Hungry for you, p.1
Hungry for You, p.1Part #14 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
Cale was just raising his hand to knock at the doorwhen it swung open. A tall fellow with short dark hair and a phone pressed to his ear peered out at him.
"Yes," Cale answered, knowing the guards at the front gate had called up to the house warning of his arrival.
"Come on in. " The fellow stepped back to make way, pushing a button to end his call before offering a hand to Cale. "Justin Bricker. Most people call me Bricker. "
Cale accepted the hand, shaking it politely as he stomped his feet on the welcome mat a couple of times to remove the worst of the snow on his boots. He then stepped inside. "I was told I should speak to Garrett Mortimer. "
"Yeah, I know. The boys at the gate called the house and said as much, but Mortimer's down at the garagewith Sam. " Bricker shut the door and then turned to face him, waving the phone vaguely. "I was just calling down there to tell him you were here, but there's no answer. Hopefully that means they're on their way to the house. "
"Hopefully?" Cale removed his brown leather winter coat.
"Yeah, well, they may have been getting busy in one of the cells," Bricker explained wryly as he took the coat and quickly hung it in a closet beside the door. "They've only been life mates for eight or nine months and are still pretty into each other. " He closed the closet door, swung back to Cale, and then headed up the hall toward the back of the house. "Come on. I'll get you a bag of blood while we wait. "
Cale followed, recalling what his uncle Lucian had said about these men. Mortimer and Bricker used to be partners, enforcers hunting rogues vampires, but now they ran the enforcer house together. Bricker was the younger man and backed up Mortimer, who was now in charge of all the rest of the enforcers.
"One bag or two?" Bricker asked, leading him into a large, cupboard-lined kitchen with an island in the middle.
"One is fine," Cale murmured.
The younger immortal immediately opened a refrigerator to reveal a large amount of bagged blood stacked up alongside various mortal foodstuffs. The sight was a bit startling. Cale hadn't eaten mortal food in more than a millennium and only ever had blood in his own refrigerator. The thought crossed his mind to wonder ifit was really hygienic to have raw meat and vegetables so close to the blood.
"O positive all right?" Bricker asked, sorting through the bags in the fridge.
"Fine. " Hygienic or not, he was hungry.
"Here you go. "
Cale accepted the bag Bricker held out with a murmured thanks, waited the few seconds it took for his canines to descend, and then quickly popped the clear bag of crimson liquid to his fangs.
"Grab a seat," Bricker urged, using his foot to hook one of the wooden barstools tucked under the island and dragging it out for himself. He slapped a bag of blood to his own teeth as he sat on the stool.
Cale pulled a second stool out, but had barely settled on the high seat when the soft shush of sliding glass doors opening and closing sounded from the next room. He followed Bricker's glance expectantly to the open door across from them. It led into what was obviously a dining room. The end of a dark oak table was visible, as well as an end chair, but the door and whoever had entered were out of sight. However, their voices reached the two of them easily, and Cale found himself unintentionally eavesdropping on what he soon realized was a private conversation.
"Are you sure you're ready, love?" a man asked in solemn tones.
"Yes, of course, I'm sure," a woman answered, although she didn't sound all that certain in Cale's opinion. He wondered who she was and what she was claiming to be ready for.
Apparently the male speaker had noted the uncertainty as well. "Are you, Sam? It's been eight months and you-"
"I know," the woman interrupted. "And I'm sorry I've dragged my feet about it as I have. It wasn't because I don't love you, Mortimer. I do, but-"
"But you didn't want to leave your sisters," the man said with apparent understanding.
Cale felt his eyebrows rise as he recognized the names. Mortimer was who he was here to see, but so was Sam. She apparently had a sister named Alex, and Aunt Marguerite had a "feeling" this Alex might be the woman he'd waited for his whole life. Cale wasn't holding out much hope that Marguerite was right. As old as he was, he'd pretty much given up hope on ever finding a life mate. He'd pretty much resigned himself to being eternally single. But he also hadn't wanted to offend the woman, so had agreed to come meet this Alex.
