Eshe d’Aureus is sent to Armand Argeneau under
the auspice that she needs a safe place to hide from
a rogue out for revenge, but Eshe is really on the job.
She's been saddled with the task of finding out why
Armand's wives keep dying, and what it has to do with
his son Nicholas and the murder Nicholas is accused
of committing 50 years ago. She's Nicholas's only hope
of avoiding being executed for a murder he may or may
not have committed. Eshe's agreed to take on the task,
but that was before she realized she couldn't read Armand
and he is the life mate she's been waiting for.
Armand Argeneau’s first sight of Eshe was her
roaring up on a motorcycle that appeared to be aflame.
That was inconspicuous?! She had the grace of a panther,
the attitude of a pit bull and openly enjoyed thwarting
Lucian’s orders whenever possible . . . all of
which delighted him immensely . . . until he realized
he couldn't read the woman and she might be a life mate.
Having already lost a life mate and two wives to suspicious
circumstances, Armand isn't willing to risk losing another.
Unfortunately, sending her away was pretty difficult
when he couldn't keep his thoughts, not to mention his
hands, off her. It seems it's time to once again try
to get to the bottom of the deaths of his first three
wives. While Armand's tried before, he's also failed,
but this time he could lose his son as well as his life
Armand and Eshe
late.” Lucian’s growled greeting made
Armand Argeneau grimace as he slid onto the seat opposite
his brother in the diner’s only occupied booth.
A “Hello, how are you?” would have been
nice, but it wasn’t something he’d expect
from the older immortal. Lucian wasn’t known
for being warm and fuzzy.
“I had some things to do at the farm before I
could leave,” Armand said calmly, glancing over
the man’s roast beef dinner with disinterest before
gazing around the quiet diner. It was after nine, almost
closing time and they were the only customers. He didn’t
even see a waitress and supposed she was in the back
helping with clean up.
“Yes, of course,” Lucian murmured, setting
down his fork to pick up a crusty dinner roll dripping
with butter. “We can’t expect that wheat
of yours to grow all by itself, can we?”
Armand scowled irritably as he watched Lucian bite
into the roll with relish. “A little respect for
a farmer who grows the food you’re eating wouldn’t
go amiss. . . especially since you appear to be enjoying
it so much.”
“I am,” Lucian acknowledged with a grin,
and then arched an eyebrow. “Jealous?”
Armand merely shook his head and turned his gaze out
the window, but he was jealous. Lucian’s eating
was a result of finding his life mate. It had reawakened
old appetites both of them had lost long ago. There
wasn’t an unmated immortal alive who wouldn’t
envy that, including himself.
“So?” He glanced back to Lucian to see
he’d set aside the roll and was now chasing peas
around his plate, stabbing at the little green vegetables
with his fork. “What was so important that you
had to drive down here to see me? And why the hell did
you insist on my coming out to the diner? The farm is
only another five minute drive. You could have come
Lucian gave up stabbing the peas and instead scraped
them across the plate into the mashed potatoes. He then
scooped up a forkful of the combination before saying,
“I had a favor to ask you and didn’t want
anyone at the house to overhear.”
“There’s no one at the house,” Armand
murmured, watching with fascination as Lucian popped
the forkful of food into his mouth and began to chew.
Judging by his expression and murmur of pleasure, he
really seemed to be enjoying the food, which was kind
of depressing since the smell wasn’t even tempting
Armand. It really looked like slop to him, brown meat,
white potatoes with a brown sauce and ugly green peas.
Not very appetizing at all. Grimacing to himself, Armand
asked, “So what’s this favor?”
Lucian raised his eyebrows. “Not going to ask
me how Thomas and his new life mate are doing?”
Armand felt his mouth tighten at the mention of his
son and his new wife, but couldn’t resist asking,
“How are they?”
“Very well. They’re in Toronto at the moment,
visiting,” Lucian answered. “You haven’t
met his Inez yet, have you?”
“No,” Armand muttered.
“Did you ever get to meet Nicholas’s Annie?”
Lucian asked with what sounded like mild curiosity.
“No.” Armand’s voice was a husky
growl. Clearing his throat, he asked, “Now what’s
Lucian peered at him for a moment, but then turned
his attention to cutting into his beef and announced,
“I need a safe house for one of my enforcers for
a couple of weeks.”
“And you were thinking I could supply that?”
Armand asked with surprise.
