that he was staring hard at something with his mouth hanging open. Following his gaze, I saw a red-headed woman who was sitting beside Bran – I remembered her as his Consort – looking rather bored. By the awed look on Evan’s face, I had a good idea who she could be.

“Is that her? The girl from the vision?” I asked discretely.

He only nodded. His words came out in a whisper. “She’s real. She’s here.”

Jared put a hand on my back, urging me forward. “Who?” When neither me nor Evan responded he frowned at Evan who quickly turned to look at him. I gathered that they were having a telepathic conversation and I wondered how much Evan would tell him.

Seeing that people were looking at us curiously I made my way to one of the few empty seats. Evan and Jared placed themselves either side of me. Evan was then directly opposite Bran’s Consort who was staring at Evan like he was a snack. Well it’s a start.

“Why Samantha, how are you?” asked Connelly after having greeted Jared and Evan and talked to them like they were gods. It almost made me laugh.

“Fine and dandy, thanks.”

I don’t know how you’re not drained, you should’ve took some energy from me, said Jared.

The person who went away drained was Joy. Besides, I don’t fancy teleporting to the arena and the bottom of the pool every five minutes like last time. Feeling particularly put out by my new gift, I added, When Antonio and Luther come in, let them know about my gift having manifested itself, but don’t tell them what it is. He smiled at my eagerness to have them kept in suspense.

“I was telling Jared last night that he may set off a trend by having a Sventé as a Consort,” Connelly said to Evan.

Jared smiled. “Actually, Consort isn’t the correct word. She’s a commander.”

“Within the legion?”

Still smiling, Jared nodded.

Kaiser scoffed, “A Sventé , a female Sventé, working as a commander within the legion? Absurd.”

Yes I know I should be used to this by now but apparently I’m not. Before he could twist the cap off his NST bottle I, in a movement so swift he didn’t see it coming, sucked energy into my hands and manifested my whip which I then cracked toward him and used to snatch his bottle. I then dragged the bottle to me with the whip, picked it up and read the label as I let the whip fade away. “Nah, I don’t like that flavour.” With that, I placed the bottle back on the table and released a gust of air from one hand, sending it zooming across back to Kaiser. The commanders chuckled.

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