Immortal ever after, p.12
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       Immortal Ever After, p.12

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
Page 12


  Roxy’s whining woke Valerie. Opening her eyes to the dimly lit room, she took in the open bathroom door and the light spilling out of it. Despite Roxy being with her, she hadn’t been willing to sleep in complete darkness. Valerie had been afraid she might wake up and think she was back in that cage.

  Roxy whined again and Valerie shifted up onto her elbow to peer to the bottom right corner of the bed, but the German Shepherd wasn’t there. She was standing on the floor beside the bed, whining unhappily. When Valerie glanced her way, she turned and moved to the door and then back.

  “You have to go out, huh?” Valerie asked, recognizing the signal. Sighing with resignation, she tossed her covers aside and sat up, wincing as a shot of pain caught her by surprise. She’d forgotten about her back. Moving more carefully, Valerie stood up and glanced around for her robe, then recalled that it was still in the duffel bag. She’d been too tired to bother unpacking it, and had simply stripped off her clothes, pulled on the oversized T-shirt she slept in, and crawled between the sheets.

  Valerie headed for the bags Anders had set on the table, but another, more urgent whine followed by a bark from Roxy made her change direction. Her T-shirt covered everything and the dog obviously really needed to go out. It made her wonder how long Roxy had been trying to wake her with her whines.

  “Okay,” she whispered as she reached the door. “But quietly. People are sleeping. ”

  Roxy whined and wagged her tail and Valerie opened the door. The German shepherd was out the door at once, completely forgetting her manners. That said more about her urgency than anything else had and Valerie didn’t waste time reprimanding her, but hurried up the hall after her, grateful for the night-lights in the plug sockets that lit her path.

  Roxy remembered her manners at the stairs and paused to let Valerie go down first. There were no night-lights here, but they started again at the bottom of the steps and Valerie moved carefully down with one hand on the stair rail.

  As she led Roxy toward the back of the house with the help of the night-lights, Valerie wondered what time it was. She glanced around for a clock as she crossed to the French doors and began to work the lock, but hadn’t spotted one before she got the door unlocked. She pulled it open and Roxy bolted out just as an alarm suddenly started to blare. Valerie froze, only then remembering Anders saying something about a state-of-the-art alarm system. She’d just set it off.

  Chapter Six

  The sudden screech of the alarm had Anders abruptly awake. A wash of adrenaline pumping through him propelled him out of the bed. Before he even knew what he was doing, he was at the door and dragging it open. Movement at the end of the hall caught his attention as he started forward. Anders slowed when he saw that it was Lucian coming out of the master bedroom.

  Like himself, Lucian was shirtless. However, he did have his pants on. Undone, but on. Either he had just been undressing to go to bed, or he had thought to pull his pants on before exiting his room. Something he hadn’t thought to do, Anders realized, suddenly aware that he was wearing only his boxers.

  “Valerie?” Lucian barked.

  “On it,” Anders shouted as he hurried forward, but he couldn’t be sure the other man heard him. He himself hadn’t really heard Lucian say Valerie’s name so much as read it on his lips. But he didn’t bother to clarify what he’d said. Moving swiftly again, he hurried to Valerie’s door and thrust it open, only to find her bed empty. The bathroom door was open and that room appeared empty too. No Valerie and no Roxy.

  Fear clutching at his chest, Anders didn’t bother closing the door, but continued forward, shaking his head to tell Lucian she wasn’t in her room. Anders got to the top of the stairs first and immediately started down, aware that Lucian was right behind him.

  Groaning, Valerie leaned her forehead against the door and closed her eyes as she listened to the thud of feet overhead. She’d woken up everyone, of course.

  Sighing, she straightened and turned to peer toward the stairs at the front of the house as she listened to the sounds coming from above. The thudding that had started out at opposite ends of the house was converging overhead, and then they started down the stairs.

  Valerie really didn’t want to stand there and wait for them, but had no choice. She’d accidentally set off the alarm. This was on her. Besides, what else could she do? Rush outside and hide in the bushes, then sleep on the lawn furniture till morning?

  “Valerie!” Anders shouted, skidding to a halt as he rushed into the room and spotted her by the doors.

  “I’m sorry,” she yelled to be heard over the alarm as a second man, tall and blond, pushed past Anders to rush to the French doors on the living room side of the room and began to punch numbers on a panel there. “Roxy had to go out and I forgot about the alarm!”

  The last word was shouted into sudden silence as the alarm died abruptly. Valerie hardly noticed, however; she was too busy gaping at Anders and what he was wearing. Or not wearing. The man was barefoot and barechested, in his boxers . . . and damn, he looked fine. He was also staring at her as if he’d never seen her before, she realized and bit her lip as she switched her gaze to the blond. The blond, though, was ignoring her entirely. He’d picked up a nearby cordless phone and was now punching numbers into that.

  He was calling the security office, Valerie realized when he recited a seven-digit number and then growled that everything was fine, the alarm was set off accidentally. He set the phone down and turned to glare at her then, irritation in every line of his body.

  Valerie was sure she was about to get a blistering reprimand, but Leigh’s cheerful voice intervened.

  “Well, thank goodness we weren’t asleep yet,” the pregnant woman said, drawing attention to her arrival as she hurried across the room in a long pink robe to the blond man’s side. She patted his arm soothingly, and then stretched up to whisper something in the man’s ear. Finally, she turned to Valerie and smiled. “And this works out well, because I was supposed to change your dressing before you went to bed, but you were sleeping when Lucian got home and I got up. I can do that now though. ”

  “Anders will do it,” the blond growled. “You’re going back to bed. ”

  “Oh, Lucian, it will only take me a minute. I can—” Leigh’s protests died on a gasp when the blond picked her up and started across the room with her.

