One Lucky Vampire Page 12

He blinked at the question, and confusion crossed his face, so she glanced toward the road again and explained, “I read somewhere that people can have petit mal seizures where they just stare and aren’t really conscious or aware . . . although,” she added, glancing toward him again. “You looked aware, just kind of fixated.”

“No,” Jake turned to peer out the window. But then he cleared his throat, and added, “But my apologies. I understood from Marguerite that you didn’t want to be bothered with details, but I will consult you in future.”

Nicole relaxed. It was so Marguerite, very sweet, but Nicole was too much of a control freak to allow anyone to take care of her that way. The control thing was a new development. She’d seemed to briefly lose control of everything in her life while married. Now that she had it back, she wasn’t letting it go for anyone . . . no matter how good-looking and how nice they smelled.

Damn, she thought as she took a deep breath and her senses were filled with a mixture of a woodsy cologne and what she suspected was just Jake. The man definitely smelled good. The thought made her frown. She had no business noticing that. He was an employee . . . and she was just getting divorced. It was too soon for her to get involved with anyone. Not that he had said or done anything to make her think he wanted to get involved. But she shouldn’t even think of him that way, she told herself firmly.

Chapter Five

Jake stared out the window and concentrated on his breathing. In one hundred, out one hundred, in one hundred, out one hundred—damn Marguerite!—in one hundred, out one hundred—son of a bitch!—in one hundred—dear God what had she got him into?

He distinctly recalled Marguerite telling him there were some things he should know about Nicole that he could only learn from reading her. Well, now he knew. He couldn’t read her, that’s what there was to know. She was his bloody life mate. He hadn’t even adjusted to being an immortal and now he had a possible life mate. Great.

Closing his eyes, Jake leaned his forehead against the cold glass of the window and tried to just concentrate on breathing again, but he couldn’t get that knowledge out of his head. He couldn’t read or control Nicole.

When she’d said she wanted him to consult with her before making decisions, Jake had heard the upset in her tone. He’d thought to get into her thoughts and just ease her annoyance with him. He wasn’t surprised by it. In fact, he was surprised she hadn’t thrown a fit at his spending her money so freely. But he and Marguerite had decided last night that the security system was necessary. Thanks to her resistance to protecting herself, Jake was on the job alone, and even he, immortal or not, could not stay awake 24–7 for two weeks straight until the divorce was finalized and there was no more reason for her husband to want her dead. A security system would free him up, give him backup of a sort.

However, he’d been startled to find he couldn’t seem to get a hold on her thoughts and control, or even read her.

He couldn’t read or control Nicole Phillips.

That was what Marguerite thought he should know. The bloody woman was matchmaking again. It made Jake wonder if her ex-husband really was trying to kill her . . . or even if there really was an ex-husband. He wouldn’t put it past Marguerite to lie to get life mates together. That thought made him turn sharply to Nicole. “Marguerite said you’re on the tail end of a divorce?”

She stiffened at the blunt announcement, her hands tightening on the steering wheel and sending the car swerving the smallest bit before she regained control of herself and steadied it again. Her response was just as blunt as his question. “Yes.”

“Amicable?” he asked, watching her. When her mouth tightened, he added, “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to pry, but it occurred to me today that I’m not sure how I should handle the situation if he shows up at the door looking for you.”

“He won’t come to the door,” she said firmly. “And if he does, you can tell him that I’m not in, and that any contact should go through the lawyer.”

“Not amicable then,” he said wryly.

Nicole was silent for a minute and then let her breath out and seemed to force herself to relax. When she spoke, her voice was softer, less angry. “I tried to handle it amicably, but . . .” She shrugged.

“When will the divorce be final?” he asked. So far everything Marguerite had said was true, but . . .

“Two weeks,” Nicole answered stiffly and then corrected herself, saying, “Actually, thirteen days now.”

“And counting?” he suggested. “I don’t know whether to say congratulations or not. I doubt in your childhood dreams you fantasized that some day you’d marry your prince and divorce his ass as quickly as possible.”

His words startled a laugh out of her and Nicole shook her head, her body losing much of its tension for real this time. “No,” she agreed. “That was never in my agenda.”

Jake nodded and peered out the window again, trying to figure out how to ask about the furnace, the blocked doors, the gas grill and the fireplace. It was trickier to ask about. It wasn’t like he could say, “So have any near explosions lately?”

“Have you been married?”

He glanced to her with surprise at the question and shook his head. “No.” Jake glanced out the window again and then admitted, “I got close once, though.”

“What happened?” she asked curiously.

“My family,” he muttered.

“Your family?” she prompted.

“Yeah,” he said, thinking back to that time. He almost stopped talking then, but realized that his situation wasn’t all that dissimilar to her marriage and admitted: “My family has trouble with boundaries. They were concerned and . . . looked into things.” They’d looked into her mind, but he could hardly say that. On the other hand, Jake didn’t want to flat-out lie to her if she was a possible life mate. It didn’t seem a healthy way to start. Sighing, he said, “And through their looking into her, they found she was more interested in my money than me.”

Jake sensed Nicole glancing sharply toward him, but continued to look out the window and simply waited.

“Really?” she asked finally as she braked at a stop sign, and he heard the suspicion in her voice.

“Really,” Jake assured her solemnly, turning to meet her gaze. “She’d already taken two men for their money; one in a palimony suit, one in a divorce. I was to be victim three.”

