One Lucky Vampire Page 22

“Like Tomasso said, we’re here to help,” Dante said solemnly. “Marguerite seemed to think you might need it.”

Nicole felt her eyebrows rise at this claim. What were they supposed to help with? And why would Marguerite think their help would be needed? It was like there was something everyone knew . . . except her . . . and that was starting to make her anxious.

Turning to Jake, she said, “Just tell me whatever it is you need to tell me. I’m sure it will be fine.”

Chapter Ten

Jake let his breath out on a sigh and sat back in his seat. It seemed he was going to have to do this with Dante and Tomasso there. He hadn’t factored that into the equation when figuring out how to broach this. Now he didn’t know how the hell to go about telling Nicole everything he had to say.

“Jake?” Nicole prodded when the silence drew out.

He forced a smile for her and sat up. He’d just have to go with what he’d planned anyway, he decided. Resting his elbows on the table, he pressed his fingertips together and tried to gather his thoughts. He’d come up with a good opening line earlier, but couldn’t seem to recall it now. Giving up on it after a moment, he lowered his hands and glanced up to see that not just Nicole, but Dante and Tomasso too were peering at him expectantly. Obviously it was time to shit or get off the pot, he decided, and just launched into it. “You’re my life mate.”

Jake heard the words that left his mouth, but wasn’t sure how the hell that had happened. He’d meant to work up to that part. He’d intended to start with the fact that her hot tub had been poisoned. That he would have died had he been mortal, but he wasn’t. Then work into the fact that he was an immortal and explain what that was, and what he, as an immortal could do, and finally end with the whole, “I can’t read or control you” and “that suggests you are a life mate to me” bit. All of which would have ended either with her throwing herself into his arms and saying, “Oh, Jake, that’s wonderful! Take me as your life mate now,” which was what he’d fantasized about and hoped for . . . or her grabbing a cross and stake, not necessarily in that order, and then chasing him out of her house.


Jake glanced to Nicole to see that she was staring at him with complete and utter incomprehension. Jake opened his mouth, closed it, and then glanced to his cousins, muttering, “Some of that help would be good about now.”

“Oh, no, Pinocchio,” Dante said on a laugh. “You’re on your own here.”

Jake scowled at the man and ground out, “I thought you said you were here to help?”

“Not if you’re going to lead with that,” Tomasso said with amusement.

Cursing under his breath, Jake glanced back to Nicole, and forced another smile. “I’m sorry. Forget I said that. That was a mistake. What I meant to say was that—Nicole, I wasn’t sick. I was poisoned.”

Nicole blinked several times and shook her head with confusion. “What?”

Yeah, she wasn’t taking that any better than the life-mate bit, and he wasn’t surprised. Nina had said Marguerite had played with Nicole’s memories and that Dante and Tomasso were reinforcing it so that she would relax and work. He knew what that meant. Marguerite must have pretty much erased most of her memory of the night he’d started puking up blood in the hot tub.

Jake was trying to figure out how to handle that when Dante stepped in with some of that help he’d promised and said, “Nicole, think back to the night Jake got sick. You were in the studio, heard him vomiting, went out to check on him, and . . .”

Nicole sat back abruptly as if Dante had physically hit her with the memories, and Jake didn’t doubt that it felt like that to her. Dante had led her to the memory and then finally let her recall what had happened. He watched with concern as she paled and then flushed and paled again.

“Fangs,” Nicole breathed, her thoughts obviously turned inward as she recalled that night.

Jake winced, guilt pinching at him as he had his own flash of memory of trying to bite her.

“You tried to bite me,” she recalled with horror.

“I’m sorry,” Jake said at once, almost drowning in guilt now. He’d never bitten anyone in the seven years since he’d been turned, but he’d been out of his head with both blood loss and bloodlust, and she’d smelled so good. The scent and sound of the life-giving fluid pounding through her veins had tempted him beyond reason. “I would never hurt you. I swear.”

“But you tried to,” she pointed out. “You tried to bite me.”

Jake grimaced. There was no getting around that.

“Pitiful,” Tomasso said, shaking his head sorrowfully, and Jake glanced to him with confusion.

“What?” he asked.

“You don’t seem to handle emotional situations well, Pinocchio,” Dante said for his brother. “You’re kind of pitiful.”

Jake scowled with frustration. “Well, if you’re so damned smart, why don’t you tell me how I should be handling this?”

Dante exchanged a glance with Tomasso, and then turned to Nicole. “You trust Marguerite?”

“Yes.” She drew the word out slowly.

“You don’t think she’d put you in a dangerous situation, or put dangerous people in your home?” Tomasso asked.

“No, of course not,” Nicole said more certainly. “Marguerite has always been kind and supportive of me and my family. She’s almost like family herself.”

“So you know you’re safe with the three of us,” Dante said simply and then added, “No matter how crazy Jake sounds, you’re safe with him.”

Nicole let her breath out on a slow sigh and relaxed a little in her seat with a nod. “Yes. I believe I must be.”

Dante nodded, and then warned her, “You’re going to remember and learn some things now that will freak you out.”

“Some of it will sound crazy,” Tomasso added.

“But you need to just listen and stay calm and remember you’re safe.”

