The lady is a vamp, p.13
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.13

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Thirteen

 

  "Jesus, Jeanne Louise, what are you doing?" Justin Bricker breathed with horror as she gave up her one turn to the child.

  Ignoring the question, she barked, "Call for help. We need blood and lots of it, an IV, and chain, as well as drugs to facilitate the turn. "

  Justin hesitated, but then pulled out his phone and began punching numbers. He also turned sideways to get past Paul and moved back upstairs as he pressed the phone to his ear.

  Free to approach now, Paul moved to kneel on Livy's other side, uncertainty and fear battling on his face. He didn't speak until Jeanne Louise removed her wrist from Livy's mouth and scooped her up. He stood then to follow when she carried the girl into the bedroom they'd used, asking in a whisper, "Will she survive?"

  Jeanne Louise didn't answer right away. She set the child on the bed and then turned her on her stomach so that she could examine the back of her head. The wound was as big as it had felt to her hand. She could see right through to her fractured skull.

  "I don't know," she said unhappily. It certainly didn't look good. Not only was there the tumor for the nanos to contend with, and her weakened state, but now there was the head wound and the loss of blood.

  "Please don't let her die," Paul said quietly. It was a prayer really, a quiet request of God. But Jeanne Louise flinched as if he'd lashed her with the words.

  In the next moment, she suddenly raised her uninjured wrist to her fangs and tore into it with even more vicious intent than she had the first. Paul winced and started to turn away, but then forced himself to watch the woman he loved tear a great gaping wound into her wrist. She was doing this for him after all, for him and Livy.

  While Jeanne Louise had merely grunted the first time she bit herself, this time a shriek of pain was torn from her throat with the action. But then this time the wound she brought on was bigger, the flap of skin she tore away almost twice the size of the first. She then held this new gash over Livy's injured head and began to squeeze the wound as if trying to get as much ketchup as possible out of a plastic bottle. Paul swallowed at the hissing breath she sucked in as she did it, knowing she was causing herself even more pain. He then turned and hurried from the room, and rushed to the bathroom between the two bedrooms.

  Paul felt like he was going to be sick, but that wasn't why he'd come. He ignored the toilet, swallowed the bile in his throat and quickly opened the cupboard door under the sink. A stack of towels sat inside and he grabbed several and then hurried back to the bedroom where Jeanne Louise's wrist had stopped gushing, the wound reduced to little more than a trickle. Still she squeezed at the wound trying to get more of the valuable liquid out.

  When she finally gave up on getting any more out, and let her wrists drop to her side, Paul stepped to her side and used the towels to bind first one wounded wrist and then the other, wrapping the towels tightly around each.

  "Why did you bleed on her head?" Paul asked quietly as he finished with the second wrist. "Will it help?"

  Jeanne Louise shook her head and heaved out a weary sigh. "I don't know. It was the only thing I could think to do. The nanos might be able to heal the head wound. And her skull is cracked, they might be able to get through it to get to the tumor quickly and start to work on it. As to whether it will help or not though . . . " She shrugged helplessly.

  "It might help. "

  Paul turned sharply at that growl, his eyes narrowing on the man with short dark hair now entering the room.

  "Daddy!" Jeanne Louise said with relief and hurried forward to hug the man while Paul gaped.

  Daddy? The guy had short dark hair, wore jeans and a T-shirt and didn't look a day over twenty-five. But then neither did Jeanne Louise, or any of the other immortals he'd ever met. None of them looked over twenty-five or so. Still . . . the guy didn't look like he could be her father, Paul thought, and then changed his mind on that when the man in question released Jeanne Louise and turned to spear him with a look of cold dislike and said, "Is this the bastard who kidnapped you, Jeanie?"

  "Oh . . . er . . . no," Jeanne Louise said quickly, moving to put herself between Paul and her father. When her father turned a sharp look on her for the lie, she added, "I mean yes, but only at first. I'm not being held against my will anymore. He's my life mate, Daddy. Or he was," she added dully, her shoulders drooping unhappily as she glanced to Livy. Swallowing, she glanced back and asked, "Do you have any blood?"

