One Lucky Vampire Page 25

He nodded. “They were programmed to keep their host at their peak condition. I don’t think the developers intended that to include age, but the nanos are basically fancy, hybrid computers, and computers are pretty literal. Every immortal looks somewhere between twenty-five and thirty.”

Nicole considered that and then said, “So Marguerite . . . ?”

“I’m not sure of her exact age, but I know it’s over seven hundred.”

“Oh cripes.” Nicole sagged on her stool.

Jake eyed her worriedly, but waited, and then she suddenly straightened and peered at him accusingly.

“You said she wasn’t even in her forties.”

“I said she wasn’t in her thirties,” he corrected. “And she isn’t. I haven’t lied to you about anything, Nicole. I knew almost from the start that we were life mates and didn’t want to lie.” Jake grimaced and added, “I have kind of a thing about lying anyway . . . ever since finding out I was lied to for so long while growing up . . .” He shrugged.

Nicole was silent for a few more minutes, and then sat up straight again and asked, “So what is this life-mate business anyway?”

“Well . . .” Jake paused and swallowed. This was the tricky part, or perhaps it was just the most important part so felt tricky. If she didn’t accept that they were life mates, and agree to be his, or at least agree to consider it, then it could very well be decided that she should have her memory wiped and be left as ignorant of their existence as she’d been before he’d explained things. It would be necessary to ensure the safety of their kind. But if that happened, he wouldn’t be allowed to be around her again. None of them could, in case their presence made the memories return.

It was an odd thing. Jake felt odd and somewhat confused. While he knew that she was a life mate, or could be if she agreed, he hadn’t really known her long. Jake liked Nicole, or at least he liked everything he knew about her so far. He also found her attractive. But he wasn’t experiencing any mad, passionate desire to have her or anything, and he was wondering about this life-mate business himself. Shouldn’t he feel more? Want her more? Shouldn’t his every waking thought be about her?

That last question made him pause, because Jake suddenly realized that his every waking thought had included her in one form or another since meeting her. Still, he supposed he’d expected more.

“Jake?” Nicole prodded.

“Oh, sorry,” he murmured, and then blew his breath out and tried to gather his thoughts to answer her question. Finally, he said, “Well, I mentioned that the nanos didn’t just give immortals fangs, but other skills to help with survival.”

“You said mind reading and mind control,” she recalled and didn’t look pleased. He understood that. He hadn’t been too pleased himself to know that his mother and everyone else could read his private thoughts. It had been pretty inhibiting to an eighteen-year-old full of raging hormones. Made aware that they might all be reading his thoughts, Jake had suddenly become aware that sex played a huge role in most of his thoughts at that age. And forget about masturbation in the same house with them. Dear God, what if they all knew? Or read it in his head in the morning? Even thinking about that now made him shudder.

“It’s not just mind reading and control,” he said when Nicole shifted restlessly on her stool. “We’re faster, stronger, have better hearing, sight, night vision, et cetera.”

“Okay,” she said patiently.

“But, the mind reading, that isn’t just of mortals. We can read each other’s minds too. Usually it’s only older immortals able to read younger ones, but it can go the other way too if the older immortal is distracted or not blocking their thoughts,” Jake explained. “So, it means when we’re around each other we have to constantly guard our thoughts, and of course mortals can’t really guard their thoughts from us. It can make relationships tricky.”

“I would think so,” Nicole said dryly.

Jake nodded, but added, “Any relationship. I mean, you can’t imagine what it’s like to be eighteen and know your mother can read your thoughts.”

“I think I know,” she said grimly. “Perhaps not what it’s like to have a mother reading your thoughts or control you, but if you, Dante and Tomasso can read and control me—”

“I can’t,” Jake interrupted.

Nicole tilted her head and peered at him uncertainly. “Why? Is it because you were only turned seven years ago?”

“No. I have gained the skill, and can read most mortals,” he assured her, and then grimaced and added, “I resisted it at first. I didn’t want to be like my family. But in my job it’s a handy skill and so I eventually gave in and have used it pretty regularly . . . on the job,” Jake added to ensure she didn’t think he ran around reading and controlling people willy-nilly.

“Okay,” she said slowly.

“However, I can’t read or control you,” he added.

“So you said,” Nicole reminded him.

Jake grimaced and nodded. “And that is the sign of a life mate.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Which is what?”

“It’s—” He frowned, wanting to get it right, to find the perfect words to make her understand and at least be open to the idea of being his life mate. “A relationship wouldn’t work if both parties could read each other, or even if one could read and control the other.”

“You said that,” Nicole pointed out quietly.

“Yeah, I guess I’m struggling here,” Jake admitted on a sigh, and then shook his head and said, “Forgive me, this is the first time I’ve had to explain any of this.”

“Right. Sorry, I’ll keep that in mind,” she said wryly.

“Thanks,” he muttered, and then said, “Look, basically a true life mate is someone that an immortal can’t read and control. It’s the one person they can relax around and not constantly guard their thoughts.”

“Surely you don’t have to guard your thoughts around mortals?” Nicole asked. “We can’t read you.”

“No, but some mortals think really loud and we have to put up guards against that too. Otherwise it would drive you crazy. People are always thinking, and sometimes just the stupidest, most nonsensical things. We have to keep our guards up against that as well, filter it out, basically.”

“I see.” She tilted her head again. “But you don’t have to do that around a life mate?”

