The lady is a vamp, p.12
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.12

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Twelve

 

  Jeanne Louise stirred sleepily and opened her eyes. She was in bed in the downstairs bedroom . . . alone. Paul had slipped away. He'd also covered her first, she realized as she sat up and the blankets dropped to her waist.

  She glanced toward the door, wondering where he'd gone and then smiled when she heard the sound of soft footfalls coming down the stairs in the other room. Paul appeared in the door a moment later, naked as a baby and bearing a tray with two plates of food and glasses on it. He smiled when he saw her sitting up.

  "You're awake. " Paul set the tray on the bedside table, and then leaned down to give her a quick kiss. As he straightened, he said, "I checked on Livy, made us sandwiches, locked the doors and turned out the lights. "

  Jeanne Louise nodded, but asked with interest, "Sandwiches?"

  He chuckled at the question, and crawled onto the bed next to her, arranged and fluffed both of their pillows for them to lean back on, then pulled the sheets over to cover himself before picking up the tray again. Paul settled it on his lap and smiled at her. "Hungry?"

  "Mmm. " She nodded, her gaze moving over the sandwiches. "What are they?"

  "Ham, mayo, and cheese. "

  "My favorite," Jeanne Louise said with a grin.

  "We aim to please here at casa Jones, ma'am," he drawled teasingly.

  "And you definitely do that," she assured him, leaning to press a kiss to his cheek. When she then sighed and kissed the corner of his mouth, Paul urged her back.

  "None of that now, you insatiable wench. This man needs sustenance to continue pleasing you. "

  Jeanne Louise chuckled and accepted the plate he held out. She was feeling rather hungry, and they both fell silent as they started to eat. Hungry as she was, Jeanne Louise practically inhaled her sandwich. Even so, Paul was faster. The moment she finished hers, he took her plate and set it on his own on the tray. He then handed her one of the glasses of what turned out to be iced tea.

  "Jeanie," he said reluctantly as she sipped at the sweet, icy liquid. "We need to talk about Livy. "

  "You want me to turn her," Jeanne Louise said softly.

  Paul froze briefly, then lowered his head and took a deep breath. His expression was apologetic and pleading when he raised his eyes to meet hers again. "I'm sorry to ask you. I mean . . . when I first kidnapped you, I thought that was all I cared about. You were a way to save Livy. But I think even then I . . . " He closed his eyes and then opened them again and admitted, "I could have taken someone else, but I wanted it to be you. "

  "You could have taken someone else?" she asked, peering at him uncertainly.

  Paul smiled wryly and admitted, "There's a pretty little redhead named Bev in my department who has made it clear she'd be interested in a . . . er . . . friendship. " He ended with a pained grimace.

  Jeanne Louise arched her eyebrows at the term. He meant this Bev wanted to be his lover. The idea caused jealousy to flare up in her briefly before she stamped it down. Obviously he hadn't accepted the offer. Besides there was nothing to be jealous of, she was his life mate. So Jeanne Louise simply waited silently for him to continue.

  "It would have been the easiest thing in the world to call her and tell her I'd decided I'd like that," Paul pointed out. "I could have invited her over to the house for dinner, shot her with the tranquilizer when she came through the door and-" He shrugged. "It would have been the safest and simplest way to get my hands on an immortal. No muss, no fuss, no worry about cameras or security. "

  Jeanne Louise stared at him silently, knowing that he was right. That would have been much simpler, not to mention easier than sneaking around, breaking into his friend's car to get into the parking garage, and then hiding out in his trunk all night waiting for her to get done her shift. Which begged the question-"Why didn't you?"

  "I almost did," Paul admitted with a grimace. "And then I ran into Marguerite while I was shopping for chain-"

  "Marguerite," Jeanne Louise interrupted sharply. "Marguerite Argeneau-Notte? My aunt?"

  "Yes. "

  "How the devil do you know my aunt?" she asked with amazement.

  Paul smiled faintly. "We met my first day at Argeneau Enterprises. Bastien was giving me a tour and we'd just come from your lab. " Paul paused to smile at her wryly. "You hardly paid me any attention, by the way. Didn't even lift your head when Bastien introduced us, just mumbled a greeting and kept on peering into your microscope at whatever you were examining. "

  Jeanne Louise stared at him nonplussed. She'd actually met him? Apparently. Well, sort of.