Curious now to see the couple who were speaking, Cale shifted slightly on his stool, leaning to the side, but it was no good. They must have stopped at the door they'd just entered. They also obviously thought they were having a private conversation, and he glanced to Bricker, expecting him to make some noise to alert them to the fact they weren't alone, but the younger immortal almost seemed to be holding his breath as he waited for what they might say next.
Cale found himself frowning around the bag in his mouth and was about to scrape his stool back to warn the couple, but the woman's next words made him pause.
"It wasn't because of Jo and Alex. "
Cale stilled curiously, hoping to hear more about this Alex.
"That was just an excuse, Mortimer. One I even had myself half convinced of," the woman admitted on an apologetic sigh. "But Jo said something to me after she met Nicholas that made me realize it wasn't the real reason. "
"What was that?" Mortimer asked quietly.
"She pointed out that, after you turn me, I would still have ten years to try to find them life mates. She said I was just afraid, and I think-no, I know now she was right. "
"Afraid of what, Sam?" Mortimer asked with quiet concern. "The pain of turning?"
"No . . . Although that's scary on its own," she admitted on a wry laugh. Her voice was more serious when she added, "But really I was afraid that you would wake up one day and realize . . . well, that I'm just me," she finished helplessly.
"I don't understand. I know who you are, Sam. What-?"
"I know, but-This is silly, but, while I'm smart, and hardworking, and basically nice, I'm not . . . " Sam's voice was slightly embarrassed as she said, "Well, I'm just not some sexy, gorgeous vamp type of gal who can hold the attention of a guy like you for eternity. "
"Honey, you're beautiful. I-"
"I look like Olive Oyl, Mortimer. " The words burst into the air on a breath of exasperation, as if she thought that should be obvious.
Cale tore the now-empty bag from his mouth and glanced to Bricker with confusion, his voice a bare whisper as he asked, "Olive Oyl?"
Bricker removed his own bag and explained in a hushed tone, "Popeye's girlfriend. " When Cale continued to stare at him blankly, he rolled his eyes. "She's a cartoon character; dark hair, huge eyes, and spindly as a stick figure. Sam is-"
"Honey, I have eyes. I know you look like Olive Oyl. "
Bricker stopped his explanation on a low curse and squeezed his eyes closed briefly. He then turned his head back toward the door, muttering with disgust, "You old guys are so bloody smooth. Honestly. "
Cale would have liked to argue the point, but really, even he-who hadn't bothered with women in what seemed like forever-knew Mortimer's words had been the wrong thing to say. Obviously, Mortimer realized it too because he began to babble, "I mean, you're beautiful to me. I love your smile and the way your eyes twinkle when you're amused or teasing and-"
"But I still look like Olive Oyl," Sam said in tones that made it obvious she wasn't impressed with the man's efforts to save the situation.
"Not really. " There was a distinct lack of conviction in Mortimer's voice, but it was stronger when he added, "Look, honey, the point is, I don't see you through rose-colored
"Knobby knees?" she cried.
"I-No," he assured her quickly, sounding a bit panicked now. "No, of course they aren't knobby. I just mean I know exactly how you look. I do see you, and you're what I want, not some silly fantasy like Jessica Rabbit was. "
"Jessica Rabbit?" Sam echoed with disbelief. "You had fantasies about Jessica Rabbit? A cartoon rabbit?"
Cale's eyebrows rose at that. He'd been alive a long time and had fantasized about a lot of things, but never a cartoon rabbit.
"Well not as a rabbit," Mortimer muttered, sounding a bit chagrined. "And not as a cartoon character. I wasn't really-I mean, I didn't want to hook up with her or anything. She was just a representation of the type of woman I thought I might end up with. "
"Voluptuous and sexy," Sam suggested.
"Exactly," Mortimer said, sounding relieved.
