The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(64) by Lynsay Sands
“I don’t want coffee,” Sherry said before he could move.
Zander paused and then turned reluctantly back, a sad expression on his face. “No. You’re here for answers, aren’t you.”
Despite the way the words were couched, it wasn’t a question, but Sherry nodded anyway. At the same time, she was aware that his words told her he wasn’t simply the nice guy she’d hired to manage her store and then had become friends with.
“Of course.” Zander hesitated and then straightened his back. Expression grim, he spread his arms. “Fire away.”
Sherry hesitated, unsure where to start, and then blurted, “Are you my father?”
“Yes,” he answered.
Simple as that, yes. One little word that rocked her world, literally. Sherry swayed on her feet. She felt Basil’s steadying hand on her arm and took a shaky breath, but continued to stare at the man who had just admitted he was her father, unsure where to go from there.
It was Basil who asked, “And you’re Uncle Al?”
He nodded solemnly.
Sherry closed her eyes. Now that she knew he was Uncle Al, those memories of him from her childhood that had been so fuzzy became clear and she could recall everything. He’d had hair as dark as hers then, and a full beard and mustache. She would best describe his appearance back then as a young Grizzly Adams.
Lex, on the other hand, had been clean-shaven, his dark hair shorn to the point of being nothing more than a constant state of five o’clock shadow on his pate. He’d also sported an earring in one ear, though it had been a clip-on rather than pierced, which she’d teased him about mercilessly when she realized it. It had been a clever earring, impossible to tell it was a clip-on until it was taken off.
Now, as Zander, he had ginger hair and a goatee. Three completely different looks, but it seemed obvious that all three men were the same. Still, she asked, “And Lex?”
“Yes,” he said solemnly. “My true name is Alexander, and it’s been my privilege to be in your life in one capacity or another from the day you were born.”
“Because you’re my father,” Sherry murmured slowly, struggling with this news. Her mother was not the sort to have an affair, but then she wouldn’t have imagined that her wonderful Uncle Al, or her best friend in the world, Lex, or even her friend and store manager, Zander, could rape a woman.
“I did not mean to rape her,” Alexander said quietly, no doubt reading the thought from her mind. Raising his hands helplessly, he added, “It was an accident.”
“What?” Sherry squawked with amazement. Well that was a new one. Certainly it was the first time she’d heard that excuse . . . and of course she didn’t buy it for a second. “Let me guess, you tripped and fell on top of her, your dick falling out of your pants and into my mother through her clothes?”
“No, of course not,” he said sharply, and then sighed and ran his hands through his hair. “Sherry, I’m your father—”
“You’re my store manager,” she interrupted grimly. “And apparently you were my sperm donor, my affable doting uncle, and at one time my supposed best friend, but you were never my father. And,” she added coldly, turning toward the stairs, “I guess I’ve heard what I came here to hear, so—”
“Please,” Alexander said, stepping quickly forward and reaching out as if to take her arm. He paused and let his hand drop, though, when Basil stiffened and stepped closer to her.
“Sherry,” he said, his voice soothing and pleading all at the same time. “You’re angry. I understand that, and you have every right to that anger, but please, let me explain what happened. Surely you owe me that much?”
“I owe you?” she asked with a disbelief underlined by anger, and then turned to Basil when he touched her arm.
“Perhaps you should hear what he has to say,” he suggested quietly, and then pointed out, “Otherwise you’ll always wonder.”
Sherry frowned, wanting to refuse and simply walk out. But she knew he was right. She would wonder. Taking a deep breath, she nodded and turned back, but found now it was she who couldn’t meet his eyes. She couldn’t even look at him. She merely stood, staring at her store logo on his shirt as she waited for him to talk.
“I met your mother in a bar,” Zander began slowly, and when she glanced quickly up, smiled wryly and added, “Actually, at the bar in the bar. I was holding up the end corner and she came up to order drinks for herself and some friends who were there with her.
“She was a beautiful woman, your mother,” he added with a smile of remembrance. “Tall, willowy, with long fair hair and a winsome smile. Put wings on her and she could have passed for an angel walking the earth.”
Sherry felt her mouth tighten, and glanced down to her hands again. She’d seen pictures of her mother when she was young, and she had been lovely. Many was the time Sherry had wished she looked like her. Now she was imagining that beautiful young woman being turned into nothing more than a blow-up sex doll, made to do what this man wanted.
“I have always had a weakness for beauty,” Alexander said solemnly. “I flirted shamelessly with her.”
When he fell silent, Sherry glanced reluctantly to him and saw that he was running his hands through his hair, his expression guilty. After a moment he let his hands drop and shook his head.
“That first trip to the bar, her response to my flirting was rather cool. But it seemed like she’d barely left with that round of drinks before she was back for another and then another. I thought she was . . . I mean, why weren’t one of the other women she was sitting with coming up to fetch them? I assumed . . .”
“You thought she was coming back because she was interested,” Sherry said when he fell silent.
“But you’re an immortal. You can read minds,” she said accusingly.
“I did read her mind,” he assured her. “Unfortunately, all I did was dip in far enough to see that she found me attractive too. I don’t know if it was ego or . . .” Alexander shook his head. “I didn’t bother to go deeper into her thoughts and find out anything else about her. I was attracted, she was attracted, and that was all that mattered to me. She was mortal,” he said, trying to explain. “She wasn’t a possible life mate. There couldn’t be more than . . .”
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