One Lucky Vampire Page 31

“Pizza?” Dante offered, lifting the box closest to him for Jake to consider its contents.

“No. Thanks,” Jake murmured, his gaze moving to the sliding glass doors next to the big screen. Through it he could see a man standing beside the hot tub, watching a pump spit water out into a large open barrel.

“Did you remind him that the water’s poisonous?” Jake asked, eyeing the man. He’d warned him when he’d called, but people sometimes didn’t listen.

“Yeah. He’s wearing protective gear and that’s why it’s going in the barrel. He brought several of them to take the water away. He said it probably wasn’t a good thing just to pump it out onto the grass and let the ground soak it up,” Dante told him and then asked, “When the hell did you call these guys? I thought you were so busy with Nicole you wouldn’t think of it. I was going to make the calls myself.”

“While I was making coffee when Joey and his girlfriend were here,” Jake answered. He’d put the coffee on and quickly made the calls. Quick as he’d been, Jake had barely finished when he’d heard Melly announcing that she wanted to leave. He glanced to Dante and Tomasso now. “She was something else, huh?”

“A bitch,” Tomasso rumbled.

“Couldn’t get away from her quick enough,” Dante said dryly. “Nicole’s brother is an idiot to put up with her. She doesn’t care about him. All she’s thinking about is what he can give her.”

“Yeah.” Jake grimaced, but then shrugged. “He’ll figure it out soon enough.

“You don’t think we should give him a heads-up?” Tomasso asked.

“I don’t think he’d appreciate it,” Jake said mildly, recalling his own resentment when they’d given him much the same message about his fiancée years ago. “Besides, how would you explain knowing?”

Dante and Tomasso both merely nodded, and then glanced past him and smiled.

Glancing over his shoulder, Jake found himself smiling as well. Nicole was coming down the stairs. She’d changed her clothes, put on some makeup, and her hair now flowed in soft golden waves around her shoulders. She was also carrying her purse.

“Where are we going?” he asked with a grin, moving to meet her at the foot of the stairs.

“I’m going shopping,” she answered lightly and then blushed and added, “For skirts and dresses.”

“Sounds great,” Jake said with a grin, and turned to lead the way to the coat closet. And it did sound great. The skirts and dresses had been his suggestion after all and he was thinking about how much easier things would be if she were wearing them instead of jeans. All he’d have to do was lift her skirt and—

“You don’t want to come with me,” Nicole protested as she followed him to the closet. “You’d be bored to tears.”

Pausing, Jake turned to face her and said quietly, “You can’t go alone, Nicole. Remember? Your—”

“Oh, right, right,” she said with annoyance. “Someone’s trying to kill me.”

Jake frowned. It seemed while she would now admit someone was out to kill her, Nicole still wouldn’t admit it was her soon to be ex-husband. Did that mean she still loved him? She’d claimed she didn’t, but then why was she so resistant to acknowledging that he was the only one who would benefit?

“Do you want us to come with you?” Dante asked. “Follow at a distance, maybe, reconnoiter the area and see if anyone follows the two of you?”

“Oh, this is ridiculous,” Nicole said with frustration, turning to head for the stairs. “Never mind. I won’t go shopping.”

“No, wait.” Jake hurried after her, grabbing her arm to stop her at the foot of the stairs. “We’ll go, just the two of us. It’s fine. Besides, I want to help you pick them out . . . and change in and out of them,” he added, his voice deepening.

Nicole hesitated, but then smiled crookedly and shook her head. “You’re a pervert.”

“I am,” he acknowledged. “For you.”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “And the sad thing is, I’m a pervert for you right now too.” Shaking her head, she moved past him and back toward the closet again.

Jake grinned at winning the mini battle, and then turned to Dante and Tomasso. Smile fading, he nodded solemnly.

Both men nodded back, equally solemnly, and Jake followed Nicole to the closet to get his coat. The twins would follow at a distance and keep an eye out while ensuring Nicole had no idea. What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her . . . and might just save her life.

Chapter Fourteen

“Are you hungry?”

Nicole pulled her gaze from the passing lights going by outside the car window and glanced to Jake as she considered that question. She didn’t have to consider it long. Now that he’d asked, she was suddenly aware that her stomach seemed to be trying to eat itself. “Actually, I am.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jake murmured, his gaze on the road ahead. “We never did get to eat that chocolate cake.”

Nicole bit her lip and turned her head out the window again, trying to hide a blush as she recalled why they’d not eaten the cake. They’d had a snack at the food court when they’d first got there, so whether they’d eaten the cake was irrelevant. He’d only brought it up to tease her, she was sure, and she didn’t want to give him the reaction he was looking for and let him see she was blushing. With the average guy, Nicole wouldn’t have worried he could see her blush in the dark light of dusk, but Jake wasn’t your average guy. He’d said immortals had better night vision. How much better, she didn’t know.

“Want to order pizza when we get back?” Jake asked now and she could hear the smile in his voice and knew from that, that he was aware that he’d succeeded at making her blush.

“Yes, please,” Nicole said sweetly, and when he glanced to her, stuck her tongue out.

Jake burst out laughing at the childish action, and then took one hand off the steering wheel to reach over and squeeze her knee.

“Mmmm,” he murmured, as his fingers closed on naked skin. “Or we could eat out.”

“You already did,” Nicole said, grabbing his hand and removing it when it started to slide up her leg. Damn, just that little touch had fire traveling through her veins. She really shouldn’t have agreed to changing into one of the new skirts when he’d suggested it at the mall. They were never going to make it home without stopping at the side of the road at this rate.

