The lady is a vamp, p.17
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.17

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Seventeen


  "My, you look comfy in there. "

  Jeanne Louise opened her eyes and smiled as Paul settled on the side of the large whirlpool tub in his master bedroom and leaned to scoop up a handful of the bubbles surrounding her. They had left Marguerite's house three days ago. No one had tried to stop them. They had all seemed to understand, and so far they hadn't heard from Uncle Lucian, though she was sure they would soon.

  Jeanne Louise had expected that Bricker and Anders would have to go with them, but they hadn't. Instead, they'd returned to the Enforcer house, leaving she, Paul, and Livy to head out on their own. Jeanne Louise suspected she could thank her aunt for that. Marguerite had a way with Uncle Lucian.

  So far things were going well. Or at least all right. Jeanne Louise had managed to force herself not to fuss so much, clamping down on the urge to intervene and carry the heavy things, or worry . . . at least out loud. But it had been hard, much harder than she'd expected, Jeanne Louise acknowledged. "Did Livy get off to sleep all right?" she asked.

  "Dropped off like a dream," Paul said with amusement, and then pointed his hand toward her and blew at the bubbles on his flat palm, sending them drifting toward her. She chuckled when they landed on her cheek and drifted down to join the others around her breasts.

  "This is a big tub," Jeanne Louise pointed out softly.

  "Big enough for two," Paul agreed with a grin.

  "So why don't you join me. "

  Paul grinned. "You just want to see me strip. "

  "Darn right," she assured him and arched one eyebrow. "So. You gonna do it?"

  Chuckling, he stood and headed for the door, saying, "Nah. We might both drown in the tub when we fainted, or at least I would," Paul added wryly. "Besides, I had a shower before making dinner, remember? I think I'll go build a fire in the fireplace in the bedroom and wait for you. " Glancing over his shoulder, he added, "Don't take too long. I might fall asleep waiting. "

  "I'll keep that in mind as I soap every inch of my body here all by myself," Jeanne Louise taunted with a sad moue.

  "Don't forget to rinse. Soap doesn't taste good and I plan on licking every inch of you when you get out," he teased right back.

  "You can try," Jeanne Louise said on a snort of laughter. That darned life mate shared passion made such efforts impossible at this stage of the game.

  "I intend to," Paul assured her. "And I will keep trying until I succeed. It might take a decade or two, but-" He shrugged. "I'll have fun trying. "

  Jeanne Louise chuckled at the claim and picked up the soap and washcloth, now eager to clean herself and get out of the bath.

  Paul was whistling under his breath as he opened the grate to the fireplace. Turning toward the log holder, he started to bend to collect a couple, but then paused as he saw that there was only one in it. He almost didn't bother with a fire then. It was summer, the air-conditioning was on for heaven's sake. They didn't really need a fire. It had just seemed a nice romantic gesture, a bottle of wine, a fire, soft music . . . Mind you, the air-conditioning was good when you were clothed, but it could get a bit chilly when they were all naked and sweaty.

  Paul shifted briefly on his feet and then turned and headed out of the bedroom. He'd cut a couple logs, and build a small fire. Just big enough to set the mood, offer ambient lighting and to take the chill off. He wanted to make tonight special. Things had been a bit stiff and awkward between them since his blowup at Marguerite's after playing soccer. Paul knew Jeanne Louise had only been worrying about him, and felt bad for what he'd said that afternoon. It was true, of course. He did feel like the weak one in the relationship at times. But then he was, physically, and knew it. Unfortunately, her coddling and fussing just made it worse, but Paul knew she coddled and fussed because she cared. They would work it out. They had to.

  Frowning at the desperation of his own thoughts, he jogged lightly downstairs and headed up the hall to the kitchen. Boomer was immediately rising from his spot by the back door, tail wagging and whining.

  "You want out for a bit?" Paul asked the dog as he stopped at the kitchen closet to retrieve the small axe he kept inside.

