The lady is a vamp, p.18
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.18

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Eighteen

 

  "When is Jeanne Louise coming to see us again, Daddy?"

  Paul paused in front of the trunk he'd just opened and stared blindly at the groceries inside. When was Jeanne Louise coming to see us again? Never was the answer. She'd backed out of their lives, unable to handle watching him age and die, leaving him alone. He understood. He hadn't been able to stand helplessly by and watch Livy wither away and die either, but damn, he missed her. If only . . .

  If only? Paul's mouth twisted at the words in his head. If only what? If only she hadn't turned Livy? He didn't want that. He loved his daughter and wanted her alive. So he supposed it was if only the Rogue Hunters hadn't arrived when they had. If only that Bricker fellow hadn't scared the kid into running, so that she'd fallen and been mortally wounded so that Jeanie had been forced to turn her? So that they could have carried through their plan for her to turn him and let him turn Livy?

  He supposed. But "if only" didn't matter. What had happened had happened, and now they had to live with the results.

  "Huh? When is she coming, Daddy?"

  Paul sighed and glanced to his daughter, frowning when he saw that she'd lifted four cases of pop out of the trunk as if they weighed next to nothing. "Honey, let Daddy take those. You-"

  "It's okay. They aren't heavy," she assured him and moved toward the door to the kitchen.

  As he watched, Livy shifted the heavy cases to one hand to open the door with the other, and then stepped out of the garage and into the kitchen.

  "Jesus," Paul muttered and turned his attention to gathering several bags of groceries in each hand. He managed to get all of them out, and was about to close the trunk when it suddenly slammed shut for him. Paul turned to peer at his daughter silently. She'd returned without his noticing, probably that vampire speed. And somehow she'd closed the trunk. She must have leapt up a couple feet to reach it, she was too short to do so otherwise, but she was smiling at him now looking like a normal, happy five-year-old rather than some strange hybrid vampire.

  "So how come Jeanne Louise doesn't come see us anymore? I like her. Doesn't she like us anymore?"

  Paul's shoulders sagged with defeat and then he knelt before her, setting their grocery bags down so that he could give her a hug. "Yes, she loves us a great deal, and that's why we don't see her anymore. "

  "But that doesn't make sense, Daddy," Livy complained. "If she loves us-"

  "Sweetie, do you remember how upset and worried I was when you were sick and I thought you were going to die?"

  Livy pulled back to peer at him solemnly, and nodded. "Yes. You were scared. "

  Paul's eyebrows rose at her wisdom. He had tried to hide his worries and fears, but apparently she'd seen right through them. "Yes, I was. I knew it would hurt to lose you because I love you. And now Jeanne Louise feels that same way. "

  "But she won't lose me. I'm not sick anymore," Livy pointed out.

  "Not you, sweetie, me. "

  Her eyes went wide and scared. "Are you sick, Daddy?"

  "No," Paul assured her quickly. "But I'm not like you and Jeanne Louise. I'm mortal. You remember how Marguerite taught you about being an immortal and how you'll grow up, but won't grow old? And how you won't get sick, or die?"

  Livy nodded.

  "Well I am mortal. I will grow old and eventually die, and Jeanne Louise is afraid of having to watch that. She'd miss me too much. "

  "I don't want you to grow old and die, Daddy," Livy said at once. "Who will bandage my booboos and tell me I told you so when I make myself sick on too much candy?"

  Paul's lips twitched at the words, but he assured her, "Honey, I'm not going to die for a while yet. You'll be grown up when I do. "

  "But I don't want you ever to die," Livy said at once. "Maybe I can make you a vampire like Jeanne Louise did to me. Then she would come see us again and you would never die and we could be a family. "

  "Would you like that, Livy?"

  Paul glanced sharply to the side at that question, then stood and stepped protectively in front of his daughter when he recognized Lucian Argeneau standing in the doorway between his kitchen and garage. "What are you doing here?"

  "The front door was open," Lucian said with a negligent shrug, stepping down into the garage and revealing Leigh, Nicholas, and Bricker crowded in the kitchen doorway behind him.

  "We rang the doorbell," Leigh said apologetically. "But the door was open and when there was no answer we decided we'd best investigate. "

  "I let Boomer out after I put the pop in the kitchen," Livy said with a grimace.

  And hadn't closed the door properly as usual, Paul finished in his head. Christ, the kid must have moved like the wind to put the pop away, let the dog out and come back to close the trunk for him in the few short seconds it had taken him to gather the grocery bags in his hands.

