Home > Twice Bitten (Argeneau #27)(4)

Twice Bitten (Argeneau #27)(4)
Author: Lynsay Sands

“Wake up, girls,” Martine caroled as she approached the bed. “Up and out of bed, please.”

Neither girl obeyed, but Julianna did groan and pull her pillow over her head to muffle their mother’s voice.

“Julianna and Victoria Argeneau Pimms, get up this instant!” Martine snapped.

That did the trick. Both girls opened their eyes and sat up at once.

“What’s going on?” Julianna asked, peering at them bleary-eyed.

“Why are you carrying Elspeth?” Victoria asked on a yawn.

“Because she is bleeding and obviously injured,” Martine snapped. “Now, both of you up and out of that bed at once. Julianna, pull the blankets back so I can lay Elspeth down, and Victoria, go fetch some blood from the kitchen.”

The twins scrambled to do as they were told, Victoria bounding up to run across the bed in her pink babydoll and leaping off to race from the room. Meanwhile, Julianna crawled out to stand next to the bed so that she could fold the sheet and duvet back.

“Why are you putting her here?” Julianna asked suspiciously.

“Because it’s my bed,” Elspeth said dryly as her mother set her down and she sank into the soft, still-warm sheets.

“But we’re sleeping here,” Julianna pointed out with a scowl as their mother straightened and hurried out of the room.

“No, you’re not,” Elspeth countered. “You and Victoria can sleep in the living room on the blow-up mattress. It’s in the linen closet.”

“You’re a terrible hostess,” Julianna complained, stamping her foot. “You should be the one on the air mattress.”

“I’m not a hostess at all. You weren’t invited,” Elspeth pointed out in a sharp voice. “And stop stamping on the damned floor. I have neighbors.”

“So?” she asked with irritation. “If they come up to complain, we’ll take control and send them on their way.”

“You will do no such thing,” Elspeth growled. “You’ll be kind and courteous and apologize nicely and then leave Meredith and her grandson alone.”

When Julianna merely glowered, Elspeth narrowed her eyes on her sister and asked, “Whose idea was this visit?”

She shrugged unhappily. “Mother was driving us crazy. Without you there to deflect some of her attention, she is beyond unbearable. So I suggested a visit to see if I wouldn’t like to move here too, and then, of course, Victoria wasn’t staying behind without me. Unfortunately, now Mother’s decided that we should all move here,” she ended with misery.

“Seriously?” Elspeth asked with dismay.

“Yeah, I know. Nightmare city, huh?”

“The nightmare is that I put up with that crap for over a hundred years before the pair of you were even born, and then I waited until you were both done with school before I finally moved to another continent to escape it, and you two couldn’t last even two months before you came chasing after me, dragging her along with you?”

“You don’t know what it’s like,” Julianna complained as Victoria returned carrying several bags of blood. “She won’t let us go anywhere alone. Not even to the bathroom when we’re out at restaurants, for God’s sake. She makes us go together. And if we take more than a couple minutes, she follows to check on us.”

“At least you have a twin to go with you,” Elspeth pointed out. “Mother insisted on walking me to the bathroom like a two-year-old until I was over fifty.”

“See! So you know how bad it is,” Julianna said at once.

Victoria nodded as she dumped the bags of blood on the side of the bed. “It’s cray cray.”

Elspeth narrowed her eyes, refusing to feel sympathy for her sisters. She’d been the sole focus of their mother’s vulture-like hovering for one hundred eleven years before the twins were born, and then she’d stuck around until now before making her great escape. She’d known her sisters wouldn’t last as long as she had, but six weeks?

“Not even two months,” she repeated grimly.

“It’s easier with you around,” Victoria said pleadingly. “Mother’s focus is spread around a bit more, rather than lasering in on us.”

Elspeth laughed without humor. “Well, I have news for you two. You aren’t living here with me. Mother will no doubt buy a house somewhere on the outskirts of the city and move the two of you in there with her, and you’re still not going to have me around to take some of the flak. At least, not in the house.”

“No,” Julianna groaned with dismay.

Victoria, however, predicted, “She’ll make you move there too.”

Elspeth shook her head firmly. “I’m out, and staying out.”

“Yeah. Until she takes control of you and makes you move,” Julianna said dryly.

Elspeth stiffened at the suggestion. She’d thought she’d escaped that sort of thing when she’d moved to Canada, but there was no reason her mother couldn’t do that again just because they were no longer in England. This was exactly why Elspeth had arranged everything for the move ahead of time without telling her mother. She’d even waited until Martine was out of the country with her father and the twins before calling to tell her she was moving. She’d made that call from the taxi on the ride to the airport. It hadn’t prevented Martine giving her hell over the phone, but at least she hadn’t been able to stop her. Now, thanks to her sisters, all that effort had been for nothing.

“Julianna, Victoria, fetch the air mattress out of the linen closet and get it ready. You two should be in bed,” Martine said firmly as she returned carrying a bowl of steaming water, a washcloth, and a towel. “And Elspeth, you get started on consuming that blood,” her mother ordered as she set the bowl of water on the bedside table.

Elspeth promptly picked up one of the bags Victoria had dumped on the bed and slapped it to her fangs. So long as she had a bag in her mouth, she couldn’t be made to talk. Of course, she couldn’t prevent her mother from reading her mind and talking to her, she realized as her mother caught her arms to pull her into a sitting position and then set to tugging her jacket off as she accused, “You lied to me.”

“Uh-uh,” Elspeth muttered around the bag in her mouth.

“You said you were coming here for a teaching position. That you could not continue to teach in England because everyone knew everyone else in the industry and it would soon become obvious that you were not aging. That it was smarter for you to move out of country and you preferred Canada because we have so much family here.” She tossed the jacket aside and set to work on the long-sleeved black cotton shirt she wore as Elspeth nodded vigorously to indicate that had been the truth.

Her mother ignored the gesture and continued, “And yet here you are, not teaching, but working as an Enforcer, hunting down rogues.”

Much to her relief, the bag at her mouth was just finishing at that point. Ripping it from her mouth, Elspeth said quickly, “I will be teaching at the university as soon as the summer classes start. I just thought since I had some time on my hands I’d help out at the Enforcer House until then. You know how shorthanded they are what with more than half their force down in Venezuela. They need help. And I’m not hunting down rogues. I’m mostly analyzing the tips and deciding which are soft calls and which are more dangerous.”

The last few words came out muffled as her mother had forced her other arm out of her shirt and chose that moment to tug it off over her head. Tossing it aside, Martine turned to survey her blood-covered side and back. Her mouth tightened. “How does analyzing tips get you stabbed?”

Elspeth twisted around, just barely managing to get a look at the large wound in her lower back. The sight made her wince. It was much nastier than the slice she’d taken to the leg. Unfortunately, her assailant hadn’t just stabbed her in the back. He’d twisted the knife, carving a two-inch hole that was taking much longer to heal than a normal knife wound would. Grimacing, she met her mother’s gaze and said, “It was—”

“Do not lie to me and tell me you have not been going on calls,” Martine snapped, cutting her off. “I read your mind and already know you checked out a tip tonight on your way home.”

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