One Lucky Vampire Page 16

“No, we wouldn’t,” she assured him. “He makes the yummiest omelets ever . . . and his coffee’s good too.”

“Can’t wait to try it,” Joey said as he followed her out of the studio.

Chapter Seven

“So, Joey, what do you do?” Jake asked quietly as he cut into his steak. He’d bought more steak today at the grocery store and when Nicole had insisted he join her and her brother for dinner, had quickly cooked one up for himself. He used to like his medium rare, now he ate it rare, so it hadn’t taken long to cook. There had already been enough salad and he’d bought those frozen hot and spicy potato wedges to have with the steak. As for the sauce, while the recipe had only been for two, there had been more than enough for three.

“I’m retired. Used to be in land development though,” Joey answered lightly as he dug into his peppercorn steak.

Nicole and Joey had both assured him the peppercorn sauce on the steak was very good, which was a relief. He’d worried about it while out shopping. It had seemed to be his first possible successful attempt at cooking before they’d left the house, but he’d feared it might dry out or curdle while they were out. It hadn’t, and when he’d warmed it up it had actually tasted better than when they’d left.

Thank God, Jake thought with an inner sigh. He’d developed a headache shortly after returning to the house . . . which was something new. He hadn’t had a headache, or a sniffle, or any other ailment since being turned, and was glad he hadn’t. His head was throbbing and aching so bad he could hardly think. Even his teeth were beginning to ache with it.

“Joey’s being modest. He started with nothing, and built an empire,” Nicole said proudly. “He had a hand in building some of the biggest malls and complexes in the Toronto area. In fact,” she added with a proud grin at her brother. “He’s done so well he retired last year and now travels and lives a life of leisure.”

“Impressive,” Jake said quietly, rubbing at his forehead. He’d already known that, but it seemed better to pretend he didn’t. There was no reason Marguerite would have told him that in the normal course of events if he was just a cook/housekeeper. At least he didn’t think so. He could be wrong though. This damned headache was really messing with his thinking.

“Jake’s pretty impressive himself,” Nicole told her brother. “He was vice president of a company called V.A. Incorporated up until a couple years ago.”

Joey peered at Jake dubiously. “V.P. huh? You’re pretty young for a V.P. Was it a family position?”

“I’m loosely related to the owner now via marriage. However, I wasn’t at the time I worked for him,” Jake said stiffly, wondering if it was his headache that made the question seem like an insult.

“So, was it a small company then?” Joey asked.

“No,” Jake said simply. His head hurt too much to bother describing all of V.A.’s holdings. If the guy wanted to know about the company he could Google it.

“Are you all right, Jake?” Nicole asked suddenly, concern puckering her forehead. “You look pale.”

“Actually, I don’t feel well,” Jake admitted, staring down at his meal with a frown. He loved steak, but his headache was bad enough that he was starting to feel nauseous. This was just bizarre. Immortals weren’t supposed to get sick.

“Would you like an aspirin or ibuprofen?” Nicole asked, getting up and heading for the cupboard beside the door where she presumably kept such things.

“No, no, I’m fine,” Jake said at once, frowning after her. There was no use taking the painkillers: drugs and alcohol weren’t supposed to affect immortals.

“Here, in case you change your mind,” Nicole said returning to set a bottle of ibuprofen on the table beside his plate.

“Thank you,” Jake murmured, tempted to take the pills anyway. They weren’t supposed to affect his kind, but then his kind weren’t supposed to get sick either, and he was feeling pretty sick. Sighing, he glanced up and found both Nicole and Joey peering at him; Nicole with concern, Joey with curiosity. As much to distract himself as them, he asked, “So what do you do now, Joey?”

“Oh,” Joey blinked and sat back with a wry smile. “This and that and nothing at all. I travel, mostly. See the sights and play.”

“Is Ottawa still your home base?” Jake asked, hoping to get the man talking again.

“Toronto was his home base, not Ottawa,” Nicole explained, and then added, “He has a house in Florida now, but pops around for a visit on occasion.” Turning to her brother, she asked, “How long are you staying this time?”

Jake glanced to the man with interest. Nicole’s question seemed to suggest Joey would be staying, which could be good. With the other man there, he’d have help keeping an eye on Nicole.

“Actually, I’m not staying with you this time, Nicki,” Joey announced and popped a potato wedge in his mouth.

“What?” Nicole seemed surprised. “But where will you stay then? Not a hotel?”

“Yes. I booked a hotel . . . I thought Melly would be more comfortable there than being thrust on family for the first meeting.”

“Melly?” Nicole asked, smiling faintly. “A new girlfriend? And one who’s lasted more than a week and that you’re actually willing to travel with?”

“She’s lasted six months,” Joey informed her, and then grinned and added, “And I asked her to marry me.”

“What?” Nicole’s eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Joey said with a grin.

“That’s marvelous!” Nicole cried, jumping up to hug her brother. “Congratulations, bro.”

“Thank you,” he murmured, hugging her back.

Moving back to her chair once they’d finished hugging, Nicole asked, “So who is she? How did you meet? When do I get to meet her?”

Joey chuckled and reached for his wine. He took a sip and then set down the glass and said, “I met her in Florida. Her name is Melanie, and she’s a model from Toronto.”

“A model?” Nicole asked, appearing impressed. “And from Toronto?”

Joey nodded. “She has an apartment in New York too, but lives here in Ontario when she’s not working. But she was on vacation in Florida when I met her.”

Nicole sat back with a laugh. “That is so you.”

“What?” her brother asked, smiling uncertainly.

