Immortal ever after, p.2
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       Immortal Ever After, p.2

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 2

 

  “Did you say bite? And that you staked him in the heart?” There was definite suspicion now. No doubt he now thought she was pulling a prank call or something.

  Valerie leaned her cheek wearily against the window. The glass was cold against her skin as she tried to clear her increasingly sluggish thoughts and sort out the best way to ensure her call was taken seriously and help was sent.

  She finally said, “I realize some of what I’ve said probably sounds crazy and I’m sorry. The man who kidnapped us is a nutcase. He likes to play vampire and bite us. But I think he took too much blood from Janey and Beth. They haven’t talked much the last couple nights and if they aren’t dead, they’re probably dying. You need to send help, EMTs and the police, lots of them, and fast. He—” She paused and stiffened as she became aware of a faraway whirring sound. The automatic garage door opening, she realized as adrenaline shot through her. It was probably the only modern item in this place and she was grateful as hell for the warning it was giving her.

  “Ma’am?” the dispatcher asked when she went silent.

  “He’s back. Send help,” she hissed.

  “Who’s back?” the dispatcher asked.

  “Who do you think?” she asked harshly. “The man who kidnapped us. And when he gets up here and sees that Igor is dead, he’ll probably kill me and maybe even the other women. Send help now. ”

  “Ma’am, just stay calm. I—”

  “Have you traced the call yet? Do you know the address?” she interrupted, and then as the whirring stopped she added, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll leave the phone off the hook. Trace the call and send help. ”

  “Ma’am, I need you to remain calm and stay on the line. I—”

  “Yeah, well, I need an UZI and silver bullets, but I guess we’re both out of luck,” she said dryly. “I’m leaving the phone off the hook and booking it. Trace the call and send help,” she repeated grimly as the whirring below started again. The garage door closing, obviously, Valerie thought as she set the phone on the table. He’d parked and would enter the house and come up here next. She only had moments.

  Rather than risk moving back through the house and running into the monster she was trying to escape, Valerie turned to the window, relieved when it slid up easily. She was even more relieved to find there was no screen to have to deal with. Thank God it was an old house and obviously let go. If it had been a new house with those fancy newfangled windows that didn’t open all the way and had screens, she’d have had to take a chance and leave the room to find an exit.

  Valerie leaned out the window and peered down. She was on the second floor overlooking a large backyard. There was no handy tree or trellis to climb down from, but bushes lined the house below. If nothing else, they’d break her fall.

  Grimacing at the thought, she swung one leg over to straddle the ledge, then paused as she heard a door close somewhere in the house. Probably the door from the garage to the house, Valerie realized and threw her other leg over the ledge, only to pause again. There was a window below this one. She didn’t know the layout of the house very well and had no idea if he might now be in the room below her. If he was and he saw her drop past the window . . .

  Valerie closed her eyes and forced herself to wait and listen to the faint sounds of movement in the house. But the moment she heard the thud of footsteps on the stairs, she pushed herself off the ledge.

  Anders stepped out onto the porch and sucked in a breath of fresh air. The house he’d just left didn’t smell pretty, but then the situation it presented wasn’t pretty either. He hadn’t seen many worse.

  Spotting Justin Bricker coming back up the driveway, he started down the porch steps, asking, “Did you handle the police?”

  “Done and dusted,” Bricker assured him as they both stopped. Glancing curiously to the house, he asked, “Did you find the caller?”

  “No,” Anders said grimly, his gaze now sliding over the house as well. Their team had been brought here thanks to a 911 call that had suggested there might be something unusual about the situation. One didn’t usually wish for silver bullets or stake mortal attackers.

  All 911 calls were monitored for anything that might include rogue activity in need of cleaning up. This call had definitely fit that bill, but they’d arrived to find the mortal police already on scene. A quick read of their minds had alerted Anders and the others to the fact that this was no crank call and that inside they would find seven cages in the basement: one empty, five holding live women, and one with a dead woman. There were also half a dozen corpses in a back room. All of them, both the living and dead, had bite marks that had completely bewildered the mortal officers.

  Unable to open the locks on the cages, the officers had done a cursory search of the main and upper floor of the house for the 911 caller, but then had come outside to call for back up, and find something to break open the locks on the cages and release the women. That was when Anders and the others had arrived. While Bricker had seen to erasing the memories of the police officers, the rest of the Enforcers had entered the house.

  They’d searched the main and upper floor first, much more thoroughly than the police had. When that hadn’t turned up the 911 caller, the others had gone to the basement to free and tend the caged women while Anders came out to continue the search for the missing woman.

  “There’s an open window in the master bedroom. She may have escaped,” Anders announced now.

  “Damn,” Bricker grimaced. “If she gets to the authorities and tells them about this she’ll undo all the work I just did erasing those cops’ memories before sending them away. ”

  “That won’t happen. She’s wounded,” Anders said. He didn’t bother mentioning that there were signs of a fight and a hell of a lot of blood in the master bedroom. Or that if even half of that blood was hers, she couldn’t have got far on her own.

  “Wounded, huh?” Bricker frowned at the house. “She might not have got away at all then. The rogue might have caught and taken her with him. He did return during her call. ”

  “A possibility,” Anders acknowledged and thought it would be a shame if it were true. How terrible would it be if this nameless, faceless caller had escaped long enough to alert the authorities, saving the other women, only to be recaptured and taken by the rogue before those authorities arrived to save her?

  “I suppose we have to be sure, though,” Bricker muttered.

