One Lucky Vampire Page 24

Tomasso added. “One taste of life-mate sex and she’ll be hooked like a heroin addict.”

Jake halted in the door and turned back. “Life-mate sex?”

Dante raised his eyebrows. “No one’s told you about life mates?”

“Well, I know about life mates. Can’t read ’em, can’t control ’em, a perfect mate.”

“And crazy, blow your mind, so intense it leaves you unconscious, sex,” Tomasso added.

“It leaves you unconscious?” Jake asked with a frown.

“And blows your mind,” Tommaso repeated.

Jake narrowed his gaze on the pair. “You’re pulling my leg, right?”

The twins merely shook their heads solemnly.

“Hmm,” he said dubiously, but then merely turned away and headed for the stairs. He wasn’t sure he believed Dante and Tomasso. After all, surely someone would have mentioned that to him prior to this?

Even as he mentally asked himself that question, Jake realized how ridiculous it was. No one would have told him that before he was turned. It wouldn’t have meant anything to him as a mortal. As for after the turn, he hadn’t given them much of a chance to tell him anything then. Anytime his mother had tried to point out the benefits of being an immortal to him, he’d shut her down. His brother, Neil, hadn’t tried to coddle or convince him his being turned was a good thing. He’d simply stood by him, silent and supportive, but Jake hadn’t wanted support. He’d wanted to be mortal again . . . a real boy, just like Pinocchio. But he wasn’t Pinocchio anymore. He wasn’t exactly happy to be immortal, but he was grateful to be alive. Vincent’s turning him had saved him the first time, and being immortal had saved him from the poisoned hot tub . . . and now he might have a life mate.

Jake considered that without the bitterness of being an immortal that had plagued him on first realizing he couldn’t read or control Nicole. He didn’t really recall his birth father. The only father he recalled was Roberto, and his memories of his childhood were very happy ones filled with love. Love between his mother and Roberto, and the love they’d showered on him and Neil. He supposed the reason he’d reached fifty-one years as a mortal without marrying and having children of his own was because no relationship he’d ever had, had ever come close to the love, friendship, and joy that his mother and Roberto had shared . . . and he’d wanted that. Now, he might be able to have it.

Jake knew how lucky that made him. He also knew he was extremely lucky to find it so soon after being turned. Most immortals waited centuries, even millennia to find a life mate. The twins were over a hundred years old, his cousin Christian was over five centuries, and while Marguerite had found Julius centuries ago, they were only reunited and able to enjoy each other now, and Marguerite was over seven hundred years old. His finding a life mate so young was a gift, and it was one he didn’t want to mess up.

Chapter Eleven

Jake paused outside the studio’s French doors and peered through the window. He wasn’t surprised to see that Nicole was not working. He’d expected the information she’d been given would disrupt her ability to concentrate. He was concerned though to find her simply standing in the middle of her studio, staring at her uncovered paintings. He suspected she wasn’t really seeing the portraits. Her shoulders were hunched and Jake was quite sure he knew exactly how she was feeling. It was the same way he’d felt when he was eighteen and had been told about immortals. Betrayed, confused, as if the world wasn’t the place he’d thought it was.

Jake didn’t knock, but simply opened the door. Nicole didn’t turn, but he could tell by the way she stiffened that she knew he was there.

“I came to see if you were all right,” he said quietly. “I know this is a lot to take in.”

She gave a little snort and Jake smiled wryly.

“Yeah, I guess that’s an understatement, huh? Believe me, I know. Been there, done that, and have a whole wardrobe full of T-shirts to prove it,” he said quietly.

“You said you were turned when you were attacked?” Nicole asked quietly.

Jake nodded, and then realized she couldn’t see him so cleared his throat and said, “Yes.”

“When was that?”

“Seven years ago, give or take six months,” he answered and wondered what she was thinking when she nodded. He wished he could see her face, but she still had her back to him.

“Was that the health crisis that made you run away?”

Jake sighed and pushed the door closed. He walked over to the nearest of the half dozen swiveling stools she had in the room and sat on it, before saying, “Yes, but it was just the last straw of many.”

Nicole was silent for a minute and then asked, “What was the first straw?”

The question surprised him and he took a moment before saying, “The first one was more of a tree than a straw.”

“Which was?” she prompted.

“It was when I was eighteen and my mother and stepfather sat me down and told me about immortals and that they, my brother, and every Notte I had ever met, which was all the family I knew, belonged to that select party.”

“All the family you knew?” Nicole asked, turning to peer at him curiously. “The Nottes are your stepfather’s family. What about your mother and father’s family?”

“My mother had a brother, sister, and parents, and my father had two brothers and parents. Apparently there were cousins and grandparents too, on both sides.”

“But you don’t know them?” she asked.

Jake shook his head. “They didn’t approve of my parents’ marriage. On my mother’s side it was because they were Jewish and my father was Catholic. On my father’s side it was a combination of that and the fact that as far as they were concerned my mother came from the wrong side of the tracks. My father’s family had money, my mother’s didn’t. Dad’s parents expected him to marry a nice girl from a comparatively rich, Catholic family, not a poor Jewish girl whose family didn’t even own their own home. So . . .” He shrugged. “After Dad died, Mom was pretty much on her own with me.”

Jake paused briefly, but when she didn’t comment, he said, “I guess she was struggling something fierce when she met Roberto, working two jobs to try to support us and taking night courses at university in the hopes of getting a better job, to better support us. I gather she had no time for romance and made Roberto work hard to win her.”

