Immortal ever after, p.27
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       Immortal Ever After, p.27

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 27

 

  “Breathe,” Anders repeated, capturing her hands and chafing them between both of his. “You don’t have a tumor, Valerie. That’s not why I can’t read you. Leigh, Lucian, and—hell, everyone who has encountered you—has been able to read your thoughts like a book. You are not ill. ”

  “Oh, good,” Valerie let her breath out on a sigh and then frowned. Really it wasn’t that good. While she was glad she wasn’t ill, it was rather disturbing to think every one she’d met since waking in Leigh and Lucian’s house had been able to read her mind. Pushing that worry away for now, she asked, “Why can’t you read my mind?”

  “Because you’re my—”

  “Life mate,” she finished for him, recalling his saying that earlier.

  “Yes. And a life mate is that one person, mortal or immortal, that an immortal can neither read nor control, and who cannot read or control them. ”

  “And that makes them a life mate?” Valerie asked uncertainly.

  Anders nodded. “It is a special gift to us. With the rest of the world we have to constantly guard our minds to prevent our thoughts from being read, which can be exhausting. It’s that, or restrict ourselves to a solitary existence. ” He paused and then said, “But with a life mate we don’t have to do that. We can let our guards down around them, and just enjoy the company of another without fear that they’ll read our thoughts. ”

  “And I’m that for you?”

  “Yes, you are,” Anders assured her as if it was a good thing.

  Valerie frowned. Being a peaceful haven didn’t sound all that sexy or exciting. And she simply didn’t see how the passion that exploded between them every time they touched or kissed could be peaceful. He did experience that passion too, didn’t he? She thought he did, and then there was—“I don’t think we’re life mates. ”

  Anders stiffened. “You don’t?”

  Valerie shook her head, actually sorry to have to disillusion him. “I’m sorry, but when we were . . . er . . . earlier in my room when I . . . er . . . touched you,” she grimaced, but continued, “I think I actually might have read your mind or something. When I touched you it sent a jolt of physical pleasure through me that, well, it must have been yours that I was picking up on and reading. I mean while I enjoy and want to touch you, I shouldn’t actually experience the excitement you do. ”

  Much to her surprise, rather than look devastated, Anders relaxed, a slow smile crossing his face. “That’s called shared pleasure. ”

  “It is?” she asked dubiously.

  “Yes. It’s a sign of life mates. When they mate, they share and experience each other’s pleasure. ”

  “Oh,” Valerie said faintly. Life mates. The words echoed in her head.

  “That shared pleasure is something that you will not experience with anyone who is not a life mate,” he said quietly. “And it is . . . rather overwhelming. It’s the reason we both lost consciousness. ”

  “You fainted too?” Valerie asked with surprise. She’d just assumed that she alone had fainted. He always seemed awake and fine when she woke up.

  Anders nodded, “Yes. I lost consciousness both times as well. But I woke up before you. ”

  “Hmmm. ” Valerie fell silent. She was sorting through everything she’d learned, trying to think what to ask. She knew there were things that hadn’t been covered and that she would wonder about later. For instance—“So, you aren’t dead?”

  He smiled faintly. “No. Just old. ”

  “Oh yeah,” she muttered, shaking her head. He was born in 1357? The man was ancient. But he looked damned good for ancient, and he wasn’t dead, so he presumably still had a soul. An old one, but a soul just the same. Valerie hadn’t been to church since her parents had been taken from her, but was still glad she wasn’t pissing off the big guy by getting tangled up with some soulless bloodsucker. Surely a bloodsucker with a soul was better than a bloodsucker without one, right?

  “And you don’t bite us mortals to get the blood you need?” she asked, eyes narrowed.

  “Not anymore. We are restricted to bagged blood now,” he assured her.

  “Not anymore?” Valerie asked, managing not to wince. “But you did at one time?”

  Anders shrugged apologetically. “Blood banks have only been around since the twentieth century. Before that, we were all forced to feed off the hoof. ”

  “Off the hoof?” she echoed with disbelief. “Seriously? You call it that?”

  He raised his hands in a helpless gesture. “I didn’t make up the term. We just all used it. ”

  Valerie rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Nice. ”

  “My apologies,” Anders said solemnly. “I will try to remember not to use the term in front of you again. ”

  “Hmm,” she muttered, only slightly mollified. Off the hoof? Like they were cows or something, which she supposed they were to his kind. The idea was a bit lowering. Valerie stared at him silently for a moment and then asked what she really wanted to know. “What does my being your life mate mean exactly?”

  Anders stared at her blankly, and then said, “I told you, a life mate is a rare and precious treasure. They are someone an immortal can live with happily and in peace. ”

  “Yes, but—” Valerie hesitated, a bit frustrated in her effort to verbalize what she wanted to know. Finally, she just asked, “What do you want from me, Anders?”

  “You,” he said simply, and reached out to take her hands gently in his. “I realize that your experiences in that house were horrible and traumatizing, and most likely turned you against my kind, Valerie. But I would remind you there are evil and bad mortals as well. All immortals are not like the one who attacked and took you from the street that night, then kept you in a cage to feed on. ”

  Valerie stared at him silently, memories of the house running through her head. They were quickly followed by the memories she’d made with this man. The drive to Cambridge and back, the pool, their walk, the shared meals, cooking together, the overwhelming passion, waking up cradled in his arms . . . Oddly enough, the horror and trauma from the house had paled somewhat next to the vibrancy of the memories she’d started to make with Anders. They were like sepia photos next to new, modern, color ones.