  Anders nodded. “Decker and Mortimer are seeing to the women in the basement while we look around and make sure she isn’t lying out here somewhere. ”

  “Right. ” Bricker’s gaze slid over the house front again. “Where was the open window?”

  Rather than answer, Anders turned and led the way around to the back of the house.

  They’d rounded the corner and Anders had just spotted the open second-floor window of the master bedroom when Bricker’s phone began to ring. Pausing, he glanced to the younger man as he retrieved his phone and checked the caller I. D. When Bricker then sighed, Anders raised his eyebrow in question. “Problem?”

  “It’s Lucian. ” The explanation was accompanied by a grimace.

  Anders managed to smother the smile that tried to claim his lips. Lucian was the head of the Immortal Council as well as the Enforcers who hunted down those who ignored or broke council laws. He also had a wife who was a week overdue giving birth to their child . . . which was making the man a little crazy and prone to annoy his Enforcers with phone calls to keep on top of things.

  “You’d better take it then,” he suggested mildly.

  “Yeah. ” Bricker sighed the word and then muttered, “He probably wants me to pick up something else Leigh is craving. Lord knows he couldn’t leave her alone and go get it himself. ”

  Lips twitching, Anders left him to it and continued forward alone. It was late, past midnight, but there was a full moon tonight and his eyes worked nearly as well in the dark
ness as in light. He headed first for the bushes along the back of the house, eyes scanning for any signs of disturbance or blood on the ground as he went. Anders was standing in the dirt below the window before he saw any indicators of someone having been that way. The bush there was crushed, with broken branches, and loose leaves lying around it. The dirt surrounding it was also disturbed.

  Anders followed the trail along the back of the house for ten feet and then paused when he spotted a foot sticking out from under the bushes. His eyes moved past the bare foot to the bottom of a pair of jeans. But he couldn’t see the rest of the body, which was well hidden by the bush.

  It had to be the female who’d made the 911 call, Anders decided. And from the markings in the dirt, it looked like she’d dragged herself here and tried to hide herself under the bush before passing out . . . or dying, he thought grimly. The noise of his approach hadn’t stirred her at all.

  Bending, Anders caught her ankle and stepped back, dragging her out from under the foliage. She was a young woman with a filthy face, and equally dirty long, light brown hair. Her clothes were an utter mess, the jeans looking more brown than blue, and her T-shirt was both dirty and bloodstained, leaving only a patch here or there to tell that it had once been white. Her chest was rising and lowering though. She was alive.

  Squatting, Anders tugged her T-shirt up in search of wounds, but brought it quickly back down when he saw that her chest was not only woundless, but braless. He sat her up then and immediately spotted the puncture wound on the side of her lower back. It was a good-sized hole, and still bleeding, he noted, but didn’t want to tend to it here in the dirt. He had to get her back to the van and the first-aid kit there.

  Anders was scooping her up off the ground when he heard Bricker speak behind him.

  “Yes, he’s found her. ”

  A glance over his shoulder showed Bricker approaching, his phone still pressed to his ear.

  “Lucian wants to know if she’s alive,” Bricker said, pausing behind him.

  “She is. ” Anders straightened with his burden. “Wounded though. Her back. She needs Dani or Rachel to look at her. ”

  Leaving Bricker to relay that information, Anders started away. He’d just reached the front yard when Bricker caught up.

  “Lucian says we’re to bring her to his house,” Bricker announced, falling into step beside him. “He wants to talk to her as soon as she’s conscious. He’ll have Dani or Rachel come there. ”

  “You’d best go tell Mortimer then,” Anders said with a shrug. “I’ll wait for you at the van. ”

  “Right. ” Bricker split away and headed for the front porch, leaving Anders to carry his burden to the van. He managed to get the side door open on his own with a little juggling of the woman, then set her inside and reached for the first-aid kit they always brought along. He had turned her on her side and was cleaning her wound when she regained consciousness and cried out in pain. Anders automatically slipped into her thoughts to soothe her so he could finish his work unhindered. And failed.

  Eyes widening with surprise, he peered at the woman more closely, noting that she had a pretty face under all that dirt, and that her hair was a greasy blond rather than the light brown he’d first thought. She also had beautiful green eyes that were staring up at him uncertainly.

  “You’re safe,” he said gruffly.

  She continued to stare, eyes searching . . . for what he didn’t know, but apparently she found it because she suddenly relaxed, some of the fear slipping from her expression.

  “What’s your name?” he asked, trying to slip into her thoughts again. But it was no use. He couldn’t get into her head. And that never happened.

  “Valerie. ” The name was a rasp of sound.

  “Valerie,” Anders repeated softly. It suited her, he thought and said, “You’re safe, but wounded. I need to stop the bleeding. ”

  She nodded in understanding.

  Anders hesitated, but there was nothing he could do to lessen her pain and it needed to be done, so he set to it and quickly finished cleaning the wound. He wasn’t terribly surprised when she passed out halfway through his work. She’d lost a lot of blood and between that and the pain he was unintentionally causing . . . well, he was just surprised that she’d withstood it as long as she had without screaming in pain.

  By the time Bricker rejoined him, Anders was done cleaning and bandaging the wound and simply standing at the door of the van staring at the mortal woman.

  “Do you want me to drive?” Bricker asked, peering curiously at the woman in the van.

  “Yes. ” Anders hadn’t intended to say that, but wasn’t surprised when the word slipped out. It was a good idea. Bricker could drive and he could ride in the back with Valerie. If she woke during the journey, he would be there to keep her calm and prevent her doing herself further injury during the drive.
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