"Why not let him protect you? What do you have against him?"
There was a pause. He silently locked the door.
"There's something odd about him," Heather finally said. "You can see the obvious flaws, but there's something else I can't quite figure out."
"What obvious flaws?" Fidelia asked.
Exactly. What obvious flaws? Jean-Luc eased down the foyer, frowning.
"He's too good-looking," Heather announced.
"And arrogant," she continued, and his smile faded. "I swear, if I have to hear about his championship one more time, I'll take that sword of his and make him a champion blue ribbon steer."
"Don't be silly," Fidelia hissed. "If you mess with a man's equipment, then what good is he for?"
"I've been wondering that for about four years now," Heather muttered.
Jean-Luc restrained himself from marching into the kitchen and tossing Miss Heather Westfield onto the table for some much-needed illumination.
Fidelia chuckled. "Well, if he stays here for very long, you might find out."
Damned right. Jean-Luc nodded.
"He's not staying here," Heather insisted.
Damned wrong. He scowled at the door.
Heather lowered her voice. "I want to know if you're getting any sort of strange vibes off him."
"Nothing yet. You know most of my visions come in my dreams at night."
"Then go to bed."
Fidelia laughed. "I can't guarantee I'll dream of him...but you might. I can tell you like him."
Jean-Luc tiptoed closer to the kitchen door. He needed to hear Heather's response, but instead, there was a fumbling sound.
"Are we out of triple chocolate ice cream?" Heather made a sound of exasperation as the freezer door slammed shut.
"You're in denial," Fidelia announced.
"No, I'm fully aware that I'm overweight."
"No," Fidelia countered. "You will not admit that you are attracted to Juan."
"His name is John."
He grimaced. Neither one of them pronounced it right.
"He's very handsome," Heather whispered. "But he's too domineering."
"No, no. Chica, he's nothing like your ex. You just think all men are bad right now."
"There's something weird about him I don't trust."
Fidelia made a clucking sound. "Then let's finish his reading and see what the cards reveal."
Jean-Luc dashed back into the living room and eyed the cards on the coffee table. After Fidelia had shuffled them, she'd invited him to select seven cards. Only one had been turned face up so far, that damned Hermit card. He didn't normally believe in such nonsense. He'd seen too many charlatans over the centuries. Still, hearing someone announce his loneliness had pricked his pride.
Of course he was lonely. How could he court a woman knowing that Lui would try to kill her?
"I'm not sure he's what he says he is," Heather's soft words drifted from the kitchen. "He has...secrets."
She was a perceptive woman. Jean-Luc leaned over the coffee table and flipped the next card. His heart froze.
The Lovers. It was so tempting to hope for a happy future and a glorious union with a loving woman. But how could it possibly happen with Heather? Even if she survived Lui and forgave him for endangering her, how could she accept a lover who was undead?
He heard them enter the foyer. Quickly, he grabbed the Lovers card and stuffed it back into the deck. He picked another card at random and set it facedown where the Lovers card had been. Then he sat in the wingback chair and assumed a bored expression.
"We're back!" Fidelia marched into the room, her long skirt swishing. She flopped down onto the middle dip in the couch and set her purse beside her.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Heather motioned to the kitchen with a hand that held a glass of ice water. The cubes clinked together like musical chimes.
"No thank you." Jean-Luc clenched the arms of his chair to keep from standing. He'd lived through several centuries when good manners dictated a male should stand whenever a female was standing. Such habits were hard to break, but it would be even harder to explain why he had such a habit. Heather already suspected too much.
"How about we finish your reading?" Fidelia leaned forward, propping her elbows on her knees.
Heather set her glass on a coaster close to the cards. "Do you mind if I watch?"
"No. I have nothing to hide." He was such a liar.
She gave him a suspicious look as she perched on the sofa arm. She dragged a powder-blue chenille pillow into her lap and twisted the fringe around her fingers.
"All right, the second card." Fidelia flipped it over.
Thank God he'd gotten rid of the Lovers. Whatever he'd substituted had to be an improvement.
"The Fool," Fidelia announced.
Heather chuckled, then pursed her lips when he glared at her.
"It doesn't mean you are foolish," Fidelia assured him with a smile. "It means you have a secret desire to leap into the unknown and start a new life."
"Oh." That might be true. He glanced at Heather. She hugged the pillow to her chest, her fingers lightly stroking the soft chenille.
She likes texture. She liked to touch and feel things. His groin reacted. Hopefully she enjoyed hard things as well as soft.
Fidelia turned over another card and frowned. "Oh dear. Ten of Swords."
"Is that bad?" A dumb question since Jean-Luc could see the card's depiction of a dead man on the ground with ten swords in his back.
"Desolation," Fidelia answered. "Your fate is tracking you down, and there is nothing you can do to avoid it."
"Louie," Heather whispered, and squeezed the pillow tighter.
"I won't let him harm you," Jean-Luc assured her.
Fidelia turned the fourth card. "Eight of Swords, reversed. Your past has come back to haunt you."
He shifted in his chair. This was too close for comfort.
Fidelia flipped over the fifth card. "Knight of Swords." She shook her head with a confused look.
"That's bad, too?"
"No, good. You are brave like Sir Lancelot and a defender of women." Fidelia sighed. "I just find it odd that you would select so many Sword cards. There are three other suits. The chance of picking cards from only one suit is rare."
Jean-Luc shrugged. "I am a swordsman."
"The swords stand for reason." Fidelia narrowed her eyes. "It must mean you have been concentrating on your intellect and ignoring the needs of your heart."
"I had no choice. I couldn't risk a relationship with anyone because of Lui."
"How old is Louie?" Heather whispered.
Jean-Luc stiffened, then forced himself to lounge back in the chair nonchalantly. "He is...older than I."
Heather watched him closely, her fingers digging into the soft chenille pillow. "How old would that be?"
Merde. She was on to him. How could he gain her trust if he had to keep lying? "I don't know his exact age." At least that much was true.
Fidelia revealed the sixth card. "The Moon." She gave him an odd look.
Jean-Luc swallowed. "Something to do with hunting?"
"No. It means deception." Fidelia glanced at Heather. "It could also mean something supernatural."
Heather's eyes widened.
He sat forward. "Do not be swayed by superstition. I have sworn to protect you, and I will."
"I want to believe you. I'm just not sure I can." Her eyes searched his, and he tried to pour all his concern and admiration for her into his gaze. She didn't look away. A spark of hope ignited inside him. He wanted her trust, her friendship, her respect. He wanted everything she could give him.
"Time for the last card," Fidelia announced. "This one is very important, for it signifies the outcome of our current dilemma." She reached for the card.
The doorbell rang.
Heather jumped to her feet.
Fidelia reached for her purse. "Who would come at this time of night?"
Jean-Luc strode into the foyer with the women following close behind. He heard Angus on the front porch, sending a psychic message to his wife. "It's not Lui. He would never bother to ring the bell."
Heather flipped on the porch light and peered through a pane of leaded glass in the door.
"It's all right," Jean-Luc assured her. "I think it's Angus. Allow me." He opened the door.