Jake stared from one twin to the other. This was the most he’d heard the pair speak in all the time he’d known them, and he’d known them since he was four years old. Roberto Conti Notte had business interests in Italy and after he married Jake’s mother, the family had spent the summers, Christmas, and most every other school holiday in Italy. Dante and Tomasso had often come around with Christian to visit and Jake had looked up to the three of them with a boy’s hero worship. He’d wanted to grow up to be just like them . . . at least until he was eighteen and “the family” had decided he was old enough to know the truth about them . . . that they were different. That he was different from them . . . and could never be like them, not without becoming something he’d always thought was evil and bad.

Jake had grown up on vampire movies, and in those movies the vampires were always the bad guys. Finding out about “the family” had been like waking up to find himself in the middle of a horror movie. It had been even worse to find out that his mother had been turned and that his little brother, who he had adored from birth, had been born one. But the unforgivable bit had been learning that they all, including his little brother, had used their abilities to control him to keep him from realizing what they were before he was old enough to decide if he wished to join them.

Jake had avoided the rest of the family after that, but he couldn’t do the same with his little brother. It wasn’t Neil’s fault that he was born the way he was, so Jake’s interaction with the family had been limited mostly to his brother and mother. He’d avoided the rest of them as much as he could, but it was pretty much impossible to avoid a Notte who didn’t want to be avoided . . . unless you ran away and disappeared, which he hadn’t done until he was turned and became one of the “bad guys.”

“There you go,” Dante said and Jake peered at him blankly.


Dante and Tomasso exchanged a glance, shook their heads in unison and then Tomasso said, “Nicole is willing to listen. Tell her.”

“Tell her what?” he asked with alarm. He’d rather hoped the two of them were going to do that for him. It had certainly seemed like they were going to.

“We are here to help, not do it for you,” Dante said dryly.

“Besides, maybe in the explaining, you’ll understand better,” Tomasso said quietly.

Jake peered at the man silently for a moment and then glanced to Nicole. She was eyeing the three of them uncertainly, prepared to listen, but obviously not sure she was going to like what was coming. The problem was, he wasn’t sure either. Breathing out unhappily, he said, “I—you see—it’s—”

He turned to Dante helplessly and the man clucked with exasperation and turned to Nicole to announce, “We’re vampires.”

“We’re not!” Jake denied at once, smiling reassuringly at Nicole.

“Yes, we are,” Tomasso argued.

Jake scowled at him and then assured Nicole, “We aren’t. We’re immortals. Vampires are cursed, soulless dead people. We are not cursed, soulless, or dead. In fact, I was turned seven years ago to save my life.”

“Yeah, but we’re still bloodsucking neck biters,” Dante told Nicole. “And that’s what everyone thinks of when they think vampire so you might as well just call us vampires.”

“We are not bloodsucking neck biters!” Jake snapped, eyeing Nicole with alarm, afraid they were going to scare her off. Smiling reassuringly, he said, “I have never, ever bitten anyone. And these guys only did it before blood banks, because they had to, to survive. We consume bagged blood from blood banks, like transfusions, like hemophiliacs do. I have never ever bitten anyone,” he repeated.

“You tried to bite her,” Tomasso reminded him.

“Like some Stoker monster,” Dante added.

Jake jerked his head to the man and nearly snarled with frustration. “I was sick and in agony and out of my head with blood loss. I’m not a monster.”

“Neither are we,” Dante said quietly.

Jake sat back as if he’d been slapped. Ever since finding out about what his mother had become and what the Notte family were, Jake had thought of them as monsters. The kind who acted all friendly and lured you in with candy and cookies like you were Hansel or Gretel. Only once they got you back to their little cottage in the woods, instead of revealing themselves to be a witch, they sprouted fangs and swept you up in a dark embrace so they could suck your blood.

He’d been afraid of them, Jake acknowledged. He’d seen all those horror movies as a boy, labeled these people he’d known all his life as vampires, and had been terrified of them. And then, once he was turned, he’d feared that now that he was one of them, he too was a monster. But while he’d tried to bite Nicole the night he was so sick, he had been out of his head, and he’d felt guilty as hell ever since waking up to the recollection. Monsters did not feel guilty.

Being turned had not changed who he was, Jake realized. He was still the same man inside, with the same values and beliefs. He was just healthier, looked younger, was a hell of a lot stronger, and was likely to enjoy a much longer life.

Jake glanced from Dante to Tomasso. These two men had been nothing but kind to him since he’d first met them as a boy. Even when he’d found out what they, and all the others were, they’d remained kind, responding to his attempt to shun them and shut them out of his life with patience and kindness. They’d just been waiting for him to get over his fears and realize that carrying the nanos that made them immortals did not make him, or them, less than human. That he was still a real boy.

“I’m sorry,” he said solemnly and it was all he had to say. Dante and Tomasso had been sitting still and expectant, waiting for the breakthrough they hoped had come, but no doubt fearing disappointment. Now they both relaxed back in their seats and grinned.

“No problem,” Tomasso rumbled.

“Took you long enough to come around though,” Dante said dryly. “But then you always were a stubborn cuss, kiddo.”

Jake didn’t miss the fact that the annoying “Pinocchio” he’d been plagued with since being turned had reverted back to the “kiddo” they’d called him before that. And he liked it, which was kind of strange since he’d hated it before this. He’d been in his early fifties when he was turned, and being fifty-one and called “kiddo” by two guys who looked twenty-five had irritated him no end. Now he took the nickname as a sign that he was forgiven for being such an ass . . . and he was grateful for it.

“I—” Jake began, intent on telling them how much he appreciated it, but Tomasso interrupted him.

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