One Lucky Vampire Page 8

Chapter Four

Nicole groaned when the alarm went off and rolled over to slap at it unhappily until it shut off. Her eyes then drifted closed on a little sigh, only to pop open again as she recalled that she’d set it for a reason. What had that been? Oh, right, she’d promised to see Marguerite off, Nicole recalled, snuggling sleepily into her pillow and wondering if it was really necessary.

Painting had gone amazingly well last night and she’d worked until nearly 7 A.M. Nicole hadn’t realized that would happen when she’d made that promise last night. Maybe she could just go back to sleep.

The woman was her aunt’s boss, Nicole reminded herself and considered that fact, but really, just because she was Aunt Maria’s boss didn’t mean Nicole had to get up to see her off, did it?

On the other hand, her mind argued, Marguerite was also kind of her boss too. At least she was a client. Although, surely the lady would be glad to know Nicole had worked so hard and would want her to get her sleep so that she could work that hard again tonight, right?

Except that she was also a really nice woman, who had always been kind to Nicole and who had even gone to all the trouble of finding her a hunky cook/housekeeper when Nicole mentioned she needed one.

Her eyes popped open again at that point and Nicole was suddenly rolling out of bed. Though, truth be told it was the thought of her hunky cook/housekeeper that had her suddenly wide awake and eager to head out to the kitchen rather than any sense of responsibility for seeing off her houseguest, which she should be ashamed of and would be . . . later, Nicole promised herself. Marguerite was a lovely woman, and Nicole had been raised to always be kind and polite. Seeing the woman off was what a good hostess would do, and Nicole would feel guilty for even hesitating over the matter. Later . . . when she’d had more sleep. For now, she wanted a shower, some coffee, and to see if her housekeeper was still here.

Her shower was a fast one. Nicole followed it up with brushing her hair, pulling it back into a ponytail, and then sitting down at her makeup table to put on some face powder and blush. That was something she rarely did first thing in the morning. She usually had her coffee before doing anything the least little bit ambitious. Nicole was not a morning person.

She headed into her walk-in closet next, stopping short at the door as she recalled the glass on the floor and the painful efforts Marguerite had made to get the glass out of her foot last night. However, one glance showed that the glass was gone.

Nicole stared at the spot for one perplexed moment, slow to conclude that someone had gone to the trouble of cleaning it up last night while she was painting. The fact that it took any time at all for her to realize that was pretty pitiful considering that was the only explanation, but then she really wasn’t at her best in the morning . . . especially after only four hours of sleep.

Sighing at how distressingly slow her brain was in the mornings, Nicole pulled out jeans and a T-shirt and began to struggle into them as she considered who might have done the job. There were only two options: Marguerite and Jake. She couldn’t imagine Marguerite doing it after bringing home a cook/housekeeper for her. On the other hand, Jake shouldn’t have started work until this morning. But one of them must have taken care of it.

Nicole had her clothes on and was heading out of the closet before she realized that she’d forgotten to don panties and a bra. She swung back toward the closet, grimacing at what a pain it was going to be to tug the jeans off, and just as quickly swung away, only to swing back. She might be able to do without panties, but going braless was not an option. She was full figured everywhere.

Muttering under her breath, she moved to her underwear drawer, dragged out a bra, pulled off her T-shirt and quickly donned the torturous contraption that squeezed her breasts in and up. At least it seemed torturous this morning, but then she was exhausted and so not a morning person, something that kept ringing through her head. To her mind, vampires had the right idea. The world was quiet at night. No one called at 2 A.M., or dropped in for coffee and a chat then. She could and did work undisturbed during the wee hours. It was bliss.

Once she had the bra on, and had replaced the T-shirt, Nicole made her way out of her room. She was crossing the combined living room/dining room, headed for the kitchen, when the upstairs guest bedroom door opened. Her head swung toward it, a smile of greeting claiming her lips for Marguerite. But it faded, replaced by surprise when she saw Jake coming out of the room.

“Morning,” he said before ducking into the washroom.

“Morning,” Nicole murmured, but doubted he’d heard it. He was already closing the bathroom door. Frowning slightly now, she continued on into the kitchen, eyes widening in surprise when she saw Marguerite seated at the island, perusing the paper. The woman beamed a smile when she spotted Nicole.

“Oh, good morning, dear,” Marguerite greeted. “You’re just in time, Jake made coffee and a lovely brunch for us. It’s in the oven staying warm, but he’ll be back in a minute and probably serve it right up. He just ducked into his room to change his shirt. I bumped into him as he was whipping the eggs and some of it slopped on him.”

“His room?” Nicole said uncertainly. “He was coming out of your room when I—”

“Oh,” Marguerite waved that away with a laugh. “I moved my things downstairs and told him to take the upper guest room. It seemed sensible for him to be on this floor since this is where he’ll be doing most of his work, and it would have been silly to make him sleep downstairs last night and then have to move all of his things upstairs today.”

“Oh, of course,” Nicole said slowly and turned to find a cup and pour herself a coffee. She was in desperate need of one now as she considered that the man had slept a wall away last night . . . close enough to hear her snore. Well, if she did snore. Or what if she talked or mumbled in her sleep? Or tossed and turned a lot? How much could he hear through the wall?

“I hope you like omelets.”

Nicole gave a start at that question in a deep male voice. Jake had returned. She offered him a weak smile as he pulled on oven mitts and moved to the stove.

“I had to work with what was available, so I made toast, and an omelet with sausage, onion, potatoes and cheese in it. But if you don’t like eggs or something I can make you French toast, or pancakes or—”

“No, the omelet is fine,” Nicole interrupted, her mouth watering when he opened the oven door and a lovely scent rolled out on a wave of heat to tempt her nose. “It smells lovely.”

