One Lucky Vampire Page 17

Frowning as she recognized the sounds as those of someone being sick, she took her headphones off altogether and walked over to the sliding glass doors. The blinds were closed and she didn’t open them right away, but tugged one of the slides aside to look out. In the next moment, she shoved them aside to unlock the door, tugged it open and rushed out.

“Jake?” she hurried to the hot tub, hardly aware of the cold snow under her bare feet as she rushed to aid the man. Jake was half upright and hunched over the far side of the hot tub, vomiting into the snow. If that was not enough to concern her, when she reached that side of the tub the white snow was splashed red in the overhead light. The man was vomiting blood . . . and a lot of it.

“Oh God,” Nicole gasped in dismay, and froze, gaping at it briefly. But when Jake sagged against the side of the hot tub and began to slide back into it, she snapped out of her shock. Careful to avoid the bloodstained snow, she moved up to the side of the hot tub and tried to grab his arm to help him keep his head above water, but he waved her away.

“I’m okay,” Jake muttered.

“No, you’re not,” Nicole said grimly. Since he wouldn’t let her help that way, she turned and looked around for his robe or a towel. Spotting his robe hanging from the hook on the light post, she stepped away to grab it. By the time she turned back, Jake was stepping onto the hot tub seat in that corner and heaving himself out of the water to sit on the edge of the hot tub.

This made Nicole pause and gape again. The man was completely nude. Completely. Like, not a stitch on. A moan from Jake managed to distract her from this realization, at least enough that she gave first her head, then his robe a shake and wrapped it around his bare shoulders, making sure that the robe hung down along his hip and didn’t fall into the water. In the next moment, she was jumping back to avoid getting splashed as he suddenly hunched forward and began vomiting again.

The deep red blood on the snow in the stark light was rather shocking. For a moment, Nicole merely watched helplessly, but when Jake slid off the hot tub and dropped to his knees in the snow as he retched, she moved to his side again, trying to offer support if only with her presence. It was all she could do until he stopped retching. Then she dropped to her haunches beside him and pulled one robe-covered arm over her shoulder.

“Come on, let’s get you inside,” she said quietly, pushing hard with her legs to get them both upright. Despite his getting himself out of the tub, Nicole had expected him to have to lean on her, but not to the extent he did, and they both staggered to the side once he was on his feet. Nicole reached for the lamp pole to catch herself and him both, letting out a small relieved breath when it prevented their toppling over.

She took a moment to shift her stance to counterbalance his weight on her and then started forward. Fortunately, while he was leaning on her heavily, Jake was still able to walk, slowly and in a stumbling manner, but they were moving.

Nicole steered him toward the sliding doors into the lower living room. It was obviously the way he’d come and it was a couple steps closer. It also didn’t have a bunch of easels in the way, which they were likely to bump into, send crashing to the ground, and then stumble over. By some miracle they made it inside and to the couch before Jake collapsed.

“It’s all right. You’re going to be all right,” Nicole said anxiously as she covered him with a throw. “I’ll call an ambulance. We’ll get you to a hospital—”

She broke off with amazement when Jake suddenly surged up, grabbing her arm. “No! No ambulance. No hospital. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” she said, trying to break his hold on her. His grip was desperately hard and she knew bruises were probably popping up under her shirtsleeve. “You’re throwing up blood. You need to go to the hospital.”

“The hospital won’t know what to do,” he said wearily, falling back on the couch, but still grasping her arm.

“Well, they’ll have a better idea than I do,” Nicole said. He was pale and sweating, but the blood in the snow outside was what worried her most. That was a very bad sign.

He shook his head. “No hospital.”

“Jake, I need to get you help. You’re sick. I—”

“Call Marguerite,” he interrupted.

“Marguerite?” Nicole stared at him with amazement. “What can she—?”

“She’ll know what to do. Call Marguerite,” Jake insisted, his eyes closing.

“Okay,” she said slowly, thinking she’d call Marguerite as he asked and then call an ambulance. Much to her relief he started to release her, but then tightened his hold again and opened his eyes.

“Promise me,” he insisted. “You’ll call Marguerite and not an ambulance.”

Nicole stared at him silently. His eyes appeared to be glowing, the silvery teal they’d been before now almost completely silver, and the whites around it bloodshot and sparkling with silver as if someone had dropped glitter in his eyes. It had to be a trick of the light, of course.

“Promise,” Jake insisted, his fingers tightening painfully on her arm.

“I promise,” she said at once.

Jake stared into her eyes for a moment and then gave the slightest nod and released her to drop back on the couch, murmuring, “Marguerite will know what to do.”

Nicole frowned slightly, but turned away and moved to grab the phone off the end table, only to set it back as she realized she didn’t know Marguerite’s number. It was in her cell phone contact list though, she recalled and moved quickly around the couch and end table to the door to the hall leading to the office and studio. “I’ll be right back, I have to get my cell phone.”

Jake closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing. He knew Nicole was in a panic, but so was he. He didn’t understand what was happening. He’d gone out to the hot tub in the hopes of ridding himself of the headache, and it had seemed to work. The pain had begun to ease almost before he’d got into the hot tub, the cold air seeming to ease his tension and clear his thinking. The pain had been completely gone within moments of stepping into the hot tub, only to be replaced by nausea instead. That had caught him completely by surprise. He hadn’t felt nausea in seven years. It was a most unpleasant sensation . . . and it had built so quickly. Within moments of getting in the hot tub, Jake had been leaning over the side, retching and throwing up blood, his body weak and shaking. Honestly, if Nicole hadn’t come out, he wasn’t sure he would have been able to get out of the hot tub on his own.

Jake didn’t understand what was happening. He was an immortal. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to be able to get sick, yet he seemed to have the immortal version of the fricking flu. Vampire flu. Great. And a serious case of it. He was hot, feverish, weak, and throwing up blood . . . and his head was pounding like crazy again.

