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Immortal Unchained

By:Lynsay Sands

Sarita closed the book she'd been trying to read and tossed it impatiently aside. It was a horrible book. Or perhaps she just wasn't in the mood to read, she acknowledged with irritation, getting restlessly to her feet. As a police officer, her life at home in Canada was usually a busy one, full of activity and even urgency. But here . . . all this sitting around waiting to be able to visit her grandmother was beginning to fray on her nerves. Sarita was anxious to see for herself how her grandmother was doing after her accident. It was why she was here, after all. Instead, she'd spent her time since arriving in Venezuela, stuck on this island, alternating between pacing and trying to read books that simply couldn't hold her interest. It was driving her crazy, sitting here, waiting for Dr. Dressler to return to the island and instruct his men to transport her to the mainland. Unfortunately, he hadn't been here when she'd arrived, and they wouldn't take her there without his orders.

Clucking impatiently under her tongue, she left the library, her mouth tightening as her gaze slid to the two men standing guard inside the front double doors of the house. They stood one on either side, eyes straight ahead, faces expressionless, hands loosely at their sides within easy reach of the sidearms she knew each wore.

And that was the only thing they were doing right as far as she could tell. She'd been told the ridiculous level of security on the island was because kidnappings had become so rampant in Venezuela and "el Doctor" wanted to ensure his safety as well as that of his family, his employees, and visitors like her. But if that was the case, then he should have all of his security on the outside, watching for the approach of would-be kidnappers, not inside, watching the goings-on in the house. Although he had that too, she acknowledged. There were two men standing guard outside the double doors as well, and a dozen more walking the grounds as far as she could tell. "El Doctor" was obviously paranoid about kidnappings. But since her own mother had been kidnapped and killed when she was young, Sarita supposed she should probably appreciate his efforts to ensure their safety. Instead, she just found the men posted everywhere something else to be annoyed about today.

Knowing she was in a foul mood from a combination of boredom and frustration, Sarita turned on her heel and headed up the hall toward the kitchen. She'd get a drink and maybe one of Aleta's yummy cookies, and see if the cook had something for her to do to help pass the time. At that point, even something as mundane as washing dishes would be welcome . . . which told Sarita just how bored she was.

Grimacing at the depths to which she'd sunk after three short days of inactivity, Sarita pushed the kitchen door open and stepped inside. The rich aroma of something delicious rolled over her as she entered, and her nose twitched as she inhaled the scent. Spotting Aleta stirring a pot simmering on the range in the center of the island, she moved closer to peer at the contents with interest. There were chunks of vegetables and meat in a thick juice. It smelled like heaven. 

"Hola," Aleta greeted her softly, a shy smile curving her lips.

Sarita smiled at the woman. "Hola. That smells good. I swear, Aleta, you're an angel. Everything you make is delicious."

"Gracias," Aleta said, flushing with pleasure.

"What is it?" Sarita asked, leaning across the island to inhale more deeply.

"El estofado de ternera," she answered.

"Mmm," Sarita murmured, again inhaling the scent coming off the beef stew.

"Is not quite time for dinner, but it is ready," Aleta said, watching her practically drool over the pot. "If you are hungry, you can eat now."

"Oh, yes please," Sarita said at once.

Aleta chuckled at her eagerness. "Go out to the dining room and I will bring it in."

Sarita shook her head. "I can eat here. It would be nice to have some company," she added when Aleta frowned.

The woman's expression softened then and she nodded. "Here then. Sit down," she added, gesturing to the stools on the opposite side of the island from where she was cooking.

Sarita wanted to insist on getting her own food and drink, but suspected if she tried Aleta might change her mind about letting her eat in the kitchen. So she sank obediently onto one of the stools and watched as Aleta fetched her a bowl and spoon and served up the stew.

"Que quieres tomar?" Aleta asked as she set the bowl before her.

"Water is fine," Sarita answered and then said "Agua" as well. Aleta seemed to speak English well, but the way she slipped back into Spanish at times-as she had when she'd just asked what Sarita wanted to drink-suggested the cook might not be fully fluent in the language. She had no desire to embarrass the woman by making her admit it.