Taste of Torment Page 23

Still seeming suspicious, she let her gaze dance from me to Sebastian and back again. After a moment of silence, she gave a curt nod. “Okay. I’ll help them. But Imani stays with me – I don’t want her leaving my side.”

“Fine.”

My disinterest in separating them appeared to surprise Paige. It also made her relax her stance slightly. “Good. I guess you better take me to them then so we can get this over with.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. The quicker I got everyone healed, the quicker I could get both of these females out of The Hollow before any shit had the chance to hit the fan. Sebastian gently took Paige’s arm, who quickly clasped Imani’s hand, and teleported them away. I immediately followed, appearing outside the row of cells beneath the mansion. Paige was regarding the crowd of people warily while gripping Imani’s hand tightly.

“Everyone, move side,” I ordered. Obediently, the crowd parted, which then allowed Paige a clear view of what was inside the cells.

She gaped. “You said they were injured.”

I jiggled my head. “I may have downplayed the matter slightly.”

“Slightly? These people are tainted with The Call! I can’t help them.”

“Sure you can. If you take away their injury and their pain, you should automatically take away the taint.”

“They’ll attack me the second I go near them. Thanks, but I kind of like being alive.”

I pointed to the three droning males. “See the guy chewing on his mattress? That’s my twin brother, Evan. It’s kind of hard to tell that we’re even related when he looks like that, huh? The other two are members of my squad, Max and Stuart.” Maybe if I made her see them as people, it would help. I walked to where Sam still sat; her aquamarine eyes glimmering with a contradictory mixture of sadness and hope. “And this is my mate, Sam.”

“I’ve heard about her,” Imani said softly. “You were Bound recently, weren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And if she dies, you die too,” mused Paige. The implication that it was only my own ass I was bothered about saving was clear in her voice.

“That’s right, I do, but it’s her life I’m more interested in saving.”

Paige rested her hands on her hips, blowing out a long breath. “Look, I’m sorry that they’re all sick, okay. I really am. But I can’t”

“We have ways of holding them still so that they can’t hurt you,” I quickly assured her. “All you need to do is touch them.”

“I could be tainted!”

“Only if they bite you. They won’t be able to do that because they’ll be unconscious. And even if they do bite you, you can simply pass that injury back to them.” I took a step toward her, too frantic with worry to keep calm any longer. “Maybe you’re right and you can’t help them, I don’t know. But you have nothing to lose by trying. I have everything to lose by you not trying.”

“You really love her,” whispered Imani, sounding shocked.

Yeah it probably was surprising to see that the big, bad Heir who they had undoubtedly heard plenty of dark shit about actually felt something for another person. “More than anything,” I confirmed.

Imani tugged on Paige’s hand. “Help them.”

Paige was quiet for a minute, seemingly torn. I was pretty sure that everyone was holding their breath. “I have a condition.”

Okay, I could negotiate. “What condition is that?”

“You give Imani and me refuge in The Hollow. Permanently.”

My eyes closed as desolation hit me. If I agreed to her condition, Luther’s vision could come into effect. Through the bond, I felt Sam’s anxiety.

“We’ve been hiding for a long time,” continued Paige. “We want to live again.”

While that was understandable, she truly had no idea what she was asking. Of course I could explain Luther’s vision, but that would likely make Paige demand to leave immediately – especially since she seemed to be so protective of her friend. She was scared of something, and she looked ready to bolt any second.

“It is your choice, Jared,” said Antonio. But it wasn’t really a choice at all. There was no way I could turn Paige down. I’d exhausted every other avenue – she was the only chance we had left to save Sam and the guys.

I sighed inwardly, turning to the crowd. “Harvey, I’ll need you to hold the guys into position while David and Salem put them to sleep.” Swallowing hard, I told Paige, “I’ll grant you refuge if you heal the four of them.”

When Paige hesitated, Antonio spoke. “Jared would never back out of a vow.”