Lucian shrugged. “I don’t know why you’re
surprised. You live way the hell out here in the backwoods.
No one but myself and Thomas know where the farm is,
and this is a rinky dink little town where no one’s
likely to see her.”
“Her?” Armand asked curiously.
“Eshe d’Aureus,” he said, cutting
off another piece of beef. “Castor’s daughter.”
“Castor d’Aureus,” Armand murmured
with respect. He’d never got the chance to meet
the man, but he certainly knew the name. Castor was
a hero to their people. Back in the early days when
immortals had joined the rest of the world, one of their
number, a no-fanger named Leonius Livius had caused
trouble for both the mortals and immortals alike. So
much trouble, in fact, it had forced the other immortals
to form a council and hunt down him and his progeny.
It was Lucian and Castor who had slain the monster that
Leonius Livius had become. In the middle of the battle
field, while rogue no-fangers and the council’s
fanged army had fought all around them, Lucian had pinned
the man to the ground with his spear and Castor had
severed his head from his body. Both of them had been
“He wasn’t a hero,” Lucian said quietly.
“He was just a good man and a fine soldier. He
was also my friend and before he died, he asked me to
look out for Eshe and his family should anything happen
to him. Well, I’m trying to keep my promise. I
need Eshe out of harm’s way until we get this
matter resolved. I’m thinking that will take about
“What is this matter you have to resolve?”
sighed and set his fork and knife aside. His voice
was grim when he admitted, “Apparently we didn’t
get all the sons when we took out Leonius. At least
one survived. He calls himself Leonius Livius the
“You mean there’s been one of his spawn
running around all these centuries?” Armand asked
with amazement. If he was anything like his father,
his atrocities should not have gone unnoticed all this
“He’s been alive and flourished,”
Lucian assured him dryly. “The man has at least
twenty sons that we know of. Or had,” he added
with satisfaction. “We’ve weeded some out.
Apparently he’s smarter than his father though.
That or there’s someone who has managed to keep
him on a tight reign. He hasn’t gone in for wholesale
slaughter like his father enjoyed, or started any breeding
camps. He’s kept his victims to one or two women
at a time and the occasional unfortunate family. He
only came to our attention earlier this summer. He kidnapped
two women from a grocery store parking lot up north.
My men got one of the females away and killed three
or four of his sons, but then had to hunt down the other
female and the man who had taken her. Eshe was in on
the search and was apparently spotted and recognized.
Now my sources say he’s targeted her for revenge
for his father’s death.”
Armand nodded solemnly. “Has he targeted your
Leigh too or anyone else in the family?”
“I don’t think he knows about Leigh. In
any case that doesn’t matter, I can keep her safe.
But Eshe is another matter. She’s one of my enforcers
and as stubborn and proud as her father ever was. She
was ready to walk down the main street in Toronto nude
to get his attention and have her chance at him when
she heard he was looking for her.”
“So she’s like a female version of you,
huh?” Armand asked with amusement.
“Ha ha,” Lucian said dryly.
Armand chuckled at his sour expression. “If she’s
as bad as all that, how do you plan to convince her
to hide out on my farm until you catch this guy?”
“Yeah . . . well . . . that was a problem,”
Lucian muttered, picking up his knife and fork again.
His expression was surly as he admitted, “She
delights in flouting my orders. The best way to get
her to do anything is to have me tell her to do the
opposite. If she weren’t Castor’s daughter
. . .” Lucian glowered briefly, but then shook
his head. “Fortunately, even she wouldn’t
dare disobey a direct order from the council.”
“I see,” Armand drawled slowly, his eyes
narrowing suspiciously on his brother. “And she’s
agreed to stay on my farm twiddling her thumbs for several
“Two weeks,” he pointed out, avoiding his
gaze. “And as I said, even she wouldn’t
disobey a direct order from the council.”
“So she isn’t going to be happy,”
Armand surmised dryly.
Lucian shrugged. “She’s too polite to take
it out on you . . . probably,” he added with a
grin. “Just keep her busy. Take her on picnics,
and hay rides or whatever you hayseeds do.”
“Hayseeds?” Armand echoed with disgust.