  Taking the frantic tail wagging and yip as a doggy yes, Paul smiled and closed the closet door, then led the animal to the back door, warning, "It's a short run only, buddy. I'm splitting a couple logs and then I'm back inside whether you're ready or not, so make it quick. "

  Boomer burst out of the door before he had it fully open. Chuckling under his breath, Paul followed him out and then moved to the left to the large stump with several more logs laid out beside it. They were the remains of a tree a winter storm had taken down six months earlier. Fortunately, it had fallen away from the house or Paul would have had the beginnings of a terrarium in his kitchen.

  Grimacing at the thought, he picked up one of the logs, set it on the stump, and set to work. He'd split it in half and had set one half back on the stump, holding it upright with his left hand while swinging the small axe with his right when Boomer caught him by surprise and jumped on him from out of nowhere.

  The action startled him, jerking his body and putting his aim off. The axe had gone through the pad below his thumb and sunk itself in the wood before he registered what had happened. The pain began a heartbeat later, slamming through him like a sledgehammer as the blood began to gush.

  Cursing, he slid his hand out from around the axe and clutched it to his chest with his other hand, instinctively holding it up as he hurried for the house.

  Jeanne Louise stepped into the bedroom and let the towel she'd wrapped around her drop, then blinked and glanced around with surprise. Paul wasn't there.

  "Well, hell," she muttered, bending to pick up her towel and wrap it around her again. So much for her grand entrance, she thought wryly. He'd probably gone for wine or something, she thought moving farther into the room and then pausing when she saw the open grate in front of the fireplace. Her gaze slid to the lone log in the log holder and then she turned and crossed the room to the sliding glass doors to peer out. Sure enough, there he was, splitting logs, she saw, and then glanced to the side as she noted Boomer rushing toward him. She saw it happening, but didn't see it coming. Boomer raced excitedly to Paul, lunged eagerly up to brace his paws on Paul's leg. Paul glanced around with a start mid-swing, his arm going a little wild and then glanced sharply back to what he was doing as the axe landed.

  For one second he didn't move and she wasn't sure if everything was all right or not, but then he released the axe, raised his gushing hand and clutched it to his chest as he rushed for the house. Heart in her throat, Jeanne Louise hurried from the room and rushed downstairs, arriving in the kitchen as he reached the sink and turned the tap on. Her gaze slid over the trail of blood from the back door and then she grabbed a dish towel and rushed to his side.

  "Let me see. "

  "It's fine," Paul muttered, holding his hand under the water. "It didn't hit bone. It just got the fatty pad under my thumb. "

  "It's bleeding badly, Paul. Let me see," she insisted, not willing to take no for an answer.

  "It's fine, Jeanie," he said grimly, but let her pull his hand out from under the water and examine the wound.

  "It's not fine, you need stitches," she said firmly, wincing as she took in the open gash. Jesus, he had missed bone, but by a hairsbreadth. And he was bleeding like crazy. She wrapped the towel around the wound and tied it tight, ignoring the pained way he sucked in a breath. She had to stop the bleeding. "You have to go to the hospital. "

  "Yeah. " He sighed. "Can you watch Livy while I-"

  "You are not driving yourself to the hospital with one hand. Especially not after losing this much blood. You could pass out. "

  "There you go, fussing again," he said with irritation.

  Jeanne Louise ground her teeth together. "Sit down," she said firmly. "I'll get dressed and grab Livy and we'll head right over. "

ushered him to a chair at the table, saw him seated and then raced out of the room, using immortal speed rather than the slower more mortal speed they tried to incorporate around mortals. Jeanne Louise was back in the bedroom, tugging clothes on before most mortals would have reached the stairs. She didn't worry over much about what she put on, just grabbed up the clothes she'd been wearing earlier and slapped them on, grabbed her car keys off the bedside table, and then rushed into Livy's room and scooped her up, slipping into her thoughts to keep her sleeping as she did.