  “See to it,” the blond ordered as he passed Anders. “And make sure she doesn’t set off the alarm again. ”

  Anders grunted in response and watched his boss stride up the hall carrying Leigh. When the couple disappeared upstairs, he turned back to Valerie again.

  “I really am sorry,” she said quietly, trying to avoid looking directly at him. Honestly, no man should look that good, Valerie thought, but when he didn’t respond, she risked a look. His shoulders had relaxed and he was running one weary hand over his short hair.

  “Accidents happen,” Anders said finally, his hand moving down to the back of his neck now, kneading as if trying to remove tension there. Then he gestured behind her. “Roxy’s done her business I think. ”

  Turning, she saw that the German shepherd had returned and now stood outside the door, peering in. Valerie hadn’t even realized she’d closed the door, but opened it now and let Roxy in.

  “I’d better see to your dressing,” Anders muttered.

  Valerie glanced around as she closed the door, but Anders had headed out of the room. She hesitated, but then followed, noting that he had very fine, muscular legs, and a nice rounded tush. Forcing that thought out of her head, she trailed him upstairs and to her room with Roxy on her heels. He had the bedside table drawer open when she entered and was removing items from it. He closed the drawer and turned to stride back to the door, but paused abruptly when he spotted her.

  “Oh. ” He blinked at her. “I was going to do it downstairs. ”

  “Okay,” Valerie said at once, and spun to lead t
he way back downstairs. It seemed like a better idea than doing it there in her bedroom. Less personal. And there was no bed downstairs. Valerie wasn’t sure why that made a difference, but didn’t want to analyze it too much.

  “The kitchen has better light,” Anders said as he followed her into the open-concept kitchen/living room and hit a switch, lighting up both sides of the room.

  Valerie headed for the kitchen. Roxy stuck to her side at first and then suddenly jogged ahead. Someone had brought in her food and water dishes and set them on the floor by the stove. Roxy had spotted them and now picked up the food dish and carried it back to drop at Valerie’s feet, bringing her to a halt beside the island.

  “What time is it?” Valerie asked with a frown as she bent to pick up the dish.

  Anders glanced toward the microwave as he moved past her into the kitchen. “Six thirty. ”

  Valerie followed his gaze, noting the digital time glowing green in the top right corner of the appliance and wondered how she’d missed that earlier. Not to mention how she’d thought it was the middle of the night when the sky was actually lightening outside. There was no sign of the sun yet, but the sky was blue gray rather than black.

  “Feeding time I gather?” Anders asked with amusement when Roxy sat down in front of Valerie and whined pitifully.

  “Yes,” she admitted wryly, carrying the dog dish around the island. “Roxy’s better than an alarm clock. Six thirty every morning she’s up and outside and wants her breakfast. ”

  Chuckling, Anders bent and retrieved the bag of dog food from a cupboard in the island and opened it, then poured it into Roxy’s dish.

  “Thank you,” she said, when he’d finished and began to close the bag.

  She carried the dish over and set it down beside the water dish someone had thoughtfully refilled. She straightened then, but it wasn’t until she said, “Okay,” that a hovering Roxy lunged forward. She was immediately snout deep in the food dish, gobbling up the colorful dry food.

  “She has a healthy appetite,” Anders said dryly.

  “I swear she has a hollow leg. ” Valerie turned and moved back to lean against the island. It was a strategic move. It hid her bare legs from his view. She, herself, was steadfastly ignoring his bare legs . . . and bare chest . . . and bare belly. Well, trying to anyway. Sighing, she raised an eyebrow and asked, “Where did you want to do this?”

  “The best light is here,” Anders said, patting the island, and it was true, she acknowledged. The light was centered over the sink in the middle of the island and shone down bright and strong there.

  After a hesitation, Valerie slid around the island and moved up beside him to lean over the sink, leaving her back under the light.

  “Too low,” he said, his voice gruff.

  Valerie straightened and turned with a frown. “I don’t know what I can do to—”

  Her words ended on a gasp as Anders caught her by the waist and lifted her to sit on the island. He released her just as quickly as he’d picked her up, and had moved around to the other side of the island almost before she’d re-gathered her wits. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw him setting out the items he’d fetched from her room: a large gauze pad, white medical tape and antibiotic ointment.

  Valerie turned forward again with a grimace as she realized she’d have to lift her shirt and she was presently sitting on it. Sighing, she leaned to one side, lifting one butt cheek off the island so that she could tug the cloth out there, then leaned the other way to do the same for that side. Then she tugged the cloth up and caught it under her arms so that it stopped just under her breasts in the front and—she hoped—at the same height in the back. She was extremely aware that it left her sitting there with only her pink panties covering her lower body. It made her wish she’d worn her black boy-cut panties. They at least looked more like shorts.

  “Thank you,” Anders said behind her and she wondered if he was catching a cold. His voice had been gruff earlier and now it was husky.

  That worry fled as he began to remove the bandage presently covering her wound. He was working slowly, obviously trying to be as gentle as possible, but the tape was well adhered to her skin and it stung enough that she wondered if she had back hair there or something. Biting her lip, Valerie focused on the lit digits on the microwave and tried to ignore the pain he was inadvertently causing. She sagged with relief though, when it was done and the bandage was off.

  “How’s it look?” she asked.

  “It’s healing,” Anders said.

  That was good, she supposed. But “it’s healing” didn’t really tell her much. Was it a great gaping hole? Probably not, Valerie acknowledged. Leigh had said Dr. Dani had sewn her up, so it was probably a large, nasty puckered one. Lovely.
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