Home > Immortal Angel (Argeneau #31)

Immortal Angel (Argeneau #31)
Author: Lynsay Sands

Prologue

Pain dragged Jack back to consciousness, bone deep agony all over his body that made him grimace before he even opened his eyes. Unfortunately, grimacing just added to his suffering, so he flattened out his features again to avoid it and opened his eyes instead. That caused a new flare-up of pain, but he ignored it and peered out of sore swollen eyes at the dark open space he was in.

Glow-in-the-dark paint covered the walls in some imaginative graffiti. But he knew there was more that wasn’t glow-in-the-dark. He’d seen it the last time he was conscious thanks to the light his captors had brought with them. He’d also seen the broken tile floor his chair sat on.

He was in an old abandoned building somewhere. Jack had decided that the last time he’d been awake. He had no idea where, though. He’d been unconscious when they brought him here, a result of a sucker punch he’d taken while distracted by Lacy having a gun to her head.

That thought was quickly followed by the sound of a whimper from across the room and Jack shifted his head until he could see Lacy. She lay curled up on the floor against the wall. The position and her whimpering cries had worried him the first time he’d regained consciousness. He’d feared their kidnappers had hurt her while he was unconscious. But it had turned out that wasn’t the case. She was just frightened. Jack understood, this hadn’t exactly turned out to be a dream date, but he could have done without her sobbing, weeping, and wailing as the men had beaten him. That had made him want to slap her. He was the one who’d gotten his ass kicked, but she’d carried on like it was her being beaten within an inch of her life.

Sighing, he closed his eyes briefly, thinking that his partner, Deedee, would have been untying him and fighting at his side to get them out of there, but not Lacy. She wasn’t tied up, and hadn’t been hurt, but wouldn’t move from the spot they’d placed her in when they got here no matter what Jack had said to try to convince her when he’d first woken up to find them alone there. She was too scared to listen to him, too scared to save herself, let alone both of them.

It made him wish he’d kept fighting rather than stopping when the gun had been put to her head and he’d been told to stop or her brains would be blown out. At the time, Jack had thought, or hoped, he might find a way to get them both safely away later if he gave in then. A preference to seeing her killed. Now he knew that wasn’t likely, and wondered if he shouldn’t have risked her being shot and kept fighting. At least, one of them would have survived then, and really, if she wasn’t even going to try, did she deserve to survive this?

Guilt drenched Jack’s mind at these thoughts. Lacy was a teacher, not an FBI agent like himself. She had no training, or even any experience in dealing with high stress, dangerous situations. Unfortunately, she also apparently had no survival instinct at all.

Used to ball-busting female agents who could handle most any situation thrown at them, Jack had found her helplessness appealing when they met. She’d seemed delicate and ever so much a lady to him, like a fragile flower. He’d found that ridiculously attractive . . . until tonight. Christ, even roses had thorns, he thought as Lacy released another shuddering whimper.

Mouth tightening despite the pain it caused, Jack shifted his attention to the rest of the room, looking for something to help them out of this. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, but it didn’t help. Unfortunately, their captors hadn’t thoughtfully left a weapon lying about, or anything that might be used to remove his ropes. It was just a large, empty room, the only furniture the chair he was tied to, and the only light came from the streetlights outside. Not much of it was making its way through the filthy windows. They were probably in an old abandoned government building, or one of the empty structures at or near the university, he thought and then let the thought drift away as unimportant. It didn’t matter where they were if he couldn’t get loose and get them out of there.

Jack’s gaze slid back to Lacy as she whimpered again, and he was about to try one more time to convince her to at least flee for help and save herself if not him, when the sound of rusty hinges announced a door opening and the return of their captors.

“Awake, I see.”

Jack considered closing his eyes and pretending he’d passed out again, but doubted it would work. So, instead, he raised his chin and glared defiantly at the speaker. Grizzly Adams, as he’d come to call him because he was huge with a lot of facial hair, was leading four men toward him while four more were spreading out around the room to keep an eye out the windows.

Just to be sure they weren’t caught by surprise by someone hearing his screams of pain and approaching the building, Jack supposed.

“Your boss still not here?” he asked with more bravado than curiosity. Although, the attempt at bravado made a poor showing with his words coming out slurred and somewhat garbled by his swollen mouth and possibly broken jaw.

