A quick bite, p.9
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       A Quick Bite, p.9

         Part #1 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands
 
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Chapter 8

 

  Greg hung up the phone and sat back on the couch to stare around his living room with something like bewilderment. After all his fretting over his flight to Cancun, he actually hadn't missed anything. The flight had been canceled anyway because of technical difficulties. . . whatever that meant.

  Greg had tried to book a seat on the next available flight, only to find out the next open seat wasn't until Wednesday. It had seemed stupid to him to spend all day Wednesday in airports and airplanes, just for two days in Cancun before his flight back Saturday, so Greg had spent the past half hour canceling his hotel and return flight.

  While the last twenty-four hours had been the most unusual--not to mention stressful--of his life, they hadn't affected his vacation plans at all. Those had obviously been doomed anyway. It seemed fate had something other than a week of sun, sand, and half-naked gyrating women planned for him, Greg thought, rubbing absently at his neck.

  His super was the first person who had noticed his neck. The man had stepped off the elevator with a wide smile, commenting, "Locked yourself out, huh?" Then he'd peered at him more closely, and said, "What's that on your neck? A vampire bite?"

  The man had guffawed even as he asked the question, but--not in the mood for jokes--Greg had merely shrugged the question off as the super had unlocked his apartment door. He'd then thanked him for letting him in and arranged to get spare keys made for both his apartment and the building's outer door. The super had promised to see to it and deliver them as soon as possible as he got back onto the elevator. Greg had completely forgotten his joke about his neck by the time he'd closed his door.

  After locking it, he'd leaned against the solid wood door and heaved a sigh of relief at being home, only to grimace the next moment over the predicament he was in. His coat, keys, wallet, and briefcase were all back at that house. Losing his wallet was bad enough, it had all his ID and credit cards in it, but his briefcase held his appointment calendar and his most recent patient notes.

  Unable to do anything about it, Greg had reassured himself that it was all replaceable and headed for his bedroom. After spending the last twenty-four hours in his suit, even sleeping in it, he was intent on a shower and change of clothes.

  It was while shaving that Greg had noticed the marks on his neck. There was no purple bruising from a hickey, just two neat puncture holes about an inch apart. The super's words had floated through his mind as he'd examined them. "What's that on you neck? A vampire bite?"

  The words had sounded as ridiculous in Greg's head as they had when the man had spoken them, and he'd given an uncomfortable little laugh and turned away from the mirror to get dressed. Once finished, he'd called the air port, but once that task was done. Greg found his fingers moving repeatedly to his neck. Worse yet, different memories were flooding his mind and painting a picture in his head. Marguerite accusing Lissianna of biting him when she'd found them in the bedroom, then explaining that Greg wasn't dinner. Thomas telling him that Lissianna's phobia was like Greg's fainting at the sight of food and Lissianna saying her phobia was hemaphobia.

  Then there was the conversation between the women in the back of the van on the way into the city. They'd talked about Lissianna's not being able to read him, which was why she'd bitten him. And one of the twins had commented that she wished she could feed "off the hoof, too," that it sounded much nicer than bagged blood.

  Greg continued to rub the little wounds, his mind spinning these facts over and over and causing the oddest ideas to enter his head. Ideas so crazy and impossible he was almost afraid even to think them. . . but they would explain a lot about his own behavior that he hadn't understood and which had--frankly--alarmed him: like climbing into the trunk of a strange car, then ietting himself be tied down.

  Greg shook his head in an effort to shake the crazy thoughts from his mind, but they stubbornly persisted, and he finally retrieved a pen and notepad and drew a line down the center of the top page. He then wrote Vampire/Not Vampire at the top and began to make his list, including all the conversations and noting the physical evidence of the marks on his neck as well. These all went on the Vampire half of the sheet. Then he turned his attention to the Not Vampire side and hesitated. Finally, he wrote "crazy, impossible, and don't exist. " Compared to the Vampire side, the arguments against it were pretty weak, he noted with frustration, then gave a shaky laugh.

  It seemed that everything to do with Lissianna was frustrating in one way or another.

  A knock at the door interrupted his ruminations and Greg glanced at it with irritation, then tossed the pad on the coffee table and stood to answer it. No one had buzzed, so it had to be the superintendent with the spare keys he'd promised. That was something at least. With those and the extra set of car keys in his desk drawer, he'd be free to catch a taxi to his office building to retrieve his car. Then maybe he'd go out and grab something to eat, he thought as he unlocked and opened his apartment door.

  Greg's smile froze, and his plans died a quick death as he saw who waited in the hall. Marguerite and Martine.

