Taste of Torment Page 27

“Since he tried to join us for breakfast earlier like we were all chums. He actually tried to play volleyball with us on the beach last night, too. That’s our time, Coach, and he’s got no right to bug us then.” Yeah, I could understand how Max felt. I’d been just as pissed when Eloise went to my apartment.

Butch came to Max’s side. “He’s right. That dick’s got some f**king nerve, Coach.”

Max briefly sneered at Collins. “After everything he’s done and what he accused me of, he should be grateful I only took away his ability to speak.”

I hadn’t been there when he confronted Collins the previous night about his claim that Max had contacted the Prelature about me. But apparently the little prick had told Max that he had only alleged it was him to protect the identity of the real complainant. He’d even apologised to Max, but his apology hadn’t been accepted. Collins had made himself an enemy for life in Max. If the entire squad didn’t already despise Collins, they would do so now purely because to go against one of them was to go against all of them.

“You’re right, Max. He deserved this, and he’s lucky he got off so lightly. But now that it’s time for training, I’m going to need you to give him his voice back – sadly.”

The entire squad groaned in both disappointment and frustration. Mumbling under his breath, Max waved his hand at Collins.

“…Parker you have no control over your own…Oh.” Collins paused, clearing his throat with a cough.

When he opened his mouth to speak again, I could tell another rant was coming. I raised my hand. “I don’t have time to listen to your grievances, Mr Collins. I have a squad to train.”

“Yes, well, a particular member of your squad”

“Got mightily pissed off when you approached him during his own time,” I finished. “If you had expected him to react any differently, you only have yourself to blame. The squad has been quite clear since the very beginning that they do not want your company. Had Max targeted you during training hours, I would have reprimanded him. But he didn’t. It’s not his fault that you can’t take a hint now, is it?” Collins said nothing. What could he say? I was right, and he was very much aware of that. “Now, is there anything else?”

His usual snooty look reappeared and he straightened to his full height. “Yes, as it happens,” he snapped. “I wish to know if there is a particular reason why you have not yet made use of the tactical field since Eloise and I came here.”

The tactical field was located within the rainforest and was more like a small abandoned village, only the buildings were made of plywood and obviously it wasn’t normal to have drums and piles of tires lying around. We usually trained there once or twice a week, and we sometimes played paintball there as well. It had been a Binding present from Evan, and I bloody loved it. That was the reason why I hadn’t used it since Collins and Eloise had arrived. It was a special place to me that I had no intention of sharing with them. “I use it when I need to, Mr Collins.”

My vague answer clearly irritated him. “It is important that I observe all your training methods, Commander Parker. I noticed that the squad have not ceased calling you ‘Coach’, despite that I have repeatedly suggested that you should order them to refer to you with the appropriate title. Allowing them to give you a ‘pet’ name undermines your level of authority.”

Pet name? What-bloody-ever. “I happen to disagree with you. Now if you don’t mind, I have a squad to train, and you’re delaying the session.”

“I would appreciate it if you would move the session to the tactical field.”

And I would have appreciated it if he’d sod off home, but we didn’t always get what we wanted. “Sorry to disappoint you, but that will not be happening.”

He lifted his chin. “Then I will be forced to note your failure to cooperate with my request. I will also note that you persist in wearing vests, revealing more skin than necessary.”

“Yes, I’m sure the squad are drooling at the sight of my arms and shoulders. Maybe you should be a little more concerned with how very little your colleague is wearing, Mr Collins.”

Turning away from him in a sure sign of dismissal, I switched my attention to the squad. Max and Stuart turned amusingly giddy, clearly having missed working with everyone.

Having been fully debriefed on our ‘plan’, Max and Stuart were sure to fake weaknesses that they didn’t have during the session, and they didn’t question the longer breaks that they were now getting. They also took advantage of their recent encounter with death by faking tiredness and claiming to need a rest here and there. Although I knew it was for the best, it was still pissing me off because not only did it interfere with their training, but it meant that I couldn’t push them harder. And I needed to push them harder. Paige’s presence could cause a battle of some kind, and I needed the squad fully prepared. Of course they were more than capable of protecting themselves and each other during battle without additional training, but I wanted to be sure that they were at their best.

Expectedly, Collins spent the entire time asking questions and criticising my every move to the point of nit-picking. In addition, he complained for the millionth time that I swore too much (so?) and made a sound of disapproval each time that I did. He also complained that bringing Dexter from his tattoo form was distracting the squad – that was the whole point: to teach them to perform while distracted, because that was what they would need to do in a battle. Furthermore, he complained that when I divided the squad for sparring, I pitted them against members who they were quite vulnerable to gift-wise – well, duh, how else were they going to learn to rely on more than just their gifts to survive in a battle? The bloke was utterly clueless.

Eloise also gave her penny’s worth: I was condescending, I was too impatient, and I lacked room for error – all of which was simply to piss me off. But I didn’t rise to her bait because I knew it greatly annoyed her. Maybe that was why at the end of the session, when the squad had left and I’d just returned Dexter to his tattoo form while Collins babbled at me about something or other, she reached out to touch Jared. In a split second, a dark combination of rage, jealousy, possessiveness, and a need to hurt whipped through me so fast and hard that I almost swayed. I wanted nothing more than to grab the bitch and throw her across the arena. But I didn’t.

However, something else happened.

Just as her fingers went to touch Jared, a cold draft sliced through the air, raising the hairs on my arms. We all stiffened as the icy breeze built and built until, suddenly, a silvery-blue wind of pure energy formed around Eloise. What happened next was even more shocking. Like it was a vacuum, the whirlwind literally spat her across the wide space, causing her to collide into the far wall. What the f**k? The silvery-blue energy wind then instantly disintegrated like mist.

Jared’s head whipped around to face me. How did you do that?

