Immortal ever after, p.13
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       Immortal Ever After, p.13

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 13

 

  “I’m going to put the salve on now. It might sting,” he warned quietly.

  Valerie nodded, and braced herself.

  Again, she could tell that Anders was trying to be gentle. His fingers barely feathered over her skin, but it was tender enough that even that stung. Grinding her teeth, she held her breath and waited, trying to keep her mind blank.

  “Done,” Anders announced and Valerie let her breath out on a sigh, only to suck it back in as he laid the gauze over the wound. The first brush of it was nasty, but after that it seemed fine and she was able to breathe normally as he taped the pad in place.

  “All done,” Anders said. “You can let go of your shirt. ”

  Valerie immediately lifted her arms, allowing the cloth to drop back down. She would have slid off the island then, but Anders had come around and was standing in front of her.

  “Oh. Hi,” she said like a brainless twit.

  “Hi,” Anders responded and reached for her waist. She thought he was going to lift her down. She thought wrong. Instead, he clasped her waist, stepped between her legs and kissed her. It was just a gentle brushing of his lips at first, then firmer, and then his tongue slid out to nudge her lips open. It all got pretty fuzzy after that. Her brain seemed to shut down and give itself up to the rush of sensation that suddenly exploded through her. Honestly, the man could kiss. He did things to her lips and tongue that she’d never before experienced. Her ex, Larry, hadn’t been much of a kisser. More a pecker. Frankly, if he had a tongue, she wouldn’t know. Anders definitely had one and knew what to do with it.

  When Roxy barked and they broke the kiss with a start, Valerie glanced down to see that she’d tried to climb the man like he was a tree trunk. Her legs were wrapped around his hips, her ankles hooked behind his legs, her arms around his shoulders, her hands cupping his neck and head, and her butt was off the counter and in his hands. Valerie stared at Anders, and said, “Mmmfph. ”

  Anders’s response was to let his lips curve into the sexiest damn smile she’d ever seen. Valerie stared back wide-eyed and bemused. She hadn’t thought the man could smile. But then she hadn’t known he could kiss either, Valerie thought as his mouth lowered toward hers again for another kiss, one that never landed because Roxy barked again, this time rearing up on her back paws to plant her front ones on them.

  That was enough to get Valerie’s attention. Roxy never jumped up on people.

  “What is it, Rox?” Valerie gasped, pushing at Anders’s chest to get him to set her down. He did, easing her to the floor as she swung her feet down from around his hips.

  Now that she had her attention, Roxy immediately turned and ran to the door, where she barked and turned back to look at Valerie, legs shifting restlessly.

  “Oh,” Valerie sighed and hurried over to open the door. Roxy needed to go out . . . desperately, Valerie thought when the dog bolted across the verandah and barely reached the grass before squatting.

  “I’m going to need to get some waste pick-up bags,” Valerie muttered and then gave a start when Anders rested his hands on her shoulders from behind.

  “We’ll do that when the stores open,” he promised, pulling her back against his chest and bending his head to press butterfly kisses to her ear. Valerie was melting into him when he started to move her hair aside to kiss her neck. She immediately stiffened and pulled away, one hand rising self-consciously to be sure her throat was covered.

  “You don’t have to hide it from me, Valerie,” he said quietly. “I’ve seen your neck. ”

  Finished with her business, Roxy returned then, nudging Valerie’s hand with her nose. She glanced down at the dog and petted her, relieved at the excuse to look away from Anders. He may already have seen her neck, but it didn’t make her less self-conscious about it.

  “I’m still tired. I think I’ll go sleep for a little longer,” she lied, heading out of the room with Roxy at her side. He didn’t say or do anything to stop her and Valerie walked calmly upstairs to her room. She stepped inside, waited for Roxy to clear the door, then shut it and leaned weakly back against it, her eyes closing.

  The memory of those few moments, or maybe more than a few moments, in Anders’s arms, immediately washed over her. The passion had been staggering . . . mind-blowing. Valerie hardly knew the man, but if Roxy hadn’t needed to go out, she suspected she’d even now be riding that horse called sex. And where the hell had that passion come from? The guy was good-looking and everything, but until his lips had met hers, she hadn’t really been thinking lusty thoughts about him. She’d admired his pretty face and trim figure like one would admire a well-designed dress or shoe, but there had been no real spark of sexual interest.

  Well, except when their hands had met on the soup bowl . . . and when he’d taken her hand in Cambridge to help her back into the SUV, she acknowledged. Yeah, heated awareness had shot through her both times, but nothing like what had happened downstairs just now. That had been like a flash fire.

  Roxy’s wet nose against the palm of her hand stirred Valerie from her position. She glanced down at the dog, and gave her a pat, muttering, “I’ve lost my mind. You know that, don’t you?”

  Shaking her head, she walked over to the bed and lay down. It hadn’t yet been nine P. M. last night when she’d lain down. She’d slept straight through to six in the morning. More than nine hours. Valerie didn’t expect to sleep, but she did want to avoid Anders for a while. At least until she thought she could be around him without trying to climb him like a telephone pole again.

  Anders dropped onto the sofa and leaned his head back with a sigh. He stared at the ceiling overhead, but he was seeing Valerie’s face after Roxy had broken up their kiss. Her lips had been swollen from his kisses, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes heavy-lidded with passion and hunger. He didn’t doubt he’d looked just as aroused. Just the memory of her lips under his, her body pressing eagerly against him, was making him hard again.