Cale didn't need Bricker's groan to tell him that was possibly the stupidest thing the man could say. Dark hair, huge eyes, and a stick figure didn't suggest voluptuous and sexy to him.
"Mortimer," Sam said, her voice hard, "I'm neither voluptuous nor sexy. If that's what you want, why spend eternity with me?"
"Honey, you are sexy. You're smart, and brains are really sexy as hell. "
"Right," Sam snapped, obviously not buying that line.
"Gad!" Bricker barked.
When the younger immortal leapt off his stool and hurried toward the dining-room door, Cale followed. He entered the room on the other man's heels, his eyes moving with interest over the couple peering toward them with surprise.
Bricker's description of dark hair, big eyes, and spindly as a stick figure fit Sam, Cale decided. It was probably also the most unattractive way to put it. The woman did have dark hair, but only in that it wasn't blond. There were tints of light brown and even red in her hair that made for a lush, almost auburn. As for her eyes, Cale had always found large eyes an attractive feature, but they did tend to dominate this woman's thin face. He suspected they would be lovely if she had a little more meat on her to round her cheeks out a bit. Actually, the woman could have done with a little more rounding everywhere. Her body was on the point of being emaciated. It made him wonder if she didn't have some ailment of the thyroid or something.
He shifted his gaze to Garrett Mortimer then, but barely got an impression of fair hair and a muscular body before Bricker paused before the couple, and snapped, "For cripes sake, you two! What are you doing? Sam, you love Mortimer, and he loves you, and that's what he's trying to tell you, he's just too stupid to get it out right. But he loves and wants you just the way you are. " He shook his head with disgust. "You should be secure in that knowledge by now for God's sake. The two of you have been going at it like a pair of bunnies for months, with no sign of letting up. "
"Bricker!" Sam squawked, flushing bright pink as she glanced from the enforcer to Cale with a mortification he suspected wouldn't be nearly as strong had he, a stranger, not been present.
"Oh, right," Bricker muttered, glancing back toward him with a sigh that suggested he'd briefly forgotten Cale's presence. "Sam, Mortimer, this is Cale Valens. Cale, this is Garrett Mortimer and Sam Willan. "
"Cale," Mortimer said slowly, offering a hand, and then recognition lit his face. "Martine Argeneau's son. "
"Yes. " Cale shook the offered hand politely and then glanced again to Sam. Much to his surprise, the embarrassment that had been coloring her face a moment ago appeared to have slipped away, replaced with an interest that was sharp and focused.
"Are you single, Mr. Valens?" Sam asked as she moved forward to shake his hand as well.
Cale raised an eyebrow at the blunt question, but glanced to Bricker when he released a short, sharp laugh.
"I see your agreeing to turn hasn't dampened your determination to see Alex settled with an immortal, Sam," Bricker commented with amusement, then warned Cale, "Look out. She'll be holding a dinner party and introducing the two of you by week's end. "
"Well, why not?" Sam sounded a touch defensive. "You never know. They might suit each other. "
"Honey," Mortimer said on a sigh, "the chances of Alex's being a possible life mate for an immortal are pretty slim. It's amazing that Jo turned out to be Nicholas's life mate. It's very rare to find three mortal sisters who suit-"
"Chances shmances," Sam interrupted firmly. "Besides, there's no harm in introducing them and seeing if they wouldn't suit. Alex would make a good immortal. She's smart, successful, and already works nights. I'll just call her and see if she can come over for dinner. " Sam started to turn away, but Mortimer caught her arm.
"Why don't we find out why Cale is here and see if he even has time to stay for dinner first?" he suggested quietly.
Sam hesitated, but then glanced to Cale. "Can you stay for dinner?"
When he nodded, she grinned and then whirled away again.
"Thank you for humoring her," Mortimer said on a sigh, as they watched her cross the room.
Cale shrugged. "I am not humoring her so much as Marguerite. "
"Marguerite?" Sam stopped abruptly in the kitchen doorway and spun around, her already large eyes appearing even larger in her startled face.
