The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 51

They took a break for supper. She called the insurance company to check on her house, then she called the drama coach from Guadalupe High. Liz Schumann was delighted to offer her runway and to model one of Heather's gowns in the show. Liz promised to have her new boyfriend deliver the runway over the weekend, and Heather promised to give him a few tickets to the event.

After supper, they returned to the design studio and the dead body on the floor. Heather finished the first gown and looked at the clock. Seven-thirty. The sun would set soon. She said a silent prayer for Ian that he would wake up. Then she shook her head in dismay. It was happening. She could no longer view these vampires as monsters.

And she was getting drawn into their world.

Jean-Luc woke with the usual electrifying jolt that shot through his body and jump-started his heart. He rushed through his shower and breakfast, for he needed to know as quickly as possible that nothing bad had happened during the day. Was Heather all right? How had Ian fared his first day on the stay-awake drug?

He dressed in gray slacks and a maroon polo shirt - normal clothes. He only hoped Heather wouldn't look at him like she had last night, with that look of horror and disgust in her eyes. He had to win her back somehow.

He checked the kitchen, but they weren't there. As he exited, he saw Fidelia leading Bethany toward the stairs.

"Oh, Juan-Luc!" She grinned. "Thank you for the lovely presents." She cradled the box of tarot cards against her chest.

"I love my new doll." Bethany held it up so he could see. "Her name is Princess Katherine."

"I like that." So the items he'd ordered on Sunday night had arrived. "Do you know where your mother is?"

Bethany pointed down the hall.

"They're all in the studio." Fidelia lowered her voice. "Waiting for Ian to wake up."

Jean-Luc stiffened. "He's not...awake?"

Bethany giggled. "He sleeps too much."

Fidelia winced. "Come on, little one. Let's get you in the tub." She hustled Bethany up the stairs.

Jean-Luc zoomed to the studio and stopped.

Heather was kneeling on the floor beside Ian, with Robby, Phineas, and Phil surrounding them. She glanced up at Jean-Luc. His heart lurched in his chest. Her eyes no longer showed disgust, but they were glistening with pain. Her generous nature was taking Ian's dilemma to heart.

"I need to talk to you." She rose to her feet and moved away, obviously so they could have some privacy. She didn't know yet that it was unnecessary, for Vamps had super hearing. "How could you let him do something so dangerous?"

"I objected," Jean-Luc answered quietly. "But in the end, I couldn't force him to abstain. It was his decision."

"But he may have killed himself just so he can have a chance at true love." Heather wiped her eyes. "It's sad."

"An honorable man will sacrifice all for true love."

She glanced at him, her eyes widening.

"When Roman took the drug, he was late to wake, too." Jean-Luc turned to watch Ian. "I believe he will wake."

A silence fell between them as they waited.

Robby turned to Phineas. "Go see if Fidelia and the wee lass are all right. We'll let ye know what happens here."

"All right." Phineas trudged out of the room.

"And ye're off the clock, lad," Robby murmured to Phil. "Ye doona need to stay."

"Yeah, I do." Phil folded his arms across his chest.

Heather drew a deep breath. "We got the boxes of stuff you ordered."

Jean-Luc faced her. "Did you like the dress?"

"It's lovely." She avoided looking at him. "But I can't keep it."

"Why not?" Was she punishing him?

"I don't want to be...beholden to you. You've already given me a great job and a safe place to stay."

"You saved my life, Heather. I am beholden to you."

"Oh, I'm sure you could have handled Louie on your own." She waved a hand in dismissal. "You're the European fencing champion, remember?"

"But I didn't have a sword, remember?"

Scowling, she turned to face him. "I'm quite sure you could have defeated him without my help. You're...muy macho, as Fidelia would put it."

"Merci. Though you needn't look so annoyed by it."

She crossed her arms. "I still can't keep the dress or the other...stuff."

He stepped closer. "You mean the bras?"

"There was more than one?"

"Three bras, three panties." He raked his gaze over her body. "I was very careful to get the right size."

Her cheeks flushed pink. "They're going back."

"No, they're not." When she opened her mouth to protest, he continued, "Because of me, you and your family are in danger. Because of me, your house was ruined. Most likely everything in your house has sustained smoke damage and will need to be replaced. I have cost you a fortune. The few things I purchased don't begin to repay you. It is I who is in debt to you."

She gave a sigh of defeat. "All right. Thank you."

"How are you feeling?" He didn't like to think he'd caused the dark smudges under her eyes.

"I'm very tired. I couldn't sleep last night."

"I apologize for the way you learned the truth. I should have told you earlier."

She slid her hands into her jeans pockets and regarded the floor. "Why didn't you?"

He closed his eyes briefly, wondering how to explain. "I was...beguiled by the way you looked at me and talked to me. As if I was normal. It was like being human again, with a home and family and a beautiful woman who actually found me attractive. I - I never had that when I was mortal."

"You never had women throwing themselves at you? That's hard to believe."

"I never had a home and family." He stepped closer to her. "It's taken me a long time to realize that's what I want more than anything."

She looked away, but he caught the glimmer of tears in her eyes.

"Will you allow me the honor of courting you?"

She gave a short nervous laugh. "You sound so old-fashioned."

"Perhaps." He smiled wryly. "But I'm also very determined."

"I - I don't belong in your world."

"You can belong anywhere you want."

She rubbed her brow. "That's the problem. I don't want to belong there. But I don't want to hurt you. I - "

Ian jolted, and his chest heaved with a big breath.

"He's alive!" Robby exclaimed with a grin.

"Yes!" Phil punched the air with a fist.

Jean-Luc grinned. "Thank God."

"Oh, yes, yes!" Heather bounced up and down. "Yes!" She flung her arms around Jean-Luc's neck.

His heart swelled as he enveloped her in his arms. "Yes."

With a gasp, she pulled back. "Oh, I didn't mean - sorry. I was just so happy, I forgot..."

"That I was a monster?" he finished her sentence.

Her cheeks stained pink. "I don't think - "

"What happened?" Ian sat up.

"Ye've been sleeping on the job." Robby crossed his arms, frowning. "I should dock yer pay."

Ian glanced around with a confused look. "I'm...late?"

Robby laughed and extended a hand to help him up. "Ye had us worried, lad. How are ye feeling?"

Ian grabbed Robby's hand and slowly eased to his feet. "I'm all right, I think."

"You're at least an inch taller," Phil announced.

"I am?" Ian grinned. "It worked! I'm a year older. And I'm bloody well starving."

"Go downstairs and have yer breakfast," Robby ordered.

"I wish you wouldn't take the drug again," Heather said. "You were in so much pain."

"I'm sorry ye had to see it," Ian told her. "But I willna stop." He and Phil strode from the room.

"I'll leave ye two alone." Robby bowed and left the room.

"I should be going, too." Heather started for the door.

"What about your work?" Jean-Luc asked.

"Oh." She turned. "I finished the first gown." She motioned toward the dress form.

He walked toward it. "You decided not to do sleeves after all."

"No." She moved closer. "They were interfering with the fit of the bodice. So I thought I'd make a matching stole that can be draped like a scarf or worn like a shawl."