  "Why don't we all go inside and sit down?" Leigh suggested, rubbing her extended belly uncomfortably.

  Lucian was immediately all concern. "Are you tired? Do your feet hurt, love? Come, we'll sit down in the dining room while Paul gets his groceries. "

  The others made way as Lucian tried to usher Leigh back through the kitchen, but she refused to move and murmured, "Let's wait for Livy. "

  Paul glanced behind him, intending to collect the grocery bags he'd set down and escort his daughter inside, but Livy already had the bags in hand and was moving around him toward Leigh and Lucian.

  "Hi Aunt Leigh. Hi Uncle Luc," she greeted cheerfully as she approached them.

  Lucian Argeneau actually cracked something resembling a smile for the girl while Leigh ran a hand gently over Livy's head as the young girl drew abreast of them.

  "Did you bring Jeanne Louise with you?" Livy asked, stopping.

  "No," Lucian growled, scooping the child up, groceries and all in one arm, leaving his other hand to take Leigh's arm and urge her into the kitchen, as he said, "Not this time, cupcake. But I'm sure you'll be seeing her very soon. "

  Paul stared after them helplessly. Lucian Argeneau had called his daughter cupcake. And Livy had called him Uncle Luc. And his half pint daughter was carrying groceries he'd barely been able to manage, and doing so as if they weighed nothing. As to the claim that they would see Jeanne Louise soon . . . Well, that was just cruel when he knew that wasn't going to happen.

  "You gonna stand out here all day or what? Lucian isn't the patient sort. "

  Paul blinked and scowled at the immortal who had scared his daughter down the damned stairs and nearly killed her. Justin Bricker. He didn't respond to the man's words other than to start grimly forward. He didn't want to blame the man for his woes. After all, it had been an accident. But if he hadn't scared Livy, she wouldn't have fallen and Jeanne Louise wouldn't have had to turn her on the spot and forgo her hoped for plan of turning him and his turning Livy. Paul blamed the bastard whether he wanted to or not. If not for the otherwise seemingly nice hunter, he'd have it all right now.

  "I'm sorry about that, Paul," Bricker said quietly as Paul drew abreast of him. "I didn't expect the kid to freak like that and take a header. And I couldn't get into her head to stop her. I did try when she turned to run, but I couldn't get in quick enough to stop her. I think the brain tumor caused some resistance or something. "

  Paul let his breath out on a sigh, his shoulders sagging as his anger slowly drained out of him. Jeanne Louise had commented at some point that it was a little harder to get into Livy's thoughts then most, that she had to make a full concerted effort to manage it, and she suspected it was the brain tumor that caused it. Paul supposed that was what the man was talking about. It had been an accident. He'd tried to save her. Life was full of such unhappy events that were really no one's fault, just fate fucking with you.

  "Yeah, fate's a bitch at times," Justin muttered, obviously reading his thoughts. Placing a hand on his shoulder, he urged him into the kitchen, adding, "Lucian brought us all here because I
want to make up for it though. I offered to use my turn to turn you for Jeanne Louise. "

  When Paul stopped abruptly to gape at him, he smiled wryly and added, "And for Livy too, of course. The kid's a cutie. Can't have her moping around and blaming me for eternity after you grow old and die. "

  "You are not turning him, Bricker," Lucian said irritably from the other end of the room. "Now you two get over here. I'd like to settle this before Leigh goes into labor. "

  "I'm not due for another month, Lucian," Leigh said with amusement.

  "You're one of those people who are early for everything," Lucian growled, offering his wife an affectionate smile to soften the words, and then he scowled at Paul and added, "While Mr. Jones here appears to drag his feet about everything. " He arched his eyebrows and gestured to the empty seat at the table. "I'm waiting. "

  Paul moved toward the seat, but Bricker was right at his side, saying, "I thought we were coming here so I could turn him. It was after I said I would yesterday that you started making arrangements for this visit. "

  Lucian rolled his eyes. "Did you think you were the only one to make the offer? Marguerite offered too. And Nicholas's Jo offered as well," he informed him dryly, and grimaced. "Every bleeding heart in the family with a free turn has offered. "

  Paul's eyes widened at this news. Hope beating to life in his chest. He could be immortal, have Jeanne Louise. That hope died with the man's next words.

