One Lucky Vampire Page 32

With a choice between hitting the car in front or veering to the side, Jake was moving into the lane before the car was even fully out of the way. They made it, but barely, and were now in danger of hitting the car in front of them in that lane.

Nicole was panting like a woman in labor as they slid into the opening. If Jake had been a lesser driver, they never would have made it. There was literally a finger’s width between them and the car behind them. But they did make it. However, even as he slid fully into the lane, Jake warned, “Hang on,” and continued steering to the side, sending the car off the highway altogether.

Nicole held on. She also closed her eyes and began to pray so never saw exactly what happened. She felt it though. The vehicle swerved back toward the highway as if Jake was trying to avoid something and, caught by surprise, Nicole slammed into the side window, her temple bouncing off of it just seconds before they crashed into something. The air bags exploded and the vehicle began to roll even as Nicole lost her hold on consciousness.

Jake tore the empty blood bag from his mouth, and struggled to sit up. “I’m going in.”

“No,” Tomasso boomed, and forced him back to the van floor with one hand on his shoulder. “You’re not ready. Two more bags of blood and fifteen minutes and then you should be okay to go into the hospital.”

“I want to see Nicole,” Jake growled.

“Dante is with her. She’s fine. You need more blood,” Tomasso insisted, picking up a full bag. When Jake opened his mouth to argue, he popped the bag on Jake’s still extended fangs.

Jake scowled at the large man over the bag at his mouth. It had been seven hours since the accident and he had spent most of that time stuck here in the back of the van, in the hospital parking lot, being fed blood and healing.

Jake hadn’t come out of the accident in good shape, although he hadn’t known that right away. He’d passed out when the front driver’s side had caved in around him, crushing and damned near amputating his left leg. He’d only woken up as Dante and Tomasso were tearing the buckled car door off to get him out of what would have been a metal casket had he been mortal. They’d already got Nicole out and had assured him that other than a head wound she seemed fine. She was lying unconscious in the snow while they worked on getting him out of the crumpled driver’s side.

They’d barely managed to get him into their van before the police and ambulance had arrived and had to leave him there while they handled the emergency responders and the gawkers who had stopped. Apparently, they’d smeared some of Jake’s blood on Dante’s forehead and a little on his clothes and claimed Dante was driving the car, but was fine other than a couple cuts and bruises. Obviously, they’d performed some mind control and memory altering to ensure that tale was believed, because one look at the driver’s side of the car would have immediately brought that story into question.

The twins probably would have just wiped memories and sent everybody on their way were it not for the fact that this was obviously another attempt on Nicole’s life and they wanted to be sure the police knew about it. She was mortal, and so was her ex-husband. It was better in this instance for the mortal legal system to handle the situation than to step in and take care of it themselves.

Once the police had been seen to, and Nicole was in an ambulance and on her way to the hospital, Dante and Tomasso had returned to their van and followed the ambulance to the hospital. Dante had driven while Tomasso knelt in the back, feeding Jake bag after bag of blood from the van cooler.

At the hospital, Dante had left Tomasso to tend to Jake and went in to answer more police questions and keep tabs on Nicole and how she was doing. She’d hit her head on the side window when Jake had swerved to avoid a head-on collision with a tree. However, his swerving to avoid the one tree had steered the driver’s side into another. Jake was okay with that. Better he take the brunt of it than Nicole. But he’d been going so fast the SUV had crumpled on that side, the back end had swung to the right where the land suddenly sloped, and they’d begun to roll just before he passed out from the leg wound.

“That’s good enough,” Jake said, tearing the latest empty bag away and sitting up. “I want to check on Nicole.”

“Dante texted less than ten minutes ago and said she was still resting comfortably,” Tomasso pointed out, but didn’t force him back to the floor as he had the first time. Instead, he simply reached for another bag.

“But she hasn’t regained consciousness yet,” Jake said worriedly. “It’s been seven hours. I want to see her, make sure she’s all right.”

“There’s nothing you can do for her,” Tomasso said with a shrug and held out another bag. When Jake merely scowled at it, Tomasso gave a long-suffering sigh, and then bargained, “One more bag and you can go in.”

Jake took the bag and popped it on his fangs, waiting impatiently for it to empty. It didn’t take long, but felt like forever to him.

“You can’t go like that,” Tomasso said as Jake ripped the bag from his mouth and started to scoot along the floor toward the back doors.

Jake glanced down and grimaced at the state of his clothes. The left leg of his jeans was sliced through and hanging from the inside seam, and they were now black all the way through with his blood. His shirt was pretty bloody as well, although Jake suspected that was just transference. The air bags had cocooned his upper body from serious injury.

“Here.” Tomasso pulled a shopping bag from the front of the van. “Dante and I did some shopping while we followed you around the mall. There are joggers in there you can borrow.”

Jake accepted the bag with relief and quickly sorted through the contents until he found a jogging suit. The twins were built like linebackers and he had no doubt he would be swimming in them, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

He’d thought the worst of his healing was over, but as Jake stripped his jeans and pulled on the jogging pants, it became clear that wasn’t the case. While his leg had reknitted where it had been almost amputated, and there was a large healing scab no doubt most of the way around his upper leg, it hurt like the devil to move it. The muscles and tendons and bones were no doubt still reknitting inside the leg. But Jake merely ground his teeth together and kept moving. He had to see Nicole. She should have regained consciousness by now.

