Taste of Torment Page 12

“Don’t even say the f**ker’s name,” growled Jared. “Whenever he looks at you, I can tell he’s trying to picture you na**d.”

When he released my mouth, I said, “Joy knows what you look like na**d, as does Eloise, so I’d say I’ve got the shittier end of the deal here.”

He twirled me so that I was facing him and then plastered me against him. “But they don’t matter to me. You’re what matters.” He slid a hand under my hair to cup my nape as his mouth landed on mine. He sucked and bit my bottom lip, toying with my mouth and coaxing me to open for him. Then his tongue swept inside, teasing mine. “I love how you taste. Everywhere.”

I nipped his bottom lip and then licked over it to soothe the sting. “When we get back home, you can prove it. And then maybe I’ll return the favour. Be aware that this time, you’ll be the one coming first – no matter how much you tease me.”

His devilish, lopsided grin surfaced. “Hmm, I accept your challenge.”

Laughing, I kissed him again.

CHAPTER SIX

(Jared)

My gut twisted at the sight of Evan’s hollowed cheeks and sickly complexion. Lying on one of the mattresses in the cell, he looked exhausted and full of utter despair. Max was gagging in the far corner of the room while Stuart watched with eyes that were disturbingly vacant. It was always the same – within an hour of drinking an NST, they would be vomiting, totally unable to digest it, totally unable to quench what had to now be an overriding thirst.

They had been tainted for almost two weeks now, and I had come here each and every evening to visit. I knew that I was just torturing myself by witnessing as my brother increasingly deteriorated like this. I knew this wasn’t helping me. But how could I stay away from my own twin, especially at a time like this? How could I not visit him, despite that neither of us derived any comfort from me being there?

I didn’t want him to feel alone. Being away from him at a time like this made me feel guilty, like I was abandoning him, even if that didn’t make an awful lot of sense. Right now, though, he wouldn’t even look at me. I wasn’t sure if he was pretending that I wasn’t here or if he was simply hoping that if he ignored me, I’d leave. Maybe he didn’t like that I was seeing him like this. While I understood that, it couldn’t keep me away. Not from my twin brother.

I wished I was there to give them some good news, but the truth was that neither Sam nor I had found anything that could help. I’d forced myself not to even think of giving up, and to remain hopeful. For a while it had worked. But I could feel my original optimism beginning to fizzle away, leaving me with only pain, fear, and anger – all of which I had buried so deep that Sam couldn’t pick up on them through our bond.

Hiding my pain and fear was a childhood habit that had stayed with me. My narcissistic mother had practically fed on those things, so I’d done my best to deprive her of them. I hadn’t wanted the twisted bitch to see just how much she could hurt me. As a kid, it had been my way of fighting back. And it was the ultimate form of revenge if your foe got kicks out of any pain that they could cause you. Really, it was no wonder I was pretty f**ked up.

For Sam, I had been doing my best to snap out of that habit of burying everything deep. She wasn’t my mother; she wouldn’t use my emotions against me. She wasn’t someone who I needed to protect myself from. For once in my f**ked up life, I’d allowed myself to need someone. And I did need Sam. Hell, without her, my optimism might have disappeared altogether. But I couldn’t share my deeper emotions on this subject with her, couldn’t lean on her this time. We were too at odds on what we believed was best to do in this situation, and I didn’t want to give more weight to her solution of involving Paige West by revealing that my optimism was beginning to dwindle.

Still, although I hadn’t felt able to totally confide in her, Sam had been the anchor that had enabled me to stay focused and keep from losing my shit. She probably didn’t know it, but she was the only thing that was keeping me relatively sane throughout all this chaos – or as sane as I could ever hope to be.

Hearing soft footsteps, I knew it was Antonio. I didn’t look away from Evan though. I stood there willing him to meet my eyes, willing him to see my determination to help him – as if that determination alone could encourage Evan to fight, to not give up. But no, my brother was refusing to acknowledge me. And it f**king hurt.

