Immortal Ever After Page 31

“I suppose this means our rogue is suicidal,” Valerie commented suddenly.

Anders frowned. “Yeah, it’s looking that way.”

“Does that make him more, or less, dangerous?” she asked unhappily.

“More,” he admitted reluctantly.

Valerie nodded as if that had been exactly what she’d expected him to say. Then she turned to face him. Arms crossed over her chest, she asked quietly, “Just how dangerous is your job, Anders? I mean I know being a mortal cop is dangerous, but how much worse is being an immortal cop in comparison?”

“It can be dangerous at times, but we’re very careful,” Anders said. He had hoped to reassure her, but she didn’t look much reassured, so he added, “When all is said and done, it’s probably safer for us than a mortal law-enforcement officer, if only because we’re harder to kill.”

Valerie still didn’t look reassured, he noted. In fact, she looked pissed.

“Really?” she said grimly. “You’re going to lie to me after you said you wouldn’t?”

“I’m not lying,” he said with affront.

“No?” she asked dubiously. “That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure I remember Justin saying something the other day about you guys dropping like flies. And Leigh said not ten minutes ago that a Beth and Paolo had come to help fill the ranks because your numbers were getting so low.”

“Oh.” Anders smiled and clasped her upper arms, rubbing them as he said, “You misunderstood, Valerie. Drina, Beth, and Paolo are here because so many of my co-workers have found their life mates,” he explained gently.

“What?” she gasped with disbelief. “Why would they need to replace people who found their life mates?” Frowning, she added, “You guys aren’t like praying mantises, are you? You don’t have a mate-and-die kind of deal going on, do you?”

The suggestion was so ridiculous it startled a laugh out of Anders, but he sobered quickly under her scowl and assured her, “No, of course not. It’s nothing like that.”

“So? What is it?” Valerie asked, sounding a bit belligerent now.

Anders found her attitude kind of sexy. Mind you, he suspected Valerie could blow her nose and he’d find it sexy at this point in their relationship. Grimacing at that bit of self-awareness, he decided to show rather than tell and simply pulled her into his arms for a kiss.

It wasn’t the most brilliant idea, Anders acknowledged some time later. He wasn’t sure how many minutes had passed when Lucian’s voice pierced the heated fog cloaking his brain. It brought Anders around enough to realize what he was doing. And what he was doing was dry humping Valerie up against the porch rail while simultaneously trying to examine her tonsils with his tongue, touch and squeeze her breasts and behind, and undo his jeans all at the same time.

Groaning, Anders disentangled himself from Valerie’s clinging arms and took a step back. He paused to take several breaths, attempting to give his brain a chance to recover before turning toward Lucian. Once he faced the man, he simply asked, “What did you say?”

“I said I’d rather my wife not look out our French doors and see your bare ass if you don’t mind,” Lucian said succinctly.

Anders glanced down at himself, relieved to see that, as he’d thought, he hadn’t yet achieved undoing and dropping his drawers. Trying for dignity he straightened his shoulders and said, “I assure you my self-control would have kicked in before things went that far.”

“Yeah right,” Lucian snorted. “One more minute and you would have been bare-assed and giving Valerie a good seeing to right there on the porch rail.” Grimacing, he added, “For future reference, I don’t recommend it. Leigh got some nasty slivers off that rail some months ago. It’s too rough for such endeavors.”

Anders glanced over his shoulder to Valerie with concern at this news. The shorts she was wearing weren’t especially long and he had no doubt her upper legs at least had been ground into the wood as he’d dry humped her. “Are you all right?”

Blushing brightly, she nodded. “I think so.”

“I’ll check later.” Anders had meant that to be reassuring, but Valerie’s blush went from a becoming rosy color to the red of a tomato and her wide eyes shot to Lucian with embarrassment.

“And that is precisely why we need help at the moment,” Lucian said dryly to Valerie, obviously having read enough of their minds to know that was what Anders had been trying to show her. He clarified, however, by adding, “I’ve lost most of my best Enforcers to life mate brain . . . which means more often than not, they’re as brainless as cats in heat. Even I suffer from it on occasion. We’ll need help for the next year or so until the worst of it passes.”

“Oh,” Valerie breathed.

Apparently satisfied that she understood, Lucian turned back to Anders. “Christian and his cousins from the band are all going to help out for the next day or two and perhaps even longer. They’ve agreed to meet us at the Enforcer house.”

“Why the Enforcer house?” Anders asked. “Why not just have them come here?”

“We need to discuss a plan of action for hunting down this rogue and doing so quickly. I want those women back safe. I’ve called Greg to get his insights and I want Mortimer and Justin there as well, but they can’t leave the house unmanned. Someone has to be there to ensure things run smoothly. So the boys are meeting us there.”

“But what about the women?” Anders asked with a frown. “I’m not leaving Valerie—”

“They’re coming with us,” Lucian interrupted, and then turned to head back into the house, adding, “Leigh wants to take some food to cook up over there for everyone. She’s getting it together now, and then we’re leaving. You have about ten minutes at most.”

Anders turned back to Valerie just as she asked, “Who is Greg?”

“Oh.” It took a minute for his mind to backtrack, but then he explained, “Greg Hewitt. He’s married to Lucian’s niece, Lissianna. He’s a psychologist. He’s helped a time or two in the past when cases weren’t following a normal pattern.”

“Like this one,” Valerie suggested.