Lucian rolled his eyes. “Just keep her distracted
and I’ll call the minute it’s safe for her
to return to Toronto.” He started to lift a bite
of beef to his lips and then glanced past Armand and
froze. His eyes widened, a curse slipped from his lips
and then he whispered, “I’m going to kill
“Who?” Armand asked with confusion, and
then turned to follow Lucian’s gaze to the dark
road outside. He peered at the long stretch of highway
for a minute, slow to recognize the fiery vision approaching
for what it was, a motorcycle with red, yellow and orange
LED lights around the tires and across the body that
made it look like the bike was roaring up the road aflame.
It was one hell of a magnificent sight.
“Eshe,” Lucian snapped, finally answering
his question. “I told her to make herself less
“Ah,” Armand murmured, biting his lip to
keep from grinning. It was the rare person, immortal
or otherwise, who went against Lucian’s orders
and he couldn’t help being amused that Eshe d’Aureus
was apparently one of them. This was far away from being
inconspicuous. There were probably eyes peering out
the windows of every house she was passing and fingers
excitedly punching in numbers on phones as word spread
about the super cool motorcycle that just rode past
their place. It would be the main topic of conversation
tomorrow in the diner as those who had seen it described
it to those who hadn’t. Not much went on in this
The motorcycle roared into the diner parking lot, spitting
up gravel and then eased to a halt beside Armand’s
pickup. He had a moment to get a closer view of the
array of lights on the machine before the engine fell
silent and the rider disembarked. The woman was tall,
at least six feet, and she appeared to be all lean muscle
in the black leather she wore. She also moved with the
predatory grace of a panther stalking its prey as she
walked to the door of the diner.
“I’m going to tan her hide,” Lucian
growled as she walked past their window toward the
entrance of the diner.
thought he wouldn’t mind volunteering for the
job as his gaze automatically dropped to the hide
his brother thought needed tanning. The woman had
a perfect body with a nice round rump he suspected
would be a pleasure to touch for any reason . . .
and he was contemplating the various reasons for doing
just that--none of which included tanning her hide--when
she opened the diner door and stepped inside, ending
his view of her behind. It forced him to shift his
attention to her front as she paused inside the door
to undo her jacket and peer around. It was quite a
nice view too, he had to admit. She still wore her
helmet, so he couldn’t see her face, but everything
else on display was lovely. Black leather pants stretched
tight over long, lean legs, but she also wore the
black leather jacket now open to reveal some sort
of black leather corset that left the upper curves
of her breasts on display. The woman had rich, mahogany
skin that seemed to gleam under the diner’s
fluorescent lights as if she’d powdered herself
with some sort of shimmery powder.
“I told you to make yourself inconspicuous.”
Lucian glared at the woman as she spotted them and approached.
“You said to make myself less conspicuous,”
she corrected in a calm voice that made Armand think
of smooth warm carmel poured over ice cream. It was
something he used to enjoy when he was with his life
mate, he recalled and then his thoughts scattered
as she began to remove her helmet and added, “And
I did. See?”
Armand didn’t know what Lucian was supposed to
see, but he was seeing what he considered to be the
finest looking woman he’d seen in a long time.
Eshe d’Aureus had huge, beautiful eyes that glowed
golden with black flecks, a straight Egyptian nose and
the most seductive lips he’d ever seen. He found
her heart-stoppingly beautiful . . . and nowhere near
“Eshe,” Lucian growled with little patience.
“Dying your hair hardly makes you less conspicuous
when you’re on that carnival bike of yours.”
Armand’s eyes shifted to her hair. She wore it
short on the sides and a little longer on top, and was
presently running her long fingers through in an effort
to repair the flattening influence of the helmet, but
it looked a perfectly natural dark brown, almost black
to him. Although, there appeared to be a fleck of lighter
color at the ends in some places. He couldn’t
stop himself from asking, “What does it normally
“She usually dyes it a combination of red and
blonde on the end halves of the top strands so that
it looks like her head’s on fire,” Lucian
informed him dryly, and then turned to Eshe. “You
did a piss poor job of dying it. There’s still
some color at the ends.”
Eshe rolled her eyes with exasperation and began
to slide into Armand’s side of the booth, forcing
him to make room for her. “God, Lucian, you’re
never happy. Honestly! It’s not like I had time
to make a hair appointment and get it done properly.
I had to do it myself and I am not a hairdresser.
This is the best I could do in the time you gave me.”
She set her helmet on the table in front of her and
rested her chin on her hands on top of it as she grinned
at Lucian. “So it’s all your fault if
you aren’t happy with it.”