Cale's eyebrows lifted. The woman was almost vibrating with an emotion he couldn't quite identify. He was about to read her mind when Mortimer captured his attention by echoing her exclamation in a deeper, though no less startled, voice.
Cale glanced to the man, and then to Bricker, both of whom were now peering at him with intense interest. Grimacing, he admitted, "Marguerite seems to have a bee in her bonnet about me meeting Sam's sister, Alex. "
"She does?" Sam breathed, taking several steps toward them.
Cale found himself shifting uncomfortably as he admitted, "Yes. She seems to think we might suit each other . . . I expect she's wrong, but it can't hurt to humor her and meet your sister to see one way or the other. "
"I'll have Alex come over at once!" Sam spun away again, this time making it out of the room before anyone spoke.
A snort of amusement brought Cale's glance to Bricker as the younger immortal asked, "You're kidding right?"
"About what?" Cale asked, scowling. He didn't like being laughed at, and the younger man was definitely laughing. He was also eyeing him with a combination of pity and, strangely, what appeared to be envy.
"About not expecting Marguerite to be right," Bricker explained, and then slapped him on the back. "Buddy, if Marguerite is having one of her 'feelings' that you and Alex will suit, you're as good as mated. It's what Marguerite does. She finds life mates for anyone and everyone she can. She's hooked up every single couple who have found each other the last few years. "
"Every Argeneau couple," Mortimer corrected firmly. "She was not responsible for Sam and me. "
"Yeah, well I wouldn't be too sure about that," Bricker said dryly. "She probably suggested Lucian send us to that job in cottage country in the hopes that one of us would suit one of the sisters. "
Mortimer rolled his eyes at the suggestion. "She couldn't have known about Sam and her sisters. I don't think she's even been to Decker's cottage. "
"Oh, he didn't tell you?" Bricker asked with amusement.
"Tell me what?" Mortimer asked, suddenly wary.
"Marguerite helped him find the place. Since he was always so busy on the job, she vetted the available properties and suggested the one next to Sam and her sisters was the nicest. "
"Christ," Mortimer muttered.
Bricker laughed, but Cale simply peered from one man to the other curiously. "Is she really that good at finding mates for immortals?"
"Oh yeah," Bricker assured him. "So, if Marguerite thinks Alex is the one for you, it's in the bag. It looks like your bachelor days are done, my friend. Bet you can't wa
Cale found himself frowning at the suggestion, and said a bit stiffly, "Not all of us are lonely and in need of a life mate. Some of us manage to live relatively happy, busy lives without one. "
"Yeah right," Bricker said with disbelief.
Cale scowled, but didn't argue the point further. Why bother? It wasn't really true anyway.
"You have to be kidding me. " Alex Willan stared at the man standing on the other side of her desk. Peter Cunningham, or Pierre as he preferred to be called, was her head cook. He was also short, bearded, and had beady little eyes. She'd always thought he resembled aweasel, but never so much as she did at that moment. "You can't quit just like that. The new restaurant opens in two weeks. "
"Yes I know. " He gave her a sad little moue. "But really Alexandra, he is offering a king's ransom for me to-"
"Of course he is. He's trying to ruin me," she snapped.
Peter shrugged. "Well, if you were to beat their offer . . . "
Alex's eyes narrowed. She couldn't help noticing that he'd said "beat" rather than "match" or even "come close. " The little creep really was a weasel with no loyalty at all . . . but she needed him.
"How much?" she asked sharply, and barely managed to keep from hyperventilating at the amount he murmured. Dear God, that was three times what she was paying him and twice what she could afford . . . which he knew, of course.
It was a ridiculous sum. No chef earned that, and he wasn't worth it. Peter was good, but not that good. It didn't make any sense that Jacques Tournier, the owner of Chez Joie, would offer him that much. But then Alex could suddenly see what the plan was. Jacques was luring the man away in a deliberate attempt to leave her high and dry. He'd keep him on for two or three weeks, just long enough to cause scads of trouble for her, then he'd fire him under some pretext or other.
