The lady is a vamp, p.8
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       The Lady is a Vamp, p.8

         Part #17 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
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Chapter Eight

 

  "Are we going swimming when we get back?" Livy asked excitedly as Paul buckled her into her seat.

  "As soon as we're at the cottage and get everything out of the car," Paul said, finishing his task and straightening to close the door. He glanced through the front passenger window as he did, frowning when he noted how pale and tight Jeanne Louise's expression was. His gaze slid back to his daughter. Livy was still awake and smiling. Frowning, he opened the passenger door and leaned in.

  "Jeanie?" he said, worry crowding his thoughts as he noted that her complexion was actually gray, her teeth clenched, and the muscles of her jaw jumping. While she turned to peer at him, Paul would swear she didn't really see him. Her concentration was wholly internal on the pain she was suffering as she worked to keep his little girl from feeling it. The headaches were getting worse, taking more out of her each time, he acknowledged. They could bring an end to them if she'd just turn his daughter. But then he hadn't asked her to do that yet. Paul supposed he'd hoped she'd suggest it, and she still might. But if she didn't soon, he'd have to. The increasing speed and harshness of Livy's headaches made him suspect they were running out of time.

  "Put her to sleep," he said quietly, and then had to repeat the suggestion more firmly because Jeanne Louise didn't seem to understand. Or perhaps she hadn't heard. Whatever the case, after he said it the second time some of the tension seemed to ease from her face and Paul peered into the backseat to see his sweet daughter was sleeping.

  He sighed, some of his own tension easing as well. He didn't want his daughter to suffer, but felt no better knowing Jeanne Louise was doing so in her place.

  Paul turned back to the woman to see that she was rubbing her head with her fingers, trying to massage away any lingering pain. He immediately raised his own fingers to her scalp to join her in the effort, moving his fingers in firm circles on her head.

  "I'm sorry," he whispered as he worked.

  Jeanne Louise mumbled wearily in response, though he wasn't sure what she said or if she'd even heard what he'd said.

  Paul sighed and used his fingers on her head to draw her forward and kiss her forehead gently, and then he eased her back in her seat. "Sleep on the way back," he said softly as he did up her seat belt. "A nap will do you good. "

  Straightening, Paul stepped out of the way and closed the door, then walked around to the driver's side and got in to start the engine. Jeanne Louise's eyes were closed as he pulled out of the parking spot, so it came as something of a surprise when she suddenly sucked in her breath beside him with a hissing sound.

  He'd just brought them to a halt at the lights at the parking lot exit. Paul glanced to her sharply at the sound, but couldn't at first tell what was wrong. Jeanne Louise's head was sideways on the headrest, turned toward the window. He started to reach toward her, to see if she was all right, and then his eyes slid past her to the vehicle next to them: A blue van with a dark-skinned woman at the wheel. The woman was staring straight at Jeanne Louise, her eyes flashing gold. He'd seen enough immortal eyes to recognize them and felt his own heart jump in his chest.

  "Get us out of here," Jeanne Louise suddenly growled, swiveling her head away from the window to reveal a face stark with alarm.

  Paul glanced from her to the woman and then turned to peer forward and hit the gas as the light turned green for them. He reacted instinctively, turning left onto the main road, cutting off oncoming traffic from the plaza across from them. He felt his heart thud again at the sound of wheels screeching in protest, and then flushed guiltily as he realized what he'd done. Fortunately, no one hit them and other than a couple of annoyed honks and no doubt some cursing that he couldn't hear, nothing happened. Paul glanced in the rearview mirror as he roared up the road, half afraid the van too might have turned against traffic and would be following them, but the van had been in the next lane over that was supposed to cross over into the plaza and it had done exactly that. That didn't mean it wouldn't now turn and come back out to follow them, though, he acknowledged.