“Couldn’t you at least have come out in
your car instead of that damned motorcycle?” Lucian
“Oh, yes, because a red Ferrari would be so much
less conspicuous down here in Hicksville,” Eshe
said dryly and then glanced to Armand. “No offense.”
“None taken,” he assured her before clearing
his throat and forcing himself to turn away when he
realized he was grinning at her like an idiot.
“Ferrari?” Lucian asked with surprise.
“What happened to the convertible?”
“I sold it,” she said with a shrug. “The
Ferrarri was prettier and I only have the one parking
space at the apartment for both the bike and car, so
the convertible had to go.”
“A Ferrarri?” Lucian looked horrified.
“It was bad enough when you had the Mustang convertible,
but a Ferrarri with all the power it has under the hood?
You’re a speed demon. You’ll kill yourself
with it. You had better be following the speed limits.”
Armand stared at his brother with fascination. Lucian
had never been much of a talker, mostly grunting and
glaring at everyone, but Eshe appeared to exasperate
him into speaking. He’d never thought he’d
see the day. His thoughts were distracted when Eshe
said dryly, “Of course . . . Daddy.”
Armand’s eyes widened, but she wasn’t done.
Smile widening as Lucian grew grimmer, she commented,
“I hope Leigh pops out some babies for you soon,
Lucian. Maybe you’ll stop daddying the rest of
“Daddying?” Armand asked doubtfully. He
could think of a lot of words to describe Lucian--bossy
and bully among them--but daddy just wasn’t on
“Yes, Daddying,” Eshe said with a friendly
smile his way. “He’s forever telling everyone
what to do and where to go and so on. He’s like
a big old grumpy daddy.”
“Your father--” Lucian began, but she cut
dad asked you to look out for me and my brothers and
sisters should anything happen to him and you’re
just trying to live up to that promise yadda yadda,”
she said in a bored voice that suggested she’d
heard that argument a thousand times at least. “That
argument carried some weight back when I was a kid,
Lucian, but it’s been more than a millennia.
You’re only a hundred years older than me, for
cripes sake. Get over it already. I’m sure my
father didn’t mean for you to play guardian
“You’re only a hundred years younger than
Lucian?” Armand asked with surprise. “You
seem a lot younger.”
“Why thank you!” She turned and beamed
a smile on him that had Armand almost sighing, and then
she stuck out her hand, “Hello, I’m Eshe
d’Aureus and you’re Armand Argeneau.”
“Yes.” He took her hand and shook it, smiling
at how small and soft it felt in his own. “So
why aren’t you as grumpy as Lucian? I always thought
it was his age.”
Eshe snorted at the suggestion. “Not hardly.
Father time over there just likes to carry the weight
of the world—not to mention passing time--on his
shoulders like a Vampiric Atlas. Me? I enjoy life to
the best of my abilities and leave Lucian and others
like him to be the grump masters.”
“There are others like Lucian?” Armand
asked with doubt.
Eshe raised her eyebrows. “Not travelled much
in Europe? Because there are a ton of them over there.
Especially Britain. Even the mortal males when they
get older are grumpy and bossy in Britain. I think it’s
a law or something.”
Armand was just smiling at what she said and trying
to think of something to encourage her continued disrespect
of Lucian--which was incredibly fresh and exciting in
a turning him on kind of way to Armand—when his
cell phone began to chirp it’s funeral dirge.
Grimacing, he slipped it from his pocket, flipped it
open and pressed it to his ear, wincing when Paul, his
manager at the farm, began to squawk in panicked tones.
When the man paused to take a breath, he took the opportunity
to say, “I’m on my way. I’m only at
the diner. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
“Trouble at home?” Lucian asked dryly as
Armand snapped the phone closed and slipped it back
in his pocket.
Armand nodded and began to slide out of the booth as
Eshe got out to make way for him. “One of my dairy
cows is calving and there’s a problem with the
“I thought you had a wheat farm?” Eshe
asked, glancing up with surprise in her eyes as he straightened
“I do, but we have a couple of dairy cows too
and some chickens, goats . . .” He shrugged. “Most
farmers keep them to save on groceries.”
“And what do you do with them?” she asked
curiously, assuming correctly that he didn’t eat.
“My manager takes some of the goods, but mostly
we supply meat and eggs and milk to the diner here.”
“We’ll follow you home,” Lucian announced,
hurriedly shoving more food into his mouth.
