One Lucky Vampire Page 4

Jake sat back and frowned. “If her husband is trying to kill her, and I will agree that it sounds like he is—”

“I’m sure he is,” Marguerite said firmly. “And now that the accidents he set up have failed, he’ll have to try something else.”

“Then she needs around-the-clock protection until the divorce is finalized. Once it’s done, there should be no reason for him to continue to go after her,” Jake pointed out.

“The divorce will be final in two weeks,” Marguerite said at once.

“Two weeks, huh?” he muttered, but frowned and shook his head. “Still, if she won’t accept a bodyguard, what do you expect me to do?”

“She won’t accept a bodyguard, but she does need a cook/housekeeper and yard guy . . . well, snow guy this time of year,” she added wryly, and then said, “And I told her I knew just the man who could do all three jobs for the price of one.”

Jake’s jaw dropped. He took a moment to absorb that stunning news and then closed his mouth, shook his head and said, “Cook/housekeeper?”

“Your mother brags about you, Steph—Jake. I know you’re a very good cook.”

“I’m her son. My mother is biased,” he said dryly. “I can make spaghetti, and that’s just frying up some hamburger, throwing in a can of sauce and boiling noodles. To her that’s amazing. But that’s not actually cooking.”

“You’re smart, you can read a cookbook and wing it, at least enough to get by for two weeks,” Marguerite said determinedly and then added, “I’d never forgive myself for not interfering if Rodolfo killed her, Jake. She’s a very sweet, genuinely nice person. There are few enough of those in the world. And it’s only two weeks.”

Jake slumped back in his seat again, knowing he’d already lost this argument. Finally, he sighed and said, “I suppose I could take a couple weeks off. They owe me about five weeks vacation now anyway and have been nagging at me to take it.”

“I’ll pay you what a company would demand for your time,” she said firmly and then added brightly, “It will be a working vacation. You can putter around the kitchen, try new recipes—”

“Shovel snow, clean house, and watch out for murder attempts,” he added dryly.

“I really appreciate this,” Marguerite said solemnly, digging through her purse on the table and retrieving her checkbook.

Jake rolled his eyes and put his hand on hers to stop her. “You don’t have to pay me, Marguerite,” he said dryly. “I got a hell of a severance package from Vincent when I left, and that’s on top of making a lot of money there for a lot of years that I invested successfully. I don’t need money. I really don’t even need to work anymore, but it’s better than staying home and twiddling my thumbs.”

“No, I insist on paying,” Marguerite said firmly, slipping her hands out from under his and setting the checkbook on the table. “I already did my homework and found out how much companies charge for two weeks of around-the-clock protection and this is a service I appreciate.”

Jake just shrugged and sat back, leaving her to it. She could write it if she wanted. It didn’t mean he had to cash it. He accepted the check when she handed it over, slipped it in his pocket, and then crossed his arms and said, “All right, tell me everything you know about Nicole and Rodolfo.”

Chapter Two

Nicole was carrying an armful of dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and various other items upstairs when the phone began to ring. Cursing under her breath, she rushed up the last few steps to the open-loft living room and then hurried to the phone on the marble counter on the far side of the room. Once there, she twisted and bent slightly to see around the items she was carrying, and then groaned as she saw the number and name on the ID screen. She’d been rather hoping it would be one of those 1–800 or 1–888 numbers that she could ignore but it was Pierina. She couldn’t ignore Pierina.

Getting one hand free by using the wall and counter to help hold up the pile in her arms, Nicole quickly snatched up the phone and pressed it to her ear: “Hi Pierina.”

“Nicole?” Pierina asked uncertainly.

“Yeah. It’s me,” she said lightly, catching the receiver between ear and shoulder so that she could free her hand to stabilize the pile she was holding when it began to wobble. Sighing her relief as she got her hand there in time, she asked, “How are things?”

“Well, they’re—are you okay? You sound funny.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Nicole assured her quickly. “I’m just—my hands are full at the moment so I’m holding the phone between neck and shoulder. Maybe it’s making my voice funny.”

“Well, for heaven’s sake, set down whatever you’re carrying. I’ll wait,” Pierina said with amused exasperation.

“Uh . . .” Nicole grimaced and then shifted her hand to better hold her pile and turned to walk into her bedroom, taking the phone with her. Thank God for wireless phones, she thought as she carried everything into her walk-in closet and to the hamper waiting there. In the next moment, she was frowning at the hamper, thinking that she really should have taken the dirty dishes to the kitchen first. They were all piled on top of the dirty clothes.


“Yeah, one sec,” she said into the phone, then moved up to the dryer and leaned forward a bit to let the dishes slide from her pile to the hard surface. She leaned a bit too much, though, and winced at the clang as a bowl sailed off the pile and nearly shattered a glass that she’d just set down.

“What was that? Did you break something?” Pierina asked with concern.

“No,” Nicole said with relief, dropping the dirty clothes and other items on to the dryer top beside the dishes. Opening the washer lid, she began to throw clothes into it as she took the phone in her other hand and said, “Okay. Hands free now.”

“What on earth are you doing?” Pierina asked on a laugh. “I heard glass clanging, and I can hear you doing something now. There’s rustling, or—”

“I’m throwing clothes in the washer,” Nicole explained.

“And the clanging?” Pierina asked.

“Dirty dishes, my makeup bag, curling iron and other stuff I brought up from the studio,” Nicole explained. “Marguerite’s found a cook/housekeeper for me and I’m tidying up a bit before they get here.”