“Yes. Like this one,” he agreed grimly. Really, this rogue wasn’t making any sense at all. Anders had been sure that he was just an older immortal who refused to give up feeding off the hoof. There were many old ones who still thought of mortals as nothing but walking feedbags to be used and used up as desired. Most of them just stayed in Europe, however, where feeding off the hoof was still tolerated. Although, feeding from the source to the point of death wasn’t tolerated anywhere anymore, so the man would have been rogue there as well.

Still, Anders hadn’t thought this particular immortal was suicidal so much as selfish and lacking a conscience. But staying in the area, and even re-kidnapping his previous victims when he must know they were being watched . . . well, that was suicidal.

“I better take Roxy up to my room,” Valerie said quietly. “She can stay there while we’re gone.”

Valerie’s comment drew Anders’s attention from his thoughts and he glanced down as the German shepherd crossed the patio to stand between them. Reaching down to pet the dog, he said, “I’ll check with Lucian, but I’m sure it will be fine to bring her along if you like. Actually, Mortimer has been thinking of getting some guard dogs at the Enforcer house to help with security and free up some manpower, so I know he won’t mind her being there.”

“I don’t have her travel cage,” Valerie pointed out.

“She’s a pretty well-behaved dog. She should be okay without a cage. She rode here from Cambridge on the floor in the front seat without a problem.”

“I know, but I’d rather not just show up with her,” Valerie said with a frown. “And as long as we aren’t gone too, too long she should be fine here.”

Anders hesitated, but then shrugged and nodded. “We shouldn’t be too long. A couple hours at most,” he guessed, giving Roxy a last pat. Taking Valerie’s arm, he then urged her toward the door, saying, “We should head in then.”

“Yes, it looks like Leigh is almost done,” Valerie pointed out, and Anders glanced inside as he reached to open the door. It did indeed look like Leigh was almost done. At least he hoped so. It looked like she’d nearly repacked everything they’d just bought and unpacked. How many people did she think she was feeding?

“My count is nineteen,” Justin announced, entering the kitchen at the Enforcer house. “Twenty-four if you plan to feed the guys at the gate and on guard duty.”

“Thanks,” Valerie said, glancing at Justin Bricker as he opened the refrigerator, and then just staring with amazement when he pulled out a bag of blood, and popped it to his teeth.

“Twenty-four then,” Leigh said with a nod, setting down the ladle she’d been using to stir the big pot of chili and bending slightly to open the oven door and check on the lasagna. “Valerie, how’s the garlic bread coming? Almost ready to go in the oven? Valerie?”

Blinking, Valerie tried to tear her eyes away from watching Justin, but just couldn’t. She wasn’t even sure what Leigh had said to her, so just muttered, “Huh?”

“Valerie, I— Jesus, Justin, what are you doing?” Leigh gasped with amazement, apparently noting where her attention was.

“What?” the man cried, tearing the bag from his mouth, and then rushing to the sink with it as the punctured bag began to squirt blood everywhere. Dropping the bag in the sink, Justin glanced from Leigh to Valerie as he began to pull streams of paper towel from the roll. “I thought she knew about us?”

“Well, yes, she does. But she just found out today. She’s never seen us feed or anything,” Leigh said with exasperation.

“Oh. Sorry,” he muttered, quickly wiping up the mess on his shirtfront and then turning his attention to the floor. There was a blood trail on the white tile from the fridge to the sink.

“Valerie?” Leigh asked gently, moving to her side. “Are you all right?”

She tore her eyes away from the quickly disappearing blood trail, and nodded weakly. “Yes. Sure. I was just . . .”

“A little startled by seeing Justin pop a bag of blood to his teeth,” she finished for her on a sigh. Leigh patted her arm. “It takes some getting used to, I know. Here I can see you’re done with the garlic bread. I’ll pop it in ten minutes before we eat, but maybe you can start on a salad for me?”

“Sure,” Valerie murmured and moved to the refrigerator to get the necessary ingredients. But when she opened the door, she found herself staring at the neatly stacked bags of blood on the bottom shelf, just above the fruit and vegetable crisper. And while she bent to reach for lettuce, she straightened holding a bag of blood.

Valerie turned with it in hand just as Justin straightened beside her from cleaning up the mess he’d made.

He glanced from her face to the bag and back. “What are you doing?”

“Do it again,” she said, surprising even herself with the request.

“Which part?” he asked with amusement. “Feeding or making a mess when Leigh yells at me again?”

His words made Valerie glance to Leigh to see that she was watching her worriedly. Turning back, she held the bag out to Justin. “Put it on your mouth again.”

He hesitated, his gaze shifting to Leigh, but when she nodded, he took the bag, and then, eyeing Valerie warily, opened his mouth, let his fangs slide out and simply popped the full bag onto them.

Valerie watched with fascination for a moment, and then moved to the side of him to try to see what was happening. “Are you swallowing the blood or is it—”

Justin tightened his lips, pulling them back to reveal his teeth. She could see that there was no liquid gathering in his mouth. The fangs were sunk into the bag and appeared to be draining the liquid from the bag themselves as if they had little pumps drawing in the blood.

“Interesting,” she murmured, moving closer.

“He’s not the usual rogue, though,” Anders said, his eyes drifting toward the doorway as he wondered what Valerie was doing. She had headed off with Leigh, Lissianna, and Dani to help cook while Jo, Carolyn, and the men had come to the living room to come up with a plan of action for this rogue. Unfortunately, they couldn’t agree on one because they couldn’t sort out what kind of rogue they were dealing with.

“You may be right,” Greg said. “He doesn’t seem suicidal. Or he didn’t,” he added thoughtfully. “He was careful not to be caught in the beginning. If Valerie hadn’t managed to knock out Igor and call 911, he may never have come to your attention.”

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