One Lucky Vampire Page 5

“But he was, right?” Pierina asked.

“Yeah. She called half an hour ago and said she’d met with him, and his previous job ended today and he could start right away. He’s agreed to a two-week trial.”

“His previous job ended today?” Pierina asked with a laugh. “That makes it sound like he does short-term gigs here and there. I thought housekeepers were long term. Mom’s worked for Marguerite for . . . like . . . ever.”

“Yeah, I kind of wondered about that too,” Nicole admitted and said, “But I trust Marguerite. Maybe his last client died of old age or something and he’s been doing temp work while he waits to find a good situation. I don’t know. I’m sure Marguerite will explain.”

“Or I could.”

Nicole blinked at that deep voice and then glanced sharply over her shoulder, eyes widening as she stared at the man standing behind her. He was gorgeous, with sandy brown hair cut short, a well-trimmed and short beard and mustache, and the most amazing eyes. Perhaps it was just the lighting in the room and the angle she was seeing them from, but from where she knelt, his eyes were a beautiful teal color shot through with silver. Beautiful. He was also muscular and extremely tall . . . although the tall part might just be because he was standing and she was kneeling on the floor. It—

Dear God, she’d had her rump in the air a minute ago as she’d leaned down to pick up the glass, Nicole realized with dismay, and that had been his first view of her.

“Nicki? Who was that? Are you okay? What’s going on?”

Nicole’s gaze dropped to the phone at Pierina’s concerned squawks. It was only then that she realized she had no idea who the man was . . . or what he was doing in her home. Before she could panic, the man turned his head and called out, “I’ve found her, Marguerite. We’re in the walk-in closet.”

Nicole relaxed and answered Pierina with, “Uh, I think he might be the cook/housekeeper.”

“He doesn’t sound old,” Pierina said, interest in her voice.

“No, he’s not,” Nicole agreed, staring up at the man’s profile as he waited for Marguerite to respond or show up.

“He sounds hunky,” Pierina added.

“He is,” Nicole admitted and then realized what she’d said and flushed when he turned sharply to peer at her, eyebrows raised.

“Thanks,” he drawled with a slow grin and offered her his hand.

Nicole just blushed harder, but she accepted the offered hand and got to her feet, avoiding his eyes as she muttered an embarrassed, “Thank you.”

“Ohhhh,” Pierina chortled. “Leave it to Marguerite to find you a cook/housekeeper who’s eye candy too,” Her voice, squawking up from the floor, reminded Nicole that she’d left the phone there.

“Sorry,” Nicole said to the man on her friend’s behalf and quickly bent to snatch up the phone. Taking it off speakerphone, she chastised, “That’s sexual harassment, Pierina. The man isn’t eye candy, he’s—” She paused as her gaze slid back to him, and then Nicole turned and moved quickly to the opposite end of the seventeen-foot-long walk-in closet and whispered, “Okay, he’s eye candy, but you don’t say stuff like that so he can hear.”

A deep chuckle made her frown over her shoulder. Surely he hadn’t heard her from there, had he? She would have thought not, but the amusement on his face made her think he could. Turning back to the phone, Nicole muttered, “I’ll call you back later.”

“No, wait—” Pierina protested, but Nicole just hit the off button to end the call, took a deep breath to try to regain at least a little composure, and turned to offer a polite smile to the man. She started back to him then, her hand out, ready to shake his as she said, “Hi, I’m Nicole Phillips. You must be the cook/housekeeper Marguerite was—Ouch, ouch, ouch!”

Nicole recalled the glass on the floor just as his hand closed around hers. It was the pain radiating up from her foot that reminded her. She’d stepped in the damned glass and was now hopping around on her uninjured foot, the injured foot pulled up like a stork. His hold on her hand was the only thing keeping her from toppling over. At least it was until he suddenly scooped her up in his arms.

“Oh,” Nicole breathed, feeling her face pinken. The phone began to ring again, and she was surprised to spot it on the floor.

“You dropped it when you stepped on the glass,” the man holding her said, and then suddenly bent over with her in his arms so that she could grab it up off the floor.

“Oh my, you’re strong,” Nicole said faintly as she snatched up the phone. Glancing at the display screen as he straightened again, she murmured, “It’s Pierina. Again.”

Even as she pushed the button to answer the call, someone gasped, “What on earth!” behind them.

The man holding her swung to face Marguerite at once and Nicole wasn’t surprised to see that the woman stood in the doorway to the walk-in closet, gaping at Nicole in the cook/housekeeper’s arms. At least Nicole thought he was the cook/housekeeper. He hadn’t really verified that yet, but that was who Marguerite had claimed she was bringing back.

“What’s happened?” Pierina squawked from the phone, reminding Nicole that she’d answered it. “Is that Marguerite? Why does she sound so shocked? What’s going on?”

“Put the phone to my face,” the man holding her said.

Nicole hesitated, but then did as he requested and placed the receiver so he could take the call.

“Pierina, this is Jake Colson,” he announced in his deep sexy voice. “Marguerite has asked me to take on the job of Nicole’s cook/housekeeper and snow-shovel guy on a two-week trial basis. Marguerite and I are both here. Nicole is fine, but she stepped on some glass and I have to get it out for her now, so she’ll call you back later with all the juicy details. But I’m handing you over to Marguerite so she can add her reassurance since you don’t know me. Nice talking to you,” he added, and then pulled his head away from the phone and nodded toward Marguerite.

Nicole shifted the phone in that direction and Marguerite took it with a smile and headed out of the room, saying, “Pierina darling, how are you? I never thought of it at the time, but you should have come with me to Ottawa. I know Nicole would have loved that and the company on the flight here and back would have been nice.”