“Doesn’t it?” Marguerite agreed cheerfully. “I did tell you he was wonderful.”

“Yes, you did,” Nicole said faintly, following Jake to the kitchen table in the corner. Really she was following the two plates of omelet, not Jake; he just happened to be carrying them.

Her gaze slid over the table, noting the tablecloth, which she rarely bothered with, and the place mats with perfect place settings. Jake had even set out salt and pepper, ketchup, and A.1. sauce, and milk and sugar . . . which reminded her of the coffee she held in hand that still needed doctoring.

“Sit,” Jake ordered and then added, “You too, Marguerite. Dig in before it gets cold and I’ll grab mine and the toast.”

Nicole sat at the table and quickly added cream and sugar to her coffee, but her gaze was on the omelet. She was not good at making omelets. Hers always came out as messy scrambled eggs, but these looked perfect. Light, fluffy, and oozing with yummy stuff. She actually found herself swallowing repeatedly as saliva built up in her mouth and was glad to be done with the coffee business so that she could try the omelet.

Fortunately, Jake returned to the table just as she set her coffee aside to take up her fork and knife. Nicole had been raised that it was only polite not to eat until the cook had finished and joined the table. The cook being her mom when she was taught this notwithstanding, Nicole would have felt terribly guilty for digging in before Jake was seated. But she would have done it. Now it wasn’t an issue.

“Mmmm,” Nicole murmured, once she’d popped the first bite into her mouth. It really was good. If the man made omelets for her every morning she’d be happy to get up to eat them, morning person or not. And if all of his cooking was this good, the man deserved a raise, she thought, which reminded her that they hadn’t discussed his wages yet. Or anything. She supposed they’d have to sit down and hammer things out after Marguerite left. What pay he expected, what his job description included, and what he expected from her too, because, seriously, he was already looking too good to be true. Nicole didn’t want the trial two-week period to end with her wanting him and his culinary skills to stay, and him unhappy with her as a boss and wanting to leave.

“I realized last night after I went to bed that I forgot to tell you what arrangement I’d come to with Jake for you,” Marguerite said suddenly.

Nicole swallowed and lifted her head, curious to hear this.

“Jake has agreed to the standard rate for the two-week trial,” Marguerite announced.

Nicole tilted her head. She had no clue what that meant. Was there a standard rate for cook/housekeepers? She’d have thought it varied with different employers and their expectations.

“We also worked out what tasks he’s willing to take on. But you can worry about that after we eat. I wrote it all up and left it on the dresser in my room. You can look it over and talk to Jake about it later,” Marguerite added.

“Oh. Okay.” Nicole nodded and began to eat again, but her mind was now on the paper in Marguerite’s room and she was curious to read it. She was also curious about the glass in her walk-in closet, and said, “Thank you for cleaning up the glass in my walk-in closet. It was a nice surprise.”

She had no idea who she was thanking, so Nicole addressed the comment to her omelet as she cut the next piece.

“You’re welcome,” Jake answered.

Relaxing, Nicole smiled at him. “I really appreciate it. Especially since you didn’t officially start until today.”

Jake shrugged. “It was no trouble.”

They all fell silent, their attention on their food after that, until Marguerite suddenly popped up off her chair. “My ride’s here.”

“Oh.” Nicole glanced out the window to see a town car pulling into the driveway and stood up. “What about the rental car you had yesterday?”

“I dropped it off last night before returning with Jake,” Marguerite said breezily as she headed out of the room. “He followed me and brought me back here. It just seemed easier than fussing today.”

“Well, you didn’t have to do that. Jake or I could have driven you to the airport today,” Nicole said, scraping up her last bite of omelet and popping it in her mouth before chasing after Marguerite with Jake on her heels.

“Don’t be silly. I knew you’d both be working today.” Marguerite collected her purse off the dining-room table on her way to the stairs. “This is easier all the way around.”

Still chewing and swallowing, Nicole merely grunted as she followed her downstairs. She pulled up short though when they reached the entry and Marguerite suddenly paused and turned back. In the next moment, Nicole was enveloped in expensive perfume that smelled really, really good as Marguerite hugged her.

“Thank you, Nicole. You are a dear. I’ve always thought so. You and Pierina are both sweeties. I appreciate your putting me up last night so I didn’t have to fly right back. And thank you for setting right to work on the portrait, but I really wish you’d give yourself a break. We don’t mind waiting and I worry about you.”

“Nothing to worry about,” Nicole said, hugging her back. “Once I get these three portraits finished I can slow down a little. Besides, with Jake here, life should be much easier. Thank you, for that,” she added, giving her an extra squeeze. “I was worried about having a stranger in my home. This way, with Jake being family to you, I feel much better.”

“Jake is a wonder. He’ll take care of everything. It will all work out,” Marguerite assured her and Nicole nodded, though she got the feeling Marguerite was referring to more than just her kitchen and home. There was no time to question her on it though, because the doorbell rang then and Marguerite released her.

Leaving Marguerite to say good-bye to Jake, Nicole stepped around her to open the door and smiled in greeting at the suited man waiting patiently on the step.

“Hello,” he said politely, his gaze sliding past her to Marguerite and then moving to the suitcase next to the door. “Is that going?”

“Oh, yes,” Nicole said recognizing Marguerite’s small case on wheels. The woman must have set it by the door before coming upstairs, she realized and grabbed it. But she’d barely slid it a foot closer to the door before the driver stepped in and took it.

Prev Next