Immortal ever after, p.15
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       Immortal Ever After, p.15

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 15

 

  “But the last time you weren’t under the influence,” Lucian said.

  Valerie nodded, but concentrated on cooking for several moments, before saying, “I didn’t see Igor’s boss at all, and I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention to Igor himself. I was busy looking for a weapon or an escape route. ”

  “Just do your best to describe him,” Anders said quietly before Lucian could speak again.

  Valerie sighed. She stared at the pancakes as she said, “He was big. Bigger than you two, even. And crazy strong. When he hit me it was like being hit by a train. He sent me flying right out of the bathroom. ”

  “Okay,” Anders said when she fell silent. “What color was his hair?”

  “Dark brown,” she answered as an image of him bent over the tub came to mind. “Short and dark brown. ”

  “And his face? Was there anything notable about his features?”

  Valerie frowned and tried to remember. She hadn’t looked at him from the cage all the way up to the bathroom. Her eyes had been darting around looking for a way to escape. She pictured him turning to her in the bathroom, but all she saw was the shampoo squirting out over his face. But then she saw him coming out of the bathroom after her. There had still been shampoo on his face, but he’d wiped the worst of it away.

  “I think he had a big nose,” she said slowly. “And small mean eyes under a high forehead. ”

  “And his mouth?” Anders asked.

  “Thin lipped I think,” she said uncertainly. “And he had big ears. ”

  Silence fell briefly when she finished and then Lucian said, “We’ll have to get Valerie together with a sketch artist. ”

  “Do we know one?” Anders asked.

  “We can borrow one, either from the local police or somewhere further afield,” Lucian said. “I’ll call Bastian after breakfast and see if he can arrange something. ”

  “Speaking of breakfast, the sausages are done,” Leigh announced. “Valerie, how are we doing on the pancakes?”

  “The last two are in the pan,” she answered.

  “Good. Then I’ll get plates and silverware—” Leigh began to get off her seat, but Lucian immediately put a hand on her shoulder to stop her.

  “Anders and I will get plates and silverware. You just sit and relax,” he said firmly.

  “Valerie, do you have a coffee?” Anders asked as he retrieved plates from the cupboard.

  “No. It only finished dripping just before you came in,” she answered, turning the last two pancakes. “I haven’t had a chance to grab one. ”

  He didn’t comment, but a moment later set a fresh cup of coffee down beside her.

  “Thank you,” Valerie murmured and picked it up to take a tentative sip. Her eyes widened as she tasted it.

  “Cream and one sugar, right?” Anders asked uncertainly when he noted her expression.

  “Yes,” she said quietly. “It’s good. I was just surprised you remembered how I ordered it yesterday. ”

  “I was driving. I ordered it for you,” he pointed out.

  “Yes, but you had to order five different coffees. I’m just surprised you remembered how I take mine. ”

  “I made a mental note of it,” Anders said simply as he moved away.

  Valerie stared after him as he retrieved maple syrup for the pancakes, and ketchup for the sausages under Leigh’s instruction. He’d made a mental note of how she liked her coffee. What did that mean? Why had he gone to the trouble? For her? Did that mean he liked her? Was he interested in her? Well, okay, those kisses earlier suggested he was definitely interested, but that was just . . . well, chemistry. Physical. The consideration revealed in taking note of how she took her coffee was . . .

  She didn’t know what it was, but it had taken Larry years to remember how she took her coffee, and Anders had taken the trouble to remember it the first time out. It gave her something to think about.

  Shaking her head, Valerie turned her attention to removing the last two pancakes from the pan. Breakfast was ready.

  “For God’s sake, Anders, your pacing is driving me wild,” Leigh said with exasperation. “Sit down. ”

  Anders paused with surprise and turned to peer at the brunette curled up in the corner of the couch with a book in her hands. “I’m not pacing, I’m . . . ”

  She arched her eyebrows, waiting, and he sighed.

  “Pacing,” he acknowledged and sank onto the nearest chair. He rested his elbows on his spread knees, allowing his hands to dangle between them, and stared out the window. After several minutes, he dropped back in the chair with a heavy sigh, then straightened and asked impatiently, “What the devil is she doing up there?”

  “She’s checking with her academic advisor to ensure that missing the first two weeks of classes won’t bugger her up for the term,” Leigh reminded him patiently.

  “Yeah, but that should have been a five-minute conversation. She’s been up there over an hour,” he complained. Valerie had helped clean up the kitchen after breakfast, then had taken Roxy with her and escaped upstairs on the pretext of calling the veterinary college to be sure she was still welcome after missing the first two weeks of the semester.

  “Yes, well, perhaps whoever she needs to speak to wasn’t available and she’s waiting for a call back,” Leigh suggested. “Or maybe they had work for her to do to keep from falling behind and she’s up their reading her textbooks and studying. ”

  “Or maybe she’s hiding,” Anders said unhappily.

  Leigh tsked with irritation. “Why would she be hiding?”

  Anders didn’t respond, but in his mind he was remembering their kiss that morning . . . well, kisses. Or maybe one kiss. He wasn’t sure how to classify it. Did you have to come up for air to classify it as more than one kiss? Or was it counted in minutes or seconds? Because it had been a constant devouring of each other’s mouths for several minutes.

  “Oh my, yes. I see,” Leigh murmured.

  Anders glanced up at her murmur and noted her narrowed concentration on him. She’d read his damn mind.

