Immortal Ever After Page 34

“Go wash up,” Leigh said with a laugh, one hand rubbing her belly and the other her back as she straightened.

“Are you all right, Leigh?” Valerie asked, giving Anders’s waist a squeeze before slipping free of his arm and moving toward the other woman.

“Oh, fine,” she said sounding tired. “I think I’ve just been on my feet too long.”

“Sit down,” Valerie said at once, taking the woman’s arm and ushering her to one of the stools around the island in the center of the long room. “I’ll take over from here.”

“Take over?” Leigh asked with amusement. “You did most of it to begin with.”

Valerie shrugged and grabbed a ladle to give the chili a stir, saying lightly, “You can return the favor when I’m pregnant.”

Anders stared at Valerie, her words reverberating in his head. When she was pregnant? He immediately started to imagine just that, Valerie glowing and beautiful, her belly rounded with his child.

“Has she agreed to be your life mate?”

Anders glanced to Greg at that soft question and then turned back to look at Valerie as he shook his head.

“Well, whether she realizes it or not, she’s accepted what we are and isn’t afraid of us. I think you can thank Leigh for that,” Greg added.

“Leigh?” he asked with surprise. He’d been rather hoping it was him.

“Sorry, Anders, but that’s not how a woman’s mind works. You’re a dark, mysterious, and sexy vampire to her, and none of those words are equated with trust and feeling safe,” he pointed out dryly, and then added, “But Leigh . . .” Greg glanced to the woman and smiled crookedly. “She’s the most non-threatening vampire on the planet right now. Valerie can see herself in Leigh. It will help you that they are becoming good friends. I think she’ll choose you in the end.”

Anders grunted. He hoped Greg was right. He’d been alone a long time and never really minded until she’d come into his life. Now he didn’t even want to contemplate a future without her in it.

Chapter Seventeen

“You look tired.”

Valerie grimaced at Anders’s comment as she approached the couch where he sat. He was alone in the living room of the Enforcer house, which looked like a normal house to her. Well, a normal, huge, expensive house with loads of bedrooms upstairs, high-tech security, and guards at the entry gate as well as walking the perimeter, not to mention a big outbuilding that was half prison cells and half garage, although she hadn’t yet seen that.

She gathered Mortimer, who was in charge of the Enforcers under Lucian, lived here with his life mate, Sam, a lawyer who now worked at his side as well as helped out with legal matters that came up. However, she’d been told that the spare bedrooms were often used by either Enforcers from other areas, or mortals and immortals who needed a safehouse.

“I’m a little tired,” she admitted as she settled on the couch beside him. “But I’m not the only one.”

“Leigh?” Anders asked.

“Yeah, she’s lying down upstairs. She says she can’t get comfortable enough to sleep through the day, so ends up taking several naps.”

Anders nodded. “She’s all right though?”

“She says she is,” Valerie said with a frown.

“You don’t think so?” Anders asked.

Valerie hesitated, but then sighed and shrugged. “What do I know? I’m just a vet. If she says she’s fine, she probably is.”

Anders was silent for a minute, and then reached out and took her hand in his. “And how are you?”

“Me?” she asked with surprise. “I’m fine.”

“So you haven’t been avoiding me for the last hour since we finished cleaning the kitchen?” he asked solemnly.

“Has it been an hour?” Valerie asked with surprise. Everyone had stayed to help after eating, but then Lucian had taken Christian, his life mate, and his band members with him and left. He was taking the band members to replace the two teams presently watching Cindy and getting them settled, then taking Christian and Carolyn home before bringing back the men the band members were replacing. The band members didn’t have vehicles here to use, so Lucian and Mortimer had come up with just swapping out the teams.

After Lucian had left with them, everyone else had cleared out pretty quickly, the couples all heading home. No one was expecting any activity until tomorrow. They didn’t think they’d be able to get the sketch artist back till then. Once they had pictures of the rogue, they would be out showing it around . . . if one of them didn’t recognize the man.

Once the last of them had left, Leigh had announced that she needed to lie down. Sam had shown her to a room and Valerie had followed to be sure the woman was all right. She couldn’t explain why, but she was just getting the sense that Leigh wasn’t feeling well. But Leigh had assured her she was fine and then had started talking to distract her and it appeared Valerie had been up there for an hour chatting with the woman.

“Leigh and I talked for a bit,” Valerie admitted. “But I didn’t think it was an hour. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize. Leigh’s a good person, well worth talking to.”

“She is nice,” Valerie said with a smile. “Nothing like I would have imagined a vampire would be like . . . if I’d have even imagined vampires existed,” she added wryly. “But then you’re all nice. Well, all of you that I’ve met since escaping Count Rip-Your-Throat-Out.”

“We’re just people, Valerie. We have good ones and bad ones and some in between,” Anders said quietly.

She shook her head, a crooked smile on her face. “And you’re delusional if you think that, Anders.”

When alarm crossed his face, she patted his hand soothingly. “I believe you want to believe that. But you aren’t ‘just people.’ ‘Just people’ don’t live centuries or even millennia. They can’t see in the dark, or lift a small car with little effort, or read the minds of, and control others. And ‘just people’ don’t need to feed on other ‘just people’ to survive.”


