Home > Meant to Be Immortal (Argeneau #32)(8)

Meant to Be Immortal (Argeneau #32)(8)
Author: Lynsay Sands

“Ah, yes.” Simpson glanced to CJ with an apologetic smile. “Ms. Cummings, this is Captain Dupree’s wife, Audrey Dupree. Mrs. Dupree, this is CJ Cummings from the SIU.”

“Ma’am,” CJ murmured politely, offering a pleasant smile and nod.

“And this is Mr. Argeneau,” Simpson added quickly when Audrey Dupree’s eyes narrowed unpleasantly on CJ. When that didn’t draw the woman’s angry glare away from CJ, he added, “It was his house that was set on fire tonight. He nearly died.”

That did manage to get the woman’s attention off of CJ. Blinking in surprise, Audrey Dupree turned to Mac with amazement, her gaze sliding over him in his now dry pajama bottoms and T-shirt as she set her coffee on the nearest desk and rushed forward to take his hands. “Oh, my goodness, Mr. Argeneau. Are you all right? Should you be up and about? Charles said you were trapped in the house and they didn’t expect you to live, but you look fine. What—?”

“Yes, I was trapped in the house, but the firemen got me out in time and I am fine,” Mac assured her soothingly, interrupting her torrent of words, and then, smiling wryly, he managed to retrieve his hands and gestured to himself. “Not well dressed at the moment, but alive and well.”

“Well, you come sit down and I’ll fetch you a sweater or something,” Mrs. Dupree said at once, tugging him toward a chair. “I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been to be trapped in a fire like that.”

“Did the captain tell you when he expected to be back from the hospital?” Simpson asked as Mrs. Dupree tried to steer Mac toward the nearest desk chair. “I need to get this evidence logged, but I want to call him and tell him that Mr. Argeneau is alive and ask what to do about protection for him.”

“Protection?” Mrs. Dupree asked with surprise.

“Well, someone tried to kill him tonight,” Simpson pointed out gently. “He was in the house and—”

“Oh, good Lord, yes!” Mrs. Dupree said with dismay, and then turned a pitying look on Mac before saying, “I’ll call Charles after I get Mr. Argeneau a sweater. I want to talk to him anyway and see what’s happening at the hospital. You go log your evidence.”

“There’s really no need to fetch me a sweater,” Mac protested, resisting the older woman’s efforts to get him to sit down. “Really, I am fine, Mrs. Dupree.”

“You might think you’re fine, young man, but you’ve been through a traumatic event,” Audrey remonstrated firmly. “You just sit down and I’ll fetch you a sweater.” She started away before adding, “And maybe a cup of coffee with some whiskey in it to settle your nerves. Yes, that should do.”

CJ watched the woman hustle away through the open door of the captain’s office and then turned to peer at Mac, only to find him looking back. Shifting uncomfortably under his penetrating eyes, she immediately turned to Simpson and asked abruptly, “Where is the ladies’ room?”

She’d needed to go to the bathroom for the last hour at least, but had been unwilling to squat in the trees that lined Mac Argeneau’s driveway, which was where the firemen had been relieving themselves, she knew. The benefits of having a penis, she thought on a sigh.

“Follow me,” Simpson said, scooping up his evidence kit and heading for the door at the back of the room.

Uncomfortable at the idea of leaving Mac alone when someone had so recently tried to kill him, CJ hesitated, her gaze immediately going to him, but he smiled and waved her off. “Go on. Mrs. Dupree will keep me safe.”

When CJ raised one eyebrow dubiously, he added, “I saw those glares she was casting at you. The lady has a mean streak. I suspect everyone in Sandford knows that and few would cross her. I should be safe enough with her.”

The words made CJ’s lips twitch with amusement and she quickly turned to follow Simpson to hide it from Mac.

A hallway stretched out ahead of them once she followed Simpson out of the bullpen. The first door on the left led to a large room fitted out with a kitchen and three round tables for eating at. The door on her right was labeled Men. The next door on the right, though, read Ladies.

“There you are.” Simpson nodded to the door and then simply continued down the hall to the next one on the left. When he turned in there, CJ supposed it must be the evidence room, but her attention was on a metal door she could now see at the end of the hall. It had a very small glass window that she could see bars through. The cells, she realized, and turned to slip into the ladies’ room.

She wasn’t surprised to find it was a one-person bathroom. This wasn’t a huge police station, and as far as she could tell there weren’t a lot of females in it. The only one she’d seen so far was the captain’s wife, though there might be a secretary or receptionist during the day. There may even be at least one female officer. She supposed she’d find out eventually if that was the case.

