The Immortal Who Loved Me – Lynsay Sands

Sherry was muttering to herself as she worked. She hated doing taxes. She hated paying them even more. Snorting with disgust as she calculated the amount of money she’d have to pay this quarter, she saved the program and was about to shut off the computer when her office door burst open. Grumpy after her task, Sherry raised her head, ready to rip into the employee who had barged in without knocking. But, instead, the words caught in her throat and her eyes widened with surprise as she stared at the petite blond teenager who rushed in and slammed the door closed. The kid didn’t give her more than a passing glance as her gaze slid around the room to find the window overlooking the store. The office was eight steps up from the main floor, so it allowed for an eagle’s view of everything. On spotting the window, the kid immediately dropped into a crouch, and then moved to it to poke her head up and peer anxiously out over the store floor. Sherry’s eyebrows rose at the action, and she announced, “It’s a one-way mirror. No one in the store can see you.” The girl glanced around and frowned at her. “Shhh.” “Excuse me?” Sherry said with a half laugh of disbelief at the sheer gall of the girl. Expression turning serious, she said grimly, “This is my office, kiddo.

I suggest you explain your reason for being here, or get out.” Rather than put the kid in her place, the words merely drew a full-on scowl from her as she turned and then concentrated a pair of the most amazing eyes on Sherry. They were a strange silver-green and seemed almost to glow with intensity. Caught by those beautiful and unusual eyes, Sherry allowed her to stare briefly, mostly because she was staring back, but then she arched her eyebrows. “Well? Are you just going to crouch there and gawk at me or explain yourself?” Instead of answering, the girl frowned and asked, “Why can’t I read you?” A short disbelieving laugh slipped from Sherry, but when the girl simply stared at her with bewilderment, she said reasonably, “Maybe because I’m not a book.” That got no reaction from the girl. She still continued to stare at her, looking almost vexed. Tired of thinking of her as “the girl,” Sherry asked abruptly, “What’s your name?” “Stephanie,” the girl replied almost absently, eyeing her now as if she were a bug under a microscope. That examination ended abruptly when a chime sounded from the speaker in the corner of Sherry’s office. It announced that the front door of the store had been opened.

Seeming to realize that, Stephanie whirled to peer out at the store again, and quickly dropped back to her haunches so that only the top of her head poked up over the bottom of the window ledge. “I told you it’s one-way,” Sherry said with exasperation. “They can’t see—” “Shhh,” Stephanie hissed without glancing around, simply raising a hand in her direction, palm up, demanding silence. Despite herself, Sherry obeyed the silent order. There was just something about the girl, a sudden stillness and tension that had been present before, but now intensified. It made Sherry frown and glance past her to the store beyond the one-way mirror as four men walked into the shop. Using the word “walked” was somewhat misleading. It was too normal, and had they just walked in she would have simply taken note of their entrance and then turned her attention back to the teenager in her office. But there was nothing normal about these men. All four of the newcomers looked to be in their mid-twenties.

They also all had longish, dirty blond hair. One wore it in a ponytail, another actually had it up in a bun, and a third man had gelled it into long pointy spokes that poked out of his head like a hedgehog. But the leader, or at least the man in the lead, had a full, matted mane that made her think of a lion. Sensing trouble, Sherry watched the men. They each wore jeans that could have used a run through a washing machine. Their T-shirts weren’t much better, and they didn’t walk in so much as stalk in. There was just something predatory about them, an air that made her feel like a gazelle on the planes of the Serengeti and grateful they were on the other side of the mirror. Unaware that she had stood and was slowly moving to the girl’s side, Sherry watched with trepidation as the lead man raised his head and took a long, deep sniff of the air, scenting it like the predator he made her think of. He then nodded, lowered his head and glanced around to ask, “Where is the girl?” Not surprisingly, the half a dozen customers in the store continued perusing the kitchenware they’d come in for, probably not even aware that he was addressing them or to what girl he was referring. Sherry doubted anyone but her employees had even noted the girl’s entrance, and busy with customers as they were, even they may not have.

When nobody paid him any attention, the lead man scowled and cast a glance back toward his men. The last man, the one that resembled a hedgehog, still stood in the open store door. Now he entered fully and slammed it, sending the bells ringing madly. When the chimes fell silent, so was the shop. Every eye in the place was now on the foursome, and the air seemed charged with a sudden wariness that Sherry was not only aware of, but was experiencing herself. “Thank you for your attention,” the leader said pleasantly, moving forward again. After half a dozen steps, he paused again, this time in front of one of her employees who had been helping a young woman who had a little girl clutching at her skirt. Sherry sucked in a breath when the man’s hand suddenly shot out to the side and snatched the mother by the front of her sweater. He wasn’t even looking at her as he grabbed and jerked her forward. Only then did he turn his head toward her, his nose almost brushing hers as he demanded, “Where is the—” Sherry found herself tensing further when he paused suddenly mid-question.

