Immortal ever after, p.4
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       Immortal Ever After, p.4

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
Page 4


  “The others are all right though,” Leigh continued encouragingly as she started to rinse out the shampoo. “One or two were pretty weak, but bounced back after a few good meals and a couple nights’ sleep. ”

  “A couple nights’ sleep?” Valerie asked with a start and instinctively tried to turn her head to look at her, but jerked her head down again when she got a face full of water.

  “Sorry. Are you all right? Do you want a towel or something to dry your face?” Leigh asked.

  “No, it’s all right. ” Valerie wiped the worst of the water away with her fingers. She then asked, “How long have I been here?”

  “I’m sorry, I should have said,” Leigh muttered as she rinsed her hair. “This is the third night that you’ve been here. ”

  “I’ve been here three nights?” Valerie asked with disbelief. “I don’t remember any of it until waking up here today. ”

  “You wouldn’t,” Leigh assured her. “Dani cleaned the wound and gave you antibiotics the minute she got to you, but it was too late. Infection had already set in. You were feverish until this morning. There. All done,” Leigh added and quickly turned off the water. “Hang on, I’ll get you a towel for your hair. ”

  Valerie remained bent over the tub and wrung out her hair as Leigh set the showerhead back in its holder and moved away. The woman was back at her side a moment later with a towel in hand.

  “Thank you. ” Valerie took the towel and wrapped it around her head before straightening.

  “Better?” Leigh asked as Valerie turned to face her.

  “Much,” she said and meant it. She already felt a hundred times better. After something to eat and drink, Valerie was sure she’d be almost completely back to normal . . . well, except for some aches and pains and a healing gore wound in her back, she acknowledged wryly to herself. But she was used to aches and pains. Valerie had taken martial arts since she was five and had been in competition since shortly after she started. Bumps and bruises were the norm for her.

  “One of the men is going to fetch clothes for you from your house, but for now I’m afraid you’re stuck with this,” Leigh said, picking up the fresh nightgown she’d brought for her.

  Valerie peered from the nightgown to Leigh and asked carefully, “How do they know where my house is?”

  “It was on your driver’s license. They found your wallet the night they raided the house. No purse though, just a wallet and some keys in the pocket of a coat in your cage. ”

  “I didn’t have a purse,” Valerie said, relaxing. Smiling faintly, she added, “So you didn’t need me to introduce myself earlier?”

  “No,” Leigh acknowledged. “But introductions are always a nice way to start a conversation. ”

  For some reason that drew a small laugh from Valerie. Shaking her head, she took the nightgown Leigh was holding out. “Thank you. ”

  “You’re welcome,” Leigh said, and then glanced toward the bathroom door as a knock sounded from the other room. “That will be Anders. He’s the Enforcer who found you at the house. My husband assigned him the task of keeping you safe until they catch the rogue who kidnapped you and the other women,” she explained and then grinned and added, “He’s here to guard your body. ”

  Valerie smiled faintly at her teasing, but asked, “Enforcer? You keep saying that. You mean police officer, don’t you? Or is he RCMP?”

  Leigh hesitated, and then said, “They’re neither police nor Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They’re a special unit that handle unique cases such as yours. ” Before Valerie could ask any more questions, she added, “While you were bathing I went down and asked him to fetch you some soup. You haven’t eaten since you got here and must be starved. ”

  Valerie nodded. Not only had she not eaten in the three days since getting here, she’d refused to eat for four days before that to avoid the drugs they were putting in the oatmeal. She wasn’t complaining. It had worked and she was free, but one of the aches and pains she was suffering was definitely gnawing of hunger.

  “I’ll let him in. Come on out when you’re ready,” Leigh said, opening the bathroom door. “There’s a hairbrush in the drawer to the right of the sink. ”

  Valerie waited until the door closed behind the woman, then let her towel drop and quickly pulled the borrowed nightgown on over her head. She had a lot of questions, but most of them could wait until after she’d eaten. She had no idea what the special unit was that Anders and Leigh’s husband worked for, but apparently the 911 dispatcher had sent them in response to her call. Or perhaps the police had responded first and these Enforcers had taken over when it turned out to be a kidnapping. Kidnapping was a federal offense, wasn’t it? Or was that only in the States?

  It didn’t matter. She was free and safe. The other women were free and safe. She was hungry and everything else could wait until she’d eaten.

  Valerie moved to the sink and peered at her reflection. Her face was pale but clean. It was her neck though that drew her attention. A large, angry red scab covered the right side of her throat; a second almost healed wound was on the left side.

  Mementos from the house of horrors, Valerie thought grimly and wished she had a scarf or something to cover them. She didn’t, however, and wishing wouldn’t make one appear, so it was best just not to worry about it, she told herself and tugged the towel from her head. Her hair fell around her shoulders wet and tangled and she searched in the drawer for the brush Leigh had mentioned. It was exactly where she’d promised it would be and Valerie quickly dragged it through her hair until all the tangles were gone and her hair lay in quickly drying waves around her face and neck. It wasn’t as good as a scarf, but hid the worst of her neck and the wounds with it.

  Deciding she was ready, Valerie turned and opened the door to head back into the bedroom, but then paused in the doorway. Leigh was standing at the table by the window, taking bowls and spoons from a tray and setting them out in front of each of the two chairs. But it was the tall man dressed all in black that brought her to a halt. She watched silently as he carried the third chair from the other side of the bed to join the two at the table, noting that he was slim hipped and had a narrow waist, but that in comparison his arms and chest were rather large under his tight T-shirt. He had one of those gorgeous figures that sculptors loved to sculpt and companies hired to model their swimsuits and underwear. She could imagine him sprawled on a beach, skin glistening with suntan lotion, lips spread in a wide smile and those big beautiful eyes dancing with the joy of life.

