Immortal ever after, p.40
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       Immortal Ever After, p.40

         Part #18 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
Page 40

 

  “A boy,” she announced and met his gaze with a smile.

  When canine whining roused Valerie from a deep sleep, she eased one eyelid open and scowled at the furry face in front of her.

  “You’re kidding, right?” she muttered with disgust. “You couldn’t let me sleep in this one time? Just this once? I mean it was only four A. M. when I finally crawled into bed last night. But you can’t let me sleep?”

  Roxy whined again, shifting on the spot, and Valerie sighed.

  “Fine,” she said, pushing herself wearily to her hands and knees to get up. She then froze as she took note of the man in bed beside her. Anders. Damn. He wasn’t there when she’d crawled into bed last night. He hadn’t even been at the house. Once the second baby was born and Leigh had been fed three or four bags of blood, they’d deemed it time to move and everyone had come back to the house. Well, everyone but Mortimer, who had taken the rogue back to the Enforcer house to be locked up. He’d returned later with Sam, though, so she could see the babies.

  It seemed like half of Toronto had arrived at the house last night to see the babies. Valerie had been introduced to at least two dozen new people, all related in some way or another to Lucian and Leigh. And those people had stayed hours, trying to help as Leigh and Lucian had debated on the babies’ names.

  It seemed Leigh had refused to pick names before the baby was born. She’d miscarried a previous child and had gained some superstitions from the loss. One of those superstitions was a fear that if she picked names before the baby was born, it wouldn’t be born. Or they wouldn’t, since the baby had turned out to be two.

  No decisions had been made, though there had been a couple of suggestions Leigh and Lucian were considering. The party had finally broken up at four A. M. , when Lucian and Anders had decided it was time to go question their rogue.

  Before joining everyone at casa bambino, Mortimer had tried to get answers out of the man as to where Laura, Billie, and Kathy were, or if they were even still alive, but the rogue hadn’t been very forthcoming, refusing even to give his name. So after relaxing for a bit, and enjoying his new family, Lucian had decided it was time to get those answers. Anders, Mortimer, Sam, and Justin, as well as a couple of the other men, had gone with him.

  Much to Valerie’s relief, everyone else but Rachel and Etienne had left then. But the doctor and her game-creator husband were going to stay for a day or two to help Leigh with the babies, so Valerie had felt it was all right to finally find her bed. It had been an extremely long day and she’d been exhausted, so after letting Roxy out to take care of business, she’d tripped upstairs, stripped off her clothes and fallen into bed. Alone.

  Valerie stared at Anders now, taking in the fact that he was fully clothed and on top of the blankets. But when Roxy whined again, she shushed her, and eased carefully out of bed.

  Rather than hunt around in her drawers in the dark room or risk turning on a light and waking Anders, Valerie felt around for her clothes from the day before and then tugged them on one at a time. She was so tired, she didn’t even care if they were on inside out. She also didn’t bother brushing her hair or teeth and simply led Roxy out of the room. Valerie had every intention of climbing back into bed the minute Roxy had eaten and done her business. Two hours of sleep just was not enough for her system to function with any kind of clarity. Besides, she deserved a sleep in. She’d bested a bad guy and delivered two babies the day before.

  The thought made her smile. The babies were adorable little bundles, and Lucian had been strutting about like the prize bull at the fair as everyone had fawned over them last night. As for Leigh, once she’d been given a couple more bags of blood at the house, all signs of the “off with his head” woman had vanished. She was back to her sweet laughing self. Valerie had been rather relieved by that.

  Speak of the devil, Valerie thought as she entered the kitchen/living room and spotted Leigh by the island with one of her little bundles of joy. Baby girl, she realized, noting the pink baby blanket.

  “Feeding time?” Valerie asked as she approached.

  “Burping time,” Leigh corrected wryly. “Feeding time ended fifteen minutes ago, but she hasn’t burped and won’t settle. ”

  Valerie nodded, but frowned. “Should you be up and about already? Do you want me to take her?”