  "We only have a couple bags left. Bricker went out to fetch them from the cooler in the van," a woman's voice answered.

  Paul shifted to the side to see who this new speaker was, his eyebrows rising as he spotted the tall black woman with short, spiked hair standing behind Jeanne Louise's father. He recognized her at once as the woman in the van at the mall in London. Eshe, Jeanne Louise had said her name was. Her stepmother.

  "Only a couple bags?" Jeanne Louise echoed with dismay.

  "Nicholas and Jo are only a few minutes away and have more in their cooler, as do Etienne and Rachel. They were searching the small towns along Lake Huron for you too," he explained.

  "How did you know we were on the lake?" Jeanne Louise asked with a frown.

  "After I spotted you leaving the mall parking lot, a debit withdrawal and credit card transaction popped up," Eshe explained solemnly.

  When Jeanne Louise turned to him in question, Paul said helplessly, "We'd already been spotted in London. I figured it was safe enough to get gas and withdraw more money. They knew we were there and I didn't think it would lead to their figuring out where we were. "

  "It wasn't the cash or gas that told us. It was the raft and water wings," her father said dryly. "Those along with the mosquito repellent suggested the beach to us so we concentrated on searching the waterside towns on either side of London. "

  Paul felt the blood slip from his face. Christ, he'd bought them at the gas station, not even thinking . . . He'd brought these people here with his own actions. He'd ruined everything himself. His gaze slid to Jeanne Louise but she wasn't looking at him now. She stood, face turned away and hands clenched. Hating him for blowing it for them, he supposed miserably.

  Silence reigned in the room for a moment and then Jeanie's father moved to the bed to peer down at Livy. Mouth tight, he asked, "Bricker said you used your turn on her?"

  "I didn't have a choice," Jeanie said quietly. "He scared her and she fell down the stairs. She was dying. "

  "What does that matter? She was already dying," he growled and Eshe moved up behind him, putting a hand on his arm.

  "She's the daughter of her life mate, Armand," Eshe said softly. "She loves the child. It was her choice. She wasn't forced. "

  "No, just kidnapped and emotionally blackmailed," Armand Argeneau growled, casting another glare Paul's way.

  He shifted uncomfortably under the look, thinking the guy definitely acted like a father. He himself probably would have been pissed at the way things had played out if he was Jeanne Louise's father. He'd made a mess of everything.

  "What is it?"

  Jeanne Louise's tense question drew Paul from his self-flagellation as she moved up beside her father to peer down at Livy.

  Paul moved to the foot of the bed to get a look at his daughter as well, concern claiming him as he did. She still lay on her stomach in the bed, the gash on the back of her head visible, but looking a little smaller to his eyes. But Paul really hardly noticed that. It was the way that the child seemed to be vibrating on the bed that caught his attention and held onto it.

  "Jeanie?" he said in question, a frown claiming his mouth as the vibrating seemed to pick up in strength.

  Rather than answer, she bent to turn Livy over and then lifted first one eyelid and then the other. Whatever she saw made her straighten abruptly with dismay, saying, "We're going to need more than a couple of bags of blood and quickly. "

  "What's happening?" Paul asked.

  "She's having s
eizures," Jeanne Louise answered grimly.

  "Why? What does it mean?" Paul asked at once.

  "It means the nanos are already working on her brain," Eshe answered, moving around the bed to the side opposite Jeanne Louise and bending to place her hands on Livy's arm and leg even as Jeanne Louise bent to do the same on her side. Armand moved to the end of the bed, shoving Paul out the way so that he could lean over and brace Livy's legs, placing his hands on her ankles and pressing them down on the bed. It freed the women to move their own hands to her shoulders and arms.

  "What are you doing? Why are you holding her down like that? She-" Paul paused as Livy's seizures turned into thrashing. He immediately moved back to the bed to try to help hold her down, but froze, horror zipping through him when blood began to squirt from her mouth.

