For almost two centuries, Ildaria Garcia has been on the run, a trouble magnet with a knack for taking down bad guys. Lately, her vigilante tendencies have drawn unwelcome attention to her fellow Immortals. Forced to relocate, Ildaria is supposed to lay low in a new town. Instead, she quickly entangles herself with six and a half feet of muscular, tattooed trouble.
Joshua James Simpson Guiscard, aka G.G., knows a lot about Immortals—enough to make him wary. Yet from the moment Ildaria walks into his club, he feels desire stronger than anything he’s known. Accepting the fact that they might be life mates is disconcerting. But when her past catches up to them, G.G. faces a choice—confront his demons at last, or lose a passion that’s hot as hell.
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About the Book
by Lynsay Sands
September 29, 2020
An Argeneau Novel
© 2020 Lynsay Sands
Pain dragged Jack back to consciousness, bone deep agony all over his body that made him grimace before he even opened his eyes. Unfortunately, grimacing just added to his suffering, so he flattened out his features again to avoid it and opened his eyes instead. That caused a new flare-up of pain, but he ignored it and peered out of sore swollen eyes at the dark open space he was in.
Glow-in-the-dark paint covered the walls in some imaginative graffiti. But he knew there was more that wasn’t glow-in-the-dark. He’d seen it the last time he was conscious thanks to the light his captors had brought with them. He’d also seen the broken tile floor his chair sat on.
He was in an old abandoned building somewhere. Jack had decided that the last time he’d been awake. He had no idea where, though. He’d been unconscious when they brought him here, a result of a sucker punch he’d taken while distracted by Lacy having a gun to her head.
That thought was quickly followed by the sound of a whimper from across the room and Jack shifted his head until he could see Lacy. She lay curled up on the floor against the wall. The position and her whimpering cries had worried him the first time he’d regained consciousness. He’d feared their kidnappers had hurt her while he was unconscious. But it had turned out that wasn’t the case. She was just frightened. Jack understood, this hadn’t exactly turned out to be a dream date, but he could have done without her sobbing, weeping, and wailing as the men had beaten him. That had made him want to slap her. He was the one who’d gotten his ass kicked, but she’d carried on like it was her being beaten within an inch of her life.
Sighing, he closed his eyes briefly, thinking that his partner, Deedee, would have been untying him and fighting at his side to get them out of there, but not Lacy. She wasn’t tied up, and hadn’t been hurt, but wouldn’t move from the spot they’d placed her in when they got here no matter what Jack had said to try to convince her when he’d first woken up to find them alone there. She was too scared to listen to him, too scared to save herself, let alone both of them.
It made him wish he’d kept fighting rather than stopping when the gun had been put to her head and he’d been told to stop or her brains would be blown out. At the time, Jack had thought, or hoped, he might find a way to get them both safely away later if he gave in then. A preference to seeing her killed. Now he knew that wasn’t likely, and wondered if he shouldn’t have risked her being shot and kept fighting. At least, one of them would have survived then, and really, if she wasn’t even going to try, did she deserve to survive this?
Guilt drenched Jack’s mind at these thoughts. Lacy was a teacher, not an FBI agent like himself. She had no training, or even any experience in dealing with high stress, dangerous situations. Unfortunately, she also apparently had no survival instinct at all.
Used to ball-busting female agents who could handle most any situation thrown at them, Jack had found her helplessness appealing when they met. She’d seemed delicate and ever so much a lady to him, like a fragile flower. He’d found that ridiculously attractive . . . until tonight. Christ, even roses had thorns, he thought as Lacy released another shuddering whimper.
Mouth tightening despite the pain it caused, Jack shifted his attention to the rest of the room, looking for something to help them out of this. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, but it didn’t help. Unfortunately, their captors hadn’t thoughtfully left a weapon lying about, or anything that might be used to remove his ropes. It was just a large, empty room, the only furniture the chair he was tied to, and the only light came from the streetlights outside. Not much of it was making its way through the filthy windows. They were probably in an old abandoned government building, or one of the empty structures at or near the university, he thought and then let the thought drift away as unimportant. It didn’t matter where they were if he couldn’t get loose and get them out of there.
Jack’s gaze slid back to Lacy as she whimpered again, and he was about to try one more time to convince her to at least flee for help and save herself if not him, when the sound of rusty hinges announced a door opening and the return of their captors.
“Awake, I see.”
Jack considered closing his eyes and pretending he’d passed out again, but doubted it would work. So, instead, he raised his chin and glared defiantly at the speaker. Grizzly Adams, as he’d come to call him because he was huge with a lot of facial hair, was leading four men toward him while four more were spreading out around the room to keep an eye out the windows.
