Born to Bite
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The rather loud roar of a vacuum cleaner outside her bedroom door woke Eshe at about mid-afternoon. The annoying sound was one she found impossible to ignore, and she glared at the door of the guest room where she'd spent a very restless day and silently cursed Lucian for assigning her this job. So far, she hadn't made a stellar impression on the job. After seeing Lucian Argeneau off the night before, she'd spent several minutes girding her courage for what lay ahead, then had marched back into the house determined to start at once.
However, before she could ask any questions of the man who might be either her life mate, a murderer, or both, he'd greeted her with a quiet "My room is the master bedroom at the back of the house upstairs, but there are four guest rooms upstairs as well. Take whichever one you want. I need to go check on Bessy and her calf and attend to a few chores. I'll see you when you get up tomorrow. Good night."
Armand had then slipped past her and out of the house before she could even murmur a quiet thank-you. Eshe had stared after him with amazement, finding the situation rather anticlimactic after her moments of worry, but then had heaved her breath out on a sigh, collected her bag, and gone above stairs to check out the guest rooms. Each of them was nice, but Eshe's favorite had been the rose-colored room next to the master bedroom. She'd dropped her bag on the bed and then gone to poke through Armand's room while she had the chance.
Her poking hadn't turned up anything of use. There hadn't been any handy-dandy little diary with a written confession of terrible deeds, or bloody weapons that might have been used to behead past wives. In fact, there hadn't even been pictures or portraits of his wives or from the past. The room had held a bed, a chair by the fire, a bookshelf full of books both old and new, and a closet full of clothes. The en suite bathroom hadn't been any more helpful. She'd left the master bedroom knowing no more about the man than what brand of aftershave and toothpaste he used.
Eshe had wandered the house after that, noting the absence of knickknacks and memorabilia. It seemed Armand wasn't the sentimental sort. There was nothing of his past life or wives in the house. Only the office held anything that told her the man had family. It hadn't been anything out in the open. As with the rest of the rooms in the house, this one had no visible photos or portraits that suggested there was anyone in the world he cared for, but after picking the lock on the large bottom drawer of his desk, she'd found a collection of photo albums and a box that held miniature portraits. The portraits had been older, from before the invention of photography. They had been paintings of three women she presumed were his life mate and wives, and then of his children. She recognized both Nicholas and Thomas, whom she'd met through her position as hunter, and guessed that the daughter was Jeanne Louise, his daughter by his last wife, Rosamund.
The albums themselves had held much more recent images, one had held pictures of his eldest son, Nicholas, and his wife, Annie, both looking happy at various functions, their wedding, on picnics, and so on. Then there had been an album dedicated to Thomas with newer photos of his wedding to Inez in Portugal. The last album had been of Jeanne Louise, following her from her knobby-kneed youth, through her graduation from the university, and then at various family functions.
Eshe had found that discovery somewhat reassuring. She had been told that Armand had cut all ties with his children and the rest of the family after his last wife's death a century ago and had never even seen his daughter, Jeanne Louise, since dropping her on his sister-in-law Marguerite's doorstep after the death of the girl's mother, Rosamund. Those albums suggested, however, that while he hadn't seen her in person, he'd been keeping up with her life and what she was doing, and he did care about the girl. The fact that he'd hidden those albums away, however, was rather curious. The man lived alone. There was no reason she could think of to hide them anyway.
Pondering the matter, Eshe had locked the albums away back safely in their drawer, and then slid out of the room to await Armand's return, her mind full of questions. She'd waited for him to return to the house until just before dawn, pacing his living room like a caged tiger until she couldn't stand it anymore and had finally gone out in search of him. She'd found the barn that held his dairy cows, a couple of pigs and goats, but he hadn't been there. She'd then gone through the other barns searching a good-sized one that held horses, and a henhouse full of sleeping chickens that had started stirring before she determined he wasn't there and closed the door on the incredible stench coming from inside, and then she'd checked the last barn to find it held a tractor, a riding lawn mower, and various other farm equipment but no sign of Armand.
