"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.