  Damn, it had just been starting to go down, he thought with a grimace. On the bright side, there was now no question in his mind that Valerie was his life mate. Well, if there really had been before. There shouldn’t have been—he’d had all the other symptoms—but Anders had been hesitating about admitting it because of the lack of passion. It seemed he just had to touch her to ignite it. And he now understood the horn-dog type behavior of his comrades. Because now that he’d tasted it, he couldn’t wait to taste more. So much so that it was a struggle not to follow her up to her room. One kiss and she’d melt in his arms like butter on a hot griddle.

  “Amazing. ”

  Anders glanced around with a start. He found Lucian leaning against the door frame, eyeing him with amusement.

  “What?” he asked, sitting up straight.

  “How everything can change so swiftly,” Lucian said dryly, moving into the kitchen.

  Anders watched him get a glass out of the cupboard before asking mildly, “And what is it you think is changing?”

  “Three days ago when you first realized you couldn’t read her and that she might possibly be your life mate, you weren’t happy,” Lucian said. He filled the glass with water, took a drink, and then continued, “You didn’t like the idea of anyone stealing so much of your attention, of having something to lose, of becoming a mother hen like me, or of being led around by your dick. Now you want to follow that presently very evident dick upstairs and claim Valerie by any means necessary. ”

  Anders glanced down to note that not only did he still have an erection, but it was very evident in his boxers. Grabbing one of the couch pillows, he dragged it over his lap and muttered, “You caught all that from reading my thoughts, did you?”

  “Clear as glass,” Lucian said.

  “Right. ” Anders said and grimaced at the knowledge that Lucian had read his less than complimentary thoughts about his worry for Leigh and being led around by his dick. Raising an eyebrow, he asked, “Do I
owe you an apology?”

  “Nope. I can hardly complain when I was eavesdropping on your thoughts. ” He took another drink of his water. As Lucian lowered the glass, he swallowed, and added, “But I’d go softly with Valerie. I wouldn’t want you to rush things and blow it. ”

  “Thanks for the advice,” Anders said dryly.

  “I’m serious,” Lucian said softly.

  Anders stilled. As a rule, Lucian could be counted on to growl, grunt, or bark. His voice only got that soft, solemn sound on very rare occasions. When it did, you were smart to listen. Anders nodded. “I’m listening. ”

  “She just experienced a nightmarish two weeks at the hands of what she thinks is a vampire. One of our kind,” he pointed out. “Ten days and nights in the flesh and three in fever-driven nightmares. ”

  “But we aren’t vampires,” Anders pointed out. “We’re immortals. ”

  “Semantics,” Lucian said with a shrug. “It won’t make any difference to her whether we are the mythological cursed and soulless beast Stoker wrote about, or scientifically evolved mortals turned nearly immortal by bio-engineered nanos that were introduced into our blood before the fall of Atlantis. ”

  “Scientifically evolved mortals who need more blood than the human body can produce to power those nanos,” Anders added wearily.

  Lucian nodded. “We have fangs, we don’t age, we are hard to kill and we need blood to survive. To her and many others, we are vampires. ”

  “We drink bagged blood to survive now,” Anders argued. “The immortal who kidnapped and held Valerie and the other women is a rogue. ”

  “True,” Lucian agreed. “Unfortunately, Valerie’s first encounter with our kind was via that rogue. She, understandably, is not going to be very receptive to the possibility that there are good guys among our kind. She needs to get to know and trust us, you especially, before you reveal too much. ”

  Anders nodded, seeing the wisdom in what he said. Then he cleared his throat and asked, “By don’t reveal too much, you aren’t including—”

  “No,” Lucian said, rare amusement curving his lips. “Bed her all you want, just keep your mouth shut while you do. At least until you think she can handle it. Otherwise,” he warned, “you could lose the chance of a lifetime. ”

  On that note, Lucian set the glass down and headed for the door.

  Anders was just relaxing into the couch to contemplate what had been said when Lucian paused at the hallway and glanced back to add, “Of course, if you do something as stupid as take my very pregnant and overdue wife on another three-hour road trip, you won’t live long enough to enjoy that chance of a lifetime anyway. ”

  Lucian didn’t wait for a response, but strode away, leaving the threat hanging in the air.

  Grimacing, Anders closed his eyes. He wasn’t surprised by Lucian’s threat. He’d expected it to come eventually. When Valerie had retired, Anders had lain down too, stripping down to his boxers for comfort’s sake. But he’d fully expected to wake up in an hour or so and come down to face the music if Lucian was back, or wait to face the music if he wasn’t. However, he’d slept right through the night until the blaring house alarm had shaken him from sleep.

  Christ, that had been an experience and a half. After all the panic and hurry, he’d charged downstairs only to find Valerie standing by the French doors in the kitchen looking guilty, mortified, and cute as a button in an overlarge T-shirt.

  The memory brought a smile to his face that quickly faded as he considered Valerie and how to gain her trust enough that she wouldn’t run screaming for the hills when he eventually risked explaining who and what he was. It wasn’t going to be easy.

  Chapter Seven

  Valerie blinked her eyes open and found herself staring into Roxy’s furry face. The dog immediately whined. It probably wasn’t the first time. Grimacing, Valerie sat up and glanced to the bedside clock. It was a little after noon. She’d fallen asleep again. She hadn’t intended to, and hadn’t thought she would after sleeping so long already. Valerie had only intended to lie down for a bit until the others got up. It seemed to her that having others around might be a good thing if she didn’t want another heated session with Anders.

  “Sorry, girl,” Valerie said, ruffling Roxy’s fur. “You must be bored stiff and ready for a run. You probably haven’t had one while I was gone. It’s hard to imagine Mrs. Ribble walking you, let alone taking you for a run. But I’m afraid I’m in no shape to take you for one either right now. I’d probably flake out in five minutes,” she added with a frown, and then suggested, “How about a game of fetch though?”
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