  "You have to get off this road now," Jeanne Louise said urgently, swiveling in her seat to peer out the rear window. He knew she had better eyesight than he did. For all he knew she could see the van and knew it was following. Paul didn't question her, but simply shifted into the right lane and took the first road right and then the very next left. He continued like that, taking turn after turn until Jeanne Louise slowly relaxed and eased back to sit in her seat. "I think we lost them. "

  Paul nodded, but continued taking turns a few more times before pulling over in a residential area to turn on his GPS and punch in the motel in Ipperwash. He was quite sure they'd lost the woman in the van, but in the process he'd got himself lost.

  "Who was she?" Paul asked as he waited for the GPS to calculate the route back to the motel.

  "My stepmother, Eshe," Jeanne Louise said wearily.

  Her eyes were closed so she missed the horrified look he cast her. Dear God, of all the people to run into.

  "Why didn't you tell me your parents lived in London?" he asked with dismay.

  "They don't. They live in a small town about twenty minutes outside the city," she explained, and then grimaced and admitted, "And I wasn't really paying attention to where you said we were going shopping. My head hurt and-"

  "Yes, of course, I'm sorry," Paul interrupted. The little scare hadn't done anything to ease the tension and pallor of her face. "It doesn't matter. We lost her. They might look for us here in London, but we won't be here. We'll just stay out of London and stick to Ipperwash. "

  "Yes," she agreed, leaning her head back and closing her eyes.

  Jeanne Louise didn't say anything else, and Paul suspected she'd fallen asleep. It told him just how exhausted she was, because he couldn't have slept to save his soul at that point. They had got gas and hit the instant teller in Toronto so that the Enforcers wouldn't know which direction they'd headed and would be forced to spread their efforts over a large area. Now they would know and concentrate their search probably in London and the surrounding area. It was a lot less area to search than the entirety of Ontario. Ipperwash was only an hour away.

  Of course, they might not expand the search to the surrounding area, he told himself and then pursed his lips as he considered that if her people now knew they were in London, there was no reason for him not to use the credit card to get gas and save his dwindling cash. Hell, he could even hit an instant teller and load up on cash again.

  Happy with that realization, Paul punched the "Point of Interest" button and then typed in the name "Canadian Tire. " He found one far enough away from the mall they'd been at to be relatively safe and followed the directions that way.

  "Well, what do you think?" Paul asked, dragging in the last of the bags from the car.

  Jeanne Louise turned from checking the kitchen cupboards and smiled. "I think it's lovely. "

  "Yeah. A little grander than I expected," he admitted wryly, setting down his burden. "The cottage my parents brought me to was a three-room shack with a toilet in a room that I'm sure used to be a closet. "

  "Well, this definitely beats that," she said with amusement, peering around the large open kitchen/dining area and the larger living room beyond. There were two bedrooms up a hall behind these rooms, which faced out on the street side. There was also a curving staircase between the living room and dining room that led down into a basement with another sitting area and two more bedrooms. It was nice. Probably someone's home at one time before it was converted into a rental cottage.

  The only complaint Jeanne Louise had was the endless windows everywhere. Fortunately, there were blinds she could close to escape from the relentless sun.

  "Is Livy still in the car?" she asked, moving to the grocery bags first. The cupboards were filled with dishes, pots, and pans, but there was an empty cupboard for foodstuff and they'd definitely bought a lot of that in town, along with everythi
ng else.

  "Yeah. Boomer's with her, and I figure it's better to let her sleep until we get this stuff stowed away. The minute she wakes up she'll want to get in the water. " He glanced toward the car parked next to the screen door to the kitchen. Livy's door was open, allowing air in and letting them keep an eye on her and the dog resting on the seat beside her.

  Jeanne Louise nodded and began pulling cold food out of the bags to put in the refrigerator. The nap on the way back had done her good. She felt almost back to normal. It had cleared her thinking too though, and now she was a bit worried about Eshe's spotting her in London. Not unduly so though. They might concentrate the search on London, but Ipperwash was an hour away. When they didn't find them in London they would probably look further south rather than try every single town east and west of it. She suspected they'd try Chatham and Windsor first, expecting them to choose large populated areas to hide in.