After an encouraging look from Imani, Paige nodded. “I’ll need someone to transfer the taint to.”

Ava clasped her hands together. “Ooh, can we use Collins?” She truly looked excited by the prospect. Salem snickered.

“Unfortunately, no,” replied Antonio. “I have prisoners that have been here for some time who can take on the taint.”

“You haven’t executed them?” Paige asked him.

Antonio’s smile was a little on the evil side. “Why would I do that when it would make their punishment be over quickly?”

“Ah.” There was a wealth of nervousness in that sound. Paige cleared her throat. “Do you have four prisoners?”

“One will not be enough?”

“When I pass on an injury, it’s three times worse. In this case, it’ll mean the taint will be three times more advanced when the vampire gets it. He’ll have to be killed instantly.”

“Well then, it is lucky I have four.”

I could see that she wanted to ask just how many he did have, but she bit her tongue.

Antonio pressed his hand on the imprint that was situated on the glass door of the cell. The door made a hissing sound as it unlocked, but Antonio didn’t open it immediately. “Everyone ready?”

Rolling his shoulders and clearly eager, Harvey said, “Oh yeah.” Salem and David simply nodded.

The second Antonio opened the door wide, the three tainted vampires charged. Harvey stepped inside and used his telekinesis to send all three vampires crashing into the back of the cell. While he held them in place, Salem and David then used their gifts to knock each of them unconscious.

“Harvey, don’t lose your grip on them.” I wasn’t taking any chances. Squeezing past him, I walked into the cell. Paige, Imani, and Antonio came in behind me, and were shortly followed by two guards, who were dragging in an unconscious captive. They placed him beneath where Evan was pinned to the wall. I looked at Paige, who was holding her nose. Yeah, the stench was bad. “Ready?”

She answered by walking to Evan and reaching out to lay her hand on the oozing bite mark, balking at the repugnant sight.

When her hand froze in mid-air, I assured her, “Even if he wakes up, he won’t be able to move.”

Apparently those words satisfied her, because some of the tension left her body and she placed her hand on his throat. What happened next was one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen. It was like something was rippling under her skin, circling her lower arm as it ran from her hand to her elbow. That was when she pulled her hand away and gripped the leg of the unconscious vampire at her feet. The rippling happened again, this time going from her elbow down to her hand and to the now tainted vampire…And it had all happened in a matter of seconds. In a blink, he went from normal to being even more gaunt and skeletal than Evan had been. His eyes snapped open – no rationality there at all – but before he could move, I obliterated him into ashes with a bolt of lightning.

Paige’s eyes widened. “Wow. And I thought my gift was awesome.” Taking the tissue Antonio offered her, she wiped the disgusting ooze from her hand.

Darting to Evan’s side, I could only gawk as I marvelled over the fact that, yep, the bite was gone and the taint had left him. Except for the dark circles under his eyes, he looked totally normal. A lump formed in my throat. Fuck, I’d missed the shithead.

“Is he healed?” Antonio’s voice was dripping with anxiousness.

“Yes, some-the-fuck-how, he’s okay.” Everyone cheered, and I saw Paige flush under the praise that was subsequently thrown at her from the people outside the cell. Knowing that the psychic hit he’d taken to the head would mean Evan would be out cold for a while, I contemplated asking Paige to touch his head and attempt to take away the effects of the hit. But that would mean dragging in a fully aware prisoner to then take on the effects of it – the longer we messed around, the longer Sam would be tainted.

Seemingly reading my mind, Antonio said, “He will be fine in the infirmary until he wakes.” Of course I could teleport him there, but I didn’t want to leave until Sam was okay.

“I will take him,” offered Sebastian as he entered the cell. Flashing Paige a thankful smile, he scooped up Evan and disappeared. The guards then dragged in another two prisoners. Just as with Evan, Paige healed both Max and Stuart by transferring the taint to the unconscious captives, who I then quickly disposed of using my gift. Afterwards, Sebastian teleported both Max and Stuart to the infirmary.