Eshe had given up after that and made her way back to the house as the sun began to crest the horizon. Tired, she'd sought out her room and got ready for bed, thinking she would start fresh in the evening. However, tired as she'd been, sleep had not been easy to claim or keep. It was bloody noisy in the country. She often heard people comment on how noisy the city was and how blissfully quiet the country was in comparison, but she would have a couple of choice words on the subject in future. They were full of crap. Her apartment in the city was soundproofed, her sleep never disturbed by the sounds of traffic or city life. The same wasn't true out here. While there wasn't much in the way of traffic on this rural road, there were a gazillion other sounds instead; the deep thrum of passing trains in the distance, the chatter and song of birds, the chirps of crickets...She'd had the devil of a time getting to sleep and staying there.
And now there was that damned vacuum cleaner to contend with, she thought, and glowered at the door as the sound grew louder, suggesting it hadn't been right outside her room at first but now was.
The country definitely was not a quiet place, Eshe decided grimly as something banged against the base of the door several times. Growling deep in her throat, she threw the blankets and sheets aside and slid out of bed to stomp to the door. Tired as she was, Eshe was in a fine dudgeon, and all wound up to blast Armand for his inconsideration in waking her, but was brought up short when she dragged the door open and found a round little mortal woman about to bang her door again with the head of a vacuum cleaner.
"Oh dear!" the woman exclaimed, stopping just short of running the vacuum over Eshe's bare feet when they appeared in place of the door. "I'm sorry! Did I wake you?"
Eshe stared at the woman rather blankly as she quickly shut off the vacuum she'd been running over what seemed obvious to Eshe was a perfectly clean carpet. The vacuuming hadn't been necessary. The woman had just been trying to "rouse Mr. Argeneau's guest," she read from her mind. It seemed her presence was such an oddity the woman had been waiting impatiently all day for her to make an appearance and finally gave in to the urge to bring that about herself...with the vacuum. And the woman was glad she had, Eshe read from her mind as the woman thought that the guest was quite a looker, and she couldn't wait to tell the girls at the beauty parlor when she went in for her weekly wash and rinse. Oh, the girls would all be aflutter when they heard the elusive bachelor Armand Argeneau had himself a beauty in his house. Perhaps there were wedding bells in the future.
Sighing, Eshe stopped focusing on the woman's thoughts and shifted her attention to her eager expression, only then becoming aware that while she had been reading her mind, the woman had been giving her the once-over. Eshe grimaced and glanced down at the overlarge T-shirt she'd brought to sleep in. While it covered everything that was important, it wasn't exactly how she would have chosen to be dressed to meet the housekeeper.
"I am sorry if I woke you," the woman said with a good job at feigning regret. "Mr. Argeneau did say you got in late last night and would probably sleep the day away. I guess I just wasn't thinking when I started to vacuum."
Eshe just managed not to snort at the words, but forced a smile to her lips. "That's all right, I-Did you say Armand spoke to you? He's already up and about then?"
"Oh my, yes, he was up when I got here, which is unusual for him. But I suppose what with Paul having to leave so unexpectedly to tend to family matters, he had to see to the animals himself today. Poor man. I do hope he finds a replacement for Paul soon. Managing the farm and writing his daily article for the newspaper will wear him out in no time if he doesn't."
"Writing his daily article for the newspaper?" Eshe asked with a start. Lucian hadn't mentioned that to her. He'd only said Armand was a farmer.
