The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(4) by Lynsay Sands
“Sugar is energy,” Stephanie interrupted. “And you need to keep up your energy in case we have to run again. So eat,” she ordered, sounding remarkably like the adult here.
That fact made Sherry scowl. “We should be calling the police.”
“Yeah, ’cause that cop at the mouth of the alley was so useful,” Stephanie said with dry disinterest before taking another bite of her pizza.
Unable to argue with that, Sherry frowned and then asked, “Speaking of that, what happened there?”
Stephanie arched an eyebrow, but was silent for a moment as she finished chewing and swallowing. Then she sighed and said, “You obviously couldn’t outrun them, and I couldn’t leave you behind for them to catch, torture, and kill, so when I spotted the cop at the mouth of the alley, I ran ahead to grab his gun and shoot Leo to buy us some time. Fortunately, it worked.”
Sherry didn’t point out that she had been there and seen all that, instead she simply asked, “And the co—police officer, just let you take his gun?”
Stephanie shrugged. “I controlled him. He won’t remember any of it.”
“Which will really confuse him when he realizes his gun has been fired,” Sherry muttered, but her mind was on the girl’s claim that she’d controlled the cop. She wanted to laugh off the suggestion, but the man had looked as blank-faced as the woman who’d slit her own throat in the store. Stephanie had claimed Leo was controlling that woman too. So Leonius had controlled the woman, Stephanie had controlled the cop . . . How? That particular skill set was just not something Sherry knew humans to have.
“There they are.”
Sherry glanced around sharply and spotted the four men moving swiftly past the restaurant’s front window. She shrank down in her seat when one of them glanced through the window, but they didn’t slow or stop, so she guessed she hadn’t been seen. That wasn’t a surprise to her, considering they were in the dark back corner. What was surprising was the fact that the leader, Leo, as Stephanie called him, was up and walking around as if nothing had happened.
“Damn,” she breathed, staring at the man until the group moved out of sight.
“I told you being shot wouldn’t stop him,” Stephanie said solemnly.
“I know but . . . how?” she asked with bewilderment.
Stephanie was silent for a moment as she continued to eat her pizza, but after a couple of bites she set it down with resignation and reached for her pop. She took a pull on the drink, and then set that down too, to eye Sherry thoughtfully. After a moment she sighed. “I suppose I’m going to have to explain.”
“That would be nice,” Sherry said dryly.
Stephanie nodded. “Vampires exist. Although Leonius and his men are no-fangers, they still survive on blood so I suppose they’re still vampires. As am I, though I’m an Edentate.”
Sherry blinked as the words raced through her mind. No-fangers? Edentate? She had no idea what either of those were, so focused on the word she did recognize.
“Vampires?” she asked, not bothering to hide her disbelief. “Sweetie, I hate to tell you this, but vampires do not exist. Besides, vampires bite people, they don’t have them slit their own throats open and bleed into a bowl.”
“Uh-huh,” Stephanie didn’t look upset by her words. “So how do you explain his controlling that woman to make her slit her own throat? Or my controlling the cop?”
Sherry considered the question briefly and then suggested, “Hypnosis?”
Stephanie rolled her eyes. “Come on, you don’t seem like a stupid woman. Leo didn’t have time to hypnotize her, and I certainly didn’t have time to hypnotize the cop.” She scowled and then asked, “What’s your name?”
“Sherry Carne,” she answered. “And fine, maybe this Leo didn’t hypnotize the woman in my store, but he did something and it wasn’t because he’s a vampire. Vampires have fangs and bite people.”
“A minute ago you said there were no such things as vampires, now you’re saying there are, but they have to have fangs?” Stephanie asked with amusement.
“Well . . .” Sherry frowned. “If you’re going with the whole vampire thing to cover the real story, then at least be consistent. Vampires are dead, soulless creatures who crawl out of their coffins and bite people.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” Stephanie said, sounding weary and much older than her years. Shrugging, she straightened her shoulders and added, “Turns out we’re both wrong. Vampires aren’t dead and soulless, and while most do have fangs, Leo and his little Leos are an aberrant strain. Like I said, they’re called no-fangers. They don’t age and they do need blood to survive, but they don’t have the fangs to get it, so they cut their victims. They’re also usually crazy. But not normal crazy, nutso crazy.”
Sherry tilted her head slightly and eyed the girl. There was something about the way she’d passed on the information . . . It had been a lecturing tone, but there was something under the words, some emotion almost like shame, that she didn’t understand.
“You don’t believe me,” Stephanie said with a shrug. “That’s okay, but just let me tell you what’s going on. You can believe it or not as you like, but just remember it. It might save your life before we get out of this.”
Sherry was silent for a minute, considering the girl, but then decided there was no harm in listening. Besides, it gave her a good excuse to just sit there while she tried to find her second wind, so she leaned back in her seat with a nod. “Go ahead.”
Stephanie relaxed a little and even managed a small smile. “Right, just so we’re clear, I am claiming that vampires exist. There are some with fangs, some without, but both can read and control mortals. Leo and his little Leos—Two, Three, and Four—are one of the variety without fangs.”
“Two, Three, and Four?” Sherry asked.
Stephanie shrugged. “They probably aren’t Leo Two, Leo Three, and Leo Four, but he names all his sons after himself so they’re all Leos number something-or-other, so they just go by their number.”
“His sons?” Sherry asked with disbelief. “There is no way those men are his children. They all looked to be the same age.”
“Vampire, remember?” Stephanie said pointedly. “Vampires stop aging physically at around twenty-five.”
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