The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(61) by Lynsay Sands
“And it was the child rather than one of the adults who sorted it out first,” Lucian said dryly, obviously having heard his thoughts.
“I am not a child,” Stephanie said with annoyance.
“Can we skip to whatever it is the rest of us aren’t seeing?” Basil asked impatiently.
Stephanie glared at Lucian for a moment longer and then turned to Basil and shrugged. “Think about it . . . Uncle Al? Lex? Zander?”
Basil frowned at her briefly and then his expression cleared and he breathed, “Alexander,” with sudden understanding.
“So . . . he’s been around since she was seven at least. That’s twenty-five years. Definitely long enough for her to have built up a strong resistance,” Basha realized.
“I suspect he’s been there since she was born,” Lucian said quietly.
“Then you don’t think he’s another life mate?” Basil asked, feeling relief slide through him. That possibility had bothered him.
Rather than answer directly, Lucian asked, “Could you have refrained from claiming her all this time if you’d met her at seven or younger?”
“I’d have had to. I’d have hardly tried to claim her as a child,” Basil pointed out dryly.
“True, but once she was sixteen or so it would become very difficult to not claim her. You might want to do the honorable thing and allow her to mature without interference,” he said solemnly. “But your mind would remind you she was mortal and an accident could steal her from you. You’d want to watch her, keep her safe, and doing that would make it very difficult to refrain from bedding and claiming her.” He shook his head. “This Alexander is her father.”
“Great!” Stephanie said brightly. “Now that I’ve solved that for you, does anyone else have a hankering for a shake? I could really use one of your famous chocolate shakes about now, Harper . . . and I’m sure the milk is good for my growing bones,” she added in wheedling tones.
“One chocolate shake it is,” Harper said with amusement, standing to lead her to the kitchen.
“Does anyone else want one?” Drina asked, getting up.
“Oh, yeah. I’ll take a chocolate one too, please,” Bricker said at once, but everyone else merely shook their heads.
“So . . .” Basha said as Drina headed for the kitchen to tell Harper that Bricker wanted one too. “Now that you know or think you know who the immortal in her life is . . .” She raised her eyebrows. “What next? Go question him and find out why he wanted her to think she ran into Leo in London?”
“We already know the answer to that,” Lucian said, and then pointed out, “It was because he wanted her back in Toronto.”
“Yes, but why?” Basil asked, and then tilted his head and eyed him suspiciously. “You know the answer to that as well, don’t you?”
“Sherry gave us the answer when she said she was born a year after her parents married,” he said mildly.
“I don’t see what the one has to do with the other,” Basil admitted.
“That’s because you’re old,” Bricker put in, understanding clear on his face.
Basil scowled at the younger man. “What has that to do with anything?”
“It means you haven’t had the least interest in sex or dating in forever until now,” Bricker said dryly.
“What has that to do with—”
“When you’re without a mate and still young enough to be interested in sex and dating . . .” Bricker paused as if to consider his words, and then shrugged and said, “Well, frankly, the world is a smorgasbord. Pretty women are everywhere, and with our ability to read their minds and know exactly what they’re thinking and what they want to hear, etcetera . . .” He shrugged again. “Every single one is yours for the taking if you want her.” He paused and then added solemnly, “Unless they are married.”
“Ah.” Basil nodded slowly. Life mates were a serious business with immortals, and while mortals were not blessed or cursed with them, as the case might be, marriage was the closest thing they had. Marriage was a binding contract to spend their lives with each other. It was as close as a mortal could get to a life mate. It was considered more than shameful for an immortal male to use their unfair advantage to get a married female mortal to sleep with them. They had even made a lesser law to prevent it from occurring. Lesser laws were not punishable by death, but by various lesser penalties. For instance, fines, sanctions, shunning or incarceration for a stated term. Basil couldn’t recall what the penalty was for dallying with a married mortal, but he was quite sure it was unpleasant. There had been a time when a wife could be murdered for getting caught in an adulteress relationship. In some countries that was still allowed. The penalty had to be a strict one to prevent it from happening.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Basha admitted quietly, and Basil recalled that she was newly returned to the fold and probably didn’t yet know all their laws.
“It is against one of our lesser laws to interfere in a mortal marriage,” he explained now, and Bricker snorted.
“Lesser, my ass,” Bricker muttered. “Most men would prefer to be staked and baked than having their ding-dong shredded once for every year of their life when they made the indiscretion.”
Basha blinked. “So if you were a century old when you did it . . .”
“They’d shred it one hundred times, letting it heal between each,” Bricker said dryly.
“How do they shred it?” she asked curiously.
“I don’t know,” he admitted grimly. “Never wanted to know either, so I stay well clear of married women.”
“Well then, it seems to be effective,” Lucian said dryly.
Bricker snorted. “It’s barbaric.”
“What about women?” Basha asked. “What if an immortal woman interfered in a mortal marriage?”
Obviously not knowing the answer to that, Bricker blinked and glanced to Lucian questioningly, but it was Basil who said, “Actually, at the time the law was made, mortal men were the power brokers in the world. They were free to have mistresses without fear of it interfering in their marriages, so there was no sanction for a female immortal who dallied with a male mortal.”
“Ah, man!” Bricker cried. “That is so unfair.”
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