Immortal Ever After Page 35

“Well that explains why Bastien couldn’t reach him,” Mortimer said with annoyance, and then waved away the irritation. “Whatever. At least I got the message in enough time to get someone there to meet him. At this hour and with Toronto traffic, it will be close, but you should be able to get there just before the flight lands . . . If you leave right away.”

“Right,” Anders murmured, but turned to look worriedly at Valerie.

“She’s safe here,” Mortimer said quietly.

“Of course she is.” Anders nodded, and then bent and kissed her quickly. Releasing her, he said, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Valerie nodded, and watched him follow Mortimer out of the room as the other man listed the flight number and gate Anders should go to at the airport. She continued to stand even when they moved out of sight, and didn’t sit until she heard the front door close behind them. Sighing, Valerie dropped to sit on the couch then, her thoughts immediately going to the decision she had to make. Spend a lifetime—well, several hundred lifetimes—with the man who had just left, or give him up and go back to her boring, lonely life?

That last part made her frown. She had never thought of her life as boring before this. And she shouldn’t now. Normally, she was hip deep in animals, working to heal and cure them. Animals were rarely boring. Or hadn’t seemed boring before. But then she supposed it was hard for life as a local vet to compare with the idea of several lifetimes with a vampire. Never aging, never needing to worry about getting sick, never having to watch her diet . . . That last part made her grin.

Leigh was the one who had pointed that out during their hour-long conversation upstairs and it had fascinated Valerie. She had a pretty okay figure, not supermodel skinny or anything. She had a few jiggles and some cellulite, but all in all she didn’t hate her body. But she also worked to keep it that way. She wasn’t constantly on a diet, but she did diet every couple of months and generally watched what she ate, and refused herself a lot to keep the figure she had. Her eating habits since waking up in Leigh’s house had been the worst she’d ever behaved, food-wise. So, the idea of never having to diet again was not an unpleasant one. However, that was not a good excuse to become Anders’s life mate.

And, with the opposing factor that her diet would then have to include daily doses of blood . . . Well, that thought wasn’t very appealing. It was kind of gross actually, despite Leigh’s assurances that she didn’t even have to taste it. Just plunk the bag on her teeth like she’d seen Justin do and let the fangs do the work.

Fangs. Valerie grimaced, and then reached up to run a finger across her teeth. How would she look with fangs?

Valerie let her hand drop to her lap at the sound of the front door opening and closing, and watched the hall until Mortimer reappeared.

“He’s on his way. He should be back in an hour, or hour and a half,” Mortimer announced with a smile.

She nodded, and when Mortimer hesitated, glancing up the hall toward where she knew his office was, she smiled faintly and said, “If you have things you need to do, I can entertain myself.”

“Yeah, I do,” Mortimer said apologetically. “But there’s a television in that cupboard there at the far end of the room. The remote is in the end table drawer. If you’d rather read, there’s a library just up the hall with a load of books, and you’re welcome to whatever is in the kitchen if you get hungry or thirsty.”

“Great,” Valerie said lightly. When he still hesitated, she smiled and said gently, “I’ll be fine. Go on and get back to work. You don’t have to babysit me.”

Mortimer let his breath out on a long exhalation and nodded. “Thanks. Shout if you need anything.”

“I will,” she assured him, and he finally turned and headed out.

The moment he was gone, Valerie sagged back on the couch and closed her eyes. Silence immediately crowded in on her and she blinked her eyes open.

“It’s like living with Larry,” she muttered, staring at the ceiling and then grimaced at the thought.

Valerie didn’t normally mind being alone. After a rushed and busy day in the crush at the clinic, she generally looked forward to getting home to some peace and quiet, but it hadn’t always been like that. While she and Larry had lived together . . .

She frowned at the ceiling and sat up. Valerie was uncomfortable because she was in someone else’s home. Despite its use as a safe house and headquarters, it was also Mortimer and Sam’s home, and one where she didn’t even have a room temporarily her own to retreat to. Valerie felt like an inconvenient guest, there due to circumstance. It was how she’d felt with Larry too, she realized now. She’d had this same discomfort the entire time she’d lived with him.

In truth, Valerie suspected that if her parents hadn’t died, she and Larry would have split up before they’d finished getting their degrees. But Larry was a nice guy, and his family had welcomed her into their bosom when her parents died, inviting her to Winnipeg for the holidays and so on. She’d become family, and he hadn’t had any real reason or motivation to break up with her.

Valerie supposed the life insurance and her inheritance being there to help them start a clinic when they graduated hadn’t hurt either. Not that she thought Larry was a gold digger and had consciously stayed with her for that, but, like it or not, it had no doubt been a factor, if only subconsciously.

As for herself, Valerie had clung to Larry like he was a life raft in a storm after losing her parents. She hadn’t been madly in love with him, or even infatuated, but she’d liked him well enough and had adored his family . . . and wanted them for her own. It had been enough for the relationship to limp along while they were busy getting their degrees and then starting a clinic. It hadn’t been enough once the clinic was up and running.

Valerie supposed she’d known that would be the case all along. She’d known it would end and she’d eventually be on her own in this big scary world. That was probably why she’d always felt uncomfortable. She’d known she was on borrowed time in a way.

She didn’t feel like that around Anders. She felt wanted and truly liked by him. She enjoyed his company whether they were just shopping, or chatting over a meal. She felt—

“Damn, trying to get out of that bed made me feel like a beached whale.”