That was when we exited the cell and moved to Sam’s door. She was on her feet now and was leaning against the back wall as if to reassure Paige that she was no threat.

“Sam has only been tainted for a few hours,” Antonio told Paige as he unlocked the cell door. “She is still completely rational.”

Tell her that if she feels more comfortable with Harvey pinning me in place, it’s fine, Sam told me.

“She said that she’s happy for Harvey to hold her still using his gift, if you’d prefer that. I won’t have anyone knock her unconscious, but I’ll agree to her being held in place.”

Paige tilted her head. “You can talk to her through your bond?”

“I’m telepathic.” Panic flashed across her face. I quickly added, “But I can only read thoughts that are directed at me.” She seemed relieved by that, which made me wonder what she was hiding. “Would you rather Sam was held still?”

Paige bit her lip and glimpsed briefly at her friend. I sensed that she was more worried about Imani’s safety than her own. There was clearly a story behind that, but it simply wasn’t important to me right then. All that mattered was getting Sam healed.

“If it’s all the same to you,” began Paige, “I’d rather Harvey did his thing.”

Hesitantly, Harvey came forward, looking awkward. “You sure you’re okay with this, Coach?” It was actually kind of nice that he didn’t want to use his gift on her. She nodded and smiled encouragingly at him. As soon as Antonio opened the door, Harvey used his gift to keep her pinned to the wall.

I then entered the cell. “Hey, baby.” I wanted nothing more than to drag her to me, but that would have to wait a minute.

“They’re all okay? Evan, Max, and Stuart?”

I smiled. “All three of them are now healed and in the infirmary, where they’ll stay until they wake up.” I moved aside to allow the guards to drop an unconscious prisoner at her feet. “Now it’s your turn.”

Sam switched her attention to Paige, who was gaping at her bite mark.

“It healed.” Yep, Paige was totally freaked out.

“The skin healed, but I’m still tainted,” said Sam.

“But…how?” Finally Paige met her eyes.

Sam shrugged. “How can a Sventé vampire be a Feeder? How can a gift as offensive as yours actually do something as amazing as save a person from something that nothing and no one has ever been able to fight? Some things just are.”

After an encouraging nudge from Imani, Paige stepped forward and went to place her hand on the wound. But then she was gaping again. “Um…you have a snake tattoo wriggling toward the bite mark.” No doubt Dexter was downright pissed to know that Sam was tainted by The Call. It wasn’t something that he could protect her from.

“Long story cut short,” began Sam, “Dexter is my…protector. He can become a live snake at my command. He can’t hurt you as a tattoo, so don’t worry.”

Nodding at that, Paige finally touched the wound. The same thing happened as before…apart from one thing. At the same time as the rippling started to travel up Paige’s lower arm, energy began to cling to the surface of Sam’s entire body – it was almost like a protective blanket. Then those silvery-blue trickles all shot to the bite wound, and a light flashed beneath Paige’s hand just as there was a loud crackle.

Paige stumbled backwards, shaking her hand. Not taking her eyes from Sam, she transferred the taint to the unconscious vampire. Only when I’d destroyed the now tainted captive did she speak. “What was that about?” Again she shook her hand. She didn’t seem worried or afraid, just fascinated. “It was like getting a minor electric shock.”

Genuinely baffled, Sam replied vaguely, “Working with energy always brings surprises. Harvey, can you release me now?”

“Oh, sure. Sorry, Coach.”

As she sagged, I pulled Sam to me and held her tight. People piled in the room, surrounding her, telling her that they were glad she was fine and even making jokes – jokes, really? Despite that she was healed, I couldn’t find any humour whatsoever in this situation. I didn’t pay any attention to them; I only had eyes for Sam. “Thank f**k you’re okay.”

She looked at Paige, who was regarding everyone warily. “Paige…Thanks. You don’t need to worry. No one here will hurt you. After what you’ve done for us, I’ll never let them.”

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