I blinked. I didn’t. Or, at least, I hadn’t meant to do it. That counted, right? I kept my face carefully blank, not letting Collins or Eloise see my confusion.

Coughing and dusting herself off, Eloise rose to her feet. “You bitch!” She marched toward me, and I half-expected the wind of energy to appear again. It didn’t. Not even as she closed in on me. So I did the smart thing. Rather than attack her, and thus give her what she wanted, I called, “Novo.” Like that, a jet black Dexter was draped over my shoulders again. He hissed at Eloise, his scales turning red, and she stopped dead in her tracks. She was perfectly aware that he would attack her without hesitation if she attempted to harm me in any way.

Eyes wide, she pointed at me, shaking. “You just”

“What had you expected would happen?” Jared’s voice was calm, bored even. “Sam and I are Bound. You tried to touch me – and we all know that it was a flirtatious move on your part. Bound couples have gone to war over each other. You’re lucky that all Sam did was send you on a little trip across the arena.”

Eloise swerved to face a gaping Collins. “Do something! She attacked me!”

Outraged, Collins went to speak, but Jared beat him to it.

“No, she didn’t. She defended our bond.” Folding his arms across his chest, Jared glanced at Collins. “You know how it works. Your colleague’s behaviour is considered a threat to the bond. She wanted a reaction. She got one.”

Collins clenched his fists. “It was a most violent reaction that could have left Eloise seriously hurt! My report”

“Note it all down if you must,” I told Collins, somehow still masking my shock at what had just occurred. “But you’ll need to also note her provocative behaviour.”

Eloise curled her upper lip. “All I did was try to touch him!” Dexter hissed at her again, making her flinch.

“Ah, but it wouldn’t have been an innocent touch,” I pointed out. “Flirting with a Bound male is as good as signing your death warrant.”

“That is no excuse for your actions, Commander Parker!” maintained Collins. “And I believe it is quite clear that you do not deserve that title!” His raised voice earned him a hiss from Dexter.

“The session is over,” rumbled Jared, scowling, “so there are no more notes for you to take. I suggest you both go.”

“The session may be over,” allowed Collins as he marched toward the door, “but this is not.” He strode out of the building with an outraged, complaining Eloise in tow.

Once they were gone, Jared turned to me. “How did that happen?”

“I honestly have no idea.”

He inhaled deeply. “Then I think we need to have a chat with Antonio.”

So we did. Well, Jared did. I just sat next to him on the sofa in the parlour room opposite Antonio and Luther, who hadn’t said a word. I was still in shock, and I was also shitting myself. My gift had gone haywire once before, and I didn’t like the idea that it could be happening again.

Sensing my unease, Jared shackled my wrist with his hand and massaged my pulse point comfortingly with his thumb. I hadn’t returned Dexter to his tattoo form, wanting to calm his overprotective state first. Plus, he strangely had a way of relaxing me. Curled up beside me, he was currently a brilliant blue, indicating that he had calmed and was pretty content. Well, at least one of us was.

Antonio looked at me. “I cannot say I’m surprised this has happened.”

I blinked rapidly. “Say again?”

“You are an expressive person, Sam. But you have spent the past few weeks bottling up your emotions, despite how hard Collins and Eloise have tested your patience. Anybody who strangles their emotions will eventually get to a stage where they ‘explode’. A vampire’s gift is tied to their emotions. As such, it was truly only a matter of time before your gift…had an outburst, shall we say.”

One of Jared’s brows slid up. “You’re saying that happened because she’s stressed? Her gift had a tantrum?”

“Taking into account recent events, I would imagine that Sam is a bubbling cauldron of various emotions, for want of a better phrase. Her gift of absorbing and harnessing energy is strongly linked to her emotions. As such, the energy inside her will be bubbling just the same. Pent up emotions will manifest themselves some way or another. They eventually find an outlet.”

“All right, I can accept that my gift ran riot because I’ve been keeping a lid on my feelings. But I’ve never formed a whirlwind of energy before. It was huge, and it was bloody powerful.” I’d always been able to call on the natural element of air, but that was totally different from actually forming a whirlwind of energy.

Jared shook his head in wonder. “I swear it was almost like it was alive.”

“Just as every human produces energy, every vampire produces preternatural energy,” said Luther. “Preternatural energy is the fuel that fires vampiric gifts. The preternatural energy that Sam now produces is hybrid energy. It is powerful, and it calls to the surrounding energy like a magnet. The two energies mingle together inside of her, creating one hell of a cocktail, and strengthening her gift. Have you ever seen a mixture of chemical substances bubbling inside a corked bottle?”

Jared nodded in understanding. “The cork came off.”

“I would say so, yes.”

I massaged my temples. “I blame the brothers.”

Jared gave my wrist a squeeze. “I should have made their deaths more painful.”

I went to assure him that their deaths had been satisfyingly painful enough, but then the doors were barged open and in marched Eloise and Collins. Oh bloody great.

(Jared)

They truly couldn’t have picked a worse time to piss around. Now that I fully understood the toll these a**holes had taken on Sam, I didn’t have the patience to deal with their shit. And of course Collins and Eloise had shit to dish out. What was new?

Eloise stomped towards where each of us had risen to our feet. She snarled at Sam before addressing Antonio, her head held high. “Your commander attacked me! I expect her to be reprimanded!”

“Oh you do, do you?” drawled Antonio. His tone was menacing enough to make Eloise take a cautious step backwards. It wasn’t often that Antonio was anything other than cool and collected, but right now he was clearly on the verge of snapping.

Dexter hissed from his place on the sofa, his scales now red once more. Clearly only just noticing him, Collins jerked away and involuntarily bumped into Eloise.

She went to snap at him but then gripped his arm instead and urged him toward Antonio.

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