The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 33

He wanted more, something beyond himself. He wanted Heather to be proud of him. The sort of panic she'd experienced when she feared missing her daughter's show; he wanted her to feel that strongly about his shows. He no longer wanted to create alone. He wanted her to create designs with him. He wanted companionship.

And creating merchandise was no longer enough. He wanted more. What good was a financial empire if he had no child to pass it on to? He wanted children with Heather's hair and eyes, her generous heart and clever mind. All he had to do was keep her safe from Lui and win her heart.

He sighed. Was that too much to ask?

He spotted Robby entering the showroom through the front door. He'd probably left Heather's truck parked in the driveway.

Ian and Phineas walked into the showroom to meet him. Jean-Luc considered teleporting down to join the group. In a second, he was materializing by the base of the stairs.

Robby's hand halted halfway to his sword. "Och, 'tis you. Did yer guests enjoy the surprise?"

"The little girl was delighted, but we may have made Heather too suspicious."

Robby winced. "I was afraid of that. These modern lassies are far too clever."

Ian snorted. "Do ye prefer them stupid?"

Robby shrugged. "I try to avoid the mortal ones altogether." He turned to Jean-Luc. "I was just telling the others here that we need more surveillance cameras. When we planned this building, I thought we'd only be guarding you."

Jean-Luc nodded. Right now, the only cameras were in his office, outside his office, and inside his bedroom. "We need a camera in every room."

"And outside," Robby added. "I know Connor has a stash of spare ones at his security office at Romatech. I'll teleport there to bring them back."

"We also need to buy some food before morning," Jean-Luc suggested. "The bare pantry looked suspicious."

Robby frowned. "Och, I dinna think of that. Pierre's been ordering food in. He was alone here during the day and couldna leave us unguarded."

"I'll go to the store," Ian offered. "What shall I buy - porridge and a leg of lamb?"

"Dude, you are so out of touch with the twenty-first century," Phineas scoffed. "You need Cheetos, Doritos, Oreos, SpaghettiOs - "

"That's food?" Ian asked.

"Damned straight. You know, you old-timers can be really clueless. You'd better let me do the shopping."

"You are a young Vamp?" Jean-Luc asked.

"Hell, yeah. Just over a year. My family's still alive, so I know what people eat."

Jean-Luc arched a brow. "Is your family healthy?"

"Well, my aunt is diabetical, and my little sister's kinda chubby - "

"Healthy food." Jean-Luc handed him the keys to the BMW and several hundred-dollar bills. "Bring back some healthy food."

"Okay, fruits and vegetables and crap. I can do that." Phineas zipped toward the front door. "Cool! I get to drive the BMW." The door slammed behind him.

"While he's gone, I'll teleport to Romatech and bring back more cameras." Robby paused when they heard the squeal of tires on the driveway.

Jean-Luc winced. "He's new with the company?"

"Dr. Phang?" Ian grinned. "Angus and Emma found him last year. The Russians had transformed him, but he dinna want to bite people. So Angus hired him."

"And what about Phil?" Jean-Luc asked.

"Completely trustworthy," Robby answered. "He's been guarding Roman during the day for over six years."

Ian nodded. "I've known him all that time. He's good."

Jean-Luc recalled the awkward moment when Phineas had claimed Phil smelled different from other mortals. He'd detected something odd, too. "Is there something about Phil I should know?"

Robby's face went blank. Ian seemed suddenly absorbed with the purses on display.

"I'm trusting him with Heather's life. And my own," Jean-Luc added. "I should know."

"'Tis a company matter," Robby muttered. "All I can tell ye is, Phil keeps our secrets, and we keep his. I'll go to Romatech now."

"Hurry back," Jean-Luc told him, aware that Robby was trying to change the subject. "As soon as Phineas returns with the car, I want us to check those empty buildings in town."

"I'll go with you," Ian offered.

"I need you and Phineas to stay here," Jean-Luc replied. "We can't leave the women unguarded."

Ian nodded. "I'll do a perimeter sweep."

He zoomed outside and Robby teleported away, leaving Jean-Luc alone to wonder about Phil. What kind of secret could a mortal have that even vampires were loath to share? He was tempted to call Angus, but the bloody Scotsman would be just as closemouthed as his great-great-grandson Robby. At least Robby and Ian both agreed that Phil was completely trustworthy.

Phil and Pierre would be in the cellar now, sleeping in the dormitory-style bedroom for the guards. As mortals, they were expected to sleep at night, so they could guard during the day. Vamps were totally vulnerable during their death-sleep, so the responsibility of guarding them was huge. Even so, the daytime guards rarely ran into danger. Vampire enemies were also dead during the day, and most of the mortal world was ignorant of their existence.

Alberto was a mortal who knew about vampires. Jean-Luc had confided in his young protégé after Alberto had served faithfully for five years. It was a good arrangement.

Alberto kept their secrets, and in return, he was given opportunities that were rare in the fashion industry. He arranged shows and hobnobbed with powerful, influential people. He was allowed to present his own designs with the advantage of Echarpe distribution and marketing. He'd become Jean-Luc's representative during the day. He was a hardworking perfectionist with only one flaw.

He was obsessed with Simone and Inga. Learning that they were lady Vamps had only increased his desire.

They enjoyed toying with him, but tonight they'd gone too far. Jean-Luc wasn't concerned about Alberto spilling vampire secrets to the media. He and Robby could use mind control to wipe out Alberto's memory if they needed to. But it would be hard to replace Alberto.

Simone and Inga didn't realize it, as vain as they were, but they would be easy to replace.

The memory of Alberto's bloody fingers shot a surge of anger through Jean-Luc. He'd warned Alberto to stay away from Simone and Inga, but obviously the man could not resist the lure of the forbidden. The irony of the situation hit home. Jean-Luc couldn't resist the forbidden, either. It would be so much more convenient if he could fall for a Vamp woman, but no, he wanted Heather.

He teleported back to his office and tried to do some work. Pierre had left an invoice on his desk. The harpsichord he'd ordered had arrived during the day. Good. Jean-Luc didn't consider himself a great musician, but after four hundred years of practice, he was certainly adequate.

Pierre had left a note that he'd instructed the workmen to set up the harpsichord next to the baby grand piano in the music room. Jean-Luc winced at the thought of mortals down in the cellar during the day, but Pierre would have made sure they saw only the main corridor and music room. No mortal would suspect some of the rooms hid vampires in their death-sleep. Still, Jean-Luc was uncomfortable with any mortals knowing about the cellar. He'd have Robby visit these workmen and erase their memories.

And what about Heather? She knew there was a cellar now. How long could he hide his secrets from her? How could he court an honest woman with lies? He'd refused to let her go hunting with Robby and him because he figured the boarded-up buildings were locked. Robby and he could easily teleport inside, but not if Heather was with them.

When they found Lui and killed him, Heather would be free to go on with her life. Would he have to let her go and erase her memory, too?

The thought of spending eternity without her was difficult to bear. Merde, the thought of spending a week without her was painful.

Jean-Luc paced to the sideboard and poured himself a glass of Blissky. The mixture of whisky and synthetic blood burned his throat, but it didn't dull the pain.

He was losing his heart to Heather, and he didn't know how to stop it.

Heather winced as Bethany kicked her again. Between sleeping with a live tornado and her worries about the house and Jean-Luc, Heather had hardly slept a wink.

Fidelia moaned suddenly, jerking Heather more fully awake. She glanced at the bedside table where the clock numbers glowed red in the dark. Five-thirty A.M. The sun would be up soon.