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The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 52


He nodded. "Good idea."

"I've been wondering - " She bit her bottom lip. "Who does the handwork on your designs?"

"Different women from France and Belgium, depending on what I need done. There's a woman in Brussels who makes the best lace, and another one in Brittany who does the most beautiful embroidery."

"Oh."

Had she suspected him of running a sweatshop somewhere? "I consider them artists and pay them very well. I could take you to see them, if you'd like to see their work."

"I - I don't think so." She backed away. "I should be going. I'm really tired."

He nodded. "You put in a long day."

"Yes. Good night." She practically ran from the room.

Jean-Luc sighed. She'd refused to let him court her. She still seemed a little afraid, but at least she no longer looked disgusted. He was making progress, but it was very slow.

He walked down the hall to Alberto's office and discussed the charity event. Then he teleported to his office to catch up on business. There were more than a hundred e-mails and a dozen reports from Paris to respond to. He was also coven master of Western Europe, so there were a few disputes to settle. He took a small break after midnight, downing another glass of synthetic blood from the stash he kept in his office.

It was after two in the morning when the alarm went off. Jean-Luc grabbed his sword, zoomed to Heather's bedroom, and flung open the door. They were in bed asleep. The alarm hadn't wakened them, for it was set at a frequency only vampires and dogs could hear. The alarm meant one thing - a vampire had teleported into the building.

He strode to the bathroom and checked inside. It was empty.

"What's wrong?" Heather asked sleepily.

"Nothing," he whispered. "Just making sure you're all right. Go back to sleep."

He spotted Robby in the hallway, so he zoomed into the hall and shut the door partway. "What happened?"

"It was Simone," Robby explained. "She claims she was bored, so she went out."

"Where did she go?"

"She wouldna say," Robby replied. "She teleported out with no one noticing, but when she came back, she triggered the alarm."

Jean-Luc recalled how Simone had boasted that she might have an affair with Lui. "She could be compromised."

"I know. Shall I send her away?"

"No. We want Lui to make his move so we can catch him."

"Fine. I'll keep an eye on her." Robby zipped down the stairs.

Heather peered through the half-opened door. "What's going on?"

"Everything's fine," Jean-Luc assured her.

She stepped into the hallway. "I heard you talking. You think Simone could be under Louie's control?"

"It's possible. He usually uses mortals, but he could manage to control a vampire, especially if she has a grudge."

"Like Simone." Heather frowned. "This mind control - you never used it on me, did you?"

He stiffened. "No, that would be dishonorable."

"I didn't mean to insult you."

His gaze wandered over her wonderfully mussed hair and rumpled pajamas. "If you were under my control, you would be downstairs right now in my bed."

"Oh."

"And you would be naked. And I would be - "

"All right! I get the picture."

He smiled slowly. "Was it good for you?"

She gave him an annoyed look.

"You look beautiful."

She snorted. "I don't have any makeup on."

"You're a natural beauty."

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"It'll be short-lived. I'll get old and wrinkly."

"Time doesn't scare me." He stepped closer. "Let me court you."

She gave him an odd look, as if wariness and desire were battling inside her. "I'll think about it." She eased into the bedroom and shut the door.

Yes, he was slowly making progress.

Chapter 23

Heather was looking for something to hate about Jean-Luc. His vampire status no longer seemed a good enough reason to reject him. All the Vamps in the house were drinking their meals from bottles. All the male Vamps were well-mannered and considerate. Simone and Inga appeared selfish and vain, but Heather strongly suspected they'd been that way before acquiring fangs.

Fidelia confirmed the theory that death didn't change a person's character. She'd seen proof of that through her experience with helping lost spirits. So Heather could no longer avoid the truth. Jean-Luc was just as gorgeous, intelligent, and honorable as he'd been as a mortal.

His sense of honor carried over into the way he conducted business. There were no sweatshops, no employees being abused in the pursuit of wealth. Phil confided in her that Jean-Luc was taking care of Pierre's family. He was a good man. If he had been mortal, Heather knew she wouldn't hesitate to pursue a relationship with him. She wouldn't be constantly denying her feelings for him. So the real question was, could she accept him and love him as he was?

Thursday was a peaceful day until suppertime, when Ian suffered another attack. Fidelia immediately whisked Bethany off to the kitchen, so the little girl wouldn't have to witness Ian's torment. Heather hated seeing him suffer and begged him to take some painkillers, but he stoically refused. After a half hour of twitching and sweating, he finally fell into a peaceful death-sleep.

Heather finished the stole for the first gown and proceeded to the pattern-making stage for the second outfit. As time went by, she found herself looking forward to seeing Jean-Luc again.

He showed up about eight-thirty, as handsome as ever. Her breath caught, just looking at him. I know you love me. God help her, was he right? What else could explain how she was drawn to him even when she knew the truth about him?

He looked over her work while they waited for Ian to wake up. Ian woke and stumbled to his feet to see if he'd grown. Heather handed Robby a measuring tape.

"Congratulations, ye're now six feet tall," Robby announced. "And ye need to shave."

Ian grinned, rubbing the whiskers on his jaw.

"We should have some Blissky to celebrate," Phineas suggested.

Ian laughed. "Ye're always looking for a reason to have some Blissky."

"I have a bottle in the security office," Robby said. "Let's go."

The three male Vamps sauntered off, leaving Heather alone with Jean-Luc.

"What's Blissky?" she asked.

"A mixture of synthetic blood and Scottish whisky," Jean-Luc explained. "Roman has made our meals much more interesting with his Vampire Fusion Cuisine."

Heather made a face. "Are you kidding me?"

"No. We now have Chocolood, blood with chocolate, a favorite among the lady Vamps, and Bubbly Blood, blood with champagne for those special vampire occasions."

Heather laughed. "What would that be? Moving into a new, improved coffin?"

The corner of his mouth tilted up. "Now you're mocking me. You know exactly where I sleep, and it's not a coffin."

Her face warmed with the memory of his bed.

"Would you like to see what I've been working on? It's in my office."

She hesitated, not knowing if she was ready to be alone with him behind closed doors.

His smile faded. "I would never harm you, chérie. I would do anything to protect you from harm."

Anything but stop her from falling in love with him. And that might cause her great pain sometime in the future. She sighed. Love never came with a guarantee. It was always a leap of faith. She just wasn't sure she wanted to take that leap.

Was she letting fear rule her life again? Sometimes caution was the wise choice. Then again, too much caution could be really boring and...sad. What if she spent the rest of her life regretting her cautious wisdom?

She took a deep breath. "I can stop by for a few minutes."

"Good." He walked slowly toward the door, waiting for her to accompany him. He made no attempt to touch her, and she was grateful for that. He seemed to understand that she needed time. And she needed answers.

"Why did you come to Texas?" she asked as they started down the hallway.

"I needed to disappear. The media was questioning why I never grew older."

"So you're in hiding?"

He nodded. "For twenty-five years. Then I can return to Paris, posing as my son."

She wanted to ask if he ever considered having a real son, but she lost her nerve. "So you're going to be in Schnitzelberg for a while." How could she go back to her normal life, knowing that a vampire who loved her lived right down the highway?

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