Immortal Ever After Page 41

“You’ll see soon enough,” he assured her. “Where is the Enforcer house?”

“I don’t know the address,” Valerie said. When he started to lift her off the ground by her hair, she added quickly, “I don’t. They took me there, they didn’t tell me the address.”

“Then I guess you’ll have to show me,” he said grimly, releasing her throat and continuing the way he’d been dragging her before stopping.

“I’d really rather not,” Valerie said honestly and then frowned and asked, “Why aren’t you just reading my mind and controlling me?”

“Why bother?” he asked dryly.

“Because then you wouldn’t have to drag me around by my hair and hurt me,” she pointed out in an arid tone of her own.

“But I like hurting you. It eases the pain you caused me when you staked me.”

Valerie bit her lip. He sounded testy, even resentful. Imagine! Like he hadn’t deserved it and she was the bad guy or something. Mouth tightening, she said, “Or maybe you’re a new turn and haven’t learned to control or read us mere mortals yet.”

Her talk with Leigh at the Enforcer house was what had given her that idea. Leigh had mentioned that she was still learning both skills, but was getting pretty good at them and Valerie had wondered if Igor was a relatively new turn and hadn’t yet learned those skills. Otherwise, why hadn’t he just taken control of her in the bathroom when she’d squirted the shampoo at him? Or after, when he’d come out of the bathroom to get her?

She suspected she’d hit the nail on the head when Igor’s step faltered and he snapped, “Shut up.”

“Make me,” Valerie muttered, blinking rapidly when he suddenly pushed the door open and dragged her out into bright sunlight. Half-blinded by the sudden light, Valerie was taken by surprise and stumbled to her knees when she was suddenly free. She was so startled that she almost missed the grunt Igor let loose as he released her, but she definitely heard the sounds of the short fight that followed. Turning her head, she watched with amazement as Anders thrust a wooden sunflower stake from the garden into Igor’s chest. The man fell like a ton of bricks, crashing onto his back beside her on the concrete driveway.

“Well, that felt good,” Anders said grimly and when she glanced to him with surprise, he shrugged and admitted, “It’s nice to be able to actually save you for a change, rather than just showing up after you’ve already saved yourself.”

Valerie released a startled laugh that ended in a gasp when he caught her by the arms and raised her to her feet.

“Thank you,” she sighed, sliding her arms around his waist and resting her head on his chest. “You’re my hero.”

“Hmm,” Anders said dubiously, and then eased her back so he could kiss her nose. Smiling crookedly, he then commented, “You seem to have a tendency to find trouble.”

“It wasn’t me this time. I was just following Roxy. She— Roxy!” Valerie stiffened, her eyes wide and worried. “He said he killed her but I thought I heard her bark.”

“She’s fine,” Anders assured her quickly. “She’s in the house. She came up to the bedroom and woke me up. It’s how I knew you were in trouble. You weren’t with her. So I came looking for you.”

“Oh,” Valerie sagged against him, but shook her head. “I don’t know how she got in the house. I saw her go into the garage, but when I got there she wasn’t there and he grabbed me.”

“There’s a door between the garage and the laundry room. He must have opened it and lured her into the garage and then the house somehow, and then closed it behind her to wait for you to catch up,” Anders said.

“Oh,” Valerie sighed, and then followed Anders’s gaze when he suddenly stiffened and glanced toward the house. The front door was opening, she saw, and then Roxy rushed out. Lucian and Leigh followed more slowly as Roxy hurried toward them, tale wagging happily. Valerie slid free of Anders and crouched to greet the dog as she ran up.

“Good girl,” she said, massaging her cheeks and the sides of her neck. “Good girl for getting Anders. Yes,” she praised, and then straightened as the other couple reached them.

“Igor?” Lucian asked on a yawn, rubbing his hand across his very wide, bare chest. The man had obviously just rolled out of bed. He wore only a pair of green plaid pajama bottoms, and his hair was standing on end.

Anders nodded.

Lucian peered at the large man with the wooden sunflower sticking out of his chest, and commented, “Well this makes a change from the old pushing up daisies.”

Leigh tsked at the comment and slipped past Lucian to get a better look at the man. Shaking her head, she said, “Did you have to use the sunflower? I loved that tomato stake and it’s the only one I have. You should have used one of the frog stakes. I have three of them.”

“I’ll remember that for next time,” Anders said with amusement.

Lucian slid his arm around Leigh and hugged her briefly. “I’ll call the boys to come collect him. They can take out your sunflower before they take him away . . . I’ll have them clean off the blood for you too,” he added, when Leigh screwed up her face with disgust.

“Maybe we should take it out now,” Anders suggested. “If we leave it in too long he might not come back and we still need information. We haven’t even been able to get a name out of his boss.”

“Ambrose,” Valerie announced.

Anders glanced at her with surprise and shook his head. “Damn, woman, you were only in the garage with him for a matter of minutes. How did you get that out of him?”

“My natural charm?” she suggested with a grin.

“You didn’t happen to find out what they did with the women too, did you?” Lucian asked.

Valerie’s grin faded and she shook her head. “No. I’m afraid not.”

“I guess you’d better take it out now then,” Lucian suggested, not sounding pleased that they had to.

