She groaned and rolled her aquamarine eyes. “I wish people would just get over it.”

His mouth twitched into a smile. “A Feeder in full control of their gift. I cannot say that is something I have witnessed before. Your control…it is astounding. Inspiring, even. I find myself envying you, and that is not an emotion I am prone to experiencing.”

“Well that’s great, but we’d like to know why the bloody hell you hurt those vampires.”

“Neither my brother nor I planned for them to come to any harm,” the podgy vampire replied, looking offended. “Our experiments have simply not yet been fruitful and have caused negative side effects.”

“Negative side effects?” echoed Sam, disbelievingly. “It’s not like they’ve got the shits or something, is it? They’re deformed and half out of their minds.”

The podgy one spoke again. “Sometimes, when one is trying to achieve something grand, sacrifices must be made. And we will achieve our goal. Our work will be recognised by all of vampirekind.”

Sam scowled. “I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me just what that goal is.”

“Be assured that we only did to those vampires what they asked us to do. They knew the risks.”

That made little sense to me. “And what, exactly, would make anyone prepared to risk becoming deformed?”

“The feeling of desperation does many things to many people.”

And wasn’t that the vaguest thing I’d ever heard.

Sam must have been just as frustrated, because she growled at them. “Are neither of you capable of answering a question without talking in code?”

The taller brother pursed his lips. “If you want answers, we shall do better than tell you, we shall show you.”

The brothers exchanged a look that I didn’t like, and I was ready to question them when I felt an echo of fatigue and disorientation through my connection to Sam. As she suddenly staggered beside me and lost her hold on her whip, I wrapped an arm around her to steady her. Utter panic overtook me. “What the—” Then something else hit me via our connection; an all-consuming, agonising pain.

Sam cried out and doubled over with the force of it. Feelings of being stabbed, gutted, sliced at, and having her insides torn apart were torturing and weakening her. Fury and fear raced through me as I reflexively struck the bubble with a discharge so high in voltage that the entire building shook. It didn’t burst; only wobbled like jelly, oddly absorbing the electricity. Then, as quickly as it had come, Sam’s pain disappeared.

She double-blinked and took a steadying breath. “Oh, you little f**kers.” Most likely sensing that I was ready to charge at them, protective bubble or no protective bubble, she grabbed my arm. Looking at the brothers through narrowed, accusing eyes, she asked, “What did you do to me?”

The podgy brother cocked his head. “Something that has made every other vampire collapse in agony and froth at the mouth.”

Again I went to charge at them, but again Sam stopped me, worried they would hurt me too. I growled, intent on finding some way to burst that bubble and kill them all.

The tall vampire gave me a cool smile. “Rest assured that we have not harmed her, we would never wish to make her ill. On the contrary, if this works – and I strongly suspect it will as she is so much stronger than any subject we have used before – it will make her beautiful and unique in a way that you could never imagine.”

For a third time I moved toward them, but once again Sam held me back. I growled again. “Know this: I will f**king hunt you both down, and I will f**king destroy you both.”

“It is understandable that you feel that way now. But I truly believe that this is something you will come to appreciate.” He smiled at Sam. “I shall be seeing you again very soon.”

The vampires had teleported away before anyone could say another word. Well great. Just. Fucking. Great.

Anger surged through me, wanting an outlet, needing an outlet. Realising that they had left behind the vampire who had been minutes ago bound by Sam’s whip, I took him out with a lightning bolt. But it didn’t make me feel better. The same feelings of dread and helplessness that I’d felt when she’d once Merged with me were now taunting me again. “See, this was why I didn’t want you to come!” Oh yeah, logic told me that it wasn’t her fault, but whenever she got injured, I reflexively took my anger and worry out on her.

Sam’s mouth fell open. Then she punched my shoulder. “I didn’t want them to hurt me, you sodding fruitcake.”

“We have no idea what they did to you!” But if it was the same thing they had done to the vampires in those cells…Shit, shit, shit!

Denny swallowed hard, studying her from head to toe. “How do you feel, Coach?”

“Well and truly ticked off.”

(Sam)

The rage and fear riding Jared was beating at me, almost stealing my breath. He was practically vibrating with it. So when he tugged me to him and enclosed me in a hug, I went easily. Ordinarily, I didn’t like having displays of affection in front of the squad. But Jared was close to snapping and, truth be told, I kind of needed him right then. I wasn’t a person who allowed myself to lean on others, but that vampire’s words had spooked the living shit out of me.

“We need to get you to Antonio. Maybe he can do something.” Turning to the squad, he began, “You guys finish up. I want the whole place burned d—”

I tugged on his jacket. “Wait, Jared, the Sventé—”

“Sam, we need to get you back to Antonio.”

“Jared, we came here for her.”

“Exactly. If it wasn’t for her contacting you, those f**king bastards would never have—”

“Jared.” I framed his face with my hands, seizing his gaze. “I know you’re worried, and I know you’re pissed, but whatever they did has already been done. That vampire said it wasn’t going to make me ill. We have to cling onto that, because right now there’s a female who is ill, and we need to talk with her.”

“She might be able to give us some idea of what those motherfuckers were trying to do,” Max pointed out. “Then maybe we can work out what they did to Coach.”

Jared squeezed his eyes closed as if in pain, and I could feel that he was wrestling with his instinct to whisk me off somewhere safe. I kissed him lightly. “We spend five minutes talking to her, and then we go.”

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