The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 15

His gaze lowered to her mouth and became more heated. Her throat went dry. The light, airy feeling grew more dense, more electric. More heavy with desire.

With a jolt, she realized he meant to kiss her. A flood of emotions swept through her as her heart raced. She was flattered. Excited. Tempted. Terrified.

She jumped to her feet. "Time for bed. I mean - " Her cheeks blazed with heat. "Time for me to say good night." She eased past him and the coffee table.

He stood. "As you wish."

"Good night, Jean-Luc."


Whatever. She hurried into the foyer. She much preferred the name Jean-Luc. It made him sound like a starship captain, but young. And with hair. "If you need anything from the kitchen, just help yourself."

"I'll be fine." He followed her. "Emma and I will be leaving shortly before dawn. I'm afraid you'll be on your own during the day until Angus can send a bodyguard."

"We'll be fine." She headed up the stairs.

"I'll return tomorrow evening right after sunset."

Her heart skipped. Saturday night with a gorgeous man. "Okay."

"Heather, a moment please."

She paused with her hand on the banister. "Yes?"

"You mentioned how Fidelia found that missing boy. If she could help us locate Lui, that would be a tremendous help."

"Oh. That's a good idea. It would be easier if she could handle something that belongs to Louie."

Jean-Luc's eyes lit up. "We have his sword and the cane he used as a sheath. I'll bring them tomorrow night."

"Okay." She paused, not knowing what to say. "Good night." She ran up the stairs.

"Sleep well, Heather." His whispered words followed her up, reaching her like a soft caress.

She slipped into her room, her heart still pounding. Emma had asked her to leave the door ajar, but she closed it firmly. She needed a barrier between her and Jean-Luc. He was too attractive, too appealing, and too damned mysterious. She knew next to nothing about him, except that he seemed too good to be true. He'd learned a whole lot about her tonight. And still, he had wanted to kiss her.

She should have let him, an inner voice scolded. She shouldn't have chickened out. Wasn't she at war with fear? But she had to be careful. Where men were concerned, she'd made some bad mistakes. But hadn't she learned from them?

Tomorrow night he'd come again. She'd have another chance to get to know him. And maybe, just maybe, tomorrow night she'd let him kiss her.

Chapter 7

The next night, Jean-Luc sped toward the town of Schnitzelberg with an ice chest filled with bottled synthetic blood strapped into the passenger seat of his black BMW. The sun had set ten minutes ago. He gulped blood from a bottle of Type AB positive, still cold since he'd been in too big of a hurry to warm it up.

The problem was, if he was awake, so was Lui. And if Lui had discovered who Heather was and where she lived, he could already be there. Jean-Luc had wanted to teleport to her house immediately after awakening, but Emma had convinced him he needed to arrive like a normal mortal.

Heather should be all right, he reassured himself as he turned off the highway and entered the town. Emma had teleported to her backyard five minutes ago. She would have alerted him telepathically if something was wrong.

Still, he hated not being there. He hated that Heather and her daughter had been dragged into his feud with Lui. If anything happened to could he endure the guilt of more innocent mortals dying?

Heather's story last night had made him take a hard look at himself. He now realized what lay hidden beneath his guilt and anger. Fear.

He'd risen far from his humble beginnings as an orphaned stable boy. He was a knight by the time Roman transformed him in 1513. He'd become a musketeer, owner of the most prestigious fencing academy in Paris, a lieutenant-colonel in the Vamp army, and now he was coven master of Western Europe, in addition to being a designer and successful businessman. He'd poured all his energy into outward success in an effort to be the master of his own destiny. But beneath it all, the same old torment continued to plague him. The fear of being powerless.

As a lowly stable boy, he'd been powerless to the whims and political machinations of the masters over him. He'd sworn never to be a pawn again. And he'd succeeded until Lui came into his life in 1757.

He should have let Louis XV die that year. But no, Jean-Luc had done his duty as a royal bodyguard, and he'd stopped the mortal assassin Damiens.

The mortal had only been a pawn. Lui enjoyed using mind control to make mortals do his dirty work. He'd succeeded twice before, using mortal scapegoats to kill two kings - Henri III in 1589 and Henri IV in 1610.

Jean-Luc had foiled Lui's third royal assassination. The next night, he'd received a note. Because of you, the king lives. Because of me, your queen dies. There'd been no signature on the note, but the paper had been folded and sealed with a dollop of wax, imprinted with the letter L.

Two nights later, he'd found the mutilated body of his mistress, Yvonne. In addition to knife wounds and fang marks, he'd found the letter L burned into her flesh.

He had declared war against the enemy he dubbed Lui. After twenty years of evading capture, Lui had disappeared. Jean-Luc had hoped the bastard was dead. Then in 1832, he'd discovered his mistress, Claudine, murdered, with the letter L burned into the flesh over her heart.

Jean-Luc had decided the only honorable course of action was to avoid another relationship. But Heather's talk had made him realize the truth. His honor had masked the fear that if he entered into another relationship, he would be powerless to save the woman's life. He wasn't living an honorable life. He was living with fear.

That revelation caused him shame. And anger. Dammit to hell, if he wanted a relationship with Heather, he would take it. He would put an end to Lui's torture and kill the bastard once and for all.

Jean-Luc pulled into her driveway. As he exited the car, Emma emerged from the shadow of a large oak tree. She was sipping from a bottle of cold blood, her bag of stakes slung over her shoulder. She'd kept her presence a secret, so it would appear that they had arrived together.

"They're fine," she reported quietly. "I heard their voices inside. Calm and happy. And the perimeter's clear."

"Good." He exhaled with relief, then took Emma's empty bottle and set it inside his car. From the backseat, he retrieved Lui's sword and cane, along with his own sword. He locked the car and headed for the front porch.

"You're hoping Fidelia can locate Lui?" Emma asked.

"Yes." He noted the small pair of roller skates next to the front door and the paperback book resting on the seat cushion of the porch swing. Life had continued here during the day, and he'd missed it.

"I'm psychic, too," Emma whispered. "More so than the usual Vamp. I've been listening for any sign of vampire telepathy in the area, but so far, it's been quiet."

Jean-Luc sighed as he rang the doorbell. "Lui is very good at staying hidden. God knows I have tried for centuries to find him." And always failed.

His depressing thoughts vanished when the door swung open and Heather stood there, smiling. She was wearing a turquoise sundress and matching sandals. The twinkle in her eyes and her glowing complexion ignited a spark of desire in Jean-Luc. She seemed genuinely happy to see him.

"Come on in." She stepped back. "We have some lasagna left over from supper, if you're interested."

"That's very kind, but we've already eaten." He hoped he didn't have blood breath. He shut and locked the door.

The little girl, Bethany, sidled up close to her new friend. "Hi, Emma." She glanced shyly at Jean-Luc. "Hi."

He bowed slightly. "Good evening, Bethany."

"Hello, love." Emma knelt to give the little girl a hug. "Did you have a good day?"

"Yes." Bethany leaned close and whispered loudly, "My mommy wanted to look pretty for Mr. Sharp."

"Bethany!" Heather's face turned pink. "Why don't you take Emma upstairs and show her...something."

"Like my new book?" Bethany asked brightly.

"Yes. Please." Heather glared at Fidelia, who was standing by the staircase chuckling.

Jean-Luc felt like laughing, too, but he managed to stay quiet.

"Let's go." Emma led the little girl toward the stairs. She glanced back at him, her eyes sparkling with mirth.

"I see you've brought Louie's sword and cane," Heather hurriedly changed the subject. "Fidelia's ready to help us locate him." She motioned toward the living room.