The lady is a vamp, p.16
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.16

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Sixteen


  Paul rolled over in bed, reaching automatically for Jeanne Louise, and blinked his eyes open when all he found was empty bed. Cold, empty bed. Frowning, he sat up and glanced around. The room was silent and still, no Jeanne Louise. Grabbing his wristwatch off the bedside table he checked the time, grimacing when he saw that it was just after two in the afternoon. Jeanne Louise shouldn't be up yet. Stifling a yawn, he slid out of bed and made his way to the en suite bathroom for a shower.

  Twenty minutes later Paul was showered, dressed, and had brushed his teeth and hair. Feeling somewhat alive now, he made his way out of his and Jeanne Louise's room, pausing to look in on Livy as he passed.

  "Hmm," he muttered when he found that his daughter was up and gone too. Both girls were early birds this morning. Shrugging, Paul pulled the door closed and continued downstairs. He glanced in each room as he headed for the kitchen in search of coffee, pausing when he spotted the men of the house all congregated around something in the living room.

  "What's up?" Paul asked, moving into the room.

  "The television isn't working and there's a big game on in fifteen minutes," Julius said with irritation.

  "Big game?" Paul asked, crossing to join them.

  "Soccer," Christian said, frowning as he pushed buttons on the remote, bringing up screen after screen of static. "Italy's playing. "

  "Hmm. " Paul glanced from the remote to the television screen, but said, "I thought you guys slept during the day?"

  "Italy's playing," Christian repeated.

  "Right," Paul said with amusement. Apparently, soccer took precedence over sleep. "Do you know where Jeanne Louise and Livy are?"

  "They went shopping with Marguerite and Caro," Christian answered and then gave the remote an irritated shake. "Damn thing. "

  "Let me see," Paul said, taking the remote. The men all turned to him expectantly as he hit menu, then a couple more options before selecting "view signal. " "Huh. "

  "What is it?" Julius asked.

  "Well, your signal is pretty low, it looks to me like the satellite is misaligned," he explained. "We had a storm last night, the high winds probably shifted it or something. "

  Christian groaned. "We'll never get a repairman out here before the game starts. "

  "You don't need a repairman," Paul assured him, handing back the remote. "There are a couple of screws you turn, is all, one for up and down and one for side to side. I can adjust it. Where's the satellite?"

  "On the roof," Julius said with a frown.

  "I'll do it," Bricker announced, turning to head out of the room.

  "You can't go out there," Paul said, catching his arm to stop him. "It's sunny out. Besides, I know what I'm doing. " Turning back he asked, "Do you have a ladder, Julius? I'll just climb up and-"

  "I don't need a ladder," Bricker said, pulling free and continuing out of the room.

  Frowning, Paul hurried into the hall after him. "Bricker. It's sunny out. I can do it without taking damage. You can't. "

  "Jeanne Louise is already pissed at me about Livy. She'd never forgive me if anything happened to you," the Enforcer said grimly. "I'll do it. "

  "Let him do it," Julius said, when Paul opened his mouth to argue. "He can hop up there, adjust the satellite and then hop back down. It won't take a minute. "

  "Yeah, but I can do it too," Paul said irritably. "I might need a ladder, but at least I know what I'm doing. "

  "True, but he'll survive if he falls off the roof. You might not," Julius said calmly, then patted his back. "Come, you can help me get beer and snacks. "

  Paul scowled. "Get the snacks? Of course. I'm mortal. Good only for women's work, right?"

  His host paused and turned back, eyebrows raised. "Do I look like a woman to you?"

  Sighing, Paul relaxed and grimaced. "No. Of course not. "

  "Good. So come help me. " Julius turned and continued up the hall and Paul reluctantly followed the older immortal into the kitchen. He was still irritated that they wouldn't let him up on the roof. He was mortal, not handicapped.

  "We know that," Julius said mildly, retrieving bowls from the cupboard, and then turning to the pantry to fetch a couple varieties of chips. "But we aren't going to take chances with you. You are Jeanne Louise's life mate. "

  "Yeah," Paul muttered, and then heaved a sigh. "So where's the beer? I'll fetch it. "

  "I'll get it. You put the chips in bowls, and grab the dips from the refrigerator," Julius said, tossing him the chips and then moving out into the garage.