"Yes, dear." The woman beamed as proudly as if she were his mother. "Didn't you know? He's our own little celebrity in town. He writes a daily interest article. Everyone just loves it. I gather writing runs in the family. He has a nephew who writes novels, you know, but Armand says he has enough trouble coming up with things for his little daily article and can't imagine ever writing a book, but he's a fine writer," she assured her, and then said almost apologetically, "Mind you, he's a bit eccentric, writing at night and sleeping during the day, and really, from what I can tell, he doesn't eat enough to keep a bird fed, but then Doris tells me most writers are a little different than the rest of us, and she would know. She did read that book on the life of Hemingway...or was it Hemingway? It may have been someone else," she admitted with a frown, and then waved that away and said, "I can't remember now but I do recall he was a hell-raiser whoever she read about. Why, he was into drugs, and sex, and...Well, fortunately, our young Armand doesn't do any of that." She frowned at her own words and then said quickly, "Well, the drugs at least. I'm sure he likes sex as much as anyone else. Although we were all starting to wonder since he never has ladies around or invites any of the local girls out or anything. Doris is positive he's gay and has a 'friend' in the city that he sneaks off to visit, but now I can tell her about you and she'll just have to shut up about that," she announced with satisfaction.
"Yes," Eshe said a bit faintly, amazed that the mortal had managed to babble all that without pausing for breath. Dear Lord.
"Well now, I'll just put this away," the woman announced, bending to unplug the vacuum from a socket right beside Eshe's bedroom door. "You'll want to dress, and I'll go down and see about getting you something for breakfast. Why, you must be starved. You missed breakfast and it's well past lunch. I'll fix you something nice and we can chat while you eat."
Eshe watched wide-eyed as the little woman bustled off and then shook her head and closed the door to begin getting dressed as the woman had suggested. It didn't seem likely she would get back to sleep anyway, and if Armand was up it meant she could hopefully find him and get in some of the questions she'd wanted to ask last night. She intended to get him to talk today about his wives and how they'd died. Lucian had merely told her their deaths all appeared to be accidents, but hadn't explained what kind of accidents, and it seemed to her that it would be pertinent. She just needed to figure a way to slide such questions into a conversation without raising Armand's suspicions about the real reason she was there. No problem, right? she thought dryly as she pulled on her leather pants from the night before.
Eshe had her pants only half on when the realization sank in that Armand's housekeeper had said she would go make her some breakfast. She didn't eat, but that wasn't what made her freeze with her pants still only half on. It was the fact that making breakfast no doubt included the woman looking in the refrigerator. A refrigerator she distinctly recalled stacking bags of blood in last night.
Cursing, Eshe yanked her pants the rest of the way up and hurried for the door without even bothering to do them up. Eager to get to the woman before she saw the blood, Eshe practically flew up the hall and then down the stairs and up the hall to the kitchen. She arrived in the kitchen door to find Armand's housekeeper bent over peering into the refrigerator and poking around inside. Eshe was about to take control of the woman's mind when the housekeeper straightened and stepped away to set a carton of eggs and some bacon on the island, leaving a clear view of the open refrigerator and the food stacked inside. There was no blood.
"Oh my, you must be hungry, dear, to rush down here like that," the housekeeper said, drawing Eshe's gaze away from the refrigerator to find the housekeeper smiling at her widely from the other side of the island. "My goodness, you didn't even brush your hair. Well, sit yourself at the table and I'll fetch you a coffee and some toast to tide you over until I can get these eggs and bacon cooked for you."
"Eggs and bacon?" Eshe murmured, running her fingers through her short hair to bring it to some kind of order as she moved closer to the fridge to get a better look inside. Nope. There was no blood in there at all.
"I can understand your surprise," the housekeeper said with a laugh as she bumped the refrigerator door closed with her hip on her way past to retrieve a loaf of bread from the counter beside the toaster. "If you looked in the refrigerator last night you must have been horrified at how little there was in there. As I said, Mr. Argeneau doesn't eat enough to keep a bird fed, but when he told me that he had a houseguest, I hopped in the car and ran over to the market to pick up some food for you."
And to gossip to everyone about a woman in the house, Eshe read from her mind with wry amusement.
"Oh my, I've just realized I didn't introduce myself," the woman said with vexation as she dropped a couple of slices of bread in the toaster. She pushed the button down to begin the toasting and then turned to hold her hand out toward Eshe. "I'm Mrs. Ramsey, dear. Enid Ramsey."
"Eshe d'Aureus," she murmured, clasping her hand briefly and wondering where the blood had gotten to.
