One Lucky Vampire Page 38

Elaine had said she could read her mind, see through the subterfuge and knew she loved Jake. Nicole was beginning to think the woman was right. She did love the man despite the short time since she’d met him . . . and she didn’t like having these ill feelings between them, but she’d caused them and, therefore, she was the one who needed to apologize for getting so upset about his suspecting her brother when she did too.

Cursing, Nicole stood and headed out of the studio. The house was silent as she walked through it, and a glance out the windows that wrapped around the front stairway showed that the only vehicle left in her driveway was Jake’s. It looked like everyone else had left. Including the twins.

The knowledge made her pause on the stairs. They were alone . . . completely and utterly alone. If they were alone, then they could—

Geez. Nicole interrupted her own thoughts with disgust. She finds out they’re alone and her thoughts immediately turn to sex. These nanos of theirs were powerful mojo. She was acting like a heroin addict or something, and Jake was the drug. But she needed to stop that. She owed Jake an apology before she could even consider such things.

Nicole heard that lecture from her own brain, but her body was still reacting to the thought of being alone with Jake and the things they could do . . . all over the house. Honestly, Nicole didn’t know how many times over the years she’d heard women claim that most men thought with their genitalia, but that affliction obviously wasn’t restricted purely to men. Her brain appeared to have dropped into her panties since meeting Jake.

On the other hand, a part of Nicole’s mind argued, there was nothing that said she couldn’t look nice to apologize. She could put on one of the skirts he’d helped her pick out . . . maybe the short black one that had made his eyes glow silver; pair it with a white blouse and high heels . . . maybe skip the panties. They wouldn’t even have to take their clothes off if she did that . . . and then, if they did indulge somewhere other than the bedroom, and someone came home, they could just straighten their clothes and smile innocently. Well, if they weren’t unconscious on the floor, she thought wryly, and continued up the stairs.

Much to her relief, Nicole didn’t run into Jake as she crossed the loft to the master bedroom. She thought she caught a glimpse of him in the kitchen as she scooted past, but he didn’t spot her and come out before she reached and slipped into her room. Nicole eased the door closed to prevent giving away her presence, and then slipped into her walk-in closet.

Nicole had only taken two steps into the long room when she recalled that they’d had the accident after shopping. She had no idea what had happened to her bags, but didn’t see any sign of them in her closet.

Nicole walked back out to her bedroom to check and be sure they hadn’t been set there, but there was no sign of them there either. It was possible they were still in the SUV . . . or that they’d been ruined in the crash and tossed out. There had been blood everywhere from Jake’s injury.

Nicole had been unconscious and hadn’t seen Jake get hurt, or how bad it had looked right afterward, but from what she’d been told and the amount of blood on her own clothes, little if any of it from her head wound, the man had lost most of his blood in the accident. A mortal would have died, she was sure. Thank God he wasn’t mortal. It would have been a tragedy to lose such a smart, vital, sexy man.

Sighing, Nicole returned to her closet, to search it, hoping she had something pretty and or sexy that would do. But she didn’t hold out much hope of finding anything like that. She’d deliberately tossed out everything she’d owned that was even close to sexy when she’d left Rodolfo and sworn off men. Still, she looked.

Nicole started with the hanging clothes and finished with the built-in drawers. She’d only intended on searching the built-in set on the left, which was her side. When that turned up nothing, she started to head out of the closet, thinking she was just plain out of luck. But then Nicole suddenly stopped and peered at the other set of drawers. Rodolfo had always used them, and she hadn’t even looked in them since returning.

They were probably empty, she thought, but searched them anyway. The top three wide drawers were empty as she’d expected, but the bottom drawer wasn’t. Kneeling on the carpet between the two drawer sets, which were built into the opposite walls and faced each other, she began to sort through the contents with curiosity. There was a hand-knitted afghan that her grandmother, her mother’s mother, had knitted for her before dying. It was old and a bit ratty, but Nicole had kept it for sentimental reasons and then apparently left it behind when she’d moved out so abruptly. But then, she’d moved out in a rush, eager to get out from under Rodolfo’s glowering gaze.

Nicole was surprised Rodolfo hadn’t thrown it out on her. She would have been upset when she realized she couldn’t find it and he seemed to like to upset her. She folded the afghan neatly and set it aside, and then stared at the boots that had been covered by it. Her eyes widened as she recognized them, thigh-high black boots that were nothing but crisscrossed lacings in the front and had six inch heels. They’d had matching gloves and a top that was mostly crisscrossed lacing in the middle front from almost nipple to nipple as well. The “top” had ended just above the belly button, except for two tails that ran down over the center of the front of each leg and attached to the thigh high boots by snaps attached at the end, turning them into garters of a sort.

Nicole had bought it for her and Rodolfo’s first Halloween together with no intention of wearing it anywhere but the bedroom. As she recalled, she’d felt super sexy in it too when she’d tried it on. She’d intended to greet Rodolfo at the door in it on Halloween. Unfortunately, they’d had a big fight when she’d got up that day. Rodolfo had taken off in a snit and hadn’t returned until the next day. The costume had never got worn.

Maybe that was fortunate, Nicole thought as she lifted out one of the boots and found the costume itself tangled in with the lacings. The gloves were caught up in the other boot. Which meant the only thing missing were the tiny black panties. But she had black panties, Nicole thought, and bit her lip, wondering if she had the courage to wear it for Jake.