She bit her lip, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end as he inhaled again, more deeply this time. Sherry didn’t know why, but the action made her anxious for the woman, especially when he gave a pleasant little shiver as he released his breath at the end. “You’re pregnant,” he announced, a smile growing on his lips. Dipping his head, he ran his nose along the woman’s throat, inhaling deeply again. He then released a happy sounding little sigh and announced, “I love pregnant women almost as much as untreated diabetics. All those hormones pumping through the blood . ” He pulled back to look her in the face as he said, “It’s a powerful cocktail.” “Damn.” Sherry blinked and tore her gaze from the tableau below to glance to Stephanie, surprised to find she’d briefly forgotten about the girl. “What?” Sherry asked, instinctively whispering this time.

She didn’t know who these people were, or what was going on, but all her inner alarm bells were ringing in warning now. Something very bad was happening and she knew instinctively that it was only going to get worse. Stephanie bit her lip and then glanced around. “Is there a back exit in this place?” “That door leads to the alley behind the shops,” Sherry admitted quietly, gesturing to a door down another eight steps at the back of her office. Sherry didn’t blame the kid for wanting to run. She wanted to herself, but couldn’t, not with her employees and customers out there at the mercy of the men presently filling her small shop. It was like four lions set among a pen full of lambs. Although she supposed that was the wrong analogy. Everyone knew the lioness did the hunting, not the lion. Wolves were probably a better descriptor for these men.

“You don’t happen to have a car parked out in the alley, do you?” Stephanie asked hopefully. Sherry merely stared for a moment. She had heard the question but hadn’t seen the girl’s lips move. What—? “Do you?” the teenager hissed, her lips moving this time. “No. I take the subway,” Sherry admitted quietly. Most people did in the city, rather than pay exorbitant parking fees. The girl sighed unhappily and then peered back to the drama taking place on the other side of the mirror. Sherry followed her gaze. The leader now had the young mother pressed up against the checkout counter, her body bent back over it, but all he was doing at the moment was sniffing her neck like a dog.

It was weird, and might even have been funny if Sherry hadn’t noted the knife he now retrieved from his pocket and flicked open at his side. “Oh crap,” she breathed. “Yeah,” Stephanie muttered. “A car would have made this so much easier.” “Made what easier?” Sherry asked in a distracted voice as she watched the man run the side of the blade lightly up the apparently pregnant woman’s stomach toward her throat. The woman wasn’t reacting at all. Her expression was blank, as were the expressions on the faces of the others in the store. Even her child simply stood there, blank-faced and unconcerned. The only people in the store with any expression at all were the leader and his men. The leader was smiling a soft almost sweet smile, while the three men who could have been his brothers were all grinning widely with what she would have said was anticipation.

“You better start running,” Stephanie said grimly, moving to lock the door leading into the store. “I’m not running anywhere,” Sherry said, her words sharp despite her effort to keep her tone soft. “I’m calling the police.” “The police can’t help them,” the girl said grimly, striding over to pick up the heavy filing cabinet in the corner and carry it down the stairs to set in front of the door that opened to the store floor. Sherry was so startled by the action that she just stared. The filing cabinet was a tall, four-drawer legal cabinet stuffed full of paperwork and receipts. It weighed a ton. She doubted she could have pushed or dragged it across the floor, let alone lift it like it was an empty laundry basket as the girl had just done. She was trying to work out in her head how Stephanie had done that when movement below drew her attention back to the store floor. The leader had suddenly released the pregnant woman and stepped back.

Maybe he was going to leave. The vague hope had barely formed in her mind when he grabbed one of the mixing bowls off a nearby display and handed that and the knife to the pregnant woman and said pleasantly, “It’s such a messy business and this is my favorite T-shirt. Why don’t you do it? Bend forward over the counter, put the bowl on that stool there so it’s under your throat, and slice your neck open so the blood flows into it.” “The crazy son of a—” Sherry began and then nearly bit her tongue off when the young mother, still with no expression on her face, did exactly as he’d suggested. She turned to bend over the counter, set the bowl on the clerk’s stool behind it, positioned herself so her neck was over the bowl and slit her own throat. “Damn,” Sherry breathed with dismay, hardly able to believe the woman had just done that. “I’m calling the police.” “There’s no time,” Stephanie growled, catching her arm. “He’s controlling those people. Can’t you see that? Do you think that woman really wanted to slit her own throat?” “But the police—” “Even if they got here before Leonius is done, they’d just become part of the slaughter.

