One Lucky Vampire Page 23

“Don’t go getting all sappy on us, kiddo. You’re forgiven. You’re family. Enough said.”

“Besides, there are other issues now,” Dante added, nodding his head toward Nicole.

Jake glanced to her quickly, noting that she was eyeballing them all with trepidation. But at least she wasn’t running. Her trust in Marguerite was keeping her there, willing to listen to them. That or Dante or Tomasso, or both, were keeping her there.

Swallowing, Jake smiled at her reassuringly. “Right, I suppose you’d like to know about this vampire deal first?”

Nicole nodded silently.

Jake nodded as well and briefly debated how to do it. In the end he decided that— like ripping off a bandage—it was best to just get it done quickly. “Okay, here’s the deal, while we do have some things in common with vampires, we are not vampires,” he assured her quietly. “We are humans who have been infused with bio-engineered nanos that have been programmed to repair wounds and fight illness and infections. The nanos are kind of like supercharged robotic white blood cells.”

“Nanos that heal wounds and fight illness,” Nicole said slowly, relaxing a little. It was only then that he realized while her trust in Marguerite had made her willing to listen, she’d still been pretty anxious about it all.

“Exactly,” Jake said with a nod and then added, “Scientifically designed nanos, and they’re great.” He paused briefly to offer an apologetic smile to Dante and Tomasso, silently acknowledging that he’d changed his tune and this was the first time he’d ever said anything good about the nanos now traveling through his blood. He then glanced back to Nicole and added, “They’ve saved my life twice now. They are good. But while there are a lot of benefits to the nanos, they use more blood to carry out their work than any human body can create, and so we have to get that extra blood from an outside source. Our kind evolved and gained fangs, and at one time did have to bite people to get the blood they needed. But now that there are blood banks we have laws that don’t allow us to bite necks and suck blood, as Dante put it. We use blood from blood banks to get the blood we need.”

“Your kind bit people before blood banks?” Nicole asked with a frown. “How long ago were these nanos developed?”

“Quite a while,” he admitted with a grimace. “They were developed in Atlantis before the fall. Atlantis was quite isolated from the rest of the world by its geography and it advanced both socially and technologically much more swiftly than the rest of the world.”

“It must have been advances if they were creating nanos there while the rest of the world was sitting around fires with spears,” Nicole said dryly.

“Yes,” Jake agreed quietly. “And that world with fire and spears was the world the Atlanteans with nanos found themselves in after their homeland fell. They’d received blood transfusions to get the extra blood in Atlantis, but suddenly had no access to such things. They might have died, but the nanos had been programmed to ensure their hosts’ survival, so the nanos forced an evolution on their carriers: the fangs, increased night vision, even mind reading and mind control,” he listed off. “All of it meant to aid in their getting the blood they needed to survive.”

“I see,” Nicole murmured.

Jake hesitated, she seemed to be handling it okay so far, but this was a lot to accept. Deciding to hope for the best, he skipped on to the present. He could explain the rest of their special skills and such later. “Those nanos are the only reason I survived my dip in the poisoned hot tub the other night.”

“You’re sure it was poisoned?” Nicole asked with a frown.

“Yes. Dani—” He hesitated and then asked, “You do remember Marguerite showing up here with Julius and Dani and those guys?” Jake asked, unsure how much Marguerite had removed of her memory and how much she recalled.

“Yes. Marguerite, Julius, Dante, Tomasso, and Marguerite’s nephew Decker, as well as his wife, Dani, were here,” she said and then her expression turned troubled. “I think I remember them talking about the hot tub . . . and that it might be poisoned.”

“Yes,” Jake said, relieved that she was remembering. He had no doubt Marguerite had veiled those memories to keep Nicole calm until he could talk to her, but they were coming back now that Dante and Tomasso weren’t reinforcing Marguerite’s efforts.

“Dani took a sample for analysis,” he told her now. “And the water in the hot tub has a high concentration of nicotine and DMSO. Enough to kill quickly. If you had got in the hot tub instead of me, you would be dead.”

“And you think someone was deliberately trying to poison me,” she said quietly.

Jake frowned. “Well, it didn’t get in there by accident, Nicole. And it wasn’t put there for my benefit. It had to be put in with the intent of killing you.”

“Right,” she said unhappily.

“I know it’s hard to accept that the man you love would try to kill you,” he said gently. “But Rodolfo—”

“I don’t love Rodolfo,” she protested with amazement. “I’m divorcing him, for heaven’s sake. I’d hardly do that if I loved him.”

Jake glanced away with a sigh. He didn’t really want to tell her that she was divorcing her husband because of Marguerite’s controlling her mind and nudging her in that direction. Marguerite had Nicole’s best interests at heart when she’d done it, so instead of telling her that, he pointed out gently, “You still have pictures of him all over the house, Nicole. That suggests you still have feelings—”

“I still have pictures of him all over the house because the egotistical idiot went and superglued them to the fricking wall,” Nicole interrupted grimly.

“What?” Jake gasped even as Tomasso and Dante spat the word.

Nicole sighed and shook her head. “Rodolfo is a spiteful, nasty, selfish creep. I don’t know what he was thinking. If he thought it was a good way to make me have to think of him even after he was gone, or if he just doesn’t know how to wield a damned hammer, but every single picture is superglued or spackled to the wall. Pierina and I tried to take them down while she was here. We managed to pry one off the wall, but it left a great gaping hole. I’m going to have to have professionals in to remove them, but I don’t know who to call about something like that and I’ve been too busy with all these commissioned portraits to call around, so I’ve just done my best to ignore them.”

