One Lucky Vampire Page 14

Nicole nodded. “Okay.”

“Great.” He smiled and held out his hand. “My name’s Dan Sh— Peters, by the way.”

“Nicole Phillips,” she said, smiling crookedly as she placed her hand in his. Much to her surprise his smile quickly faded then.

“You’re shaking,” he said grimly, and asked, “Are you going to be okay to drive?”

“Yeah,” she said, and heard the uncertainty in her voice, but while she didn’t mind having coffee with the complete stranger who had saved her life, she wasn’t willing to let him drive her there. Stiffening her spine, she assured him, “I’m fine, and it’s just next door.”

“Okay,” Dan said, but didn’t release her hand, instead squeezing it before saying, “I’ll follow. Flash your lights and pull over if you start to feel sick or anything.”

Nicole nodded, relieved when he released her hand. But he just took her arm to usher her to the driver’s seat, saying, “I’m that pickup there.” He gestured to a dark pickup parked two cars down from hers. “Pull out and pass me and I’ll follow.”

“Okay,” Nicole murmured as he opened her door and ushered her in.

“See you there,” he said and closed the door for her.

Nicole pushed the button to start the engine and then just sat there for a minute, trying to concentrate on her breathing and calm her body. Her hands were trembling and she felt shaky and not quite all there. It was hard to describe, but she felt sweaty and a bit foggy. An overflow of adrenaline she supposed.

Impatient with herself, Nicole did up her seat belt and shifted into reverse.

Chapter Six

“What?” Jake stilled, one hand on a can of tomatoes, and the other tightening on the phone pressed to his ear. Releasing the tomatoes, he turned toward his cart demanding, “What do you mean there was an incident? What incident? Is Nicole all right?”

“I think so,” Dan responded and he could hear the frown in his voice.

“What do you mean you think so? Dammit, Dan, I—”

“Shut up and listen, buddy. I don’t have long,” he said and then started right into explanations. “Someone tried to run her down when she came out of Canadian Tire. They came up slow and quiet, lights off and then just when I spotted them, flashed the lights on and raced the engine to charge her like a bloody bull. I barely knocked her out of the way in time and the car was gone when I looked up to try to see the license plate. But don’t worry, she doesn’t know I was watching out for her. She thinks I was just Johnny-on-the-spot. I even gave her the name Dan Peters instead of Shepherd in case you’d mentioned me as your partner.”

Jake cursed under his breath, and left his cart where it was to head for the exit. “I’m on my way.”

“No need. I’m following her to Moxie’s for coffee.”

Jake stopped walking and stiffened at mention of the bar restaurant. “In case I didn’t make it clear earlier, Dan. Nicole is off limits. She’s mine. Don’t mess with her.”

“You wound me,” Dan said, and Jake could hear the amusement in the other man’s voice. “I love women. I would never mess with them.”

“You mess with them all the time,” Jake growled. “You’re a fricking Romeo with a different Juliet every weekend. Nicole is not a Juliet.”

“Relax,” Dan said soothingly. “I just want to look her over in better light, make sure she wasn’t injured. I couldn’t tell in the parking lot, but she was pretty shaken up.”

“If you wanted to look her over you should have taken her inside the store or to the Tim Hortons coffee shop,” Jake said grimly. “The light in Moxie’s isn’t much better than the parking lot.”

“True, but it is more soothing than the harsh glare of a coffee shop’s bright lights would have been, and I think she’s in serious need of soothing right now.”

“Then I’ll do the damned soothing. Send her back to the grocery store,” he barked, starting to walk again.

“Too late. We’re at Moxie’s now. She’s parked and I’m parking. Finish your shopping, buddy. I’ll behave and follow at a discreet distance when you text that you’re done and she heads over to pick you up.”

“You—” Jake paused. Dan had hung up. He slid his phone back into his pocket and then stood there for a minute debating what to do. He couldn’t just show up at Moxie’s. How would he explain knowing she was there? And how would he explain not having the groceries he was supposed to be getting?

Cursing under his breath, Jake turned and hurried back to his cart. He’d taken his time and was only halfway through the grocery store. He’d finish shopping, but much more quickly than he had been doing . . . and he wasn’t leaving Nicole’s side again between now and the finalization of the divorce. Jake was quite sure the driver of the car had been Nicole’s soon to be ex-husband. The bit about turning the lights on just before revving the engine was what made him think that. Why turn on the lights first? It had acted as a warning. But it had also no doubt blinded Nicole and the only reason to blind her before revving the engine was to ensure she didn’t glance over at the sound and see the driver . . . and recognize him.

With two weeks—or thirteen days and counting—Rodolfo was obviously getting desperate. Accidental explosions were one thing, but running her down in public was the act of a desperate man.

It was time to find out more about Rodolfo Rossi, he decided, and knew just who to call to put on the case. Pulling out his phone, he searched his contacts and pushed a button, then placed the phone to his ear and listened to it ring as he tossed the canned tomatoes he still held into the cart.

“Hello.” The word was said on a laugh and was followed by, “Cut it out, woman. I’m on the phone here.”

“Vincent?” Jake asked uncertainly.

“Yeah. Who—Stephano?” Vincent asked, suddenly serious.

“Hello, boss,” Jake said quietly, not correcting him on the name.

“I’m not your boss anymore,” Vincent pointed out solemnly. “You quit on me.”

“You didn’t need me anymore. I couldn’t be your daytime V.P. and you already had a nighttime one.”

“We could have worked something out, Stephano. Besides, you can work during the day, you just need to take in more blood.”