Valerie glanced around with surprise at that comment, to see Leigh waddling into the room, holding her stomach as if to keep it from swaying from side to side as she moved. Smiling sympathetically, Valerie stood as she approached. “Couldn’t you sleep?”

Leigh grimaced and reached for Valerie’s hand when she offered it, clutching it as a counterweight as she lowered herself to sit on the couch. “I’m bloated, gassy, my ankles are crazy swollen, and I’m beyond exhausted, but I can’t sleep in a strange bed.”

“I’m usually like that too,” Valerie admitted. “Although I haven’t seemed to have that problem at your house.”

Leigh smiled faintly. “Thank you. But you’re healing from an injury. You could probably sleep in a doghouse right now.”

Valerie chuckled at the words and then eyed Leigh with concern when she shifted on the couch, trying to find a more comfortable position.

“Is there something I can get you?” she offered. “Something to drink, or—?”

“My own bed and Roxy to warm my feet,” Leigh interrupted, and when Valerie’s eyes widened in shock, she said apologetically, “I’m sorry, is she not allowed on the bed? I didn’t think you’d mind, and my feet were cold and she seemed to know it and plopped right on top of them on the blanket. Honestly, she’s the best foot warmer ever.”

“No, I— She’s not normally allowed on the bed, but that’s okay. I’m just— I forgot all about her,” Valerie admitted with dismay. “The poor thing has been stuck in my room for hours without any food or water or a chance to go outside,” she explained guiltily. “How could I forget about her like that?”

“We were busy,” Leigh said soothingly, beginning to rock where she sat. “We can fix that right now . . . and get me to my bed so I can rest,” she added, rocking forward again.

Valerie stared at her blankly, wondering what on earth she was doing, and then she suddenly realized the woman was trying to get up, but finding it difficult with her stomach in the way.

“Here,” she said, taking her arm to help her to her feet. Once she had her upright, Valerie frowned and shook her head. “But I’m afraid we can’t go home. Lucian isn’t back from dropping everyone off, and Anders just left for the airport.”

“Justin can take us,” Leigh said, starting across the room.

“He’s on an errand for Mortimer. That’s why Anders went to the airport. There was no one else to go,” Valerie told her, following her to the door.

“Well, hell,” Leigh muttered, pausing in the doorway. She pursed her lips with displeasure, and then suggested, “We could always call a taxi.”

Valerie grinned at the suggestion, but shook her head. “I somehow don’t think the men would like that much.”

“No,” Leigh agreed on a sigh. “And there’s still the rogue to worry about. Having Justin drive us home and hang out until the men get back would be one thing, but I’m in no shape to keep you safe right now and a mortal taxi driver would be less than useless.”

“Do you want to try to lie down again?” Valerie suggested. “I could make you a cup of cocoa or hot milk. It might help you fall asleep.”

“No, I—” Leigh paused and glanced toward the door as it opened. A wide smile claimed her lips when she saw Justin entering. “Just the man I wanted to see.”

Justin paused with the door half open, his expression going wary. “Why?”

“Mortimer has another errand for you,” Leigh announced, waddling toward the young immortal at speed.

“What’s that?” Justin asked with a frown.

“Taking Valerie and me home,” Leigh announced, catching his arm and turning him in the doorway. Using his arm as a crutch, she shuffled down the steps, dragging him with her as she added, “Valerie needs to feed and let Roxy out, and I need to lie down, but the men are both busy, so you’re to take us home and stay until they can get there.”

“Okay,” Justin said, trying to disentangle his arm from her hold. “Just let me talk to Mortimer first.”

“You can call him once we’re on the road,” Leigh announced, hanging on to him tightly.

“But—” he protested dragging his feet.

“Justin, I’m overdue, exhausted, and have to pee. Get me home,” Leigh demanded, sounding incredibly cranky.

“Well, for heaven’s sake. Let’s go back inside so you can pee,” he said at once. “I can talk to Mortimer while you’re in the bathroom.”

“No,” Leigh said at once.

“Why?” he asked with exasperation.

Leigh sighed, but then admitted, “I had a devil of a time getting up from the toilet here earlier. I thought I’d have to ask for help. I managed it, but just barely, and I’m not sure I’ll be so lucky next time. At home the counter is right beside the toilet to hold on to and help me get up. I want to go home and pee in comfort without the fear of not being able to get up,” she admitted, looking miserable.

Valerie bit her lip, now understanding why Leigh seemed so uncomfortable and unhappy. She’d been following them up until then, but now moved up beside her and said gently, “Leigh, I can help you go to the bathroom if you want to go before we head out.”

Leigh grimaced. “Thank you, but it’s humiliating enough that I’m having trouble getting up and down. I’d really rather not have to resort to having help getting on and off the toilet when we can just go home.” Turning to Justin then, she threatened, “And I swear if you don’t get me there in ten minutes, I’ll either pee on the seat of your SUV, or make you come into the washroom of whatever gas station or coffee shop is closest and help me on and off the toilet . . . and then I’ll tell Lucian you did.”

Justin actually turned green at the threat. He also started moving again. Rushing Leigh forward, he muttered, “I’ll call Mortimer on the way.”

Valerie bit her lip to keep from laughing and simply followed the pair to a van parked in front of the house.

“My SUV is being serviced along with a couple others, so we’re stuck with the van,” Justin said apologetically as he helped Leigh into the front seat.

“I’m sure that’s fine,” Valerie said when Leigh didn’t comment. She slid the side door open and climbed in, pulling it closed behind her. Valerie then settled on the backseat on the driver’s side. It would allow her to see and talk to Leigh, she thought as she did up her seat belt.

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