  “I’m fine,” Leigh assured her with a laugh, and then added wryly, “Immortal, remember? Half a dozen bags of blood and the nanos fixed me right up. I’m good as new. ”

  Valerie raised her eyebrows. “Impressive. ”

  “Yeah. ” Leigh smiled.

  “But you must be tired,” Valerie said.

  Leigh shook her head. “We can do without sleep if we pump up the blood consumption. ”

  “Really?” Valerie asked with amazement and not a little envy.

  Leigh nodded. “Of course we try not to do that much. It means more blood, and it’s always best to be conservative on blood use. But sometimes, like now, it’s hard to avoid. ”

  “Hmmm. Well, that will make motherhood a lot less painful. The lack of sleep is the thing most new mothers and fathers complain about,” Valerie commented and then glanced down to Roxy when she nudged her hand with a wet nose.

  “You can let her out,” Leigh said, smiling at Roxy. “I turned off the alarm when I heard you moving around upstairs. ”

  “Thanks. ” Valerie moved to the French doors and opened one to let Roxy out, then closed and leaned against it as she asked Leigh, “Decided on names yet?”

  “No,” Leigh admitted with a sigh and cuddled her little girl close briefly. Easing her hold, she admitted, “I really didn’t think it would be this hard. Shouldn’t you just look at them and know what their name should be?”

  Valerie chuckled at the suggestion. “Sure. That’s how the seven dwarfs became Sneezy, Bashful, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, and Doc, isn’t it?”

  Leigh grinned, but then wrinkled her nose. “In that case, this little girl should be called Smelly . . . or Poopy. I think it’s diaper-change time. ”

  “Hmmm. Speaking of . . . I guess I’d better find the waste pick-up bags and go tend to my little girl,” Valerie said, pushing herself away from the door to move into the kitchen and fetch the bags.

  “Have fun,” Leigh said, heading for the door.

  “You too,” Valerie called out with a laugh as she grabbed the bags from the drawer and headed outside.

  Roxy hurried eagerly to her side as Valerie stepped out onto the covered porch. Giving the German shepherd a pet, she promised, “I’ll feed you in a minute. Just let me collect all your little gifts from last night and this morning first. ”

  Roxy barked and pressed against her side, eliciting a smile and another pet from Valerie. She didn’t think the dog understood what she’d said. Well, except perhaps for feed. She was pretty sure Roxy understood that word. But her not understanding had never stopped Valerie talking to her before. She’d had whole conversations with the German shepherd, pouring out her troubles and cares to the dog. Roxy always watched her, bright-eyed, and tongue lolling, giving the occasional bark. She appeared just happy to have her attention. It was part of her charm.

  “So,” Valerie said, starting across the yard in search of Roxy treasures. “What do you think of Anders? Should I agree to be his life mate or not?”

  Roxy barked and raced a little ahead before stopping to peer back at her.

  Eyebrows rising, Valerie followed and paused when she saw that the dog had stopped beside one of her treasures.

  “Is that a yes I should, or no I shouldn’t?” she asked as she collected the doggy deposit, and Roxy barked and moved away, sniffing the ground as she went and then she paused again and looked back at her expectantly.

  “Good of you to be so helpful,” Valerie said dryly as she reached her and bent to scoop up the deposit in front of the dog. She spent the next couple of minutes following Ro
xy around, cleaning up after her. She was pretty sure they were on the last one, when Roxy suddenly paused, head up, ears pricked, and then she charged forward and around the house.

  “Squirrel,” Valerie muttered and shook her head. That was usually the only thing that made the dog react like that. Tying the top of the bag, she whistled for her, and then started around the house. She turned the corner just in time to see Roxy jogging around the front of the house in hot pursuit of whatever furry little critter had caught her attention.

