One Lucky Vampire Page 6

Marguerite and Nicole were in the kitchen, so he didn’t need to check there, but couldn’t resist glancing that way as he passed the door on the way back through the living room/dining room, headed for the stairs. Nicole Phillips wasn’t what he’d expected. After everything Marguerite had told him this evening, he’d expected to find a rather pathetic creature on his hands. She didn’t strike him as pathetic.

Certainly, the sweet round derriere he’d come upon on entering the walk-in closet hadn’t looked pathetic, and she just didn’t have a pathetic air about her. Actually, while Jake hadn’t known her for more than minutes and hadn’t really spoken much to her, the overall impression he had so far was a light and cheery one. Nicole’s home had lots of large windows, stretching eighteen or twenty feet to the cathedral ceilings. The rooms were decorated in cream, with splashes of red and the occasional black accents. Her studio was a menagerie of color, and the clothes in her closet had been colorful as well.

Nothing he’d seen so far spoke of a depressed woman, crawling out from the wreckage of an abusive marriage. But then, Marguerite had said at the beginning of their conversation that Nicole had sought out counseling right away to deal with the damage from her marriage. It appeared to be working. But he’d have to wait and see to know for sure.

Jake went through every room on the main floor, checking closets, and ensuring doors were locked. He left the front door for last because he’d locked it himself when he and Marguerite had arrived, using the key Nicole had given Marguerite during her stay to do it. So, it was with some surprise that he found that door unlocked again. He opened it and peered out at the driveway, then along the road in both directions. There was nothing to see, but then he hadn’t expected there to be.

Expression grim, Jake closed the door and relocked it, then pulled out his cell phone and called a local locksmith he had dealt with in the past. He was having every lock in the house rekeyed tonight. It was the fastest and easiest way to handle the situation. Nicole’s husband may have given back his key, but he’d obviously had a copy made before doing so. She said she’d locked the door, and while she may claim that perhaps she had only meant to and hadn’t actually done it, he knew damned right well he’d locked it when he and Marguerite had entered. It being unlocked again suggested someone had come into the house after Nicole had locked it, and then left again after he’d locked it.

The question was, what had they come in for? His money was on it being Rodolfo who had entered. If they were lucky, Rodolfo had entered, intending to do something nefarious, but had been forced to scrap the plan when Marguerite and Jake had returned. He’d obviously slipped out while they were searching the house. But he couldn’t count on the man not having had time to do something, and since the guy liked to set up things that looked like accidents . . .

Turning on his heel, he started through the house again.

Chapter Three

“There you are! We were starting to worry you’d got lost.”

Nicole looked around at Marguerite’s light words and saw Jake entering the kitchen. She smiled at him a little nervously, and then turned back to the cupboard and pulled out a third cup as Marguerite said, “We finished a few minutes ago and Nicole put coffee on. It should be ready soon.”


Nicole turned uncertainly at that one word. It sounded a little taken aback and she frowned and asked, “Don’t you like coffee? I can make something else for you. Tea, or . . . cocoa? Or maybe you’d rather have something cold to drink?”

“No, coffee’s fine,” he said slowly, then moved toward her, holding out his closed hand. When he reached her, he opened his hand, revealing three keys.

Nicole took them, her forehead furrowing. “What are these?”


“Well, I know that,” she said on a half laugh. “To what?”

“To the house,” Jake said, and then explained. “There was something wrong with the front lock. We locked it when we came in, but it was unlocked again when I went to search the house. So I called a friend of mine and he replaced the front door lock and then rekeyed all the others so that one key is all you need to unlock all of them.”

“Oh,” she said with surprise. “I didn’t even realize anyone was here. I didn’t hear the doorbell.”

“He knocked, and I believe you were screeching in pain at the time,” Jake said gently.

“Oh,” Nicole repeated, flushing this time. She was not good with pain. She tried to be stoic, but stoic just didn’t seem doable for her and she’d screamed like a baby at one point when Marguerite had had to dig out a piece of glass that broke off under the skin when she took out the larger end.

“I had him make six copies,” Jake continued. “There is a key in each door now so that if you need to get out in a hurry, you don’t have to search for your keys. These three are so that you have one yourself, I get another, or any cook/housekeeper after me gets it, and the third is for you to give to guests when they stay as you did with Marguerite.”

“Oh,” Nicole said again, unsure what else to say. She was glad to hear the lock was faulty. It was better than thinking her memory was faulty or someone else had a key to the house. But she wasn’t sure how she felt about Jake just having someone come in and change her locks without at least asking her about it.

“I told you he was a marvelous cook/housekeeper,” Marguerite said beaming. “Just like Maria, he’ll take care of what needs taking care of, relieving you of the burden. Your life is going to be so much simpler with him here.”

Nicole felt herself relax under those words. She’d never had a cook/housekeeper before and had no idea what all they were expected to do, but if Marguerite thought this was normal . . . well, great. She guessed.

The coffeepot beeped then, announcing it was ready, and Nicole slid the keys into her pocket and quickly moved over to pour three cups. Jake was immediately there to take two of them and carry them to the island where Marguerite had settled on one of the four bar chairs that wrapped around the end and up one side. Nicole followed with the third cup, and climbed awkwardly onto the seat beside Marguerite, a little kerfluffled by his gentlemanly behavior when Jake pulled out the chair.

“Well, this is nice,” Marguerite decided as they sipped their coffee.