She scowled and glanced to one of the half dozen pictures affixed to the kitchen wall and added, “I considered buying a glass cutter and removing the glass from each frame so I could at least remove the pictures, but then I’d be left with empty frames everywhere. Besides, it seemed like I was giving it too much energy that way. Like he’d somehow have succeeded at whatever he was trying to do, so I decided to just ignore them until I could get people in to fix it. And mostly I have managed to ignore them.”

“Until someone points them out,” Jake said quietly. It was pretty obvious she was pissed right now just thinking about it.

“Yeah. Then I get annoyed all over again,” Nicole admitted with a grimace, and added, “But that isn’t because I love him. It’s because he’s taken control from me again. He’s decided what will be on my walls and made sure I had to live with it for at least a while. And it’s because it reminds of all the damned, stupid annoying and petty little things he did when I bought him out of the house.”

“Like what?” Dante asked with interest.

“The agreement was he take half of the furniture and whatnot as marital assets . . . Forget that I paid for every damned thing.” Nicole grimaced with disgust, and then continued, “Fine. So he took half of everything, but he also did his damnedest to mess with anything left behind.”

“Mess with them?” Jake asked curiously. “How.”

“Well, the stereo, for instance,” she said. “It was here and in working condition, but he took the power plugs as well as the connecting wires to the speakers. He did that with the PlayStation, the mosquito catcher, and anything else that had a removable cord. So I had them all here, but couldn’t use them until I replaced the wires . . . and then there was the dishwasher, it was missing its silverware holder. There were shelves missing from the refrigerator, and the dining-room set? It was a twelve-chair set, but he took the end chairs. You know, the chairs with the arms?” Nicole said, and when they nodded, continued, “I called him on it, of course, through our lawyers, and he had an answer for everything. He didn’t know what I was talking about. He hadn’t taken any cords or shelves. And the chairs? Those had suffered an unfortunate accident during the year he lived here. Hadn’t he mentioned it to me when we were agreeing on what would go and what would stay? He was sure he had.”

“As for loving him,” Nicole continued quietly. “Not only do I not still love him, in truth, I don’t think I ever did. It turns out I didn’t even know the real him. I suspect I was in love with love, with the whole romance of the relationship, the exotic foreigner, sexy accent, seeing the world thing . . . I was a fool.”

“That’s kind of harsh,” Jake said quietly.

“Yeah,” Tomasso agreed. “Besides, we’re all fools for love.”

“She didn’t love him,” Dante reminded him.

“Oh, right,” Tomasso muttered, then peered at her hard. Jake knew at once that he was reading Nicole’s mind, and wondered what he was finding. His eyebrows rose when Tomasso added, “Well, we’re often fools for sex too.”

Nicole flushed and demanded, “You’re doing that mind reading thing Jake mentioned, aren’t you?”

Tomasso grimaced.

“Stop it,” she said firmly and stood up. Her gaze shifted to Jake. “If you’re done explaining things, I’d like to get back to work.”

Jake hesitated. He hadn’t got to the part about their being life mates, but he’d dumped a lot on her already. Besides, he’d rather discuss that part with her alone without his cousins there to hear. Still, he eyed her briefly. She seemed to be handling everything pretty well so far. He didn’t think he had to worry that she’d slip out of the house and run away, freaked out about everything she’d learned. But he wasn’t positive. It wasn’t every day you learned you were hosting vampires in your home . . . and she hadn’t asked any questions yet. He didn’t know if that was because she needed to process what she’d learned, or what, but he hoped so, he wanted to trust her. That was a hard thing for Jake. His experiences in life had left him with some trust issues and it wasn’t just because of the woman he’d nearly married who had been intent on robbing him blind. His family had aided in those trust issues too, with their deep dark secret and by keeping him in the dark for so many years. But he had to learn to trust Nicole eventually for them to be life mates.

Sighing, Jake sat back and nodded. “Of course.”

Nicole slipped away at once, leaving the table and the room without another word.

Jake watched her go and then glanced from Dante to Tomasso. “Well?”

Dante pursed his lips and then said, “Give her twenty minutes and then take her coffee.”

“And jump her bones,” Tomasso added.

“What?” Jake asked on a half laugh of disbelief.

Dante shrugged. “You’ve rocked her world.”

“Not in the good way,” Tomasso added, in case he’d misunderstood.

“Nicole’s spinning right now,” Dante added.

“You need to anchor her,” Tomasso said.

Jake arched one eyebrow and said, “You want me to anchor her with my cock? Seriously? We barely know each other.”

“Sometimes it’s incredibly obvious you were born in the Leave It to Beaver era,” Dante said dryly.

Jake stiffened and scowled. “Excuse me, you two are older than I am.”

“Yeah, but we’re Italian,” Dante said with a shrug.

“And that means what?” Jake asked dryly.

“The Brits are known for bad food, the French for good food, and the Italians for being the best lovers,” Dante explained.

Jake gave a disbelieving laugh. “You’re delusional.”

“Casanova.” Tomasso rumbled, and then added, “Enough said.”

“One man does not—Ah hell, never mind,” he muttered standing up. “I’m going downstairs . . . to talk to Nicole.”

“I’m telling you, sex is the way to go,” Dante assured him as he headed for the doorway. “It will bond her to you.”

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