  “Dumb dog,” Valerie said with exasperation, hurrying after her. She was exhausted and eager to get back to bed, so of course that’s the day that Roxy decides she’s a hunting dog.

  Roxy had nosed the garage door open and was slipping inside by the time Valerie came around the front of the house. Cursing, Valerie rushed to the door and pulled it open.

  “Roxy?” she called, frowning into the dark garage. Tossing the bag of dog waste in the garbage pail just inside the door, Valerie felt around for a light switch on the walls on either side of the door. If one of the big, automatic garage doors for the cars had been open it would have offered more light, this door merely cast shadows everywhere.

  “Dammit, Roxy where are you?” Valerie said testily giving up on a light switch. She couldn’t even hear the German shepherd moving around and the dark and silence was starting to spook her. If she knew where the panel was to open the big doors, she’d be opening them both at that moment.

  Sighing into the silence, Valerie eased back a step, considering closing the garage door and then opening it and calling Roxy again. Perhaps the fear that she might be left here would lure the dog out, Valerie thought and was about to step outside when there was a tinny clang in the back corner of the garage. Roxy had knocked over a can of something. Valerie took a couple steps forward, calling her again.

  Impatient to get back inside and go to bed, Valerie walked further into the garage, moving carefully between Lucian’s van on her right and the shelves lined with tools, pool cleaner, paint, and various other miscellaneous items on her left. She was halfway along the van when the garage door suddenly closed behind her.

  Freezing, Valerie turned slowly toward the van in the darkness, ears straining.

  “It was the wind,” she assured herself in a whisper.

  “No it wasn’t. ”

  The voice came from her right and very close. It startled a gasp out of Valerie and sent her heart pounding. It also made her whirl and run blindly in the opposite direction. Valerie had only taken half a dozen steps when she was caught by the hair and jerked back against a very wide, very hard chest. She immediately caught a whiff of a musky scent she’d forgotten but immediately recalled.

  “Igor,” she breathed, horror washing over her. He was alive.

  “Igor?” he asked, sounding nonplussed.

  “Where’s Roxy?” Valerie asked grimly.

  “Dead,” he barked, and countered, “Where is Ambrose?”

  Valerie didn’t answer, she couldn’t have if she’d wanted to. His announcement sent a shaft of pain shooting through her chest that had left her gasping for breath.

  “Where is Ambrose?” he repeated, shaking her furiously by his hold on her hair to get her attention.

  “I don’t know who Ambrose is!” Valerie cried out, grabbing at the hair on the sides of her head to try to ease the pain. His shaking her certainly regained her attention. He’d pulled her out of her haze of grief, but rage replaced it as Valerie thought of her poor Roxy, lying dead somewhere there in the dark garage. She reacted without stopping to think about it, raising her foot and shooting it back at his legs with force. Score! Valerie thought grimly as he bellowed in pain and stumbled back, dragging her with him.

  Growling as he regained his footing, Igor turned and slammed her into the van, his weight crashing into her from behind to add to the assault. Valerie groaned as the wind was knocked out of her and shock waves of pain vibrated from her breasts down to her knees.

  “Who do you think I mean?” he asked furiously by her ear.

  “Your boss,” she gasped almost soundlessly. She simply didn’t have the breath in her to speak.

  “Where is he?” Igor demanded, easing his weight from hers enough to allow her some air. As he did, Valerie heard a very faint bark. It sounded far away, or muffled as if coming from outside, but it was definitely a bark. Roxy wasn’t dead. She’d barely had the thought when Igor cursed and dragged her away from the van by her hair.

  “Where is he?” he growled, pulling her several feet, presumably, toward the garage door.

  Valerie hesitated, but when he stopped and caught her by the throat, she quickly answered, “At the Enforcer house. ”

  There was no reason not to tell him. It wasn’t like Igor could break him out. Although, if he tried, it would give them a chance to catch him. Savoring that thought, she asked, “What did you do with Billie, Laura, and Kathy?”
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