Just to be sure they weren’t caught by surprise by someone hearing his screams of pain and approaching the building, Jack supposed.
“Your boss still not here?” he asked with more bravado than curiosity. Although, the attempt at bravado made a poor showing with his words coming out slurred and somewhat garbled by his swollen mouth and possibly broken jaw.
“Nope. He’s been delayed,” Grizzly Adams said with a grin. “Good news, right? Means we get to play a little longer.”
Since getting to play meant Grizzly Adams could continue to pummel his face and chest with his big meaty fists while Jack sat there helplessly taking the blows and trying not to scream as he waited to pass out from the pain, he didn’t really see that as a good thing. He’d almost prefer for “the boss,” whoever that was, to show up and kill him or whatever the endgame was. It seemed obvious he wasn’t going to escape. Might as well get it over with. Although, it would be nice to know what this was all about. Grizzly Adams wasn’t talking, however. All he’d say is the boss wanted to tell him himself. Obviously it had something to do with his work. The boss was probably someone he’d put away at some point in his career, or a relative of someone he’d put away and it would be nice to know why he was going to die.
Jack’s thoughts were scattered by an explosion of pain in his chest as Grizzly Adams delivered his first blow and, he was sure, broke another one of his ribs. Christ, the man had fists like bowling balls. The impact and pain brought a broken woof of sound from him, but made Lacy shriek like they were connected and she felt the pain. He’d barely noted that when a second blow landed, this one to the already broken jaw. It sent his face turning sharply to the right.
Stars exploding in front of his eyes, Jack had to blink to clear his vision enough to see when a door burst open at the end of the room. It flew inward, crashing against the wall with the impact of an explosion, raising dust and dirt in a cloud that partially obscured the figure now standing in the doorway. At first, Jack assumed “the boss” had arrived, but as the dust storm settled and he took in the silhouette framed against the streetlight pouring into the room, he realized it was a woman and a very shapely one at that. Which didn’t mean it couldn’t be the boss, he supposed, but the reactions of his captors made it clear it wasn’t.
For one second they were all tense and silent with shock like himself, but then they each relaxed and even began to smile.
“Well, look what we have here, boys,” Grizzly Adams said, a mean grin pulling at his lips. “Someone else to play with . . . The boss said no messing with the schoolteacher, but he didn’t say anything about wild women who wander into our playing field.”
Jack blinked at the wild woman comment. He couldn’t see her well, but with the light surrounding her like a nimbus, she looked more like an angel to him than a wild woman. Until the men started toward her. The moment one got close his angel turned into a demon.
God in heaven, she moved fast, Jack thought with awe as she went from completely motionless to a Tasmanian-devil-speed spin from which her leg shot out and caught the nearest man in the head. It was a hard hit, lifting him off his feet before he flew backward and crashed to the floor. He didn’t get up, Jack noted before shifting his attention back to the woman. The other men were converging on her much more swiftly now. No doubt they were angry at what she’d done to their cohort and eager to get some revenge.
Instead, what they got was pain and a close personal introduction to the same floor their unconscious friend now lay on. The woman took out all comers, one, two, and three at a time as they reached her. Jack could hardly track her, she moved so fast, and even he had to wince as he heard various bones snap and watched skulls bounce off the cracked tile floor. By the time his angel was done, nothing in the room was moving and there wasn’t a sound to be heard. Even Lacy had stopped her whining whimper.
“Breathe.” The word was a bare whisper of sound from where she stood halfway across the room, but Jack heard it and realized he’d been holding his breath. He sucked in a deep one now, and heard Lacy gasp in a shuddering breath of her own, but his gaze didn’t leave the angel. Now that she was out of the beam of light coming through the open street door, he could see her better. Not well, but enough to note that she had long, dark hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head and every stitch of clothing she wore was black leather: high-heel black leather boots, skintight black leather pants, and a tight black leather jacket that was half-open over a black leather bustier. None of which hid the killer figure it covered.
The woman was walking sin, Jack thought faintly as he watched her slide a phone out of the black leather jacket and begin to punch in numbers. Just three of them. 911 was his guess as she murmured something into the phone and then pushed a button and put it away.
“Help will be here soon.” The words were soft, almost a whisper, which made it hard for him to identify the trace of accent his ears caught. Without another word, she left the building the same way she’d entered, walking out the open door. But her exit seemed to leave a vacuum in the room that sucked the air out of it. At least, that was how it seemed to Jack as the darkness began to close in around him. His last thought before losing consciousness was that he had to find out who his angel was.
