The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(24) by Lynsay Sands
“Oh, come on,” Stephanie said suddenly with disgust as she finished drying her hands and tossed the paper towel away. “This is so unfair. I can’t hear what she’s thinking so I’m only getting half the conversation.”
“Ah, poor Steph,” Drina teased lightly, slinging an arm around the girl’s shoulders and steering her toward the door. “I guess you will just have to try harder to read her. I suspect if you do, you will find you can read her too.”
“Really?” Stephanie asked, glancing over her shoulder as Sherry and Katricia followed the pair out of the bathroom.
“Really,” Drina assured her, urging her to the side to avoid a collision with a supporting column. “But try doing it when you are not walking, so you do not run into a wall.”
“You wouldn’t let me walk into a wall,” Stephanie said on a laugh, but turned and faced forward and then shrugged out from under Drina’s arm. “I’m going to Wendy’s to get a pop before we go.”
“Hang on.” Drina collared the teenager before she could take off. Pausing, she glanced around, smiling when Basil moved away from the wall to join them. Glancing from him to Sherry, she asked, “Do you guys want anything?”
“Coffee from Timmy’s for me, but I’ll get it,” Sherry said at once, glad she had her purse back and didn’t have to depend on these people for money, at least. Realizing that Drina wouldn’t allow Stephanie to go to Wendy’s stall alone after what had happened the last time she’d gone off on her own, Sherry asked, “Do you want a coffee or something too? I’ll get it for you while you go with Stephanie.”
“You will not,” Basileios said calmly. “I shall take care of the drinks. Just tell me what everyone wants.”
“I will let you guys fight it out with Katricia while I take Steph to Wendy’s,” Drina said with amusement. Turning to head for the fast food counter with the impatient girl, she added, “But I would appreciate a medium coffee, double, double . . . and maybe a chocolate dip donut.”
“Oh, me too, please,” Stephanie said over her shoulder.
“Got it,” Sherry said with amusement, but was perplexed by the bit about fighting it out with Katricia. It was she and Basileios who were—
“I am paying,” Katricia announced interrupting her thoughts, and when Basileios opened his mouth to argue, she held up a gold card. “It is on the council.”
Basil’s eyebrows went up. “Are we handing out credit cards now?”
Katricia shrugged. “Uncle Lucian gave it to me this morning when we stopped to pick up his van. I gather Enforcers are being issued cards to use on the job.” She glanced to Sherry and explained, “Enforcers used to get cash for expenses on the job, but there were some lost receipts and stuff, and Bastien was bitching about needing them for taxes, so Lucian has decided credit cards are the way to go.”
She turned to lead them toward the coffee shop stall then.
Sherry followed, but asked curiously, “Who is Bastien and who pays for them?”
“For the credit cards?” Katricia asked.
“For the cards, and the house and vehicles and the hunters,” Sherry clarified. “I mean I assume you all get wages?”
“I am actually a deputy in Port Henry now,” Katricia told her. “I mainly work for the town, but I sideline on occasion for Uncle Lucian, like now . . . and yes, Enforcers are paid.”
“Everyone on the council contributes to the funds needed to run the Enforcers,” Basileios said, answering her initial question as they started toward the long lines of customers waiting at the Tim Horton’s counter.
“So you basically pay for the decisions you make?” Sherry suggested, recalling that he’d told her last night that he too was on the council that ran the Enforcers who kept immortals in line.
“I suppose you could say that,” he agreed wryly.
“And does that influence your decisions?” she asked curiously as they stopped at the end of the shortest line, one that still had a good twelve people in it. Sunday was a prime day for travel, with people returning from weekends away or day visits.
“If you mean do we tend to choose cheap alternatives over what is right but expensive, then no,” he assured her.
“Most of the immortals on the council are at least a couple thousand years old,” Katricia explained, turning to face them so that she could speak quietly and not be overheard by the person in line in front of them. “They have had more than enough time to amass enough wealth that the money used to run the Enforcers is little more than a drop in the bucket. Certainly cheaper than mortal taxes.”
Sherry raised her eyebrows, but kept her voice down when she asked, “So all older immortals are crazy rich?”
“Most,” Basil acknowledged. “Although there are some who simply do not care enough to bother amassing a fortune and make little more than they need to get by.”
Sherry tilted her head at this news and asked, “You’re kidding, right? I mean, surely not every immortal is smart enough to amass a fortune. You have to have one or two who—”
“Stupid immortals do not usually live centuries, let alone millennia,” Katricia interrupted quietly, and then added, “At least they did not use to. Now that there is not a battle around every corner, they have a longer life expectancy.”
“Last I heard there were several battles going on,” Sherry said dryly. “Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq . . .”
“Yes, but those are only taking place in certain parts of the world, and those places can be avoided. Besides, the weapons are different now,” Katricia countered. “In the Middle Ages in Europe it seemed like everyone was fighting everyone, country with country, but also neighbor with neighbor . . . and they used swords and battle-axes and other things that often took off a head.”
“Which is one of the few ways your kind can die,” Sherry said with understanding.
Katricia and Basileios both nodded.
“So you lost a lot of stupid immortals to battle-axes and swords?” she muttered, shaking her head. She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation. Immortals, beheadings, people who lived centuries or even millennia.
“A good many stupid or impetuous ones, and a few who were simply unlucky,” Katricia said with a shrug, and then added gently, “You will get used to the idea of us and stop feeling like you are in the twilight zone. It just takes a bit of getting used to.”
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