Nicole nodded, but she was searching her mind for how she should proceed here. Jake had already taken on the responsibility of the door as if his working here was a certainty, and Marguerite was acting the same, but she really felt like she should ask at least a couple questions of the man who would be given a key to her home. In fact, that was why the keys presently rested in her pocket. The coffee being ready had given her an excuse for putting off the distribution of the keys, but the truth was, she was leery of doing so with a complete stranger.

“I know I mentioned to you both about a two-week trial run with Jake working here,” Marguerite said suddenly, and then turned her gaze on Nicole and added, “But I’m sure you’d like to know more about Jake, dear, since the man will be living in your house.”

“Uh . . .” Nicole grimaced. She hadn’t realized that he would be living here, but supposed that was often the case with housekeepers. Aunt Maria and her husband lived in a guesthouse on Marguerite’s property, but Nicole didn’t have a guesthouse. She supposed he’d have to take the room downstairs. It would at least give him a little privacy . . . and herself. Geez, she hadn’t thought this out at all. She’d simply mentioned that she needed a cook/housekeeper to tend things while she worked and the next thing she knew—her gaze slid to Jake—she had one, thanks to her fairy godmother, Marguerite.

“Yes, I suppose I would like to know more about Jake,” she admitted finally.

“Right.” Marguerite smiled, unperturbed. “Well, first off, Ste—” She paused and grimaced, shook her head, and tried again. “First off, Jake is family.”

“Is he?” Nicole asked with surprise.

Marguerite nodded. “His mother is married to my Julius’s brother-in-law, Roberto. So he’s my step-nephew, although I just think of him as a nephew.”

“Oh.” Nicole watched as Jake calmly sipped his coffee, seeming to ignore the recitation.

“He used to be vice president of V.A. Inc., a large corporation with its home base in California.”

“Vice president?” Nicole asked with a start. Jake didn’t look more than twenty-five, which seemed kind of young for such a responsible position to her, but Marguerite nodded again.

“I know he looks young, but he’s very responsible,” Marguerite assured her. “And he was very good at his job, but a health scare seven years ago made him decide to pursue a more relaxing career, and he’s always loved to cook, so . . .” She shrugged. “Here he is.”

Nicole stared from Marguerite to Jake. That was it? He was related, used to be V.P. of some big business, had a health scare, and now was happy to be her cook/housekeeper for a pittance of what he must have made as a V.P.? She noted the way Marguerite was scowling at Jake and wondered what that was about. She didn’t have long to wonder. Marguerite suddenly blew out her breath with exasperation.

“Look at her expression, Jake. I told you it would sound dubious, but you insisted on the truth,” the woman complained, as if to say “and look where that has got us. She doesn’t believe a word of it.”

“The truth is always the best way to go,” Jake responded with a shrug of unconcern, and that was when Nicole decided she knew enough. It wasn’t that she didn’t still have a lot of questions, but after all the lies Rodolfo had told her, the one most important thing to her now was honesty and Jake was apparently an honest man. There were few enough of those in the world. But Nicole wanted an honest person, man or woman, for the position. She was trusting him in her home, her sanctuary. Honesty was the most important thing to her. Later she could find out all the other things she was curious about like what the man had done these last three years. Had he been a cook/housekeeper that whole time? Did he really enjoy puttering around the house, cooking, and cleaning for others? Did he not miss the power and excitement inherent in a position like vice president? And why had he moved here to Ottawa when he’d left the job in California?

There were loads of questions Nicole could ask. However, she would learn those answers later if necessary. Right now, she knew enough about the man to go forward with the two-week trial. If he worked out, Nicole could ask her questions. If not . . . then she supposed the answers to those questions didn’t really matter.

“Okay, here’s your key,” she said, digging out two of the three keys she’d shoved in her pocket. She handed Jake one and then turned to Marguerite.

“No need to give me one again,” Marguerite said, waving away the key Nicole offered her. “I don’t need it. I won’t be leaving again until I head home tomorrow and you guys will see me out then.”

“Are you sure?” Nicole asked, and when the woman nodded, she slid it back into her pocket with a shrug.

“Well, this was lovely, but I find I’m a little weary tonight. I think I’ll take my coffee with me and go read in bed for a bit before I sleep,” Marguerite announced, slipping off her seat before smiling at Nicole and adding, “That way I won’t have to feel guilty for keeping you from your work.”

Nicole had started to get anxious at Marguerite’s first words, but the last comment made her relax. She wasn’t being abandoned to entertain Jake alone. He was an employee. She could go to work and leave him to settle in and enjoy a free night before he started work in the morning.

“Yes, I suppose I should get back to work,” Nicole said with relief, standing herself. “What time is your flight tomorrow, Marguerite?”

“Two thirty. I’ll be leaving here at noon to be sure I get through security with plenty of time, so give me a hug now, my dear, in case you’re still sleeping when I go.”

Nicole moved to give her a hug, but said, “I’ll make sure to set my alarm so I’m up to have coffee with you before you go. But thank you for everything, Marguerite. It’s always a pleasure to see you.”

“It’s always a pleasure for me too,” Marguerite assured her, hugging her tightly. “And you’re more than welcome.”

Nicole smiled and stepped back when she released her, then watched her leave the room before turning to Jake. “I guess you don’t need a tour?”

“No.” He smiled faintly. “I pretty much know my way around after the two searches of the house. I’ll just get my bag from the car and settle myself in. I’ll probably read for a bit myself tonight.”

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