Home > Immortal Born (Argeneau #30)

Immortal Born (Argeneau #30)
Author: Lynsay Sands

Allie was curled up on the couch in front of a rerun of The Big Bang Theory, slurping down a late dinner of ramen noodles, when the knock sounded at her front door. Her lips immediately slid into a smile. It was nearly midnight and there was only one person she knew who was likely to be up this late. Stella, her neighbor from across the street, was a night owl like herself, but she was also a new mother.
Setting her noodles on the coffee table, Allie scooted off the couch and hurried to the door. It was mid-February, had been snowing most of the day, and was freezing cold outside. Too cold to be standing on a doorstep with a month-old baby.
“Oh, good, you’re still up!” the petite brunette greeted her cheerfully when Allie opened the door.
“As usual,” Allie said with amusement, automatically backing up when Stella started forward. “I’m nearly done with the project, so knocked off early.”
“And probably want to relax now,” Stella said with an apologetic smile as she shifted a bundled-up baby Liam to cradle him in one arm so she could push the door shut behind her. “Well, I won’t bother you long.” Gesturing to the bag dangling from the wrist of the arm holding Liam, she added, “I just realized that I forgot to drop this off earlier today and thought you might like—” Her cheerful chatter and smile died the moment the door thunked shut. Expression suddenly grim, she whipped the receiving blanket off of little Liam and held him out. “You have to take him.”
Allie’s eyes widened, but she took the baby and pressed him to her own chest. The moment she did, Stella tugged a doll out of the bag and began to wrap the receiving blanket around it as Liam had been wrapped in it just moments ago. Allie watched her with concern, but before she could ask what was going on, Stella announced, “They’ve found me.”
Allie’s arms tightened protectively around Liam, her concern turning to all-out fear. “What happened?”
“Nothing . . . Yet,” she added quietly. “I spotted them following me on my way home from the coffee shop.”
“So you came here.”
“Just to leave Liam with you,” Stella assured her. “Now I’m going to lead them away to keep you both safe.” Finished with the wrappings, she set the doll on Allie’s hall table and reached up to remove the heart-shaped locket she always wore. She met Allie’s gaze and asked solemnly, “You’ll keep your promise and take care of him?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Thank you,” Stella breathed, and then quickly moved around behind her to put the necklace over her head. “This has a picture of Liam’s father and me. Someday, when he’s old enough to understand, show him the picture and explain. Tell him I loved him more than anything. Don’t let him forget me.”
“No, of course I won’t,” Allie murmured, peering down at the locket where it rested against her breast next to Liam’s small, warm body. Frowning, she glanced up to see that Stella had reclaimed the swaddled doll and was settling it against her chest much as she had held Liam on arriving. Biting her lip, Allie eyed her friend with concern. “Stella—”
“I’m sure everything will be fine. This is just in case,” Stella interrupted her, and then managed a smile. “Thank you . . . for being my friend and for loving Liam.”
“I—” Allie’s mouth closed on the words she’d wanted to say. Stella was already gone. Allie stared at the closed door briefly, startled anew at the incredible speed the woman sometimes displayed. She shifted Liam to cradle him in one arm as she moved to the door and tugged the edge of the blind aside just enough to peek out. She noted Stella cooing to the “baby” as she laid it in Liam’s waiting carriage on the sidewalk in front of her porch, but then she scanned the street, searching for someone out of place or watching Stella. She didn’t see anyone, but it was dark. An army of men could be hiding out there among the row of town houses and she probably wouldn’t see them.
Biting her lip, Allie shifted her gaze back to Stella as the woman finished settling the “baby” and started pushing the carriage down the snow-covered sidewalk.
“I should have cleaned the walk again when I finished work,” Allie muttered to herself with self-recrimination. She had pulled out the snow blower and cleaned the sidewalk that afternoon, but it had continued to snow after that and there were a couple of inches of the white stuff out there. Not a crazy amount, but enough to make pushing a baby carriage a bit of a trial. Not that Stella appeared to be having trouble, Allie noted. But Stella was a lot stronger than the average woman.
