Home > Twice Bitten (Argeneau #27)(5)

Twice Bitten (Argeneau #27)(5)
Author: Lynsay Sands

Heaving a sigh, Elspeth shook her head. Honestly, having a mother who could read your mind was a real pain. It made for extremely well-behaved and miserable children.

“Fine,” she said, the word short. “I sometimes go on soft calls on my way home if they’re on my route. Mortimer doesn’t know,” she added quickly. “And I only ever check out the soft calls, or what the hunters call joke jobs. They are the ones I assess as not being dangerous.”

“Well, you got it wrong this time,” her mother said, her expression tight. “This was not a soft call. It was dangerous.”

“It was a soft call,” Elspeth assured her. “There was no rogue immortal involved, just a mortal with mental health issues. He was delusional and certain his neighbor was a vampire.” Scowling, she added, “Unfortunately, once I realized that, I let my guard down. I followed his wife into the kitchen to talk to her about getting him put in the hospital. He must have been listening outside the door. He decided I must be a vampire too, and the minute I left, he stabbed his wife for colluding with vampires. I heard her scream and rushed back inside, but he was waiting behind the door. He stepped out and stabbed me from behind when I entered.”

Pausing, she sighed wearily and then shook her head. “I was too startled to react until he’d twisted the knife, and then he got in a slash on my leg as I turned to confront him. But then I knocked him out and called the mortal police to tend to the woman and take the husband into custody. But,” she added firmly, “it was just a mortal. A soft call.”

“Hmm.” Mouth tight, Martine urged Elspeth to turn onto her uninjured side on the bed so that she could wash away the blood on her back.

Much to Elspeth’s relief, when her mother finished cleaning the area, no more blood bubbled to the surface. The bleeding had stopped and the wound itself was smaller. Healing.

“If he was mentally disturbed, you couldn’t wipe his memory alone,” her mother said with a frown. “Did you call Mortimer so that he could arrange it?”

Elspeth lifted her gaze from her wound to meet her mother’s eyes. Grimacing, she admitted, “No. I planned to tell Mortimer all about it when I go in tonight. I thought it could wait since the man is mad and no one would take him seriously anyway.”

“Not good enough,” Martine said sternly. “I will call Mortimer immediately and have him take care of it.” Martine set the bloodied cloth in the water and stood up. “What is the man’s name and where was he taken?”

Elspeth rattled off the information, relieved to have the woman turn her attention to something else. Otherwise, she had no doubt her mother would be even now continuing to strip her to get to her leg. It was the kind of thing she’d fled England to escape, being controlled and treated like a child. And she’d done it. She’d got away and lived like a real grown-up woman for six whole weeks.

“I presume you at least took control of the police and ensured they didn’t remember you?” Martine asked as she picked up the wireless phone on Elspeth’s bedside table and punched in numbers.

“Of course, Mother,” Elspeth said with exasperation.

“Do not ‘of course, Mother’ me. You did not ensure the madman was handled. How am I to know you did not leave the police with their memories too?” she asked sharply.

“Because I’m not an idiot,” Elspeth said resentfully, but her mother wasn’t listening. Mortimer had apparently answered.

After gesturing sternly at the blood bags on the mattress next to her, Martine moved away to explain the situation to Mortimer.

Elspeth grabbed another bag and popped it to her fangs with relief. She should have headed to the refrigerator and taken in blood the minute she arrived home the first time. In fact, seeking out her bed instead had been incredibly stupid. If her sisters hadn’t already been occupying it, and she’d simply have flopped on the bed and passed out . . . Well, she wouldn’t have died, but she would have woken up in horrible pain later.

Elspeth could only think that shock from her injuries was the reason she hadn’t gone for the fridge when she first got home.

But it had been anxiety and a shot of adrenaline that’d had her racing down to her landlady’s door the moment she heard that a man had let her mother and sisters into her apartment, she acknowledged as she tugged the empty bag off her fangs and slapped a fresh one to it. She’d feared the worst for Meredith. That either the woman had suffered a heart attack or stroke and a friend or family member had been in the apartment gathering things for her, or that someone had broken in and, having tied up Meredith, had pretended to be the landlord when her mother and sisters had knocked.

Finding Meredith’s grandson there had been something of a surprise, but not as surprising as how ridiculously attractive the man was. The pictures Meredith had of Wyatt and his parents were somewhat old. In them, Wyatt hadn’t been any older than fourteen or fifteen. He’d been attractive even then, but in more of a cute way, rather than the sexy-virile-well-built-stud way he was now.

“I realize you did not know, Mortimer,” Martine growled as Elspeth switched the now empty bag at her mouth for another full one. “That is not the point. She cannot be allowed to go out on calls. She is not a hunter.”

Elspeth rolled her eyes. She was one hundred forty-two years old and her mother still felt she had the right to interfere in her life.

“What do you mean, how are you supposed to stop her when you did not know she was doing it in the first place? Order her not to.”

Elspeth snorted at the suggestion. That wasn’t going to work. She was a volunteer. Mortimer wasn’t her boss. Besides, compared to her mother, he was a pussycat. She wasn’t the least afraid of him. She’d still check out soft calls if they were near enough. She just wouldn’t get caught the next time. What were the chances she’d get stabbed again?

No, Elspeth thought as she switched out for the last bag, her mistake here had been letting her guard down once she was assured she was dealing with mortals. She’d know better next time . . . and there would be a next time, because she had every intention of continuing to help out by checking nearby soft calls on the way home.

Feeling a slight ruffling in her thoughts, Elspeth stiffened, her gaze shooting to her mother. As she’d feared, the woman was staring at her, eyes narrowed, a look of concentration on her face. Dammit! She was reading her mind, Elspeth realized, and immediately began reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in her head.

“Too late,” Martine growled, and turned her attention to the phone again, saying, “Fine. Mortimer, since Elspeth won’t listen to you or me, you have yourself one more hunter. I shall be working with Elspeth from now on. Wherever she goes, I go.”

Ah, crap, Elspeth thought and dropped back on the bed

   “What do you think, dear?”

Wyatt nodded absently at his grandmother’s question, but his attention was already split between the dishes he was rinsing and his thoughts, and he didn’t really catch what she’d said. He couldn’t seem to stop thinking about Elspeth. He couldn’t believe he’d found her again. Even more amazing was the fact that she didn’t seem to even remember him. Had their encounter four years ago meant so little to her? It had been life-altering for him. He’d searched for her for months after that first meeting, and while he hadn’t been able to find her, he’d never been able to forget her either.

“Wyatt?”

His grandmother’s sharp voice pulled him from his thoughts and he glanced around in question.

“I said, I’m thinking of inviting Ellie and her family to dinner tonight,” she told him, her voice a touch dry. “What do you think?”

“Sounds good,” he said at once and turned back to the dishes, his eyebrows drawing together as he tried to recall when Elspeth and her mother had left. He had a vague recollection that El had been tired and they’d left to allow him and his grandmother to visit. But that’s all. He had no memory of walking them out, which he definitely would have done. He’d been raised to perform such niceties, but it also would have allowed him to ensure the door was locked behind them.

   
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