“Yeah. Like that was going to happen,” Jake said wryly, but frowned as he realized he hadn’t fed since meeting with Marguerite yesterday. He’d intended to have a refrigerator and blood delivered to the house to keep in his room while on this case, but hadn’t got to that yet . . . and he was kind of hungry.

Pushing that worry away for now, he said, “Look, I’m sorry to call out of the blue, but I need Jackie’s help.”

“Jackie?” Vincent asked with surprise.

“Who is it?” Jackie asked in the background. “Is it for me?”

“Hang on, babe,” Vincent said, his muffled voice suggesting he’d covered the phone with his hand. Voice clear again, he asked Jake, “What’s up?”

“I’m a bodyguard now,” Jake said in case Vincent wasn’t as well informed as Marguerite.

“Yeah?” Vincent asked with interest. “That sounds cool. How do you like it?”

“It’s a lot less exciting than it sounds,” Jake said wryly.

“Yeah. So is detective work,” Vincent said on a disappointed sigh. “Bloody boring most of the time. A lot of sitting around, watching and waiting.”

“So is being a bodyguard,” Jake assured him.

“Man, what’s up with that?” Vincent asked with disgust. “I watched a lot of shows to train for helping Jackie with her cases; Castle, The Closer, Criminal Minds, even old Magnum P.I. Not one of them had the hero sitting around twiddling his thumbs and—hey, cut it out, I’m on the phone here, woman.” There were the muffled sounds of what might have been a short wrestling session and then Vincent said, “Sorry, Steph. So what can we do for you?”

“I’m guarding a woman in Ottawa and I need you guys to look into her soon to be ex-husband, find out what he’s into,” Jake explained, turning his cart into the next aisle and moving to examine the different pastas. Why did they make them in so many shapes and sizes? Was one size or shape tastier than another? He frowned over the problem.

“Right. What’s his name?” Vincent asked.

“Rodolfo Rossi,” Jake answered, tossing several types of pasta into the cart with his free hand. Better to be safe than sorry. He wouldn’t want to buy spaghetti and have a recipe call for those little bow tie type things.

“Rodolfo Rossi,” Vincent repeated. “Jackie’s writing it down. How do you spell it?”

Jake rattled off the spelling as he pushed the cart up to the sauces, adding, “He’s presently married to Nicole Phillips, but the divorce will be final in less than two weeks.”

“Okay. We’ll look into him,” Vincent assured him, and then paused briefly before asking, “You okay?”

Now it was Jake’s turn to pause. He considered the question seriously. He’d been pretty messed up after the turn, and definitely less than grateful to Vincent for saving his life and using his one turn to do it. He didn’t think he’d ever even thanked the man for what he’d done. Sighing, he stopped walking and said solemnly, “Much better. Thank you. And thank you for what you did, Vincent. I do appreciate it and I’m sorry I was such an ungrateful prick at the time.”

“Yeah, you were kind of a prick,” Vincent agreed with amusement and then gave a startled, “Ow! Hey, that’s husband beating!” that suggested Jackie had smacked him for the prick comment. Heaving a sigh, Vincent said, “Look, no problem. I understood it wasn’t your choice and that you needed time to deal with it. I’m just glad you’re doing better now.”

“Thanks,” Jake said smiling faintly. “I’ll let you two go now. I need to get back to work anyway.”

“Okay. Is this the number we can reach you at?” Vincent asked.

“Yeah,” Jake said.

“Okay. Later, Stephano.”

“Bye Stephano!” Jackie called.

“Bye guys,” Jake said, not correcting them on the Stephano bit. It was his name after all.

“Oh,” Nicole said, glancing down at her phone when it dinged to announce she had a text message. Jake was at the checkout. “I have to go.”

“Nancy’s done his shopping, is he?” Dan asked with obvious amusement.

“Jake,” she corrected dryly, though she knew he knew the name wasn’t Nancy. Dan had seemed to find the whole male cook/housekeeper thing a real hoot from the moment she’d explained about Jake.

“Jake,” he said dutifully as he threw money on the table to cover their coffees and stood up to walk her out. “So what’s he like, this Jake? A real mama’s boy? Gay maybe? Or what?”

“Oh, I don’t think he’s gay,” Nicole said at once, and she didn’t. She hadn’t really considered it before now, and couldn’t claim to have the best “gaydar,” as they called it, but she was pretty sure Jake wasn’t gay. At least she hoped not, she’d be terribly disappointed if he was . . . and had absolutely no desire to examine why that would be. The guy was younger than her, and an employee. She had no business thinking about him in that way at all. The last thing she needed right now was to think of any man in that way. Nicole had promised herself at least a full year of counseling before she would even consider dating again. But once that date had arrived, she’d decided maybe another six months of counseling was in order. She really did not want to jump back into the dating pool too early and land herself in another abusive relationship.

“Not gay, huh? So just a mama’s boy?” Dan said lightly as he walked her out of the restaurant.

Nicole just shook her head. Dan really seemed to have issues with her cook/housekeeper . . . and he didn’t even know him. As they neared her car, she teased, “Is someone feeling threatened? What’s wrong? Can’t cook?”

“Oh, I can cook,” he assured her. “I’m the best barbecuer around. Housekeeping, on the other hand . . .” He grimaced and shook his head. “I’m one of those guys who leave a trail of clothes from the front door to the shower. Drove my wife crazy . . . which, I suppose, is why she’s an ex-wife now.”

Nicole chuckled softly at the comment as he opened her door. She started to climb in, then paused and turned back. Holding out her hand, she said, “Thank you, Dan. For the coffee and for saving my life.”

Prev Next