Home > Immortal Born (Argeneau #30)(14)

Immortal Born (Argeneau #30)(14)
Author: Lynsay Sands

 
“No. Neither of them could. But this time there was no screaming agony to follow and help them forget. Instead, they were left sated, no longer light blind, and were able to see the charnel house they had made of the room. The decomposing bodies of their victims were all still there, the walls spattered with their blood, and now she could smell the rot. The combination was enough to make her throw up half the blood she’d just consumed, and left her so weak Stephen had to carry her out when this time their captors returned for them.
 
“Stella said they were taken to another larger room full of people crowding around the edges while a man sat on the only chair in the middle of an open space, like a king on his throne.”
 
“Did she describe him?” Lucian asked at once. “Tell you his name?”
 
Allie bit her lip and looked thoughtful for a moment, before saying, “She told me his name. It was strange. Something I’ve never heard before, but . . .” She shook her head. “I’ll remember it eventually. I just can’t recall it right now. I think she said he had dark hair, though. And I remember her saying you wouldn’t think him a monster to look at him. He just appeared normal . . . and if you’d put him in a suit he could have been mistaken for an accountant. She said that somehow made him more terrifying. That he was so average-looking, but so horrible and soulless.”
 
Lucian frowned at her words, but nodded and sat back, apparently willing to wait to see if the name returned to her.
 
“Anyway, he welcomed them and explained that through his generosity they had been turned into vampires rather than merely becoming food for the group like the pathetic creatures they had fed on. But now they could not return to their former lives. They were his. He was their sire. They quite simply could not survive without him, and as the room they’d woken in was their grave, they must return to it before dawn every day, and must never leave it before the sun set or they would perish.”
 
“What?” Mortimer asked with disbelief.
 
When Allie merely nodded, Tybo grimaced and said, “Some of the tales and movies about vampires suggest they have to return to their coffin when the sun rises and remain until it sets or they will die. A lot also have a thing about keeping dirt from their grave in it if they want to move around and not remain in the graveyard.” He shrugged mildly. “Obviously this rogue was using a variation on that to control his turns. They wouldn’t run away while he was sleeping if they didn’t think they could leave the room where they were turned.”
 
When Mortimer grunted with disgust at that and then turned back to Allie expectantly, she raised her eyebrows. “So you don’t have to stay in coffins or something from sunrise to sunset.”
 
“It is morning right now,” Magnus pointed out gently, and she glanced out the window to the front yard with surprise.
 
“Oh. Right. I forgot,” she muttered.
 
“We do not sleep in coffins anymore, and would not have perished if we got out of them during daytime when we did,” Magnus assured her.
 
“So you did sleep in coffins at one time?” she asked with dismay.
 
“Only because it was safer,” Magnus assured her, and then noticing the way Lucian was shifting impatiently, he smiled wryly at her. “But I shall explain about that later.”
 
“Right,” she said, eyeing Lucian now herself. “Okay. So, I guess their sire lauded on quite a bit about how lucky they were he had chosen to turn them, and then he gave them a lot of . . . well, sort of rules.”
 
“What kind of rules?” Katricia asked with curiosity.
 
Allie thought briefly and then said, “He told them food was now off-limits. It would do them no good and they would just vomit it back up along with the blood they did need. He promised he’d kill them rather than put up with subjects wasting blood that way.” She tilted her head and added, “Which obviously isn’t true since Liam can eat and you guys all had the cookies and hot chocolate and aren’t getting sick.”
 
Magnus blinked at her words, realizing only then that he too had eaten a cookie, which wouldn’t be remarkable except that he hadn’t felt hunger for food for centuries. If he’d doubted that Allie might be a possible life mate, his sudden indulgence in food eliminated it. That was another sign of having met a life mate, a return of desire for food . . . and sex. Magnus didn’t yet know if he had the desire for sex. He found Allie attractive, but hadn’t suddenly become a slavering animal, wanting to rip her clothes off.
 
“Huh,” Tybo said dryly, drawing his attention back to the subject at hand. “That would have saved him money on food. No doubt it would have got expensive feeding a large crowd of rogues. He saved himself a pretty penny with that line.”
 
