The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(2) by Lynsay Sands
Sherry blinked and tore her gaze from the tableau below to glance to Stephanie, surprised to find she’d briefly forgotten about the girl.
“What?” Sherry asked, instinctively whispering this time. She didn’t know who these people were, or what was going on, but all her inner alarm bells were ringing in warning now. Something very bad was happening and she knew instinctively that it was only going to get worse.
Stephanie bit her lip and then glanced around. “Is there a back exit in this place?”
“That door leads to the alley behind the shops,” Sherry admitted quietly, gesturing to a door down another eight steps at the back of her office.
Sherry didn’t blame the kid for wanting to run. She wanted to herself, but couldn’t, not with her employees and customers out there at the mercy of the men presently filling her small shop. It was like four lions set among a pen full of lambs. Although she supposed that was the wrong analogy. Everyone knew the lioness did the hunting, not the lion. Wolves were probably a better descriptor for these men.
“You don’t happen to have a car parked out in the alley, do you?” Stephanie asked hopefully.
Sherry merely stared for a moment. She had heard the question but hadn’t seen the girl’s lips move. What—?
“Do you?” the teenager hissed, her lips moving this time.
“No. I take the subway,” Sherry admitted quietly. Most people did in the city, rather than pay exorbitant parking fees.
The girl sighed unhappily and then peered back to the drama taking place on the other side of the mirror.
Sherry followed her gaze. The leader now had the young mother pressed up against the checkout counter, her body bent back over it, but all he was doing at the moment was sniffing her neck like a dog. It was weird, and might even have been funny if Sherry hadn’t noted the knife he now retrieved from his pocket and flicked open at his side.
“Oh crap,” she breathed.
“Yeah,” Stephanie muttered. “A car would have made this so much easier.”
“Made what easier?” Sherry asked in a distracted voice as she watched the man run the side of the blade lightly up the apparently pregnant woman’s stomach toward her throat. The woman wasn’t reacting at all. Her expression was blank, as were the expressions on the faces of the others in the store. Even her child simply stood there, blank-faced and unconcerned. The only people in the store with any expression at all were the leader and his men. The leader was smiling a soft almost sweet smile, while the three men who could have been his brothers were all grinning widely with what she would have said was anticipation.
“You better start running,” Stephanie said grimly, moving to lock the door leading into the store.
“I’m not running anywhere,” Sherry said, her words sharp despite her effort to keep her tone soft. “I’m calling the police.”
“The police can’t help them,” the girl said grimly, striding over to pick up the heavy filing cabinet in the corner and carry it down the stairs to set in front of the door that opened to the store floor.
Sherry was so startled by the action that she just stared. The filing cabinet was a tall, four-drawer legal cabinet stuffed full of paperwork and receipts. It weighed a ton. She doubted she could have pushed or dragged it across the floor, let alone lift it like it was an empty laundry basket as the girl had just done. She was trying to work out in her head how Stephanie had done that when movement below drew her attention back to the store floor. The leader had suddenly released the pregnant woman and stepped back.
Maybe he was going to leave. The vague hope had barely formed in her mind when he grabbed one of the mixing bowls off a nearby display and handed that and the knife to the pregnant woman and said pleasantly, “It’s such a messy business and this is my favorite T-shirt. Why don’t you do it? Bend forward over the counter, put the bowl on that stool there so it’s under your throat, and slice your neck open so the blood flows into it.”
“The crazy son of a—” Sherry began and then nearly bit her tongue off when the young mother, still with no expression on her face, did exactly as he’d suggested. She turned to bend over the counter, set the bowl on the clerk’s stool behind it, positioned herself so her neck was over the bowl and slit her own throat.
“Damn,” Sherry breathed with dismay, hardly able to believe the woman had just done that. “I’m calling the police.”
“There’s no time,” Stephanie growled, catching her arm. “He’s controlling those people. Can’t you see that? Do you think that woman really wanted to slit her own throat?”
“But the police—”
“Even if they got here before Leonius is done, they’d just become part of the slaughter. The only way to save these people is to lead Leo and his boys away from here . . . and to do that I need to get their attention and then run like hell.”
“Then we’ll get their attention and we’ll run like hell,” Sherry said firmly as she hurried down the steps to unlock and open the back door. There was no way in hell she was letting the teenager handle the matter alone. She was just a kid, for heaven’s sake. Sherry had just spotted the door stopper to keep the door open when a loud crash made her turn sharply around. She was just in time to see her desk chair sail through the one-way mirror and out of sight. Stephanie had pitched it through.
Sherry hurried back to the top of the steps to look out onto the store floor. The chair hadn’t hit anyone, but the noise had definitely caught the attention of the men in the other room. No one else even glanced around, but all four men were now staring through the opening toward them.
Stephanie promptly flipped them the bird, then raced toward Sherry, shrieking, “Run!”
The shout had barely hit her ears when Stephanie was streaking past her, catching her arm in passing and nearly jerking her off her feet as she swung her around. In the next moment, she’d been dragged down the stairs and out the door. Stephanie must have kicked the stopper out of the way as they passed, because the door slammed closed behind them.
The girl was fast. Inhumanly fast. Sherry was moving like she’d never moved before in her life. Adrenaline gave her a boost and her feet barely seemed to touch the ground, but the teenager was still nearly dragging her off her feet with her own speed. It was a short alley, yet they’d barely traveled up half of it when a loud crash drew her gaze over her shoulder to see the men charging out after them.
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