  "Anyway, Marguerite came up the hall in search of Bastien as we left your lab," Paul continued. "She was supposed to have lunch with him or something. He introduced us and she said she'd love to help out, and perhaps she could drive home volunteers after we've tested the tranquilizer on them. So on those rare occasions when we have a volunteer who can't arrange a ride of their own, she comes and collects them and takes them home. " Paul smiled and said simply, "We've kind of become friends. "

  "Friends," Jeanne Louise said faintly, and then shook her head. This was her aunt he was talking about. "And she encouraged you to kidnap me?"

  "Well, not in so many words," he said on a laugh. "She didn't know I planned to kidnap anyone. But I went looking for sterilized jars, and bumped into her in the canning section at Canadian Tire-"

  "You bumped into Aunt Marguerite in the canning section of Canadian Tire?" she asked dryly. Marguerite didn't can anything. She didn't even cook as far as Jeanne Louise knew.

  "Yes, and she asked how I was and how Livy was. Of course, I didn't tell her that Livy was sick. "

  He didn't have to, Jeanne Louise thought dryly, Marguerite would have plucked it from his mind without even trying. It would have been right there on the surface, the one fact probably filling his thoughts at the time. The main thought that had filled his thoughts since he'd got the news, she was sure. Jeanne Louise didn't say as much though.

  "Anyway, then she said the oddest thing," he said, and murmured with bewilderment, "She said it just out of the blue. "

  "What was that?" Jeanne Louise asked warily.

  "That it was always best to go with your heart. That sometimes it wasn't the easiest route, but it was always the right one," Paul said solemnly.

  She considered that briefly and then asked, "And kidnapping me was 'going with your heart'?"

  "I wanted you," he said simply. "I noticed you that first day during the tour and-despite still grieving over Jerri-found myself looking for you. I varied my break times to figure out when you took yours until I had your routine down. I even took note of what you ate and drank," Paul admitted wryly. "At first, I didn't know why you fascinated me. Your hair is black and I've always preferred blondes, and then too in the beginning it was just a little more than a month after my wife died and I felt guilty as hell for even looking at you. " He grimaced, but went on, "But I just . . . every day I looked forward to taking my break so that I could just see you. It made me feel . . . I don't know. At peace, sort of. Maybe happy. " Smiling crookedly, Paul added, "And then I began to notice your shoes and it became something of a game to see which ones you were wearing each day and I'd try to guess what mood that meant you were in. "

  He set his drink on the end table and then scooted down in bed, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling as he confessed, "While it would have been easier to get Bev to the house, I wanted it to be you. I wanted you to meet Livy and like her and . . . to like me. I think I was hoping in my heart of hearts that something like this would happen. That we'd have this connection and passion. "

  "And we do," Jeanne Louise said softly, thinking that she would have to have a talk with her aunt when this was all resolved. The woman had to have read Paul's thoughts and known what he was up to. She hadn't intervened except to give him the nudge he needed to decide on taking her rather than the easier route of taking Bev. The woman was incredible, she
thought dryly and then set her own drink on the end table on her side of the bed and lay down as well. She then rolled onto her side and propped her head on her upraised hand to peer down into his face.

  Paul glanced to her, and then raised an eyebrow in question. "You don't seem happy to know this. "

  "I am," Jeanne Louise assured him, and she was happy to know that he had been interested in her for more than turning Livy before taking her. That he'd chosen her because he'd been attracted to her for more than two years. But that didn't change the facts, and now she had some explaining of her own to do. "Paul, immortals have laws just like mortals do. "

  He blinked at what appeared to be a change of subject, but simply waited for her to continue.

  "We aren't allowed to feed on a mortal unto death. That's to protect mortals, but it also protects our people," she admitted and pointed out, "It would cause a frufaraw if bodies started popping up drained of blood with bite marks on them. It might lead to the discovery that our people exist. "

  Paul nodded, and asked, "What happens to an immortal who breaks that law?"

