Immortal ever after, p.32
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       Immortal Ever After, p.32

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 32

 

  And I never would have met her. She would have died alone in the dark in a cold, dirty cage, Anders thought, mouth tightening.

  “Knocked him out?” Christian asked. “So you don’t think she killed Igor when she staked him?”

  “His boss arrived right afterward, he probably removed the stake, and if a stake is removed quickly enough the immortal lives. We figure he’s alive,” Anders said. They’d had to explain the whole story from beginning to end for Christian, his life mate, Carolyn, and his band mates. They could hardly send them into a situation where they didn’t know what was going on and what they were up against.

  “Right,” Christian said with a frown. “So we’re really on the lookout for two rogues. ”

  “We have a picture of the one they called Igor,” Lucian announced and Mortimer immediately handed out copies of the sketch artist’s rendition of Igor.

  “And the other guy?” Christian asked.

  “None of them saw him when not under the influence of drugs,” Anders said.

  “I thought they weren’t given drugged food the night they were taken upstairs?” Carolyn said with a frown. “Surely it should have been wearing off by the time they saw him?”

  “They weren’t and it should have,” Lucian agreed. “But we think Igor was administering a drug during, or after, the bath. ”

  “A different drug than the one in their food,” Greg clarified. “One that didn’t make them docile, but screwed up their perceptions. Valerie and the other women all recall fighting him on their nights out and his enjoying it. But for each, their memories of their surroundings as well as what he looked like were just too distorted to have been the result of coming down off drugs administered the night before in their meal. ”

  “None of them mentioned being drugged on their night out,” Anders said with a frown. He wasn’t sure who the “we” were Lucian was talking about. He hadn’t been in on this conversation.

  “Igor could have controlled them to prevent their remembering,” Lucian said with a shrug. “He didn’t seem as sadistic as his boss. ”

  “Well, if we have no idea what the head guy looks like, that’s not why he’s risking taking the same women again,” Greg muttered, and then asked, “And you didn’t find any stores with large purchases of cages?”

  Anders shook his head. “No. We didn’t even find a store where anyone bought more than one large cage at a time. ”

  “If he was suicidal and looking to be caught, subconsciously, he’d be leaving a bread crumb. But he hasn’t left any trail at all,” Greg said with a frown. “I really don’t think he’s suicidal. ”

  “Then why risk grabbing his prior victims again?” Anders asked with frustration. “He had to know we’d be watching them to be sure there were no problems placing them back in their lives, and it wouldn’t have taken more than a glance at the street to spot our SUVs. Those are well known as Enforcer vehicles by immortals. ”

  “The first two women weren’t that risky,” Mortimer commented. “His taking them wasn’t expected. We weren’t watching for him. ”

  “Billie was risky, though,” Anders pointed out, his mouth tight. Mortimer had got the call just before they’d arrived. Billie had been snatched from work. They were waiting for their man to get to the house to explain, but it sounded like she’d gone into the “employees only” section to change and had never come out. Why their Enforcer hadn’t followed her in, Anders couldn’t say. Lucian had ordered “eyes on. ” Eyes on did not mean letting her leave your sight to change. Privacy took a backseat to safety, or should have.

  “Yes, Billie should have been more risky,” Lucian said, voice cold. Anders didn’t envy whichever one of the men had been on Billie. The guy was in some serious shit.

  “So, why take the risk?” Carolyn asked.

  “I don’t know,” Greg admitted wearily. “Unless he’s afraid they may have seen something in that house that could give away who he is. ”

  Mortimer shook his head. “We checked all of them. In each case their memories were distorted. Their recollections of his face are like images through the bottom of an old glass pop bottle or in a funhouse mirror. There is absolutely nothing of use in their memories. ”

  “It may not be his face he’s worried about,” Greg pointed out. “There could have been a piece of mail on the bedside table with his name on it, or his wallet may have fallen out, open to show his driver’s license during one of their struggles, maybe even when they were kidnapped. Or during their kidnapping they might have caught a glimpse of his face in the reflection of a window or something. It could be anything. ”

  Anders cursed. He wasn’t the only one, both Lucian and Mortimer echoed the sound as they realized that they might have missed something important.

  “Valerie’s in the kitchen, isn’t she?” Greg asked.

  Anders nodded and headed for the door. “Yes, I’ll get her and—”

  “No, don’t,” Greg’s words brought him to an abrupt halt. “We’ll go to her. It will be more natural. She’ll be relaxed, more likely to remember things than if we drag her in here and make her feel like she’s being grilled. ”

  “She’s going to know what you’re doing and tense up the minute you ask her to return to her memories anyway,” Jo said sensibly.

  “Yes,” Greg agreed. “But I want to ask her some other questions first and see if we can’t sort out what the women may have had in common. How he came across each of them. That might tell us something about him that would lead us to where he would go now. ”

  Anders nodded. “Let’s go. ”

  Everyone in the room began to move as Anders turned away. It made him shake his head. They weren’t all going to fit in the kitchen. Aside from himself, there was Christian, his life mate, Carolyn, and his four bandmates, and then Greg, Lucian, Mortimer, Nicholas, Jo, and Decker. Lissianna, Dani, and Sam had opted to help Leigh and Valerie with the cooking. There was simply no way they were all going to fit into the kitchen.

  Chapter Sixteen

  Okay, so maybe they would all fit in the kitchen, Anders thought as he stepped into the large bright room. It was a lot bigger in reality than in his memory, but then he wasn’t often in here.

