The lady is a vamp, p.2
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.2

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Two

 

  Jeanne Louise woke to the awareness that she wasn't alone. It wasn't instinct. It was the hum of a mortal's thoughts playing on the periphery of her mind. They buzzed there like a bee by her ear, soft and, at first, not entirely intelligible as she slid back to consciousness, and then she opened her eyes and turned her head.

  She wasn't surprised to find a child standing at her bedside rather than the man who had left her there. It was something about the thoughts, their tempo and lightness, she supposed. The thoughts she'd awakened to had been soft, questing, curious like a child's rather than heavy and defensive and even fearful like an adult mortal's usually were.

  Jeanne Louise stared at the girl for a moment, taking in the pallor to her skin and thinness of her body. The child looked like a stiff wind would take her away, and one inhalation told her the child wasn't well. She caught a strong whiff of the sickly sweet stench of illness coming from her. The child was dying, Jeanne Louise realized, and found the thought troubling. Mortals died much younger than immortals, but rarely this young. This was a tragedy. All that hope and promise snuffed out before it had been allowed to bear fruit. It was an abomination.

  "Hi," Jeanne Louise whispered, the word coming out almost a croak. She should have drunk more of the water her captor had offered earlier, she supposed. As he'd promised, it apparently hadn't been drugged, and it might have eased her condition. Without it, she was now parched either from the tranquilizer dart he'd shot her with or from the nanos' efforts to remove it from her body as quickly as possible.

  Jeanne Louise took a moment to work her tongue in her mouth, building up saliva and swallowing to try to ease the dryness, and then tried again, "Hello. Who are you?"

  "I'm Olivia Jean Jones," the little girl said solemnly, one hand rising to fuss nervously with a strand of her long, lank blond hair. "But everyone calls me Livy. "

  Jeanne Louise nodded solemnly. She hadn't really needed the child to tell her her name. She had already plucked it from her mind along with the name of her father, who was also the man who had kidnapped and chained up Jeanne Louise. Paul Jones.

  Leaving that bit of information for now, she quickly rifled through the girl's mind to see if she would be of any use in getting her free. But the child didn't seem to even know there was a key to the chains, let alone where it might be. Disappointed but not terribly surprised by the knowledge, she said, "Hello Livy. My name is Jeanne Louise Argeneau. "

  Olivia's eyes widened. "You're Jean like me. "

  "Close," Jeanne Louise said with a smile.

  Livy didn't question that, but announced, "I'm five. "

  When Jeanne Louise merely nodded, she added earnestly, "And I am always polite to my elders, and I'm nice to everyone, and-" She paused and frowned. "Well, except Jimmy down the road, but he's always mean to me first," she added defensively before rushing on. "And I don't cry much, except sometimes my head hurts real bad and I can't help it. But I try not to, and I try not to lie either because that's a sin, and I like flowers and puppies and . . . " Livy paused and bit her lip and then asked, "Do you think God will like me?"

  Jeanne Louise stilled in the bed at the question and the worry behind it, and then slipped into the girl's thoughts, sifting for the source of it. Her mouth tightened as she touched on the memory of a tired and cranky older woman warning this small waiflike child that she wouldn't get to see her mom in heaven if God didn't like her and He didn't abide crybabies. Jeanne Louise didn't even hesitate, but quickly eased the child's fears, fading them in her mind even as she said, "I think He will love you, Livy. "

  "Oh. " The girl smiled widely, the worry dropping away under her influence. "I hope so. Then I can see Mommy. "

  Jeanne Louise hesitated, unsure how to respond to that, but finally said, "I'm sure your mommy would like that. " She then asked, "So your mother is in heaven?"

  Livy nodded and moved closer to the bed. "I don't remember her much. I was little when she went to the angels. But we have pictures. She was beautiful and she used to sing to me to make me sleep. I don't remember that but Daddy said she did. "

  Jeanne Louise nodded. "Did she have blond hair like you?"