“Ms. Phillips!”

She glanced around with surprise at his scandalized tone. “What?”

“Did you just say what you said?” Jake asked, eyes wide and laughing as he glanced from the road to her.

Nicole frowned, not getting it. She— “Oh!” Her eyes widened incredulously as she suddenly understood his play on words. Flushing a brilliant red now, she protested, “I meant at the food court! You ate out at the food court when we first got there.” Adding a frustrated “Ohhh,” she smacked his arm.

Jake chuckled. “You should have seen your face when you caught on.”

“Yeah?” Nicole asked, eyes narrowing. He really was enjoying this, which made her decide that since he so enjoyed tormenting her, she could do a little tormenting of her own. Smiling, she announced, “Well, I think I want dinner out after all.”

Jake’s eyebrows rose at her change of heart.

“It’s probably the only way to ensure I’ll get fed within the next several hours,” she added dryly.

“Yeah, it is,” Jake admitted, mouth spreading wide in an unapologetic smile. He then shrugged. “Sorry. Can’t seem to help myself. Every time I touch, smell, or—hell, just look at you—I want to do things that would make a prostitute blush.”

Nicole was trying to sort out what those things might be when he asked, “Is there anywhere special you want to go?”

Nicole immediately named a restaurant that she knew had good food, low lighting . . . and booths.

“Okay,” Jake turned down the next road to head for Highway 417 and take it across town.

They’d shopped at Bayshore Shopping Centre, a good twenty-minute drive from the restaurant. The drive would give her time to plot her attack. Nicole intended to use the low lighting and privacy of the restaurant booth to drive the man wild, in public, where he couldn’t do a thing about it. She suspected it would mean she’d find out what it was like to have sex in the backseat of a car on a dark country road on the way home. But heck, that was an experience she’d missed as a teenager, and new experiences were a good thing. Right?

They’d only been on the highway for a couple of minutes when Nicole was distracted from her plotting by a low curse from Jake. She glanced curiously toward him and then had to grab the overhead grip to steady herself as he suddenly swerved sharply into the outside lane to avoid rear-ending the car in front of them.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, noting the frown on his face.

“The brakes aren’t working,” Jake said through his teeth, hands tightening on the steering wheel.

“Are you sure?” Nicole asked, and then realized how stupid that sounded. Of course, he must be sure. It wasn’t like he could be wrong about something like that. Besides, one glance down showed her that he was pumping his foot on the brake, but they weren’t slowing at all.

“Yes, honey, I’m sure,” he said grimly.

“Sorry, it was a stupid question,” she muttered, glancing toward the road ahead. It was clear for a bit, but she could see rear lights in all three lanes about a half mile ahead. “I had the car in for its winterization last week. They checked everything then, including the brakes, and said it was fine.”

“Yeah, well they aren’t fine now,” Jake said quietly. “Worse yet, I’ve had my foot off the gas pedal for a full minute now and we aren’t slowing down.”

“Oh, that really isn’t good,” Nicole said faintly, her eyes shifting back to the road ahead again.

Jake didn’t comment. His full attention was apparently on driving . . . or perhaps he was trying to decide what he could do. Sensing movement beside her, she glanced over just in time to see him try the emergency brakes. Nicole instinctively braced herself for an abrupt halt, but nothing happened. Jake didn’t look terribly surprised. In fact, he seemed incredibly calm, if extremely grim. Meanwhile, she was having a major panic attack inside.

“What are we going to do?” she asked nervously.

“Downshift,” Jake answered, and did just that before hitting the hazard lights.

Nicole bit her lip and glanced out the front window again. They were coming up on the cars quickly and it didn’t seem to her that downshifting had worked. Her head swiveled to the window beside her when it started to roll down.

“Wind resistance,” Jake shouted over the sudden roar of air rushing into the SUV. “It might help a little.”

Nicole nodded, noting that he’d opened all the windows . . . and it was damned cold. But better cold than crashed she supposed, doing up her coat. This really hadn’t been the best time to wear a skirt, she decided, regretting changing out of her jeans at the mall.

“I’m going to use the center barrier to try to slow us down,” Jake yelled.

Nicole nodded, but didn’t bother trying to talk over the wind. Nothing seemed to be working yet. At least, it didn’t appear to her that they’d slowed any, but she kept that opinion to herself and let him do what he had to do. Nicole was extremely grateful that Jake was driving though. She’d have tried the emergency brakes, but wouldn’t have thought of downshifting, or windows . . . or scraping the car up against the center barrier to try to slow the vehicle. She added that last thought as the tires hit the bottom of the pear-shaped barrier. Nicole had expected the driver’s side door to scrape along the concrete, but it was just the tires . . . for now.

She started to bite her lip, and then quickly stopped doing that, afraid that if they crashed, she’d bite it off. Instead, she tightened her hold on the overhead grip and grabbed for the car seat with her other hand and waited.

Nicole was sure what followed only took seconds or a minute or two at the most, but it seemed much longer to her. In fact, the wait seemed interminable, and then they were mere feet behind the three lanes of cars with nowhere to go.

Jake tried hitting the horn repeatedly, but the car in front of them had nowhere to go. There were cars in front of and beside it as well. When the driver of the car beside them apparently saw what was happening and hit the brakes, slowing out of the way and forcing those behind him to do so as well, Jake took a chance and swerved into the middle lane, honking the horn the whole way. Much to Nicole’s relief the car in the next lane did the same as the center car had done and slowed quickly.

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