“You move all the way to Florida to meet a gal from your hometown,” she pointed out.

He smiled wryly and nodded. “Yeah. What are the odds, huh?”

“With you? Pretty good. Things like that always happen to you,” Nicole said with a smile, and then repeated, “So when do I get to meet her?”

“How about tomorrow? A late lunch?” he suggested. “Or breakfast for you, I suppose. But late lunch for Melly and I.”

Nicole hesitated the briefest moment and Jake suspected she was thinking of all the work she had to do, but then she nodded and breathed out with resignation. “Of course.”

“Well then, I should let you get back to work now,” Joey said, apparently having understood the hesitation as well.

When the other man pushed back his chair and stood up, Jake glanced to his plate, surprised to see that Joey had finished his meal. So had Nicole, he noted, glancing to her plate next. Apparently, he was the only one with most of his food still on his plate.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Nicole agreed apologetically, getting up as well. “I’ll see you out.” Turning to Jake then, she said, “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Jake nodded and remained seated as they left the room, but then stood up and began gathering plates. He put the empty plates in the dishwasher, but covered his and put it in the refrigerator. If his headache cleared up, he would finish it later, he thought as he quickly finished clearing the table.

When Nicole hadn’t returned by the time he finished, Jake moved into the living room and up to the railing overlooking the lower living room to listen, relaxing when he heard the murmur of voices from below. When silence fell and he heard the door close and the click as it was locked, he continued on to his room. His head was killing him and since immortals weren’t supposed to get sick, it had to be a tension headache. Perhaps lying down would help. He hoped it would. Jake didn’t know if seven years of pain-free living had made him less tolerant to pain or what, but this headache was killing him.

Jake didn’t bother turning the lights on in his room; he didn’t really need them anyway. The moonlight coming through the window was enough for him to be able to navigate his way to the bed. He lay down on top of the blankets and tried to relax, but the pounding in his head made that impossible. He closed his eyes, opened his eyes, turned on one side and then the other before returning to his back, and finally gave up. Lying there he had nothing to think about but how much his head hurt. It just seemed to make it worse.

Getting up, he headed back to the kitchen. It was empty. Nicole had no doubt gone back to work. Perhaps cooking would distract him from the pain. Jake opened the refrigerator and considered the contents. He could get a start on the next day’s dinner. Or maybe he should be cooking Nicole another meal for today. Technically, what he had served as dinner had really only been Nicole’s second meal of the day. It might have been her lunch. It was his lunch. He normally didn’t have dinner until much later in the day, himself, and he kept hours similar to hers.

Frowning, Jake closed the refrigerator and headed downstairs to ask her if she wanted another meal later and what time that would be.

As usual, the blinds were up on the French doors to the studio and Jake could see her hard at work. She wasn’t wearing her headphones yet, so he tapped lightly at the door. Nicole glanced around with surprise and then smiled and waved him in.

“How are you feeling?” she asked with concern as she set her paintbrush down. Frowning, she added, “You’re really pale, Jake. Are you coming down with something?”

“No. I never get sick. It’s just a headache,” he assured her, and then quickly changed the subject. “You’ve only eaten twice today, and I wondered if you wanted another meal tonight?”

Nicole tilted her head briefly, considering the question, and then said, “Maybe a sandwich or salad or something. I can grab it myself though. You aren’t feeling well.”

“It’s okay, I can make it,” he assured her. “This is just a tension headache. It will go away eventually.”

“If it’s a tension headache, why don’t you try a dip in the hot tub?” she suggested. “It might help.”

Jake blinked at the suggestion. He was surprised he hadn’t thought of it himself and he was willing to try anything to rid himself of the damned pulsing in his head. “Yeah, I think I will,” he said finally. “Is there anything you want before I do?”

“No. I’m good,” Nicole assured him.

Jake nodded and headed for the door, saying, “I’ll let you get back to work then.”

“Okay. Feel better.”

Jake closed the door and headed back upstairs. He was in his room before he realized he didn’t know what time Nicole wanted to eat. He’d ask after his dip in the hot tub, Jake decided, pausing in front of the dresser and then frowning as he realized he hadn’t brought his swimsuit.

Shrugging, he stripped out of his clothes and pulled on his bathrobe, then went to grab a large towel out of the bathroom. The hot tub was outside the sliding glass doors of Nicole’s studio, but he’d noticed while in her studio that while she left the blinds open on the windows along the back of her studio, the blinds for the door were closed. The sun rose on that side, and no doubt shone right in through the sliding glass doors in the morning. He supposed she kept them closed to avoid it heating up the room and glaring on her work. Whatever the case, with the blinds closed it should be okay if he went without a swimsuit.

Nicole was bebopping between paintings, headphones on and tunes cranked. The first song she’d put on was her present favorite, Pink’s latest, but it was near the end of the playlist. There were only three songs following it, so it seemed like she’d barely put it on when the playlist ended and silence filled her ears. Silence always seemed worse to Nicole when she had earphones on, it seemed to crowd into her head, blocking out everything else.

Grimacing, she shifted her headphones off her ears and crossed to the computer to start the playlist from the beginning. She’d just grabbed the mouse when muffled sounds from outside made her hesitate.

Leaving her headphones around her neck, Nicole turned her head so that one ear was to the window and listened. She’d opened the window a crack when she’d come in earlier. Unless it was an especially cold or windy night, she always had a window open. Nicole didn’t mind the smell of paint, it was her stock and trade after all, but it could get a bit strong if she didn’t open a window to let fresh air in to dilute it.

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