  "Yes. " The girl beamed happily. "And she had pretty blue eyes, and Daddy said I got her smile and it's the prettiest smile in the world. "

  "No doubt," Jeanne Louise said solemnly. "You're very pretty. "

  "You're pretty too," Livy said kindly, and then suddenly seemed to become aware of Jeanne Louise's state. "Why do you have all that chain on you?"

  "We're playing a game. "

  Jeanne Louise glanced sharply to the man who had spoken: her captor, Paul Jones. Better known as Daddy in Livy's mind, she read even as the girl smiled at the man.

  "You're awake," Livy said simply.

  "Yes. But you shouldn't be out of bed," the man said solemnly, moving to scoop up the child.

  "I went to see you when I woke up, but you were snoring, so I came down to find the picture books," Livy explained.

  "I moved my office upstairs," the father said quietly. "And you don't need the photo albums. "

  "Yes, I do, Daddy. I forget what Mommy looks like and I need to remember so I can recognize her when I get to heaven," Livy said worriedly.

  Paul flinched at the words, terror and pain stark on his face for one moment, and then determination replaced those emotions and he turned abruptly away to carry his daughter out of the room. "I will bring the albums to you after I put you back in bed. "

  Jeanne Louise watched them go, her concentration on the back of Paul's head as she tried to ignore the envy slipping through her. The bond between her kidnapper and his daughter was one she'd never gotten to enjoy with her own father. Her mother had died when she was just a baby, and circumstances had forced Armand Argeneau to place Jeanne Louise with her aunt Marguerite. It had been an effort to keep her safe, which she now understood and appreciated. But she hadn't known to appreciate it as a child. All she'd known was that while her aunt had showered her with love and attention, and her brothers-both much older than her-had visited and treated her with caring and affection, she hadn't had parents of her own to love her. That being the case it had been the one thing she'd most yearned for.

  Pushing those thoughts away, Jeanne Louise closed her eyes and turned over what she'd learned. Livy was dying of cancer. The word had been in the child's mind, a word she didn't understand except that it meant sick and her head hurt. Jeanne Louise could only speculate that the child had some kind of brain cancer, a tumor or something, though whether that was the primary problem or the cancer had started elsewhere and metastasized to the brain she didn't know. All she knew was that the girl was resigned to "going to heaven" and the father was not. From that she suspected Livy was the reason she was here. Paul Jones didn't want her to turn him, he wanted her to turn and save his daughter.

  That was just a guess. Jeanne Louise hadn't read the thought from the father's mind as he'd left. She hadn't read anything. She'd tried though. She'd tried to slip into his thoughts not just to read him, but also to take control as she'd planned . . . and she hadn't been able to. His mind was a blank wall to her.

  Jeanne Louise wanted to think that it was the tranquilizer still affecting her, but she'd been able to read Livy's mind easily enough even with possible brain cancer, which could often make doing so difficult. That being the case, she was pretty sure the drug she'd been given was no longer in her system. Which meant she simply couldn't read Paul Jones. Which left her in one hell of a spot. And not just because she now couldn't simply take control and make him release her. That was no longer even a concern in her mind. Not being able to read Paul meant that for her he was a possible life mate.

  "Dear God," she whispered, opening her eyes and staring at the ceiling as the term reverberated through her head. A life mate. Someone she couldn't read or control and who couldn't read or control her. Someone she could relax around and share her long life with
; an oasis of peace and passion in this mad world. It was something every immortal wanted, but it was something Jeanne Louise had desperately yearned for most of her life.

  By her teen years Jeanne Louise had given up on the dream of having loving parents of her own and had turned to fantasizing about someday having a life mate and her own children to shower with all the parental love she hadn't had growing up. She had spent countless hours imagining who her life mate might be, wondering if he would have fair hair or dark. Would he be her height or taller or even shorter? Would he be handsome and strong, science minded like her or more artistic? Would he be mortal or immortal?

  And now she knew, or believed she did. If she was right, Paul was her life mate. She certainly wasn't disappointed when it came to his looks. The fact that he was obviously interested in science like herself was encouraging too . . . But the man had kidnapped her, which really wasn't a good way to start a courtship when you thought about it.