Locking the door behind her, CJ tended to her business, washed her hands, and then took a minute to check emails and messages on her phone. She even quickly answered an email from her mentor at the SIU to let him know how things were going. She had started to answer another from a friend when she realized she was just delaying having to go back out to the bullpen until she was sure she wouldn’t be alone with Mac. CJ was finding herself distressingly susceptible to his cheerful charm, but didn’t like to think of herself as a coward, and that was what she was being right then.

Stopping in the middle of the second email, she saved it to Drafts and put her phone away. She then paused just long enough to take a deep breath, before leaving the ladies’ room and heading back up the hall to the bullpen.

CJ had expected Simpson and Mrs. Dupree to be back from their tasks when she entered the bullpen, but neither of them were, although Mrs. Dupree had obviously returned at some point. Mac was still seated in the desk chair the older woman had insisted he settle in, but now had a heavy woolen cardigan draped over his shoulders and a steaming cup of coffee in his hands. CJ could smell the whiskey in it from ten paces away. It didn’t look like he’d had any of it yet. He was just holding it in front of his face, allowing the whiskey-infused steam to fill his nostrils, a miserable look on his face as he peered down into the liquid. He cheered, though, when he saw her walking toward him.

“I thought you’d slipped out the back door to avoid Mrs. Dupree,” he teased in a low voice when she stopped in front of him.

“Everyone in the business is a Mrs. Dupree when it comes to SIU agents. I’m used to it,” CJ assured him, and then glanced around before asking, “Where are Mrs. Dupree and Simpson?”

“Mrs. Dupree is in there,” Mac said, nodding toward the office she’d guessed was the captain’s. “As for Simpson, I think he left.”

“Left?” CJ asked with alarm.

“I think so,” Mac answered with a shrug. “He came back, went into the office, and then left with Mrs. Dupree shooing him off like he was a kid who’d stayed up past his bedtime. She told him to . . . ‘skedaddle,’ I believe was the word.”

CJ was trying to absorb that when he added, “He only left a minute ago. I am surprised you did not pass him in the hallway on the way back from the bathroom.”

CJ was moving before he finished speaking, heading back the way she’d come. Simpson was the only officer here. He was the only protection Mac had from whoever had set his house on fire. The man couldn’t leave. Well, she supposed he could, but it would leave her as Mac’s only protection, and while she didn’t mind helping out in a pinch, she’d be damned if she was going to be roped into playing bodyguard to a man like Macon Argeneau. He was just too damned handsome and charming for her own good. Besides, she wouldn’t be much protection. She didn’t even have a gun, for heaven’s sake!

The hallway leading to the back of the building was as empty now as it had been when she’d returned from the bathroom moments earlier. CJ peeked into each room as she rushed past, even opening the doors to both the men’s room and the evidence room for a quick look around, but there was no sign of Simpson, so she continued on.

The door to the cells was the very last door in the back wall, but as she reached it, she noticed a small narrow hallway leading to the left to what was obviously an exterior door. CJ immediately turned down it and jogged to the exit. The exterior door opened easily, and she stepped out to peer over what was obviously the parking area for police cars and any vehicles they impounded. She was just in time to see a white pickup roll toward the parking lot exit.

CJ let go of the door and took several steps forward, shouting and waving her arms in an effort to get Simpson’s attention. She could’ve sworn the man peered toward her as he stopped at the road to look both ways, but if he did, he ignored her and simply pulled out onto the street and drove away.

“I don’t think he heard you.”

CJ turned to find Mac standing in the open back door of the police station. The sweater that had been draped over his shoulders was gone, but he was still carrying the cup of whiskey-laced coffee. He was holding it under his nose like it was smelling salts and he was a Victorian miss feeling faint. Never one to let something go to waste, CJ snatched the cup out of his hand as she walked past him back into the building.

“Thirsty?” Mac asked dryly, letting the door clang shut behind him as he followed her.

“You didn’t look interested in drinking it,” CJ said, slowing to glance back at him in question.

“I’m not.”

Nodding, CJ immediately raised the cup to take a drink herself, but stopped when he added, “Because, I thought, since someone appears to be trying to kill me, it might be good to keep my wits about me.”

CJ lowered the cup, irritation rushing through her even before he added, “And since you are supposed to be guarding me, it might be good if you avoided drinking as well.”

She spun on him abruptly at that, her eyes wide. “What?” she asked with amazement, and then started shaking her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Argeneau, but as I told you, I am not guarding you. That’s why I was trying to stop Officer Simpson. As the officer in control of your investigation, he should have seen to your safety before leaving.”

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