She jumped. Good Lord, the man could move quietly. She glared at him, suddenly resenting him for barging into her life and upsetting the delicate balance she'd worked so hard to achieve.
Then her gaze fell to what he was carrying in his arms, and all her resentment melted away. Tears threatened, for it felt like a piece of her heart had melted, too.
Without a word, he handed her the huge yellow Care Bear. She wrapped her arms around its softness, hugging it to her chest. She didn't know if he'd won it or bought it, but she did know he was the sweetest man she'd ever met.
She spotted Bethany on stage, grinning and bouncing up and down. Heather's sight blurred with tears. Jean-Luc understood how much her daughter meant to her. He understood love. He had to be one in a million, and she was seriously attracted to him.
But with her history of failed relationships, she had to be careful. And realistic. There was probably no future with Jean-Luc. As wonderful as he was, he had secrets he didn't seem willing to share. To safeguard her heart, she wouldn't allow the relationship to go any further. She'd keep her feelings to herself, enveloped like a seed package so it couldn't take root and grow.
Still, it felt good. It felt good to know there were still good men in the world. And it felt good to know her relationship with her daughter was as sweet as ever. After all the upheaval she'd endured the last few years, she'd learned the surest way to remain solid and strong was to count her blessings. So she did that now. Life was good.
She closed her eyes, rested her chin on the bear's big head, and let the sweet voices of children wash over her. For this small moment in time, all was right in the world. She would enjoy the moment while it lasted.
The song ended, and the crowd cheered.
She opened her eyes. "Thank you." She turned to Jean-Luc, but he was gone once again. Ah, well. She sighed. She'd known it couldn't last. The guy was different somehow. Immortal, maybe. Or worse.
She spotted him next to Robby, deep in conversation with his bodyguard and the other Scotsman, Angus MacKay, who had apparently returned from New York. There were three more guys, standing in the shadow of the pine trees. A teenager in a plaid kilt and two tall young men wearing khaki pants and navy polo shirts. One guy was white and the other one black. They all looked upset.
Heather frowned. These guys were definitely keeping secrets. They remained in the shadows, but still, heads in the audience were starting to turn. Strangers in town always got noticed.
With the show over, Bethany had skipped down the gazebo steps to join Fidelia and Emma. Heather headed their way slowly. Since most of the crowd was leaving, she was going against traffic.
Everyone gasped when the alarm went off across the town square at the volunteer fire station. A handful of men dashed from the park. People gathered in small groups to gossip and speculate. Heather weaved around them to get to her daughter. In less than a minute, the siren blared from the town's only fire truck. With the whole town watching, the firemen had made record time.
Heather reached her daughter and gave her a big hug.
With a squeal, Bethany grabbed the bear. "Mama, you did it! You got the bear!" She hugged it tight. "Did you see me sing?"
"I sure did. You were wonderful." Heather smiled at Fidelia and Emma. "Thank you for taking care of her."
They followed the crowd away from the gazebo.
Emma eased close to Heather. "Where is Jean-Luc? He should be guarding you."
"He's over there." Heather motioned to the copse of pine trees where the men were huddled. "He's talking to a bunch of guys. Your husband's there."
"Angus is back? Come on." Emma strode toward the huddle of men as Jean-Luc approached Heather, Bethany, and Fidelia.
Emma embraced her husband, and he began to whisper to her urgently.
Heather noted how worried Jean-Luc looked. "What's wrong?"
"There's been some trouble." He dragged a hand through his black curls. "You remember my friend Roman Draganesti from New York?"
Heather swallowed hard, recalling the handsome man, his wife, Shanna, and their adorable baby. "What happened?"
"They go to Mass every Sunday night at Romatech. Roman had a chapel built there, and Mass always starts at eleven. We think the bomb must have gone off early, thank God."
"Oui. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. But if the bomb had gone off when the chapel was full..." Jean-Luc grimaced, and his voice choked. "We could have lost them all."
Heather cringed at the thought of that lovely family getting killed. "Who would do such a thing?" She jolted with a sudden thought. "Was it Louie? Is he targeting all your friends?"
"We know who did it, and it wasn't Lui," Emma explained as she joined them. "It's been a terrible night."
"Aye." Angus MacKay strode toward them. "In one night, there have been four bombings. The first one hit Zoltan Czakvar's home in Budapest. He lost two cov - friends."
"That's terrible!" Heather wondered who this Zoltan guy was. And Budapest? Were these guys a secret clique of immortals?
"Jean-Luc's chateau in France was also hit," Angus continued. "No one was injured, but I hear the damage was extensive."
"You have a chateau?" Heather asked Jean-Luc.
He shrugged. "Only half of one now."
Scowling, Angus wrapped an arm around Emma's shoulders. "Then our castle in Scotland was hit."
"At least no one was killed." Emma gave him an encouraging look. "And we can always rebuild."
"Aye." Angus continued to scowl. "From what I can tell, Casimir has targeted everyone who came to rescue Emma and me in the Ukraine."
"Who's Casimir?" Heather asked. She wasn't sure, but she thought Louie had mentioned that name the night he'd attacked Jean-Luc.
"He's the one paying Lui to kill me." Jean-Luc confirmed her suspicions. "Though I wager Lui wouldn't mind doing it for free."
Heather shook her head. "I don't understand. Y'all seem like really nice guys. Why do these creeps want to kill you?"
Jean-Luc, Angus, and Emma exchanged looks.
"Are you sure Roman and his family are all right?" Jean-Luc changed the subject.
"They're fine," Angus answered. "Connor wants to take them into hiding. Roman balked at first, claiming it was cowardly, but he finally listened to reason. We canna let anything happen to Shanna or Constantine."
Jean-Luc nodded. "Where will they go?"
"Connor refuses to tell anyone. I agreed. Emma and I will be going to Eastern Europe to hunt for Casimir. If we're captured...well, we doona want to know more than necessary."
Heather grimaced. This sounded like war.
A fierce look came over Emma's face. "We need to take care of Casimir once and for all."
"I'll go with you." Jean-Luc grasped his cane with both hands.
"Nay. Ye belong here." Angus glanced at Heather.
She stiffened. "We can take care of ourselves."
Jean-Luc's gaze wandered over her, Bethany, and Fidelia. "Non, Angus is right. I must stay here."
"Casimir and Lui already know ye're in Texas," Angus warned him. "So ye're verra vulnerable. Since Connor is leaving with Roman tonight, I had a few men I could spare." He motioned to the group next to Robby. "Ian, Phineas, and Phil - they're here to help ye out."
"Merci." Jean-Luc touched Heather's shoulder. "We have plenty of guards now. You and your family will be safe."
"Thank you." With a shudder, Heather wondered what would happen next.
"Heather!" The yell from the distance caught her attention. Billy was striding toward her, his face grim.
Something unintelligible crackled on his walkie-talkie, and he turned down the volume. "Heather, I have some bad news. Someone set your house on fire."
Damn that Lui! Jean-Luc had no doubt the bastard was behind this. The horrified look on Heather's face tormented him as he rode to her burning house. He'd wanted to drive Heather there, but the sheriff had insisted she go with him. So Jean-Luc sat in the front passenger seat of his BMW while Robby drove. He'd been to her house only twice, yet he was feeling a loss. Heather had to be feeling it a thousand times more.
Her suffering hurt him much more than his own half-destroyed chateau in France. He'd bought it thirty years ago, so he could pretend he had roots going back to an old noble family. But the truth was, he'd never had a family, and a cold pile of stone had not produced the feelings of warmth and comfort he'd craved.