  Jeanne Louise pushed that matter aside for other considerations. The main issue was that if she was right about his motives for taking her . . . well . . . put quite simply it would be a problem. Each immortal was allowed to turn only one in their lifetime. It was generally used for that most precious of creature, a life mate. Him. Not his daughter.

  Of course, Jeanne Louise could turn him and he could then use his one turn to save his daughter. Which would still give him what he wanted. But what if she did that and Paul decided that he wasn't willing to be her life mate? While the fact that she couldn't read him suggested he was a possible life mate, it didn't guarantee he would be willing to be hers.

  Paul would probably agree to anything right now to save his daughter, Jeanne Louise thought, even to spending an eternity with her. But she didn't want him that way. She had to know he truly wanted to be her life mate, and that he wasn't just agreeing out of desperation to save Livy. For that to happen, they needed to get to know each other. She needed to be sure they suited. She needed time, but Jeanne Louise very much suspected she wouldn't get it. Paul would put his daughter back to bed, find her the photo album, and perhaps feed her or sit with her for a bit, but eventually he would come back down here and tell her that his little Livy was dying and he needed her to save the child.

  When he did that, Jeanne Louise would have to refuse, but without offering him even the hope of the alternative solution of her turning him and his turning Livy until she knew how he felt about her. Paul wouldn't be happy, which didn't give her much hope for her success in wooing him. He might even hate her for it. He certainly wouldn't like her for it.

  Sighing, Jeanne Louise closed her eyes again. Her desire to escape had fled. Now she was a bundle of fear and hope-hope that she'd found her life mate, and fear that she wouldn't find a way to claim him.

  "I'm thirsty. "

  "I'll get you a drink after I put you back to bed," Paul assured Livy, shifting her to one arm so that he could close the door to the basement with the other.

  "I don't want to go back to bed, Daddy. I'm lonely there," she complained. "Can't I show Jeanne Louise pictures of Mommy?"

  Paul didn't answer at first. He didn't take her directly up to bed though, but set her down in a chair at the kitchen table and busied himself getting her a drink. Livy hadn't felt much like doing anything the last week and had spent more and more time in bed. He'd expected her to mostly remain there while he worked at convincing Jeanne Louise to turn Livy and save her life. But really, it occurred to him now that she would be more likely to agree to do what he wanted if she spent time with the child and got to know her. No one could spend more than a few minutes with his Livy and not fall in love with her, he was sure. She was a lovely child, clever and sweet and so very precious. Everyone must see that.

  Surely it couldn't hurt their cause for Jeanne Louise to get to know and love the child? It seemed like a smart plan, and Livy's interest and desire to spend time with Jeanne Louise could only help. But he was concerned about Livy. She'd been so weak and apathetic lately. This sudden desire to be up and about was unexpected, and a bit worrisome. He'd heard of cases where the dying had sudden bursts of energy and seemed to be feeling better just before the end and Paul feared he was running out of time.

  "Jeanne Louise is pretty, Daddy," Livy announced suddenly as he poured her a glass of orange juice.

  "Yes," he agreed absently, but it made him think of the woman presently chained up in what used to be his office in the basement. She wasn't what most people would classify as beautiful. Her face was a bit round, but her eyes were large and exotic and when she smiled her face was transformed. He'd noticed that the few times he'd seen her smile at Argeneau Enterprises. They were very rare occasions. He had seen her probably a thousand times in the cafeteria over the last few years, but suspected she'd never even noticed him. Mostly she seemed distracted, and frowned over notes as she ate. But every once in a while someone would join her, either one of her coworkers or one of her family members, and she'd smile in welcome, her face lighting up like a Christmas tree.