  Mouth tightening, Paul opened one of the bags and dumped its contents into one of the bowls, then did the same with the others. It seemed even fetching beer was too taxing for a mortal to these men.

  Rolling his eyes, he moved to the fridge in search of dips. Paul had never been much into sports, but there was nothing better to do, and he supposed it was a way to bond with Jeanne Louise's uncle and cousin.

  "And I know how to dog-paddle too. I'll show you," Livy announced to a seemingly enthralled Caro, who had turned sideways in the front passenger seat to listen to Livy's happy chatter. Now the girl turned to Jeanne Louise, who sat in the backseat beside her and asked, "When can we go to the beach again, Jeanie?"

  "Not for a bit, pet," Jeanne Louise said apologetically. "You have some more training to do before we can do stuff like that. And when we do go, it will have to be at night. You have to stay out of the sun from now on, remember?"

  "Oh, right, cause I'm a vampire like in that movie with the flying cows," Livy announced with a grin.

  Jeanne Louise glanced quickly to Marguerite in the driver's seat, catching her wince at the "V" word.

  "Flying cows?" Caro asked with confusion.

  "Yeah, 'cause they were vampires too from the vampire boy and his family feeding on them," Livy explained. The explanation didn't clear the confusion on Caro's face. Jeanne Louise didn't understand any better but supposed it was a movie the girl had seen.

  "Here we are," Marguerite announced, bringing an end to the discussion of flying cows and vampires.

  Jeanne Louise glanced around to see that they were pulling into the driveway. Marguerite hit the button to open the garage door, and then pulled straight inside and out of the sun.

  "Wait for the garage door to close, sweetie," Jeanne Louise said when Livy reached for the door handle on her side.

  "Oh, right, 'cause I can't go out in the sun anymore. I'm agergic to it," the girl said, sitting back impatiently.

  "Allergic," Jeanne Louise corrected, turning to watch the garage door's progress. She wasn't allergic, of course, any more than the rest of them were, but it was the easiest explanation and one Livy could give to mortals if the subject ever came up around them.

  "Okay," Marguerite announced as the door finished closing. She then hit the button to open the trunk as they all got out.

  "You're back. "

  Jeanne Louise looked toward the door to the kitchen as Paul stepped out to join them.

  "Daddy, we went shopping and Jeanne Louise let me get ice cream and chocolate for dessert," she announced gleefully, throwing herself at his legs and hugging him tightly.

  Jeanne Louise walked around the car, biting her lip guiltily under Paul's arched eyebrow. "She was so good a treat seemed to be in order. "

  "Uh-huh," Paul said dryly, hugging and kissing her quickly as she reached his side. Then letting the matter drop, he said, "You two were up early. "

  "I heard Livy up and about in her room and got up to check on her," Jeanne Louise said with a shrug as she slipped out of his arms to move back to the trunk, where Caro and Marguerite were lifting out groceries. Joining them, she glanced over what was left. The two women had gathered all the bags, leaving a large package of toilet paper, a large bottle of water for the water cooler, and four cases of pop.

  "Livy, can you manage this?" Jeanne Louise asked, lifting out the twenty-gallon wa
ter bottle.

  "Yep," the girl said cheerfully taking it from her.

  "Livy honey, let Daddy get that," Paul said with a frown, moving quickly forward.

  "That's okay, Daddy. It isn't heavy," Livy said swinging the bottle from one hand as she skipped past him to the kitchen door.

  "Jesus," Paul muttered, turning away to continue to the car.

  "She's strong now, Paul," Jeanne Louise said with amusement, tossing the large package of toilet paper at him, and then turning to lift out the four cases of pop. Propping them on one hip, she closed the trunk, and then shifted the cases back to both hands, and led the way toward the kitchen asking, "So what did you do today?"

  When he didn't answer, she paused and glanced back in question. Paul was still standing by the trunk, the toilet paper package clutched in his hands.

  "What's wrong?" she asked, and then, worry sliding through her as she noticed his pallor, she added, "Are you not feeling well?"

  "I'm fine," he said quietly, moving around the car now to follow her.

  Jeanne Louise hesitated, but then continued on into the kitchen. She set the pop on the counter, and then glanced around in time to see Paul set the toilet paper on the table on his way out of the room. She frowned after him.