Despite the hour and lack of traffic, Stella paused to check both ways before crossing the road and making her way to her own town house. Stella then scooped up the “baby” and mounted the steps to her small porch. Allie watched her unlock the door and step inside. The door was just starting to swing shut behind her when the explosion happened.
The sound was deafening, and Allie felt the floor vibrate under her feet as the building across the street shuddered. Its windows shattered, glass flying as flames roared out of them with a stunning fury before receding back inside.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure she got out the back with that crazy speed of hers,” Allie whispered when Liam began to fuss in her arms as if he had seen and understood what had just happened. The words had barely left her lips when Stella reappeared in the still-open door of the burning town house. The fake Liam was still clutched to her chest and her body was cloaked in fire. Stella stood there briefly, obscured by the flames shrouding her, and then turned back into the house and collapsed into the blaze.
Allie stared at the burning entrance to the woman’s house for a long time. She had no idea what she was waiting for. Perhaps for Stella to reappear and wave to let her know everything was all right. But that didn’t happen, and finally, she made herself release the edge of the blind so it blocked the burning house from view.
Swallowing thickly, Allie looked down at the baby in her arms. The promise Stella had mentioned was to raise and keep Liam safe if anything happened to her. Stella hadn’t been specific on what that something might be, but dying in a fiery explosion would fall into that category.
“Dear God,” Allie breathed, staring down at the little orphan in her arms. She now had a baby to care for and keep safe. Her, Allison Chambers—a thirty-year-old single woman with no children of her own, or any likelihood of ever having them—was now a . . . mother? Foster mother? Adoptive mother? She didn’t know what she was except that she was responsible for the child in her arms . . . And she didn’t know a thing about babies. She knew even less about raising vampire babies. What the hell was she supposed to do?
Magnus stepped out of the plane and stopped abruptly on the steps, his fingers tightening around the handle of his suitcase as a frigid north wind blasted over him. It was cold enough to steal his breath away and had him briefly wishing he could turn around, reseat himself on the plane, and demand to be taken home to the UK. Then he spotted the SUV pulling onto the private landing strip.
Straightening his shoulders, Magnus ducked his head and quickly descended the stairs to the tarmac, leaning into the frigid, roaring wind to do so. He was resolved to staying. He hadn’t flown all the way here from England just to turn tail at the first chill breeze and fly back home without collecting the woman he’d come for.
“What did you do? Check the weather forecast for the coldest time of year to arrive and book the flight for then?”
Magnus lifted his head at that shouted comment to see that the SUV had pulled to a halt just a few feet in front of him, and a young dark-haired male had got out on the driver’s side to rush around to him.
“Tybo,” he greeted mildly, giving up his suitcase when the younger man reached for it. “It is a bit brisk.”
“Brisk, my ass. It’s freezing.” Tybo shouted to be heard over the wind as he stowed the suitcase in the back of the SUV. Closing the door then, he hurried around to the driver’s side, adding, “I’ll be surprised if the pilot can take off now he’s here. His wings probably have ice on them already.”
Magnus merely grunted and slid into the front passenger seat, eager to enjoy the waiting warmth.
“How was the flight?” Tybo asked, fiddling with buttons and knobs to adjust the heat.
“Uneventful. I slept most of the way,” Magnus admitted as the younger man put the heat on full blast, sending a rush of warm air over him.
“Good. You’re all rested up, then, and ready to go,” Tybo muttered as he shifted the vehicle into gear and pulled a U-turn on the landing strip.
“To go?” Magnus asked, eyes narrowing. “The only place I am going is to Marguerite Argeneau Notte’s. I was told you would take me there.”
“Well, as it turns out, Marguerite came to collect you herself,” Tybo informed him.
“Then why are you driving past the house toward the gates?” Magnus asked, turning his head to stare at the Enforcer house as they passed it.
“Well, see, as I said, Marguerite came over to get you, and while waiting, she happened to be chatting to myself and Sam about your life mate—”