  It was that smile that had always fascinated Paul. The way it transformed her from a plain, serious-looking woman to an unexpected beauty. It made him think she should smile more, that he'd like to see her smile more, make her smile more. But he'd never had any excuse to approach her. And in his heart he'd felt unfaithful for even wanting to. He hadn't been long a widower when he'd started at Argeneau Enterprises. Jerri had died just a little more than a month before that, hit by a drunk driver on her way home from work. It had left Paul alone, lonely and juggling work and being a single father. And then he'd finally felt he'd finished his grieving and had mastered being a single father, and had planned to take a vacation, the first he'd had in three years. It was supposed to be a tour of Europe for him and Livy during her summer break. He hadn't had a vacation the last couple years and had managed with some persuasion to get his supervisor to allow him a two-month chunk and . . .

  And then Livy had gotten sick. She'd been having headaches the last month or so of school. He'd taken her to the doctor to check it out the week before their trip, just to be sure all was well. Paul hadn't expected anything really to be wrong. He'd thought perhaps she was dehydrated. That could cause headaches, and it was summer, hot and sweaty. The doctor had agreed that was probably the case and had run a battery of tests-blood work and scans. The Thursday before the trip, she'd asked him to take Livy for another scan. That had been slightly concerning, but she'd assured him she just wanted to double check. So Paul had bypassed sleep to take her in during the day. The next morning, the Friday before they were supposed to leave on their trip, his world had crashed down around him.

  Paul had been starting his car in the parking garage of Argeneau Enterprises after his last night of work. He'd been whistling happily at the thought of showing Livy English castles and feeding her French food when his cell phone had rung. Recognizing the doctor's name on the screen of his Lexus, he'd hit answer as he'd backed out of his parking spot. The doctor had greeted him solemnly and announced she'd got the results back on all the tests and he should come to her office right away.

  Paul had felt the cold clutch of real concern then. It was 7:30 in the morning. He'd hired Mrs. Stuart to watch over Livy while she slept, and had worked the night shift since Jerri's death so that he would be home to have breakfast with her and be available during the day if she needed him. Usually he slept while she was in school and was up by the time she got home in the early afternoon. But it also meant that if she was sick and had to stay home from school, he was there for her. Tired, but there.

  The doctor knew his shift and had known he'd just be leaving work and could swing by her office on the way home. What had concerned him was that she wanted him to, that early. Ten minutes later he'd sat in her office, completely numb as she told him his daughter had a brain tumor. The position and size of it made removing it a very deadly proposition. She would most likely die in the operation. Chemo might shrink it, but
wasn't likely to. It was one of the more aggressive types and had grown to twice its size between the first round of scans and tests and the second they'd done to verify it a week later.

  Paul had listened to that with a blank mind, his brain unable, or unwilling, to take in the information. No doubt understanding that he was in shock, the doctor had told him to go home and to think about what he felt was best for Livy. If he chose the operation, they would book it at once. If he wanted to try chemo to shrink it first, that too would be booked right away. But she obviously hadn't held out much hope for either helping the child.

  Paul had driven home, cancelled the flights and reservations for their trips and sat alone in the empty house all day, his brain whirling. Operation. She could die on the table. Chemo. Probably wouldn't work and would just make the child suffer. The end result either way seemed to be her dying before her sixth birthday. It was just a matter of whether she suffered with painful headaches and no treatment, suffered horribly with headaches and the misery of chemo on top of it, or died abruptly with the operation. None of the above had been palatable to Paul. He'd watched his wife die slowly after the car accident, one organ shutting down after another. He simply couldn't do it again with Livy. He refused to lose her.

  Paul's thoughts had run around in panicked circles inside his head all day as he'd waited for Livy to come home from her last day of school. And then the answer had come to him, clear and simple. If Livy were immortal she would never get sick, never die.

  Paul worked in drug development at Argeneau Enterprises. His job was to help come up with stronger and better tranquilizers to help Enforcers capture and bring in rogue immortals. To do his job properly, he'd had to be brought into the circle of those who knew about these incredible creatures-humans made immortal by bio-engineered nanos programmed to keep them at their peak condition. The nanos attacked anything that threatened their host: colds, flus, diseases . . . cancer. They also repaired injury and reversed the damage caused by aging. The nanos used blood to reproduce and propel themselves, as well as to make their repairs, more blood than a human body could produce, which meant the immortal had to take in blood from an outside source, mortals.