  "Grocery shopping again? This is the second day in a row. I'll start thinking you're a shopaholic. "

  Jeanne Louise gave a start at that greeting from Paul as she entered the kitchen with a couple of bags in hand. She smiled when she spotted him seated at the dining room table.

  "I think shopaholics generally buy clothes, shoes, and jewelry and stuff. Not kidney beans and tomatoes," she pointed out with amusement, and then explained, "Aunt Marguerite asked me to make my famous 'Smokin' Hot Chili' for supper. She and Julius have been telling Nicholas and Caro about it for a while I guess and want them to try it. I agreed before I realized she didn't have everything we'd need for it. "

  "Smokin' Hot Chili, huh?" Paul asked with amusement, standing to join her and slipping his arms around her waist. "Made by a smokin' hot woman. "

  "Mmmm, aren't you a smooth talker," Jeanne Louise murmured just before he bent to kiss her.

  "Jeanie, my stomach hurts. "

  Jeanne Louise and Paul broke apart at that complaint from Livy and both turned to move to the girl as she paused in the kitchen doorway, rubbing her stomach unhappily.

  "Where's the pain, muffin?" Paul asked, reaching her first and scooping her up in his arms.

  "My belly," Livy said unhappily, wrapping her arms around his neck.

  "Does it hurt like when you had the flu, or is it a sharp pain like someone hit you?" Paul asked worriedly.

  "She's not sick, Paul. She won't get sick anymore," Jeanne Louise reminded him gently. "She probably needs to feed. "

  "Right," he said wryly. "I guess I forgot. "

  She smiled slightly and lifted the bags she still carried onto the counter. "Sit her at the table, I'll put these down and get her a bag of blood. "

  "I'll get it," Paul said, sitting Livy down at the table and telling her, "You'll feel better as soon as you've had some blood. Daddy will get it. "

  Jeanne Louise smiled faintly and turned to the bags on the counter to begin emptying them. She took the hamburger and turned toward the fridge, but when she found Paul bent over in the open door, reaching for the blood on the bottom shelf, she couldn't resist pinching his bottom.

  Startled, Paul jerked upright, slamming his head on the freezer compartment as he straightened.

  "Oh God, I'm sorry," Jeanne Louise said with dismay, tossing the hamburger on the counter and moving to his side. "Let me see. How bad is it?"

  "It's okay," he said with a laugh. "I just bumped it, honey. "

  "Let me see," she said feeling guilty for causing the injury. Pausing in front of him, she made him bend over so she could get a look at his head.

  "It's just a bump, Jeanie," he said quietly. "The skin isn't broken or anything. "

  Jeanne Louise let her breath out on a sigh, and released him to straighten, but searched his eyes as he did, looking for signs of concussion.

  "I'm fine," Paul said firmly, taking her by the arms and turning her away. "Stop worrying. "

  Biting her lip, Jeanne Louise allowed him to push her gently back toward her bags, then recalled the hamburger and turned to pick it up and put it in the fridge. Her gaze slid to Paul as he handed Livy the bag of blood. The moment the girl took the bag, he turned away and headed out of the kitchen, saying he was going to go take a shower.

  Jeanne Louise watched him go and then glanced back to Livy as she popped the bag to her fangs. The girl was a pro at it after just a couple days. She was a fast learner though. Anders and Bricker had been taking time out to train her, as had Marguerite and Julius, and they all said she was bright and quick and would learn quickly. She could already bring on her fangs on her own, and keep them from coming out even when hungry, even when blood was waved under her nose. They figured she'd be able to read and control minds sooner than they'd first thought, perhaps before school started in September. Not that Livy would be attending school. At least not unless they moved to Port Henry. Jeanne Louise and Paul hadn't discussed that yet though. They'd only been here two days and there was plenty of time for that.

  "The boys are teaching Paul to play soccer. "

  Jeanne Louise glanced up with surprise at that announcement from Caro as she entered the kitchen. "What?"

  Caro nodded and came to steal one of the pieces of carrot Jeanne Louise had just cut. Her chili had been such a hit the night before that she'd offered to make dinner again tonight. It made her feel like she was contributing while they were here.

  "Seriously?" Jeanne Louise asked. She knew from conversations she'd had with Paul that he didn't care much for sports.