“Take your time. I’ll be down at the barn,
but make yourselves at home. The front door is always
unlocked.” When Lucian raised an eyebrow at that,
he said wryly, “It’s the country. No one
bothers anyone out here and crime is pretty rare.”
He waited just long enough for Lucian to grunt an acknowledgement
and then smiled at Eshe and strode out of the diner.
He could feel her watching him as he left and wished
he could watch her too. She was a beautiful woman and
he was looking forward to her company at the farm. His
manager handled things during the day and had the evenings
off and Armand was usually alone there. It would be
nice to have someone to talk to for a change, especially
someone he found attractive. It had been a long time
since he’d found anyone attractive in more than
a passing fancy kind of way. Even his second and third
wives hadn’t been that attractive to him. His
affection for them had been based more in friendship
and companionship than in pure animal lust. Armand suspected
it was going to be difficult to keep his distance from
the lovely Eshe d’Aureus. . . and wasn’t
even sure if he really wanted to anyway.
Eshe watched Armand walk out of the restaurant, her
eyes sliding from his broad shoulders to the narrow
waist and then down over his behind and legs. He had
a confident walk with a hint of a swagger that was purely
unconscious she was sure, a natural rolling of his feet
and shifting of hips as he moved. His broad shoulders
remained straight, his head high. With his rugged features
and silver blue eyes, she hadn’t been able to
help but notice that he was a good looking man, but
then she hadn’t met an Argeneau male who wasn’t.
They weren’t all classically handsome, but they
had a certain something. Armand seemed to have been
gifted with a little extra helping of that certain something.
“You should see if you can read him.”
Eshe glanced around with surprise at that comment from
Lucian. He was halfway through his meal and eating quickly.
She settled back in the booth to watch him, eyeing the
food curiously. It smelled good, she noted and asked
in a distracted voice, “Why would I want to do
“The real question is why haven’t you already
done so?” he said dryly, scooping up potatoes
and peas together onto his fork. “I have known
you a long time, Eshe. You read every newcomer you encounter
. . . whether they are mortal or immortal.”
scowled at him as he popped the food into his mouth,
mostly because he was right. She wouldn’t admit
this to anyone, but she was eager to meet a new life
mate and enjoy the peace and passion she had enjoyed
with her first life mate for several centuries. Life
was terribly drab and boring without the vibrancy
a life mate brought to it. That being the case, the
first thing she usually did on meeting someone was
try to read them. Although try wasn’t the correct
term since she hadn’t yet met anyone she couldn’t
read. The only reason she could think that she hadn’t
read Armand was that she had been too busy annoying
Lucian. It was a pass time she’d enjoyed for
centuries. After living so long, life could get a
bit boring at times. A gal had to amuse herself somehow.
Still, it was unusual for her to not read newcomers,
and Eshe had to wonder why she hadn’t. Shrugging
the question aside, she glanced to Lucian.
“So did he buy your story about me needing a
safe house?” she asked quietly as she watched
Armand Argeneau get in his pickup and pull out of the
Lucian nodded without even glancing her way. “Why
Eshe made a face. “I suppose. It’s not
like he knows me. If he knew me he wouldn’t think
I was willing to hide out anywhere.”
“Hmmm,” Lucian murmured, finishing off
his food. “Well, do me a favor and try not to
make that too obvious while you’re down here.”
“Right,” she murmured and then when he
pushed his plate away and stood up, she rose as well
and asked curiously, “Do you really think he could
have killed his wives?”
“No,” Lucian acknowledged, digging out
his wallet to throw a twenty on the table. “But
then I didn’t think Jean Claude could do what
he did either.”
Eshe frowned as she retrieved her helmet from the table.
She followed him toward the diner door, asking, “Why
don’t you just read him and see if he did it?
For that matter, why didn’t you read Jean Claude?”
“Because I couldn’t.”
The words startled her so much that Eshe stopped walking.
She could understand his not being able to read Jean
Claude who had been his twin, but Armand . . . “You’re
four hundred years older than Armand.”
Pausing at the door, Lucian glanced back and grimaced.
“For some reason--which I’ve never been
able to work out--there are some siblings and even one
or two nieces and nephews in the family that I can’t
“Really?” Eshe asked with interest as she
finally began to move again and joined him by the door.
“I didn’t know that.”
“It’s not something I advertise,”
he said dryly, pushing through the door.
“No, I suppose not,” she murmured, trailing
him outside. “So, why do you suspect Armand? It’s
not just because you can’t read him.”