“But your family saved you from that,” Nicole said quietly and shifted her attention back to the road. As she turned onto the cross street, she said, “You’re lucky.”

Jake frowned at the soft words and admitted wryly, “I’m afraid I didn’t see it that way at the time. I was just pissed at their interference when they confronted her and sent her on her way.”

“Why?” she asked with surprise.

Jake shrugged. “I was in love . . . and sure that it was different with me, that she loved me and they misunderstood what had happened in the first two relationships.” He grimaced and glanced to her to admit, “I was young and foolish then I guess.”

For some reason his words made her laugh. Raising his eyebrows, he asked, “What?”

“Jake,” she said on a laugh, “I know Marguerite said you’re older than you look, but you look twenty-five. How old were you then when you were so much younger? Sixteen?”

He smiled crookedly, remembering only then that he looked much younger than his fifty-eight years. Well, that was a fly in the ointment, wasn’t it? She now probably thought she was older than him. Certainly, she’d addressed him just then with the condescension of someone who thought they were older if only by a year or so.

“Well,” Nicole said now. “You’re very lucky your family intervened. It saved you a lot of heartache.”

“Oh, I still got the heartache,” Jake said dryly, recalling that time in his life. He’d been thirty-eight and the advanced age hadn’t made the heartache any easier to handle, and he suspected that heartache was the reason he’d never let anyone close again. Shrugging that aside for now, he said, “What they saved was my bank balance.”

Nicole smiled slightly and shrugged. “Well at least that insult wasn’t added to the injury.”

“That sounds like the voice of experience,” he said mildly, hoping to get her to tell him about the incidents Marguerite had told him about.

“Yeah. Loads of it,” she said, and then shrugged as if shaking off a bad cloak and said more cheerfully, “On the bright side, I had enough sense to go for counseling so I don’t wind up a nasty and bitter man-hating divorcee.”

“True,” Jake agreed. “I gather in divorce one partner or the other often goes crazy and does stupid things.”

“That’s what the gas guy said,” she said, her mouth tipping at the edges.

“The gas guy?” he asked.

“Yeah, I had a little trouble with the gas grill when I first moved back.” She shrugged and added, “And the furnace, and the fireplace and the doors.” Nicole grimaced and waved those worries away. “I had a run of bad luck for a bit, but it’s all good now.”

“Right,” Jake said quietly, pretty sure that Marguerite had told him the truth about her near misses after all. So, Nicole was in danger and did need looking out for, and she was a possible life mate for him as well, which was no doubt why Marguerite had put him on the job. Who better to look out for his possible life mate than himself, right?

Jake peered at her solemnly. Short, voluptuous, pretty with a nice smile, big brown eyes and long blond hair. Obviously, her father wasn’t Italian. Not with that long golden hair and the last name Phillips. He knew for sure the mother was Italian, though. She was the sister of Marguerite’s cook/housekeeper, Maria.

God, more Italians to deal with, he thought with dismay. As if the Nottes weren’t enough. Of course, he was a fine one to talk. His grandfather had been full-blooded Italian. It’s where his parents had got the name Stephano. His father had been very close to his father and had named him after the old man. His middle name, Jacob, came from his mother’s grandfather.

“You’re staring at me again.”

Jake blinked at that comment from Nicole and glanced away. “Sorry. I wasn’t really staring. I mean, I might have been looking at you, but I wasn’t really seeing you. I was thinking of my family and that I have Italian in my background too.”

“Do you?” she asked with surprise.

“Yes. It’s where I got my name.”

Nicole raised her eyebrows at that. “Forgive me, but Jake Colson doesn’t sound very Italian.”

“Oh, no, well, Jacob is my middle name. My full name is Stephano Jacob Colson Notte,” he admitted reluctantly.

“Really?” she asked with interest. “So how come you go by your middle names instead of Stephano Notte?”

Jake hesitated and then said, “Rebellion I guess. My family intervened one too many times and I rebelled and rejected any connection with them in response.” He frowned and admitted, “I guess it wasn’t a very mature response. It wasn’t like what happened was their fault, but I blamed them. I also didn’t want to be anything like them. Notte was my stepfather’s name. I reverted to my father’s last name and my middle name and—”

Realizing what he was saying, Jake caught himself and closed his mouth. He had never wanted to be immortal. He’d told himself that he didn’t want to be turned because being mortal was better. He could run around in the sun and go swimming in the daylight and attend a normal school with other kids. He’d never wanted to be a bloodsucking, brainwashing vampire. But after finding him dying on the office floor, his boss, Vincent, in a really very selfless move, had given up his one turn to save Jake’s life. Four days later he’d woken up an immortal . . . not by his own choice.

Jake hadn’t reacted well on finding out he’d been turned. He’d been furious to have his life turned upside down that way. He’d also been furious because suddenly his family was tiptoeing around and gently trying to offer him assistance afterward. Jake hadn’t wanted that help, or perhaps it was more correct to say he hadn’t wanted to need that help. Jake had always known who he was and what he’d wanted, and suddenly he’d been as lost as a boy, needing to be taught how to feed, how to control his hunger, how to read and control mortals, the best techniques for living with as little exposure to sun as possible, how, how, how. Jake had felt like a cripple, someone with a mental deficit . . . and he hadn’t liked it. So, basically he’d reacted like a teenage boy, and—

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