  With both of them working, it didn't take long to get the food stowed away. They then turned their attention to the clothes and towels they'd bought. The cottage supplied sheets and blankets and pillows, so they made the beds after that.

  Paul suggested Jeanne Louise take the large main bedroom on the ground floor while Livy took the smaller one next to it. She refused at first until he pointed out that she would be close to Livy if the child needed her in the night. In case she woke up with a headache and needed help, Jeanne Louise realized, and gave in.

  She expected Paul would take one of the bedrooms downstairs, but he announced he'd sleep on the couch in the living room in case Livy needed him.

  Once they made the beds, their work was pretty much done and there was no reason not to wake Livy. Leaving Paul sorting through a bunch of stuff she didn't recognize, she went out to collect Livy. The girl was excited as all get-out when she realized they were actually at the cottage. She'd fallen asleep on the way back from town and had slept through their collecting Boomer and their things from the motel, as well as the drive here to meet the cottage owner.

  While she was groggy when Jeanne Louise first roused her, the little girl was quickly awake and running the minute she set her down inside the cottage door. Boomer was hard on her heels, barking excitedly as she raced around the inside of the cottage looking in all the rooms, then attacked the small stack of clothes in the smaller room that was to be hers and began rifling through them in search of her bathing suit. She had her clothes off and was climbing into the pretty little blue one piece swimsuit she'd chosen as Jeanne Louise left the room.

  She walked into the living room to find Paul in the process of blowing up a small raft. Her eyebrows rose as she glanced from it to the already inflated water wings beside him on the floor. "When did you get those? I don't remember seeing them anywhere. "

  Paul stopped blowing and blocked the opening with a finger as he explained, "At the gas station when I stopped for gas. They had some sort of promotional deal going on. Buy gas, get the raft half price kind of thing, so I picked it up. Then I saw the water wings and grabbed those too. "

  "Ah. " Jeanne Louise smiled faintly and then glanced around with surprise as Livy charged into the room.

  "Can we go in the water now, Daddy?" she asked eagerly, practically dancing on the spot with excitement.

  "Just as soon as I finish blowing this up and change into my swim trunks," Paul said patiently and then returned to blowing.

  Livy groaned, but otherwise didn't complain. She glanced to Jeanne Louise then though and said, "You'd better put your bathing suit on too, Jeanie. You'll want to swim too. "

  "Er . . . well . . . " Jeanne Louise shifted uncomfortably.

  "There are a couple of lovely big trees out there to offer shade, and I bought a big umbrella for you too," Paul said quietly, pausing in his blowing again. "I know you can't actually swim until nightfall, but I thought that way you could at least sit outside with us. "

  Jeanne Louise sighed and turned to make her way to her room. She had allowed Paul and Livy to cajole her into buying a bathing suit, never really expecting to wear it. It wasn't often you saw an immortal on the beach unless they were in the middle of a stake and bake-not something any immortal wanted to happen since it was one of their more painful punishments. It was a death sentence that started with being staked out in the sun for hours, sometimes days. This forced the nanos to use up all the available blood to repair the damage caused by the heat and sun. When they ran out of blood in the veins, the nanos then attacked the muscles and finally the organs, drawing blood from them to try to keep the host alive. When the beheading that followed finally came, the victim was usually begging for it.

  The bathing suit she'd bought was two scraps of black, a strapless top and tiny bottoms. Jeanne Louise pulled them on and then peered in the mirror critically. Dating mortals, she'd been shaving since women's shaving had started. She'd shaved during her bath before leaving for work Thursday night. It was now Saturday afternoon though, and for some reason her hair seemed to grow fast. Or perhaps all women had to shave every other day. Her legs looked okay, but running a hand across them revealed stubble.

  Finding the razor and blades she'd thought to buy while in town, Jeanne Louise took them into the en suite bathroom and ran water in the sink, then found a wash cloth and a bar of soap. It wasn't easy, and Jeanne Louise found herself hopping awkwardly around a couple times, but it got the job done, she supposed as she tested her legs for smoothness and didn't find any stubble.