  "Dear God," he breathed. It was as if he'd stepped into the movie The Exorcist, only it wasn't green vomit spewing from his beloved daughter's mouth.

  "She's bitten the end of her tongue almost off," Eshe said sharply. "Armand-"

  She didn't bother to finish whatever she was going to say, Jeanne Louise's father had already released Livy's legs and hurried to grab the wooden tray off the bedside table. He didn't bother clearing it first, simply sent the empty sandwich plates and Paul's half full glass of iced tea flying as he grabbed it. Armand then moved around to Eshe's side, snapping off the end of the tray as he went. He handed the smaller piece of wood to Eshe who slid it between Livy's teeth.

  Paul watched this silently, but when Livy's teeth clamped down on the wood, he asked shakily, "She bit her tongue off?"

  "Not all the way. The nanos will heal it," Jeanne Louise reassured him quickly, and he nodded, but knew they would only do that if she survived the turn. And Paul was very much afraid she wouldn't.

  Jeanne Louise had warned him that the turn was violent and an ordeal, but he'd barely listened to the caution, his mind wholly on Livy's being healthy and strong. Paul hadn't imagined anything like this nightmare.

  "Here. "

  Paul glanced around at that word to see the immortal who had caused this rushing into the room with the couple of bags of blood Eshe had mentioned.

  "We don't have an IV," Jeanne Louise pointed out, frowning at the bags.

  "Slit the end with your nail and pour it into her mouth," Eshe instructed.

  Leaving her father and Eshe to try to hold Livy down, Jeanne Louise straightened and took both bags from Justin. The moment she removed them from his hands, Justin stepped up to take her place and help hold Livy down. Ignoring him, she handed one bag to Paul to hold on to and slit her nail across the top of the other. Jeanne Louise removed the wood from between Livy's teeth and tipped the bag over her now unobstructed mouth.

  "How long until the drugs, blood, and IV get here?" Paul heard Armand ask Justin quietly.

  "Nicholas and Jo should be here any minute. He said they had a couple bags. Anders has six and shouldn't be long either. Garrett-"

  "And the drugs and IV?" Eshe interrupted.

  "Half an hour to forty-five minutes," he admitted unhappily. "They have to fly them down. "

  "That could be a problem," Eshe said grimly as Jeanne Louise tossed the first, now empty, bag aside and took the second one from Paul to slit it open. "It will draw the neighbors. "

  "What will?" Paul asked, moving back to try to help hold Livy down.

  Eshe didn't bother to answer. She didn't have to. Livy answered his question herself by beginning to shriek at the top of her lungs.

  Paul woke up with a start and then glanced around with confusion. He was lying on top of the covers on the bed in the second bedroom in the basement, but he hadn't a clue how he'd got there. The last thing he remembered was panic gripping him as Livy began to shriek wildly and thrash like a wild thing.

  "My father put you to sleep and laid you in here to keep you out of the way. "

  Paul raised his head and peered at the man who had spoken. He sat in a chair by the bed; tall with longish fair hair, a solemn face and glowing silver-blue eyes.

  "Livy?" he asked, the question uppermost in his mind.

  "She's through the worst of the turn. She should come through okay now," he said solemnly.

  Paul took a relieved breath, and then asked the other question most important to him. "And Jeanne Louise?"

  "She's upstairs feeding. The blood and drugs arrived last night, but she wouldn't leave Livy to feed until she was sure she was going to make it. "

  Paul nodded, not terribly surprised to hear that. He then asked, "Who are you?"