  "But I'm not letting any of you do that. Your one turn is too precious to let you give it away for someone else's life mate. "

  Paul sighed and sank down in the chair at the table. The man was right of course. The way Jeanne Louise explained it, if Justin gave up his turn he might one day meet a life mate and not be able to turn her. It would leave him in the same position Jeanne Louise and he were in right now. As for Jo and Marguerite . . . well, they might have their life mates already, but immortals could die. What if they found themselves widowed? And then found another life mate who was mortal? They too would be right where he and Jeanne Louise were now. His conscience wouldn't allow that.

  "Jeanne Louise's original hope was to turn you and let you use your one turn to turn Livy," Lucian announced, drawing his attention back to the man. "You knew that?"

  "Yes," Paul admitted on a sigh. "We had discussed it. "

  He nodded. "And you agreed to it?"

  "Of course," Paul said at once. Good Lord, who wouldn't agree to that?

  "Because you wanted to be immortal?" Lucian asked.

  Paul blinked at the question with surprise. "Hell no. I'd rather neither Livy nor I were immortals. Everything has changed for her. She can't go back to school next year. Can't run around carefree in the sun. She can't see her friends or play with the kids in the neighborhood for fear of accidentally revealing what she is. And I sure as hell don't want to lose my family. "

  "And yet you agreed to the turn," Lucian pointed out.

  Paul sighed and rubbed his forehead, he felt the beginnings of a headache ruffling through his thoughts. "I agreed for two reasons. One, because becoming immortal was the only way for Livy to be alive. If I could have found another way to cure her or save her I would have jumped at it and allowed her a normal childhood. "

  "And you?" Lucian asked. "If you could have cured her another way would you have bypassed becoming immortal too?"

  "No. Because it would mean not having Jeanne Louise. I'd give up everything in my life for her . . . except my daughter and her happiness. "

  Lucian was silent for a moment, his gaze sharp and focused on his forehead and then he nodded and turned to Livy. "You were saying maybe you could turn your dad and make him immortal like you and Jeanne Louise so you could be a family. Did you mean it? Would you turn your dad if you could?"

  Paul stiffened at the question. "Just a damned minute, she's five years old. She can't-"

  Lucian silenced him with a look. Actually a look and some mental tinkering, Paul decided when he tried to speak again and found he couldn't. The bastard was controlling him.

  "Livy?" Leigh prompted gently, brushing the hair back from the girl's face. "Would you use your one turn to turn your father?"

  "Uh-huh," Livy said simply, and leaned into the woman. "I'd like Jeanne Louise to come back. Daddy was happy with her. She made me happy too. And I don't want Daddy to die. "

  "Right. That's what we'll do then," Lucian announced, standing up.

  Paul tried to rise and protest, but couldn't do either.

  "Leigh, honey, why don't you take Livy out to the car. I'll be out in a minute. "

  Leigh nodded and stood, taking Livy's hand to lead her out of the dining room.

  Paul watched them go, more confused than upset now. He'd thought they were going to try to make the girl turn him. It seemed not. He was relieved and disappointed all at once. He wanted to be turned, it would give him all he wanted, Jeanne Louise and Livy both. A happy family. He just didn't want Livy to have to do it or to lose her turn to do it.

  "What kind of sick bastard do you think I am?" Lucian snapped with disgust the moment the two females were gone. "I wouldn't make a five-year-old child rip her wrist open to turn her father. "

  Paul blinked at that comment. "I-" He paused, surprised to find he could talk again. Lucian had removed his control over him. "Well then, why did you even force her to answer such a question?"

  "Because she had to say yes," Lucian said dryly. "She had to verbally give up her one turn to you in front of witnesses. "

  "She's five years old," Paul said with amazement. "You can't hold her to that. "

  "I can, and I will. But I will be doing the turning for Livy," Lucian said simply. "I will physically do the turning, but it will count as her one turn. "

  "No," Paul said firmly. He couldn't take his daughter's turn and possibly leave her in a similar untenable position in the future, faced with a mortal life mate she could never claim.

  "Don't you want Jeanne Louise?" Lucian asked simply.

  Paul paused. Seriously tempted. He could have Livy and Jeanne Louise. He could have it all, everything he could have wanted, a beautiful vibrant wife and a healthy happy daughter. A future that seemed as rosy as could be. In fact, he would have had it all. Instead he'd lost it all.

  "You still have Livy. "

  Paul glanced up with a frown. "Yes of course," he muttered. Frowning at his own thoughts. Of course, he hadn't lost it all. He still had Livy. A month ago that would have been enough. Why didn't it seem like enough now? Why did his life seem so meaningless without Jeanne Louise in it?