"D'Aureus," Mrs. Ramsey echoed with a smile. "What an interesting name. What does it mean?"
"Gold," Eshe answered automatically.
"Like your eyes, they're gold. They even seem to shine like gold when the light hits them just right. Very pretty, dear. Striking."
"Thank you," Eshe murmured, and turned to make her way to the table as an excuse to keep her from looking at her eyes too long or hard. Like those of all immortals, Eshe's eyes captured and reflected the light for better night vision. It made hunting at night much easier. Her father, Castor d'Aureus, had had golden eyes and so had been called Castor the Gold when he'd fled Atlantis with the others. He'd passed those eyes on to his children, though most of them had dark flecks in them, inherited from their mother, she supposed.
Wanting to distract Mrs. Ramsey from the topic of her eyes, Eshe sought her mind as she settled at the table, and then asked the first question she could come up with. "How long have you worked for Armand?"
"About five years now," Mrs. Ramsey answered, retrieving a coffee cup from the cupboard and moving to a still-working coffeepot beside the refrigerator. As she waited for the last of the coffee to run through the drip filter, she offered, "That's when he inherited the farm from his uncle. It was nice when he did. His uncle was never out here. He had a manager run it while he lived in the city and took in the profits. It's much nicer knowing the owner and having them in your community."
Eshe nodded solemnly even though she knew that everything the woman had said was simply a cover story for Armand. He actually owned several farms in southern Ontario and rotated his time among them, spending ten years at one and then moving to another before his neighbors noticed that he wasn't aging. Each time he moved, the cover story was that he had inherited the farm he took over, but there was no uncle for him to inherit from. She had no idea what excuse was given to the old farm community to explain his leaving. Perhaps he let them think he died, or simply said he was moving to the city and leaving a manager to run it.
"He's a nice young man," Mrs. Ramsey informed her. "Always polite and very good about my switching days if I have an appointment on a day I'm supposed to come in. I only come out to the house on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you see."
Eshe made an encouraging sound to keep her talking.
"I do worry about him, though. I'm not sure his inheriting the farm was that good for him, really. He works very hard, rarely leaves the farm, and has no social life to speak of. I worry he'll just stay out here and grow old on the farm, never having had the experience of a wife and children." Mrs. Ramsey heaved a sigh as she poured the now-finished coffee into the cup. She perked up, though, as she added, "Still, he's young, and now you're here maybe you can get him to bring himself out a bit more. We have bingo at the church on Wednesday nights, and the diner serves a good meal. All the locals meet there. And now that the harvest is over, there are a couple of fall fairs coming up if you're still here and can drag him to them. I know the locals would enjoy getting to interact with him more."
"I'll see what I can do," Eshe said as the woman crossed the room to set a coffee cup before her.
"Good." Mrs. Ramsey beamed at her and then turned away to retrieve a frying pan as well as the bacon and eggs to start cooking. Eshe watched her for a moment, unsure whether she should tell her not to cook for her or not. She certainly wasn't going to eat the food. On the other hand, the woman seemed to be enjoying making it for her. In fact, judging from her present thoughts, Eshe suspected Mrs. Ramsey would be disappointed if she didn't let her do it. She could always dump the food when the woman wasn't looking, Eshe decided. Besides, Mrs. Ramsey was incredibly chatty and there might be something useful she could learn from her.
"So, Armand doesn't have any company at the house?" Eshe asked curiously, leaning forward to sniff at the black liquid steaming in the cup before her. It had a rather interesting scent, a bit bitter perhaps, but aromatic.
"Just Agnes and John Maunsell. They have a farm not far from here and I gather they're his sister-in-law and brother-in-law," Mrs. Ramsey confided, and then clucked her tongue. "He must have been married very young. He was already widowed when he moved here and can't be more than twenty-six or -seven. At least he doesn't look any older than that."
Eshe murmured a sound of agreement, her curious gaze on the food Mrs. Ramsey was frying up. The bacon was smelling surprisingly delicious as it cooked.
