Then why did she appear so worried? “Lena, what exactly has changed?”

She turned to Sam. “Maybe I should have considered that this was what the brothers were trying to accomplish. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have thought such a thing would ever be achievable so, therefore, I hadn’t at all considered it.”

I had to grit my teeth to prevent a growl from seeping out. “Hadn’t thought what was possible?”

Lena sighed. “By making his tattoos of snakes come to life, Wes effectively makes a crossbreed. And so have the brothers.”

My mouth once again dropped open as the implications settled into my brain. The others wore similar expressions.

Antonio shook his head. “That is not possible.”

“I wouldn’t have believed so,” said Lena, “but the brothers are very powerful. Being as strong as she was before, Sam was the perfect subject for them to use. Her strength and power got her through the changes, and now she has evolved into a blend of all three vampire breeds.”

“It explains the physical strength she displayed in the arena,” mused Evan before turning to Sam. “When you sent Magda flying through the air to the other side of the arena with just a palm heel strike…Only a Pagori could have done that.”

“It also explains the compelling allure she now has,” said Antonio, cocking his head as he studied her intently. “It is much like that of a Keja.”

I scrubbed my forehead with my hand. “The mercury ring to her irises?”

Lena shrugged. “My guess is that it is much like a marker. A red ring to the irises is the mark of a Pagori vampire, just as an amber ring is the mark of a Keja. Perhaps this would be the mark of a hybrid, if it was a breed in its own right.”

“Thirst-wise, how do you feel?” I asked Sam, giving her hand a light squeeze.

She frowned thoughtfully. “A little thirsty, but all right.”

“You don’t feel a slight discomfort at the back of your throat?” I asked. That was typical for Kejas whenever they were thirsty. Sam shook her head. “You don’t feel agitated and restless with the thirst?” That was normal for all Pagori vampires.

“I don’t feel any different than I usually do when I’m thirsty. Just…thirsty.”

Looking utterly amazed, Antonio shook his head. “Pagori strength, Keja allure, and Sventé manageable bloodlust…A perfect combination.”

I slid my gaze to the suspiciously quiet Luther. “You knew this would happen, didn’t you? You knew this was how she would change?”

“In all honesty,” began Luther. “I wasn’t sure of anything. I had no idea if investigating the bungalow would have had any bearing on what happened during my vision.”

“So what exactly did you see?”

“In my vision, you and Sam and the squad were all engaged in a battle in an open field − how far ahead in the future this is supposed to occur, I have no idea. The vampires you were all up against were very strong. Sam was there, significantly stronger and much more powerful. Of course, I knew that this should not be possible, that the mercury glow to her irises were unnatural, but I had to question whether alerting you would be a positive thing or not. Your response would have been to lock her away to keep her safe. I knew, however, that if she was not so strong during the battle in my vision, she might be harmed. Perhaps even killed. I was not prepared to take that risk. I hope you can understand that.”

Yeah, I could, which meant I didn’t have an excuse to punch him for not giving me any kind of heads-up.

Sam sighed, forcing a smile. “Well, at least all this power helped me kick Magda’s arse.”

“And as for that bitch,” I growled. “She is leaving now.”

Sam laughed a totally humourless laugh. “No, Jared, she’s not.”

Literally mystified, I demanded, “Are you f**king kidding me?”

“She stays.”

“Sam, she hurt you badly out there!”

“I’m fine.”

“That’s not the point! She challenged you, knowing you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself. She’s been messing with your head since she got here. I don’t want her hurting you any more than she already has.”

“She stays.”

I shook my head. “If she doesn’t leave, I’ll end up killing her anyway.”

She appealed to me with a look. “Jared, listen to me. I despise that woman, I despise her more than you can ever imagine. I want to do a lot of things to her, but the best form of revenge I know is to make her watch while we Bind, and make her feel as your connection to her dies and you form one with me. If she’s far away, the pain will be massively dulled, but if she’s near, it will be excruciating. And I know just how excruciating, because I’ve been through it myself. I want her to suffer like she’s made us suffer, physically and emotionally. Yeah, that makes me a huge f**king bitch, but I never claimed to be anything else.”

“Sam,” I groaned.

“I need to make sure she suffers, Jared. This is the one way guaranteed to do it.”

She was right about that. It didn’t mean I had to like it. “Everyone out,” I gently, but firmly, ordered. “Sam needs some space while she works everything out in her own head.”

Nodding, they all gave her smiles, nods, and waves as they left.

She peered up at me, looking more vulnerable than I’d ever seen her. It literally tore at me. “You always know what I need. It freaks me out.”

“That’s what freaks you out? All this stuff has happened, and that’s what freaks you out?” I’d never understand this female. Ever. I ran a hand through my hair, blowing out a breath. “I’ll leave, too. Give you some time to yourself.” The last word hadn’t even escaped my mouth before I was dragged onto the sofa and Sam was suddenly straddling me. Not only that, but my shirt was gone. Christ, she was a lot stronger and faster now.

“No. I want you to stay.” Fitting her body to mine, she lightly nipped the curves of my mouth.

“So you can delay having to process stuff?” Well, in her defence, it was heavy stuff.

“Yes,” she admitted, and I felt how hard it was for her to show any weakness. “But also because I want you inside me,” she whispered huskily as she rocked her hips. “Make me forget for a while.”

Again, she nipped at my mouth, wanting me to open for her. Without hesitation, I did. Then she was thrusting her tongue into my mouth, tangling it with mine. Fire tore through both of us, just like it always did. I angled my head, needing to go deeper, needing more of her even though I knew I’d never get enough.

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