Anders didn’t look any happier about having to do it as he bent to grab the wooden sunflower and pull it from the man’s chest. When Leigh grimaced at the bloody tip, he said, “I’ll rinse it off with the garden hose. It will be good as new.”

“Good thinking,” Lucian said. “I’ll watch Igor while you do that.”

Anders raised his eyebrows. Apparently, he’d meant later, but he nodded and headed around the garage saying, “I’ll only be a minute.”

Shaking her head, Leigh turned to lean up and kiss Lucian’s cheek. “I’ll call Mortimer for you. I have to go check on the twins anyway.”

“Thank you, love,” Lucian said, watching her go. Once she disappeared into the house, he turned back and eyed Valerie. “So? When do you want to be turned?”

“I didn’t agree to turn,” Valerie squawked with amazement.

“You haven’t, but you will,” he said with a shrug.

“What makes you think that?” she asked warily.

“Because if you don’t, I’m going to have to wipe your memories and have you returned to your life and neither of us wants that,” he said simply.

“Anders said I could have time to decide,” Valerie protested, and then frowned and added, “And what do you mean, neither of us wants that? Why would you care?”

“You saved my wife and children, Valerie. And Leigh adores you. You’re family now.”

“Oh.” She stared at him nonplussed, wondering if he meant that.

“I mean it,” he said firmly. “Leigh has decided it’s so, so it’s so. She’d be disappointed if you didn’t become one of us and I won’t have her disappointed.”

Valerie scowled slightly. The last part sounded like a threat.

“As for Anders saying you could have time to decide,” Lucian continued. “What do you need time for? The nanos have paired you, you’re meant to be together.”

“You make it sound so simple,” she said wearily.

“It is simple. Don’t make it hard.”

“Great, the nanos paired us. But what about love?” she asked.

Lucian shifted impatiently. “Do you like him?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

“Respect him?”

She nodded.

“Trust him?”

“Of course,” she said without hesitation.

Lucian nodded and said dryly, “I don’t need to ask if you want him sexually.”

Valerie flushed and raised her chin.

“All those things combined make up love,” Lucian assured her. “Whether you realize it or not, you already do love him.”

Valerie swallowed, knowing in her heart he was right. She bit her lip, and then blurted, “But does he love me?”

“Ah.” Lucian nodded. “So that’s the holdup, is it? He hasn’t said it yet.”

Valerie sighed and looked away, muttering, “When he asked me to be his life mate he went on about finding peace and being able to relax and be at peace. It was all peace, peace, peace,” she added with frustration and glanced to Lucian, eyes narrowing when she caught his lips twitching. If he laughed at her, she would—

“Don’t you feel at peace with him?” he asked, and then added, “When you’re not hot and bothered, I mean.”

“Well, yeah, but—”

“But you want to hear that he loves you,” Lucian said and shrugged. “I guess you’ll have to ask him then.”

“Ask him if he loves me?” she asked with dismay.

Lucian sighed with exasperation. “You took on Igor and staked him, saving yourself and six other women in the process—”

“Four,” she corrected unhappily. “Two died, remember.”

“And then,” he continued heavily, ignoring her interruption. “You took on Ambrose and saved my wife and unborn twins by crashing the van you were all in and repeatedly bashing the man over the head until help got there. You are not a coward, Valerie, so stop acting like one. Ask him. And when he says yes he loves you, I will personally oversee the turning and pay for the wedding.” On that note, he turned and strode toward the house.

Valerie stared after him with amazement, then turned and glanced at Igor, and back. “Hey! What about—?”

“Anders will watch him,” Lucian responded, not slowing.

Valerie glanced around just in time to see Anders coming around the garage. Lucian had heard him approaching, she realized.

“Most of it came out,” Anders said as he approached her. “I’ll take it home with me tonight and give it a quick sanding and repaint for Leigh. It should be fine.”

“We’re going to your place tonight?” she asked with surprise.

Anders lowered his hand to his side, the stake dangling from his fingers. Expression solemn, he said, “I am. But I think you should stay here. I think that’s probably best until you make your decision.”

Valerie frowned. “What do you mean?”

Anders grimaced and glanced away, “Well, I’ve been thinking that life mate sex is pretty mind-blowing and addictive.”

“I’ve noticed,” she admitted wryly, bending slightly to pat Roxy, who had been lying down beside her, but now stood and pressed against her leg.

“That being the case,” he continued gently, “I thought perhaps it might be best if we abstain until you’ve made your decision.”

Valerie straightened slowly to stare at him. “Abstain?”

“Yes,” he said solemnly, and then added, “You need to have a clear head to make a decision as big as this and constantly being bombarded with pleasure, your body and mind crying out with it . . . well, it will just muddy your thinking and delay your decision.”

Valerie frowned. “But—”

“It’s for the best,” he added solemnly.

Valerie narrowed her eyes. “How long are we supposed to abstain?”

“Like I said, until you’ve made your decision,” Anders answered.

“But what if it takes a while?” she asked.

“Then we’ll wait a while. Years if we have to,” he assured her. “Honey, I want you happy and you’re worth waiting for.”

“But I’m happy when we—” Flushing, she cut herself off and said instead, “And if I decide I’m willing to be your life mate?”

“Then I’ll rip your clothes off and make love to you until you can’t stand,” he said as if they were discussing the weather.

“And if I decide I’m not willing to risk being your life mate?” she asked.

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