  Anders continued, “And I also know that as a mortal you are more used to a long and slow courtship before making such an important decision. But for my kind it is different. A life mate is a gift to us and knowing we cannot read or control them, that we share pleasure, and that our other appetites are returning is enough in our minds to tell us that this is the one we are meant to be with. That this is the one who suits us in all ways. So, what I want is to spend the rest of my very long life with you at my side and in my bed. And if you agree to that, I promise I will never hurt or bring harm to you. I would sooner hurt myself. ” He squeezed her fingers gently. “I would give my life for you, Valerie. Because having experienced the vibrancy and tasted the spice of life with you, returning to the dull, cold existence I had before you is unbearable to even consider. ”

  Anders stared solemnly into her wide eyes as he said that, and then released her hands and sat back, adding, “However, I know you may need more time to make up your mind about whether you are willing to be my life mate. And that is the real reason you were moved to Leigh and Lucian’s home, to give you the chance to get to know me, to see if you could accept being my life mate. ”

  “And if I can’t?” Valerie asked quietly.

  “Then your memories will be erased like the other women and you too, will be returned to your life to live it out as you choose without your experiences to haunt you. ”

  Valerie stared at him. In that moment, she didn’t know what she wanted. Or perhaps she did, but was afraid to admit it. She wanted this man. All she had to do was look at him and she began to salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Even right then she wanted to jump up, rip his clothes off and experience some more of that mind-blowing shared
pleasure that made her faint. Seriously, she was like a druggie jonesing for a fix, in that regard. So the lust factor was there. But she also liked him.

  So far, Anders had proven himself thoughtful and considerate and a man who paid attention to details. He’d set his alarm to get up just hours after retiring to turn off the alarm so that she could let Roxy out. When she had commented on needing doggie bags, he’d gone out and got them for her without being asked. He was always fetching her coffee, or refilling her glass at meals . . . He listened to what she said and was attentive to her needs. To Roxy’s needs as well. And at mealtimes, he didn’t sit around expecting to be waited on, like her ex, Larry, had, either, but pitched in to help cook and set the table, etc.

  Aside from that, he was intelligent, and seemed to have a good sense of humor. She had noticed he didn’t talk much in the presence of others, but he could say more with a quirk of an eyebrow and a twist of the lips than Bricker could say in an hour of jokes and babbling, and from what she could tell, his opinions and beliefs seemed to line up with her own. While chatting with Dani, Decker, Leigh, and Lucian the other night, she’d often found herself nodding at something one of the others said and glanced to him to see him nodding as well. And more than once she’d heard her own words coming from his mouth, opinions she’d stated in the past to others, verbalized succinctly by him.

  All of that was enough to tempt her to throw caution to the wind, jump in with both feet and agree to be his life mate. However, one simply didn’t jump into something like this. From what she could tell, agreeing to be his life mate was tantamount to agreeing to marry the man, and no one would consider making such an important decision after knowing someone less than a handful of days. They got to know the other person, learned how they handled day-to-day life, how they reacted in a crisis, if they were moody and hard to live with, or easygoing and dealt with life head-on. It was the smart thing to do.

  Anders had said she had time, Valerie reminded herself. She suspected it wasn’t a lot of time, but she would take what she could get and try to be more rational about all of this than her instincts were urging her to be. If for no other reason than because she suspected that what he’d told her hadn’t all sunk in yet. Otherwise, Valerie suspected she wouldn’t be so calm. The man was telling her that vampires existed, or immortals did, as he called them. Atlantis and souls aside, they had fangs and sucked blood and that was a vampire. And according to him, Igor’s boss, and probably Igor himself, had been a vampire, as the others had suggested in whispers in that dark basement. He’d also told her that he was one too, though a good one, and that he wanted to spend his long life with her . . .

  But there had been no mention of love. Not that there should be, she thought quickly. They hadn’t known each other long enough to love each other. Still, when one was talking about forever, love was a word usually included. So did she wish he’d mentioned love or not?

  Sighing, Valerie rubbed her face, trying to clear her thoughts. They were a bit confused at the moment, but other than that . . . well, she suspected she shouldn’t be as calm as she felt right now. But rather than being terrified, she was wondering if his giving her time to make up her mind meant no more of that wondrous passion they’d shared so far, because, damn, she could use some of it right now. In fact, she wanted to drown in it again, and suspected part of that was a desire not to have to think about everything right now.

  Reaching out, Valerie took one of his hands in hers and ran her fingers gently over it, then raised it to her mouth and kissed first the back of his hand and then his palm. She slid her tongue out and ran it between his first two fingers, barely repressing a smile when a shiver of pleasure drifted through her. This time he didn’t stop her, but remained completely still. There was no need to prevent her experiencing the shared pleasure.

  Standing, Valerie walked around the table to stand beside him. Anders immediately tipped his head back to watch her and she raised her free hand to run her fingers lightly down his throat, then bent to press her lips to his. That’s when his stillness ended. Fingers tightening around hers, Anders turned in his seat and drew her forward between his legs as he began to kiss her back.

  Valerie sighed into his mouth, and caressed his chest. When he reached for her, this time it was Valerie who caught his hands and stopped him.

  “My turn,” she muttered against his mouth and pushed him away. She’d got a brief taste of this “experiencing the other’s pleasure business” earlier that morning, but she wanted to experience it properly, without his stopping her.

  The tall chairs put Anders at just the right height that Valerie could slip her hands beneath his T-shirt and push it up to bare the taut flesh beneath. Little tremors of pleasure shot through her as she caressed him, squeezing his pecs before running over his belly. But when Valerie then let one hand drop to cup him through his jeans, she nearly cried out at the shock of pleasure that shot through her.
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