  “Yes, that might have made her want to hide out,” she said sympathetically. “It wasn’t that long ago when I had my first encounter with life mate passion. It was pretty terrifying. And she didn’t have any idea what was happening. I mean, as an immortal you had heard about it, had some idea of what to expect, and yet you were still overwhelmed by it. Imagine how she must feel. She got hit by a nuclear explosion of passion out of nowhere. ”

  Anders sighed and ran one hand wearily over his closely cropped hair. Leigh wasn’t saying a damned thing he hadn’t already thought of. Which was why he suspected Valerie was hiding out. The question was, how long would she hide? And how was he supposed to get her to know and trust him if she wouldn’t come out of her room?

  “All right. ” Leigh set aside the book she’d been reading, and uncurled her legs from under her to stand up. “I’ll go see what I can do. ”

  Anders was on his feet at once. “What are you going to do?”

  “I don’t know. I’ll have to see what the situation is first,” she pointed out patiently.

  “Right. ” He nodded.

  “Just sit down and try to stop looking like an expectant father. You’re giving me contractions here. ”

  Anders eyes widened. “You’re—?”

  “Joking, Anders,” Leigh said with exasperation as she waddled out of the room.

  He stared after her until she disappeared on the stairs, and then lifted his eyes to the ceiling, mentally following her journey to Valerie’s room. When he heard her knock on the door, he stood frozen for a moment, then suddenly hurried to the bookshelf beside the television and grabbed a random book. Taking it back to his chair, Anders dropped to sit and opened the book to the middle so that he could pretend to be reading if Leigh lured Valerie back down.

  Chapter Eight

  “A swim?” Valer
ie said uncertainly.

  “Yeah. I’m supposed to get exercise, but walking makes my ankles swell, and, frankly, carrying this baby around is like having a sack of potatoes strapped to your waist, but the water makes it all easier,” Leigh explained. “However, Anders doesn’t swim, and I don’t want to be in the pool by myself in case I go into labor or something, so I thought maybe you’d like to join me?”

  “Oh. ” Valerie hesitated. She really didn’t have any excuse to say no. She’d made her phone call as soon as she’d got up here, and managed to get through to her advisor. The conversation hadn’t lasted long, but afterward, Valerie had been self-conscious about facing Anders again. She maybe shouldn’t be, she’d spent time with him since their kiss. But having him come into a room where she was, was different from her having to enter a room where he was. So, she’d made poor Roxy sit in this room for the last hour, and that after making her sleep in here for hours. The poor dog was probably sorry she was back. At least at Mrs. Ribble’s she got to go out in the yard.

  Now Valerie considered Leigh’s words and shifted from one foot to the other. A swim. Being in a bathing suit in front of Anders. But with Leigh . . . who was afraid to swim and rightfully so in her state. And who had also been kind enough to allow Valerie into her home to help keep her safe.

  “I can loan you a swimsuit if you—”

  “It’s okay. I actually picked up my swimsuit when we were at the house. I thought with the pool . . . ” She shrugged.

  “Great. ” Leigh beamed. “Well, I’ll just go put mine on and meet you at the top of the stairs then. Okay?”

  “Sure. ” Valerie smiled, and saw her out, then turned and went to dig her bathing suit out of the drawer. She’d finally unpacked the bags after coming up after breakfast. Now she pulled her swimsuit out and quickly changed. Once done, she then just stood there and stared at herself with alarm. Her body hadn’t been anywhere near a razor in two weeks. She was a bloody gorilla!

  Groaning, Valerie closed her eyes briefly, then moved to the makeup case Marguerite had packed for her. She hadn’t checked inside when she’d taken it out of her suitcase and plunked it on the bathroom counter. Now, Valerie quickly unzipped the bag, silently praying that—

  “Yes,” she breathed when the first two items to spill out were her razor and a container of blades.

  “Thank you, Marguerite,” Valerie breathed. She was standing with one foot in the sink when a knock sounded at the door. Shouting, “Come in,” she continued her work, scraping the razor swiftly over her skin.

  “If you’re grabbing a towel, don’t bother. I have a couple of beach towels for us. They’re bigger and—Oh. ” Leigh paused as she reached the bathroom door. “Gee, I hadn’t thought about. Well . . . ”

  “Neither had I,” Valerie admitted wryly, quickly drying the first leg before shifting positions to work on the other one. “It wasn’t until I saw the koala bear legs I had developed that I remembered. ”

  “Oh, they aren’t that bad,” Leigh said.

  “Yes, they are, or were,” Valerie countered, thinking Leigh really was a bad liar.

  Apparently she agreed, because she suddenly grimaced and admitted, “Yes, they are. Girl, you could almost braid that hair. ”

  “Thanks,” Valerie said on a laugh as she soaped her second leg.

  “Well, you didn’t really have to shave. We’d have been a matching pair. I mean I haven’t been able to even reach my legs in over a month. ”

  Valerie chuckled at the suggestion as she shaved. “Yeah, but you have an excuse. I don’t. ”

  “Yeah,” Leigh nodded. “I suppose being kidnapped and locked in a cage for ten days and then being unconscious for three days are no excuse for hairy legs. ”

  Valerie blinked at her, and then felt a reluctant smile curve her lips before she agreed, “No excuse at all. ”

  Finished with her second leg, Valerie grabbed the towel and quickly dried it, wiping away the remaining soap. She then paused and peered at herself, feeling a bit self-conscious in her swimsuit and T-shirt. Which was really just silly. She’d worn less at the beach. But then Anders hadn’t been at the beach. The thought made her grimace. One kiss and she was suddenly shy of the man?

  “Come on, beauty, you’ve vanquished the hairy beast. Now let’s go get wet,” Leigh said turning toward the door.

  “Beast? Nice,” Valerie said with amusement, and hurried to follow her from the room, patting her leg to command Roxy to follow.

  “Here, let me take those. ” She relieved Leigh of the beach towels as they reached the stairs so the pregnant woman could hold the rail, and then followed her silently down.
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