  "Seriously," Caro assured her. "I think it's a male bonding thing. "

  "I hope the boys aren't too rough on him," Marguerite said with concern. "Jeanne Louise, maybe you should go remind my son to play nice with Paul. They're not used to playing with mortals and might get carried away. "

  Nodding, Jeanne Louise set down the knife she'd been using and hurried for the back door.

  "They're out front," Caro said, bringing her to a halt.

  "Thanks," Jeanne Louise said, whirling to head the other way. She came out the front door to see that they were indeed playing on the lawn in front of the house. She supposed it was to avoid trampling on Boomer and Livy, who were presently running around in the backyard while Marguerite watched them from the dining room table.

  It was late at night, after nine. The sun was no longer visible, but the sky was still glowing with its light and the air still hot and muggy. Jeanne Louise stepped off the front step and crossed the driveway that ran around in front of the house to reach the grass. She had no desire to simply yell the caution to her cousin, suspecting it would embarrass Paul.

  Jeanne Louise approached the area where the men had set up their nets, watching the game underway as she went. It looked as if it was Nicholas, Julius, and Paul against Anders and Bricker. An unfair division since it was uneven, or it would have been were Paul immortal, but he wasn't and he was having trouble keeping up with the others. They definitely weren't going easy on him because he was mortal. The others were racing toward one net, Christian in control of the ball, kicking it ahead of him as he ran. Julius was on his right side keeping pace and Bricker and Anders were approaching quickly while Paul lagged behind. And then Anders suddenly burst forward and managed to scoop the ball with one foot, sending it flying sideways toward Bricker. The younger immortal leapt up and stopped it with his head, then whirled as he came back down and began kicking it back the other way, charging toward the other net.

  Paul was between him and the net in question, and tried to stop him, leaping in his way and trying to kick the ball back the other way, but it all went wrong somehow. Paul misjudged where he needed to be and Br
icker crashed into him. Jeanne Louise heard the thud of their heads making contact from where she stood and cried out in alarm. She broke into a run as Paul started to fall.

  The men were all surrounding Paul when she got to him. Jeanne Louise pushed between Anders and Bricker to drop to his side, fear clutching at her throat as she spotted blood. Paul sat on the ground, head tilted back and thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to stop it from bleeding.

  "Are you all right?" she asked with alarm.

  "It's okay. Just a bloody nose," Paul muttered.

  "It looks broken," Jeanne Louise said anxiously.

  "It's not broken, Jeanie," he said quietly. "I'm all right. "

  "But it looks broken, and if it's broken it could get infected and-"

  "Dammit, Jeanie," he snapped.

  She sat back on her haunches with surprise at the harsh bark.

  Grimacing, Paul shook his head and said more calmly, "It's not broken. I'm fine. Stop fussing. "

  "Of course," Jeanne Louise said stiffly and stood up.

  "Jeanie," he said on a sigh as she started away back toward the house, where Caro stood in the door watching.

  Jeanie just kept going. She hardly heard Christian's murmured, "We'll be more careful with him, Jeanie. Sorry. "

  "Is he all right?" Caro asked with concern as Jeanne Louise reached the front step.

  "Yes," Jeanne Louise said quietly, and continued into the house to return to cutting her vegetables. She wasn't even going to look out a window to watch and be sure he didn't get hurt again, Jeanne Louise vowed. And she would try hard to forget that he was out here banging heads with immortals who apparently had wood between their ears, she decided grimly.

  Jeanne Louise had finished cutting up the vegetables, poured them along with beef stock into a pot and was stirring the beginnings of her stew when the sound of the door opening caught her ear. She glanced up, but then lowered her head again quickly when she saw that it was Paul.

  "Hey Paul," Caro greeted him lightly. "Who's winning?"

  "The other side," Paul muttered, grabbing a glass out of the cupboard and moving to the water cooler. He set his glass on the small shelf under the spout and pressed the button, then pulled it out and gulped half of it down before glancing toward Jeanne Louise, and then it was only to say, "The bottle needs changing. Where does Marguerite keep the replacements?"

  Jeanne Louise hesitated, then set down her spoon and moved toward the door to the pantry. "I'll get it. "

  "I wasn't asking you to get it. I can get it. Just tell me where it is," Paul said sharply, following her.