Alex opened her mouth, prepared to warn Pierre, but the smug expression on his face stopped her. Peter had always been an egotistical bastard. It was bad enough when he was only the sous-chef, but in the short timesince she'd promoted him to head chef, his ego had grown to ten times its previous bloated state. No, she thought with a sigh, he wouldn't believe her. He'd think it just sour grapes.
"I know you can't afford it," Peter said pityingly. Then with something less than sympathy, he added, "Just admit it so I can stop wasting my time and get out of here. "
Alex's mouth tightened. "Well, if you knew, why even bother suggesting it? "
"I didn't want you to think I was totally without loyalty," he admitted with a shrug. "Were you to beat their offer, I would have stayed. "
"Thanks," she said dryly.
"De rien," he said, and turned toward the door.
Alex almost let him walk out, but her conscience got the better of her. Whether he'd believe her or not, she had to at least try to warn him that he was setting himself up for a fall. Once Jacques fired him-and she didn't doubt for a minute he would-Peter would be marked. The entire industry would know that he'd left her for them, and then lost that job. Even if people didn't suspect the truth of what happened and label him a putrid little weasel, they would think he'd been fired for something.
Alex had barely begun to speak her thoughts, however, before Peter was shaking his head. Still, she rushed on with it, warning him as her conscience dictated. The moment she fell silent, he sneered at her with derision.
"I knew you would be upset, Alexandra, but making up such a ridiculous story to get me to stay is just sad. The truth is, I have been selling myself cheap for some time now. I've built up a reputation as an amazing chef these last several weeks while cooking in your stead-" "
Two weeks," Alex corrected impatiently. "It's only been two weeks since I promoted you to head chef. And you're cooking my recipes, not coming up with brilliant ones of your own. Surely you can see how ridiculous it is that someone would pay you that kind of money for-"
"No, I do not see it as ridiculous. I am brilliant. Jacques sees my potential and that I deserve to be paid my value. But you obviously don't. You have been trying to keep me under. Now I will get paid what I deserve and enjoy some of the profits produced by my skills. " Mouth tightening, he added, "And you're not going to trick me into staying here with such stupid stories. "
With a little sniff of disgust, Peter turned on his heel and sailed out of her office with his nose up and a self-righteous air that made her want to gag.
Alex closed her eyes. At the moment, she wanted nothing more than to yell a string of obscenities after the man, and suspected she would enjoy his fall when it came. Unfortunately, her own fall would come first.
Cursing, she pulled her Rolodex toward her and began to rifle through the numbers. Perhaps one of her old friends from culinary school could help for a night or two. Christ, she was ruined if she didn't find someone and quickly.
An hour later, Alex reached the W's in her Rolodex with no prospects when the phone rang. Irritated withthe interruption when she was having a crisis, Alex snapped it up. She barked "hello," the fingers of her free hand still flipping through the cards one after the other in quick succession.
"I have someone I want you to meet. "
Alex frowned at the strange greeting, slow to recognize her sister's voice. Once she did, a deep sigh slid from her lips, and she shook her head wearily. She really didn't need this right now. She was heartily sick of the parade of men Sam had been presenting her with over the last eight months.
It had been bad enough when she and their younger sister, Jo, had both been single and available, but now that Jo had Nicholas, Sam was focusing all of her attention on finding Alex a man. She supposed it wouldn't be so bad if even one of the men Sam had insisted on introducing her to had shown some mild interest in her, but after barely more than a moment, and sometimes as little as a few seconds, every single one had simply ignored her, or in some cases, even walked away.
It was giving her a complex. She'd even started dieting, something she'd sworn she'd never do, and exercising, a pastime she detested, as well as trying different makeup and fashion choices in an effort to boost her now-flagging ego.
This really was the last thing she needed, but Alex knew Sam's heart was in the right place and forced herself to hang on to her patience and even managed to keep her tone to only mildly exasperated.
