As she descended the stairs to fetch a glass of water, she noticed the television was off. She could hear Fidelia's slightly accented voice. "The reversed Hermit card could mean you are suffering from a deep loneliness."
That didn't sound like Emma. Heather stopped at the entrance of the living room. Her mouth fell open. It wasn't Emma.
Jean-Luc stood. His slender foil was propped against the wingback chair. His blue eyes glimmered as he checked out her pajamas. "I stopped by to see you. Emma let me in."
She'd been tricked. Heather gritted her teeth. She should have known Emma was in league with this guy. "Where is Emma?"
"She's upstairs, guarding Bethany." Fidelia winked at Heather. "This young man says it is his sworn duty to guard you. He's muy macho, no?"
Jean-Luc bowed. "I am at your service."
Heather bit back an angry retort. The man refused to take no for an answer. Back to flaw number one: stubborn as a mule. And the way Jean-Luc Echarpe bowed - it seemed old-fashioned. Extremely old-fashioned.
She had to wonder just how old a mule could get.
She was beautiful even when she was angry. Jean-Luc admired the glittering green fire in Heather's eyes. And the way that silk top clung to her br**sts wasn't bad, either. She glared at him as she planted her hands on her hips. The movement caused her br**sts to jiggle ever so slightly. No bra. He'd always had a good eye for detail.
"Jean-Luc," she muttered. "I wasn't expecting you."
"Please call me Jean." It would be so easy to slip his hands underneath her top and fill his palms with the sweet, soft heaviness of her br**sts. He lifted his gaze to her face and noticed her reddening cheeks. He caught the scent of her blood as it rushed to her face, engorging the delicate veins beneath her skin. Type AB.
Hunger coiled in his belly and sent flickers of desire throughout his body. Luckily he had some bottles of synthetic blood stashed in a cooler outside in his car. That would take care of his physical need, but he was slowly becoming aware of a different hunger, a hunger brought on by years of abstinence. He missed making love, but it went deeper than that. He missed the satisfaction, the peaceful contentment of feeling emotionally connected to a loving woman. Because of Lui, that joy had long been impossible.
Heather folded her arms across her chest, which only pulled the sleek material tighter against her br**sts. "Don't tell me you're planning to spend the night here."
"I must. It is my duty and honor to protect you."
"That is so romantic," Fidelia said from her seat on the couch. She shifted her square body sideways so she could see Heather at the doorway. "Don't you think so?"
"No." Heather frowned at her. "It's not romantic if he's forcing himself on me."
"Chica, it's not like he's trying to seduce you. He just wants to protect you." Fidelia's eyes twinkled as she glanced at Jean-Luc. "At least that's what he says."
Seduce her? Jean-Luc had avoided mortal women since Claudine's murder in 1832. His sense of honor had demanded that he not expose another innocent female to Lui's twisted vengeance. But Lui already believed he was involved with Heather. The most pressing reason to resist her was gone. That realization sent a jolt of desire straight from his heart to his groin. Seduce her. You know you want her.
But why would she welcome any advances from him? Her life and her daughter's life were in jeopardy because of him. She was more likely to slap him than succumb to passionate kisses.
He took a deep breath. "I assure you, mes dames, that my intentions are honorable."
Heather snorted and gave him a dubious look.
Did she question his honor? Merde. But she was correct, given the direction his thoughts were going.
"From what Emma told me, I could be in danger, too." Fidelia's brown eyes glimmered with mischief. "Where's my bodyguard? Do you have like a...catalog?"
Jean-Luc blinked. "I can protect you both, but if you prefer a guard of your own, I could call Robby - "
"Roberto?" Fidelia fluffed up her long, straggly black hair. Unfortunately, two inches of gray showed at the roots. "Is he muy macho like you?"
"I...wouldn't know." Jean-Luc retrieved his cell phone from the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket.
"He's a Scotsman in a kilt," Heather muttered. "He's got a bigger sword than Jean."
What the hell did that mean? Jean-Luc paused in the middle of dialing to meet her challenging glare. "A claymore is naturally larger than a foil, mademoiselle, but its very weight causes the swordsman to be more slow."
She gave him a bland look. "Slow's good. I like slow."
He stepped toward her. "Finesse is better. And do not forget experience and perfect timing. I am a champion, you know."
"Right." She yawned. "But you know how it is. Only those who are lacking claim that size is not important."
He gritted his teeth. "I lack nothing, mademoiselle. I will gladly prove myself. As slowly as you like."
Fidelia burst into laughter. "Ooh wee, if only I was twenty years younger. Well, make that thirty, but anyway, I'm not into swords or men in skirts. I've got all the men I can handle."
Jean-Luc dragged his eyes off Heather to focus on the babysitter. "You do not want Robby?"
"Hell, no, I was just foolin' with you." Fidelia hefted her large purse into her lap and fumbled inside. "What would I do with a Scotsman when I have this nice German muchacho, Mr. Glock." She removed a revolver, patted it fondly, and set it on the cushion beside her.
She pulled out another one. "Then there's Mr. Makarov from Russia with love." She set the pistol next to the first one. "And my Italian honey, Mr. Beretta."
While Jean-Luc slipped his cell phone back into his pocket, he noticed there were trigger locks on all her pistols. "How many guns do you have?"
"One for every husband I went through. At least these honeys don't shoot blanks." Laughing, Fidelia stuffed the pistols back into her purse. "My favorite, Mr. Magnum, is upstairs in my bedroom. Too heavy for my purse." She winked. "But talk about size - "
"Fidelia, I need something from the kitchen." Heather motioned with her head toward the back of the house.
"Then go get it." Fidelia's eyes widened when Heather angled her head once more to the kitchen. "Oh, right. Let me help you." She stood, cradling her purse against her large bosom. "We'll be right back, Juan. Don't go."
"Of course." He bowed slightly as Heather strode down the hallway.
Fidelia waddled after her, her long skirt swishing. She glanced back with an amused smirk. "I'm sure she's just lost something. Like her senses."
Jean-Luc eased toward the foyer to watch them, and once the kitchen door stopped swinging in their wake, he zoomed at vampire speed out the front door to his BMW.
He removed a bottle of synthetic blood from the cooler and chugged it down. He hated cold meals, but in his case, it was the best thing. Filling himself with cold blood was the vampire equivalent of taking a cold shower. Just what he needed, for he was hungry for more than food.
He surveyed Heather's two-story, wood-framed house. Blue with white trim. So warm and appealing. So different from his stone chateau north of Paris. It was flawless and formal, chilly like a mausoleum. This house was full of vibrant people, and looked so...lived in. His eye for detail had noted all the signs. A pair of small, wet sneakers left on the porch. A half-crocheted afghan spilling from a basket next to the fireplace. Seat cushions on the couch that remained permanently indented. A cross-stitched sampler on the wall, beseeching God to bless their house. Exuberant artwork, obviously drawn by Heather's daughter, displayed on the mantelpiece with pride.
It was a real home. A real family. Like he had never had. Merde. You would think in five hundred years, he would have gotten over it. One thing was for sure, he couldn't let Lui destroy this family. The battle would be difficult, though, because he didn't know when or where Lui would strike next.
Jean-Luc's most dreaded fear, the feeling of powerlessness, lurked in the shadows, waiting for a moment of weakness. He would not succumb. For Heather's sake, he had to protect her and vanquish Lui.
He scanned the yard and street before zipping back into the house. He quietly shut the front door. With his superior vamp senses, he heard Fidelia's whispered voice.