“Yes,” Mortimer agreed, sounding weary, although Magnus suspected it wasn’t a physical exhaustion. It was hard to see the worst of mankind day in and day out and not grow weary of soul.
 
“What other rules did he have?” Tricia asked quietly.
 
Allie thought briefly and then said, “They couldn’t wear jewelry. Stella said her earrings were lying on the floor and her pierced ears had closed up when she woke. Her sire said it was because metal wounded their bodies or something, and demanded they hand over all their jewelry for him to dispose of, which really upset her. She didn’t care about the earrings but he took her engagement and wedding ring too, and a heart pendant with a picture of her and Stephen in it that she never took off.”
 
“We can wear jewelry,” Tybo assured her, and then suggested, “He probably wanted the jewelry to pawn it.”
 
“That’s what Stella thought too,” Allie said slowly. “She wanted to take her rings and the pendant when she left, but the pendant was the only thing remaining. She did wear that with no problems, and thinks it was only still there because it wasn’t very valuable, at least not monetarily.” She paused briefly and then added, “Apparently, they were ordered to remove the jewelry of their victims and give it to him too, and he had a special group of men who committed various crimes to get more money.”
 
“You mean aside from kidnapping, and turning or killing unsuspecting mortals?” Tybo asked dryly.
 
“Who’s been kidnapping and killing mortals?”
 
Magnus glanced over his shoulder at that question to see Mortimer’s wife, Sam, eyeing them with alarm from the open door to the garage. She was a slim woman, with dark hair and large eyes, her arms presently loaded down with grocery bags.
 
As he and the other men stood and hurried to help with the groceries, Magnus heard Lucian say, “We will have to finish this after we get Sam settled,” and was surprised at the man’s show of patience. Perhaps Leigh was having an effect on him, after all, Magnus thought. That or the man was hungry for something more substantial than cookies.
 
Six
 
“Well, now that I’ve satisfied your stomachs, perhaps one of you could tell me who is kidnapping and killing mortals?”
 
Allie had just popped the last of her bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich into her mouth when Sam said that. She glanced to the woman with amusement, unsurprised at the demand. Sam seemed a rather take-charge woman. She had certainly taken charge of the men when they’d started pulling out groceries with hungry mutterings at some of the contents.
 
Noting that it was close to noon—something that had shocked Allie, who hadn’t realized how late it had gotten—Sam had suggested bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches for lunch. When everyone, even Lucian, had reacted positively to the suggestion, she’d immediately moved to start making coffee while giving each of the rest of them tasks. Mortimer had cooked the bacon, Tybo made toast, Katricia had cleaned the lettuce, and Allie had sat at the island at Magnus’s insistence and sliced the tomatoes. Meanwhile Magnus and Lucian had set the table.
 
The first two sandwiches had gone to Teddy and Liam, who had been pulled away from their cartoons to eat at the table. By the time the boys had finished and run back to the television, the coffees were poured, three large stacks of sandwiches were ready, and everybody was drooling in anticipation. There had been a stampede to the table and silence had reigned as they ate. Now that silence was over, Allie thought as Tybo answered Sam’s question.
 
“The rogues we saved Allie and Liam from,” he told her, and gave her a brief rundown of what Allie had already told them as they all stood to carry their dishes to the sink for a quick rinse before setting them in the dishwasher. By the time the dishwasher was loaded and turned on and the group returned to the table, Mortimer’s wife was caught up enough to ask, “I am guessing Liam is the reason Stella left her sire and the others?”
 
“Yes,” Allie said solemnly. “To her, his existence seemed a miracle from God.”
 
“All babies are a miracle from God,” Tricia said softly, her gaze sliding to the door and the sounds coming from the television in the room across the hall.
 
Allie supposed that was true. Every baby seemed a miracle to those around them, but that wasn’t what she was talking about, so explained, “Yes, but it was different for Stella. You have to understand she thought she was dead. That she had died in that room and risen a vampire. By that reasoning, she couldn’t have become pregnant after the turn, but must have been pregnant when she was killed and turned. Yet her baby still lived and grew inside her dead body.”
   
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