"Oh, there's your toast." Mrs. Ramsey bustled over to the toaster as the toasted bread popped into view. She quickly shifted the slices to a small plate and buttered them, then grabbed a couple of jars of what appeared to be preserves and brought them to Eshe. "Here you are, dear. You start on that while I finish up your bacon and eggs."
"Thank you," Eshe murmured, peering down at the offerings.
"That one is marmalade, and this is strawberry jam," Mrs. Ramsey announced, pushing the jars toward her. "I make them myself at home and bring them for Mr. Argeneau. Though, truth to tell, I don't think he has even tried them. I thought he was eating them at first because the jars kept disappearing, so I kept bringing him more, but then I found a whole box full of them in the basement." She heaved a disappointed sigh, shook her head, and bustled back to the stove. "You give them a try, though, and see what you think. Everyone else raves about them."
Eshe glanced up to see her watching expectantly and reluctantly opened the jar of orange marmalade and began to spread some on her toast. She could have just controlled the woman and made her think she'd tried it, but was actually a little curious to see what it tasted like. Eshe hadn't been curious about food in a couple of centuries now, but decided not to think about that and what her sudden interest might mean. She had other matters to deal with.
"So, he only has Agnes and John over?" she asked as she replaced the lid on the marmalade.
"Yes." Mrs. Ramsey wrinkled her nose. "Agnes is a sweet little thing, but I just haven't found myself warming to John. I'm not sure why." She shrugged and then gestured toward Eshe's as yet untried toast with the fork she'd been using to turn the bacon and said, "Give it a try, then, and tell me what you think."
Eshe picked up the slice of toast she'd spread marmalade on and took a bite, surprised at the burst of flavor that hit her tongue.
"It is really very good," she told the woman honestly.
Mrs. Ramsey flushed with pleasure at the compliment and chuckled. "You sound surprised. Does it look to you like I might be a bad cook?" she teased, gesturing to her robust figure.
Eshe smiled faintly, and took another bite of the toast before asking, "Does Armand ever talk about his wives?"
"Wives?" she asked with a start.
"I meant wife," Eshe corrected herself quickly.
"Oh." She relaxed and smiled wryly as she turned back to her cooking. "No. I think it must be a painful subject. I only know he was married because Agnes introduced herself as his sister-in-law the first time we met."
"I see," Eshe murmured, taking another bite of toast as she acknowledged that she wasn't going to learn anything about the past from this woman. Not that she'd really expected to. The woman was mortal, after all. But there had always been the chance that Armand had let something slip. Then too, Mrs. Ramsey had worked for Armand for five years by her own reckoning, and it wasn't unusual for long-term servants or employees to be let in on the secret of their immortality. However, it seemed obvious Mrs. Ramsey wasn't in that rank. Eshe supposed it was because the woman was only at the house three days a week and usually while he was sleeping, if he slept during the day and worked nights as the woman had suggested. There was less chance of her accidentally discovering his secret with such minimal contact.
"Ah, you're up."
Eshe glanced around at that comment to see Armand entering the kitchen. He looked even more exhausted than she felt. Though, to be honest, the toast and just the smell of coffee had perked her up a bit. Now she watched him walk toward the table where she sat and inhaled the scent of him as he drew near. He smelled of earth and spice and male. It was a heady combination on him, and Eshe swallowed and forced her eyes away from him when they tried to dip down over his body to examine it in the tight jeans and T-shirt he wore.
"Oh, Armand." Mrs. Ramsey smiled at him cheerfully and then made a sad moue before saying, "Yes, she's awake. I'm afraid I woke her up with my vacuuming."
Knowing she wasn't really sorry at all, but was very pleased to have gotten the chance to talk to her and gather more gossip, Eshe quickly stuffed a piece of toast into her mouth to keep from snorting. The shock on Armand's face when she did so made her wish she hadn't, however. Quickly chewing and swallowing, she explained, "Your lovely housekeeper insisted on cooking breakfast for me, late in the day though it is."
