The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(5) by Lynsay Sands
Sherry let her breath out on an exasperated sigh, finding it hard to swallow all of this, but she’d agreed to listen, so waved for her to continue.
“I grew up as normal and ignorant of what’s out there as you did, but Leo and some of his other sons kidnapped my sister and me from a grocery store parking lot when I was fourteen,” Stephanie announced. Her mouth tightened and then she added, “We were eventually rescued, and Leo’s sons were caught and executed by the Rogue Hunters but—”
“Rogue Hunters?” Sherry interrupted.
“Cops for immortals, or vampires, as you would call them. They keep the other immortals in line,” she explained. “Anyway, I don’t know if it’s because of his sons getting killed or what, but for some reason, Leo became sort of obsessed with my sister and me. He wants to add us to his breeding stock.”
Sherry stared at her, silently processing, and then she cleared her throat and asked, “What do you mean he wants to add you to his breeding stock? Not . . . ?”
Stephanie nodded. “It’s how he got all the junior Leos. I doubt many of the mothers were willing.”
Sherry shook her head slightly. “You make it sound like he has a lot of them.”
“One of the sons who helped him kidnap my sister and I was Leo the 21st. According to him, he was one of the older sons,” Stephanie said with a shrug. “He claimed there were fifty or sixty of them, that there have been hundreds over the centuries, but some killed themselves, some were killed, and Leo killed several others when they refused to do what he wanted, or when they otherwise pissed him off.”
Sherry didn’t say anything. It was crazy, like a vampire soap opera or something. It couldn’t be true . . . could it?
“Anyway,” Stephanie continued, “like I say, Leo senior took a shine to my sister and me and said he’d come after us, so Dani—my sister,” she added, “Dani and I have been hiding out and protected since.”
“Until today,” Sherry said.
Stephanie grimaced. “I was protected. I was with Drina and Katricia. They’re Rogue Hunters.”
“Vampire cops,” Sherry muttered.
“Immortal cops really, or Enforcers, but vampire cop will do. Just don’t use the term vampire in front of the other immortals. They can get testy about that,” Stephanie informed her, and then continued. “Drina and Katricia are both getting married so we went wedding dress shopping. I . . .” She sighed and grimaced. “I forgot something in the car and just nipped out quickly to get it, but . . .” Stephanie shook her head. “It was just my luck to pick a moment when Leo and his boys decided to walk down that street.”
She paused briefly and frowned before saying, “There haven’t been any reported sightings of Leo and his boys in Toronto since Dani and I were rescued. They cleared out and have been hanging south of the border for a long time. They were last spotted somewhere in the southern states. I never would’ve gone out to the car if I’d known they were in the area. I just . . .” She heaved out a deep sigh and then said, “Anyway, I spotted them before they saw me. I nipped into your store hoping they wouldn’t see me, but I guess they did.”
When Stephanie took another bite of pizza and began to chew, Sherry was left to wonder if she believed anything the girl had just said. Oddly enough, while Sherry had started out not believing, she found she now did. She had no idea why. It was crazy. Vampires, mind control, reading thoughts, breeding stock . . .
Sherry pushed those thoughts away for now to switch to a subject that had been worrying her since leaving the store. “How long does the control last?”
Stephanie paused to peer at her briefly, and then understanding crossed her face and she assured her, “Not long. I mean, it can continue for a little bit after the vampire leaves their presence if they put a suggestion in their thoughts, but I’m sure Leo and the boys didn’t get a chance to do that before chasing after us. The moment they left the building, your employees and customers probably snapped out of it and helped the woman who cut herself.”
“If they could help her,” Sherry said unhappily, picking up her slice of pizza and shifting it in her hands briefly before taking a bite. It was surprisingly good. Surprising because she wouldn’t have expected anything to taste good at that point. She guessed the scare she’d just had, and surviving it, had awakened her taste buds or something. Whatever. It tasted good. Carbs or not.
“They could help her,” Stephanie assured her. “She didn’t cut deeply enough to hit the jugular. She’s probably fine.”
Sherry raised her eyebrows. “How do you know she didn’t hit the jugular?”
“I gave her a mental nudge to stop her cutting too deep,” Stephanie explained, and then grimaced and added, “Which Leo would have recognized right away. That’s why we had to make our move when we did. He would have used the people in the store against us, tortured them to make me come out. So I had to make sure he saw me leave and knew I wasn’t there. It was the only way to be certain he’d leave them alone.”
Sherry wasn’t surprised at the claim that she’d given the woman a mental nudge not to cut too deep. After all, the girl had said she’d controlled the cop too. What did surprise her was that the girl had thought of the people in the store at all. Stephanie was a nice kid. There was still a possibility that she was crazy as a loon. Sherry was finding herself almost believing her tale, but it was a lot to swallow. So either Stephanie was a brave, thoughtful kid who had risked getting caught to save the pregnant mother, or she was a nutcase. A nutcase who was a damned good shot, Sherry thought. Stephanie had hit a moving target around her. Nice.
“So where did you learn to shoot like that?” Sherry asked quietly.
“Victor and D.J. take me to a shooting range every other day,” she said. The names meant nothing to Sherry, so she was glad when the girl added, “Victor is . . . well he’s sort of my adopted dad I guess.” She said it quietly, her voice thickening, and then she rushed on, saying, “And D.J. is like the young, pain in the butt uncle who ruffles your hair and embarrasses you in public.”
Sherry smiled faintly at the description. “And your real dad?”
“Alive, well, and mortal,” Stephanie said casually, too casually, and she was avoiding her gaze. Picking at what was left of her pizza, she added, “He and Mom think I’m dead.” Before Sherry could respond, she added, “But Victor and Elvi took me in and look after me. Elvi lost her daughter so I’m a gift, she says, and they’re great.”
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