  Valerie didn’t know why that thought popped into her head. He was nowhere near smiling right now. In fact, his face was expressionless and kind of grim.

  Leigh had talked about an Anders, and Valerie presumed this was him. She hadn’t expected him to still be here, though. She’d expected he’d bring up the soup and leave, but it looked as if he were going to join them.

  “There you are,” Leigh said cheerfully, and when Valerie glanced her way, she gestured to the seat across from her and said, “Come, sit down while the soup is hot. ”

  Valerie moved to the chair and paused behind it, her attention on the bowl Leigh had set at that place setting. It appeared to hold a beef soup, hearty and thick with potatoes, carrots, turnip, and what appeared to be homemade noodles. It smelled amazing and the gnawing in Valerie’s stomach quadrupled in response.

  Swallowing the saliva suddenly filling her mouth, she glanced toward the man as he set down the chair he’d fetched, placing it between hers and Leigh’s.

  “This is Anders,” Leigh introduced as she took a glass of milk from the tray and set it beside Valerie’s bowl.

  Valerie nodded at the man and he nodded back.

  Leigh raised an eyebrow at the silent greetings, and then shook her head and said, “Sit down and eat, Valerie. You must be starved. ”

  She didn’t need a third invitation. Valerie sat down, glancing around with a start when Anders m
oved up behind her chair to shift it in for her. It was an old-fashioned, courtly gesture that she didn’t recall ever having witnessed outside of old movies. She’d certainly never enjoyed it herself until now . . . and for some reason it left her a little flustered.

  “Thank you,” she muttered, embarrassed when her voice came out raspy.

  When Anders merely grunted in response, Leigh pursed her lips and said dryly, “He’s a man of few words. ”

  Valerie smiled crookedly and turned her attention to the bowl of food in front of her. The most delicious aroma was coming from it, and her stomach was growling impatiently and tying itself in knots demanding she feed it. She scooped up a spoonful of the fragrant meal and raised it to her lips for a tentative taste. She could have wept when the flavor burst on her tongue. It was hearty and so flavorful. Definitely homemade. Valerie dug in with enthusiasm.

  “Slow down, woman,” Leigh said on a laugh a moment later. “I’m pleased you’re enjoying my cooking, but you haven’t eaten in a while. Your stomach may not be able to handle too much too fast. ”

  Valerie grimaced, but set her spoon down for a moment to allow her food to settle. She drank some milk while she waited, something she hadn’t had since she was a kid, but she figured it couldn’t hurt. Milk was good for you, right? Unfortunately, things that were good for you often didn’t taste good. Valerie didn’t care for milk and set it back with a grimace after one sip.


  “Hmmm?” She glanced to Leigh in question.

  “The other women were fed one meal daily. But when Dani examined you, she seemed to think you hadn’t eaten for a while. ”

  “I was given oatmeal and fruit once a day like the other women,” Valerie said slowly. “But I figured out that the oatmeal was drugged to keep us docile, so I stopped eating. The night I called 911 was the fourth night I didn’t eat. ”

  “And they let you simply not eat?” Leigh asked.

  “Oh. ” Valerie smiled grimly. “The other girls warned me that if I didn’t eat, Igor would force-feed me, so I hid my daily portion in my jacket, bunched up in a corner of my cage. ”

  “Ah, that explains it,” Leigh said with amusement, and then told her, “One of the Enforcers said your coat was soiled. He thought it was vomit. Must have been the oatmeal. ”

  Valerie nodded.

  “Igor didn’t catch on?” Anders asked.

  Valerie glanced at him, startled by his deep sexy voice. She shouldn’t have been, because it suited him perfectly, she thought, and then turned her attention to her soup and picked up her spoon again. “He would have had I been there much longer. It was starting to smell. ”

  He nodded, and then said, “Tell us about Igor. ”

  “Anders, let her eat,” Leigh said, sounding annoyed. “You can grill her for information later. ”

  “It’s okay,” Valerie said quickly. She didn’t think she had much information that could help them, but if she did and it led to the capture of Igor’s boss, she was willing to answer now.

  Turning to Anders, she peered at him for a moment. Up close he was even more good-looking. It wasn’t just his body that would look good in glossy prints, his face was worth a look or ten. His skin was a lovely mocha, perfect and unblemished, his eyes, large and black with what appeared to be gold flecks in them, though she was sure it was pale brown and a trick of light or something. His lips were nice too, full and soft looking. They were the only thing on the man that looked soft though. He definitely worked out. As she’d noted, his chest was ripped, the muscles rippling under his tight T-shirt. His shoulders were wide, his arms muscular and his stomach flat. She was now curious to see him from behind. She suspected he’d have a nice tush too.

  Startled by the path her mind had taken, Valerie cleared her throat and glanced down at her soup as she tried to gather her thoughts. What had they been talking about?

  “I’m sure a description of Igor can wait a few minutes while we finish our soup,” Leigh said gently.

  “Oh right,” Valerie said with relief as her memory was nudged. He wanted to know about Igor, she thought and then raised her head and stared at Anders. “Why would you need a description? You should have seen him. He was the dead man on the bedroom floor. ”

  When Anders and Leigh exchanged a silent glance, she sat back slowly in her seat. “He is dead, right? I killed him. At least, I think I did. He should have been there on the floor. ”

  When Anders just shook his head, Leigh suggested, “His boss must have taken him. ”

  “Why? It would have slowed him down. He wouldn’t bother. Unless he wasn’t dead. ” Valerie frowned at the possibility. She’d never thought that she’d want to hurt anyone, let alone take their life. But after her experiences in the house of horrors, she was coming to think there just might be some people that didn’t deserve to live. Was that horrible?
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