  "I wondered when you'd get to that," the man said with a smile, and then answered, "Nicholas Argeneau. Jeanne Louise's brother. "

  Paul stared at him blankly and then dropped back in the bed with a muttered, "So you no doubt hate me too. "

  "No. "

  The answer made him lift his head again. Eyebrows rising, he asked, "Why not? I kidnapped your sister. And she's used her one turn on my daughter. "

  "Well, since I've been poking around in your head for the last several minutes, I know you kidnapped Jeanne Louise out of a desperate desire to save your daughter, and that you did your best to not hurt her and to make her as comfortable as possible. I also know she wasn't a captive long, but was willing to stay, that you love each other and that the two of you planned for her to turn you and then for you to turn Livy so that you could be a family. But events have interfered and now she can't turn you. "

  Nicholas sighed and rubbed the back of his neck wearily, and then admitted, "I don't hate you, Paul Jones. I pity you. I pity both you and Jeanne Louise right now. "

  "We'll be all right," Paul said gruffly, though fear had slid through him at the words. "Livy will get better, and we'll be a family. Just not for as long as we hoped. "

  "You really think Jeanne Louise wants to watch you wither and die any more than you wanted to watch Livy wither and die?" Nicholas asked solemnly.

  "I'm not dying," Paul protested.

  "You're mortal," Nicholas said simply. "All mortals are dying. It may be slower than Livy or someone else with a disease will. You may have twenty to forty years before you go, but that's a heartbeat to us and you are dying. Every day takes you closer to the grave, and if the two of you stay together, Jeanne Louise will have to travel there with you and watch you go. "

  Paul stared at Nicholas, his words echoing in his head. They raised the terror in him that Jeanne Louise might leave him now, that she'd avoid him to avoid being dragged to the edge of the grave with him and watch him be planted in the ground.

  "That won't happen," Nicholas said quietly. "You're her life mate. She won't be able to drag herself away from you. She'll cling to you until your last breath, and then be crushed and heartbroken when she loses you, probably withdraw to relive the moments you shared. It's what I did after losing mine. "

  "You lost your life mate?" Paul asked quietly.

  Nicholas nodded. "But I found another. "

  "Maybe she will too," Paul said.

  "She might," he acknowledged. "But immortals can go centuries, even millennia before finding another, and if her next one is mortal too . . . " He shook his head. "She goes through it all over again, the love, the loss, the despair. " Nicholas fell silent, his expression sad. He was obviously hurting for his sister. He didn't see much happiness ahead for her.

  And it's all my fault, Paul realized.

  If he had just stopped to think, and not bought those water wings and the raft on the credit card when he'd got gas at Canadian Tire, her family never would have thought to search the coastal towns . . . and their plan would have gone ahead as they'd intended. They'd be a family.

  Aware that Nicholas was sitting unnaturally still, Paul glanced toward him, eyebrows rising when he saw that he was peering toward the door as if listening to something. Several minutes passed that way and then he suddenly stood. "I'm sure you want to see Livy. "

  "Yes. " Paul
sat up and swung his legs off the bed at once. When the other man moved to the door, he followed quickly, eager to see both Jeanne Louise and Livy. However, when he followed Nicholas into the next room, Jeanne Louise wasn't there. Eshe alone sat by Livy's bedside.

  Paul hesitated, but moved to the bed to peer down at Livy. She looked much better than she had when last he'd seen her, better even than she had in more than a month. She actually looked healthy, her cheeks filled out and rosy, her face peaceful. A small sigh of relief slid from Paul's mouth and then he glanced to Eshe.

  "Where is Jeanie?"

  "Upstairs," Eshe said, standing. "Nicholas and I have to go up too. You'll have to sit with Livy and change the blood bags. I'll show you how. "

  "Jeanne Louise?"

  Turning from her contemplation of the contents of the refrigerator, Jeanne Louise raised her eyebrows as she peered at her father over the bag of blood stuck to her teeth. After watching over Livy all night she was hungry for both blood and food. Blood was the first thing she'd attended to. Food would be the next. She'd get Paul something to eat too, she thought as she waited for her father to speak. No doubt Paul would be hungry when he woke up. Along with relieved to know Livy was going to make it.

  Jeanne Louise still couldn't believe the girl had hung in there and survived the turn. Between the cancer, the blood loss, the gash and fractured skull . . . well, she'd been sure the child's body wouldn't be able to withstand everything. She'd feared she'd die before the turn really even got started.