"Sam, honey, my head chef just quit, and I have onehour to replace him before the dinner set start to arrive. I don't have time for your matchmaking right now. "
"Oh, but, Alex, I'm pretty sure this is the one," she protested.
"Right, well, maybe he is, but if he isn't a world-class chef, I'm not interested," Alex said grimly. "I'm hanging up now. "
Alex paused with the phone halfway back to its cradle and pulled it back to her ear. "What? He is what?"
"A chef?" Sam said, but it sounded like a question rather than an announcement. It was enough to make Alex narrow her eyes.
"For real?" she asked suspiciously.
"Yes. " Sam sounded more certain this time.
"Where did he last work?" she asked cautiously.
"I-I'm not sure," Sam hedged. "He's from Europe. "
"Europe?" Alex asked, her interest growing. They had some fine culinary schools in Europe. She'd attended one of them.
"Yes," Sam assured her. "Actually, that's why I was sure he would be the one. He's into cooking and fine cuisine like you. "
Alex drummed her fingers thoughtfully on the desk. It seemed like just too much good fortune that her sister wanted to introduce her to a chef the very day she was in desperate need of one. On the other hand, she'd suffered enough bad luck the last few months that a bit of good luck was surely in order. Finally, she asked, "What's his name?"
"I've never heard of him," Alex murmured, and then realized how stupid it was to say that. She didn't know every single chef in Europe. In fact, she only knew a few from her days in culinary schoo
"Look, he's a chef, and you need one. What can it hurt to meet him?" Sam asked. "I swear you won't be sorry. I really think this will work out. Marguerite is never wrong. You have to meet him. "
"Marguerite?" Alex asked with confusion, recognizing the name. She was the aunt of one of Mortimer's band mates, Decker Argeneau. Alex had never met her, but Sam mentioned her a lot. However, she had no idea what the woman had to do with any of this.
"Just meet him," Sam pleaded.
Alex sighed, her fingers tapping a rapid tattoo. She could sense that Sam was lying about something in her determination to get her to meet the man, and really, she didn't have time to waste at the moment. On the other hand, Sam hadn't hesitated to say he could cook and had even said it was why she'd thought they might hit it off, so Alex suspected that part of it was at least true. At least she hoped it was. The fact was, she was desperate. And, frankly, beggars couldn't be choosers. If the man could cook even half decently, she was definitely interested in him though not the way Sam was obviously hoping she would be.
"Send him over," she barked, and then slammed the phone back in its cradle before she could change her mind.
* * *
Cale was telling Bricker and Mortimer about the wedding he'd attended in New York for several of his family members and their life mates when Sam came hurrying back into the room. "It's all set," she announced excitedly. "You have to go to her restaurant right away. "
Cale frowned. "You said you would have her come here. "
"Yes, well, there was a change of plans. Alex has a small crisis at the restaurant and can't leave," Sam announced, catching his arm and urging him toward the door to the kitchen. "Actually that reminds me. Can you cook?"
Cale stopped, forcing her to a halt, and announced stiffly, "I don't eat. "
"I didn't ask you if you eat," she pointed out. "Can you cook? "
"Why would I cook if I don't eat?" he asked dryly.
"Not doing one doesn't preclude your doing the other," Sam said impatiently, and then clucked with irritation and tried to urge him to continue forward as she pointed out, "Male designers don't wear women's clothing, but they design it. "
"How do you know they don't wear it?" Bricker asked lightly, drawing Cale's attention to the fact that he and Mortimer had followed and now stood behind them.
Mortimer chuckled at the words, but Sam didn't seem to see the humor. Grinding her teeth together, she tugged at Cale's arm again. "Come on. You need to get to the restaurant before she changes her mind and takes off for the new place or something. "
Cale tugged his arm free of her hold. "I do not cook food and have no desire to visit a place filled with the stench of it. You'll just have to arrange a meeting for a different day. I have no desire to go to her place of business. "
Hungry for You by Lynsay Sands / Fantasy / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on36 votes