  She was back in the kitchen a moment later and carrying Livy out into the garage, aware that Paul had stood to follow. Jeanne Louise buckled the child into the backseat, straightened and closed the door, then turned and offered Paul a steadying hand as he made his shaky way to the front passenger seat. He didn't protest her assistance. Not that she would have cared if he did at this point. He was weaving like a drunken sailor, the dish towel wrapped around his hand soaked through with blood. She saw him in the seat, buckled him in quickly, then slammed the door and ran around to the driver's side.

  Jeanne Louise hit the garage door opener before her behind was even fully on the seat. Only then did she pull the door closed, and do up her own seat belt. By the time she started the engine, the door was open and she simply backed out.

  They were both silent as she drove them to the hospital. Jeanne Louise was biting back her worry as her gaze shifted anxiously from the road to Paul's pale face. He was still bleeding, the red liquid now dripping from the towel to his lap. She saw that and drove faster, her lips sending a silent prayer that he didn't bleed to death on her before she got him to the hospital.

  Jeanne Louise pulled right up to the emergency entrance, slammed the car into park and leapt out to hurry around and open his door. The fact that he was still sitting there looking a little dazed and confused rather than opening the door and getting out himself wasn't a good sign, she decided as she ushered him out of the vehicle. Slamming the door, she hesitated briefly, but then opened the backseat and quickly unbuckled and lifted Livy out. She'd never forgive herself if someone tried to carry the girl off. Chances were the attacker would end up a bloody mess in the backseat now that she was an immortal, but Jeanne Louise didn't want Livy to have to go through that.

  Catching her up in one arm, she used her other hand to usher Paul forward and into the hospital. He was shuffling his feet, leaning heavily into her hold. He was also turning gray and Jeanne Louise was worried sick.

  "Ma'am, you can't leave your car there," a uniformed security guard announced, moving toward them.

  "The keys are in the car. Park it and bring them to me," she ordered, knowing her car could block the way of an incoming ambulance.

  The man turned and headed out of the hospital, helped on his way by a mental push from her. Jeanne Louise then glanced around at the people in hospital greens who were available and took control of the one who had "Doctor" on their name tag. She slipped into the man's mind and sent him out of the glass enclosed reception cubicle and around to open the doors for her as she ushered Paul forward.

  "He was splitting wood and cut himself with the axe," she said abruptly as she urged him into the inner sanctum of the ER. "He's lost a lot of blood. "

  A nurse rushed up with a wheelchair and Jeanne Louise urged him into it, and then followed as they wheeled him along a row of examination rooms.

  The nurse glanced from her to the doctor Jeanne Louise was still examining, and then said a bit nervously, "We don't usually allow anyone but patients back here. "

  "But you'll make an exception in my case," Jeanne Louise said grimly, dividing her concentration between doctor and nurse now.

  "Of course," the nurse said pleasantly, turning Paul into a room and wheeling him up to the examination table. "Do you think you can stand up, sir?"

  Jeanne Louise set Livy in the chair by the door, noting the child was waking. She could only control so many minds at once. Sighing to herself, she murmured soothingly to the girl and then turned and walked over to Paul. Jeanne Louise lifted him out of the wheelchair and set him on the table as easily as if he were a child, but no one said anything. Paul was too woozy and weak to really notice and she still had control of the nurse and doctor.

  Leaving the doctor and nurse to their work, Jeanne Louise moved back to stand beside Livy and took a moment to send the just waking child back to sleep. She then watched silently as the doctor unwrapped the bandage and asked Paul questions. One of them was what blood type he was.

  "O," Jeanne Louise answered for him when he frowned with confusion.

  The doctor glanced at her, but didn't ask how she knew. She supposed he assumed she was Paul's wife and privy to such information, which was fortunate. Jeanne Louise could hardly tell him that after a hundred years of drinking blood one began to recognize and differentiate between blood types and since she'd been drinking Paul's for several days a couple weeks back, she knew.

  The nurse rushed off to get blood while the doctor finished unwrapping the towel and took a look at the wound. He was cleaning and sewing it up by the time the nurse returned and began to set up an IV with both blood and a clear fluid she supposed was sugar water or something else to help replenish his liquids.

