She avoided looking at him and shoved her damp, curly hair behind her ears. She fumbled with a pencil and notepad next to her purse on the counter. She seemed nervous, and it irked him that she was no longer comfortable in his presence. "Making a list?" he asked.
"Yes." She waved a hand toward the pantry. "I found it stocked with all sorts of stuff this morning. I really appreciate it, but there are a few things missing. For instance, we have spaghetti, but no tomato sauce."
He had no idea what a spaghetti was, but he'd take her word for it. "Pierre or Phil can get whatever you need."
"I suppose." She tapped the pencil against the countertop. "I guess I'm trapped here until the problem with Louie is resolved."
"It's for the best. I don't want to take any chances with your safety."
She frowned. "I'll need some fat-free milk." She added it to the list. "I have to watch every calorie."
"Heather." He rested his hand on top of hers to stop her fidgeting. "I think you're beautiful the way you are."
She closed her eyes briefly with a pained look. "I have to know." She gave him a beseeching look. "How did you get Bethany's toys here?"
It was more than a request for information, he realized. She was asking for honesty. She wanted to regain her trust in him. And dammit all, he couldn't tell her the complete truth. That would scare her away faster than anything.
"Robby, Ian, and Phineas worked together," he began. "There was only one deputy, so it wasn't that hard for Phineas to distract him to the back of the house while the others snuck into the front." He didn't mention that part of the sneaking involved teleportation.
She bit her bottom lip. "I suppose that makes sense. How did they bring the stuff here?"
"They had plenty of time to transport it here while we were at the store shopping."
She nodded slowly. "They probably used my truck."
They hadn't, but he didn't disagree. His hand was still covering hers, and she hadn't pulled away. He removed the pencil from her grip. "You're tense. I can tell. It makes your shoulders hunch."
"Of course I'm tense. A homicidal maniac set my house on fire, and he wants to kill me."
"Relax." He circled behind her.
"What are you doing?" She glanced back.
"Trying to ease your tension." He rested his hands on her shoulders, then gently kneaded his fingers into the muscles around her neck. "I want you to know that you and your daughter's safety are more important than anything to me."
"Thank you." With a sigh, she tilted her head forward. "I guess you and Robby didn't find Louie tonight."
"No." He massaged her shoulders. "I would have told you, but I thought you were asleep."
"I couldn't sleep. Poor Bethany. I'm afraid this is taking a toll on her. She was thrashing about in bed."
"I'm so sorry." He led Heather toward the couch. "Come. You look tired."
"I'm exhausted, but I have so much to do. The insurance company to call, and Heather's preschool - "
"They won't be open yet." He shoved a big footstool up to the couch and sat her on it. Then he settled onto the couch behind her, straddling the footstool.
"You must be tired, too." She glanced back at him. "You're still in the same clothes."
"I'll get some rest in a little while." The sun was nearing the horizon. Soon he would feel the pull of death-sleep. But for now, he could enjoy being with Heather. He dug his fingers into her shoulders.
She let out a long moan, then cut it off abruptly. "Sorry, didn't mean to do that out loud."
He smiled. "I like hearing you moan." He massaged circles down her back. "Even more, I like being the cause."
"This feels so good." She sighed. "I don't know what to think of you."
He rubbed the small of her back. "Do you have to think at all?"
"Yes. I've made some bad mistakes in the past. I have to be very careful now, 'cause it's not just my life I could screw up, but Bethany's, too."
He touched her hair, enjoying the feel of the silken strands. "You are my ideal of a good mother."
She twisted to look at him. "That's about the kindest thing I've ever heard."
"Heather." He scooped an arm under her legs to pull her into his lap. "You bring kindness out of me. You make me want to be deserving of you."
She touched his face. "Why wouldn't you be?"
"I'm not perfect."
"No one is." She traced his jaw with her fingers. "You have secrets. About yourself and Louie."
She wanted to know more. He chose his words carefully. "Lui assassinated some important political figures in France. I stopped one of his attempts, and he has plagued me ever since."
"How does a fashion designer stop an assassin?"
"I...wasn't a designer then. I worked for the government."
Her eyes lit up. "Like James Bond?"
"Something like that."
"I knew it!" She grinned. "You're just as sexy as James Bond, and you have that aura of danger about you."
He lifted his eyebrows. "You think I'm sexy?"
Her cheeks flushed. "Did I say that?"
"Yes." He brushed her hair back from her brow. "I suppose I shall have to live up to my reputation."
"I suppose." Her gaze lowered to his mouth.
That was an invitation. He brushed his lips against hers. Her arms encircled his neck, pulling him closer. A thrill shot through him. She wanted him. He deepened the kiss, pouring all his desire into the movement of his lips and the swirl of his tongue.
She stroked his tongue with her own and moaned. He slid his hand past her ribs to cup her breast.
"Yes," she breathed against his cheek.
He spread his fingers to cover her breast, then lightly squeezed. "You're so lovely." He nuzzled her ear. Her carotid artery throbbed nearby, sending out pulses of the scent of Type AB blood.
She tilted her head to make it easier for him to kiss her neck, not realizing how intensely erotic that move was to a vampire. His groin began to throb in sync with the coursing of her blood.
"Heather." He feathered kisses along her cheek. Zut, what terrible timing. She needed to be loved properly, and he'd literally be dead in ten minutes.
She ran her hands through his hair. "Kiss me."
How could he resist? He molded his mouth to hers once more and explored her with his tongue. He rubbed his thumb around the tip of her breast and felt the nipple tighten. The swelling in his groin was fast becoming torture. "I want to stay with you. I want to love you, but I have to go."
"Why?" She kissed his cheek. "Where are you going?"
"I have...business meetings in San Antonio," he lied. "But I'll be back tonight. In the meantime, I want you to get some rest."
"I'll miss you."
He stroked her hair. "I'll miss you, too." He invaded her mind with one swift plunge and felt her shiver at the cold presence of his mind. Sleep, my love.
She exhaled slowly, and her eyes flickered shut. "I'm sleepy," she whispered.
"I know." He laid her gently on the couch. He set pillows beneath her head, then grabbed an afghan from the nearby recliner to cover her up. He kissed her brow. "Sweet dreams, chérie."
Her mouth curled in a smile, then her face went blank.
Jean-Luc turned off the lights, then descended to his lonely bed in the cellar.
Monday passed peacefully, and Heather was grateful for that. She slept till midmorning when Fidelia and Bethany came downstairs and found her on the couch. After a quick breakfast, she began making phone calls concerning her house. She informed the preschool that Bethany would be out for a week. Hopefully, this mess with Louie wouldn't drag on any longer than that. Though she wouldn't mind if her relationship with Jean-Luc continued for weeks or months. Or years. He was such a wonderful combination of sweet and sexy. She couldn't wait to see him again tonight.
She brought some toys downstairs, and once Bethany was happily playing, she asked Pierre to let her into the design studio. She asked for the combination, explaining how she'd be coming and going. Pierre merely smiled and lowered the door stopper to keep the door propped open.
She soon forgot about the mysterious lock combination as she lost herself in work. She decided to remake the white gown from the showroom. She dragged the mannequin into the studio and positioned it next to a worktable. Then she located a dress form that could be adjusted to a larger size and stood it next to the mannequin. Before and after. Size zero and size twelve.