Immortal ever after, p.24
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       Immortal Ever After, p.24

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 24

 

  Valerie stared at her with bewilderment. She knew it was her. Her voice was somewhat distinct, sharp and quick. She sounded like the Cindy MacVicar from the house. And how many Cindy MacVicars could have a cat named Mittens?

  Determined, Valerie stepped closer still and said, “The cages? You were kidnapped a week and a half before me. You were there for at least three weeks. You have to remember. ”

  “I’m sorry. I think you have me mixed up with someone else,” Cindy said gently. Actually she said it as if unsure Valerie were quite mentally stable, and then added, “I was on a month long vacation up until the day before yesterday. I just got back. ”

  “Here are the pills, Dr. Moyer. Are you done with the form?”

  Valerie turned with confusion as the receptionist set a packet on the counter. She stared at it blankly, and then nodded and handed over the form with Roxy’s information. She started to take the pills, already turning back to Cindy, but the receptionist said, “Do you want to pay in cash or debit?”

  Valerie grimaced. She’d almost forgotten to pay. Opening her purse, she took out her wallet and retrieved the necessary cash.

  “Thank you. I’ll just get your change,” the receptionist said when she handed it over. She then glanced to Cindy. “Ms. MacVicar, the doctor forgot to weigh Mittens. If you follow Joan, she’ll do it now for the file. ”

  “Of course. ”

  Valerie watched Cindy follow the second receptionist from the room, bewilderment uppermost in her mind. Lucian had said the women wanted to get on with their lives and forget about what had happened to them, but this was ridiculous. It was as if Cindy really didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. Maybe she wasn’t the right Cindy, Valerie thought with a frown. But the voice . . . She was sure it was the same. However, she’d never seen Cindy and couldn’t be 100 percent sure.

  “Here you are,” the receptionist said, recapturing her attention. She was holding out her change.

  Valerie accepted her change with a small sigh, murmured, “Thank you,” and turned to head out of the clinic.

  “Ms. Moyer?”

  Pausing, she glanced back.

  “Roxy’s pills. ” The receptionist held them up.

  Valerie returned quickly to collect them, very aware that the room had gone quiet, everyone eyeing her with speculation now, including the receptionist. She supposed blurting out the bit about being kidnapped hadn’t been too smart. And Cindy’s complete denial hadn’t helped. They were all wondering about her state of mind, she supposed. Look out for the crazy lady.

  Forcing a smile, Valerie accepted the packet of pills and turned to hurry out.

  “Everything all right?” Anders asked as she got back into the car a moment later.

  “Yes,” Valerie muttered, shoving the packet in her purse and quickly doing up her seat belt. But then she asked, “Did you see the house where we were kept?”

  “Yes,” he answered, frowning a bit.

  “The cages?”

  He nodded, looking perplexed by the question.

  “Did you meet the other women?”

  Anders frowned. “Valerie, why—?”

  “Cindy MacVicar?”

  “Short, blond?” he asked uncertainly. “Scar by her mouth?”

  Valerie sank back in her seat without responding. It had been her. It had to be. Why hadn’t she seemed to recall anything about their misadventure? Or was she just an excellent actress?

  “Valerie?” Anders asked.

  She could hear the frown in his voice without looking at him, but didn’t at first react. Her mind was racing. She was recalling how certain Lucian had sounded when he’d said the women wouldn’t want to meet again, and wondering if that was because he knew they didn’t even recall it? Had Lucian and the other Enforcers somehow erased their memories? But how and why would they do that?

  “Valerie?” Anders repeated, sounding concerned now. “Did something happen inside the vet’s clinic?”

  She shook her head at once, instinctively keeping what had happened to herself for now . . . at least until she could figure out why Cindy didn’t remember anything. Realizing that he was staring at her suspiciously, Valerie cleared her throat and lied, “I was just thinking while I waited in line and wondering about the other women. I never saw them, you know. I wouldn’t recognize them on the street if I bumped into them. ”

  Much to her relief, that seemed to make him relax, which, in turn, made her suspicious. Why would he be relieved that she wouldn’t recognize the other women? Fretting over that, she straightened her shoulders and lied again. “I just recalled that there’s a book I need for class on Monday. ”

  “Oh. ” Anders turned forward in his seat and switched on the engine. “Well, the campus isn’t far from here. We could swing by on the way to the grocery store. ”

  “Yes, please,” Valerie said and closed her eyes briefly. She’d been about to suggest that, but he’d done it for her. Billie had said she worked at the coffee shop in the bookstore and Valerie intended to find and talk to her. If she could find her.

  Valerie tightened her hands around her purse. She had to find her. Billie was the only other woman Valerie had a chance of finding. Laura worked in a realtor’s office, but hadn’t said which one or where, and Kathy was unemployed and hadn’t said anything that would lead to her.

  “So,” Anders said, peering around as they entered the bookstore twenty minutes later. “What book are we looking for?”

  “Let’s have a coffee first,” Valerie said determinedly.

  “Coffee?” Anders asked, picking up speed to keep up with her as she hurried forward. “Where?”

  “There’s a Tim Hortons in Pages on the upper level,” Valerie announced. She had no intention of buying a book. Heck, she couldn’t buy a book here for her courses. This was the university bookstore in the MacNaughton Building. To get books for any of her classes, she’d have to go to the Ontario Veterinary College Book Barn in the OVC Lifetime Learning Centre. Fortunately, Anders didn’t know a thing about the Ontario Veterinary College at Guelph University.

  “Isn’t it kind of hot for coffee?” Anders asked as Valerie led him to the Tim Hortons counter.