“No it’s not,” he agreed, walking
to a dark van parked several feet past her motorcycle.
“And it’s not that I suspect him so much
as I don’t feel I can afford not to. As far as
I can tell, his being their husband is the only connection
between his three wives. And then Annie was his son’s
“And Nicholas wasn’t killed, just put on
the run to prevent his discovering whatever it is Annie
might have learned,” Eshe murmured thoughtfully.
She knew the whole story. Armand Argeneau had lost three
wives to “accidents.” Each more than a hundred
years apart and each after marrying him and giving birth
to one child. His daughter-in-law had also died in a
tragic and somewhat freak accident after marrying his
son. Annie had been pregnant, but hadn’t yet given
birth to what would have been their first child when
she died. Both had perished in that freak accident.
More important to the situation was that it appeared
Annie had been asking questions about the deaths of
Armand’s wives before her sudden death, and while
speaking to Nicholas on the phone the night before her
accident, she told him she had something to tell him
when he got home. However, she died before she could
tell him whatever that was and when Nicholas had set
out some weeks later to ask Annie’s friend if
she knew what it was his wife had wanted to tell him,
he had somehow ended up in his basement with a dead
mortal in his arms, her blood in his mouth and a blank
spot in his memory.
Nicholas, a rogue hunter Eshe had worked with a couple
of times before these events, had been on the run since
that night fifty years ago, but had recently turned
himself in to save his new life mate. However, Annie’s
phone call and the blank spot where the murder of the
mortal should have been were enough to make Lucian reluctant
to execute him as was expected. Instead he’d assigned
Eshe the task of sorting out the mess and finding out
what really happened to Armand’s wives, and hopefully,
Annie and Nicholas. It was a pretty demanding task,
almost impossible to do since Armand’s first wife
had died in 1449.
“Follow me to the house,” Lucian said as
he got into his van.
Eshe merely nodded and moved to her motorcycle, pulling
her helmet on as she went. Her actions were automatic
as she mounted and started the bike, her mind on Armand
Argeneau and the possibility that he had had something
to do with the deaths of his wives and then Annie. It
definitely wouldn’t be a happy thought to anyone
who knew and cared at all for the Argeneau clan and
Eshe was one of those people. The Argeneaus were presently
enjoying a happy period after centuries of misery and
oppression by Lucian’s brother Jean Claude and
didn’t need this kind of thing to blight their
Sighing, she forced herself to focus on the task at
hand and followed Lucian’s van out of the parking
Armand’s farm wasn’t far from the diner
which was probably good since—despite her best
efforts—Eshe couldn’t get her mind off thoughts
of Armand Argeneau. It kept replaying the few moments
in the restaurant, the rough base of his voice, and
the way his eyes twinkled when he smiled. It left her
little attention for driving, but Eshe automatically
slowed when the van’s break lights came on, then
forced herself to concentrate as she followed it onto
a long paved driveway lined with trees. The trees were
old and large, their branches stretching like a canopy
over the road and blocking out the stars overhead. It
was actually startling when they suddenly fell away
on either side, revealing an old Victorian farmhouse.
Eshe stopped behind the van when it came to a halt,
and then drove around to park beside it on the circular
drive in front of the house. Her eyes travelled over
the building as she did. It was an old Victorian gabled
farm house of yellow brick with gingerbread trim and
a porch that ran its length along the front. The porch
rail ran along both sides of a set of four steps, leading
up to double doors that were dead center in the front
of the building. One of the inner wooden doors was open,
allowing light to spill out of the closed screen door
as well as the windows on either side, adding to the
illumination from the porch light that shone over the
doors in a welcoming manner.
turned off her motorcycle and disembarked, her gaze
sliding over the abode with interest as she removed
her helmet. While the building was old, it was in
good repair, either tended with love over the hundred
or so years since it had been built, or refurbished
at some point and restored to its original glory.
Her guess would have been well tended rather than
refurbished; the gingerbread trim and wavy window
glass looked authentic to her.
“Your guess would be right,” Lucian announced
appearing at her side.
Eshe scowled at him for reading her mind, a rude habit
the man had and never apologized for, and then her gaze
slid to the cooler he carried and she breathed out a
little sigh at the thought of the blood it probably
contained. Lucian’s call had woken her up mid-afternoon
and she’d been in such a rush to get down here,
that she hadn’t thought to feed before leaving.