  Greg slammed the door, or tried to, but Marguerite had slid a foot in the way, preventing it closing. The next moment, he felt pressure and was forced backward as the door began to open. He redoubled his efforts to force it closed, but had no effect. The woman was incredibly strong, alarmingly so.

  Cursing as the door was forced open, he began to back down the hall as the women stepped inside and closed the door behind them.

  Marguerite was the first to speak. Smiling brightly, she lifted the items she held, and announced, "We brought your things. '"

  Greg stared at his briefcase and overcoat, his brain working furiously. They shouldn't be there. This was a security building. The doorman should have stopped them in the lobby and called him to see if they were allowed up, but he hadn't. He'd apparently sat idly by and let them saunter in.

  "Martine, I cannot control him. Can you?'" Marguerite asked suddenly, and Greg realized he'd been simply standing there staring at them while he tried to sort out what to do. He started to dodge to the right, thinking to make a break for the bedroom and somehow barricade the door, but Martine suddenly lunged forward and touched his arm, and just like that, Greg went still and calm. In the next moment, he had the sudden compulsion to walk into the living room and seat himself on the couch. It came from nowhere and was impossible to resist.

  Turning on his heel, Greg walked siowly into the room, Martine holding his arm as if he were escorting her. They sank onto the couch as one, but she didn't release him. Not that he seemed to be able to care. Greg watched with blank disinterest as Marguerite settled in a chair across from them.

  "Will we be able to wipe his memory?" Lissianna's mother asked with concern.

  Martine turned to peer at Greg and he felt a brief ruffling in his mind. That was the only way he could think to describe it, it was like a creeping across his scalp. After a moment, she glanced to the notepad he'd left lying on the coffee table, and said to Marguerite, "You'd better take a look at this. "

  "You haven't had your lunch break yet. You must be hungry. "

  Lissianna glanced up with a smile as her coworker Debbie James walked into her office. Fifty years old, with salt-and-pepper hair and a mothering attitude, Debbie was Lissianna's favorite coworker.

  "No, I haven't, and I am hungry, but I think I'll wait till later to--"

  "Did I hear someone say they were hungry?"

  Lissianna glanced to the door as Father Joseph walked into the office. She immediately glanced in question toward Debbie, but the other woman looked just as bewildered as she felt at the sight of the man. Father Joseph often worked long hours in the shelter, but usually left as they arrived to start their shift. Lissianna had never known him to be in the shelter at this hour. . . Unless there was an emergency that needed tending. That thought made her ask, "Is there a problem, Father Joseph?"

  "No, no. Why would you think so?"
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  "Well, it's so late--" she began.

  "Oh, I see," he interrupted, then looked away, his gaze shifting around the office before he blurted, "insomnia. I occasionally suffer insomnia. " He smiled brightly, then held up a plastic food container. "So I was cooking to pass the time, and I made a batch of soup, then I thought I couldn't eat the whole batch myself so I brought some over for you girls. " He beamed from her to Debbie.

  "Oh, wow, that--I've already eaten," Debbie said abruptly, as he opened the resealable plastic container, and gar¨¹c immediately permeated every corner of the room.

  "But Lissianna hasn't," Father Joseph smiled at her brightly. "Have you?"

  "Er. . . " Lissianna peered at the soup dubiously. It was white and creamy, and could have been cream of potato, but it reeked of garlic. Lissianna rarely ate food anymore, and the smell of garlic was pretty strong, not that she didn't like garlic. She did, but the smell coming from the Tupperware was really strong. On the other hand, she didn't want to hurt his feelings. "Thank you. That would be nice. "

  "I just finished making it. It's still warm. Here. " He held out the container, then reached in his pocket and retrieved a spoon and handed it over as well.

  Lissianna accepted the soup and spoon and forced a smile. When Father Joseph stared at her expectantly, she realized there was nothing for it and scooped out a spoonful. The moment it hit her mouth, she regretted her innate politeness. The scent of garlic had been strong, but that was nothing next to the taste. It was almost as thick as mashed potatoes, but it wasn't cream of potato soup. If she were to hazard a guess she would have said it was straight pureed garlic, warmed up. At least that's what it tasted like, and it was so strong it burned her mouth and throat as she swallowed.

  "Lissianna!" Debbie shouted with alarm as she began to choke. Rushing around the desk the other woman took the plastic bowl from her and began to slap her back.