If she did, she probably wouldn’t have to apologize, Nicole thought with amusement. She glanced back to the drawer as she set the second boot on the floor and smiled when she spotted the fedora that went with the costume at the back of the drawer. The fact that it was all here and that Rodolfo hadn’t tossed it seemed to her to be a sign that she should wear it. Not that she’d probably wear it long.

Gathering the costume’s bits, Nicole stood, retrieved a fresh pair of black panties from her top drawer, then carried everything out to the en suite bathroom. She managed to take a quick shower without getting her hair wet, thanks to a shower cap, and then she dusted herself with baby powder and slipped into the costume.

One look at herself in the mirror and Nicole nearly chickened out. Geez, the costume didn’t hide much, and she appeared to have a lot of flesh to show. She shifted briefly, torn, and then muttered “screw it,” straightened her shoulders, and headed out of her room.

Nicole spotted Jake disappearing into the kitchen as she opened her door, and was glad she hadn’t come out sooner. She would have felt stupid standing around in the kitchen waiting for him, and she definitely wouldn’t have wanted to search the house for him in case the twins or one of his other family members returned and caught her like this.

That thought made her realize that her original plan was not going to work here. She would have to walk into the kitchen, smile and then hurry back to the bedroom, hopefully, with him following. There was no way that straightening this outfit and offering an innocent smile would convince anyone she wasn’t up to anything. One look at her and they’d know what they’d been up to, or at least what she’d planned.

“Who are you?”

Nicole had been approaching the kitchen door, but paused before reaching it when she heard Jake ask that question.

It was quickly followed by, “Did Nicole let you in?”


“Then how—” Jake cut himself off and said, “The sliding glass doors.”

“Yes. It was kind of you to leave them open for me.”

Nicole frowned at the tone of voice, it was mocking and amused.

Moving close to the wall, she eased the last few feet to the kitchen doorway and snuck a quick peak into the room. Jake was standing a couple of feet inside the kitchen, with his back to her. The other man sat at the kitchen table, lounging sideways to the door in one chair, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles on another. She could see that he wore jeans, and a leather bomber over a T-shirt. His body looked completely relaxed. She couldn’t say what his expression was, though, Jake’s body blocked his head from her view.

“It wasn’t for you,” Jake said grimly. “It was to air out the room.”

“Still,” the man said, and though Nicole couldn’t see him, she was pretty sure he was grinning as he added, “I appreciate it.”

Nicole eased back out of sight of the kitchen. She didn’t think the man could see her, but if Jake had moved just the smallest amount to the right he would have.

Shifting anxiously from foot to foot, she debated what to do. It seemed obvious to her that the man in the kitchen must be the one behind the hot-tub poisoning and the car accident. Nice, normal people simply didn’t saunter into just any open door in homes that weren’t theirs. What she didn’t understand was why Jake was asking questions instead of taking control of the man’s mind.

The obvious answer was that he couldn’t, and as far as she knew, that only happened with life mates or older immortals. Had an immortal been trying to kill her? And if so, why? For heaven’s sake, she hadn’t even known about immortals until this last week, and was pretty sure she hadn’t met any besides Marguerite and this crew.

“Who are you?” Jake’s voice sounded grim.

“You asked that already,” the other man pointed out lightly.

Nicole turned and slid back along the wall to her room. She had to help Jake, but how? She glanced to the sliding doors in her room. They led out to the deck, which wrapped around the back of the house and up the side to the sliding doors in the kitchen. If the doors were still open—

Nicole started toward the doors, but then paused before stepping out. She needed a weapon. Turning, she glanced around the bedroom, looking for something hefty, but it was a bedroom, for heaven’s sake, not a weapons locker. Her gaze slid from the bed to the television to the couch. There was nothing she could see that would be useful. There weren’t even any lamps in the room; wall sconces were set into the walls on either side of the couch, as well as the bed, to remove the necessity of lamps.

Her mouth tightened with annoyance and then her gaze slid to the bed again and she eyed the pillows. They were rather special; quilted cloth on the outside with a water bladder inside. The user filled them with water to reach the firmness they desired. A couple quarts made a soft pillow, three quarts made it medium, and five quarts made it firm. Nicole liked hers firm. She had five quarts in hers. That was more than a gallon of water. It weighed a good ten pounds, she would guess.

Moving up the bed, Nicole grabbed one of them, and headed out of the room through the sliding glass doors.

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

Jake’s eyes narrowed on the intruder’s wide unpleasant smile. His voice was deep and raspy, as if he spent a lot of time screaming at the top of his lungs. Jake had heard that voice before, but where didn’t come to him right away. It was recently though.

“You ruined everything. Stopped me from carrying out what I was put on this earth to do, and yet—barely a week later—you don’t even remember me,” the man said bitterly.

Jake eyed him warily. He’d been trying to get into the man’s thoughts to read and control him since entering the kitchen, but it was like trying to navigate the ocean in a fog with no compass or sonar . . . and there were monsters coming out of that fog, accompanied by agonized shrieks. The man wasn’t in his right mind. That was the only explanation. Jake had always heard that it was hard to the point of impossible for an immortal to read or control a crazy person. Now he understood why.

Jake opened his mouth to admit that, no, he didn’t recognize him, when he suddenly did.

“Ball-Cap Boy,” he murmured, recognizing him as the man who had intended to shoot the client he was suppose to protect, and who he’d tackled his last night on the job before meeting Marguerite for dinner. Tilting his head, he asked, “Why aren’t you in jail?”

Ball-Cap Boy gave a short laugh. “For what? I didn’t get the chance to do anything. All they could charge me with was the improper transportation of a registered weapon.”

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