Angus slipped inside and nodded at her. "Good evening, lass. How is everything here?"
Heather shrugged. "Okay, I guess. I didn't expect Jean-Luc to show up."
Angus frowned. "He had no choice. 'Tis a matter of honor." His face brightened when his wife skipped merrily down the stairs. "There ye are."
Emma grinned and walked straight into his arms. "Miss me already?"
"Aye." Angus hugged her tight.
Jean-Luc groaned inwardly. Angus was so easily distracted these days. "Is there any news to report?"
"Nay." Angus rested his chin against Emma's brow. "Robby and I looked all over town. There's no sign of Lui."
Frustration gnawed at Jean-Luc. He desperately wanted to hunt for Lui, but he couldn't ignore his duty to guard Heather. "We need more men."
"I'm going to New York to arrange for more guards," Angus assured him.
Jean-Luc nodded. Roman and Gregori had already teleported back to New York, taking Shanna and the baby with them.
Angus turned to Heather. "We'll bring someone here to help you during the day, too."
Her eyes widened. "Is all this really necessary?"
"Yes," Jean-Luc answered at the same time Angus said, "Aye."
Angus opened the door. "I'd like a moment alone with my wife before I go. Good night." He led Emma onto the front porch.
She glanced back at Heather, smiling. "I'll be back in just a moment." The front door shut.
There was an awkward pause while the others waited in the foyer, then some sounds drifted through the closed door - a squeal from Emma, followed by masculine chuckling and feminine giggling.
Jean-Luc sighed. "Newlyweds."
Heather nodded. "That much cheerfulness can really get annoying."
"Oui." Jean-Luc crossed his arms. "Especially when it is not possible for the rest of us."
Fidelia snorted. "You two are so depressing, you're driving me to drink." She headed for the kitchen. "Anyone else want a beer?"
"No thanks." Heather watched the kitchen door swing, then slanted a curious glance toward Jean-Luc. "You sound almost...envious of Angus and Emma."
"What man would not wish to be loved with a passion as great as theirs?"
"Some might find that kind of passion too confining."
"Only if love was used to imprison them." Jean-Luc watched her closely. "Is that what happened to you?"
She shrugged and looked away, but he could sense that was a yes.
He stepped toward her. "I think love should make you feel more powerful and strong, more free and capable of achieving whatever you desire."
Her gaze met his. "A love like that is very rare."
"Do you have that kind of love with your daughter?"
Her eyes widened, then glimmered with moisture. "Yes. I do."
"Then it is possible for you."
She bit her bottom lip. "Why do you think it's not possible for you?"
"I never wanted to expose a woman to Lui's deadly vengeance." Even with Lui gone, there would still be the problem of his being undead. But Roman and Angus had worked around that problem. Maybe he could, too. "It would be difficult to find a woman who could love me as I am."
Heather's mouth quirked. "Are you that hard to get along with? Let me guess. You snore like a buffalo stampede."
"No. I'm actually rather quiet in my sleep."
"You don't stay up all night polishing your fencing trophies?"
He grinned. "No."
She spread her hands in exasperation. "I give up. I can't tell what's wrong with you."
He stepped closer. "Then you are ready to admit that you like me."
Her cheeks blossomed a pretty pink, and the sweet scent of Type AB blood wafted toward him. She lifted her chin. "You're awfully sure of yourself."
He smiled slowly. "An unfortunate by-product of my arrogance."
Her mouth curled with a reluctant smile. "I'm having trouble disliking you."
"Give it time. You'll come around."
She laughed, and the happy sound filled his heart with warm joy. He hadn't enjoyed a woman's company this much in years. Hundreds of years. He realized with a jolt that Heather was a rare woman. Her quick mind was a delightful challenge. Not only was she beautiful and intelligent, but she possessed a courageous and caring heart. She'd come to his rescue tonight when she hardly knew him. And even though he owed her, she refused to take advantage. There was an old-fashioned nobility about her that touched his soul.
The phone rang, and she jumped.
"Good Lord, who would call this late? It's just after midnight." She dashed into the living room and grabbed the phone from the small table next to the wingback chair. "Hello?"
With his superior senses, Jean-Luc could hear an angry masculine voice on the phone. He hovered by the room's entrance, close enough that he could eavesdrop, but far enough away to look like he wasn't.
Heather's shoulders tensed. "Do you know what time it is?"
"Yeah, it's real late for you to have a boyfriend over," the masculine voice sneered. "Why don't you wait till the weekend when I have Bethany? I don't want her exposed to the lowlifes you sleep with."
Jean-Luc sucked in a deep breath. This had to be Heather's ex-husband.
"I have several out-of-town guests spending the night," Heather gritted out. "And it's none of your damned business." She slammed the phone down. "God, I hate Thelma."
"Who is she?" Jean-Luc asked.
"My next-door neighbor. She's best friends with Cody's mother, and she spies on me. She calls Cody's mother, who calls Cody - "
"And he calls you," Jean-Luc finished the sentence. He wished this Cody would show up in person. The bastard needed to learn how to respect women.
"I'd better check on Bethany." Heather rushed from the room. "The phone might have woken her up." She jogged up the stairs.
Jean-Luc moved to the base of the stairs so he could admire her swaying hips.
Fidelia swooshed through the kitchen door with a beer bottle in her hand. "Enjoying the view?" She chuckled as she headed for the stairs. "Ay, caramba, but you are muy macho. I am glad you are here, Juan."
"It is my pleasure." He wondered if the older woman had been eavesdropping. Probably.
"Good night." Fidelia started up the stairs.
She must have forgotten about the tarot card left from her reading. "Good night." Jean-Luc wandered back into the living room.
The last card remained facedown on the coffee table. Supposedly this was the card that foretold the outcome of their dilemma. He reached down and flipped it over.
He jerked his hand away as if it'd been burned with silver. A skeleton rode a horse.
"Come on, sweetie. There are some people I want you to meet." Heather led her daughter down the staircase.
Bethany had been half awake when Heather had checked on her, and she'd thought it best to introduce the four-year-old to their new bodyguards. The last thing she wanted was for her daughter to be frightened if she woke up and found a stranger in her room.
Bethany held tight to her mother's hand, taking each step one at a time.
Heather reached the foot of the stairs and turned to face her daughter. "Sweetie, we have two people visiting us. I want you to meet Emma 'cause she'll be staying in your bedroom tonight."
"Why?" Bethany scratched at her pink pajamas.
"Just to make sure you're safe. Sorta like your own personal guardian angel."
"Oh." Bethany blinked. "Does she have wings?"
"No, but she's as pretty as an angel." Heather led her daughter to the living room and spotted Jean-Luc at the coffee table. He stepped back and stood stiffly by the wingback chair.
Heather narrowed her eyes. She'd detected a hint of guilt in his expression before it had gone blank. What had he been up to? She glanced at the coffee table. The tarot cards had been gathered together into a neat stack.
She wondered what the seventh card had been. Had Jean-Luc seen it? She dragged her gaze from the stack of cards back to him and realized he was staring curiously at her and her daughter. "I brought Bethany to meet you."
"She looks so much like you."
"Yeah. It's called genetics." Heather got the impression he wasn't around children very much. "Sweetie, this is Mr. Echarpe."