  "Death," Jeanne Louise admitted, and then added, "We're kind of strict with our laws. "

  He grunted at that, and asked, "And your other laws?"

  "We are also restricted to bagged blood. It too helps protect us from discovery, and breaking that law-except in an emergency-could very well mean death too. "

  "I'm sensing a pattern here," Paul muttered.

  Jeanne Louise smiled slightly, but continued. "Basically, immortals are never to do anything that might draw attention to the existence of our kind. Doing so is punishable by death in every case," She said solemnly, and then added, "But there are also two laws that were put in place to keep us from growing too quickly as a population and outgrowing our food source. "

  Paul wasn't a stupid man. Jeanne Louise knew that, so wasn't surprised when his expression suddenly turned worried, but she continued, "One of those rules is that we are allowed only to have one child every hundred years. Breaking that law means death. "

  "And the other?" he asked tensely.

  Jeanne Louise took a breath, and then told him, "Each immortal is allowed to turn only one mortal in our life time. " She paused and then added, "Again, breaking that law is punishable by death. "

  "And you've turned yours," Paul guessed dully.

  "No," she admitted, and then before he could say anything, added, "I, like most immortals, was saving that for my life mate when I found him, in case he was mortal. "

  "Life mate?" he asked uncertainly.

  "That one person we cannot read or control, who could be a true mate to us. The one who reinvigorates our appetite for food and sex and who merges with us so totally during lovemaking that our passion is shared and overwhelms us both. "

  "The shared pleasure?" he asked.

  She nodded.

  Paul blinked several times as his brain digested that and then he breathed, "You can't read or control me. "

  Jeanne Louise nodded solemnly. "You are my life mate, Paul. "

  "Your life mate. " He said the words slowly as if tasting them, and then asked, "How long-I mean, does this shared pleasure and stuff fade off, or . . . ?"

  "No. Immortals mate for life," she assured him. "They are truly mated till death do they part. "

  "And I'm yours?" Paul asked with wonder. Joy spread on his face, but his voice was solemn and sincere when he said, "I'd like that. To be with you until death. "

  She smiled back, relief pouring through her. It was going to work out. He wanted to be her life mate. He would be a true life mate, and not simply do it to save Livy. This was what she'd hoped for, what she'd needed to be sure of before she could reveal the way to save Livy and have him too. Closing her eyes briefly, she savored the moment and then opened her eyes and said, "I want that too. I want to turn you and spend the rest of my very long life with you as my mate. "

  He started to smile, but just as quickly frowned instead. "But if you turn me, you can't turn Livy. "

  "No, but you could," she pointed out with a wide grin, and then cautioned, "But it means if I died, you wouldn't be able to turn any future life mate you might encounter who was mortal. " Jeanne Louise really didn't think that would matter to him. That he would put Livy above such a consideration, but felt Paul should have all the facts before he made his decision.

  As expected, he waved her words away as unimportant. "You aren't going to die, I won't let you. Besides, no one could replace you for me," he added solemnly.

  Jeanne Louise didn't point out that he'd probably felt that way about his mortal wife Jerri at one time. She simply leaned down and kissed him, relieved that things had worked out after all. Well, at least things with him. There was still the fact that he'd kidnapped her to get her to turn and save his daughter. They would have to deal with that and the council, and especially her uncle, who headed up the council and could be pretty unforgiving about things like that. The man had beheaded his own twin brother whom he'd loved dearly when the man had broken one of their laws.

  The thought made Jeanne Louise frown and worry her lip. She'd been so worried about how to woo Paul and get him to want her for herself that she hadn't even started to consider the other troubles ahead of them.

  "So," Paul said quietly, "You could turn me, and I could then turn Livy?"

  Jeanne Louise nodded.

  "And we could be a family. You, Livy and me," he said.

  "Yes, we could," she said softly and was as pleased at the thought as he appeared to be. Jeanne Louise already loved the little girl as her own. She would enjoy helping to raise her.

  Realizing that Paul had been quiet for a while, she glanced to him and frowned when she saw him pinching his arm. "What are you doing?"