  He'd been told that in Atlantis, where these nanos were apparently developed millennia ago, the recipients of the nanos had been given transfusions to meet this need for blood. But when Atlantis fell and the hosts, the only survivors of the catastrophe, had climbed over the mountains and joined the rest of the world, they'd found themselves in a much less developed world where blood transfusions and nanos weren't even yet dreamed of. The hosts had begun to wither and die without the transfusions, and the nanos in response had forced an evolution of sorts, giving them retractable fangs, better night vision, and more strength and speed to make them better predators, able to get the blood they needed.

  They'd been forced to hunt and feed off their neighbors and friends to survive. At least until the development of blood banks. He'd been assured they now mostly drank bagged blood. It was less dangerous, less likely to make their presence known amongst the mortals, which was their paramount concern. If mortals knew about them, immortals would either be hunted down and killed out of fear, or captured and locked up for experimentation. Many mortals would be eager to gain the knowledge behind the nanos for themselves. At least, that was what immortals feared. Paul suspected that fear was justified.

  Before being hired and given this secret, Paul had been put through rigorous psychological testing and several interviews meant to gauge how much of a threat he might be if he knew their secret. Once ascertaining that he could handle the information without using it against them or being unduly afraid of them, he'd been brought in for a briefing. Then he'd been given extensive counseling and testing to be sure he was handling everything he'd learned. Paul had understood their concerns, but he'd had no desire to blab to everyone about what he'd learned. First off, he'd most likely have been thought mad, and second, the whole thing had fascinated him. He'd wanted to know more, and had learned as much as he could the last several years working at Argeneau Enterprises.

  There was much he didn't know, of course. Paul suspected they kept a lot of information from him about their kind. He would have liked to actually study the nanos themselves, but it wasn't necessary for his job so it wasn't allowed. He didn't need to actually study the nanos to develop new, stronger and better tranquilizers and test them on the immortals who volunteered to be guinea pigs.

  Paul had tried telling them that he should really study the nanos to be sure he didn't create anything that might kill one of their people. But the response to that had been an amused, "No drug created would kill an immortal. " Of course that was the only reason he now had Jeanne Louise locked up in his basement. If he had been given access to nanos at work, he never would have had to take her. Instead he would have tried stealing nanos from the lab. Paul would have preferred that. He wasn't normally the sort to run around kidnapping people to get them to do what he wanted, but he was desperate. This was his Livy. His little angel. The apple of his eye. She was the only reason for his continuing to live the last couple of years since her mother's death. He couldn't lose her too.

  "Can I have more?"

  Paul blinked, and glanced to see Livy holding out the now empty orange-juice glass. The sight made him smile. Her cheeks had a little color to them and she seemed happy and pain free for the moment. It was a stark contrast to the gray-faced little girl he'd found on returning home. But then she'd been fretting over what Mrs. Stuart had said about God not liking crybabies and not letting her see her mother in heaven. It seemed now as if she'd forgotten all of that. He was glad if she had, and hoped she didn't recall it again.

  "Of course," Paul murmured and took her glass to pour more of the juice into it. As he handed it back he asked, "Do you think you could eat something now?"

  Livy tilted her head and considered the question. Paul was sure she was about to say no as usual, but then she asked, "Can we have a picnic outside with Jeanne Louise? That would be fun. And I can show her pictures of Mommy. "

  Paul stilled at the suggestion, quickly considering his options. He wanted Livy to eat and this was the first time she'd shown any interest in food in a couple days. He also wanted Jeanne Louise to get to know Livy. Surely once she understood what a beautiful, sweet child she was, she couldn't refuse to help them. But it would be difficult to picnic with the woman chained up as she was, and he didn't dare unchain her. On top of that there was the concern that she would say something to Livy about the fact that she was there against her will.

  "I'll tell you what," he said finally, moving to put the orange juice away. "I'll ask her if she'd like to picnic with us and if she would, we'll join her downstairs. Okay?"

  "Okay," Livy said happily.