Marguerite continued talking, but that was all Nicole caught. Alone again with the man she now knew was Jake, she lifted her eyes self-consciously to his. “You can set me down now.”

“So you can hop around on one foot?” he asked with amusement and turned to carry her out of the room as if she weighed nothing, which she knew from her bathroom scales, and her soon to be ex-husband’s criticisms, wasn’t true. If she wasn’t so uncomfortable at being in a stranger’s arms, Nicole would have enjoyed the experience.

Jake didn’t pause in the bathroom that connected the walk-in closet to the bedroom as she expected, but continued out through the dining/living room and then into the kitchen. He set her on the island there, said a firm “Stay,” and walked out of the room.

Nicole stared after him wide-eyed. He was very commanding for a cook. He also smelled really good, and he was superstrong. She was not some skinny, model type chick. Nicole was full figured and always had been. Actually, she was more full figured now than she’d ever been. Apparently she didn’t take constant criticism well. She’d gained weight during her marriage, which had just led to more criticism. Nicole hadn’t yet taken the trouble to lose that weight. She had too many other things to worry about first, or so she’d been thinking. Now she was thinking she really should start a diet . . . and the gorgeous, yummy-smelling man who had just left her kitchen had nothing to do with that decision, Nicole assured herself firmly.

She almost believed that . . . right up until Gorgeous Jake walked back into the kitchen and she found herself sitting up straight and sucking in her stomach.

“Alcohol, tweezers, a needle, antiseptic, and a bandage,” Jake rattled off as he set down the items he’d collected, obviously from her bathroom. “I think that’s everything we’ll need.”

“Oh, you don’t have to—” Nicole’s words ended on a gasp as he suddenly squatted in front of her and grabbed her foot to take a look. Any further protest was prevented by her need to bite her lip to keep from squawking as he began to poke at her foot.

“Does this hurt?” he asked, pressing gently.

“No,” Nicole said, but even she didn’t think it sounded believable. Her voice was about three octaves higher than normal.

Jake gave her a reproving look. “You have to tell me if it hurts, it’s how I’ll know where the glass is. You have several pieces in your foot that I can see, and a couple I don’t think I’m seeing. So, stoic, no, and honesty, yes, okay?”

Nicole nodded silently, her lower lip caught between her teeth.

He went back to work then, starting with the glass he could see, she supposed, since he didn’t ask her if it hurt anymore. However, it did hurt when he dug out the bits of glass and Nicole was clenching her hands and trying not to cry out when he began to ask questions, distracting her.

“Marguerite says you’re an artist?”

“Yes. I paint portraits,” she answered, looking away in the hopes that not watching would make it less painful.

“You’re good,” he complimented, and the words made her smile crookedly.

“How would you know? You haven’t seen my work,” she said with amusement.

“I did,” he countered. “When we found the front door unlocked and got no answer when we called out, Marguerite and I searched the house starting on the ground floor . . . including your studio.”

“Oh,” Nicole murmured, but she was frowning. “The front door was locked. I locked it myself behind Marguerite when she left.”

Jake raised his head and peered at her, then glanced to the door. Nicole followed his gaze to see Marguerite in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, the phone in her hand at her side. Apparently she’d finished talking to Pierina. Now she was exchanging a solemn look with Jake.

“It was unlocked when we got here,” Marguerite said quietly, as if verifying that he hadn’t remembered wrong.

“Well, that’s just—” Nicole shook her head. “I know I locked it.”

“Marguerite, if you’ll finish here, I’ll check the house again,” Jake said quietly, straightening.

Nicole frowned. “I’m sure that’s not necessary.”

“You locked it, and it was unlocked when we got here,” he pointed out simply. “Better to be safe than sorry.”

“Yes, but no one has keys but me. Well, and Marguerite,” she said, and then frowned and added reluctantly, “Maybe I just thought I locked it. Or maybe I accidentally unlocked it when I went to take the key out.”

“Rodolfo doesn’t still have a key, does he?” Marguerite asked with concern.

“No. He gave it back when I bought him out of the house,” Nicole assured her.

“Did you have the locks changed after you bought your husband out of the house?” Jake asked.

Her eyes widened. Nicole was surprised he even knew there was a husband, soon to be ex-husband. Apparently, Marguerite had told him about her life . . . which was more than she’d done for Nicole. She didn’t know a thing about her new cook/housekeeper. “No, I didn’t have the locks changed. There was no need. Rodolfo gave me his key.”

Marguerite and Jake exchanged another glance and then Marguerite moved forward and took the tweezers from Jake as he straightened.

“I’ll be right back,” he murmured, and slipped from the room.

“There’s really no need to search the house,” Nicole said wearily as Marguerite moved one of the kitchen chairs over to sit in front of her and began to work on removing the glass from her foot. “I probably messed up about locking the door. Besides, Jake just said you guys searched when you got here.”

“Better safe than sorry, dear,” Marguerite said with unconcern. “Besides, it makes men feel good to do stuff like this. Let him be all manly and protect us womenfolk,” she said lightly with a grin, then added more seriously, “Now brace yourself, some of these glass slivers went pretty deep.”

Nicole braced herself, but it didn’t help much. It took all she had not to howl like a two-year-old as Marguerite set to work on removing the glass from her foot.

Jake checked the upper floor first, looking into the master bedroom, en suite bathroom, and walk-in closet again, just to be thorough. He then checked the sliding glass doors in the master bedroom to be sure they were locked before moving on to the guest bedroom next to the master and its bathroom.

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