  "Trying to wake myself up," he said dryly. "This has to be a dream. You're giving me everything I want and life just never goes that smoothly. "

  Jeanne Louise bit her lip, and then said, "I didn't say it was going to go smoothly. "

  Paul stopped pinching himself and met her gaze solemnly. "Tell me. "

  "The turn is very painful, Paul. It's an ordeal and sometimes the turnee dies. It's rare, but it has happened in cases where the turnee is ill or otherwise weakened. "

  "Like Livy," he said on a sigh.

  "Yes. So we might want to hold off on turning her for a bit, until we get her stronger. "

  "Which means you'll be suffering her headaches for her," Paul said grimly, and then stilled and asked, "Can I do that for her after you turn me?"

  Jeanne Louise knew he felt a lot of guilt over her suffering in Livy's stead, so was almost sorry to tell him, "Probably not. You need to be trained in stuff like that. You won't come out of the turn with the knowledge and skills of an immortal who's been trained in it. "

  "Right," he said unhappily.

  Jeanne Louise hesitated to add to his unhappiness and worries, but he had to know, so she added, "And that's not our only problem. There's the little matter of your kidnapping an immortal with the intention of convincing them to turn Livy. "

  Paul grimaced. "I suppose that's not going to go over well, is it?"

  "It could be a problem," she admitted, and then added, "But hopefully the fact that I stayed willingly and that you're my life mate will be taken into account. "

  Jeanne Louise could tell from the worry on his expression that he didn't think that was likely. Since it was a worry on her own mind, she decided they'd done enough talking and it was time for some distraction . . . for both of them. To that end, she leaned down and kissed him.

  Paul lay still and unmoving under the gentle caress at first, his mind obviously preoccupied with the possible problems ahead of them. But after a moment he began to kiss her back. She was just starting to think she'd succeeded in distracting him when he suddenly caught her arms and forced her back to break the kiss.

  Catching sight of her disappointed expression, he said, "I
just-you said we're only allowed one child every hundred years. Do we have to wait until Livy is one hundred before we have a child? Should we be using protection?" he asked, and then added huskily, "I don't want to risk you being put to death for-"

  "No," Jeanne Louise interrupted. She didn't take the time to explain that an immortal woman could only get pregnant and carry the child to term if she deliberately overfed on blood to keep the nanos busy enough not to expel the child as a parasite, but simply said, "Livy will be counted as your turn, not a child born of an immortal. "

  "Right. " He relaxed and even managed a smile. "So it's okay to start on a little sister for her right away?"

  "I'd like that," Jeanne Louise admitted quietly, though she knew it wasn't possible. She simply didn't have access to the blood needed to get pregnant.

  Before Paul could respond, the sound of something skittering across the floor upstairs made them both stiffen and glance toward the door. It sounded like a toy or something else small had been sent sliding across the hardwood, as if it had been batted about or accidentally kicked.

  "It's probably Boomer," Paul murmured. Turning back to her he pressed a kiss to her forehead, and said, "I'll check and call if it's Livy and you're needed. "

  Jeanne Louise nodded and sat up as he rolled off the bed. "I'll dress just in case. "

  "There's no need," Paul said, but paused as he glanced back to see that the blankets had slid to her waist leaving her bare from the waist up. Moving back to the bed, he kissed her again, this time on the lips. They were both breathless when he ended the kiss.

  "On second thought, you go ahead and dress," Paul whispered, covering one breast with his hand and squeezing gently. "Then I can undress you again when I come back down. "

  Jeanne Louise chuckled at the words, and removed her arms from around his neck to allow him to straighten. She watched him put on his jeans, her eyes eating up every inch of him before he pulled them up. Despite all the difficulties and problems, they'd managed to work it out. She could hardly believe it. She hadn't thought it possible. But it gave her hope that they could overcome the problems with the council too. They had to.

  "Back in a minute," Paul promised, heading out of the room.

  Paul left the bedroom door open and used the light spilling from the room behind him to navigate his way to the stairs and start up them. Moonlight was shimmering through the windows as he reached the main floor, making it easier to see. He stepped off the stairs and turned to move toward the hall to the bedrooms, but froze as a dark shape appeared before him. It took a moment for his mind to process that it was a man in front of him with glowing eyes. And then the immortal bared his teeth, flashing some pretty nasty, pointy looking fangs as he growled, "Where is she?"