  "Debbie!" Father Joseph cried. "Give her some room to breathe. "

  Lissianna was vaguely aware of Father Joseph grabbing the other woman's arm to pull her out of the way and she was grateful for it as she rushed past them, into the hallway, and straight to the watercooler. It seemed to take forever to get to the cooler, grab a plastic glass, and fill it with water. Lissianna was almost tempted to kneel before the bloody thing, stick her mouth under the spout, and let the liquid pour straight in, but managed to restrain herself. She gulped the water down with relief, then filled it again. It took three glasses before her mouth stopped burning.

  Starting to feel a bit better, Lissianna grabbed a fourth glass and turned to walk back into her office, pausing at the sight of Debbie and Father Joseph in the doorway.

  "Are you okay?" Debbie asked with concern.

  "Yes, yes. It was just a little. . . er. . . strong," she said delicately, not wanting to hurt Father Joseph's feelings.

  Debbie peered down at the bowl she held, lifted out a spoonful, and took a careful lick. Her face immediately flushed red, then paled. She shoved the bowl into Father Joseph's hand, then flew forward to snatch at the glass of water. Lissianna gave it up without a battle and immediately turned to fill a second glass as Debbie downed the first.

  It had taken three glasses to put out the fire in Lis-sianna's mouth from the spoonful of garlic. It took four for Debbie's small lick. Once they were both relatively recovered, they turned to face Father Joseph. He was glancing from them to the soup with disappointment.

  "I guess it didn't work," Father Joseph muttered.

  "Didn't work?" Debbie asked.

  "The recipe," he said on a sigh, as he put the lid back on the container.

  "Well, it cleaned my sinuses," Debbie said with a wry grin. "Maybe you should save that recipe for when one of us has a cold. "

  "Hmm. " Father Joseph turned away and trudged up the hall, looking terribly disheartened.

  "That was absolutely the worst soup I have ever tasted," Debbie said as soon as the man had turned at the end of the hall and disappeared from sight.

  Lissianna grimaced in agreement. "Remind me to never again taste test his food. "

  "As if you could forget after that," Debbie said with amusement. "Now. " She took the empty water glass from Lissianna. "Have your lunch and relax. And no working while you're eating. We don't get paid enough to work through our breaks. "

  "Yes, ma'am. " Lissianna watched her walk away before going back into her office. She seated herself behind her desk, gazed at the work she had to do, then toward the doorway again. She was hungry, but it wasn't a good time to try to feed.

  While the shelter clients should all be sleeping, this wasn't a hotel with separate rooms she could slip into to feed privately without fear of discovery. There were six large rooms with anywhere from ten to twenty beds in each. It would be risky to attempt to feed on anyone in those rooms. There might be one or two clients who weren't sleeping, or who were light sleepers and might wake up. Lissianna preferred to feed when they were moving around, either when they were getting ready for bed or when they were getting up in the morning.

  She'd try to catch one alone on their way to or from the bathroom or some such thing, Lissianna decided. The shelter inhabitants usually began to stir just before she left work in the morning, the early birds getting up at six or six-thirty in the morning. She felt better about trying then, so ignored her hunger and went back to her paperwork.

  As usual, Lissianna was running late when she left her office. By then, not only was the sheiter abuzz w¨¹h activity, but Father Joseph was still about and full of nervous energy. On spying her, he decided to rid himself of it by walking her out to her car.

  With no other chance, Lissianna was forced to give up her hopes for a quick meal and head out, her body cramping with hunger. Cursing herself for an idiot, she headed for her mother's house.

  It looked like she'd either have to let her mother put her on an intravenous--if Marguerite was even still up and hadn't sought out her bed--or she'd just have to wait until the next night to feed. She normally avoided being put on an intravenous, even if it meant suffering debilitating hunger pangs for twenty-four hours. At least she had since getting her degree, her job at the shelter, and moving out on her own. All of which were supposed to make her independent.

  Lissianna made a face at the thought. Independent. She might feed herself now rather than depend on her mother to put an intravenous in her arm every morning, but she didn't feed herself well. More often than not, Lissianna went to bed hungry and suffering the debilitating cramps that accompanied such hunger. So much for independence.

  At least she managed to feed enough to keep herself alive. . . barely. It would probably be easier, though, if she changed her career.

  After all the time and money she'd put into getting her social work degree, Lissianna was coming to the conclusion that this shelter business hadn't been the brightest idea she'd ever had. Lately, she'd been toying with the possibility of quitting and trying something else. She just hadn't come up with a viable alternative.

  Of course, if she were to be cured of her phobia. . .

  Lissianna allowed herself briefly to entertain the possibility. No longer to faint at the sight of blood. To be able to feed off bagged blood like everyone else. Merely to walk to the refrigerator, pull out a bag, and slap it to her teeth, rather than to have to hunt up a meal either at the shelter or in the bars. . .

