Home > Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25)(9)

Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25)(9)
Author: Lynsay Sands

Setting the candleholder on the desk, Sarita quickly lit it, and then tucked a couple of extra matches between her lips just in case her candle went out. She then snatched the candleholder and her butcher knife and headed for the secret door.

The stairs were tight and steep she discovered with the first step, and Sarita caught up as much of the cloth of the nightgown as she could in the hand holding the knife and raised it above her knees. She would never admit this, but she had been known to be a bit clumsy at times, and tangling her feet in the gown and taking a fall was not something she wanted to experience.

Sarita took a couple more steps, candle held out in front of her, and squinted against the flame while trying to see beyond it. She then slowed as a scene from an old black-and-white movie she’d once seen came to mind. A lone woman in a long white nightgown descending stairs into darkness with only a candle to light her way. Meanwhile the evil Dracula waited in the darkness below, ready to pounce on her.

Yeah, good one, Sarita. The perfect thing to think of at this moment, she reprimanded herself mentally as she continued down. Her Dracula was supposed to be chained up down there, but what if he’d got loose?

Sarita quickly pushed that thought away as unhelpful and continued down. She couldn’t see any more than a couple steps ahead, and didn’t need old movies to help her imagine what lay ahead. Still, other scenes from movies were suddenly sliding through her mind. All of them were just different versions of that one scene in every horror movie where the stupid chick did something incredibly idiotic that got her stabbed or horribly beheaded.

That thought made Sarita stop abruptly on the stairs as she realized she really was being like that idiot broad from every horror movie. The big-haired twit with large bouncy boobs and no brains usually in something skimpy and—Cripes! She had big hair, big boobs, and was wearing a see-through negligee! She was that girl!

Nah, her hair was long, not really big. It wasn’t curled to within an inch of its life and hair-sprayed to death. And yeah, she had big boobs, but that was hardly her fault. They were natural not bought, and truly, her large breasts had been the bane of her existence since they’d popped out on her chest when she was thirteen. Their presence had not gone unnoticed by the boys in her school and what had followed was teasing, taunting, and attempts to cop a feel by the more skeevy of her schoolmates. They were the reason behind her first punching a male in the face. She had punched many more since then, both on and off the job, which was why her partner at work called her Rock’em Sock’em Reyes, or just RSR for short.

Sarita smiled crookedly at the thought of Jackson, her patrol partner. He was a good guy. Newly married and madly in love with his wife, he often treated her like a little sister. He was the closest thing she had to family now and just thinking of him made her straighten her shoulders. Big-boobed twit or not, she was going down there. Besides, unlike the idiot chicks in movies, she was armed with more than double Ds. She had a knife and knew how to use it. Mind you her gun would have been more reassuring, but . . . Whatever, Sarita thought as she stepped down onto a cold hard floor and paused.

She stood still for a moment, just listening, but there was no slight shuffling as someone moved in the darkness, no hiss of a vampire about to launch himself on her.

Nothing, she thought, and let go of the breath she’d been holding to suck a draft of fresh air into her eager lungs.

Okay, not so fresh, she corrected herself, wrinkling her nose at the stale, damp scent that assailed her. The basement definitely had a moldy odor to it. Sarita shifted one bare foot along the floor and then lowered the candle until she could see that it was indeed concrete and not simply hard packed earth.

Straightening, she glanced around, hoping her eyes might have adjusted enough for her to make out something in the dark. They hadn’t, though, so she shuffled forward several feet until the candlelight revealed a wall with a door in it. Releasing the hold she’d had on her gown, she reached for the doorknob.

The clank of metal on metal as the knife handle banged against the knob made her wince, but Sarita turned it and pushed the door open.

The candle flickered wildly in the draft created by the opening door. Terrified it would go out, Sarita instinctively drew it closer to her chest and raised her butcher-knife-holding-hand to try to shelter the flame. She didn’t know if that helped, but after a moment the candlelight settled again and she let out the breath she’d been holding on a relieved sigh that blew the damned thing out.

“Crap!” Sarita muttered into the darkness, nearly spitting out the two matches she’d placed between her lips. Reaching up instinctively to remove them, she poked herself in the cheek with the butcher knife and was so startled she dropped the candle, holder and all. Sarita then immediately froze as the dark seemed to crowd in on her, sending a prickly sensation along her skin.

Trying to ignore it, Sarita took a deep breath and reasoned with herself. The candle had gone out and she’d dropped it and now it was dark. Not a big problem. She had matches. She’d light one, find the candle, and light it again. Boom, problem solved, she told herself.

The minute Sarita reached up with her now-empty candle hand and took one of the matches from her mouth she felt a little better. Even the match would give off light. All she had to do was strike it on something. It would light and she’d use it to find the candle. Everything would be fine, Sarita reasoned . . . except that she hadn’t brought the matchbox with its striking strip on the side.

Not a problem, she told herself again, the concrete floor was rough, and she could use that. It sounded easy enough. Unfortunately, Sarita had forgotten the knives tucked into her thong. She was reminded forcefully of them when she dropped quickly into a kneeling position and the knives stabbed into her skin, her hunched position pressing her stomach against the top of them and basically forcing them into her legs.

The match in her mouth was spat out on a curse as Sarita quickly straightened again. Ignoring that for now, she felt the top of her thighs to see how much damage she’d done to herself. But it was dark, and the cloth of the nightgown and robe didn’t help any.

Muttering over her stupidity, she yanked up the material of both gown and robe and felt around again. Sarita’s fingers encountered what she assumed was blood on the front of her upper legs, but there didn’t seem to be too-too much of it. At least it wasn’t gushing or anything, so she didn’t think she’d done herself too much damage. Which was a relief.

Sighing, Sarita put the hilt of the butcher knife between her teeth to hold it, caught the material of the gown and robe between her chin and chest and used both hands to retrieve the knives from her thong. She then raised her chin, letting the material drop back into place and took the butcher knife out of her mouth as she considered her options. She only had two—find the matches or at least one of them, light it, and find and light the candle, or go back upstairs and retrieve another candle and more matches.

Sarita glanced over her shoulder toward the stairs, relieved to see the light spilling down from the open door above. Actually, now that the candle was out, her eyes were adjusting and she could see a little more than she had with it. Or maybe it was because the light wasn’t between herself and what she was trying to see. Whatever the case, she could see darker shapes in the gloom around her. And what looked like a long chain or string dangling from the ceiling at the foot of the stairs.

Forgetting about the matches and candle, Sarita crossed back to the stairs, caught all of her knives between one hand and her chest, then reached up to feel the item with her free fingers. It was a string with a tiny bell-shaped weight on the end. She gave it a tug and then squeezed her eyes shut when a click was accompanied by an explosion of light in the room. Easing her eyes cautiously open after a moment, she saw that the source of light was a bare bulb in a fixture on the ceiling.

Lowering her head, Sarita turned to peer around at what appeared to be a storage area. Old wicker furniture was stacked along the wall to her right, and several boxes filled the space on the left, the stairs were in front of her, and—

Sarita turned and stared at the opposite wall where more items and boxes were stacked on either side of the door she’d opened. The light didn’t reach far into the next room, but she could see the corner of a metal counter just inside. She could also see her candle and its holder lying in the doorway with the matches not far away.

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