Immortal Born (Argeneau #30) - Lynsay Sands

Prologue

Allie was curled up on the couch in front of a rerun of The Big Bang Theory, slurping down a late dinner of ramen noodles, when the knock sounded at her front door. Her lips immediately slid into a smile. It was nearly midnight and there was only one person she knew who was likely to be up this late. Stella, her neighbor from across the street, was a night owl like herself, but she was also a new mother.

Setting her noodles on the coffee table, Allie scooted off the couch and hurried to the door. It was mid-February, had been snowing most of the day, and was freezing cold outside. Too cold to be standing on a doorstep with a month-old baby.

“Oh, good, you’re still up!” the petite brunette greeted her cheerfully when Allie opened the door.

“As usual,” Allie said with amusement, automatically backing up when Stella started forward. “I’m nearly done with the project, so knocked off early.”

“And probably want to relax now,” Stella said with an apologetic smile as she shifted a bundled-up baby Liam to cradle him in one arm so she could push the door shut behind her. “Well, I won’t bother you long.” Gesturing to the bag dangling from the wrist of the arm holding Liam, she added, “I just realized that I forgot to drop this off earlier today and thought you might like—” Her cheerful chatter and smile died the moment the door thunked shut. Expression suddenly grim, she whipped the receiving blanket off of little Liam and held him out. “You have to take him.”

Allie’s eyes widened, but she took the baby and pressed him to her own chest. The moment she did, Stella tugged a doll out of the bag and began to wrap the receiving blanket around it as Liam had been wrapped in it just moments ago. Allie watched her with concern, but before she could ask what was going on, Stella announced, “They’ve found me.”

Allie’s arms tightened protectively around Liam, her concern turning to all-out fear. “What happened?”

“Nothing . . . Yet,” she added quietly. “I spotted them following me on my way home from the coffee shop.”

“So you came here.”

“Just to leave Liam with you,” Stella assured her. “Now I’m going to lead them away to keep you both safe.” Finished with the wrappings, she set the doll on Allie’s hall table and reached up to remove the heart-shaped locket she always wore. She met Allie’s gaze and asked solemnly, “You’ll keep your promise and take care of him?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Thank you,” Stella breathed, and then quickly moved around behind her to put the necklace over her head. “This has a picture of Liam’s father and me. Someday, when he’s old enough to understand, show him the picture and explain. Tell him I loved him more than anything. Don’t let him forget me.”

“No, of course I won’t,” Allie murmured, peering down at the locket where it rested against her breast next to Liam’s small, warm body. Frowning, she glanced up to see that Stella had reclaimed the swaddled doll and was settling it against her chest much as she had held Liam on arriving. Biting her lip, Allie eyed her friend with concern. “Stella—”

“I’m sure everything will be fine. This is just in case,” Stella interrupted her, and then managed a smile. “Thank you . . . for being my friend and for loving Liam.”

“I—” Allie’s mouth closed on the words she’d wanted to say. Stella was already gone. Allie stared at the closed door briefly, startled anew at the incredible speed the woman sometimes displayed. She shifted Liam to cradle him in one arm as she moved to the door and tugged the edge of the blind aside just enough to peek out. She noted Stella cooing to the “baby” as she laid it in Liam’s waiting carriage on the sidewalk in front of her porch, but then she scanned the street, searching for someone out of place or watching Stella. She didn’t see anyone, but it was dark. An army of men could be hiding out there among the row of town houses and she probably wouldn’t see them.

Biting her lip, Allie shifted her gaze back to Stella as the woman finished settling the “baby” and started pushing the carriage down the snow-covered sidewalk.

“I should have cleaned the walk again when I finished work,” Allie muttered to herself with self-recrimination. She had pulled out the snow blower and cleaned the sidewalk that afternoon, but it