  "Jeanie?" Paul's voice came through the door accompanied by a knock.

  "Yeah?" she asked, straightening to peer toward the wood panel.

  "Livy and I are heading down to the water. I'll take the umbrella and set it up. Got the beach towels too. Grab yourself a drink and come on out when you're ready to join us. "

  "Okay," Jeanne Louise called and then lifted her arms to check out the stubble of her armpits. She had a little more shaving to do.

  "Jeanie! Look! I can swim!" Livy squealed, dog-paddling madly in front of Paul with Boomer right beside her. The words tore his attention from his daughter to Jeanne Louise as she came out of the cottage and hurried to the umbrella he'd set up for her. It was under the largest tree on the edge of the grass between the house and the beach. He'd laid out one of the towels for her there as well and she now dropped to sit on it as she smiled at Livy.

  "Good girl!" she called. "Well done!"

  "Aren't you coming out to swim?" Livy asked, giving up her paddling to float in the water between her wings.

  "I will," Jeanne Louise assured her, and then added, "Later, when it's not so sunny. My skin doesn't like the sun. I have to stay in the shade until it goes away. "

  "Okay," Livy said happily and turned to dog-paddle toward her father again with Boomer on her heels.

  Paul was aware of his daughter moving toward him, but didn't glance her way yet. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes off Jeanne Louise. The woman's skin was white marble, obviously never exposed to the sun. And her figure was perfect. Not the twiggy, completely fatless figure so popular in today's culture, but rounded and curvy where it should be. She actually had hips, and her breasts he knew had to be real, not bought and shoved under her skin by some guy in a surgical mask. She looked like an ancient roman statue that someone had slapped a swimsuit on.

  Jeanne Louise looked damned good.

  "Put me on your shoulders again so I can dive in, Daddy," Livy demanded, drawing his attention back to the girl.

  Managing a smile, Paul turned her in the water so that her back was to him, then plucked her up and lifted her over his head, holding onto her until she balanced herself on his shoulders. When she clasped his hands with her smaller ones, he released his hold on her waist and let her balance herself holding onto his hands. Paul then glanced to the dog.

  "Move Boomer," he ordered, but the dog was already dog-paddling himself out of the way.

  Paul glanced to Jeanne Louise again as he waited for Livy to jump off his
shoulders. She was watching them, a small smile on her lips and an unopened book in her lap. Paul smiled back and then shifted his attention to his daughter as she launched herself off his shoulders. He raised his hand in front of his face as she splashed into the water, deflecting the spray from hitting him there. Then he glanced to Jeanne Louise again, thinking she would probably have to feed soon.

  "Again!" Livy demanded the moment she surfaced, and Paul chuckled at the girl and reached for her again. But he was thinking that he would have to ask Jeanne Louise about feeding again later. Perhaps after Livy was in bed. The thought of Jeanie crawling on his lap on the living room sofa, kissing and caressing him as he freed her breasts and claimed them with his hands and mouth . . . Well, the cold water wasn't doing much to keep his ardor down, Paul noted dryly as he lifted Livy to his shoulders again. His swimming trunks were bright red, and they were poking out in front like a sideways tent. It was a good thing the water reached halfway up his chest and Jeanne Louise couldn't see, he decided, as he helped Livy balance herself to jump off.

  Jeanne Louise watched Paul, Livy, and Boomer in the water for a bit, and then relaxed back on her towel and opened the book she'd bought in town. It was one of her cousin Lucern's books. He wrote stories that were sold as paranormal romance, but were really the tales of the matings of their family members. She'd burst out with a delighted chuckle when she'd spotted it in the bookstore on the best sellers rack. Much as it annoyed Lucern that he was such a hit with readers, the rest of the family thought it was charming. Besides, it was always interesting to see their lives through his eyes. Or even to see themselves and how others saw them.

  Jeanne Louise would never forget the description of herself that he'd written in the story of his brother Etienne and Rachel's finding each other. A woman as beautiful in her way as Lissianna and Marguerite were, though she looked nothing like them. Her face was rounder, her lips a little thinner, her eyes more exotic and her hair was a midnight black.

