One Lucky Vampire Page 28

“You’re afraid,” Tomasso interrupted before she could spout whatever lie she’d been about to spout to both herself and them.

“Fear is to be expected after what you’ve been through,” Dante said quietly, placing one hand on her arm. “But Jake is not Rodolfo . . . and this is not a normal situation.”

“Maybe, but . . . I don’t want to make another mistake,” she burst out, flopping back in her chair to escape the support he offered with his touch.

“The nanos got it right,” Tomasso said with amusement. “She resists help and support just like Stephano did when he went all Pinocchio on us. They’re alike.”

“Yes, they are,” Dante agreed dryly, but said to Nicole, “If you don’t want to make another mistake, then trust the nanos. They don’t make mistakes. Neither does Marguerite. The couples the nanos put together last. Centuries.”

“Millennia even,” Tomasso put in.

Nicole glanced to him with surprise, but it was Dante who said, “Our grandparents have been together for millennia.”

“Pretty much forever,” Tomasso said dryly. “And they’re still going strong.”

Nicole stared at them uncertainly. “But I hardly know Jake.”

“You haven’t known him long,” Tomasso agreed.

“But we know him,” Dante said quietly. “We’ve known him all his life and he’s a good man.”

“A little stubborn and bullheaded at times,” Tomasso said.

“But he’s always honest,” Dante added.

Tomasso nodded. “He doesn’t drink, or take drugs either.”

“He’s honest and fair,” Dante assured her, and then added, “He’s considerate too. He was always trying to help out with whatever was going on while growing up, whether that was clearing the table after a big family dinner, or reroofing a neighbor’s house.”

Both men fell silent briefly, allowing her to think that over, and then Dante said, “Nicole, I promise you, the only mistake to be made here is not giving him a chance.”

“If you don’t trust your own judgment, trust the nanos,” Tomasso added.

Both men stood and headed out of the room then, but when Dante paused at the door and glanced back, Tomasso, who was behind him, was forced to stop as well, as the other man said, “But the two of you need to be more careful in future. You could have drowned in the shower if you’d fallen with your face up and mouth open. As it is, you have a nice bruise on your cheek.”

Nicole instinctively reached for her cheek, wincing when she touched the swelling there.

“Try to keep the bouncy bed to a bed,” Tomasso added with amusement.

“But at least avoid any water bouncy, whether it’s tub or shower. And definitely no outside bouncy this time of year,” Dante said grimly. “You’d freeze to death before you ever regained consciousness.”

“Definitely no outside bouncy,” Tomasso agreed.

Groaning, Nicole crossed her arms on the table and dropped her head to rest it on them, hiding her face, which she knew was now bright red. It didn’t stop her from hearing the men chuckle gently as they left the room.

At first, Jake thought it was night when he woke up, but then he noticed the sliver of light creeping around the edges of the blind and readjusted his thinking. By the looks of the light it was late afternoon on the day after his waking from being poisoned. He hoped. It was possible it was the day after that. It was hard to tell. He and Nicole had made love and passed out three times. It could be one day after telling her about immortals or two. All he knew for sure was that he was alone in the bed.

That realization immediately made worry rear inside him. He didn’t mind that Nicole had left him alone in the bed, so much. But he was worried about how she was taking what had happened between them. Had it anchored her as Dante and Tomasso had suggested? Or was she now freaking out and wishing she’d never set eyes on him?

Tossing the sheet aside, Jake got quickly out of bed and looked around for his jogging pants, only to recall that he’d shed them in the bathroom during the little episode outside the shower. As he’d kissed and sucked at her neck while caressing her, she’d moved so deliciously against him, he’d wanted to feel Nicole’s bare flesh against his erection and had quickly pushed the joggers off his hips. That was all he’d had to do. They’d fallen to the floor on their own from there . . . and then he’d woken up in bed without them.

That memory made him frown. Jake didn’t recall getting to bed after passing out in the bathroom. In fact, he was sure he hadn’t got there under his own steam. But Nicole couldn’t have carried him there. Which left Dante and Tomasso. They’d probably heard the shower running and when it continued for a protracted period, had no doubt come to investigate.

Surprisingly, the idea bothered him. Jake didn’t care that they’d seen him in that state, but he didn’t like the idea of them seeing Nicole like that. She’d been completely naked when he finished removing her bra. Naked, unconscious and under him. He didn’t like that they’d seen her like that at all.

Scowling now, he got up and walked into the bathroom, freezing and instinctively turning his head quickly away when he saw Nicole standing in front of the shower, drying herself off.

“Sorry,” he muttered, quickly pulling the door closed again. He then stood there uncertainly, unsure if he should feel stupid or not. After everything they’d done, seeing her naked shouldn’t be an issue, and it wasn’t for him. Jake had averted his eyes and closed the door for her sake. She might still be shy and want her privacy.

Well, if she thought he was being silly by offering her privacy to tend her personal hygiene, Jake was sure she’d let him know. In the meantime, he had some personal needs to tend to as well.

Jake slipped out of the master bedroom and headed along the dining-room table for the guest bath outside his own room, completely unself-conscious about his nakedness. There were only Dante and Tomasso there after all, or so he thought until Joey said, “Jesus, Jake. This isn’t a nudist colony. Get some clothes on.”

Jake’s head whipped around to see Nicole’s brother standing by the couch on the living room side of the loft, a pretty, petite redhead at his side. Joey was scowling at him, but the redhead was ogling him with a small smile. Jake was so surprised that he almost stopped, but the woman’s leer decided him and he continued on to his room instead of the bathroom. As much as he needed to relieve himself, grabbing some clothes first seemed like a good idea.