“It’s all right. You were born this way, so you don’t have a clue that you’re like a fricking superhero. You probably don’t even realize how differently you see things. That your perception of time is so much different than non-immortals because it has so little hold on you,” Leigh had mentioned that to her. That one of the things she’d noticed about immortals since becoming one herself was that the old ones had a different concept of time. That what she considered a long time, was a mere twinkling of time to them. Valerie supposed if you lived thousands of years, a day was a blink in time and a week wasn’t much more.

Grimacing, she added, “You probably don’t realize that you have so many fewer fears and worries than mortals because cancer, and heart disease, and all those other nasty little life stealers can’t claim you. And you’ve surely never been afraid of a mortal doing you harm.”

Valerie paused and glanced down at their entwined hands. “Leigh said that to be your life mate I’d have to be turned.”

“Yes.” His voice was husky. Clearing it, he added, “Though not necessarily right away. Sam didn’t turn right away after agreeing to be Mortimer’s life mate.”

“Leigh told me that too, but said that Mortimer was a mess, constantly worried that Sam would be killed in an accident or something before she agreed to the turn.”

“But she wasn’t,” Anders said. “And I’d be willing to go through that if you needed me to.”

Valerie smiled faintly and shook her head. She didn’t really want to make him suffer, but she was having trouble with this situation. She hadn’t considered that she would have to become a vampire to be with one. Stupid, she supposed. He had told her that Leigh used to be mortal. He’d also told her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. The rest of his life could be a hell of a long time. Certainly, it was longer than the fifty or so years she had left in her. But she hadn’t considered that his wanting her to be his life mate included turning her into an immortal until her talk with Leigh. Now the decision to be his life mate was that much bigger.

It wasn’t like just saying, “Ah heck, let’s give it a go,” and then moving in with him, knowing she could always move out. It wasn’t even like taking a risk and marrying him. That could be reversed through divorce if it was a mistake. But this was not reversible. She would have to become one of them. And from her talk with Leigh, Valerie knew that wasn’t reversible. She had a decision to make that would affect the rest of her life.

Did she want to become a vampire and spend forever with this man?

Cripes, marriages nowadays were lucky to last ten or fifteen years. There were exceptions, of course. The newspaper and the news occasionally ran articles or items on couples who had been together for fifty years or more. But that was the exception, not the rule, and he was asking her to spend a heck of a lot more than fifty years. Try adding a zero or two to that number. Surely even that incredible life mate sex cooled after a millennia or two?

“Leigh said that being turned was the most terrible experience of her life, but turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to her,” Valerie said quietly.

“She’s Lucian’s life mate. They were meant to be together. You’ve seen how perfect they are together and how much they love each other,” he said encouragingly.

“But they’ve only been together less than a handful of years. They’re still newlyweds, for heaven’s sake,” she pointed out.

Anders sighed. “You’re right, of course. They haven’t been together long,” he acknowledged. “But I could take you to meet life mates who have been together millennia if it would help you make your decision.”

She glanced to him with surprise. “You know life mates who have been together that long?”

He nodded.

“Are they still happy?” she asked.

“Yes,” he assured her, and then frowned and said, “I am not saying they have never argued or fought. But—” He paused when Valerie put one hand up.

Smiling, she tilted her head and simply said, “ ‘White and Nerdy’?” She then assured him, “I understand that a healthy relationship includes disagreements.”

Anders smiled, and then squeezed her hand and said, “I know this is a big decision, and I won’t put pressure on you to make it quickly. There is no need. I have waited centuries, and I can wait a little longer. However, you can never tell anyone about us.”

“Like anyone would believe me,” she said with a snort, and then assured him, “Your people and their secrets are safe with me.”

“Thank you,” Anders said, and leaned forward.

Valerie was sure he was about to kiss her, but at the last moment, he paused, and turned toward the door. She followed his gaze curiously, just in time to see Mortimer appear in the hall outside the door. Leigh had mentioned that immortals had incredible hearing. Obviously that was true. She hadn’t heard Mortimer approaching. Heck, she couldn’t hear him walking now as he entered and crossed the room, toward them.

“Anders, I need you to go to the airport,” the man announced as he paused before them. “I just got word that Bastien put the sketch artist on a United flight and it lands in forty-five minutes, but Sam is out getting groceries and Nicholas and Jo’s SUV needed maintenance so I had Justin drive them home. I don’t have anyone else to send at the moment but you.”

“The sketch artist is on his way already?” Anders asked with surprise. “We didn’t expect him until tomorrow.”

“Apparently he was available immediately,” Mortimer said with a shrug. “But all the company planes were busy, so Bastien sent him on a commercial flight.”

“That lands in forty-five minutes,” Anders said dryly, standing up. “He couldn’t give us any more of a heads-up than that?”

“He said he put the man on the plane himself so he could tend to any mortals who might cause a problem about such a last-minute flight addition. He’s been calling Lucian for the last forty-five minutes since successfully getting him on the flight, but Lucian hasn’t been answering so he finally called the house.”

“Lucian was here an hour ago,” Anders said with a frown. “I didn’t hear his phone ring.”

“His phone is on the kitchen counter at the house, charging,” Valerie said, recalling watching him plug in the item as he’d called Marguerite on the house phone.

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