Immortal ever after, p.30
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       Immortal Ever After, p.30

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 30

 

  Anders nodded with understanding.

  “Kathy rents a house on her own. Nicholas and Jo followed her there at the end of the day and parked out front to watch. It was just a safeguard, in case she went somewhere in the evening and talked to someone who might be a problem. So they settled in and watched the front of the house. ”

  “No one was watching the back,” Anders said solemnly.

  “No,” Lucian agreed. He pushed his plate away and stood to get himself another coffee as he continued, “Bricker took over from Nicholas and Jo this morning. When Kathy didn’t come out by noon, he thought she was just sleeping in on a Saturday morning. But by mid-afternoon he started to worry, and went in. The house was empty, but her bedroom window was wide open. ”

  “The bedroom was at the back of the house?” Anders guessed. Gathering his and Lucian’s plates, as well as his own coffee cup, he stood up. He rinsed the plates and set them in the dishwasher as Lucian answered.

  “The bed apparently looks slept in, so she was taken sometime after retiring, but probably before getting up. ”

  Anders finished at the sink and moved to join him at the coffeepot with his own empty cup. Frowning, he asked, “He’s sure she was taken? She didn’t just go out using her back door or something?”

  “Her purse, keys, and cell phone were all still there, and the back door was locked. She went out the window. I’m guessing not willingly,” Lucian added dryly as he led Anders back to the table.

  Valerie noted that Anders didn’t look happy at this news, but then neither was she. She also wasn’t hungry anymore, and pushed her unfinished cake away.

  “And that’s not all,” Lucian added.

  “Great,” Valerie muttered under her breath as the men reclaimed their seats.

  “I got that news just before you returned,” Lucian said, and then added, “My stop in the office after you got back was to call the other watchers to check on the status of the women each were watching. ”

  “And?” Anders asked.

  “Everyone was accounted for but one,” Lucian said, sounding weary. “Decker was on Laura Kennedy and said she hadn’t left the house yet and he was about to go check on her when I called. I told him to call after he checked. I’m waiting to hear back from him. ”

  “So we might have two missing women,” Anders said slowly and blew out a long breath. Shoulders sagging, he shook his head and stared into his coffee, saying, “I thought for sure he’d leave them alone and move on to somewhere else. Only an idiot would stay in this area now that we know he’s here. ”

  “Or someone who wants to be caught and put down,” Lucian said grimly.

  “Caught and put down?” Valerie asked with surprise.

  “Most rogues are pretty suicidal,” Anders said quietly, and then glanced to Lucian and said, “But this guy wasn’t acting like a typical rogue. He was careful. He chose women who wouldn’t be missed, picked a country house out in the middle of nowhere, with owners who were old with no kids or friends to check on them. ” Anders shook his head. “The suicidal ones aren’t careful to avoid drawing notice like that. They do things that attract attention to themselves. ”

  “Like what?” Valerie asked curiously.

  “Like buying coffins by the dozen and filling them with new turns,” Leigh said dryly. “That’s how they got on to the rogue who took me. His purchasing coffins in bulk. ”

  Valerie’s eyes widened incredulously. “Coffins? You guys don’t really sleep in coffins, do you?” she asked with dismay. After Anders’s explanation of a scientific basis for their vampirism, she had been sure that whole coffins, capes, and garlic image was wrong.

  “No,” Leigh assured her, even as Anders and Lucian said, “Not anymore,” in unison.

  She stared at the three of them, one after another. “Not anymore?”

  “Oh, well . . . ” Leigh grimaced and waved one hand. “I guess in the old days when houses weren’t as well built as now, some of them slept in coffins to ensure no sunlight got in at them through cracks in the walls, or roof, or via poor window coverings. ” She shrugged. “Most of them just use black-out curtains and such now, but rogues tend to sink into living the horror-movie version of vampires for the benefit of their followers. I know Morgan—the rogue who turned me,” she explained, “He did it to keep his turns in line. They all thought he was their sire and lord and all that nonsense and were as obsequious as Dracula’s Renfield. ”

  “Most rogues do it for precisely that reason,” Lucian said dryly. “It engenders fear and obedience. ”

  “My rogue didn’t do that,” Valerie said. “I never saw a coffin and he didn’t turn Janey or Bethany, he just let them die. ”

  “Yes. Your rogue was careful to avoid drawing attention to himself,” Anders agreed. “Which is why we thought he was just old-school. Preferring to feed off the—er . . . from the source,” he corrected himself with a grimace. Then he sighed and ran a hand around the back of his neck, adding, “We were wrong. ”

  “You might not be,” Leigh said. “Perhaps Kathy’s disappearance has nothing to do with the rogue. Maybe a mortal took her. Or maybe she noticed Nicholas and Jo out front in the van, got nervous, thought they were watching her for some nefarious purpose, and snuck out her window to go somewhere safe or something,” Leigh suggested. Unfortunately, neither her words nor her tone of voice were very convincing. She obviously didn’t for a minute believe what she was saying might really be true.

  Judging by the expressions on Anders’s and Lucian’s faces, they didn’t believe it either, but before either man could comment, muffled music began to play.

  Valerie glanced to Lucian when he reached for his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. The music immediately grew louder and she tilted her head slightly and said, “That sounds like ‘Ridin’ Dirty’ by Chamillionaire. ”

  Lucian growled under his breath, and then barked, “Speak!” as he pressed the phone to his ear. But Leigh smiled brightly and exclaimed, “You know the song!”