  Anders thoughts died as he came to a halt just inside the kitchen. It was the sight of Valerie over by the refrigerator, examining Justin like he was a horse up for sale that made him stop. The young Enforcer stood completely still, a quickly dwindling blood bag in his mouth, and eyes wide as Valerie stood beside him, pulling his upper lip back and poking at his teeth.

  “There must be a direct path into the bloodstream via the fangs,” she was saying thoughtfully. “But I don’t see how. Or how they can draw in the blood without some sort of pump system or something . . . unless the nanos do the actual work of drawing in the blood. Hmmm. ”

  The blood bag was empty now, and Justin removed it with relief, muttering, “Yeah. Well, I don’t know how it works. I just enjoy the benefits. ”

  “Can I see your fangs again?” Valerie asked.

  “Er . . . ” Justin said, then spotted Anders and smiled with relief. “Anders, buddy. Show your woman your fangs. ”

  “Shy, Bricker? You?” Anders asked dryly, moving forward again as Valerie glanced around to smile at him.

  “Nah. I just don’t want to show you up by letting her see how much bigger my fangs are than yours,” Justin responded.

  “Actually, I saw Anders’s fangs at his house this afternoon and they’re bigger than yours,” Valerie said at once, and then as Anders reached her side, she glanced at him and asked, “Why? Is it like big fangs, big feet, big—?”

  Anders put an end to her question by kissing her naughty mouth. God, he loved this woman. Justin had tried to embarrass him and she had slapped him back with so little effort that—

  His thoughts died as Anders’s brain caught and held on to one particular sentence that had run through hi
s mind. God, he loved this woman? Breaking their kiss, he lifted his head and stared down into her sweet face. She was like a ray of sunshine. Golden hair, porcelain skin, bright green eyes, luscious red lips. She was as beautiful as the sun to him, and he’d always thought the sun the most beautiful thing in the world. Perhaps because he could never really enjoy it, and he’d only allowed himself brief glimpses of it, or enjoyed it secondhand from the memories of mortals he fed off. It was only the last decade or so that he’d been able to enjoy it properly with the help of the window coating that blocked UV rays.

  Valerie rivaled the sun in his eyes. And won. If given the choice of seeing her every day but never seeing the sun again, or never seeing her again and getting to enjoy the sun, Valerie would win hands down, he acknowledged.

  Anders had always understood that the nanos got it right when they chose a life mate for an immortal. He just hadn’t realized how right it could be. When he was with Valerie, he felt at peace. He enjoyed her smile, her laughter, her chatter, her sense of humor, her everything. He enjoyed just being with her, even if they were saying nothing. And he definitely enjoyed their passion.

  “Anders?” Greg’s deep voice interrupted his musings.

  Straightening, he turned and stared at Greg for one blank moment, and then nodded. “Valerie, this is Greg Hewitt. He’s—”

  “Lissianna’s husband,” Valerie said with a smile, holding her hand out to Greg. “Nice to meet you. Lissianna is lovely. ”

  “Nice to meet you as well,” Greg said with a smile, then raised an eyebrow and glanced around. “Speaking of my wife, where is she?”

  “Outside,” Valerie answered. “She was in here helping us, but Luciana got fussy, so she took her out to let her run around the yard while she checked with Sam and Dani to see if they were good at the barbecue or needed anything. ”

  “Sam and Dani are manning the barbecue?” Decker asked with a frown. “Why didn’t they call one of us to handle that?”

  “Because you all were busy,” Valerie said with a shrug. “Besides, there was no need. As Sam said, she’s a lawyer and Dani’s a doctor, between the two of them they should be able to get the barbecue going without blowing up the place. ”

  “Christ,” Mortimer muttered and hurried out of the room with Decker on his heels.

  Anders tightened the arm he still had around Valerie, giving her a little squeeze. He’d caught the twinkle in her eye, even if the other two men hadn’t.

  “You have a beautiful daughter,” Valerie said now to Greg. “She’s a little wingless cherub with her golden curls, chubby little rosy cheeks and those gorgeous big, silver-blue eyes. Speaking of which,” she added, turning back to Anders. “You guys all have kind of metallic eyes. They’re either silver-blue, silver-green, or black and gold like yours. Is that because of the nanos?”

  “Yes,” Anders answered.

  Before she could ask why the nanos had that effect on the eyes, which Anders suspected would be the next question, Greg asked one of his own, “I hear you’re a vet here to take some upgrade courses at the Veterinary College at the University of Guelph?”

  Valerie nodded. “And I hear you’re a psychologist? That must make for an interesting job. ”

  “At times,” he agreed wryly, and then said, “I gather one of the other women taken by your kidnapper worked at the university? Billie?”

  “Yes, she—” Valerie stopped abruptly, her eyebrows drawing together. “Wait. Did you say worked?”

  “Sorry, I meant works. She works there,” Greg corrected himself quickly.

  Valerie stared at him for a minute and then turned to Anders. “Is Billie all right?”

  Anders could feel all eyes on him. He knew everyone wanted him to lie and say Billie was fine so they could get on with questioning Valerie, but he just couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t lie to Valerie. But before he could tell her Billie had been taken, Lucian spoke up, drawing Valerie’s attention his way.

  “She still works at the university coffee shop and will be fine,” Lucian said.

  Anders was just relaxing when Valerie turned back to him and asked, “Is Billie fine right now?”

  Grimacing, he shook his head. “She was taken from her workplace just before we got here. ” Her eyes widened with horror and she opened her mouth to say something, but he rushed on, saying, “We don’t know the details yet, Valerie. As soon as I know, you’ll know. In the meantime, Greg has some questions for you. They’ll help us help her. ”
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