  "You could always forfeit your one turn to your daughter," Lucian said calmly.

  Paul peered sharply at him. "What?"

  "Livy is forfeiting her turn to turn you. Once turned, you have one turn of your own. You can forfeit it here in front of witnesses, giving it to your daughter. It means should Jeanne Louise die and you find a life mate who is mortal . . . " He shrugged. "You're out of luck. But Livy will still have her one turn for her own life mate. Understood?"

  "Yes," Paul breathed, his hope rising again. Dear God, he might have Jeanne Louise after all.

  "So do you want to be turned?" Lucian asked firmly.

  "Of course. I-" Paul's words were cut off when Lucian's wrist suddenly slapped across his open mouth. The immortal's other hand clasped the back of Paul's head to keep him from trying to back away from it. The actions were so fast it took Paul a moment to realize what was happening and then he became aware that blood was gushing into his mouth.

  "Swallow," Lucian said dryly. "I am not biting myself again for you. "

  Paul stared at the man blankly. He hadn't even seen Lucian bite himself this first time. Damn these bastards moved fast, he thought with amazement even as he automatically did as ordered and swallowed. He breathed quickly through his nose to keep from gagging as he swallowed the thick, tinny liquid, and then swallowed again, and again. It seemed to go on forever before Lucian
suddenly took his arm away and released his head.

  "The turn has started. You will be immortal. Now . . . " Lucian raised his eyebrows. "Will you give up your one turn to Livy to use as she wishes?"

  Paul nodded without hesitation.

  "Say it. "

  "I give up my turn to my daughter to use as she wishes," Paul said dutifully his voice husky.

  "Good. " Lucian glanced to the other two men. "Nicholas, help Bricker strap your new brother-in-law down. Your father is bringing Marguerite, Eshe, Julius, and Jo out with IVs and drugs and whatnot. They should be here soon. Leigh and I are taking Livy to Wonderland so she doesn't have to hear her father scream. "

  Lucian turned and left the room then and Bricker glanced to Nicholas, one eyebrow arched. "Wonderland?"

  "Lucian's always loved amusement parks," Nicholas said wryly, moving to collect a small pile of chain Paul hadn't noticed curled in the corner. "Unfortunately, Leigh likes them too. "

  "Why is that unfortunate?" Bricker asked with surprise.

  "She's due next month. You don't think he's going to let her anywhere near the rides do you?" Nicholas asked with a bark of laughter, beginning to unravel the chain with Bricker's help.

  "Oh right," Bricker said with a grimace. "Hell, she'll be lucky if he lets her walk through the park and doesn't insist on a wheelchair or carrying her. " He glanced to Paul and then patted the dining room table. "Hop on, Paul. Let's get you buckled in for the ride. "

  "On the table?" he asked blankly.

  "Lucian suggested it when we first entered the house," he said with a shrug, and then patted the table, pointing out, "Sturdy wrought iron base, thick hardwood surface. Less likely to break than your bed, and easy to clean up the mess afterward. "

  "We'll move you to your bed after the worst of it's over and you're done thrashing and molting," Nicholas assured him soothingly.

  "Molting?" Paul asked, his voice rising.

  "Well, just one of the terms we use for it," he said apologetically. "During the turn your body pushes out impurities and stuff the nanos decide you don't need. It can get pretty messy. Much easier to clean surfaces like this though. So . . . " He nodded to the table. "Up you get. "

  Paul hesitated, but then gave in and climbed onto a chair and then sat on the table and swung his legs up. As he lay down, he glanced to Nicholas and murmured, "I know you're Jeanne Louise's brother. But we aren't married yet. Why did he call me your brother-in-law?"

  Nicholas smiled faintly as he bent to offer one end of chain to Bricker under the table. As the two men straightened and began to shackle each end to his wrists, he said, "You're as good as married according to our customs. I'm sure Jeanne Louise will insist on a ceremony soon enough, but basically you're her life mate and you've been turned. It's a done deal as far as we're concerned. " He glanced to him and smiled. "Welcome to the family, brother. "

  "Thanks . . . I think," Paul murmured weakly.

  "It's not exactly a done deal," Bricker pointed out as the two men moved down to the foot of the table. "There's still the agony and shrieking to go through. " He paused to bend and accept the chain Nicholas passed to him under the table, and then straightened and continued, "But it's never killed anyone . . . well, not anyone I've seen turned anyway. " Pursing his lips he eyed him solemnly, and then asked, "You don't have a heart condition or something we should know about, do you?"