  "Eshe thinks that your bleeding yourself into the open wound on the back of the girl's head probably saved her," Armand said, obviously having read her thoughts. Tilting his head curiously, he asked, "How did you know to do that?"

  Jeanne Louise tore away the now empty bag from her fangs and smiled wryly as she admitted, "I don't know. It just came to me. "

  His eyebrows rose, but he let that go and then moved to sit down at the dining table. "Lucian will be here soon. We have to talk. "

  Jeanne Louise hesitated, not really eager to "talk. " She knew her father hated Paul for kidnapping her. They all did. And they were also no doubt furious on her behalf that she'd given up her one turn. She wasn't too pleased about that herself and blamed Bricker for it.

  "It was an accident," Armand Argeneau said solemnly. "Bricker didn't intend for it to happen. He says he tried to slip into the girl's thoughts to stop her when she turned to run, but met resistance. That was probably the tumor. "

  "Probably," Jeanne Louise acknowledged, and moved to sit wearily at the table. She wasn't really surprised to hear that Justin had found it difficult to penetrate the girl's mind. It had gotten more and more difficult for her to slip into Livy's thoughts with each headache. She suspected the tumor had grown each day and had been starting to interfere. Jeanne Louise had always managed to get through the initial block, but Justin wouldn't have expected it, and may not have been able to push through in the short amount of time he'd had to do so.

  "And I don't hate Paul," her father said quietly, proving he'd read that thought too. "I read his mind as I put him to sleep earlier. He loves you. He wanted to be your life mate. It's tragic that it can't happen now. "

  Jeanne Louise peered down at her hands. She'd been annoyed with her father at first when Paul had suddenly collapsed in the bedroom and she'd realized her father had put him under. But then as the turn had progressed, she'd decided it had probably been a good thing. Livy's turn had been fast and furious and incredibly violent. Probably because Jeanne Louise had bled into her twice, giving her twice the normal number of nanos and giving them two entry points. It was probably better that Paul hadn't had to witness his daughter in such agony. Jeanne Louise wished she hadn't had to.

  "And I know you love him too," Armand continued solemnly. "Which is why we need to talk. We need to come up with a strategy for presenting this to Lucian if you want to save Paul's life. "

  Jeanne Louise stiffened. "Lucian can't-"

  "Lucian does what he thinks is best for our people. Paul kidnapped you, hoping to get you to turn his daughter. Kidnapping is wrong even in mortal law, Jeanne Louise. But Lucian won't stand for a mortal kidnapping an immortal. "

  "Paul may have kidnapped me initially," Jeanne Louise said carefully. "But as soon as I was fully awake and realized I couldn't read him I was there willingly. And he was only hoping to convince me to turn Livy. He wouldn't have forced me. "

  "I'm not sure about that," Armand said on a sigh. "Paul was originally hoping to convince you, but he was also desperate. I don't think even he knew what he would do if you refused, or how far he would go. "

  Jeanne Louise frowned at this news, but shook her head. "It doesn't matter. The problem never came up and Lucian can't punish Paul for something that might have happened. "

  "Lucian might not agree with you on that. "

  Jeanne Louise glanced toward the door at her cousin Etienne's words as he entered the cottage with his wife, Rachel, and Jo, who was her brother Nicholas's wife, on his heels. The trio had gone out for food and each carried a cardboard tray of drinks and a Tim Hortons bag.

  Nicholas and Etienne and their wives had arrived shortly after her father had removed Paul from the room. With the added help available, her father had sent Etienne and Justin to see to the neighbors, to make sure they didn't think anything of the pained shrieks and wails Livy was eliciting and were plainly heard outside. The others had stayed in the room, helping to hold down Livy and keep her from hurting herself as her struggles became stronger.

  Even with the added help, it had been hard to keep the girl still and Jeanne Louise had been relieved when the Enforcer Anders had arrived with the drugs and IV. The drugs hadn't stopped the pain for Livy, but they'd made it more bearable and stopped her from thrashing about.