He wasn’t terribly surprised when moments after he closed it, someone knocked at his door. Nor was he surprised when after he called out, “Come in,” Joey stepped into the room.

“What the hell are you doing coming out of my sister’s bedroom bare-ass naked?” Joey demanded grimly.

“That’s really none of your business,” Jake said calmly, stepping into clean jogging pants and quickly tying the tie at the waist. “It’s between myself and your sister.”

“Well, where the hell is she?” he demanded at once. “That Dante character who let me in said she was in the shower and should be right out.”

“She is out of the shower. I’m sure she’ll be out shortly.”

“Well, what the hell’s been going on?” Joey barked. “I’ve been calling for three days trying to talk to Nicole, and one or the other of those behemoths downstairs kept telling me that she was sick and that’s why she didn’t meet me for lunch and couldn’t talk to me on the phone.”

Jake stilled, briefly concerned that Nicole had been sick while he was down from the poisoning, but then he realized that Dante and Tomasso had simply used that with Joey as an excuse to keep Nicole and her brother apart while he was recovering. No doubt they’d wiped her memory of the appointed lunch with her brother too. Seeing him might have led to memories cropping up, and if that had happened without at least one of the twins there to prevent it, all the blocking they’d done would have fallen like a string of dominoes. Nicole would have recalled everything before they were ready for her to recall it.

“And then,” Joey continued furiously, “I come out to see what the hell is happening and it turns out those guys are your cousins? You’ve moved your family in while Nicole was too sick to protest?”

“Of course not,” Jake said calmly, tugging his T-shirt on next and heading for the door. “They are visiting briefly and helping me.”

“Helping you with what?” Joey demanded, following him out of the room.

“I’ll explain in a minute. But right now I really need to use the facilities,” Jake said politely. He slipped into the bathroom and closed the door. He then locked it as well, just in case the irate man decided to follow. Jake understood Joey’s upset. He’d have been upset in his place as well, but he really needed to relieve himself, so explanations would just have to wait a few minutes.

Chapter Thirteen

“Joey?” Nicole said uncertainly as she spotted the man fuming outside of the guest bathroom. After Jake’s brief interruption, she’d dressed quickly, put her hair up in a ponytail and rushed out to find him, only to find her brother instead. “What are you doing here?”

Joey jerked around to peer at her. “There you are!”

Her eyebrows rose at his tone, and the way he rushed to her side. Grabbing her arm, he started to pull her across the room toward the stairs.

“Come on. I’m getting you out of this madhouse,” he said determinedly.

“What?” she asked on a startled laugh. “What are you talking about? What madhouse?”

“Nicole.” Joey paused and turned to face her with exasperation. “You missed our lunch without warning or even a courtesy call, which is completely unlike you. And then when I repeatedly call to speak to you, I get some woman and then these strange men answering and telling me you’re ill and couldn’t make it and don’t want to see me. Finally, I’ve had enough and come out here to check on you and you have two mob goons downstairs and your supposed cook/housekeeper is coming out of your bedroom as naked as the day he was born. Something weird is going on here. You need looking after and I’m taking you to our hotel until I sort it all out.”

Nicole stared at her brother weakly as his words poured over her. In all the excitement the last few days, she’d quite forgotten about her lunch with Joey. In fact, she’d forgotten all about him, and his being in town, and . . . well, just everything.

Or someone had helped her forget, she thought suddenly, but let that go. If Dante and Tomasso had blocked her brother from her memory, she knew exactly why they’d done it . . . and she understood. But she couldn’t explain it to Joey. He was a bit of a blabbermouth. Nicole didn’t think there was a secret the man had ever actually kept.

She also couldn’t explain Jake’s coming out of her bedroom buck naked. Or she didn’t want to, so Nicole settled on the one thing she could say in response to his long diatribe and assured him, “Dante and Tomasso are not mob goons.”

Apparently, it was the wrong approach to take. Joey’s mouth dropped open, snapped closed, and then he reached for his phone. “I’m calling Mom.”

“Joey,” she said on a sigh. “There’s no need for that. Look, just come have a cup of coffee and—” Nicole paused abruptly and peered around her brother toward Jake when the bathroom door opened and he came out. He wore baggy gray jogging pants and a T-shirt that was pretty tight. He also had bed-head and a day’s worth of growth on his face . . . and damn, but didn’t he look fine, Nicole thought, her knees going weak and mouth actually salivating as Jake met her glance.

In the next moment, he had crossed the room toward her like a moth to flame, and—completely ignoring, or oblivious to Joey’s presence—slid his arms around her and drew her against his chest as he laid one hell of a hot, wet kiss on her lips. Nicole was on the verge of wrapping her legs around the man and climbing him like a telephone pole when he broke the kiss and eased back to peer down at her.

It was only then that Nicole became aware of her brother’s protesting squawks.

“What the hell? Stop that! Get your hands off my sister! Nicole! Get away from him! I’m dialing Mom now!”

Nicole grimaced apologetically at Jake, then swiveled her head to peer at her brother. “I’m fine, Joey. There’s no need to call Mom.”

Joey glared at her, phone at the ready and breathing heavily. He then stepped closer and hissed by her ear, “We need to talk. Something isn’t right here. I want you to come with Melly and me. You can stay at our hotel with us until we get this straightened out.”

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