She was beginning to feel it.
Lucian smiled faintly at her thoughts and waved her
forward. “Then lead the way and you can have a
bag or two while I put the rest of these in Armand’s
Eshe nodded, retrieved her bag from the CruzPac on
the back of her motorcycle and started toward the house.
“That’s it? That’s your idea of packing
for a trip?” Lucian asked eyeing her bag with
“What were you expecting? A steamer trunk?”
she asked dryly. “Besides, I wasn’t sure
how country folk dress. I thought I’d buy a couple
of things down here once I figure that out.”
“You make it sound like farmers are another race
entirely,” Lucian said half with disgust and half
“As if you don’t think the same thing,”
she said dryly, and then added, “Besides, they
are as far as I can tell.” Eshe shook her head
as she admitted, “I just don’t understand
why anyone would bury themselves out here in the back
woods. I had enough of that nonsense in the dark ages,
thank you very much. Outhouses hold no attraction for
me. I prefer city living.”
“I believe they have plumbing out here now,”
Lucian said with amusement.
“They didn’t the last time I was on a farm.”
“When was that?”
“When we were hunting that rogue down in Arkansas,”
she answered with a shudder. The living conditions in
the nest had been positively brutal. She’d actually
felt she was doing the rogue and his little mini rogues
a favor by putting them out of their misery. That had
been one of their kill order hunts, the rogues had already
been investigated and judged, but their hide out just
“For God’s sake, woman, that was seventy
or eighty years ago.”
“Not long enough ago for me to forget,”
she said with another shudder.
“If I’d known it was going to scar you,
I wouldn’t have included you in that hunt,”
he said dryly.
“Yeah, right,” she snorted. “More
like you would have made me hit all the farmhouses with
outhouses after that. Why do you think I didn’t
let you know how much it bothered me at the time? You’re
a sadistic bastard, Lucian. You would have seen it as
your duty to desensitize me to the situation.”
Lucian’s answer was a grunt as she held the screen
door for him to enter ahead of her.
“So how long are you staying, anyway?”
she asked as he moved past her and started up the long
hall. It had several doors leading off of it and a set
of stairs on one side leading to the second level. Lucian
had obviously been here before, he headed straight up
the hall toward the back of the house.
“Long enough to talk to Armand again and then
I’m heading back.”
“I figured when I saw that Leigh wasn’t
with you,” Eshe admitted with a smile as she mentioned
his life mate. The two were rarely apart and she’d
honestly expected to find the woman at the diner with
Lucian and Armand when she’d arrived.
“She and Marguerite are having a girl’s
night out, some time at the spa, dinner, and a movie,”
Lucian announced as he led the way into the last room
on the back left side of the house. “I’d
like to be home before her if I can.”
Eshe murmured acknowledgement of his comment, but her
attention was on the room they’d entered. The
light was off, but enough of it was streaming in from
the hallway that Eshe could see it was a country style
kitchen with wide plank wood floors, a brick-faced outer
wall, three inner walls painted what appeared to be
a sunny yellow, an island by the refrigerator and what
appeared to be an old fashioned wood burning stove.
The name Elmira on the front told her that it was probably
a gas stove, specially designed to appear to be authentic
to the Victorian home.
Her gaze shifted to Lucian as he set the cooler on
the stone topped island. When Eshe paused beside him,
he opened the container, retrieved a bag of blood and
handed it to her.
Eshe murmured a thank you, leaned her hip against the
island, opened her mouth, waited for her fangs to slide
down and then quickly popped the bag to them.
Lucian then turned to open the refrigerator behind
him. When he peered inside and grunted, Eshe shifted
to look around his shoulder. Her eyebrows rose when
she saw there wasn’t a single bag of blood inside.
Either they had arrived between deliveries or Armand
kept his blood supply somewhere else.
Shaking his head, Lucian turned back to begin transferring
the blood bags from the cooler to the refrigerator
and Eshe backed up a couple of steps
to give him room. The bag at her mouth was nearly
empty and Lucian was turning to set two bags in the
refrigerator when he suddenly dropped them and whirled
toward her, his hand shooting over her shoulder and
past her head.
Eshe heard a choked sound from directly behind her
and quickly glanced over her shoulder. Her eyes widened
incredulously as she saw the man dangling in the air
behind her, Lucian’s hand around his throat
and a knife clenched in one hand.