Home > Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25)(2)

Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25)(2)
Author: Lynsay Sands

“Hola,” Aleta greeted her softly, a shy smile curving her lips.

Sarita smiled at the woman. “Hola. That smells good. I swear, Aleta, you’re an angel. Everything you make is delicious.”

“Gracias,” Aleta said, flushing with pleasure.

“What is it?” Sarita asked, leaning across the island to inhale more deeply.

“El estofado de ternera,” she answered.

“Mmm,” Sarita murmured, again inhaling the scent coming off the beef stew.

“Is not quite time for dinner, but it is ready,” Aleta said, watching her practically drool over the pot. “If you are hungry, you can eat now.”

“Oh, yes please,” Sarita said at once.

Aleta chuckled at her eagerness. “Go out to the dining room and I will bring it in.”

Sarita shook her head. “I can eat here. It would be nice to have some company,” she added when Aleta frowned.

The woman’s expression softened then and she nodded. “Here then. Sit down,” she added, gesturing to the stools on the opposite side of the island from where she was cooking.

Sarita wanted to insist on getting her own food and drink, but suspected if she tried Aleta might change her mind about letting her eat in the kitchen. So she sank obediently onto one of the stools and watched as Aleta fetched her a bowl and spoon and served up the stew.

“Que quieres tomar?” Aleta asked as she set the bowl before her.

“Water is fine,” Sarita answered and then said “Agua” as well. Aleta seemed to speak English well, but the way she slipped back into Spanish at times—as she had when she’d just asked what Sarita wanted to drink—suggested the cook might not be fully fluent in the language. She had no desire to embarrass the woman by making her admit it.

Picking up her spoon, Sarita scooped up some of the stew, blew on it briefly, and then slipped it into her mouth. It was as good as it smelled, better even, and she moaned with pleasure as the flavor burst on her tongue.

Chuckling, Aleta set a glass of water and a plate with a large tequeno on it next to her bowl, and then turned back to her stew.

Sarita picked up the fried breadstick with cheese inside and eagerly took a bite. She loved Aleta’s tequenos. Honestly, she loved everything the woman had made for her since her arrival on the island three days earlier. Sarita was seriously considering trying to lure her away to Canada with a job. She was just trying to work out if she could afford it. Her apartment didn’t have enough room to house the two of them. She’d need to buy a house, and then there was the whole immigration issue to worry about.

Sarita was just finishing her stew and tequeno when Aleta set her spoon aside again and retrieved a blender from the cupboard. The cook set it on the counter, plugged it in, and then moved to the refrigerator. A moment later she walked back to the counter with an armload of cleaned and precut greens and vegetables.

“What are you making now?” Sarita asked with curiosity as Aleta dropped a good portion of the vegetables into the blender and then moved to the pantry.

Aleta backed out of the pantry a moment later with a jar of some kind of powder. Carrying that to the blender, she murmured, “El Doctor’s bebida nutritive.”

The doctor’s nutrition drink, Sarita translated and stiffened on her stool as she watched Aleta measure out a portion of the powder. Voice sharp, she asked, “El Doctor’s back?”

“Back?” Aleta frowned at the powder in her measuring cup and added a bit more, shaking it to level it out as she did. “Back from where? He has not gone anywhere for weeks. He is always down at the labs since he took the ano sabatico.”

Sabbatical, Sarita translated. Dr. Dressler had told her he was on sabbatical from the university when he’d called her about her grandmother’s falling and injuring herself. And apparently he’d been spending all of his time since then down at his labs . . . not on the mainland as she’d been led to believe. After Dr. Dressler’s call telling her about her grandmother’s accident and his fears for her well-being since falls could be deadly for older women, Sarita had immediately booked a flight to Venezuela to check on her. She’d been met at the airport by the head of Dr. Dressler’s security team and flown out here by helicopter only to learn that her grandmother was still in the hospital in Caracas and had not yet returned to the island. She’d immediately requested to be transported back to the mainland so that she could see her, but had been told that neither the boats nor the helicopter could be used without first gaining Dr. Dressler’s permission and he was not here.

Sarita had assumed that meant he wasn’t on the island and had been waiting impatiently for his return, but it seemed he was on the island, just not at the house. She frowned now at this news, furious that Dressler’s man hadn’t made that clear. Had she known, she could have sought out Dressler himself to get the needed permission, and been at her grandmother’s bedside days ago.

Scowling, Sarita stood and quickly carried her empty bowl and plate to the sink.

“Leave it. I will do that,” Aleta said when Sarita started to rinse them.

“Gracias,” Sarita murmured rather than argue and turned off the tap. She’d finished rinsing them anyway. Turning to head for the door, she added, “And thank you for the dinner. It was delicious.”

“De nada,” Aleta said absently as she concentrated on her measuring.

Sarita was halfway up the hall before she recalled the men at the front door. Not wanting to be questioned and possibly stopped from going down to the labs, she turned as she reached the entry and jogged up the stairs that led to the second floor. Sarita moved quickly along the hall to the room she’d inhabited since arriving and slipped inside.

A cautious glance out the French doors in her room showed her that the sun was setting. In the dying light she could see men moving toward the house from every direction. While it had not quite been dinnertime when she’d arrived in the kitchen, it was nearly that time now and she was not the only one who appreciated Aleta’s cooking.

She watched until all of the men had moved around the house and out of sight. They’d be heading to the door of the kitchen to fetch their food, she knew. It would leave a skeleton crew of two men at the front door as well as the men on the towers and at the gate to the fenced-in labs. Those men would then be relieved so they too could eat. Or perhaps food would be taken to them. Sarita had no idea, she’d never cared enough to find out.

She didn’t really care now either, Sarita decided as she slid out onto the balcony. Finding the yard empty, she climbed over the balcony rail, lowered herself until she hung from the bottom of the white-painted metal, and then let herself drop lightly onto the terrace below. A little grunt slid from her lips as her bare feet slapped on the stone. After a quick glance around, she hurried along the side of the house to the front corner.

A quick peek around the corner showed Sarita that even the men at the front door had gone in search of their meal. She’d always assumed that because the men inside waited to eat in the second shift, that the men outside would too, but it seemed not. Pondering that, she broke away from the house and hurried across the lawn, heading for the path through the trees to the labs.

Sarita expected to be stopped at any moment, but she made it all the way to the tree line outside the fence without encountering anyone. Pausing just inside the trees, she eyed the fenced-in buildings that made up Dr. Dressler’s labs. From the air the half a dozen long low buildings had made her think of army barracks. Now, as her gaze slid over the towers on each corner of the high fence surrounding the buildings, she decided it looked more like a prison.

She looked at the men in the towers again, this time checking each one more carefully. Sarita couldn’t be sure in the dying light, but it seemed to her that their attention was focused inside the fence rather than out. As if they were guarding against someone escaping rather than intruders. Thinking that could only be good for her, she straightened her shoulders and approached the gatehouse at the fence entrance.

Sarita prepared herself for a verbal battle as she crossed the short distance, expecting whoever was guarding the gate to refuse her entry. But she was determined that she would at least make them call Dr. Dressler out to the gate. She would get him to tell his men to take her to the mainland in either the helicopter or a boat so that she could see her grandmother. It was why she was here in Venezuela. And Sarita was pretty pissed about being made to cool her heels here on the island for three days when her grandmother was in a hospital on the mainland.

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