"And I've made enough bacon for the two of you just in case you came back in, so sit yourself down and I'll just put in a couple more eggs," Mrs. Ramsey ordered, sounding rather like a bossy mother or grandmother.
Armand took it in his stride and merely quirked his lips with amusement as he took the seat across from Eshe. His gaze, however, slid from her to the toast she'd already half eaten and back again with speculation.
"Here's a coffee for you, Armand." Mrs. Ramsey set a cup before him and then glanced at Eshe's untouched mug and clucked with self-disgust. "I suppose you take cream and sugar in it and I didn't even think to offer you any."
Shaking her head, she bustled away to collect the items and then returned to first pour some milk in both cups and then drop a couple of square cubes of sugar in each cup as well before handing over a spoon to each of them and hurrying back to her work.
Eshe glanced at Armand, shrugged, and stirred the coffee as she assumed she was meant to do. Armand immediately began to stir his own. They both then set the spoons down on the table and hesitated, glancing at each other.
Eshe didn't know what he was thinking, but she was wondering like crazy if he would actually drink it. Or if she would, for that matter. While she'd been curious about the toast, and would admit she was curious about the coffee, she never ate or drank.
That sounded foolish even in her own head, Eshe acknowledged with a sigh. She might have been able to say she never ate or drank before she'd come down to the kitchen this morning, but she had now eaten a piece of toast with butter and marmalade on it and quite enjoyed the experience. It seemed obvious there was more to her not being able to read Armand than that he was hard to read. She had eaten and enjoyed the toast, was eager to try the bacon that smelled so delicious, and was even curious to try the coffee. The problem was she wasn't sure it would be a good thing to let Armand know that. Right now she might be able to get away with claiming she'd eaten the toast only to please Mrs. Ramsey, but...
She peered at Armand silently. In her experience, the best way to catch rogues was to sneak up on them, or rattle them. Sneaking up on them was, of course, the easiest route, but when that wasn't possible, rattling them could set them off their stride and make them vulnerable to attack. Perhaps rattling Armand would work for her in this case, she thought, and letting him know she was showing all the signs of an immortal having met her life mate should certainly do that. It was rattling the hell out of her, after all, Eshe thought grimly, and stared at him silently as she picked up the coffee and raised it to her lips.
Armand's eyes widened, his eyebrows rose upward on his forehead, and his hand clenched around the cup he held as he watched her drink.
"Mmm," Eshe murmured in a voice so low Mrs. Ramsey couldn't possibly hear it, but Armand with his immortal hearing would. "I know they say the caffeine isn't good for us, but that tastes as delicious now as anything I partook of while with my first life mate, Orion."
Armand sucked in a gasp of air, his face paling briefly, and then sat back with a start as Mrs. Ramsey set two plates between them.
"Here you go. You two eat that up and I'll clean up the mess I've made in here."
Eshe murmured a thank-you, still watching Armand, and then picked up her fork and began to eat watching him watch her. It was a strangely erotic few moments. His eyes were locked on her lips, watching her slide the food into her mouth, his tongue slipping out to lick his lips as she chewed, and his own throat working as she swallowed.
"Aren't you hungry?" she asked huskily after the third bite when he simply continued to watch her. Picking up a half piece of the crispy bacon with her fingers, she held it out in front of his lips temptingly. "Try it. You might like it."
Armand caught her hand in his, held it briefly, and then opened his mouth and tugged her hand gently forward to slip the bacon into his mouth. His lips brushed her fingertips as they closed, a deliberate action, she was sure. When she then tried to withdraw her hand, Armand wouldn't let her. He held it in place, simply holding it before his face as he chewed and swallowed the bacon she'd offered. He then tugged her hand forward again.
Eshe stiffened, unsure if he meant to bite her fingers or kiss them, but he did neither. Instead, his tongue slid out and rasped over the pad of her thumb and fingers, licking away the grease left behind by the bacon and sending a shudder of unexpected pleasure down her back.