“Nope. He’s been delayed,” Grizzly Adams said with a grin. “Good news, right? Means we get to play a little longer.”

Since getting to play meant Grizzly Adams could continue to pummel his face and chest with his big meaty fists while Jack sat there helplessly taking the blows and trying not to scream as he waited to pass out from the pain, he didn’t really see that as a good thing. He’d almost prefer for “the boss,” whoever that was, to show up and kill him or whatever the endgame was. It seemed obvious he wasn’t going to escape. Might as well get it over with. Although, it would be nice to know what this was all about. Grizzly Adams wasn’t talking, however. All he’d say is the boss wanted to tell him himself. Obviously it had something to do with his work. The boss was probably someone he’d put away at some point in his career, or a relative of someone he’d put away and it would be nice to know why he was going to die.

Jack’s thoughts were scattered by an explosion of pain in his chest as Grizzly Adams delivered his first blow and, he was sure, broke another one of his ribs. Christ, the man had fists like bowling balls. The impact and pain brought a broken woof of sound from him, but made Lacy shriek like they were connected and she felt the pain. He’d barely noted that when a second blow landed, this one to the already broken jaw. It sent his face turning sharply to the right.

Stars exploding in front of his eyes, Jack had to blink to clear his vision enough to see when a door burst open at the end of the room. It flew inward, crashing against the wall with the impact of an explosion, raising dust and dirt in a cloud that partially obscured the figure now standing in the doorway. At first, Jack assumed “the boss” had arrived, but as the dust storm settled and he took in the silhouette framed against the streetlight pouring into the room, he realized it was a woman and a very shapely one at that. Which didn’t mean it couldn’t be the boss, he supposed, but the reactions of his captors made it clear it wasn’t.

For one second they were all tense and silent with shock like himself, but then they each relaxed and even began to smile.

“Well, look what we have here, boys,” Grizzly Adams said, a mean grin pulling at his lips. “Someone else to play with . . . The boss said no messing with the schoolteacher, but he didn’t say anything about wild women who wander into our playing field.”

Jack blinked at the wild woman comment. He couldn’t see her well, but with the light surrounding her like a nimbus, she looked more like an angel to him than a wild woman. Until the men started toward her. The moment one got close his angel turned into a demon.

God in heaven, she moved fast, Jack thought with awe as she went from completely motionless to a Tasmanian-devil-speed spin from which her leg shot out and caught the nearest man in the head. It was a hard hit, lifting him off his feet before he flew backward and crashed to the floor. He didn’t get up, Jack noted before shifting his attention back to the woman. The other men were converging on her much more swiftly now. No doubt they were angry at what she’d done to their cohort and eager to get some revenge.

Instead, what they got was pain and a close personal introduction to the same floor their unconscious friend now lay on. The woman took out all comers, one, two, and three at a time as they reached her. Jack could hardly track her, she moved so fast, and even he had to wince as he heard various bones snap and watched skulls bounce off the cracked tile floor. By the time his angel was done, nothing in the room was moving and there wasn’t a sound to be heard. Even Lacy had stopped her whining whimper.

“Breathe.” The word was a bare whisper of sound from where she stood halfway across the room, but Jack heard it and realized he’d been holding his breath. He sucked in a deep one now, and heard Lacy gasp in a shuddering breath of her own, but his gaze didn’t leave the angel. Now that she was out of the beam of light coming through the open street door, he could see her better. Not well, but enough to note that she had long, dark hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head and every stitch of clothing she wore was black leather: high-heel black leather boots, skintight black leather pants, and a tight black leather jacket that was half-open over a black leather bustier. None of which hid the killer figure it covered.

The woman was walking sin, Jack thought faintly as he watched her slide a phone out of the black leather jacket and begin to punch in numbers. Just three of them. 911 was his guess as she murmured something into the phone and then pushed a button and put it away.

“Help will be here soon.” The words were soft, almost a whisper, which made it hard for him to identify the trace of accent his ears caught. Without another word, she left the building the same way she’d entered, walking out the open door. But her exit seemed to leave a vacuum in the room that sucked the air out of it. At least, that was how it seemed to Jack as the darkness began to close in around him. His last thought before losing consciousness was that he had to find out who his angel was.

One

“Professor Straithe is late.”

“Si, but he’s always late,” Ildaria pointed out as she pulled her notebook and a pen from her knapsack and then set the bag on the floor next to her seat.

   
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