Immortal Ever After Page 36

“Sorry,” Leigh muttered as Justin closed her door and rushed around the front of the vehicle. “I know I’m being cranky and difficult.”

“No apology necessary,” Valerie assured her. “I’d be cranky too if I was bloated, gassy, exhausted, and had to pee.”

Leigh smiled faintly, and then sighed. “I’ve also got terrible heartburn and I’ve been having Braxton Hicks contractions all afternoon.”

Valerie peered at her with concern and asked, “Braxton Hicks are the false alarm labor pains, right?”

“Yes,” Leigh said.

Valerie nodded slowly, but then asked, “You’re sure they’re Braxton Hicks and not the real thing? I mean you are overdue.”

“Yes,” Leigh said, and then frowned. “Well, I’m pretty sure they are. They don’t hurt much and have been going on for hours, but haven’t gotten any worse than when they started on our way to the Enforcer house.”

“You’ve been having them all evening?” Valerie asked with amazement. It had been three thirty when they’d set out for the Enforcer house. It was now after seven. Leaning forward in her seat, she asked, “Why didn’t you say something?”

Leigh clucked impatiently. “You’ve seen how overprotective and mother-hen-like Lucian is acting. I didn’t want him freaking out and making a big deal about it. I’m pretty sure they’re just Braxton Hicks. It’ll be fine.”

“What are Braxton Hicks?” Justin asked, catching the tail end of the conversation as he got into the driver’s seat.

“Nothing,” Leigh said. “Just get us home. I really have to go.”

Justin nodded and started the van to send it cruising down the driveway toward the gate. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

“Give me that. I’ll call,” Leigh said at once. “You concentrate on driving.”

Justin handed over the phone and Leigh quickly placed the call.

“The answering machine picked up,” she said as they waited for the gates to open.

“Mortimer must be on another call,” Justin muttered.

“Hmm, I’ll leave a message,” Leigh said as Justin steered them through the gates and onto the road and immediately laid on the gas. The man was definitely eager to get them back to the house and out of the vehicle, Valerie thought with amusement as he sped up the road.

“Hi Mortimer,” Leigh sang out cheerfully. “Just letting you know Justin got back from his errand and is taking us home. I wanted to lie down and Valerie needed to tend to Roxy, so we told him you wanted him to take us. Send Lucian and Anders home when they get back. ’Kay? Later.”

“He did want me to take you, didn’t he?” Justin asked suspiciously as Leigh pulled the phone away from her ear.

“I’m sure he—oh crap!” she muttered as she went to hit the button to end the call and dropped the phone. Valerie saw it bounce off the woman’s knee and then disappear somewhere on the floor in front of her.

“Just leave it,” she suggested when Leigh began trying to bend forward to grab it. There was no way she was going to reach it in her condition.

“Oh crap!” Leigh gasped suddenly.

“What is it?” Justin asked, glancing sideways at her with alarm. “Is my phone broken?”

“No, my water is,” Leigh muttered.

“What?” he and Valerie said together.

“I guess they weren’t Braxton Hicks after all,” she muttered. “Damn.”

“I—you—are you sure your water broke?” Justin got out finally, his voice high with alarm and his eyes repeatedly moving from the road to her.

“Well, I still have to pee, so I’m guessing the puddle I’m sitting in is amniotic fluid,” Leigh said dryly.

“Watch the road, Justin,” Valerie said, undoing her seat belt and shifting out of her seat to kneel between the front seats.

“I’m turning around. We’re going back to the house,” Justin warned, slowing.

“Well, why the heck would you do that?” Leigh asked with irritation. “I need Rachel or Dani. Neither of them are at the house. So who’s going to deliver this baby? You?”

“Oh God,” Justin muttered, hitting the gas again. “Rachel and Etienne’s house is closer. I can have you there in twenty minutes. No, fifteen. Just hang on and don’t push or anything.”

Valerie grabbed for Leigh’s seat, to keep from toppling over as the SUV jerked forward, and then glanced at Leigh with surprise when she began shifting about in her seat, trying to get her legs to the side rather than the front.

“What are you doing?” she asked with alarm.

“I want to move to the backseat,” Leigh explained. “I can spread out more. And the seat won’t be wet.”

“Well, here, let me help,” Valerie said, shifting at once to get out of the way and taking her arm to help her. Much to her relief, they managed the move to the backseat without being tossed about unduly or thrown through the front windshield by Justin stopping abruptly. She then helped Leigh with her seat belt before doing up her own. After that, all she could do was hold Leigh’s hand and try not to whimper as her fingers were crushed with each contraction. She was alarmingly aware that the crushing seemed to be coming at rather regular and quickly decreasing intervals as they traveled. But she didn’t hit panic mode until Leigh began to groan and cry out along with the crushing.

Valerie didn’t think she’d heard words more beautiful than, “We’re here,” when Justin uttered them. She glanced out the window at the house he stopped in front of, and then glanced quickly to Leigh as the woman gasped and crushed her fingers again.

“Oh God!” Leigh cried out with pain, and then snapped bitterly, “Why do we women have to have the babies? Men should have them. What did we ever do to deserve this?”

“Eve ate the apple,” Justin responded, braking and shifting the van into park.

“Shut up, Justin, or I swear I’ll shove an apple up your—”

“Ow, ow, ow,” Valerie cried out as Leigh nearly pulverized the bones in her fingers.