  “Yeah. ” Valerie smiled faintly. “I loved playing it in the car on the way to work. ”

  “I listened to it in the car too,” Leigh said with a nod. “But it’s just called ‘Ridin’,’ not ‘Ridin’ Dirty,’ and that’s not it. ”

  Valerie blinked. “I’m sure it is. It sounds like—”

  “It does sound like ‘Ridin’,’ ” Leigh acknowledged. “But it’s Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘White and Nerdy. ’ ”

  “ ‘White and Nerdy’?” Valerie echoed, eyes wide. Lucian just didn’t seem the sort to be able to laugh at himself . . . or anything else really. The man was mostly stern and grim-faced. But he had to have a good sense of humor to make that his ring tone.

  “Oh, Lucian has a wonderful sense of humor,” Leigh assured her cheerfully. “But I’m the one who put it on his phone. I did it last week when I was annoyed with him. ”

  “Oh,” Valerie said uncertainly and then glanced to Anders to see that his lips were tightly compressed. She suspected he was trying not to laugh.

  “I’ll change it eventually,” Leigh added serenely. “But probably not until I have the baby and he stops acting like an overprotective dictating ass. ”

  Valerie’s eyes went wide and round, but Anders released a bark of laughter he quickly tried to cover with a cough.

  “Call and update the others. Tell them I want ‘eyes on’ from here on out,” Lucian suddenly barked into the phone.

  Valerie stilled, her head turning slowly to the man. This was obviously the call he’d been waiting for, and she guessed that by “eyes on” he meant there would be no more just watching the homes of the other women and following at a distance. They were to keep the women in sight at all times. Laura must be gone then, she thought. He’d hardly make that order otherwise. Would he?

  Lucian’s next words confirmed that fear for Valerie as he said, “And double the watchers. I want two teams on
each of the remaining women around the clock. We aren’t losing another one. ”

  Valerie sagged back in her seat. Laura was gone too. That left Cindy, Billie, and herself.

  “Has Beth already headed to Port Henry?” Lucian asked.

  “Beth is an Enforcer from Europe,” Leigh explained to Valerie, her expression solemn now. “She and Lucian’s niece, Drina, were partners there. But Drina came to Canada to help out with a situation and found her life mate, Harper. She stayed here. So when Lucian sent out the call that our Enforcers’ numbers were getting too low and we needed help, Beth volunteered. She and another new recruit, Paolo, arrived the day you woke up. ”

  Valerie nodded and asked curiously, “Was she headed to Port Henry on another Enforcer job?”

  Leigh shook her head. “Beth wanted to visit Drina before she started to work. She was going down to Port Henry to stay with Drina and Harper for the weekend and then starting here in Toronto Monday. ”

  “Oh,” Valerie murmured, thinking it would be a shame if the woman’s visit was halted before it began.

  “Niagara Falls? Why the hell were they taking her there?” Lucian squawked, and then muttered, “sightseeing,” under his breath with disgust. “Well, why the hell didn’t they take their cell phones at least?”

  Probably so they couldn’t be contacted and dragged from their vacation to be pressed into work, Valerie thought.

  “Call the hotels around Niagara Falls and find them,” Lucian growled.

  Valerie bit her lip. Lucian obviously didn’t realize how many hotels there were in Niagara Falls. If they were in a hotel . . . they might have rented a cottage, or could even have checked into a bed and breakfast. And it was possible that they weren’t even on the Canadian side, but had gone over to the American side of Niagara Falls. Finding them could turn out to be harder than finding the rogue, she thought, but then paid attention as Lucian spoke again.

  “Just do your best,” he barked. “In the meantime, Christian and his band are at Marguerite’s right now. Every one of them have spent some time as Enforcers at one point or another over the centuries. I’ll call there and see if a couple of them would be willing to help until we can get Beth and Drina here. ”

  “Christian is Marguerite’s son, and Lucian’s nephew,” Leigh explained and then frowned. “Well, technically, I guess he isn’t his nephew. At least not by blood, but Marguerite is Lucian’s sister-in-law, so he’s family. ”

  Valerie nodded, and then glanced back to Lucian as he said, “No, you needn’t arrange anything for her. Anders and I have that covered. You just concentrate on the other two. ”

  She didn’t have to think hard to know he was talking about her when Lucian said he and Anders had that covered. She was definitely in protective custody now. But then Valerie had thought she was from the start.

  Lucian hung up then, but immediately stood and walked to the phone at the end of the counter. Picking it up, he began punching in numbers, and then held the phone between his ear and shoulder while he plugged his cell phone into the wall socket charger. He’d barely managed to get the task done before dropping the cell phone on the counter and grabbing the other phone to bark, “Marguerite?”

  Valerie was distracted from the latest conversation when Roxy nudged her arm with a wet nose.

  Glancing down, she petted the dog’s head. “Do you have to go outside?”

  Roxy whined, then turned and headed for the nearest set of French doors.

  “That would be a yes,” Leigh said with amusement.

  Smiling wryly, Valerie nodded and stood to cross to the doors. Roxy waited for her to step out first and then followed and rushed ahead to find a patch of grass. Valerie started to close the door behind her, but paused and glanced around when it wouldn’t close. Anders was following her out of the house.

  Chapter Fifteen

  “I’ll keep you company,” Anders said as he stopped Valerie from closing the door on him.

  “Thank you,” she murmured, and turned to walk to the edge of the porch to watch Roxy.

  Anders closed the door and followed. He too looked out over the yard, but he wasn’t watching Roxy. He was taking in the forest backing onto the house and the trees on either side of it. Hell, he realized, there were even trees ten or twenty feet deep along the front of the house. The whole place was surrounded by woods that would make for a great hiding place for anyone who wanted to sneak up on the house. What the hell had Lucian been thinking when he’d bought this home in the middle of the bloody woods?
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