The Immortal Hutner – Lynsay Sands

“What’s taking so long?” Decker Argeneau Pimms glanced up from a very bored contemplation of his twiddling thumbs at that question from Garrett Mortimer. He watched the fair-haired enforcer pace back and forth in front of him twice before saying, “I’m sure they’ll be done soon.” When Mortimer merely grunted and continued to pace, Decker leaned his head back on the dark leather couch and closed his eyes. The energy in the room was heavy with anxiety, and he would have liked to leave. Unfortunately, this was his cottage. It was also supposed to be his vacation, but that had fallen by the wayside with one call. The third day of his vacation Lucian, his uncle, but more importantly the head of the immortal enforcers and his boss, had called with the news that there had been multiple reports of mortals with bite marks in the area. Two Council enforcers were on their way north to find the culprit. Could they stay with him? Would he help out with the search? Like an idiot, he’d said yes. Decker grimaced at his own stupidity, but knew he hadn’t had much choice. He too was a Council enforcer, the equivalent of a vampire cop. His job was to hunt down rogue immortals who threatened the well-being of his people or mortals. While the mortals would not be damaged by a bite so long as too much blood wasn’t taken, it did threaten the well-being of their people by increasing the chances of their existence being discovered. That was why with the advent of blood banks, biting mortals had been outlawed in North America. It was no longer allowed except in cases of an emergency.

Unfortunately, some preferred the old ways, and risked exposing them all by feeding “off the hoof,” as they called it. Those who did had to be caught and stopped for the safety of the rest, and it was enforcers like Decker and Garrett Mortimer who took on that job. Most of the time, Decker got a certain amount of satisfaction from protecting his people, as well as mortals, from rogue vampires. However, this wasn’t one of those times. His vacation had been ruined for nothing. They’d spent the last two weeks searching for a rogue immortal who had turned out not to be a rogue at all. He opened his eyes and swiveled his head to peer at the supposed rogue sitting on the opposite end of the couch. A slender, dark-haired man named Grant. Decker hadn’t bothered to find out if that was a first or last name. He’d been too annoyed once he’d realized that his vacation had been trashed not to capture a rogue vampire, but because some paper pusher at the Argeneau Blood Bank had a quarrel with the man and had been deliberately losing and delaying his shipments of blood.

It had forced Grant to feed off mortals between shipments. Decker suspected the man wouldn’t be in trouble for his actions, since feeding on mortals in such emergencies was allowed. However, Grant was chewing viciously at his nails and looked as anxious as Mortimer. Decker couldn’t blame him. Having to face Lucian Argeneau could be a pretty intimidating event. The head of the Immortal Council, as well as leader of the Council enforcers, was also one of the oldest living immortals around and, consequently, could be hard as stone. “Maybe I should go up and see if everything is all right,” Mortimer muttered. Decker shifted his attention back to the blond-haired man as he came to a halt in front of him. He shook his head. “Not a good idea, my friend.

” Mortimer frowned, grunted, and then continued his pacing, but his eyes kept shifting to the stairs at the end of the room. Decker knew it wouldn’t be long before Mortimer couldn’t restrain himself anymore and went charging upstairs to be with Samantha. Decker understood that completely. He’d probably feel the same way if the woman were his life mate. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes again, thinking that Mortimer’s finding Samantha was the only good thing that had come out of this hunt. One of their kind finding a life mate was always a happy event. It was just a shame that the woman came from a family in which the parents had died and the three daughters left behind weren’t close to the few relatives left. It meant they were one another’s only family… and that Sam was reluctant to be turned and have to disappear from their lives in ten years to prevent their catching on to the fact that she wasn’t aging. That decision was the reason she was presently upstairs being grilled by Lucian while Mortimer went slowly crazy, waiting to find out what his future held. If Lucian decided that her not becoming one of them was fine and she posed no threat to their people, the two could be together.