“Sorry,” Leigh muttered, releasing her fingers. “I was trying not to squeeze too tight.”

“That’s okay,” Valerie said weakly.

“I’ll go get Etienne and Rachel,” Justin announced, opening the door. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get Leigh in the house without help.”

“That’s because I’m a beached whale,” Leigh moaned, suddenly sounding teary.

“No, honey,” Valerie said quickly. “He’s just worried about you having a contraction while we’re walking you in. It’s better if we have someone to help us carry you in.”

Leigh snorted with disbelief, all sign of tears gone and irritation in their place again. “Justin could carry me with one hand. He’s just scared I’ll bite him or something.”

“I’m sure, he—” Valerie didn’t bother finishing. Leigh had gasped in pain again and was now hunched forward, head bowed as she clutched desperately at her stomach. Undoing her seat belt, she shifted to kneel in front of her, ready to help when the men got back.

“Breathe,” she said, rubbing Leigh’s upper arm and shoulder, but she frowned when the front door opened again. Continuing to rub Leigh’s shoulder, she said, “I thought you were getting Etienne?”

When the engine started, Valerie joined Leigh in groaning. Etienne and Rachel must not be home, she thought with dismay and said, “Maybe we should just go to the hospital.”

“We can’t go to the hospital. Nanos,” Leigh gasped between pants.

“Right,” Valerie muttered. Turning, on her knees so she could look at Justin, she said, “How far is Dani and Decker’s from here? Dani—”

Her voice died as she stared at the driver. It wasn’t Justin.

“Oh crap,” Valerie breathed.

Chapter Eighteen

“What?” Anders stared at Mortimer, his brain completely blank as he tried to accept the news he’d just been given.

“Valerie and Leigh told Justin that he was supposed to take them home—”

“Yeah, yeah, I caught that,” Anders interrupted tersely, his brain kicking back into gear. “Skip forward to the part where some white-haired guy drives away with my life mate and Leigh. Who the hell is he?”

“We think it’s the rogue.” Mortimer steered the SUV through the gates and onto the road.

“Of course,” he muttered, and then asked grimly, “How long ago?”

“Justin called me from Etienne’s phone the minute it happened. That was at almost twenty minutes after seven. I checked the clock,” he added dryly, and then muttered, “Although I don’t know why.”

Anders shook his head at how quickly life could change. All had been right with his world just moments ago when he’d arrived back at the house with the sketch artist. He’d thought Valerie was safe, and that things were going well there. He’d had great hope that the sketch would be done, they’d identify and collect the rogue, and that with a little time Valerie would agree to be his life mate. But as he’d got out of the SUV, Mortimer had strode out, headed for another SUV waiting in front of the house. The head of the Enforcers hadn’t even slowed. He’d barked at Sam to take care of the sketch artist, and then ordered Anders into the truck and had headed out the moment his butt had hit the seat. Anders hadn’t even had his door closed yet. He’d known then that there was trouble, but certainly hadn’t expected this. He’d left Valerie safe and secure at the Enforcer house. She should still be there. She wasn’t. He was still trying to wrap his mind around that.

“They’re in the van, and all our vehicles have GPS,” Mortimer pointed out, eyes on the road they were racing down. “There’s a tracking program in the computer on the floor between us. They were headed south when I left the house. Check it and see where they are now, then call Justin and Lucian and tell them where to go.”

“Lucian knows?” Anders asked, reaching for the open computer on the floor.

“He’d just left Marguerite’s when I called there. He didn’t have his cell phone,” Mortimer reminded him. “Christian and Carolyn chased him down and are riding with him. It’s Christian’s number you’ll have to call. Use my phone. It’s programmed in there,” he added, pulling his phone from his pocket and passing it over.

Anders took the phone, but his attention was on the computer on his lap. It had gone into standby mode. As he waited impatiently for it to start up again, he muttered, “I should have told her.”

“Told who what?” Mortimer asked, distractedly.

“Valerie, I should have told her I love her. But I figured she’d think it was too soon and—” He didn’t bother finishing. The computer was back on line. He stared at the moving dots on the screen. “Which one is the van?”

“The green one,” Mortimer answered.

“Still heading south. He’s on the 401,” Anders announced, and then started punching numbers on the phone to let the others know.

“What are you doing? Both of you back in your seats now.”

Valerie ignored that order from the man who had hijacked the van, and continued to help Leigh around the bench seat to the open area in the back. “She’s in labor. She needs to lie down.”

“Get back in your seats or I’ll take control of you and make you get back in your seats,” came the steely response.

“Oh, stuff it,” Leigh snapped. “I have a beach ball trying to squeeze its way out of me. I’m lying down and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. You can’t control her and drive too, and you can’t control me at all . . . I hope,” she muttered under her breath.

The rogue didn’t respond, but Valerie hardly noticed. She was glancing at Leigh worriedly as they moved to the back in a crouch. She whispered, “Can immortals control each other?”

“I think really old ones can control younger ones sometimes,” Leigh admitted reluctantly in a whisper of her own. “At least, Marguerite’s first husband controlled her.”

“Oh,” Valerie murmured unhappily and glanced around for something to lay on the floor of the van. Spotting a blanket and first aid kit strapped under the backseat, she grabbed both and quickly opened and spread out the blanket.

“Here, Leigh, let me help you,” Valerie said, moving to take her arm to help her lower herself onto the blanket.

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