The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 31

"Do you think Louie's coming here?" Heather escorted her daughter up the steps.

"There's no telling what he'll do next." Jean-Luc held the door open. Fidelia and Bethany went inside, but Heather lingered beside him on the porch.

"Simone and Inga, they're...just your models?"

"Yes." His mouth quirked. "Are you concerned, chérie?"

"No. I'm fine." She was just a jealous liar, that was all. She entered the elegant foyer that opened into the store's showroom. "Fidelia, put the lock back on your gun. I believe you'll be sharing a room with Bethany and me." She gave Jean-Luc a questioning look.

"Yes. Unfortunately, I have only one guest room upstairs." He shut the front door and locked it, then punched some numbers on a security pad on the wall.

Only one guest room? "Then Simone and Inga aren't living here?"

Jean-Luc frowned. "They are staying here. Alberto and all the guards, too." He motioned to the right. "Would you like a tour?"

"Okay." Heather suspected he was trying to change the subject.

"Look at the big stairs!" Bethany gawked at the grand staircase that began on the right of the showroom and curved gracefully up to a catwalk on the second floor, overlooking the showroom. "Is our room up there?"

"Yes. But first, I want to show you where your mother will be working." Jean-Luc led them to the hallway that began under the curve of the grand staircase.

Heather took Bethany's hand and followed him. There were a lot of people living here. Where did they all sleep?

"I suppose the master bedroom's on the first floor?"

"There are no bedrooms on this floor." Jean-Luc strode down the hallway that dissected the right side of the house. The walls were decorated with black-framed photos of models wearing haute couture by Jean-Luc Echarpe.

He motioned to doors on the right as they passed by. "Women's restroom. Men's restroom. Conference room." There was only one door on the left side of the hall. "This is the design studio." He stopped by the large double doors and pressed some numbers into the keypad.

Heather couldn't see around him. "If I'm working in there, shouldn't I learn the combination?"

He hesitated. "Alberto knows it." He opened the door.

He didn't trust her with the combination? Heather entered the studio, frowning. "Will Alberto be working here, too?"

"Oui." Jean-Luc flipped on the lights.

Bethany gasped. "It's so big!"

Fidelia nodded. "Gigante."

"Yes, it is." Heather surveyed the huge room. There was no sign of the battle from Friday night. The shattered mannequin had been cleared away.

Jean-Luc pointed at a spiral staircase in the far left corner. "That leads to the catwalk over the showroom. It would be a shortcut to your bedroom upstairs."

"I see. Can we go there now? Bethany's really tired."

He hesitated, then cocked his head, frowning. "It'll be ready soon. Come, you should know where the kitchen is."

Heather followed him back into the hallway and noticed a door at the far end of the hall. "Is that an exit?"

He glanced at the door. "It leads to the cellar. You will have no business there." He strode quickly in the opposite direction, back to the showroom. "We'll be closing the store to the public. It'll be safer that way."

They followed him into the showroom.

Fidelia paused to look at a glass case filled with purses made with Jean-Luc's signature fleur-de-lis fabric. "I could use a bigger purse for all my pistols."

"You may have whichever one you like," Jean-Luc offered as he continued toward the hall on the left.

Heather gave Fidelia a disapproving frown, but the babysitter just grinned back.

"Can I have a purse, too?" Bethany asked.

"No!" Heather grimaced at the thought of a four-year-old carrying an eight-hundred-dollar purse.

As they entered the hallway that bisected the left side of the house, Jean-Luc motioned to the first door. "This is the security office. If you need help, you should go there."

"Got it." Heather noticed the keypad next to the door.

"Storerooms." Jean-Luc gestured to the left. "Alberto's office." He stopped at a door on the right. "This is the kitchen. You may use it as much as you like." He opened the door and stepped aside to let them enter.

It was more than a kitchen. It had a small dining area and a sitting area, complete with a comfy couch, recliners, and a television. It opened onto a utility room with washer and dryer. Heather wandered into the kitchen and admired the pristine appliances, all sparkly new. The cabinets were filled with beautiful glassware and stoneware.

"I love the Tuscan-style dishes," she said. "I was thinking about buying some at the discount store. Where did you get yours?"

His mouth quirked. "Tuscany."

"Oh, right." Her cheeks warmed. The rich lived in another world.

The stainless steel fridge contained nothing but a few crab cakes and cheese puffs, along with three unopened bottles of champagne - leftovers, no doubt, from the party Friday night. The pantry was completely bare.

She shut the pantry door. "What do y'all eat around here?"

Jean-Luc winced. "I forgot about that. I'll have the guards take care of it."

How could you forget about food? Heather noticed her daughter slumped on the couch, about to fall asleep on the yellow bear. "We really need to go to our room."

He tilted his head as if listening to something. "It's ready now."

"Okay." She exchanged a questioning look with Fidelia.

The psychic shook her head slightly. Either she didn't know or she didn't want to talk about it now.

Heather helped her daughter to her feet. "Let's go, sweetie. We're almost there."

As they exited the kitchen, Heather noticed Alberto emerging from a room at the far end of the hall. He stumbled into the hallway, his hand clasped to his neck. In his other arm, he carried two evening gowns.

He looked back at the open door. "I'll fix them just like you wanted."

"See that you do," Simone's voice hissed just before the door slammed shut.

Alberto rushed down the hall. He slowed when he saw them.

Jean-Luc clenched his cane so tight, his knuckles showed white. "Is there a problem?"

Heather glanced at him, surprised by the angry tone of his voice.

Alberto blushed. "They are hard to please."

"Indeed." Jean-Luc glared at him. "A wise man would not make the attempt."

Alberto's gaze lowered. "I know you're right. But they're just so...beautiful." He rubbed at his neck.

Heather narrowed her eyes. Was that a bloodstain on his fingers?

"Excuse me." Alberto dashed to the door that led to his personal office and let himself in.

"This way." Jean-Luc gestured for them to follow.

Heather exchanged another look with Fidelia.

He came to a stop. "These are the backstairs."

Sure enough, there was a narrow set of stairs going up to the second floor.

Heather glanced at the end of the hall and the door Alberto had stumbled through. Another keypad. "Is that the bedroom where the models are staying?"

Jean-Luc glanced at the door, frowning. "It leads to the cellar. You will have no business there." He started up the stairs.

Heather slanted one last look at the forbidden door before following Jean-Luc up the stairs. The ascent was slow since Bethany climbed one step at a time and insisted on carrying the big yellow bear. Heather's mind wandered back to the cellar door. Why was it kept locked? And what about the second door to the cellar, the one at the other end of the hall? Was it locked, too?

What was down there? Monsters? Simone and Inga certainly fit that bill. With a snort, Heather chided herself for having a crazy imagination. It was more likely to be something business-related, like an illegal immigrant sweatshop. She reached the top of the stairs.

"This is my office." Jean-Luc indicated a door with another keypad. "I'll show it to you later."

"All right." She spotted an overhead surveillance camera.

Just then a door down the hall opened, and two men emerged. Or a man and a boy, Heather thought, upon a closer look. She recalled seeing them before with Angus MacKay.

The teenager in a kilt smiled. "Yer room is ready, Mrs. Westfield."