  It sounded heavenly. Lissianna hated having to hunt her food. She hated the inconvenience of it, and she hated being different than the rest of her family. Being cured would be bliss, but a large part of her feared she'd never be free of her phobia and hesitated to hope for fear of the disappointment that would follow if it didn't happen.

  Perhaps her mother would have good news for her,

  Lissianna told herself as she pulled into the driveway. She had no doubt her mother had got the name of a good therapist from Greg before wiping away all memory of his encounter with them.


  It was necessary, Lissianna knew, but found she wasn't all that happy to think he would no longer even recall she existed, which was silly, really. She hardly knew the man and hadn't spent much time with him, but couldn't seem to forget their shared kiss and the feel of him beneath her body.

  Well, that wasn't important, she told herself. What mattered was that her mother might have already booked an appointment with the psychologist whom Greg had suggested, and perhaps in a week or so, Lissianna would be free of the phobia that upset her life so.

  Cheered by that thought, she parked her mother's sports car, which she'd borrowed to drive to work, and crossed the garage with a spring in her step. She hadn't quite reached the door when Thomas suddenly pulled it open.

  Lissianna paused in surprise. "What are you still doing up? It's almost dawn. I thought everyone would be asleep by now. "

  "Everyone else is. " He moved out of the way for her to enter, then closed the door and waited while she removed her coat and boots. "I made tea. "

  Lissianna paused with one boot off and glanced at him warily. While few of them were very interested in food after a certain age, they all still drank normal beverages. However, tea for two at dawn seemed to suggest there was a problem.

  "There was a problem wiping Greg's memory," Thomas said, in answer to her questioning look.

  "What kind of problem?" Lissianna asked with concern.

  "Take your other boot off and come into the living room. The tea is there," he announced, then left the room before she could say anything to stop him.

  Lissianna quickly shed her second boot and followed him to the living room. He handed her a cup as she joined him on the couch, then sat back with his own cup and took a sip, apparently in no hurry to explain things. Lissianna was a little less patient.

  "What happened?" she asked, ignoring the tea she held.

  "Greg," Thomas told her. "Dr. Hewitt. They brought him back. He's tied up in your bed again. "

  "What?" Lissianna gaped at him with disbelief. "Why did they bring him back? They were supposed to get the name of another therapist and wipe his memory, not bring him back here. "

  "It seems they couldn't wipe his memory," Thomas said quietly.

  Lissianna stared at him uncomprehending. "They couldn't?"

  He shook his head.

  "Not even Aunt Martine could do it?" she asked with disbelief. Martine was the younger sister of her father and Uncle Lucian. Younger than the two men she might have been, but she was still way older than Lissianna's mother and one of the most powerful females of their kind. It was incomprehensible that she hadn't been able to wipe his memory.

  "Not even Aunt Martine," Thomas confirmed.

  "Oh dear. " Lissianna considered the implications for a moment, then asked, "What are they going to do?"

  He shrugged. 'They wouldn't tell us. They brought him back, put him in your room, then closeted themselves in the study most of the night. Victoria and Julianna listened outside the door, but they could only catch a word here or there. They heard Uncle Lucian and the council mentioned though. "

  "Oh no," Lissianna breathed. "What about Greg? How is he taking all of this? He must be furious. "

  "He was," Thomas acknowledged, then grinned. "He was bellowing at the top of his lungs about being kidnapped by a pair of soulless, blood-sucking, vampire bitches. I presume he was referring to Aunt Marguerite and Aunt Martine," he added deadpan, but Lissianna wasn't laughing.

  "He knows what we are?" she asked with horror. "How?"

  "How do you think? It wouldn't have been that hard to figure out. Aunt Marguerite said right in front of him that he wasn't your dinner but your therapist, and you girls were talking about biting him and bagged blood in the back of the van on the way into the city. "

  "He heard us?" she asked with dismay.

  Thomas nodded. "And no doubt he saw the bite marks. "

  Lissianna groaned inwardly. Her bite marks. Dammit, she'd caused part of this problem herself. Now he'd figured out what they were and her mother and Martine couldn't wipe his memory and Uncle Lucian and the council might be pulled into it.

  "I should go check on him. " Lissianna started to get up, but Thomas stopped her with a hand on her arm.

  "Wait, I want to talk to you first," he said, then waited for her to settle back in her seat to say, "Something occurred to me on the way back from dropping him off, and it's been bothering me ever since. "

  Lissianna raised her eyebrows curiously.

  Thomas frowned slightly, as if unsure how to proceed, then asked, "What is the problem that makes it difficult for us to have a serious relationship with mortals?"

