Heather couldn't work up an ounce of sympathy. "They should have thought of that before they went berserk."
"They feel threatened by you. Jean-Luc has never shown so much interest in another woman."
"Really?" She was starting to feel a little magnanimous now. "You mean he hasn't had a long string of girlfriends?"
"No, not at all. He has stayed away from women for years. But that has changed now that he's met you."
"What about the other girls that Louie murdered?"
Alberto winced. "That was a long time ago."
She bet it was. Her immortal theory kept coming back.
Alberto pressed his palms together. "Please don't tell Jean-Luc about this. I'll talk to them. I'll make sure they never cause you trouble again."
"You can make them behave?" She gave the scrape on his neck a dubious look.
"If they want to model my gowns in the show, they will do as I ask. And I'll help you." He motioned to the table where she was about to recut the first gown. "I'll show you a way to cut the skirt on the bias. It'll flow better when the model's moving down the runway."
"That would be great. Thank you."
"And these sketches - " He picked up two halves. "They won't ever look as good, but you can tape them back together and make copies. In fact, you should always make copies of everything you do. There's an excellent copier in Jean-Luc's office. You should use it."
"I would hate to disturb him."
Alberto laughed. "He's not there during the day."
"Then where is he?"
Alberto visibly gulped. "He's...away." He waved a hand vaguely in the air. "On business."
"I'll give you the combination, so you can go to his office," Alberto rushed his words. "Fourteen eighty-five. Don't ask the significance. And it's the same number for the keypad to this room."
"Really?" Was that why they were so reluctant to tell her the combination? How many keypads used the same number?
"Is it a deal?" Alberto asked. "You won't tell Jean-Luc what Simone and Inga did?"
"No, I'll let it pass."
"Please don't tell anyone I told you the combination."
"My lips are sealed." She'd found a new, unlikely ally. Alberto spent the next two hours helping her cut the first gown, and she knew it was an improvement over the one she'd cut the night before.
"Thank you." She gathered up the scraps to throw away. "Would you like to join us for lunch?"
"Sorry, but I can't. I'm meeting Sasha for a late lunch."
"I didn't know she was back in town."
Alberto frowned. "I didn't know she'd left."
"She left Sunday. She went to San Antonio to some fancy spa."
"We made the date last Saturday." He strolled to the door, frowning. "I hope she hasn't forgotten."
"Aren't you worried about making Simone and Inga mad?" Heather winced. She shouldn't have asked. It wasn't her business if Alberto was juggling three women. But when one of them was her old high school buddy and the other two were psycho bitches, it could get messy in a hurry.
"They won't know." Alberto paused by the door. "I have no chance with them, really. I should let it go, but they have some kind of hold on me."
Heather lifted her brows. "A hold? Like a spell?" Were the psycho bitches actually psycho witches?
He sighed. "They are...different. Nothing good can come from my infatuation."
"That's probably true."
He gave her a worried look. "You should be careful, too. I owe Jean-Luc a great deal. He's a kind and talented man, but...you should stay away from him. If you can." Alberto hurried from the room before she could respond or even recover from shock.
Heather spent the afternoon sewing while Pierre and Phil installed two surveillance cameras in the studio. Alberto's strange warning kept echoing in her mind. If he admired Jean-Luc, why would he warn her away? What did he know that she didn't? And what was the significance of fourteen eighty-five? A birth date?
She shuddered. Surely not. Her creative mind was working overtime.
Phil and Pierre joined them in the kitchen for supper. Food supplies were running low, so Pierre offered to run to the store. Since Alberto had taken the BMW for his long date with Sasha, Heather gave Pierre the keys to her truck, along with a shopping list.
Fidelia was clearing the table when she halted suddenly. A plate tumbled from her hand and crashed onto the floor.
"What?" Heather jumped to her feet.
Fidelia shot Phil a panicked look. "Stop him! Now!"
Phil charged down the hallway and out the front door. Heather ran after him and had just reached the doorway when a loud explosion knocked her back. Her heart lunged up her throat. With her ears ringing, she regained her balance and stumbled outside. She halted.
Her truck was engulfed in a huge fire. The flames shot upward. Pierre. A wave of nausea doubled her over.
Phil stood in the driveway, his fists clenched. He dropped to his knees, tilted his head back, and roared. It sounded strange through the buzz in her ears. Intense heat from the fire slapped her back, and she stumbled against the doorframe.
She slammed the door shut and leaned against it. Black dots flickered before her eyes, and she couldn't think of anything to say.
Bethany skipped toward the front door. "Where's everybody going? Can I go?"
Heather swallowed down a wave of bile and shook her head.
Fidelia entered the showroom, hugging her purse to her chest. Her eyes glimmered with unshed tears. "I was too late?"
Heather's own vision blurred with tears. "It was just like you dreamed. Infierno."
Jean-Luc sat behind the desk in his office, staring into space. Every now and then, Robby strode across his line of vision, but he hardly noticed. The voices in the room droned like an annoying swarm of bees. He must be in shock. He never felt like this during battle. It was always afterward when he went numb.
Robby plunked a bottle of Blissky on his desk and suggested he have a wee dram. Jean-Luc regarded the bottle silently. The mixture of synthetic blood and Scotch whisky wouldn't solve anything. It wouldn't bring Pierre back to life. It wouldn't take away the grief or the guilt.
All the men in the room were agitated, their voices loud, their arms waving. He blinked when Robby's fist slammed onto his desk. The bottle of Blissky jumped.
"How could he forget to check the truck?" Robby yelled. "I thought I trained him better than that."
"I'm sure ye did." Ian took a gulp from his glass of Blissky. "Ye shouldna blame yerself."
"I should have checked it myself." Phil collapsed into a chair and pressed the heel of his palms to his temples. "'I can smell explosives. I should have checked the damned truck."
That pricked the fog in Jean-Luc's head. Phil could smell a bomb?
"Pierre should have known better," Robby muttered as he paced across the room. "Bugger!" He pounded his fist on the desk again. The Blissky teetered close to the edge.
Ian grabbed the bottle and refilled his glass. "Where was the BMW?"
"Alberto had it," Phil explained. "He came back about seven o'clock. He had a date with that model, Sasha, but she stood him up. He was upset, so he went shopping in San Antonio."
Jean-Luc leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He didn't want to listen to this. He wanted to be with Heather. How was she doing? Did she realize the bomb had been meant for her? Was she battling fear all alone?
As soon as he'd heard the news, he'd tried to see her. He needed to know if she was all right. He needed to see if Bethany was all right. He needed to reassure Heather that they would be protected, that Lui would die for his crime.
Two steps into the kitchen, and he'd been greeted with a Glock pointed at his face. Fidelia had politely asked him to leave. They weren't accepting visitors. He'd only caught a glimpse of Heather, sitting on the couch with her daughter. She'd refused to even look at him.
She blamed him, no doubt. She and her family were in terrible danger because of him. And she was probably angry that he'd shown up three hours after the explosion. In her time of need, he'd been dead to the world. The dreaded feeling of being powerless crept back. It was the worst part of being a vampire, being completely powerless during the day. If Heather needed him then, he would fail her.