  She'd never thought of herself as beautiful, especially compared to her aunt and cousin. When Jeanne Louise took her measure against them she always felt she was lacking. And she'd certainly never thought of herself as being anywhere near exotic. She still didn't, but it made her think maybe she wasn't so bad after all.

  Sighing, Jeanne Louise turned the book over to read the back. It was the tale of her father Armand and his life mate Eshe's coming together. She'd read it several times now and still cried in certain parts. Of course, she always skipped the love scenes. There was just something weird about reading about your family members having sex. As far as Jeanne Louise was concerned, none of them did. Any babies they produced were immaculate conception. Her family members were all Barbie and Ken dolls in her head, completely lacking sexual parts.

  The thought made Jeanne Louise chuckle to herself with amusement. She was over a hundred years old, and she was a scientist, yet she was still uncomfortable with the concept of her loved ones making love. Go figure.

  Shaking her head, she opened the book to the first page and started reading.

  Despite having read it several times before, Jeanne Louise found herself caught up in the story. She was several chapters in when cold water splashing on her feet startled her out of it. Boomer had returned and was shaking himself by her feet, sprinkling water everywhere.

  "Ah! I'm pooped," Livy announced dramatically as she arrived. She collapsed on the beach towel on Jeanne Louise's left with a weary sigh, and groaned when a wet Boomer launched himself on her, trying to lick her face.

  "Is she all right?" Paul asked, arriving at her feet now, worry on his face.

  Jeanne Louise was just slipping out of Livy's thoughts and nodded reassuringly. "She's just tired, Paul. Lots of sunshine, fresh air, and swimming will do that to a kid. "

  "Right. " He relaxed and smiled slightly, then settled on the beach towel on her right. He lay back on it with hands folded under his head, and legs crossed at the ankles. His eyes closed on a weary little sigh of his own. It seemed Livy wasn't the only one tired out by the day's fun, Jeanne Louise thought, her gaze sliding over his damp body in the wet trunks.

  Damn, the man was well put together. Nicely shaped legs, narrow hips, a flat stomach and naturally wide shoulders with well-defined muscle everywhere. Not muscle bound like a body builder or anything, but the body of a natural athlete. Jeanne Louise suspected if he hadn't gone into science, he could have played a professional sport of one kind or another.

  "I'm hungry," Livy announced suddenly and Jeanne Louise glanced her way to see her staring up at the tree branches above them. Boomer was curled up at her side, watching the child moving her fingers around in a jabbing motion toward the leaves overhead as if counting them or something.

  "Hmm," Paul murmured, eyes still closed. "Hamburgers on the barbecue or weenies over a fire on the beach?"

  "Weenies!" Livy squealed, making Boomer bark excitedly.

  "Go find some long branches to use to cook them then, and gather firewood," Paul said, not opening his eyes.

  Livy was on her feet and rushing along the beach in search of what he'd requested at once. Boomer followed, tail wagging.

  "That ought to keep her busy for five minutes," Jeanne Louise said with amusement.

  "Yeah. " Paul smiled wryly and opened his eyes. "Just long enough for us to deal with feeding you. "

  Jeanne Louise's eyes widened with surprise at the words and he grimaced.

  "Not with the feeding itself, of course. I meant, I haven't forgotten you need to feed and I wanted to reassure you that we'll see to it later. Just as soon as Livy goes to bed. " Paul paused and then when she remained silent and wide-eyed, asked, "All right? Can you last that long?"

  Jeanne Louise stared at him for a moment. Her gaze then dropped to his bare chest and his lap before rushing back up to his face. Tongue now stuck to the roof of her mouth, she merely nodded.

  "Good. " Paul leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then got up to follow his daughter and help gather wood for a fire and branches to cook the weenies on. Boomer trailed him, wagging his tail.

  Jeanne Louise stared after him, her eyes gliding over every inch of tan male skin that his red trunks revealed. Damn, he was feeding her later. That was definitely something to look forward to.
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