“Professor Straithe is late.”
“Si, but he’s always late,” Ildaria pointed out as she pulled her notebook and a pen from her knapsack and then set the bag on the floor next to her seat.
“Yeah, but he’s really late tonight,” Lydia responded and then added eagerly, “Five more minutes and he’ll be fifteen minutes late. Then we can leave. Class will be canceled and we can hit a bar or something.”
Ildaria shrugged as she opened her notebook to a clean page and predicted, “He’ll walk in one minute before the fifteen-minute point and we’ll be stuck here. He’s done it several times this semester.”
“Yes, he has,” Lydia agreed, sounding deflated now, and then her tone turning irritated she added, “It’s a night class for cripes sake, not a morning class he has to drag his butt out of bed for, yet the man is always late.” She scowled and then muttered bitterly, “And then he’s a boring lecturer when he finally does get here. I swear if he weren’t such a hunk, I’d hate him.”
Ildaria chuckled at the claim. She doubted Lydia had it in her to hate anyone. The woman was just too kind. It was one of the things she liked about her.
“Oh myyyy. What have we here?”
Eyebrows rising, Ildaria glanced around and followed Lydia’s gaze to the top of the tiered lecture hall where two men now stood just inside the door. Both were tall and muscular, dressed in black T-shirts, black jeans, and black leather boots. They were carbon copies of each other . . . from the neck down. Only their faces and hair coloring differed. The Nordic blond had sharp features and an aquiline nose, while the dark-haired man had blunter features. Both were gorgeous. Both also looked lean, mean, and dangerous as they surveyed the class, obviously looking for someone.
“No books, no bags . . . They can’t be students,” Lydia commented, ogling the pair, and then she suggested, “Ooooh, maybe they’re new TAs.”
She was probably already planning on requesting after hours help, Ildaria thought on a sigh and muttered, “Or bloodsucking putas here to execute someone.”
“What?” Lydia turned on her with amusement, but Ildaria just shook her head and stared at the two men, her thoughts racing. She knew exactly who they were—Valerian and Tybo were Enforcers—or rogue hunters as her kind liked to call them. The immortal version of police, sent out by the Immortal Council to hunt down rogue immortals who had been misbehaving. Normal people, or mortals, like Lydia, would have called them vampire hunters if she had any idea that immortals existed. But Lydia didn’t know that.
“What are you doing?” Lydia asked with amazement as she watched her snatch up her bag from the floor and unzip it. “You don’t know those guys, do you?”
Mouth tightening, Ildaria didn’t respond. Instead, she quickly shoved her notebook and pen inside.
“You do know them,” Lydia gasped with mounting excitement. “Oh. You have to introduce me to them.”
“Trust me. You don’t want to meet them. They’re trouble,” Ildaria said bitterly, wondering if she’d be executed at once, or have to wait around for a Council trial before the deed was done.
“The most interesting men are always trouble,” Lydia assured her, gathering her own books with the obvious intention of joining her to meet the men.
Ildaria didn’t waste her breath trying to dissuade her again. Instead, she simply said, “Stay here,” and slipped into the girl’s mind to make her stay. When Lydia immediately relaxed back in her seat and turned to face the front of the class, Ildaria stood, slung her bag over her shoulder and scooted sideways along the row of occupied seats until she reached the stairs. She ascended them quickly, keeping her expression blank now that she was facing the men. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of showing her worry and fear.
Tybo and Valerian didn’t say a word when she joined them. They merely took up position on either side of her to escort her from the lecture hall and then the building.
It wasn’t until they were outside, walking the dark path toward the parking lot that Tybo spoke.
“You couldn’t resist, could you?”
Ildaria’s shoulders hunched instinctively in a protective move, but she forced them straight again and said firmly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“You’ve been playing vigilante again,” he accused.
“I haven’t,” Ildaria assured him.
“You were caught on video tossing around some big bastard twice your size,” Valerian informed her, joining the conversation as they reached the parking lot. “It was uploaded onto Twitter or Instagram or something where Mortimer found it. He showed it to Lucian.”
Ildaria sucked in an alarmed breath at that, but insisted, “I wasn’t playing vigilante.” Unsure which incident had been caught on film, she added, “I was walking to my car after class, heard a girl scream and tried to help. What was I supposed to do? Just ignore it?”
“Yes,” Tybo said with exasperation.
Stopping, Ildaria turned on him with disbelief. “So you would have just ignored a woman screaming for help?”