  Nodding, he headed for the door to the basement, adding, "You just stay there and drink your orange juice. I'll be right back. "

  "Okay," Livy repeated as he opened the door and started down the stairs.

  Pulling the door closed behind him, Paul moved slowly down the stairs, trying to think how best to convince Jeanne Louise to agree to a picnic and promise not to say anything about being kidnapped. The only thing he could come up with was begging. Paul wasn't too proud to beg for his daughter. He'd do that and a lot more for Livy, and suspected he would be doing a lot of it until the situation was resolved.

  Grimacing, he approached his office, surprised to see that he'd forgotten to close the door when he'd carried Livy out earlier. The office was soundproof, but it only worked if the door was closed. It was one of the things he'd arranged over the last month when he'd decided on his plan. He'd moved his office out of this room because it was windowless, had had it soundproofed, then had moved the hospital bed he'd purchased while his wife, Jerri, had been ill into his office. He hadn't wanted her dying in a cold, sterile hospital. She'd spent the last two weeks of her life in that bed in their home with a nurse and himself tending to her a
nd standing watch.

  Paul had also bought chains and had begun taking a little blood from himself every day to build up a supply for Jeanne Louise while she was here. And while he'd done all that, he'd planned and replanned when and how it was best to take her.

  He could have kidnapped her and brought her here a lot earlier if he'd simply robbed a blood bank rather than build up a supply of his own blood, but Paul wasn't a thief and blood banks were already in short supply. His conscience hadn't been able to deal with stealing from a blood bank and risking someone dying because of it. It was all right, though. The added time had given him the opportunity to properly plan kidnapping her. He'd come up with several plans this last month, but the one he'd settled on had been the best.

  Jeanne Louise appeared to be asleep when Paul stepped up to the open door, but her eyes opened almost at once and she peered at him solemnly and announced, "Yes, I'll join the picnic. "

  His eyes widened incredulously. "How did you-?"

  "I heard Livy ask you," she interrupted gently. "We have exceptional hearing. "

  "Oh. " Paul stared at her blankly. He'd known they were stronger and faster, but hadn't realized their hearing was improved as well. "What else do the nanos do for you?"

  Jeanne Louise shrugged. Mortals working in R and D were briefed on immortals. He would know about the night vision, increased speed and strength, etc. What he wouldn't know about was that they were usually able to read the minds of and even control mortals. Those abilities had been necessary when they'd fed off the hoof, hunting humans and feeding off them. Slipping into their thoughts and keeping them in place while ensuring they didn't suffer any pain had been most useful. As had being able to make them think the small marks left behind were from an accident with open shears or something. Paul didn't need to know this though. To keep him from asking the questions she could see swirling in his eyes, she said, "You'll have to remove most of these chains. I can't eat like this. One around my ankle ought to be sufficient during the picnic. You can always put the others back on afterward. "

  Uncertainty immediately claimed Paul's expression and then he asked warily, "You're stronger. How do I know you can't just snap the one chain?"

  "I can't just snap it like twine," she assured him. "It would take a little bit more effort than a quick jerk. You don't know that for sure, of course, and I could be lying. But if you keep your tranquilizer gun on you, it shouldn't be a problem, should it?" she pointed out quietly.

  His eyes narrowed with a combination of confusion and suspicion. "Are you saying you won't try to escape?"

  "I can do better than that. I promise you I won't try to escape. At least not until I've heard this proposition of yours," Jeanne Louise said solemnly.

  Paul's eyes narrowed. "Why?"

  Jeanne Louise hesitated. She simply couldn't tell him it was because he was a possible life mate for her and she hoped to claim him. In the end, she went with, "Because I like Livy. "

  It was the right thing to say and apparently thoroughly believable to him. He relaxed at once, a small smile curving his lips. "Everyone likes Livy. She's adorable and so smart and funny. She makes the world a brighter place. "

  Jeanne Louise stayed silent. The man loved his daughter. If she hadn't already figured that out, the way his eyes lit up and his face softened as he spoke of her would have done it.

