Home > Twice Bitten (Argeneau #27)(3)

Twice Bitten (Argeneau #27)(3)
Author: Lynsay Sands

“Oh.” Merry clucked and shook her head as she settled in a seat at the table. “She was my tenant in the basement apartment. She lived here for nearly a year before Elspeth moved into the upstairs apartment, and she . . .” Merry paused, her mouth tightening before she admitted unhappily, “I’m afraid my arthritis was acting up this winter past. I was having a little trouble getting around and Madeleine was sweet enough to offer to help with little chores, like shopping and banking and such. I thought she was so lovely for helping me like that, but shortly after Elspeth moved in, she realized Madeleine was doing more than helping me. She was helping herself to my accounts.”

Meredith shook her head. “I was so surprised and disappointed when Elspeth made Madeleine confess what she’d been up to. I just don’t know why she’d do that. I guess I was an old fool for trusting her, but she seemed so nice.”

Elspeth reached out to pat Meredith’s hand sympathetically. “She seemed nice to me too, Merry.”

“Yes, but you saw through her act,” Merry pointed out.

Aware that Wyatt was staring at her, Elspeth forced a smile and lied glibly, “Actually, I just recognized her name from a report that crossed my desk on a previous case she was involved with.”

Elspeth was quite used to lying. She’d been trained to it from birth . . . as all immortals were. Lying was a necessity to ensure the survival of their kind. Mortals would not take well to learning that they shared the world with immortals. Most would call them vampires, but that was a title her kind didn’t care for. Besides, it didn’t really fit them. Immortals were not dead and soulless as vampires were purported to be.

“This Madeleine woman had done this before?” Wyatt asked, his voice sharp.

“Apparently,” Elspeth said with a shrug.

“Then why wasn’t she charged in this instance?” he asked at once.

“Because I didn’t want her charged,” Meredith said firmly. “At least not on my behalf. I got my money back and I didn’t want to go through all the trouble of a court case and the embarrassment of admitting to being conned like that. Besides,” she added solemnly as she took the tea bags out of the pot, “Madeleine already has other charges to deal with. With or without my charging her, she is going to jail.”

Elspeth merely nodded and murmured, “Thank you” when Meredith poured tea into her cup.

After ascertaining that Meredith didn’t want to charge Madeleine, Elspeth had taken the woman to the police station and ensured she confessed to the other illegal activities she’d been involved with. Meredith hadn’t been the first victim. In fact, Madeleine Cartwright hadn’t even been her real name. Her birth name was Nina Albrecht. She’d taken on the Madeleine alias because she was already wanted by the police for several similar cases in Alberta, as well as fraud, shoplifting, and writing bad checks. Madeleine/Nina had been arrested on the spot, and since she’d already tried to evade the previous charges by fleeing to Ontario and changing her name, she wouldn’t be let out of jail until the court case, and then she wasn’t likely to get out for some years.

“What branch of the police department do you work for?” Wyatt asked Elspeth as his grandmother poured tea into his cup.

When Elspeth hesitated, it was Merry who answered.

“She works with a special division that goes over information and tips and decides which are most likely to need investigation, and which are bogus. She also sorts out the threat level involved with the ones that they deem are real,” Merry told him, excited color in her cheeks.

Wyatt’s eyebrows rose and he eyed Elspeth speculatively. “Something to do with Crime Stoppers?”

“Oh, no, it’s far more extensive than Crime Stoppers,” Meredith said at once. “They get tips and leads about things from all over North America; the US and Canada both. And it isn’t just called-in tips. They track large purchases of certain items and such. It’s a new initiative,” she told him proudly, repeating Elspeth’s own explanation a month earlier. “And very exciting.”

“I didn’t realize that any of our branches of the police worked directly with the US,” Wyatt said, the suspicion in his eyes growing. “Except perhaps the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.”

Elspeth hesitated, and then just shrugged. Now that the adrenaline was dissipating, her earlier exhaustion and pain were returning and she simply couldn’t be bothered to make up more lies or defend herself. She considered slipping into his mind to remove his suspicions, but was too tired even to do that. Meredith’s grandson could think what he liked for now. She’d deal with him later if he became a problem. Her gaze slid over his hard eyes and grim expression. Wyatt was a very attractive man, or would be if he smiled, she thought.

“Elspeth?”

She glanced to her mother, eyebrows rising as she took in her concerned expression.

“You are swaying in your seat and you have got blood on Meredith’s chair,” she announced, getting to her feet.

Frowning, Elspeth looked down to see there was a smudge of blood on the pale gray, faux leather chair she was perched on . . . and she was indeed swaying, she noted with a little concern of her own. More worrisome than that, though, she was starting to have trouble focusing her eyes. She really should have grabbed blood when she got home this morning rather than stumbling to her room. She’d intended to but by the time she’d pulled into the driveway, her only objective had been to get to her bed.

“Can you stand?”

Elspeth refocused on her mother to see that she’d grabbed one of the napkins from the holder in the center of the table and was waiting to clean up after her. Nodding, Elspeth forced herself to her feet, but had to grab the table to steady herself as the room began to revolve around her.

Wow, I’m not in good shape, Elspeth acknowledged with surprise as she noted the way her legs were trembling. She was also sweating like crazy . . . and now the pain was becoming unbearable. Oh jeez, this isn’t good, she thought with dismay.

“Not good at all,” her mother agreed in a grim voice as she quickly wiped the blood off the chair. Crumpling the napkin in her hand, she then scooped Elspeth up as if she were still a child.

Elspeth gasped with surprise and glanced wildly around.

“I took control of them,” Martine said even as Elspeth noted that both Meredith and Wyatt had blank expressions on their faces. Carrying her out of the kitchen, her mother added, “I’ve given them both a memory that you were weary and we left them to reminisce so that you could retire.”

“Oh,” Elspeth breathed and allowed herself to sag in her mother’s arms.

“Do not fall asleep,” her mother growled as she carried her out of Merry’s apartment and upstairs to Elspeth’s. “You have got some explaining to do.”

Two

“What happened?”

Elspeth jerked awake at her mother’s question, and glanced around to see that they were entering her apartment. She’d obviously dozed off for a few seconds there, she thought as her mother kicked her apartment door closed behind them and continued, “How were you injured?”

“It’s nothing,” Elspeth muttered, and then frowned when her mother carried her into the living room, heading for her white sofa. “Not the couch! The blood will ruin it. Take me to my room. My bed has a protector to keep blood off the mattress.”

Her mother paused, and pointed out, “The girls are sleeping in there.”

“The girls can move,” Elspeth said abruptly. “It’s my bed.”

“But where will they sleep?”

“A hotel?” Elspeth suggested dryly. She hadn’t invited them here and wasn’t at all pleased at this “surprise visit.” She wasn’t giving up her bed.

Her mother stiffened.

Suspecting she’d read her thoughts, Elspeth relented enough to say, “There’s an air mattress in the linen closet. They can blow it up and sleep in the living room.”

Nodding stiffly, Martine carried her into the hall leading to the bedrooms. Of course, Elspeth’s bedroom door was closed. Her younger sisters must have closed it behind them and gone right back to sleep. Too bad. She wanted her bed. Elspeth leaned down to turn the doorknob when her mother paused.

   
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