He was also crazy thirsty . . . and not for water. Jake supposed it was all the blood he’d thrown up, on top of already being low. He really should have taken care of the blood and fridge thing right away. That had been driven home when Nicole had helped him inside and bent over him on the couch. It wasn’t her sweet, spicy perfume he’d smelled, but her blood, and he’d been hard-pressed not to bite into her neck. Truthfully, if he’d had more strength and hadn’t felt so nauseous, Jake might not have been able to keep from chomping into the woman’s throat and sucking her dry, life mate or no life mate.

Another wave of nausea rolled over him and Jake reared up desperately from the couch. He knew he wouldn’t make it to the bathroom only ten feet away, but he had to try. He managed to get half upright before collapsing to his hands and knees on the floor. His back bowed as his stomach heaved and he stared at the cream-colored carpet with horror, and then a large red and black bowl was suddenly on the floor under his face. He caught a glimpse of Nicole’s hand before she released the bowl, and glanced to her as she straightened and moved away.

She was punching buttons on her cell phone he saw. Jake didn’t bother to try to listen, but turned his attention back to the bowl, recognizing it as the one that sat on the coffee table. It had held large frosted glass balls when he’d seen it earlier. They were gone now, which was a good thing, he decided, as blood poured out of his mouth and splashed into the bowl.

Halfway through this bout of heaving, Jake heard Nicole talking in quick anxious tones. He tried to stop and listen, but it was impossible. The blood was coming out whether he liked it or not. He had just given up the effort when he heard her say Marguerite’s name. Jake felt a moment’s relief knowing the woman would know what to say to keep Nicole from calling an ambulance. She would also know what to do in this situation . . . he hoped, and then gave up worrying about it as he began to heave again.

Chapter Eight

Nicole paced around the couch one more time and leaned to check the cold cloth she’d placed on Jake’s forehead. Once she felt that it was still cool to the touch, she quickly backed away and paced around the couch again, eyeing her patient from a relatively safe distance. Marguerite was the one who had suggested that. She hadn’t explained why she should keep her distance. Nicole was guessing the woman was worried that Jake was contagious. But if he had something contagious, then why were they both insisting she not take him to the hospital?

Nicole fretted over that for about the hundredth time since calling Marguerite, which was—half an hour ago, she saw, glancing at her wristwatch as she paced around the couch again. Marguerite had said help was on the way. Nicole presumed that meant a doctor or something, but how long was this help going to take? For cripes sake, Jake seemed to be dying on her here. He’d finally stopped throwing up blood about ten minutes ago, but not before tossing up a hell of a lot of it. She’d emptied the bowl four times, and that wasn’t counting what he’d lost outside. It was a big bowl. How much blood did a body hold? And how much did he have left inside him?

Her worried gaze slid over Jake again. He’d lain moaning and writhing after his last bout with the bowl. It had looked like he was in agony. She’d thought that was scary . . . until he’d stopped moving and gone silent about five minutes ago. This was scarier. If his chest weren’t moving up and down—

Nicole stopped pacing and peered at Jake worriedly. His chest didn’t seem to be moving anymore. He’d been breathless when he’d first gone still, as if his thrashing and writhing had worn him out. While he’d lain still, his chest had been heaving with his effort to catch his breath. Now it didn’t seem to be moving at all. She took an instinctive step toward him and then paused, Marguerite’s words running through her mind.

No matter what happens, keep your distance. He will not die. He will be fine, but you need to stay away from him. You are the one who could be in danger, Nicole. Don’t get too close, and if he becomes active again and gets up and comes at you, you have to lock yourself in the bathroom or even leave the house. He could be a danger to you right now.

“Jake?” she said, shifting where she stood. “Jake, wake up.”

He didn’t react at all.

Biting her lip, Nicole took a step toward him and said a little more loudly, “Jake! Wake up!

There was still no reaction and she took another step closer, and then stepped back again, Marguerite’s words making her afraid. But she couldn’t just stand there. Marguerite had assured her he would be all right, but what if she was wrong? What if he needed CPR? She couldn’t stand it, she had to see if he was breathing, but she tried to be careful about it. The couch was three feet from the wall, leaving a walkway to the sliding glass doors. Nicole walked around into that space and leaned over the back of the couch so that it was a bit of a barrier as she gave his shoulder a shake.

“Jake, are you—”

He grabbed her so swiftly Nicole nearly bit her tongue with surprise. One moment Jake was as still as the dead and the next he’d snatched her arm and was trying to draw her wrist toward his mouth. She didn’t understand what was happening at first. She had no idea why he’d grabbed her, and then she saw his mouth opening and realized he was going to bite her.

Nicole immediately began to jerk her arm back. Weak as Jake was, she nearly broke free, and would have had she not glanced back to his mouth and spotted the fangs sliding down into view.

Fangs. Literally. Like a dog . . . or a vampire. Nicole didn’t just freeze like a deer in headlights, she went momentarily weak. Jake gave a sharp tug at the same moment and she went over the side of the couch. The action snapped her out of her shock and she was struggling again even before she landed on top of his blanket-covered form.

Screaming now, Nicole thrashed and kicked with her legs, pushed with her free arm and pulled on the one he was trying to get to his mouth, trying to break loose. She threw herself back and to the side, rolling off of him and onto the floor, hoping to break his hold on her, but he just followed, crashing down on top of her on the floor, her arm still gripped firmly in his hold. Now she was in a really bad situation. His weight was pinning her and preventing her from offering any real resistance. Nicole couldn’t retreat, all she could do was try to hold him off, pushing at his chest with her free hand and tugging at the arm he held, all the while screaming at the top of her lungs.

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