“He was immortal?”

Jake nodded. “And he turned her.”

“But not you?” Nicole asked with a frown.

“I was a child,” Jake said with a shrug. “I gather they frown on turning children.”

“But when they told you at eighteen, why didn’t she turn you then?” she asked.

“I gather that was the plan,” Jake admitted with a grimace, and then explained, “They told me on my eighteenth birthday. My mother thought it would be a grand gift to tell me all about immortals, and then offer to use her one turn to turn me into one.”

“But she didn’t,” Nicole said with certainty and then arched an eyebrow and asked, “You wouldn’t let her?”

Jake shifted uncomfortably, and then sighed and said, “You have to understand, I was a horror buff. I watched every monster movie ever made. They scared the crap out of me and I slept with a nightlight until I was twelve, but I had to watch them. I was crazy for horrors.” He shook his head slightly at the memory. He’d lost his taste for horror since then, but he’d been addicted to them then and that hadn’t really helped the situation. “Back when I was a kid, they didn’t have your Twilights and True Bloods. In every movie where vampires made an appearance, the vampire was the bad guy and the Van Helsing types were the good guys running around staking them and ridding the world of their evil.”

Jake grimaced. “So, essentially, on my eighteenth birthday, my mother told me that not only was my stepfather and his entire clan a bunch of bloodsucking fiends, but that she’d allowed him to turn her into one, and that the half brother I adored and looked out for was one too . . . and I’d been living with them all, unsuspecting all that time.”

“Seriously?” Nicole asked with suspicion. “Before they told you what they were, you didn’t have a clue?”

“They made sure I didn’t,” Jake said quietly. “I suspect they used some mind control to keep me unaware while they fed, or fudged my memory a bit here and there, not erasing anything, but adding things here or there to explain inconsistencies.” He shrugged. “I didn’t have a clue before then that I lived with what I thought were monsters.”

“And you didn’t agree to the change at that point,” Nicole said quietly.

It wasn’t a question, but he treated it as one. “No. I was shocked, horrified, repulsed. They were all suddenly monsters to me, and I didn’t want to be a monster too.”

“It must have been hard for you,” Nicole said quietly, moving to sit on the stool next to his.

Jake hesitated and then swung the seat slightly toward her and said judiciously, “Probably no harder than it is now for you.”

Nicole smiled wryly, but shook her head. Swinging her stool to the side and back with one foot, she said, “It’s a bit of a shock for me to find out such things exist. But for you . . .” She frowned and stopped swiveling to peer at him solemnly. “It was your family. You must have felt—I don’t know, alone?”

Jake nodded. He had felt alone. He’d also felt betrayed, abandoned, lost. “I guess at that point I felt like I was just finding out that I’d really been orphaned at four and had been living in a fantasy world all the years since Roberto came into our lives. In truth, I suppose I ran away emotionally that day, and my actual leaving seven years ago was just me physically following up on what happened emotionally years earlier.”

“Why didn’t you run away back then, at eighteen?” she asked curiously. “I mean if you felt they were monsters . . .”

“My brother,” Jake said quietly. “I was angry at my mother for letting Roberto turn her, but I was close to my little brother, Neil, and it wasn’t his fault he was born immortal. Besides, logically, after she explained everything, I understood that they weren’t monsters.”

“But there was still a part of your mind that thought of them as monsters,” Nicole guessed.

Jake nodded. “Eighteen years of training via horror movies can’t be eradicated that easily.”

“And then you were turned to save your life?” Nicole commented.

“Yes.” Jake’s mouth twisted at the memory. “My boss, Vincent Argeneau, who also happens to be Marguerite’s nephew, was being plagued by someone who was trying to ruin his life. They attacked me, and stabbed me just to the side of the heart. When Vincent found me I was dying and he turned me to save my life. I woke up an immortal . . . and didn’t handle it well.”

“Why?” Nicole asked quietly. “Surely it’s better to be an immortal than to be dead?”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” Jake said with dry amusement, and then glanced down. After a moment, he sighed and admitted, “I was fifty-one years old, miserable, and bitter.” He smiled wryly and lifted his head again, meeting her gaze. She was silent, waiting, wanting to understand, so he had to explain. “I was in a pretty dark place at that time. I’d had a happy childhood, but after finding out about everything, it felt like that childhood had all been a house of mirrors. After that I went through life feeling like an orphan. On top of that, nothing had turned out as I’d intended. I had no wife or kids, no one but my family and they were monsters as far as I was concerned. By the time I was attacked, I felt alone and tired and, frankly, I guess I was at a place where I was just killing time and waiting for the end . . . and then I got attacked. I remember lying there on the office floor, thinking, this is it, the end of my story. No more loneliness, no more disappointment, no more betrayal . . . and, instead, I woke up a vampire.”

“You keep saying vampire, but you told me you guys aren’t vampires,” Nicole pointed out quietly.

“Yeah,” Jake smiled faintly. “But I’ve been thinking of them as vampires so long . . .” He shrugged. “Old habits die hard, I guess.”

Nicole was silent for a minute, and then tilted her head to peer at him, a frown growing on her face. “Fifty-one?”

Jake smiled wryly. “When I was turned yes. I’m fifty-eight now.”

“You do not look fifty-eight,” she said firmly and then asked, “Is that something to do with the nanos?”

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