  "Right. " He smiled, looking more relaxed than he had since she'd woken up to see him standing over her. "I'll make a picnic for us and then come down and get you. We can have it outside. It's a beautiful sunny day. Livy will like that and-" He blinked and paused, a frown suddenly tugging at his lips. "Oh. I forgot, you can't-"

  "I can go out in daylight, I will just have to sit in the shade," she said quickly.

  "Really?" Curiosity immediately filled his expression again. "Most immortals work at night. I thought you all avoided sunlight. "

  "We avoid it to avoid needing more blood, but we can go out in daylight," Jeanne Louise said solemnly.

  Paul nodded and she could see a million questions swimming in his eyes, but in the end, he simply said, "You'll have to tell me more during our picnic. I'll go fix sandwiches and stuff for us. You like ham, cheese, and mayo right?"

  Jeanne Louise blinked at the question. It was her favorite, but she had no idea how he knew that.

  "It's what you usually order in the cafeteria on your first break," he explained and she relaxed. The man had obviously paid attention to the details while planning this kidnapping.

  "Yes, I like ham, cheese, and mayonnaise," she agreed quietly.

  Nodding, Paul turned to the door. "I'll be as quick as I can. "

  Jeanne Louise watched until he was out of sight and then laid back and closed her eyes again. This was good. A picnic outside. She suspected he wanted her to get to know and like Livy in the hopes that she'd be more agreeable to turning the girl, but it would also give them a chance to get to know each other better in a more natural setting. She would also be able to see if the other symptoms of life mates were there as well. Or perhaps not, she thought with a frown.

  Not being able to read a mortal or immortal was only one sign of a life mate. A resurgence of appetite was another. A lot of immortals stopped bothering with food after the first hundred years or so, but Jeanne Louise was just 102 years old. She still ate, and mostly still enjoyed food, though she had noticed lately that it didn't seem as tasty as it had always been. Which was why she'd been so surprised that the food he'd offered when she'd woken up here had smelled and tasted doubly good. But he may just be a good cook. Cafeterias weren't known for tasty fare and that's where she usually had her breakfasts.

  Other appetites awoke in an immortal when they found their life mate as well. Sex for instance, but that hadn't begun to wane yet for Jeanne Louise, so she wasn't sure she'd be able to tell anything at all there. In fact, she was presently casually dating a sweet, smart mortal who was very skilled in that area. So much so that she hardly ever took control of him to encourage him to do the things she liked. Something she disliked doing to begin with, but sometimes couldn't resist in the heat of the moment.

  Truthfully, Jeanne Louise wasn't sure spending time with Paul would really help her figure out if he was her life mate. But it couldn't hurt either, she supposed, and wondered how long it would take him to get the picnic together and come back for her. It would be nice to get out of this bloody bed and get outside for some fresh air. By her guess it was midday or, perhaps, mid-afternoon. She doubted anyone would realize she was even missing yet and had to wonder how soon it would be noticed and what would happen then.

  Jeanne Louise actually had a date tonight with her mortal that she would obviously be missing. But other than being annoyed and leaving nasty messages on her answering machine, he probably wouldn't do much. She kept her dates apart from the rest of her life, so it wasn't like he'd call her best friend, Mirabeau, or her brothers or father to find out why she hadn't shown up. As for anyone else discovering it . . .

  She smiled wryly, knowing that it could be Sunday night, when she didn't show up for work, before her absence was noted. It wasn't that she led a solitary existence. Her father often called or visited on the weekends as did her brothers. At least her oldest brother, Nicholas, and his wife, Jo, often visited. Thomas visited much less though, since he was in England with his Inez. Although when he'd called last week, Thomas had said that Bastien was working on transferring Inez to the Toronto office so that they would be closer to family. Then there was her friend Mirabeau, her cousin Lissianna, her aunt Marguerite, and Rachel, her cousin Etienne's wife. She'd become a good friend since their marriage. Any one of the women might call.

  However, they probably wouldn't worry about her not answering for a couple days, which might be a good thing. It would give her time to try to sort out if Paul was a life mate and what to do about it.
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