  "With our ability to read their minds and control their behavior, they become nothing more than puppets," Lissianna answered, without even having to think about it. It was a problem she'd encountered repeatedly over the last two centuries. They all had. In some ways, being able to read minds wasn't a blessing, but a curse. Everyone had a critical thought once in a while, or found someone other than their partner attractive in passing. It was hard not be hurt when you could hear your boyfriend's irritated thought that you were being dense or stubborn. Or that you were no good at something, or even just looked rough that day. Even worse was when he noticed how cute the waitress was and wondered what it would be like to bed her. He might not even intend to do it, it could just be a passing thought, but still it could cut.

  It was also difficult to resist the impulse to control a mate when you wanted to do something he didn't, or change his mind for him when you had a disagreement. With the wrong mate, her kind could be tyrannical control freaks. She'd seen it firsthand, with her parents.

  "And what does Aunt Marguerite always say about a true life mate?" Thomas queried.

  "That our true life mate will be the one we can't read," Lissianna answered promptly.

  Thomas nodded and pointed out, "You can't read Greg. "

  Lissianna blinked, then slowly shook her head. "That's different, Thomas. He's different. Resistant, strong-minded. You just finished telling me that even Aunt Mar-tine can't wipe his memory, and Mom struggled to control him from the start. He's not--"

  "But they can still both read his mind, and so can I," he interrupted.

  Lissianna stared at her cousin, her thoughts suddenly awhirl. Greg. . . her true life mate? Sure, she couldn't read him, and her mother had always counseled them that not being able to read a person was the sign of a true life mate, but it hadn't even occurred to her that Greg could be it. Now she considered it.

  She could admit Dr. Hewitt seemed to have a singularly unusual effect on her. In two hundred years, Lissianna had never experienced the level of pleasure and excitement in another man's arms that Greg had managed with a couple of kisses. Until him, she'd never found biting to be erotic either. And it was true that in two hundred years she'd never encountered another whose thoughts she couldn't read, but still. . . Greg was different. Her mother couldn't control him as fully as others, and Aunt Martine couldn't wipe his memory. She wasn't sure what to think. Lissianna was tired and hungry and couldn't really seem to accept the suggestion.

  "I know I've taken you by surprise with this idea, I just want you to keep it in mind," Thomas finally said, then tilted his head, his expression concerned. "You look pale, you didn't feed tonight did you?"

  "I didn't get the chance," she admitted wearily.

  Thomas hesitated, then stood. "I have an idea. Wait here. "

  Lissianna watched him walk to the bar, then glanced around the living room. It was where they'd held the impromptu pajama party the morning before, and where she'd expected the others to sleep again this morning. She may even have joined them just to be sociable, but he'd said everyone else had gone to bed. "Where is everyone?"

  "In bed. Everyone's gone home except for Aunt Mar-tine, the girls, and us, so we all have bedrooms now. Aunt Marguerite said you should sleep in the rose room tonight," Thomas adde
d as he opened the bar fridge.

  She nodded.

  "Close your eyes," Thomas instructed.

  "Why?" Lissianna asked, even as she did it.

  "You need to feed, so I'm going to feed you," he announced.

  Lissianna stiffened. "I don't think--"

  "Just trust me and keep your eyes closed," Thomas said.

  She fell silent and listened to him cross the carpet, then felt the couch give under his weight.

  "Keep your eyes closed, but open your mouth and let your teeth out. I'm going to pop a bag on them. It'll be cold, so don't let it startle you into opening your eyes. "

  Lissianna almost opened her eyes in surprise right then, but caught herself and kept them squeezed shut. She opened her mouth instead and inhaled as her teeth slid out.

  "Here it comes," Thomas warned as he placed a hand on the back of her head to steady her, then the cold bag was suddenly pressed to her mouth and she heard the small pop as her teeth penetrated the bag.

  Lissianna stayed completely still as her teeth did their work, sucking the blood up and into her system. The "liquid was cold, which she wasn't used to, but it was also much quicker than an IV would have been. Within moments, Thomas had fed her three bags. He had her keep her eyes closed until he'd disposed of them.

  Lissianna opened her eyes as he walked back from tossing them in the garbage can behind the bar and smiled widely. "Have I told you you're my favorite cousin lately?"

  Thomas grinned. "Stop, you'll make me blush. "

  Laughing, Lissianna stood and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. "

  "You're welcome. " He patted her on the back, then stepped away and headed for the door. "I'm to bed. "

  "I'm just going to check on Greg, then I'm heading to bed, too. "

  "I thought you might," he acknowledged. "Good night. "

  "Night. "
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