Reaching my side, Antonio sighed sadly at the sight behind the glass wall. “It is difficult to remain positive when confronted with the effects of The Call.”

Translation: ‘Stop coming here before you lose all hope’.

“It’s hard to stay away. I feel like I should be here for him. I want to be. I want to help him.”

“Maybe you can.”

At those words, my head whipped around to face Antonio. “What do you mean?”

“Quentin Foy – he has been found. Harvey’s idea to put a bounty on Quentin’s head offering a reward for his whereabouts was a good one; it made finding him much faster. I truly have no idea if anything he tells you could help with this but”

“In all honesty, I’m not hopeful that he can help.” That wasn’t something I’d told Sam, though. “But I can’t leave any corner unexplored.”

Antonio gave a nod of understanding. “Then get Sam and the squad together.” He held out a small sheet of paper on which an address was scribbled. “This is where you will find Quentin Foy.” Antonio squeezed my shoulder. “Best of luck.”

I immediately teleported to the arena. Understanding that I’d needed to see Evan, Sam had agreed to begin the training session without me. She and the squad paused when I arrived, clearly intrigued by the urgency in my manner. I held up the sheet of paper. “Time to speak with Foy. He’s still in New Zealand and”

“You’re going on an assignment?” Collins called out from the spectator seats.

It took extreme effort to stop grinding my teeth. Since arriving, Collins and Eloise had insisted on sitting in on every training session, whether it was in the arena or in the rainforest. Collins always took notes the entire time, but he was never silent. No. He always had lists of queries, he repeatedly questioned Sam’s decisions, and he even criticised her techniques.

I felt as fury whizzed through Sam each and every time – it was the same fury that filled me. But her responses were always brisk, formal, and business-like. It was true that she didn’t have much patience when it came to a**holes and could happily whip the living shit out of them, but Sam was also very controlled when she needed to be. Feeders had to be controlled or the energy would overwhelm them. I was literally in awe of how she had managed to hold back from hurting the interfering bastards, because I personally was so very close to snapping.

Whenever she sensed that my own control was slipping, Sam would immediately calm me; reminding me telepathically how important it was not to give the a**holes anything to report that could be used against her.

As Collins began descending the steps, I finally replied to his question. “Yes, we are.”

“Is that such a good idea, Jared?” An indecently dressed Eloise trailed after Collins. She said my name like it was an endearment, said it with enough familiarity to have Sam’s blood boiling as it was a constant reminder that she and I knew each other intimately – even though I could hardly remember that night. “You and Commander Parker have been seen in public. We do not want more photographs of you going around. It would be best if you both laid low for a while.”

“I’m not letting the squad do this alone,” I stated firmly. My tone left no room for negotiation.

Eloise came closer – too close. “Then perhaps, Jared, you should go without Commander Parker. The appeal was for information about her.” I was always ‘Jared’, and it was spoken in such a warm tone. By contrast, Sam was always ‘Commander Parker’, and the words were pure frost. It was designed to annoy Sam, and it did.

But it also annoyed the shit out of me. I stepped away from Eloise. “Not a f**king chance.”

Unfortunately, she wasn’t deterred by my irritability. “But Jared, you”

Sam, cool and business-like, interrupted, “Let’s remember that you and Mr Collins are here to observe, not to give advice.” Eloise clenched her fists but said nothing.

“Ava and Cristiano will want to talk to Quentin,” David pointed out, dismissing the presence of Eloise and Collins. He was right; the siblings would want to find out what had happened to the vampires from their nest.

“We’ll take them with us,” I said.

“You cannot.” At Collins’ words, everyone slowly spun on their heel as one to look at him with their brows arched. The sight might have been funny under other circumstances. Clearly nervous – most likely because the entire squad was sneering at him – he stammered, “I-it is against p-protocol as they are not part o-of the squad.”

Sam made a contemplative sound. “You are right, Mr Collins. I suppose this means that you have changed your mind and that both you and Miss Montana will be staying behind? After all, neither of you are part of the squad, are you?”

