Home > Runaway Vampire (Argeneau #23)(7)

Runaway Vampire (Argeneau #23)(7)
Author: Lynsay Sands

While guilt was trying to lay claim to her for running the man down, bewilderment was quickly nudging it aside. “How can you be okay now?” she asked. “I ran over you. You were covered with blood and appeared badly injured. Yet now . . .”

“The blood was mostly show. I’m fine,” he assured her and Mary’s eyes narrowed. It was exactly what everyone else had said, which seemed somehow suspicious to her. However, he did look fine so she could hardly argue the point. Besides, there were other questions she needed answered.

“All right. So you and your twin brother were kidnapped,” she said slowly, trying to imagine two of these young, strapping, gorgeous male specimens in the world. Good Lord, he was huge. It was hard to imagine two of them existed, she thought, her gaze sliding over his big brawny shoulders and barrel chest. Her eyes tried to drop lower, but she forced them back to his face. She didn’t need to look further; she’d already seen more than she wanted to and knew the man was big everywhere. “Who are these men and why did they kidnap you?”

He didn’t answer right away, his attention focused on the road as he took the ramp to the I-10. She also suspected he was taking the opportunity to try to come up with a way to avoid answering her question, but once he’d merged onto the 10 he said, “Several young . . . men and women have gone missing in the San Antonio area over the past year. Tomasso and I were helping out a task force trying to discover who was taking them and for what purpose.”

“Tomasso is your twin?” she asked before he could continue and thinking that the task force would probably be a federal one, maybe FBI if kidnapping was involved. Great, she’d run over a fed. That couldn’t be good.

“Yes.”

It took Mary a moment to realize he was agreeing that Tomasso was his twin. Sighing, she asked, “And you are?”

His eyes widened slightly and then he offered her a smile of chagrin. “I am Dante Notte. And who are you?”

“Mary Winslow,” she said quietly.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mary Winslow,” he said solemnly.

She nodded, and then stood, stepped over Bailey and moved carefully back along the aisle until she could reach the folded afghan that had somehow managed to remain on the couch while everything else had gone tumbling to the floor. Snatching it up, she made her way back to her seat. As she climbed back over Bailey, she dropped the afghan in his lap and then plopped back into the passenger seat. If she was going to talk to the young man, she would do so with at least some small semblance of propriety. He was naked, for God’s sake.

“Oh . . . er . . . thank you,” Dante muttered, and removed one hand from the wheel to quickly spread the blanket over his lap and legs. It was a spider stitch pattern, a very loose spider stitch—which meant it had large holes. It would have been fine had he left it as is, but when he spread it out . . . well, she might as well have saved herself the walk to get it. His legs and groin were now playing peek-a-boo. Not that Dante seemed to notice. He appeared perfectly satisfied that he was now decently covered. But then it hadn’t seemed to bother him to be sitting there naked either, so what did she know?

Mary averted her eyes again with a little sigh. “You were saying you and your brother were assisting a task force in discovering how and why people were going missing in San Antonio?”

Dante nodded with a grunt. “Several of us were sent to bars where the missing people had last been seen. Tomasso and I were sent to the same bar, and were taken together as we left at the end of the night.”

“How?” Mary asked with a frown. It was hard to imagine this large, muscular young man being forced to go anywhere he didn’t want to, but two of him? If his twin was the same size, taking them on must have been like taking on a small army.

“We were shot with drugged darts in the parking lot,” he said grimly. “I thought it was a bullet until I glanced down and saw the dart in my chest. I pulled it out, but it was too late. I was already losing consciousness.”

“Sunday night?” she asked with a frown, working it out in her head.

Dante glanced to her uncertainly and then back to the road before saying, “I do not understand. What about Sunday?”

“You said you were taken the night before last. That would be Sunday,” she explained, and noted the frown that immediately claimed his expression.

“No. It was Friday we were taken,” he said and muttered, “I lost more time than I thought. They must have continuously drugged us. Perhaps intravenously,” he added and removed his left hand from the steering wheel to turn it over and peer at the unblemished skin as if he was recalling something.

“You would have a mark, possibly even a bruise if they’d put an intravenous in you,” she said gently. When he remained silent and merely returned his hand to the steering wheel and his attention to the road, she asked, “How did you get away?”

“I woke up some hours ago, naked and in a cage. Tomasso was in a cage next to mine, also naked.”

Mary sat back slightly at this news. Obviously the man had been wearing something when he’d gone to, and left, the bar. So his captors had stripped him. She couldn’t imagine waking up one day to find herself naked in a cage. It sounded like a nightmare to her and she was glad when he distracted her from the thought of it and continued his story.

“Whoever had been in my cage before me had obviously made some effort to escape. One of the bars had been loosened. Tomasso’s cage was close enough he could help, and together we were able to get the first bar out, and bend another enough to pull it out as well. I managed to squeeze out of my cage and tried to open his, but before I could accomplish the task, we heard our captors coming and he insisted I get away while I could and get help.”

Dante paused briefly, and Mary noted the muscles of his throat working, but then he continued, his voice almost flat. “It was a basement with high windows. I climbed out onto dirt and grass and saw the woods surrounding the building we had been held in. I started to run. I had no idea where I was, or if I was headed in the right direction to find help. All I could see were woods and more woods. I had not gone far when I became aware of someone running behind me. Afraid they would shoot me with their dart again, I put on a burst of speed and then the trees were suddenly gone and I was charging toward the road . . . and the side of this RV.” He patted the steering wheel with a grimace. “I tried to stop myself, but . . .” He shook his head, and then glanced to her and said, “The truth is you did not run over me, so much as I ran into, or under, your vehicle.”

Mary stared at him silently. She was glad she wasn’t at fault for the accident. The knowledge relieved a good deal of the guilt that had apparently been clouding her good sense, because now she was thinking more clearly. Voice firm, she said, “You need to turn around and head back to the truck stop.”

He glanced at her with surprise, then turned his gaze forward again and shook his head. “We have to lose our pursuers to ensure your safety when I leave you.”

“You’re not going to do that in an RV,” she said dryly. “These things are like me, built for comfort, not speed. That van—” she glanced to the vehicle revealed in the rear camera view to see that it was still stuck on their tail like a burr on Bailey’s butt “—is not going to lose us. And if what you say is true, the minute we stop, the men in that van will attack. But the waitress at the truck stop called 911. By now the police should be there. If they aren’t there yet, at least there are others there to help. Right now we’re on our own. Those men could force us off the road and take you again at any minute. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t tried already.”

“They have not tried because the highway is busy and they do not want witnesses. So long as we stay on it we should be safe,” he said solemnly. “And if we lead them back to the truck stop, someone there could get hurt. It is important to avoid that. It is why I led them away to begin with,” he argued.

“I thought it was to keep me safe?” she reminded him tightly.

“Yes. That too,” he agreed. “I wish to avoid any mort—innocents coming to harm.”

   
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