“Last day, Fred,” Jeanne Louise commented, offering a smile to the guard as she approached the security station. The mortal man had worked the exit of the science division of Argeneau Enterprises for nearly five years now and was being rotated out to another area to prevent him from noticing that many members of the staff didn’t age. She would miss Fred. He’d been a smiling face wishing her a good night and asking about her family for a long time.
“Yes, Miss Jeanie. Last day here. Off to one of the blood banks next week.”
Jeanne Louise nodded, her smile fading slightly and expression sincere as she said, “They’ll be lucky to have you there. You’ll be missed.”
“I’ll miss all of you too,” he assured her solemnly, walking around the counter to the door to unlock it for her. He pushed it open then and held it, turning sideways to let her slip past as he said, “Night, Miss Jeanie. You enjoy the long weekend now.”
“I will. You too,” she said, smiling faintly at his calling her Miss Jeanie. He always made her feel like a child . . . which was impressive since he was only in his late fifties and she was more than forty years older than he was. Not that he would believe that. She didn’t look over twenty-five. It was one of the benefits to being a vampire, or immortal, as the old timers preferred to be called. There were many such benefits and she was grateful for every one. But it didn’t stop her from feeling bad for mortals, who didn’t enjoy those benefits.
Great, a guilt-ridden vampire, she thought wryly and gave a chuckle at the cliché. Next she’d be angst ridden, mopey and whining about her long life.
“Yeah, not gonna happen,” Jeanne Louise muttered with amusement and then glanced around at the sound of a stone skittering on pavement. Spotting one of the guys from the blood division entering the parking garage behind her, she offered a nod and then turned forward again to make her way to her car. Slipping into her convertible, she started the engine and quickly backed out to head out of the garage, her mind distracted with considering whether she should stay up and take care of some chores today, or just go home to bed.
That was one problem with being a vampire, Jeanne Louise acknowledged as she turned out of the garage and started up the street. The hours were off-kilter with the rest of the world. Her shift generally ended at 7 A.M., but she’d stayed behind to finish up when the others had left. It was now 7:30, which meant that to perform some of those chores she was thinking of, she’d have to stay awake for another two hours and then head out to those places that weren’t yet open. Under a hot, beating sun.
Frankly, at that moment, staying up another two hours was an exhausting thought.
Home to bed, Jeanne Louise decided, taking one hand off the steering wheel to stifle a yawn as she slowed to a stop at a red light.
She’d just come to a halt when movement in her rearview mirror caught her attention. Glancing toward it sharply, Jeanne Louise caught a glimpse of a dark shape popping up in the backseat and then a hissing sound was accompanied by a sudden sharp pain in her neck.
“What the—?” She grabbed her neck and started to turn at the sound of the back door opening and closing. But then her own door was opening and the dark figure was reaching past her to shift the car into park.
“What?” Jeanne Louise muttered, frowning at the garbled word and how slow her thought processes suddenly seemed. And then the man was scooping her up to shift her into the passenger seat and sliding into the driver’s seat himself. Vision beginning to blur, Jeanne Louise watched him shift the car back into drive, and then she lost consciousness.
Jeanne Louise stirred sleepily and tried to turn onto her side, but frowned as she found she couldn’t. Opening her eyes, she stared at the ceiling overhead, noting that it was a plain white, not the pale rose of her bedroom at home and then she tried to sit up and recalled what had woken her. She couldn’t move. Because she was restrained, Jeanne Louise saw, gaping down at the chains crisscrossing her body from her shoulders to her feet. Good Lord.
“It’s steel. You won’t be able to break it.”
Jeanne Louise glanced sharply in the direction the voice had come from, her gaze sliding over what was a very small room, all white with nothing but the bed she lay on. The only interesting thing in there with her was the man addressing her from the doorway. He wasn’t overly tall, perhaps four or five inches taller than her own five feet six, but the man was built with wide shoulders and a narrow waist. He was also rather attractive in a boy-next-door sort of way, with brown hair, a square jaw, and eyes a brighter green than she’d ever seen . . . and she’d seen a lot of mortal eyes in her one hundred and two, almost one hundred and three, years of life. These easily beat out every other set she’d ever seen.
“How do you feel?” he asked with what appeared to be real concern.
“I’ve been better,” Jeanne Louise said dryly, glancing down to the chains again. Steel, he’d said. Cripes, he had her bound up like a crazed elephant or something.
“The tranquilizer I used on you can cause headaches and a fuzzy feeling as it wears off,” he announced apologetically. “Are you experiencing anything of that nature? Do you need an ibuprofren or something?”
“No,” Jeanne Louise said grimly, knowing it would go away quickly on its own thanks to the nanos. She then narrowed her eyes on the man’s face as she instinctively tried to penetrate his thoughts and take control of him. She intended to make him get her out of these ridiculous chains, explain himself, and then she would call her Uncle Lucian and have him send someone to deal with the man. That was the plan anyway. It didn’t go that way, however—because she couldn’t penetrate his thoughts, or take control of the man.
Must be the drug he gave me, Jeanne Louise thought with a frown and gave her head a shake to try to clear it a little more before trying again.
“Nothing,” she muttered with bewilderment. The drug definitely had to still be affecting her, she thought, and then scowled at him. “What did you give me?”
“The latest tranquilizer we’ve been working on in R and D,” he said mildly, and then disappeared out the door and briefly out of sight.
Jeanne Louise frowned at the empty space, his words running through her head. “R and D” was research and development. But R and D for where? It couldn’t be a normal tranquilizer for mortals; that would have hardly slowed her down let alone knocked her out. But—