  Jeanne Louise remained silent and still through all of it. Her eyes taking everything in and her heart racing.

  "You were lucky, Mr. Jones," the doctor announced as he finished with stitching him up and turned his attention to bandaging the wound. "You only nicked the metacarpal bone of your thumb, but you managed to hack into the vein too. A couple more minutes and you would have bled to death. "

  Paul grunted at this news. He was starting to come around a little, the blood and fluids already doing him some good. Jeanne Louise on the other hand felt sick. Her stomach felt like it was eating itself and she felt woozy.

  She'd nearly lost him. To a stupid accident. How many more times would she have to go through this before she finally did lose him? How many more rushes to the hospital? How many fevers, colds, pneumonias . . . ?

  The mortal body was so fragile compared to an immortal's. This wouldn't be her last scare if she stayed with him. It was just the first of many until she finally lost him. Because she would. One trip to the hospital would be the last and she would be alone again. She didn't think she could stand that.

  "Just lie back for a bit and relax," the doctor said, patting Paul's arm. "Once the IVs are done, we'll check you again and probably release you. "

  "Your keys. "

  Jeanne Louise glanced to the side to see the security guard beside her.

  He told her where he'd parked the car as he handed her the keys, and then added, "Doris in reception said to ask you to come back out front and give us his personal information and health card number and everything. "

  Jeanne Louise glanced to Paul to see him digging his wallet out of his jeans pocket with his good hand. When he passed it to her, she took it without comment, scooped a still sleeping Livy up again and left the room.

  As she followed the security guard back to the emergency area it occurred to her that Paul had wanted to drive himself to the hospital. He'd even got annoyed that she'd insisted on driving him, calling it fussing and coddling again. After his upset with her the other day, his annoyance had almost made her let him drive himself. If she had, he'd probably be dead now. He'd have grown woozy and crashed and never made it to emergency in time. Her insisting had saved his life. Jeanne Louise suspected he wouldn't thank her for it though. It was another example of her fussing and coddling and not letting him "be a man. "

  "A mortal man," she muttered under her breath. The problem wasn't that he was a man, but that he was mortal. She was going to lose him, her mind screamed. If not today, then somewhere down the line and today's panicked little journey had been the first of possibly many. Why? Because he was determined to prove he wasn't weak so would take stupid chances.

  Not that she thought that
today's accident was an effort on his part to prove his manliness. But he would insist on lifting things that were too heavy just to prove he was strong, and he would-

  Jeanne Louise cut herself off abruptly as she realized what she was doing. She was building a case, painting the future, giving herself an excuse to get out. She didn't need an excuse. The simple fact was, he was already lost to her. It was just a matter of when and how he actually went. She didn't want to stand around and wait and watch for it to happen. She couldn't bear repeated scares like tonight. Her heart couldn't take this. And it would only get worse as she became more bonded to him, as he inveigled his way into her life and heart.

  She had to get out, get away from him, and try to rebuild her life without him. She'd been content, enjoying what life had to offer. Surely she could be that way again and-

  And what? Wait for another possible life mate to appear on the scene. Unless he was immortal, he could never be hers either.

  Livy shifted sleepily against her, nestling her face against her neck, and Jeanne Louise closed her eyes briefly, her footsteps faltering. She wouldn't be just leaving Paul, but Livy too. She'd come to love the little girl as much as she did the father, and the idea of giving them both up was gut wrenching, but she didn't know what else to do. Staying would kill her . . . slowly.

  Jeanne Louise sighed wearily and continued on to the emergency desk, then opened Paul's wallet to find his health card. It flipped open to reveal a picture of a perfect, beautiful blonde. Jerri, his wife. He still carried her picture two and a half years later. How long would she carry his in her head?

  Grimacing, she handed over his health card and answered Doris's questions the best she could.

  Paul shifted in his sleep, banged his hand against something and was abruptly awake. Opening his eyes, he peered around the living room and then sat up on the couch.