However, if he decided otherwise, Sam would either have to agree to the turn, or her memory would be wiped and she would not remember ever meeting the man presently pacing a hole into Decker’s basement carpet. Mortimer, however, would be left remembering everything, a love found and lost… and he would never again be able to go near her for fear of bringing back memories of their time together. It was a hell of a thing to have to go through, and Decker sincerely hoped he was never faced with such a situation. A low sound of frustration brought his eyes open again. Mortimer had stopped pacing and was now eyeing the stairs grimly. Afraid the man had reached the end of his tether and was about to do something he would later regret, Decker tried to distract him by asking, “What’s this I hear about a new enforcer headquarters and you possibly running it?” Mortimer tore his eyes from the ceiling and shrugged. “Now that Lucian has met his life mate, he’s finding it inconvenient to have us using his house as a home base when we’re working in the area. He decided a proper headquarters was the solution and has arranged for the purchase of a house not far from his place on the outskirts of Toronto. He offered the job of running it to me when he got here.” Decker nodded, pretending he hadn’t overheard the entire conversation earlier.

He then commented, “It will allow you to stay close to Sam.” “Yes.” Mortimer sighed, and then frowned and added bitterly, “If we’re allowed to be together.” Decker grunted, mentally kicking himself for not realizing this conversation would lead right back to Sam and what was going on upstairs. He was trying to come up with something else to talk about when he heard the sound of a chair scraping across the hardwood floor overhead. It was followed by the soft pad of footsteps. “It sounds like they’re done talking.” “Thank God,” Mortimer muttered, but Decker couldn’t help but note that he didn’t appear relieved. If anything, the man was growing even tenser as he waited to hear his future. Decker looked toward the stairs, watching as first Sam and then Lucian came into view.

He didn’t bother looking to his uncle, who was always stone-faced and hard to read. Instead he focused on Sam, but she was as expressionless as the man behind her, a result of being a lawyer, he supposed. A poker face probably came in handy there, he thought, and read her mind. What he found was a muddle of both anger and relief. It seemed Lucian had been his usual heavy-handed self, telling Sam point-blank the punishment would be death should she ever betray their people and give their presence away. But he’d agreed to allow her to be Mortimer’s life mate without turning. Decker also found that Lucian had managed to convince her to give notice at her law firm and come to work for the enforcers. Decker found that surprising because he knew that until meeting Mortimer, her career at the prestigious law firm had been the focal point of her life. It seemed, however, she’d realized these last two weeks that she didn’t care for the fact that it had almost taken over her whole life, and while she wasn’t ready to give up her sisters, she was willing to give up her present position to find the time to make a life with Mortimer. It had helped that Lucian had told her there were a lot of legal issues that needed tending when they hunted down and exterminated rogues.

People could not just disappear in today’s paper-plagued world. Not even immortals. “Sam’s agreed to work for us,” Lucian announced as he stepped off the stairs. “She’ll do what she can to help you organize the enforcer headquarters, and handle any legal matters that come up on the job.” Decker didn’t miss the relief that flashed across Mortimer’s face as he hurried to Sam and slipped his arm around her waist to draw her to his side. Engrossed in each other, neither paid attention when Lucian moved to stand in front of Grant and glared grimly down at the dark-haired immortal. “I understand you’ve been having trouble getting your blood supply and have been forced to feed off of mortals?” he asked. Grant nodded, fear plain on his face. When Lucian simply stared at the man, his gaze fixed, Decker was positive he was reading the immortal’s thoughts. Apparently he was satisfied by what he found there, because he nodded and said, “Someone is already looking into the situation with the employee who was holding up your orders.

I’ve also arranged for a generator to be delivered and installed so that your blood supply isn’t ruined every time the power goes out up here. That should keep you from having to feed off the locals in future. But,” he added sharply, “if you have any further problems, you’re to call Mortimer at once. I won’t forgive another incident like this.” Grant cringed back into the cold leather cushion at the warning. “It wasn’t my fault. I—” “You forget I can read your mind,” Lucian interrupted grimly. “Pride is the reason you didn’t contact someone about the problems you were having getting blood. That and the fact that you really prefer your meals warm, and the situation gave you the perfect excuse to feed off the hoof. If you really want to feed that way, you’d best move to Europe.