“You’re cleaning up before your new cook/housekeeper gets there?” Pierina asked slowly. “You do realize that’s kind of like pulling your tooth before you go to the dentist, right?”

“It is not,” Nicole protested with a laugh.

“Yeah, it is . . . and it’s so you,” she teased, and then she said gently, “Sweetie, just leave the mess. You work hard. That’s why you need a cook/housekeeper. I’m sure Marguerite has explained all that to the woman.”

“Guy,” Nicole corrected, reaching for the laundry detergent and dumping some in.

“What? Guy? Guy what?” Pierina asked with confusion.

“The cook/housekeeper Marguerite’s bringing is a guy, not a woman,” Nicole explained.

“No way!” Pierina squealed. “Ooooh, you’re going to have some hot, young guy pawing through your panties.”

Nicole froze, and then slowly set the detergent back, and returned to throwing clothes in the washer.


Nicole sighed and shook her head. “I think he’s an old guy, not a hot, young guy,” she said finally, but really that didn’t make her feel any better. She didn’t want an old guy pawing through her panties either. Grimacing, she said, “I can do the laundry myself.”

“Nicole,” Pierina said, drawing her name out in complaint. “That’s ridiculous. You don’t hire someone and then do the work yourself. And I was just teasing. I mean, I’m sure he won’t really be pawing through them. If this is what the old guy does, he’s done loads of laundry for tons of people and will hardly be interested in your undies.”

“Right,” Nicole murmured, but thought she was still doing at least her whites herself. Most of her panties and bras were plain white cotton now. Pretty boring, she supposed, but then she’d dumped all the lacy naughties when she’d left Rodolfo. Sex was how he’d caught her—great sex, sweet words, and empty promises spoken in a sexy accent. She kind of had a thing against all that stuff now. The next man she hooked up with, if she ever bothered again, would be a nice, normal, down-to-earth Canadian boy. No accent, no exotic locales to aid in his romancing of her, no sexy negligees and no crazy monkey sex that blew her head off and left her a brainless twit and easy target.

Nicole emphasized that silent point by closing the washing machine door with a flourish. Unfortunately, thanks to that flourish, her elbow hit several of the dishes on the dryer next to the washer and sent them flying off onto the floor in a clattering crash of broken glass.

“Crap,” she muttered, as Pierina began squawking in her ear.

“What was that? Are you okay? What happened?”

“I’m fine,” she assured her on a sigh and then added dryly, “My glassware . . . not so much. I knocked two bowls and three glasses onto the floor. They shattered.”

“Oh, sweetie. See! If you’d left it for the housekeeper this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, but thought it also wouldn’t have happened if she’d dropped them off in the kitchen before coming in here, or if the phone hadn’t rung, or if she’d taken more care. Basically, if she’d used her head. The last point came shooting out of her mind, not in her voice, but a deep one with an Italian accent. Nice, she thought. A year of counseling and Rodolfo’s criticisms were still in her head.

Grinding her teeth, Nicole grabbed the garbage can beside the dryer, knelt in front of the mess, put the phone on speaker and set it on the floor to free her hands to clean up the mess.

“So, to what do I owe this call?” Nicole asked as she began carefully picking up the larger pieces of glass.

“I was just thinking of you . . . and Mom mentioned Marguerite went up there to sort through pictures of Christian and Carolyn to decide which one to use for the portrait and was staying overnight, so I thought I’d see how that is going.

Nicole smiled faintly. “It’s good. We picked a picture and I did a rough sketch,” she said, and then added, “Marguerite’s still trying to convince me I don’t need to stick to the timeline and do Christian and Carolyn right away, but I’d rather get it done and off my list of jobs to do.”

“She knows how busy you are, hon. She’s trying to ease your burden a little,” Pierina said gently.

“Yeah, but working keeps me from thinking too much and that’s a good thing right now. So I don’t mind the crazy schedule I have at the moment. However,” she added quickly as she sensed Pierina winding up for a lecture, “I am refusing a lot of future jobs so that I can get back to a more manageable schedule next year. I figure by then the divorce will be done, I should be over the worst of it, and socializing might come back into view as something I should do at least with female friends.”

“You should move back this way,” Pierina said solemnly. “I miss you and I could be dragging you out to movies and—”

“I might in the future, Pierina,” Nicole interrupted quietly. “But I need at least a year to get my head straight before I make any big decisions.”

“I understand,” Pierina said reluctantly.

“Besides, we should take advantage of my living here,” Nicole suggested. “You could come visit and we can . . .” She grimaced, unsure what they could do. She didn’t have a clue what there was to do in Ottawa. Her life had been pretty sheltered during her marriage. She’d worked and that was about it. “Well, I know there’s skating on the river in the winter,” she said finally, and then rushed on, “But we could do girls’ weekends. We could even have our mothers up for one. And invite Marguerite too, she’s really a sweetie.”

“Yeah, she is,” Pierina agreed. “I always liked Marguerite. She was always so nice to us when we were growing up and Mom brought us to her place.”

“She still is,” Nicole assured her. Finished with the larger pieces of glass, she started carefully on the smaller ones that she thought were still too big for the vacuum. “Marguerite was going to stay at a hotel tonight, but I said that was silly and she should stay here, and then I apologized for the mess and muttered that I need a cook/housekeeper, and—voila!—Marguerite was on the job, saying she thought she knew the perfect person, but would have to see if he was available on such short notice.”

Prev Next