  She grimaced. He was right. The walk here from the car had left her hot and sweaty. “We can have iced capps then. ”

  “Iced capps?”

  “Iced cappuccinos,” she explained.

  “Which are?”

  “You’ve never had them?” Valerie asked with surprise as she turned back to scan the name tags of the workers behind the counter. She didn’t have a clue what Billie would look like. Just that she’d had a high, sweet voice. She’d sounded about twelve, though she’d said she was twenty-two.

  “No. Are they good?” Anders asked.

  “Yeah,” she answered absently. “They’re kind of like drinkable ice cream. They’re made of coffee, sugar, cream, and ice cubes all put through a blender. ”

  “Hmmm. Drinkable ice cream sounds good,” Anders said cheerfully.

  Valerie smiled absently and urged him toward the counter. “Why don’t you order us a couple. Two iced capps large,” she added when he looked uncertain.

  Anders nodded and headed for the counter, and Valerie returned to searching the name tags. She had read every the name of every worker behind the counter without spotting anything close to Billie and was about to give up when a tall, slender brunette with her hair in a ponytail came from the back of the store. She was pulling a hat on as she approached the sandwich station. Her name tag read BILLIE.

  Valerie moved to the far end of the counter at once. “Excuse me. ”

  The brunette glanced up and offered a polite smile. Her voice was the high and sweet one Valerie recalled when she said, “I’m sorry. You have to place your order at the other end of the counter by the tills. ”

  It was her. That voice was just too recognizable. There couldn’t be
two Billies with that voice working at this Tim Hortons. Valerie smiled. “I’m not placing an order, my . . . er . . . friend is,” she said, unsure whether she had the right to call Anders her boyfriend or not. Though, really, at thirty, were they even called boyfriends? She supposed she could have said lover, but that was just giving away too much information.

  Putting aside the issue of what to call Anders, she said solemnly, “My name is Valerie Moyer . . . from the house of cages. ”

  Billie tilted her head. “Is that a bar or a band or something?”

  “No. ” Frowning, she shook her head. “Billie, I’m talking about the house where we were held captive in cages in the basement. Remember?” Valerie coaxed when Billie just stared at her. “The cages we couldn’t stretch out or stand in? Oatmeal once a day. The crazy guy and his boss who thought he was a—”

  “Valerie!”

  Pausing at Anders’s sharp voice, she glanced around with surprise when he took her arm and steered her away. “Wait. I wasn’t done talking to her. ”

  “Yes, you are,” he said firmly, forcing her forward.

  “But Semmy, she was one of the girls. Maybe we can figure out how he picked us all. ”

  “She can’t help us. She doesn’t remember. ”

  Valerie jerked her arm out of his hold and turned on him. “Why?” she asked grimly. She knew he was right. She’d watched Billie’s face the whole time she was talking and there hadn’t been a lick of recognition or recall in her face. She hadn’t remembered anything. Just like Cindy. And while that shocked her, Anders wasn’t the least bit surprised.

  Mouth tightening, she asked, “What do you know that you aren’t telling me?”

  Anders’s gaze slid back to Billie, who was watching them curiously. Turning back, he urged the cardboard drink tray toward Valerie. When she automatically took one of the iced capps in it, he turned to urge her forward again and said, “Not here. ”

  Valerie didn’t protest or fight. She walked silently beside him until he paused on the main floor of the bookstore and glanced to her. “Did you really have a book you needed to buy?”

  She hesitated, but then shook her head guiltily. Anders didn’t seem surprised, but merely sipped at his drink as they started walking again. They were silent all the way to the car, but once there, Valerie turned on him. “So?” she said. “Would you care to explain why Billie and Cindy don’t recall what happened to us?”

  “Cindy?” he asked sharply.

  “She happened to be in the vet clinic,” Valerie said grimly. “She didn’t recall me either, or the house and Igor. She didn’t remember anything. And neither did Billie. ” Valerie paused briefly, and then asked, “What’s going on?”

  “Not here,” Anders repeated, and when she opened her mouth to protest, he added, “I need to concentrate on driving . . . at least until we get somewhere we won’t be interrupted. ”

  Blowing out a breath, Valerie sank back in the passenger seat and did up her seat belt. She then turned her attention to her iced capp, sipping at it slowly to avoid a brain freeze. She thought he’d take them back to Leigh and Lucian’s, but when he stopped the car some time later it was at a farmhouse. It looked new, built during the last ten years by her guess, a large, red brick house with a couple of outbuildings, including a stable and paddock with half a dozen horses in it.

  “Where are we?”

  “My place,” he said and got out of the car, leaving her to follow.

  Valerie stared after him, unsure what to do. She was no longer certain she could trust him. She had no doubt he could explain, but that was because he was probably involved in whatever had happened to make the other women forget.

  Should she be worried? Her gaze traveled over the man in front of the car as she tried to work out if he could be a threat to her or not. Valerie wanted to think no, but she had so many questions that had not yet been answered. What was this enforcement team Anders, Bricker, and Lucian worked on? Why had she been treated in a private home rather than in a hospital? They’d said to keep her safe because their kidnapper had escaped, but surely a police guard would have kept her safe? And besides, if it was so dangerous, why had Anders suggested coming out to pick up the pills? Why hadn’t Leigh protested? Hell, not only had she not protested, but she’d requested they make an additional stop.

  So, Valerie thought unhappily, was she in danger or not? And if she wasn’t, why was she the only one at Leigh and Lucian’s house? And the only one who still retained her memory? Well, if she was the only one. It was possible Laura and Kathy still retained theirs, but she suspected they didn’t.
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