It isn’t allowed here. The next time a situation like this comes up involving you, you’ll find yourself staked and baked. Got it?” “Y-yes sir,” Grant stammered. Apparently satisfied that he’d made his point, Lucian glanced to Mortimer and then to Decker as he commented, “Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any cleanup to do here. Grant, at least, had the good sense to take his meals in a wide area, feeding as far north as Parry Sound and all the way down to Minden. It means he’s managed to avoid raising suspicion among the mortals, so you boys can gather your stuff and head—” “Excuse me,” Grant said timidly from the couch. Lucian frowned and turned on the man. “What?” The immortal shrank under his glare and then stammered nervously, “I never fed in P-Parry Sound… or M-Minden.” Lucian stared at him for a moment. “We had reports from other immortals who had spotted bite marks in Parry Sound, Burk’s Falls, Nobel, Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Minden, and Haliburton.

” Grant shook his head. “I never went further south than Bracebridge. Gravenhurst, Minden, and Haliburton weren’t me. Neither is Parry Sound to the north.” He licked his lips and then suggested, “Perhaps I am not the only one who has been having trouble getting supplies.” Another moment of silence passed as Lucian apparently read Grant again. Lucian cursed and turned to Decker, saying, “It seems your work here isn’t done. You’ll have to split up and check both the north and the south, but first contact Bastien to see who else gets supplies from the Argeneau Blood Bank and might be having similar problems to Grant. We’ll check with them first.” Decker raised an eyebrow at the mention of his cousin, Bastien Argeneau, the head of Argeneau Enterprises.

His gaze slid toward the window, where sunlight was visible on the horizon. “The sun’s rising, Bastien will have left the office and gone home by now.” Lucian grimaced. “Yes, and since meeting his life mate he’s started shutting off the ringer on the phone while they’re sleeping unless there’s an emergency call he’s waiting for.” He thought for a minute and then glanced to Grant. “Do you know any of the other immortals up here?” “Not many. I tend to keep to myself,” Grant said apologetically. “Well, you can stop that,” Lucian growled. “An immortal without family and friends is more likely to go rogue.” “I have friends,” Grant said quickly, and then added reluctantly, “Well… one.

He lives just north of Minden and I visit him every couple of weeks.” Apparently afraid Lucian wouldn’t believe him, he added, “You can ask Nicholas. He’ll vouch for me.” “Nicholas?” Lucian asked sharply as Decker stiffened at the name. “Nicholas who?” “Nicholas Argeneau,” Grant said, sounding bewildered that he would even need to ask. “I saw him on my way out there the last time I went. I told him I was headed to a friend’s. He’ll remember. He can tell you.” Lucian had gone stock-still and Mortimer muttered a curse.

Decker himself felt as if the blood in his veins had turned to mud and stopped moving. Everything in him had come to a screeching halt—his blood, his heart, even his thoughts as those words echoed in his head. It was Sam who asked in a whisper, “What’s wrong? Who is this Nicholas Argeneau?” “He’s a rogue who’s been evading us for nearly fifty years,” Mortimer growled. “What?” Grant paled and shrank back into the cushions again as if afraid Lucian would reach out and throttle him. He started to babble, “I didn’t know Nicholas was rogue. I moved up this way fifty years ago to escape the city and hadn’t heard. I would have called Argeneau Enterprises at once if I’d known Nicholas was rogue.” “Go home,” Lucian ordered grimly. When the man breathed out his relief and rushed eagerly for the stairs, he added, “And no more biting or I’ll come deal with you personally.” A handful of breathless assurances of future good behavior drifted back to them as the man hurried up the steps.

They ended on the clack of the screen door slamming upstairs. “So,” Mortimer said quietly into the silence that had fallen over the room. “What are we going to do about Nicholas?” Decker’s gaze slid back to his uncle to find Lucian staring straight at him. His face was its usual expressionless mask as he answered, “We hunt him.”

.

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