  Paul's eyes widened, but he shook his head.

  "Good, good. " Bricker patted his leg again, and then began to attach a shackle to it, adding, "I'm sure it will be fine then. "

  "Good thing too. Jeanie would never forgive us if we killed off her life mate. "

  That dry comment came from the door and drew Paul's attention from the two men presently shackling his feet. He eyed the fellow leaning nonchalantly in the door.

  "Thomas. " Nicholas snapped the shackle around Paul's ankle, gave it a testing tug, then stood and crossed the room to hug the other man. Pulling back, he asked, "What are you doing here?"

  "For some bizarre reason Uncle Lucian thought I should be here for the big turn. He had an Argeneau plane collect me and Inez this morning and fly us over," Thomas explained grinning.

  "Inez is here then?" Nicholas asked.

  "Are you kidding?" Thomas grinned. "She wouldn't let me fly off without her. Besides, Bastien thinks he might have a position for her here in Canada and wants to talk to her about it. "

  "So she's at the office?" Nicholas asked, turning to lead him to the side of the table and Paul chained to it.

  "No. Bastien wants to see her tomorrow so she came with me today. She's out front. A car was pulling in as we were entering the house so she stayed to see who it was and either send them away if they're mortals, or greet them if they're one of ours. " He peered down at Paul. "Is this him, then?"

  "Hmmm. " Nicholas smiled at Paul and nodded. "He seems a nice enough chap. "

  "Is he good enough for Jeanie?" Thomas asked.

  "Is anyone good enough for Jeanie?" Nicholas asked with amusement.

  "Hmmm," Thomas muttered.

  "He's a geek like her though," Nicholas commented thoughtfully. "Works in R and D at Argeneau like her too. "

  "Well at least they can ride into work together," Thomas said wryly. "Although working in the same place they aren't likely to get much actual work done. I suspect they'll be found in broom closets and getting it on in their car in the parking garage for the next year. "

  Nicholas nodded. "Really, Bastien should just give them the year off. "

  Paul scowled at the pair of them. "Hello. I'm awake. I can hear you," he pointed out with irritation. "You may not think I'm good enough for your sister, but I'll do my damnedest to make her happy. And we won't be 'getting it on' in the car in the parking garage. I have a little more class than that," he assured them grimly.

  "Besides, the parking garage has security cameras everywhere," Bricker pointed out, finishing shackling Paul's second leg and straightening to join the other two. "It's how we knew Jeanne Louise had been taken. Security saw him slip into the back of her car just before she got in. "

  Paul scowled again, but since that's why he'd been able to assure them that they wouldn't be caught doing the nasty in the car in the Argeneau parking garage, he didn't comment. Judging by the amusement on the faces of the men, though, he didn't have to. They'd probably plucked the thought from his mind.

  "Hmm. That's a new one," Nicholas commented suddenly, staring at Paul's eyes.

  "Yeah, they usually go to the organs first," Thomas commented, stepping a little closer to the table and bending to peer at Paul's eyes more closely.

  "What usually go to the organs first?" Paul asked warily.

  "The nanos. Your eyes are flashing silver already," Nicholas explained, and then asked, "Do you have some kind of eye problem?"

  "I have late onset keratoconus," Paul admitted with a frown, alarm beginning to ripple down his spine. There was a strange heat building behind his eyes.

  "What is keratoconus?" Bricker asked curiously, moving to the head of the table to get a better look himself.

  "The cornea, the clear front of my eye, is thinning and bulging outward into a cone shape," he muttered, beginning to blink his eyes as they began to sting. "I wear rigid gas-permeable contact lenses because of it. "

  "Huh," Thomas murmured. He glanced to Nicholas and then back with a sigh. "Well the good news is, you won't need contacts anymore. "

  "And the bad news?" Paul asked grimly, squeezing his eyes closed against the mounting pressure there.

  "I think you're going to be one of those ones where the turn comes on hard and fast. You-"

  Paul didn't hear the rest. His attention was abruptly and completely claimed by pain suddenly shooting through both eyes. It felt like someone had taken two ice picks and stabbed him in the eyes with them. It brought an immediate roar of pain from him and had him thrashing on the table, yanking at his
wrists to try to reach his eyes. It was probably better that he was chained though. Paul suspected he'd have done anything, including ripping out his own eyes to bring an end to the agony exploding through him just then. The worst part was, he knew it was just the beginning.
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