Collins and Eloise exchanged a frustrated look. They understood the message – if Ava and Cristiano didn’t go, neither did they. He lifted a shoulder. “I suppose there are circumstances in which allowances can be made.” How freaking kind of him.

“Yes,” Eloise begrudgingly agreed through her teeth.

Sam joined her hands, faking a smile of pure delight. “Excellent. Glad that’s all cleared up.”

As she intended, her enthusiasm nettled Eloise, who then turned to me so fast that her hair swished around her face. Tossing it over her shoulder, she snapped, “Jared, I have to once again object to Commander Parker accompanying you. There has been a public appeal for information about her”

“In London,” Sam inserted pleasantly, holding up her index finger. “We’ll be in New Zealand.”

“which means it is important that she maintains a low profile for a while. I have to stress the importance of her remaining concealed.”

“And I have to stress that I don’t give a f**k.”

Sam shot me a smile that told me I was so getting lucky later.

Quentin Foy was a tall, thin vampire with wise eyes. He was also damn fast. The second we burst into his hotel room and he spotted me, he sped through the suite so quickly that he actually managed to dodge Sam’s whip as it attempted to trap him. But there was no avoiding Harvey’s gift. He telekinetically dragged Quentin to an armchair, and – a trick that Sam had recently taught him – then used his gift to actually pin Quentin in place.

As Quentin’s eyes swallowed the sight of me, Sam, David, Denny, Butch, Harvey, Salem, Ava, Dickhead, and – unfortunately – Collins and Eloise surrounding him in a semi-circle, he looked ready to hyperventilate. Who could blame him?

“We’re not here to kill you.” I took a non-threatening step forward. Sam mirrored my move so that we presented a united front.

Unconvinced, Quentin snorted. “Right. That’s why Antonio put a bounty on my head. Where are my vampires?”

“If you mean the ones in the neighbouring suite, they’re perfectly fine. Other than having been shot with poisonous thorns to make them sleep for a while, that is. Three of my squad members are watching over them.” Chico, Reuben, and Damien were under strict orders not to hurt them unless it was totally necessary.

“Is it typical for your commanders to request for some of you to disable a suspect’s companions like that?” Collins asked Salem. His response was a growl that made Collins edge away from him and involuntarily bump into Butch, who snarled at him.

Admirably ignoring the prick’s presence, Sam spoke to Quentin. “Antonio put a price on your head so that you would be found – and found fast. That’s all.” Her tone was reassuring but grave. “We have questions that only you can answer.”

Quentin’s expression went from panicked to wary. “Questions?”

“About the nest of tainted vampires you left behind in your tunnels,” I explained.

He sighed heavily, suddenly looking defeated. “You killed them,” he surmised. He didn’t sound judgemental, just sad.

I might have felt bad if Evan, Max, and Stuart weren’t now dying after being attacked by them. “We had no choice. If you agree to answer our questions and don’t try to run again, we can free you from the telekinetic hold. Your choice.” When Quentin nodded his agreement, I signalled at Harvey to release him.

Once he did so, Quentin rolled his shoulders and shifted in the seat. “Thank you.”

Hearing the sound of paper flicking, I turned my head to see that Collins was scribbling his observations down in a notepad. “Was the telekinetic hold uncomfortable?” Collins then asked Quentin. Un-fucking-real. The guy just stared at Collins blankly. I had yet to meet anyone who hadn’t taken an instant dislike to the a**hole. Coming up behind Collins, Eloise gave Quentin an encouraging smile, urging him to answer the question. He didn’t.

“Why didn’t you kill your tainted vampires yourself?” Sam asked Quentin, still ignoring her ‘observers’. I honestly didn’t know how she did it. “Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why you would find that hard – it would be the very last thing I’d want to do in your shoes. But if you were going to give up on them, why not save them weeks of suffering?”

“I didn’t trap them there to die,” snapped Quentin, offended. “I didn’t give up on them. I left them there hoping I could find some sort of cure that I could take back to save them.”

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