One Lucky Vampire Page 11

She had to hit the bank and transfer money from her savings to checking to cover monthly bills that would come out today. She should have done it online yesterday, but now it was too late. It took twenty-four hours for online transfers to go through. Nicole supposed she should find out how much the security system was going to cost and transfer enough to cover that as well. And then she guessed she’d have to go grocery shopping. Jake had mentioned something about only being able to work with what he had, so she supposed she should get him whatever he needed. And she wanted to pick up mousetraps as well. There were always one or two brave mice who tried to move indoors when the cold hit, and while she hadn’t seen any yet, she had no doubt there were one or two around. Maybe she could get those sonic things that were supposed to scare them off rather than buy actual mousetraps. Nicole wasn’t big on killing things and mice were such cute little fuzzy things. Besides, ever since seeing Ratatouille she’d had an aversion to killing the poor little buggers. Although Ratatouille had been about a rat, as she recalled. It didn’t matter, mice were just smaller rats.

Aware that it was after two and that the bank closed at four or shortly thereafter, Nicole took her coffee with her and headed upstairs to find Jake, passing Cody and several other men installing little white boxes in windows in the living room. She murmured hello in passing, but her mind was on the shopping expedition ahead as she thought that it would be helpful if Jake made a list of what he needed for her to pick up while she was out. She suspected he’d need time to plan his menu to know what he needed, and hoped that wouldn’t take too long.

The scent that hit Nicole as she mounted the stairs was amazing. Something yummy was cooking and the air was rich with the aroma of garlic and other spices.

“Something smells delicious,” she commented as she entered the kitchen.

Jake glanced around with a start, and then tossed the dish towel he’d been drying his hands with over a book on the counter. It looked like a cookbook and like he was trying to hide it? She had no idea why. She didn’t expect him to know how to cook everything without a recipe, but he seemed determined to hide it, so she acted like she didn’t see it.

“I have to go into town and do some banking and whatnot, so maybe you could find out how much the security system is going to cost so I can make sure I have the money in the account,” Nicole suggested, and then added, “I thought I’d hit the grocery store on the way back too, so do you want to make a list of what I should pick up while I’m out?”

“Oh.” Jake frowned, but then turned his attention to the door as Cody came in.

“All done,” the other man announced. “The boys are just collecting their equipment and then we’ll be out of your hair.”

“Perfect timing,” Jake said quietly, but she got the sense that he was relieved at this news.

“I need you both to come put in your personal codes,” he announced.

“Personal code?” Nicole asked, following when he turned to lead them out of the kitchen. She trailed him to the master bedroom, where a security panel was now installed beside the sliding glass doors.

“That way you know who comes and goes and when by which code is used,” he explained. “You need to put one in, and so does Jake. I can put in a third number for guests to use if you like.”

“Oh. I see,” she murmured and peered at the digital screen briefly before asking, “How many numbers?”

“Four. But you want to make it something that isn’t your birthday or anything that someone else can easily guess,” he warned.

Nicole nodded, thought briefly, and then quickly punched in four digits while Cody and Jake averted their eyes. Stepping back, she said, “Done.”

“Great.” Cody worked at the panel briefly, and then stepped away. “Your turn Jake.”

“You can watch if you like,” Jake said when Nicole started to follow suit and turn away. “It’s your system. You should know my number in case you want to remove it later.”

Nicole paused and watched as he punched in his own four digits, repeating them in her head a couple of times so that she could remember long enough to write them down somewhere.

“And now . . .” Cody punched a bunch of buttons again and then stepped away for a third time. “The guest number?”

Nicole punched in another number and then stepped away while he finished the setup.

After a moment’s work, he stepped back and nodded. “There you are. All done.”

“How long have you guys been here?” she asked curiously as he closed the panel.

“My men and I got here at about a quarter after twelve,” Cody answered easily, and then added, “When I heard Jake called this morning I didn’t think we’d be able to get out here until later in the week. But we had a cancellation this afternoon so here we are.”

Nicole didn’t comment. They must have arrived just after she’d lain down, but she was more concerned with the fact that Jake had actually called before he’d mentioned it to her, yet he’d made it sound like he was asking for permission to call when he already had. Now she was a bit annoyed. Like with rekeying the locks, she would have liked being consulted before he actually called about the security system the first time.

Actually, she supposed, if the front door lock was broken, that had definitely needed immediate attention so she wasn’t annoyed about that too much, but this was a security system, not an emergency. She’d lived here two years without one. She really would have liked to be consulted about this before the first call. What if she’d said no to his calling when he’d brought it up? Cody had already been on the way out by that point. She’d have to talk to Jake about that, Nicole supposed.

Sighing at the thought of the unpleasant task ahead, she asked, “So is a check all right?”

“Yeah. Sure. My office gal will send you a bill and you can send a check in then. Don’t worry about it now,” Cody said as they started out of her room.

“Can you give me an idea of what it will be?” she asked. “I’m heading to the bank now and can transfer the money while there.”

Cody nodded and gave a price, adding, “Give or take. I’m not sure about taxes. And then there’s a monthly charge for monitoring.”

