Immortal Ever After Page 19

“Chefs,” Leigh corrected with a laugh. “Valerie and Anders did most of the work. I just cut the onions. And I apologize for not offering you something fancier. You can blame the menu on Lucian.”

The blond male paused with a chili dog halfway to his mouth and glanced to his wife with amazement. “What? Why blame me for chili dogs? I’d never heard of them before tonight either.”

“Yes, but it was your son who gave me the bizarre craving for chili dogs and fries,” she said as if that should be obvious.

Lucian stared at her briefly, and then shrugged. “Well, at least he has good taste. I agree with Dani. It was good.”

Leigh chuckled and squeezed his arm as he popped the last half of his chili dog in his mouth and chewed away. “You think everything is good.”

“Everything you serve me is good,” he said after swallowing. “Fortunately, we appear to have similar taste in food.”

“So do we,” Dani commented. “I wonder if that’s why the nanos—”

“Oh dear,” Leigh interrupted, her drink suddenly crashing over on the table.

There was only a bit of water left in it, but it seemed to run everywhere, and Valerie quickly grabbed up her napkin to help soak up the liquid even as Lucian did on Leigh’s other side.

“Thank you,” Leigh said.

“No harm done. It was only water and there wasn’t much of it,” Valerie pointed out and set her wet napkin on her plate. She then stood up and started gathering plates. Everyone seemed to be done, and the clutter was only likely to lead to more accidents.

“You don’t have to do that,” Leigh protested, getting up as well. “You and Anders did all the cooking. I’ll—”

“Sit down and relax while the rest of us fill the dishwasher,” Lucian said firmly, standing up as well.

“He’s right, Leigh,” Dani said, getting up. “With all of us helping it will only take us a minute. Put your feet up and relax.”

They were quick about clearing the table and filling the dishwasher. Valerie then put coffee on before joining the others at the table. As she sat down, Dani said, “Leigh mentioned that you’re a vet in Winnipeg, here to take some courses to update your skills?”

“Yes.” Valerie grimaced. “That was the idea, but if they don’t catch this guy in the next day or two, I’ll have to give up the courses until next semester and if that happens, I might as well head home.”

“What?” Anders turned on her sharply.

Valerie bit her lip, not very happy at the thought herself. She would have liked to get to know him better, but if she couldn’t do the course now, she’d have to do it next term and it wouldn’t be fair to be away from the clinic that long. Sighing at the very thought, she said, “That’s what my academic advisor said when I talked to him today. I’ve missed the first two weeks of class already. He said if I’m not back by Monday, then I might as well give it up and reapply for next term.”

Anders frowned, his gaze shooting to Lucian.

It was Leigh who said worriedly, “You can’t go home, Valerie. Not with him still out there.”

“Actually, it’s probably better if I did,” Valerie said and pointed out, “He can’t know I’m from Winnipeg, so I’d be safe there, and Anders wouldn’t have to waste his time playing babysitter so he could help hunt for him.”

Dead silence met this announcement as the others all exchanged glances.

“But your courses,” Anders said finally. “You wanted to upgrade.”

“And I still do, but I can’t do that if I can’t attend classes,” she pointed out reasonably.

Another moment of silence passed with everyone exchanging glances she didn’t understand and then Lucian said abruptly, “Then you’ll have to attend classes.”

When Valerie stared at him with surprise, he added, “Anders will accompany you.”

“Oh.” She hesitated briefly and then shook her head. “I don’t think they’ll let him attend with me.”

“They might,” Dani said slowly. “I’ve heard of people auditing classes. I even knew someone who audited a couple of mine. She had to get permission from the instructor, and the department chair, and I think her program counselor first though.”

“Then he’ll get permission,” Lucian said as if it were the simplest thing in the world. When Anders frowned at this news, he added solemnly, “It’s that or we put her and Roxy on a plane home to Winnipeg.”

For some reason, those words sounded ominous to Valerie, and certainly Anders reacted as if they were. His mouth tightened grimly, and he nodded once. It was Friday now, but apparently come Monday, she was attending class and Anders was coming with her. The thought made her smile. She didn’t really want to go home, and not because she wanted to avoid her ex anymore. But because she didn’t want to leave Anders. He made her feel things she’d never experienced before, and she wanted more of that.

She wanted him.

Chapter Ten

Anders finished sucking back his second pint of blood and glanced to the clock on the bedside table as he threw out the empty bag. A frown claimed his lips when he noted that it was six thirty. Despite staying up late to visit with Dani and Decker last night, he’d set his alarm for 6:15 this morning to be sure he was awake and downstairs before Roxy woke Valerie to go out. He’d hoped to prevent another incident like the morning before with the alarm blaring and rousing Lucian and Leigh. But apparently it had taken longer than he’d expected to jump in and out of the shower and don jeans and a black T-shirt. Hopefully he’d still beat them down there though.

Padding barefoot to the door, Anders stepped out and started up the hall, slowing when he approached Valerie’s door and saw that it was cracked open. Pausing, he knocked lightly. When there was no answer, he slid it open and peered inside. The bed was empty, as was the bedroom itself, and through the open bathroom door he could see that it, too, was empty.

Cursing under his breath, Anders rushed for the stairs, desperate to get to Valerie before she opened the French doors. With every step he took, he kept expecting the sudden blare of the alarm going off. But he made it all the way to the living room without it happening. He spotted Roxy first. The German shepherd was in the kitchen, gobbling down her food. Valerie was at the French doors, staring at the security panel with slumped shoulders. Anders exhaled a relieved breath and said, “I’ll get that.”