The only way to save these people is to lead Leo and his boys away from here . and to do that I need to get their attention and then run like hell.” “Then we’ll get their attention and we’ll run like hell,” Sherry said firmly as she hurried down the steps to unlock and open the back door. There was no way in hell she was letting the teenager handle the matter alone. She was just a kid, for heaven’s sake. Sherry had just spotted the door stopper to keep the door open when a loud crash made her turn sharply around. She was just in time to see her desk chair sail through the one-way mirror and out of sight. Stephanie had pitched it through. Sherry hurried back to the top of the steps to look out onto the store floor. The chair hadn’t hit anyone, but the noise had definitely caught the attention of the men in the other room.

No one else even glanced around, but all four men were now staring through the opening toward them. Stephanie promptly flipped them the bird, then raced toward Sherry, shrieking, “Run!” The shout had barely hit her ears when Stephanie was streaking past her, catching her arm in passing and nearly jerking her off her feet as she swung her around. In the next moment, she’d been dragged down the stairs and out the door. Stephanie must have kicked the stopper out of the way as they passed, because the door slammed closed behind them. The girl was fast. Inhumanly fast. Sherry was moving like she’d never moved before in her life. Adrenaline gave her a boost and her feet barely seemed to touch the ground, but the teenager was still nearly dragging her off her feet with her own speed. It was a short alley, yet they’d barely traveled up half of it when a loud crash drew her gaze over her shoulder to see the men charging out after them. Sherry’s heart leapt at the sight.

Like the girl, they were also fast. Too fast. She would never outrun them. And she was just holding Stephanie back. “Go!” she shouted, shaking her arm in an effort to break the girl’s hold. “I’m just slowing you down. Leave me and run!” Stephanie glanced toward the men gaining on them, looked forward again, and then did just that. She released her hold on Sherry and charged for the mouth of the alley. Sherry was glad she had. It was what she’d told her to do, and at the same time being suddenly on her own with those hyenas nipping at her heels was heart-stoppingly terrifying.

Despite her fear, or more likely because of it, Sherry managed to put on a little more speed herself, but it was like trying to outrun a sports car. Impossible. Sherry’s only hope was that they’d bypass her to chase after the girl. The moment she had the thought, Sherry began to worry that they would do just that. She couldn’t leave the girl to their less than tender mercies without at least trying to slow them down or stop them. That thought in mind, she glanced around for something to help with the effort. The only thing ahead of her in the narrow alley was a pair of garbage Dumpsters. “Work with what you have,” she breathed, and changed direction, angling toward the large blue metal bins. Would she have time to grab one to push toward the men? Would she be strong enough? Did garbage Dumpsters have locks on their wheels, and if they did, were the wheels locked on these Dumpsters? Sherry never got the answer to those questions because that’s when the gunshot rang out. She was sure she felt the bullet whiz past her ear, it was so close.

At first she thought her pursuers were shooting either at her or the girl. It made her squint at the mouth of the alley some twenty feet ahead as she sought out the girl to see if she was all right. Her eyes widened incredulously when she spotted Stephanie in a shooter’s stance, gun pointed her way while a police officer stood beside her seeming oblivious to what was happening. Even as she saw that, several more gunshots sounded. This time, though, Sherry heard a grunt from close behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, shocked to see the leader only three or four steps away, his arm extended, hand reaching for her. His fingers actually brushed the cloth of her blouse even as he began to tumble toward the ground. There were three holes in his chest, Sherry saw as he fell, and his followers were skidding to a halt to help him. With the hope that she might get out of this after all, Sherry turned and ran like crazy. All she was thinking was that if she got to Stephanie and the officer before one of the men gave chase again, she would be all right.

When Sherry reached Stephanie, the girl had lowered the weapon and was putting it back in the officer’s holster, saying, “This never happened. You never saw us and you really should patrol farther up the road and stay away from here until the alley is empty.” Stephanie snapped the officer’s holster closed on the gun as she finished speaking, and then the officer immediately turned and started up the road. “What—?” Sherry began with amazement and then snapped her mouth closed as Stephanie grabbed her hand and began to run again, dragging her away from the alley mouth. Since Sherry was more than happy to get away from their pursuers, she went willingly, doing her best to keep up. But as soon as they reached the end of the street and had rounded the corner, she tugged at Stephanie’s hand and gasped, “Wait . Stop . I can’t . run any . more.

” “We can’t stop,” Stephanie said firmly, dragging her up the road, though slowing to a jog at least. “Leo will be after us as soon as he recovers.” “That guy . you shot?” she gasped with amazement, still tugging on Stephanie’s hand. Even a jog was too much for her labored lungs at the moment, and her words were breathless and choppy as she said, “He isn’t . recovering . anytime soon. He has . three bullets . in his chest.

His next stop . is the . hospital.”

.

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