  "He can't punish Paul for taking me. I was willing," Jeanne Louise said firmly as Etienne and the women began to unpack the food they'd fetched. Nine sandwiches and nine drinks, she noted, and guessed they hadn't bothered to bring Paul food.

  "Anders doesn't eat or drink," Jo said quietly. She leaned sideways in her seat to offer a piece of her sandwich to Boomer with one hand and a pet with the other.

  Not being allowed into Livy's room, the dog was apparently mooching for food from anyone and everyone, Jeanne Louise thought, but then spotted his full food dish several feet away. He wasn't going hungry, so perhaps he wanted affection and reassurance as much as food, she decided, and then let go of the concern as Jo straightened and reassured her, "One of the sandwiches and a drink are for Paul. "

  "Oh," she murmured and smiled at her sister-in-law with gratitude. She liked Jo and was glad the woman and Nicholas had found each other. As if called by her thoughts of him, Nicholas now entered the kitchen on Eshe's heels and Jeanne Louise frowned at the sight of them. "Livy-?"

  "Paul is with her," Eshe reassured her at once. "I showed him how to change bags as necessary. "

  "You were willing after you realized he was your life mate, Jeanne Louise, but not at first," her father said, drawing her attention back to the matter at hand. He then added sadly, "And sweetie, your being willing or not doesn't change the fact that he kidnapped an immortal with the intention of making them turn his daughter. "

  "She was dying," Jeanne Louise barked with frustration, and then asked grimly, "What would you do to save me or Nicholas or Thomas?"

  That brought a moment of silence that she filled by adding, "Besides, he only kidnapped me because Marguerite told him to follow his heart. "

  "What?" Etienne asked with amazement, head jerking up at the mention of his mother's name.

  Jeanne Louise nodded firmly. "Paul was going to try to convince a coworker who would have been easier to get alone, but Marguerite told him to follow his heart, so he took me. "

  "You were his heart's desire," Eshe said softly, her gaze concentrated on Jeanne Louise's forehead. She was reading her mind, of course, Jeanne Louise thought with a sigh,
but didn't fight it. Seeing everything that had taken place could only help her cause. At least she hoped so.

  Her gaze slid around the table at the silence suddenly surrounding her, and Jeanne Louise found everyone staring at her, concentration on their faces. They were all bloody reading her. It made her realize that some of her memories were somewhat personal and private and definitely X-rated. Not something she wanted her father and brother to see.

  Standing abruptly, she said, "I love him. He's my life mate. I wanted to turn him and have him turn Livy so that we could be a family. I can't have that now, but if Uncle Lucian harms a hair on Paul's head I will stop him, or die trying. If you love me, I suggest you figure out a way to convince him to leave Paul alone. " Gathering two sandwiches and two drinks, she added, "Now I'm going down to sit with Paul and Livy. Excuse me. "

  Jeanne Louise turned and headed for the stairs then, pausing and stepping around Justin Bricker and Anders as they appeared at the top of the stairs.

  "Jeanne Louise," Bricker said, catching her arm as she passed. When she paused, he said, "I'm really sorry. I wish I could-" Sighing, he let go of her arm and said simply, "I'll do what I can to help. "

  Nodding, Jeanne Louise turned away and continued downstairs. She knew he felt bad and her silence wasn't helping. And she didn't want to blame Bricker for the way things had gone. Jeanne Louise knew he hadn't intended for any of this to happen, that it hadn't been deliberate on his part. But while her head was able to reason all this out, her heart wanted to lash out at someone with all the frustration and rage she was forcing down over the way things had turned out. Jeanne Louise was afraid if she said anything at all to the Enforcer, she would pour all that rage and frustration on his head. Maybe with some time . . .

  Jeanne Louise grimaced to herself. She very much doubted time would help here. In fact, she wasn't sure anything would.

  Sighing as she stepped off the stairs, Jeanne Louise crossed the sitting area to the bedroom where Paul and Livy were . . . or where they were supposed to be. However, when she entered the room, a somewhat forced smile in place, she found the room empty.
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