Tybo’s eyes shifted away, telling her that he wouldn’t, but then his gaze returned to her, and he said, “Well, maybe I couldn’t have ignored it, but I sure as hell would have made sure I didn’t get caught on video if I did.”
Ildaria opened her mouth to respond, but paused and glanced to the side instead, when a woman’s scream sounded. Her eyes widened with dismay when she saw a struggling, young female being dragged toward the open door of a van at the far end of the parking lot. Ildaria had barely recognized that she was witnessing an abduction when Tybo and Valerian charged past her, racing for the other end of the parking lot at speed. Immortal speed. Inhuman speed.
Instinct almost had Ildaria charging after them, but Tybo’s words were still ringing in her head: Well, maybe I couldn’t have ignored it, but I sure as hell would have made sure I didn’t get caught on video if I did.
Her gaze slid around the parking lot, noting a few other university students around. There were still more nearer the buildings. Some of them were alone, some in pairs, some in clusters. Several had started forward as if to help, but were now slowing as they saw Tybo and Valerian charging in. The rest were raising their cell phones. Some were probably just taking pictures, but others were undoubtedly videotaping and there were probably still others that she couldn’t see who were doing both. Such was the world today. Camera phones had changed everything, she thought with a shake of the head, and then Tybo’s words slid through her mind again.
I sure as hell would have made sure I didn’t get caught on video if I did.
Snorting under her breath, Ildaria stayed where she was, pulled out her cell phone, and began to record too.
By the time the excitement was over, and Tybo and Valerian had handed the culprit over to the campus police and the young woman to the care of the EMTs, Ildaria’s phone was back in her pocket and she was leaning against their black SUV, waiting. She knew it was theirs because the license plate was RogueH4.
When they reached her, she commented mildly, “So, you can’t ignore a woman in trouble any more than I can.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tybo muttered, exchanging a chagrined glance with Valerian as he pulled out his key fob and hit the button to unlock the SUV doors.
“Did you notice all the people videotaping?” she asked next.
Both men stopped dead at her words and turned to look around the parking lot. Many of the witnesses who had been filming were gone now, most leaving when the campus police had arrived. But there were still a few watching them with phones out, still recording.
“Damn,” Tybo growled.
Valerian sighed and said, “You take the two on the right side of the parking lot, and I’ll—”
“Don’t bother,” Ildaria interrupted as the pair started to move. “It’s already been uploaded to the net at least once.”
When both of their heads swiveled toward her with alarm, she smiled sweetly. “I tagged Lucian Argeneau on mine. He’s probably looking at it right now.”
“Ah, crap,” Tybo muttered.
“Now you know how I feel,” she said grimly and turned to get into the SUV, leaving them to follow at their leisure. When she finished doing up her seat belt and glanced out, she saw that the two men were still standing beside the vehicle, but with their phones out now. Looking for the video, she supposed with amusement and guessed they’d found at least one version of it when they both began to curse.
Releasing a satisfied little sigh, she leaned back in her seat to wait for them to get over their upset and take her to Lucian. Oddly enough, they didn’t seem as eager to get her there as they had been when they’d pulled her from class. It was a very quiet ride to the Enforcer house, with a lot of angry and accusing glares cast her way.
“Ildaria! How nice to see you again.”
Ildaria smiled crookedly at that greeting from Samantha Mortimer when Tybo and Valerian marched her into the Enforcer house. She stood stiff and still when the other woman hugged her . . . until Sam whispered, “It will be fine.”
Relaxing a little then, Ildaria raised her hands to return the slender woman’s hug and even managed a real smile when Sam pulled back enough to look at her face. Ildaria wasn’t sure it really would be all right, but Sam’s words at least gave her hope.
“Lucian and Garrett are waiting in the office,” Sam said, finally releasing her. She then glanced to Tybo and Valerian and added, “For all three of you.”
Ildaria bit her lip when both men groaned and cast her accusing glares, but Sam grinned with amusement and slid her arm through hers to lead her down the hall as she asked, “How are you settling in at Marguerite’s?”
“Good,” Ildaria murmured, forcing her worry aside for the moment. “Marguerite’s very nice.”
“Yes, she is, isn’t she,” Sam said with a smile that dimmed a bit as she added, “But I hope she’s taking it easy. She and Julius were so crushed when she lost the last baby. I’d hate for it to happen again.”
Ildaria halted and turned on her sharply. “Marguerite’s pregnant?”