“No. We can relax around them,” he said. Jake gave her a moment to consider that and then added, “Of course there are other things that are special about a life mate.”

“Like what?”

“Well, actually, nobody’s ever explained it to me and I’m not sure what they all are,” he admitted on a wry laugh. “But I know from watching my mother and Roberto that . . . well, it’s a special relationship. They seemed to have mostly the same tastes and values. Like the same things, enjoy each other’s company. They still had disagreements and such, but much less often than I think most couples do, and they seemed to get over them really quickly. They just seem so bonded . . . and apparently, if Dante and Tomasso are to be believed, the physical relationship is much more intense.”

Nicole was silent, which made him worry that she wasn’t getting how important a life mate was, but then he wasn’t sure he fully understood himself.

“It’s also very rare, or hard to find,” Jake added. “Some immortals wait centuries to find one, and some never find one at all.”

She was still silent.

“I’ve heard that the nanos have something to do with selecting a life mate, that they recognize them as a good mate for the immortal and are the reason the immortal can’t read that particular mortal or something. So that it works, I guess.” The conversation where he’d been told that had been a while ago and he hadn’t paid much attention.

Nicole stared at him.

Jake stared back, his mind racing around in search of something to say to help convince her that being a life mate was a good thing, or at least not reject it out of hand. But he feared he had an uphill battle ahead of him. Nicole had just come out of a terrible relationship. She wouldn’t be interested in getting involved again so soon. This was really bad timing.

“I don’t—” Nicole began and Jake was sure she was going to tell him she wasn’t interested, and if she did, he was screwed. He’d lose her. Jake didn’t want that. He wanted what his mother and Roberto had. He’d always wanted that. It was why he’d still been alone at fifty-one. There had been women he’d cared about, and even maybe loved somewhat in his life, but having watched his mother and Roberto together all those years, nothing less than that kind of relationship would do. So when she started to say, “I don’t,” he flat-out panicked and resorted to Dante and Tomasso’s advice. He stood up, stepped forward and bent his head to kiss her.

It was very effective. Not just at silencing her either. Certainly, it did that, but that wasn’t all. Had he wondered and worried about the fact that while he found her attractive he had no great desire for her? Had he really thought that? The question ran through Jake’s head, free-floating around the passion that exploded up within him the moment his lips touched hers. Honestly, it felt like it slammed up from the ground, through his feet, up his legs and straight to the groin. Talk about your instant erection, Jake was very aware that the loose joggers he had pulled on before dinner were now a pup tent that had sprung out from between his legs and, damn, but it felt good.

Nicole had stilled when he first covered her mouth with his, but the moment she relaxed, allowing her lips to slip open with a little moan, Jake moved one hand up to catch her hair in his hand. Using that hold to tilt her head to where he wanted it, he thrust his tongue into her mouth even as his other hand slid around her back and urged her closer against his chest.

Now that she’d given in to the kiss, Nicole wasn’t still either. He felt her arms slide around him, to dig into his back and grasp at him, and then she scooted forward on the stool, her legs sliding along the outside of his thighs until she bumped into the pup tent in his drawers. She hesitated then, but Jake reached down and shifted himself as he moved right up so that his legs pressed against the stool and his erection was pressed flat against his stomach between them.

That brought another moan from Nicole and he felt her legs close around him, her heels pressing into the backs of his calves. Encouraged, Jake pressed himself more firmly against her, his right hand now moving around to her back and down to clasp her behind and urge her closer still as his hips ground against her.

“Jake,” she gasped, tearing her mouth from his, and the excited plea incited him further. Turning his lips to her neck, he nibbled and sucked and licked there as his hands shifted to her top and began to work at the buttons, slipping them quickly from their eyelets until he could pull it open and get to what was underneath.

Urging her backward, one arm under her back for support, Jake closed his other hand over one generous silky cup of her bra and moved his mouth down to run his tongue along the top of it. When Nicole groaned and shifted her hips against him in excited reaction, he caught the edge of the bra and pulled it down until her breast was free. He then lavished the hard, rosy nipple with attention; licking and suckling at it with feverish excitement . . . and then he suddenly froze.

“Jake?” she said uncertainly, her voice shaking, and he raised his head, letting her nipple slip from his mouth to peer at her with confusion.

“I’m sorry, I just . . . never mind,” he murmured, sure he was wrong. But rather than bend his head to her breast again, he covered it with his hand, squeezing and kneading and then plucking at it. Nicole groaned, her eyes dropping closed, her body shifting against his again and he almost closed his eyes too as pleasure shot through him as well.

This wasn’t the first time Jake had done this. He loved women’s bodies and had enjoyed many lovers in his life, but it had never been this intense for him in the past, and he had certainly never enjoyed the sensation this way, not as if he himself were experiencing the pleasure he was giving her . . . but now he was. Earlier while he’d been suckling, and now, every time he plucked at her nipple, it sent a shaft of pleasure shooting through him that just ratcheted up his own pleasure.

Fascinated, he released her breast and slid his hand down between them to cup her between the legs through her jeans. Nicole cried out, and Jake sucked in a startled breath at the sharp excitement and need that shot straight through his groin. Was it the nanos? Were they somehow communicating her pleasure to his body? Jake had no idea, but this was . . . Hell, he didn’t even know how to describe it. It was incredible, amazing, fricking awesome! And he wanted to explore it fully.

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