Valerie glanced over her shoulder with surprise as he crossed the room toward her.

“You said Roxy goes out at six thirty, so I set my alarm,” he explained, pausing beside her.

“Oh, I’m so sorry you had to get up. Grateful, but sorry,” Valerie said softly, keeping her voice low to avoid disturbing anyone’s sleep as he reached past her to punch the numbers into the security panel that would turn off the alarm.

“It’s no problem,” he assured her. Finished with the panel, he turned back and glanced toward Roxy who was now licking the empty bowl in search of any leftover crumbs. “I see you found a way to distract Roxy from going outside.”

“I had to do something, she was whining most pitiably until I produced food. That made her briefly forget she needed to go out,” Valerie said wryly.

“She is a dog who likes her food,” Anders said dryly as the dog turned and headed toward them. He reached down to open the door, but paused when he spotted the leash hanging from Valerie’s hand.

Seeing the direction his eyes had taken, Valerie smiled and raised the leash. “I promised Roxy a walk after she does her business and eats,” Valerie explained. “She hasn’t had one since . . . well, in a while.”

Nodding, he opened the door to let Roxy slip out. “Just let me grab my shoes and we’ll do that.”

“Oh, I didn’t want to bother you,” she protested at once. “You don’t have to—”

“Bodyguard, remember?” Anders said gently. “ I have to be with you to guard your body.”

“Right,” Valerie muttered, blushing as she slipped past him to follow Roxy out of the house. “We’ll wait in the backyard.”

Anders nodded, then pulled the door closed behind her, his gaze finding Roxy’s hunched shape beside the pool. His eyes narrowed as they moved back to Valerie. He hadn’t seen any bags in her hands. Knowing she’d need them, he swiftly crossed to the kitchen and retrieved a roll of them from the kitchen drawer where they’d been stored. He got back to the door just as Valerie suddenly turned and headed toward it. Opening the door, he reached out, roll of bags on the palm of his extended hand.

“Thanks,” Valerie said with a small laugh as she reached for the roll. “I just remembered them.”

The moment her fingers touched the bags, Anders’s closed his over hers. He immediately drew her forward even as he slid the door wider and leaned out to kiss her. It was just a swift brush of his lips over hers, he couldn’t risk any more than that. As powerful as the life mate shared pleasure was, they could end up rolling around naked on the verandah if he risked more than that. Even just the brushing of lips stirred the desire for more in him, but he managed to break the kiss and pull back to utter a husky, “Good morning.”

Her voice was weak and breathy as she responded, “Good morning.”

Anders smiled slowly, then withdrew inside and closed the door between them again. He was aware that Valerie didn’t turn away, but stood and watched him walk away. He could feel her eyes on him as he left the room.

Valerie glanced around at the sound of the door opening and offered a shy smile when Anders reappeared, running shoes on. He’d been fast about getting his shoes on, but Roxy had been faster. She was done, leash on and standing by Valerie when he stepped out to join them.

“The road or the woods?” Anders asked as he approached.

Valerie didn’t need to ask what he meant. Did she want to walk Roxy along the street, or through the woods? She debated the matter briefly. The woods would be more interesting, but she had no idea if there were trails through it, and while the sun was just making its appearance, it wouldn’t be able to penetrate the trees. It would be darker in there, maybe dark as night.

“Is it safe to walk on the road?” she asked finally.

“Safe enough,” he said quietly.

“Okay. Road it is then.”

Nodding, Anders took her arm and started her walking, steering her around the house to the front yard. Roxy immediately fell into step beside Valerie.

“What time did Dani and Decker leave last night?” she asked, to fill the silence as they walked.

“Late,” he said dryly, which made Valerie smile.

“Anders, it was late when I went to bed and they weren’t showing signs of moving. How much later is late?”

“An hour or so after you went to bed,” he answered and then added, “They, like Leigh and Lucian, are night owls.”

“Geez, so you’ve had even less sleep than me,” Valerie said apologetically. “I’m sorry, but I appreciate it. I don’t know what I would have done with Roxy once she’d finished eating if you hadn’t been here to unlock the door. She would have been desperate then.”

Anders shrugged. “It’s all right. I can always take a nap later.”

“I’ll probably do that too,” she murmured as they started up the driveway to the road, and then asked suddenly, “How old are you?”

It was a question she’d begun to ponder last night when she’d gone to bed. Everyone she’d met since waking up here appeared to be twenty-five to thirty years old. Most of them closer to twenty-five by her guess. Anders, though, seemed closer to thirty, but perhaps that was just wishful thinking on her part since she was thirty herself. Valerie had never dated anyone younger than herself. Although, she supposed a couple years difference wouldn’t be that big a deal. Her grandmother on her mother’s side had been four years older than her grandfather, and her mother had been two years older than her father. It seemed to be a trend in her family. She could handle a couple years’ age difference, if that was all it was.

“Older than you,” Anders said finally, regaining her attention.

“I’m thirty,” she said, just in case he thought she was younger.

“I know. Your driver’s license was in your wallet,” he pointed out.

“Oh right,” Valerie said wryly, and then asked dubiously, “And you’re older?” When Anders nodded, she peered closely at his face, but just didn’t see it. “How much older?”

“Why is it rude to ask a lady her age, but not rude to ask a man?” he queried rather than answer and Valerie considered the question.

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