  Paul took a wary step back, and then gave a choked gasp as the man suddenly caught him by one hand at the throat and lifted him off the floor to bear him backward into the kitchen. In the next moment, his back hit what he thought was the refrigerator. At least he was sure it was the door handle of the refrigerator that slammed painfully into his arm as he hit.

  "It wasn't very smart to let your daughter play out front, mortal. I was driving by and saw her, then I saw you. " He tightened his hand around his throat, snarling, "We know you have Jeanne Louise, and if you've hurt her, you'll regret it the rest of your very short and miserable days. Now where is she?"

  Unable to speak, Paul tried to shake his head that he hadn't hurt Jeanne Louise, but even that was impossible with the man's grip on his throat. In the next moment he felt a strange ruffling in his head and realized the fellow didn't need him to speak, he was looking for the answers in his head himself.

  Paul couldn't breathe and darkness was starting to blur the corners of his sight. To stave off the panic trying to claim him, he told himself that he'd be released as soon as the immortal realized Jeanne Louise was here willingly, and that then he would be able to breathe again. But movement over the man's shoulder caught his attention and he desperately blinked away the darkness trying to crowd in on him and stared with horror as he recognized Livy's small figure standing by the stairs. As dark as it was he could tell that her eyes were wide, her mouth gaping with terror.

  His attacker must have caught some sound, or perhaps her scent, because the immortal suddenly swiveled his head, spearing the child with a look, his fangs still protruding and flashing white in the darkness. Livy's eyes widened further, her face paling and then she shrieked in terror, and whirled to make a run for it. But Boomer was there. The small dog gave a squeal of pain as her foot came down on him, and then lunged away and scampered out of sight as Livy was pitched off balance and to the side. The sound of her small body tumbling down that curved stairway, and the way her cry was cut off so abruptly would haunt Paul for a long time.

  Jeanne Louise had got as far as pulling her panties and T-shirt back on when she heard Livy scream. Dropping the jeans she'd just picked up, she charged out of the bedroom just in time to see the child's small body tumbling down the stairs in a blur of arms and legs.

  Crying out, she rushed forward, reaching the bottom of the stairs as Livy came to a halt there. The child landed on her back; arms and legs splayed and head to one side, her nightgown twisted around her little knees. Jeanne Louise dropped to kneel beside her to search for a pulse, her head lifting, eyes going hard as she spotted Justin Bricker coming down the stairs at speed.

  "Did you do this?" she growled accusingly just before Paul appeared at the top of the stairs and started down as well.

  "It was an accident," the Enforcer said, sounding horrified. "She saw me and screamed and turned to run and-"

  "And you didn't take control of her and stop her," Jeanne Louise snapped.

  "I tried. I couldn't," Bricker said, guilt and confusion in his voice.

  Jeanne Louise scowled, then glanced to Paul as he reached the bottom of the stairs and found his way blocked by Justin. The immortal didn't move, but kept him from reaching either of the females, ignoring his frantic efforts to push him aside.

  "Is she-?" Paul cut off the question, unable even to say the word dead.

  "She's alive," Jeanne Louise said as she found a pulse. She didn't add "barely," but feared that was the case. Livy's pulse was weak and thready. Furious and afraid for the child, she started to slip her hands under the girl to pick her up, but froze as she felt the open gash on the back of her head.

  "Christ," Justin muttered, and Jeanne Louise silently echoed the word. Lifting her even that much had revealed that the carpet where the girl had landed was soaked with blood.

  "Oh God," Paul moaned and Jeanne Louise peered at him. He was no longer trying to get past Justin. In fact, he was swaying where he stood, his expression tortured. She felt her eyes fill with tears as she took in his pain. It was a pain she was suffering herself. Jeanne Louise had come to love the child dying before her, and she could no more stand by and watch it happen without doing anything to stop it than she could have if it were Paul lying there on the floor.

  She sent the man she loved a look of apology, then turned her gaze to Justin and glared at him with all the rage she was feeling as she gave up her future and did the only thing she could. Jeanne Louise bit violently into her wrist, ripping away a flap of skin. She then pressed the gushing wound to Livy's open mouth.
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