"Delicious," Armand agreed huskily.
"Good," Mrs. Ramsey said cheerfully.
Eshe retrieved her hand quickly and glanced guiltily toward the housekeeper as she turned to smile happily at them both.
"Eat up then before it gets cold," she ordered, obviously in her element manning the kitchen.
Eshe forced her eyes down to her plate and picked up her fork again to continue eating, but she couldn't help but sneak peeks at Armand as she did. He was eating now too, and with a relish that said he was indeed enjoying the food he consumed. His eyes were also glowing silver-blue and he was watching her hungrily as he did. It was enough to make her toes curl with anticipation. The man was definitely her life mate and he was hungry for more than food.
So was she.
Eshe already knew the pleasures to be found in the sacred bond between life mates. Her life with Orion had been a happy time, and she often retrieved the memories and relived them, wishing she could experience such bliss again. Which made it hard to lie to herself, and she knew damned right well that she'd been doing just that when she'd told herself she was only revealing that she was Armand's life mate to rattle him. She wanted more than that. She wanted to enjoy some of those benefits of life mates while she could. Which was damned stupid, Eshe knew. It wouldn't stop her from doing her work here, but it would distract her and slow her down and just make it incredibly hard if things didn't work out happily at the end. If Armand was a killer behind the deaths of four immortal women and the mortal Nicholas had been accused of killing, then she would have to turn him in to Lucian. It would be hard, but her sense of justice wouldn't allow for anything less.
However, whatever relationship developed between them in the meantime was going to make it harder to do, and painful as hell afterward. Unfortunately, it was difficult to worry too much about that when her body was humming and aching for what Armand could give her. And he could give her a hell of a lot. He could reawaken the hungers and passions that slowly died out for immortals when they were without a mate.
In fact, he already had, she acknowledged. From the moment she'd walked into that diner last night, her senses had wanted to focus solely on Armand. She'd found him attractive and interesting, and should have known right away that here was something different, but she'd been focused on the task ahead and relegated to the back of her mind her responses to his scent and body heat as he'd sat next to her. They were no longer at the back of her mind. The cat was out of the box, and they both knew what they could be to each other if they chose to accept it, and what they could experience with each other...and apparently they both wanted it. Certainly she did. Eshe was basically nothing better than a bitch in heat at that moment, and judging by the way Armand's eyes were beginning to burn more silver than blue, he was feeling much the same way.
Damn, Eshe thought on a sigh. She'd forgotten how potent it could be. Had she recalled, she would have told Lucian to find someone else for this task and left last night before her senses could be fully stirred back to life. Too late for that now, though, she acknowledged. They were awake and roaring to be satisfied, and nothing was going to make her give up whatever time she could have satisfying them...whether it ended badly or not.
"Good, you both cleaned your plates." Mrs. Ramsey's cheerful voice sounded just before she appeared at the table next to them.
Eshe forced herself to look away from Armand and toward the woman. She even managed a smile, though there was a slight growl in her voice as she said, "Yes. Thank you. It was good."
"Good. I'm glad," Mrs. Ramsey said, sounding pleased as she retrieved both now-empty plates. "And it is nice to see you eating for a change, Armand."
"Yes," he murmured, and then stood abruptly, almost toppling his chair in his haste. "Eshe and I are going to have a word in my office, Mrs. Ramsey."
It was all he said, and all he needed to. Eshe was on her feet at once and leading the way, moving as quickly as she could without running. She entered the office, heard the door close behind them, and turned at once.
Armand was there to meet her so that she almost bumped into his chest before stopping her turn. In the next moment she did bump his chest as he tugged her into his arms and claimed her mouth. There was no "Hello, how do you do?" The moment his mouth covered hers, her own was open and his tongue was doing a good impression of trying to tickle her tonsils. Eshe didn't protest or pull back. She wanted it. It felt so damned good to be alive again, for her senses to be feeling and responding again.