The leg buckled under him when Jake opened the van’s back door and started to get out. Fortunately, Tomasso immediately grabbed his arm to support him, keeping him from falling. He kept that hold on his arm as he got out behind him, and closed the van door. He then walked him into the hospital, half holding him up. Once inside, Tomasso grabbed a wheelchair, urged Jake into it and wheeled him into the elevators and up to Nicole’s room.

Dante was seated in a chair next to the hospital bed when Tomasso wheeled Jake in. Since Dante’s chair was on the side closest to the door, Tomasso wheeled Jake around to the far side so that he could get him as close to Nicole’s face as possible.

“How is she doing?” Jake asked worriedly, leaning forward to peer at Nicole’s pale face as Tomasso moved back around the bed to Dante’s side.

Dante hesitated and then simply said, “The nurse keeps coming in and flashing a light in her eyes, but she hasn’t stirred yet.”

Jake frowned and brushed the hair off of Nicole’s forehead. She had an ugly bump and bruise on her right temple and he eyed it unhappily, thinking of about a million things he could have done differently to have avoided her getting hurt.

“You did the best you could,” Dante said quietly. “She’ll come around.”

Jake didn’t respond and after several moments of silence had passed, Dante stood up. “I’m going to go find the food court and see what’s available. Do you two want anything?”

“I’ll come with you,” Tomasso said as Jake shook his head.

“We’ll be back,” Dante assured him and Jake nodded without glancing around as they left.

He seemed to have sat there, repeatedly brushing his fingers over Nicole’s cheek for a long time when someone entered the hospital room. Expecting it to be Dante and Tomasso, or the nurse, Jake glanced toward the door and froze briefly, shock rippling through him when he saw who it was.

“Neil.” The name slipped from his lips, barely a breath of sound.

“Why so surprised?” His younger brother smiled crookedly. “You should have known Dante and Tomasso would call and let us know about the accident. We’re family.”

A breathless laugh slipped from Jake now, some of the tension that had claimed him slipping out with it. “Yeah. I guess I should have known.”

Neil nodded and moved forward. “How are you?”

Jake shrugged. “Okay now, but I got banged up pretty good. My side of the SUV was crushed like a stomped-on pop can. I lost a lot of blood and I was trapped, but Dante and Tomasso weren’t far behind us and pulled me out.” He smiled crookedly. “They peeled the metal away as easily as peeling an orange. My leg was sliced pretty much straight through, but they managed to get me out without it coming off completely, and then they put me in their van while they handled the scene. Fortunately, they’ve been keeping their blood in the back of their van since arriving at Nicole’s, and they started feeding it to me the minute they could get away from the police.”

Neil’s eyebrows rose. “Hell, I didn’t know the accident was that bad. I’m glad you didn’t lose the leg.”

Now it was Jake’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “Wouldn’t it have grown back? I’d think the nanos would feel that two legs were necessary to be at peak condition.”

Neil looked surprised at the question. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard of an immortal losing a limb. I know a couple who have suffered a bad enough wound the limb was hanging by a bare thread of skin and it healed. But I don’t know if the nanos are capable of actually replacing a whole limb.” He smiled wryly, and added, “And since the only way to find out is to cut off a limb and wait, I don’t think I really want to know.”

“No,” Jake agreed.

Neil hesitated, and then said, “Actually, when I asked how you are, I didn’t mean physically. I can see you’re recovered from the accident.”

“Oh,” Jake flushed. Neil meant was he over the snit he’d been in since waking up to find he was an immortal . . . or really since he was eighteen and found out about immortals. Had he accepted the turn and emotionally adjusted to it? Was he willing to be welcomed back into the fold of the family and stop shunning them like lepers?

“I’m sorry,” Jake said finally. “I realize now that I acted like an ass and you guys deserve better.”

Neil tilted his head slightly. “So you’re okay with everything?”

“Yeah,” Jake said slowly, “I think I am.” Smiling apologetically, he admitted, “Having to explain everything to Nicole helped me see things more clearly.”

Neil glanced to Nicole at the mention of her name and Jake did as well.

Reaching out, he brushed her cheek. “I’ve been running around thinking you all were monsters and that I was too now that I was immortal. But telling Nicole that I hadn’t changed inside and that I was still the man I used to be before the change, with the same beliefs and feelings as I had before . . . Well, I realized that was true . . . and that it was probably true for all immortals. I mean, Mom was still a great mom, and Roberto was a good father to us both and you were a good brother. The only thing that changed when I found out about immortals, and that you were all members of that select group, was me. You didn’t change in your attitude to me, but my perspective and how I treated you guys changed. Explaining it to Nicole made me realize that immortals are just people, but with some extraordinary gifts.”

“Then thank God for Nicole,” Neil said with feeling.

Jake chuckled and reached out to take her hand where it lay on top of the sheets and hospital blanket. “Yeah. Thank God for Nicole.”

Neil moved closer to the bed and peered down at her face silently for a moment, and then announced, “She’s pretty.”

“She’s fricking beautiful,” Jake corrected and added softly, “The most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

“Yeah, you’re in love,” Neil said with amusement and when Jake glanced to him with surprise, he shrugged and said, “She’s pretty bro, but I’ve seen prettier . . . and so have you. So it must be love that is making her the most beautiful woman you’ve ever met.”

“Love,” Jake murmured with a frown as he peered back at Nicole. He liked and cared about her. Nicole was a good person, with a big heart and an almost naïve trust in the goodness of people. She was also creative, talented, and funny. Jake found he was often smiling or laughing with her. He had fun with Nicole. Hell, he’d even had fun shopping with her today and Jake wasn’t a fan of shopping. But in love?

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