Nicole nodded but was surprised by the price. It seemed pretty reasonable. She’d expected it to cost more. In fact, she’d priced security systems when she’d first considered getting one, and the price he’d just given was at the low end of the quotes she’d received at the time. He’d definitely given her a break on the price and she supposed she had Jake to thank for that.

“All set?” Jake asked as they entered the kitchen.

“All set,” Cody assured him, offering a hand.

“Thank you,” Jake said solemnly as they shook hands.

“No problem. Happy to help,” Cody assured him, and then nodded at Nicole and said, “Nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Nicole said politely.

“I’ll see you out,” Jake said, following when Cody turned to leave.

The moment they were out of the room, Nicole headed for her room to get ready to go. She wanted to brush her hair, her teeth, maybe throw on some makeup and change her clothes for something warmer. Her jeans were all right, but it was cold out and something warmer than a T-shirt was called for. It wouldn’t be if she was the kind of person who did up her winter coat, but she tended to take it off in the car and then just tug it on and not bother to do it up just to run into a store.

Nicole didn’t know if it was the lack of sleep or what, but she couldn’t seem to settle on what to wear. She changed her top three times before settling on a deep purple light knit sweater. She also fussed over her hair, letting it out of the ponytail and using a straightener on it before feeling satisfied. Then she spent longer than normal on makeup, even putting on eye shadow, which she rarely did.

Grimacing when she saw that she’d fussed so long it was now after three, she grabbed her purse and hurried out of the room. Her footsteps slowed, however, when she spotted Jake leaning against the doorjamb between the kitchen and living room, jiggling keys.

“Ready?” he asked straightening.

“Yes,” she answered slowly, eyeing his keys. “Are you going somewhere?”

“I thought it would probably be easier if I came shopping with you,” he explained, and then added with an apologetic grimace, “I haven’t had time to make up a menu plan for the week yet, so I’m going to have to play it by ear. I’m hoping seeing the vegetables that are available this time of year will inspire me.”

“Oh.” Nicole hesitated, but then sighed and nodded. A moment ago this had been a mostly relaxing, if boring, excursion. No excitement, but no stress either. Now Nicole found herself tensing up as she headed for the stairs with Jake on her heels.

He was jiggling keys, did that mean he expected to drive? Would he have a specific grocery store he wanted to go to? What was he going to do while she was in the bank? Would she have to rush because he was waiting in the car, or—

Nicole stopped abruptly and turned back toward Jake, about to suggest he should go shopping on his own while she took care of the bank and such. But she just as quickly turned forward again as she realized she couldn’t expect him to pay for her groceries and she didn’t have any money on hand to give him. This would teach her to always have cash handy, Nicole thought grimly.

She was almost to the door to the garage when Nicole realized that she was reacting to the man just as she had to her husband, tensing up and letting him take control. Training, she thought grimly. But this wasn’t Rodolfo, this was an employee, and while she understood the need to take him shopping with her, Nicole would be damned if she was letting him drive. She had started out on this excursion alone. He was just along for the shopping. She was driving.

Opening the door to the garage, she walked determinedly to her red Lexus SUV and got straight into the driver’s seat. Only after she’d closed the door and slung her purse onto the backseat did she glance around to see how he was taking it. He wasn’t there. The door to the house was wide open, but he was nowhere in sight. She was just starting to frown, when he stepped into view wearing his winter coat and carrying hers.

“Oh, crap,” Nicole muttered and felt herself flush with embarrassment. Shaking her head, she opened the door and climbed back out to take it from him with a muttered “Thank you.”

“No problem,” he said easily, turning to lock the door while she donned it. “This is a heated garage, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Nicole answered as she pulled on the coat. That was why she hadn’t thought of the coat until she’d seen him holding it.

“They don’t allow that anymore, I don’t think,” he commented, checking that the door was locked before turning to face her as he slid his keys into his pocket.

“What? Heated garages?” she asked uncertainly.

Jake nodded. “I think they changed the code and don’t allow it anymore. Something about air exchange or something. Obviously it was built when it was allowed though.” He shrugged and opened the driver’s door, gesturing her in now that she had her coat on.

Nicole climbed back inside and murmured a thank-you as he closed the door. She then pulled on her seat belt and started the engine as he walked around to the passenger’s side. She glanced at him curiously as he got in and did up his own seat belt, but he didn’t seem the least bit upset that she was driving. In fact, she was getting the distinct impression that he’d only brought his keys to lock the door, as he’d done, and she’d been overreacting.

Shaking her head at herself, Nicole hit the button to open the garage door and then shifted gear and backed the vehicle out onto the icy driveway, hitting the button to close the door as soon as she’d cleared it. They were both silent at first, but once she was out of the driveway and onto the road, Nicole decided she should broach the subject that was bugging her. “Jake?”

“Hmm?” He glanced to her in question.

Nicole hesitated, but then said quietly, “While I appreciate your taking care of the front lock and the security system, I’d appreciate it more if in future you talked to me about things like that first, rather than just going ahead and doing them.”

Jake was silent for long enough that Nicole glanced curiously toward him. Her eyebrows rose when she found him staring at her intently, expression focused. She couldn’t tell if he was glaring at her, or trying to find Waldo on her face somewhere. Either way, she didn’t know how to take this response and arched one eyebrow. “Are you having a mini seizure or something?”

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