  Jeanne Louise had settled him there with a snack and drink on returning from the hospital, and then had taken Livy back up to bed. Whether she'd returned or not, he couldn't say. He'd fallen asleep shortly afterward, exhausted by the night's events. Of course, the pain killers the doctor had given him had probably helped to knock him out.

  Rubbing his face with his good hand, he listened briefly to the silence in the house and then stood and shuffled out of the living room and into the kitchen. He paused in the doorway though, when he saw Jeanne Louise seated at the dining room table, leafing through a magazine.

  "You're awake," she offered a tense smile as she glanced his way. Standing, she moved into the kitchen, asking, "Are you hungry? I made bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. There's coffee too. "

  "Sounds good," he admitted.

  "Go sit down and I'll bring it to you," she suggested, grabbing the oven mitts and slipping them on before opening the oven to reveal the food warming inside.

  Paul moved to the table and sat down. "How long have you been up?"

  "I haven't been to bed. Night walker, remember?" she said lightly, setting the food on top of the stove and fetching a plate to begin transferring a portion of each item to it. She then returned the rest of the food to the oven and took the time to fetch him a coffee and glass of juice as well.

  Paul watched silently as she carried everything to the table on a tray. There was something wrong. He sensed that much. She was too wound up, her movements too jerky, and she was serving him like he was an invalid.

  "Eat," she said lightly. "You have to rebuild your blood. "

  Paul picked up the fork she'd also provided and began to poke at the food. It looked and smelled delicious, but he was distracted with what was going on inside her head. "Is there-"

  "I'm glad you're awake," she interrupted. "I didn't want to leave while you were sleeping, but was hoping to get home before the sun was fully up. "

  "Home?" he asked sharply, lowering the fork to the table again. His gaze focused and stayed on her, noting the way she was avoiding looking at him.

  Jeanne Louise hesitated, avoiding his eyes, but then suddenly met his gaze and sighed. "You were right yesterday. This isn't going to work. "

  Paul sat back in his seat. Silent. Waiting.

  "I can't-" She paused and swallowed, cleared her throat, then tried again. "I love you, Paul, and Livy too, but I can't do this. I'm going to lose you one way or another. If not to some stupid accident, then to cancer, or a heart attack, or just plain old age. And the longer I'm with you the more crazy I'll make you with my fussing and . . . the more it will hurt when I do lose you. " She paused and peered at him pleadingly. "I can't do this. "

  He nodded and cleared his throat. Now Paul was the one avoiding her eyes. He wouldn't beg for her to stay. Couldn't ask that of her. Because he understood. Asking her to stay was asking her to stand by and watch him die. If she were mortal, it would have been different. But she wasn't. It was like wanting to be with a goddess. A beautiful, strong, brilliant being of light and glory. While he was a mere man. He couldn't ask her to stay. It was selfish to expect her to. But it was hard not to. Losing Jerri had been painful as hell, but losing Jeanne Louise would be harder. Because she wouldn't be dead and in the ground beyond his reach. Although he would be eventually.

  "What about Livy's training?" he asked finally.

  "I called Uncle Lucian last night. He said he'd make arrangements," Jeanne Louise said quietly and something in her voice made him glance her way finally.

  Had she sounded disappointed? Had she hoped he'd protest, beg, and plead? Should he? Or was that selfish?

  "I should go," she said abruptly, moving to collect a packed suitcase beside the door to the garage. He should have noticed that, he thought with a frown. It would have given him some warning, prepared him. Maybe he would have known what to do then, what to say.

  "Uncle Lucian will contact you in the next couple of days with arrangements to help Livy," she said quietly as she opened the door to the garage. Glancing back, she peered at him silently for a moment, and then murmured, "Have a good life. "

  He thought he caught the sheen of tears in her eyes before she turned away, but then she was walking out the door into the garage and closing it behind her.

  Paul listened to the sounds of her moving around, then the slam of the door, the car starting and the garage door opening. He heard her pull out and after a pause, the sound of the door closing again and wondered idly if she would mail him the garage door opener. Then his hand jerked out and sent the plate of bacon and eggs smashing to the floor.
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