Eshe gave as good as she got, her hands reaching up to claw through his hair, her body pressing into his even as he pushed against her. She was so consumed by the sensations exploding inside her, the only way she knew he'd backed her across the room was by the feel of the desk suddenly pressing at her back. Eshe sat on it at once and wrapped her legs around him too, embracing him with her entire body and pulling his hips forward until he was grinding against her.
The man had a weapon in his pants. He was as hard as steel, as hard as she was hot and wet, and she knew then that their first time was going to be fast, furious, and mind-blowing. It was going to be a battle toward that pleasure they both knew they could find rather than a slow build to it.
Eshe didn't care. They could try the slow build the next time. Right then all she wanted was for his body to be pounding into hers as fast and hard as he could, and she reached between them to begin undoing his belt and jeans to accomplish that. The moment she set to work at the task, Armand broke their kiss to begin licking and nibbling a trail down her neck. When he encountered the collar of her overlarge T-shirt, he paused and reached down to grab the hem of it and yank it up. That's when he froze. Eshe glanced down to see what he'd discovered, and saw that her leather pants were still undone from when she'd rushed downstairs after Mrs. Ramsey. The knowledge seemed to transfix Armand briefly, and then he swept the phone, papers, and other items littering the desk onto the floor and urged her to lie back on the desktop so that he could catch the waistband of the pants and begin tugging them down. Fortunately, he had just started when a soft tap came at the door.
"Mr. Argeneau? Is everything all right?"
Both of them froze at Mrs. Ramsey's gentle query from the hallway and then turned to peer at the unlocked door. They were both panting heavily, and Eshe suspected equally shocked by the realization that they'd been so caught up in the moment that they hadn't considered the possible ramifications of their satisfying their needs right there and then with the woman in the house.
First of all, it wouldn't have been a quiet coupling. The clatter of the desktop's items hitting the floor would have only been the beginning of it. Eshe suspected that if they hadn't been interrupted she would already be howling like a wolf and urging Armand on. Secondly, when immortals reached completion, it was generally followed by both parties passing out, overwhelmed by the pleasure assaulting them. That would have been a very vulnerable position to be found in, and sweet as she seemed to be, Mrs. Ramsey was just nosy enough that Eshe wouldn't have put it past the woman to come walking in to see what was what. She certainly would have gotten an eyeful.
"Mr. Argeneau?" Mrs. Ramsey called again.
"Yes, Enid. Everything is fine," Armand said this time, pulling away from Eshe and letting her T-shirt fall back into place as he moved to do up the belt and jeans she'd just gotten undone. "I just knocked the phone off the desk."
"Oh. Okay. I was just coming to tell you that when you asked me about a good place to shop for women's clothes this morning when I got here, I forgot to mention the Bay. It has some nice things and it's in White Oaks Mall in London, which has a lot of clothing stores in it. It might be the best place for you to take Eshe. Or there's Masonville Mall on the other end of town. It has some nice stores as well."
Eshe raised an eyebrow at Armand, but he was concentrating on the task of doing up his belt and didn't catch the silent question. He simply said, "Thank you, Mrs. Ramsey. We'll be heading there right now actually."
"Oh, that's nice. You should take Eshe to dinner while you're in town. Moxie's is nice," she added cheerfully, and then said, "I'll probably be gone when you get back so I'll say good-bye now, but I'll be back on Friday."
"Yes. We'll see you Friday, then. And thank you for the shopping advice," Armand called, finishing with his belt and reaching out to offer Eshe a hand to get off the desk.
Eshe met his gaze, smiled wryly, but shook her head and got herself off the desk without touching him. She was afraid that even that innocent touch would break the control she was slowly regaining over her body. It seemed they were going shopping. Probably a smart move, she thought on a sigh, though smart wasn't always satisfying. Still, it would give her a chance to reconsider this path she'd chosen and perhaps give her a chance to set them on a new one if she could. Eshe was starting to think that letting Armand know that she couldn't read him and that her other appetites were awakening might have been a bad one. Lucian had warned her to watch her back last night before leaving...which was hard to do when she was lying on it.