“Yes. But maybe don’t mention it to her. She hasn’t told everyone yet. I only know because I heard Lucian talking about it to Mortimer and warning him not to involve her in anything stressful until the baby is born,” Sam said quietly and explained, “She was pregnant a year or two ago, but lost the baby and Lucian is sure it had something to do with stress so wants to be sure we keep her stress free this time.”
“Oh,” Ildaria murmured. She had been living with the woman for more than a month now and hadn’t picked up on her delicate state. Although, Ildaria had noticed that Marguerite was consuming a lot of blood, which was a necessity for an immortal female to carry a child to term.
“In fact,” Sam continued, “Lucian’s so determined to keep Marguerite relaxed and stress free you almost had to stay with us when they dragged you here from Montana . . . which I would have loved by the way,” she added sincerely. “But Marguerite had already got wind of your situation and insisted you should stay with her. She worried that your staying here would be uncomfortable. That the cells out back would feel like a constant threat to you of what could happen if you misbehaved.”
Ildaria grimaced at that comment, because here she was, in trouble again and probably going to end up in those cells Sam had just mentioned.
“It will be fine,” Sam murmured again, patting her arm. “And here we are.”
Ildaria glanced around to see that they’d reached Garrett Mortimer’s office—or Mortimer’s office, since everyone seemed to address Sam’s husband by his last name. Officially, Mortimer was the head of the Immortal Enforcers in North America, or rogue hunters, as they were often called. But Lucian Argeneau was the head of the North American Immortal Council and often stuck his nose in and usurped Mortimer’s position.
As he was apparently doing in this case, Ildaria decided when she saw that the ice-blond Lucian was seated in Mortimer’s chair behind the desk while Sam’s dark-haired husband was perched on the corner of his own desk. The two men had apparently been discussing something, probably her, but stopped at their arrival.
“There are brownies and cocoa waiting in the kitchen when you’re done,” Sam said lightly as she released the hold she’d had on Ildaria’s arm and urged her into the room. Ignoring the scowl Lucian gave her, the slender brunette then disappeared down the hall, leaving Tybo and Valerian to enter the room as well.
“Sit,” Lucian said firmly when the three of them stood stiffly in front of the desk like naughty children in the principal’s office.
Ildaria sat, taking the nearest chair, which happened to be the middle of three in front of the desk. It left Tybo and Valerian to take up chairs on either side of her.
Once the three of them were seated, Lucian turned the portable computer on the desk toward them. A frozen image of an obviously running Tybo and Valerian was on the screen.
Both of her escorts immediately began to speak, but Lucian held up a hand for silence. When they snapped their mouths shut, he hit the play button on the computer. They were all silent as they watched the action play out; Valerian and Tybo were as fast as cheetahs as they raced across the parking lot. Unfortunately, the parking lot was huge, and despite their inhuman speed, the attacker had dragged the woman into the van, slammed the door closed and somehow subdued her and got in the driver’s seat before they arrived at the van.
Reaching the vehicle just as it started to pull away, Valerian leapt onto the roof like a monkey leaping into a tree and ran along the top of the van toward the front, probably intending to swing in through the front passenger window. It ended up being unnecessary, however, because instead of joining him on the roof, Tybo—just a couple of steps behind Valerian—caught the bumper and lifted the back of the vehicle off the ground in a beautiful display of superman strength that had the tires spinning in midair and brought the van to an abrupt halt.
Valerian then jumped off the van roof on the driver’s side, reached through the window to turn off the vehicle and pulled the hulking driver out with one hand to let him dangle in the air. Meanwhile, Tybo set the van back on all four wheels and moved around to open the side door and retrieve the unconscious young woman inside. Valerian was still holding the would-be kidnapper by the neck and Tybo had just brought the girl back to consciousness when the campus police showed up on the scene.
“We didn’t know she was filming,” Tybo blurted when Lucian hit the button to end the recording. Turning a scowl on Ildaria, the dark-haired Enforcer added, “I still can’t believe she did. She knows we aren’t supposed to draw attention to ourselves.”
“This is not Ildaria’s footage,” Mortimer said when Lucian remained silent. “It’s by someone who goes by T.O.eyes, and their caption was Holy shit! Superman times two in Toronto.”
“Shit,” Tybo muttered, slumping back in his seat.
“Ildaria’s video was from a different angle,” Mortimer continued. “And hers was captioned, Special project for Film class. Awesome job peeps! Looks so good even I almost believed it was real.”
When Tybo and Valerian both blinked in surprise and then turned to her, Ildaria shrugged irritably. She’d been rather enjoying their chagrin and anger, but the jig was up. “I thought I should do some damage control.”