  "It's no trouble," Jeanne Louise said grimly, tugging the door open and stepping into the garage. "Just go back to your game. I'll replace the bottle. "

  "God dammit, Jeanie!"

  She stopped abruptly at the shout and then turned slowly as Paul stepped into the small room and closed the door. Sighing, he leaned back against the door and shut his eyes before saying wearily, "Jeanie, I can't do this. "

  "Do what?" she asked warily.

  He opened his eyes and said solemnly, "I can't handle you treating me like a child. "

  Jeanne Louise frowned and then forced a nervous laugh and moved in front of him, her hands sliding down over his chest, one drifting farther down to cup him through his jeans as she leaned up to nibble at his ear and whisper, "I hardly think I treat you like a child, Paul. "

  "Not in bed," he said grimly, catching her hands and urging her back. "That's the only time you don't treat me like a child. "

  Jeanne Louise stared at him uncertainly. "I don't understand. When do I treat you like a child?"

  "The water jug," he said quietly.

  She shrugged her shoulders unhappily. "I was just trying to help. They're heavy and-"

  "For me," Paul interrupted. "But they aren't for you or Livy, I know," he said wearily. "But they aren't so heavy I can't carry them. " Sighing, he ran one hand through his hair. "You're overprotective of me, Jeanie. You don't want me to do anything dangerous, or carry anything heavy. I suspect if I let you, you'd wrap me in cotton batting and keep me in the house all the time. "

  "I'm just . . . " When Jeanne Louise paused helplessly, he pulled her into his arms and held her tight.

  "It's bad enough that your uncle and the other men treat me like a girl, but I can't handle you doing it too," Paul said in a pained voice.

  Jeanne Louise hesitated, and then wrapped her arms around him. "We're just worried about you, Paul. "

  "I know," he said unhappily. "And why wouldn't you be? I'm the weakling here. The fragile one. And you're all stronger, faster, and smarter than me. "

  "We may be stronger and faster, but we're not smarter," Jeanne Louise said at once, trying to pull back. "You're smart, Paul. "

  "Then why didn't I see what your uncle and father did?" he asked quietly, letting her pull back finally. "Why didn't I see that we wouldn't work like this?"

  "We can work," she said at once, desperation entering her voice.

  "No, we won't," Paul said solemnly. "We can't. Because I'm asking you to do what I couldn't. "

  Jeanne Louise shook her head with confusion. "I don't-"

  "I'm asking you to watch me die," he said solemnly. "Jeanie, you treat me exactly like I treated Livy when I found out about the tumor, even before she grew thin and weak. You're worried and protective. You're having to watch me die just like I was watching Livy die, only you're going to have to watch and worry for decades rather than months. And you have no hope of saving me. " He let his breath out on a sigh, and then said, "I was selfish enough that I was willing to let you suffer the worry and misery of it. I wanted it even though I knew it would hurt you every day to see me age, wither, and die. And I'd probably still be selfish enough to make you do that . . . except for how weak and useless it makes me feel. "

  "I'll try not to make you feel weak and useless," Jeanne Louise said quietly and when he started to shake his head, she said more strongly, "I will. I wasn't thinking about how you'd feel. I'll let you be a man, Paul. I'm not saying I won't worry or fret, but I'll try to check myself before I speak, and let you carry heavy things and I won't try to stop you from doing things you're perfectly capable of. "

  "But no one else will," he pointed out gently. "They'll still treat me like the weakling I am in comparison to them. "

  "Then we'll leave," she said. "We'll go to your house. I can train Livy myself. "

  "Will they let us?" Paul asked uncertainly.

  "They'll have to," she said firmly.

  Paul stared at her uncertainly, and then nodded and pulled her against his chest for a hug, and Jeanne Louise let her breath out on a sigh. But she was troubled. Just the thought of losing him had raised such panic in her . . . and she was going to. She might be lucky and he'd live to eighty. She might have forty years with him. But that was barely a heartbeat to her people. She was one hundred and two years old, almost one hundred and three. Just a baby to her people. She could live to be a thousand, two thousand, even three thousand years old. Her time with him would be a mere blip in her life, and then she would spend the rest of her years alone, living on her memories. It could break her.
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