The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(65) by Lynsay Sands
“A one-night stand,” Sherry suggested grimly when he faltered.
He gave a slight nod, and then admitted solemnly, “I should have looked deeper. If I had, I would have realized that while she found me attractive, she would never have pursued that attraction because she was newly married and loved her husband.”
Alexander scrubbed a hand through his hair again and then said, “Unfortunately, that quick dip is all I bothered to take, and from there—arrogant fool that I was—I decided she was playing hard to get and just needed a little mental nudge to help her along.”
Grim now, he continued, “So I ordered a round of drinks for her table and joined her party. There were five young women, all but her were a little the worse for drink and out celebrating the upcoming wedding of one of the other women. Your mother was the maid of honor and she was playing mother on this outing. They’d pooled their money and she was purchasing the drinks but wasn’t drinking herself, and was to see them all safely home.”
“Which explains why she was the one who kept going up to the bar,” Sherry pointed out.
He nodded. “Yes. Although I didn’t really clue into that at the time.”
“Of course you didn’t,” she said dryly.
“I have mentioned that I was arrogant back then,” Alexander reminded her quietly. “I realized that later, much too late to prevent what happened.”
Sherry frowned, but before she could ask what that meant, he said, “Your mother was silent when I approached the table and asked to join them, but a couple of the other girls were drunk, single, and eager to welcome me. They also made it obvious that they would welcome my attentions, but I preferred your mother.”
“Who wasn’t interested,” Sherry said coldly.
“I thought she was just—”
“Playing hard to get,” Sherry said wearily. and then waved it away with annoyance. “Just go on.”
Zander shrugged. “At the end of the night your mother called for two taxis. She sent half the girls in the first one that arrived, leaving herself and two others for the second taxi. When it hadn’t arrived ten minutes later, I offered to drive the three of them home. Again your mother was reticent, but the other two were more than happy to accept, and she was supposed to be seeing to their safety and so went along with it. I dropped off the other two first and then took her to her place. Or what I thought was only her place. I later found out she and your father shared the small bachelor apartment. He was in his last year at business college and your mother was working to support them both. The following year he was going to work and support them while she finished her degree.”
Alexander was silent and then said, “Your father was out of town that night for the bachelor party. Apparently the men had gone camping overnight for their version of the celebrations.”
He paused and raised his eyes to meet hers. “I didn’t know all of that then. I really thought she was just playing hard to get . . . and she was attracted to me . . .” Alexander shook his head and then lowered it again, staring at his hands as he admitted, “I didn’t slip into her head and take control. If I had, I would have read that she was married. Besides, I knew she was attracted . . . so all I did was push the thought at her that it was okay. That she should spend the night with me. That there was nothing wrong with it. That she could do what she wanted without guilt or repercussions and—”
“Without guilt? I thought you didn’t know she was married,” Sherry snapped.
“I didn’t,” he assured her. “I just thought she was a good girl who didn’t have one-night stands. That’s the guilt I meant,” he explained, and then lowered his head briefly before looking at her again. “I know you consider what I did rape, but at the time I didn’t . . . which I suppose speaks to my character. But, in my defense, I had been raised to think that we, immortals, were superior to mortals. And I guess I’d had too many years of getting whatever and whomever I wanted. But it was the eighties. Sex was cheap, and it was everywhere.”
When she didn’t say anything, he continued, “Anyway, because I thought she was just playing hard to get, I didn’t erase her memory afterward. I just thanked her and went on my merry way. I never expected to see her again.”
“But you did,” she pointed out.
“Yes,” he acknowledged. Mouth twisting wryly, he said, “Thanks to a little boy who broke away from his mother and ran out in front of my car. It was two months later, a rainy evening. I couldn’t stop in time to prevent hitting him. Fortunately, I did slow down enough that he merely got knocked down, but he hit his head pretty good, there was a lot of blood and his mother was in a panic. It seemed easier and more expedient to simply drive them to the hospital than to wait for the police or an ambulance, so I piled mother and son in my car and took them to the nearest hospital emergency.
“The boy’s head injury turned out to be more show than real damage, and I was just leaving when an ambulance pulled up. I stepped back to make way for the EMTs to get their patient in, and as the gurney rolled past I glanced down and . . . it was your mother.”
Sherry stiffened. “My mother?”
He nodded. “I recognized her at once and dipped into the minds of the EMTs to find out what had happened. I was rather shocked and even more troubled to learn that she had slit her wrists.”
Sherry’s jaw dropped at this announcement and her legs went suddenly weak, so she sat on the corner of her desk, uncaring of the items poking her in the bottom. No one had ever told her that her mother had tried to commit suicide. In fact, she found that hard to believe. Her mother just wasn’t the sort. Sherry had always known her to be the optimistic sort. For cripes sake the woman used to sing “Tomorrow” while she washed dishes and did other household tasks.
“As I say, I was shocked too,” Alexander said solemnly. “Enough that I wanted to know what had happened, so I turned around and followed them in, taking control of anyone who tried to stop me. But of course, no one at the hospital knew why she’d done what she’d done and she was unconscious.” He paused briefly, and then said, “It came as quite a shock when a young man arrived and I read his mind to learn he was her husband.
“Between his thoughts and your mother’s when she woke up, I learned she had only been three months married, and very happily so when I’d encountered her. That while she was indeed attracted to me, she loved her husband and would never have been unfaithful if I had not controlled her mind and pushed her past her resistance. That after I left her, she suffered terrible guilt and shame over what had happened. But she was terribly confused by the whole thing too. In her memory, she was polite to me but resistant and then suddenly . . . wasn’t . . . and she didn’t know why or how it had happened.
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