The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 55

She looked at herself in the mirror. Fidelia had told her to follow her heart. Her heart longed for Jean-Luc, but her head urged caution. If Jean-Luc became part of her family and it didn't work out, she wouldn't be the only one with a broken heart. Bethany would suffer, too.

Heather sighed. She was at war with fear, but in this particular battle, fear was winning. The safest course of action was retreat. She should pull back before her love for Jean-Luc overwhelmed her.

Heather worked hard Friday, trying not to think about Jean-Luc. That night, he asked if she'd like to talk in his office, and she declined. The sad look in his eyes pierced her heart, and she hurried to her bedroom. Fidelia asked what was wrong, but she could only shake her head with a lump in her throat.

During lunch on Saturday, she discovered another super power that vampires possessed. Great hearing. In the kitchen, Ian heard a car coming up the driveway. Heather accompanied the two guards to the foyer of the showroom.

Phil peered outside the window. "It's a pickup truck, pulling a flat trailer."

Heather peeked out the window to see who was exiting the truck. "Oh no, it's Coach Gunter."

"Is he a threat?" Ian asked.

"Only to every woman on earth," Heather muttered. She noted the big black boxes in the back of the truck and piled on the flat trailer. "He's brought the runway." And that had to mean he was Liz Schumann's new boyfriend. Good Lord, Liz had to be out of her mind.

Coach strode to the front door, ignored the doorbell, and pounded on the door with his fist.

Heather winced. "You'll have to let him in. I'll fetch Alberto." She rushed down the hall to Alberto's office. Even from there, she could here Coach's booming voice as he entered the foyer.

"The runway's here," she told Alberto. "And I promised Liz three tickets to the show."

Alberto reluctantly handed over three tickets. "I barely have enough for the school board and big shots in town."

Heather winced. "I guess with only twenty guests, we won't be raising much money."

Alberto snorted. "These local people don't have any money. Jean-Luc's giving the donation. Twenty thousand."

"Dollars?" Heather gulped. "That's awfully generous."

"He has his reasons." Alberto waved a dismissive hand. "Not that he isn't generous. Jean-Luc gives a lot to charity. But in this case, he's paying for silence. When the store closes after the show, Jean-Luc wants this place to be forgotten. I believe your job will be over."

She remembered that he'd hired her for only two weeks. "You mean no one will come here at all?"

"Hopefully not. If they do, there'll be a guard here to turn them away. I'll be returning to Paris with the models, and Jean-Luc will go into hiding."

It sounded so lonely. Heather recalled the first card Fidelia had turned over for Jean-Luc. The Hermit. He would be so lonesome. But she could change that if she agreed to let him court her.

"Well, I should take a look at this runway." Alberto strolled from the office.

Heather took her time returning to the foyer. Phil and Coach had set several runway sections in the showroom, and Alberto was examining them.

"Hey, Heather!" Coach yelled as he headed outside for another section of runway. He pointed at Ian, who stood in the shadows looking embarrassed. "That kid's no help at all. You should fire his lazy ass."

Heather gave Ian a sympathetic look. She knew he had to stay out of the sunlight, but apparently Coach was giving him hell. After twenty more minutes, the runway was completely unloaded.

She gave Coach his tickets.

"You know I'm dating Liz Schumann now." He paused by the front door.

Heather nodded. "I figured that."

"Yep." He flexed his biceps. "She's one lucky little lady. You don't know what you're missing."

"I'm devastated. Please tell Liz to drop by on Friday so I can make sure her gown fits." Heather had already arranged for two other teacher friends to model.

"How fancy is this shindig?" Coach asked. "Do I have to dress up?"

Her gaze drifted over his tank top and gym shorts. "You might consider wearing pants. And leaving your whistle at home."

"Oh, really fancy, huh?" He marched out the door. "See ya next Saturday."

Heather went back to the design studio to work on her second outfit. Alberto left to hand-deliver the rest of the tickets.

About six P.M., Ian collapsed again. Heather was relieved her daughter was having supper in the kitchen and didn't see it. Still, Ian was starting to look older, and she was at a loss how to explain that to her daughter.

She was walking to the kitchen with Phil when the doorbell rang.

Phil peeked out the window. "It's the sheriff."

Heather opened the door and let him in.

"I wanted to make sure you were all right." Billy looked her over while he stuck a toothpick in his mouth.

She shut the door. "We're fine. Any news?"

"Nope. I can't find this Louie guy." Billy strode into the showroom and looked around. "We got some fingerprints from the museum, but they're not in any system. And we don't know his real name, so we're at a dead end."

"I see." Heather followed him into the showroom.

"Did you find anything useful from Heather's truck?" Phil asked.

"Nope." Billy wandered around the runway sections. "So you're getting ready for the show Saturday?"

"Yes," Heather replied. "Since I'm going to be at the show, Jean-Luc thinks Louie will come."

Billy wheeled around to face her. "He's using you as bait?"

Heather shrugged. "He's bait, too. Louie wants to kill us both."

Billy chewed on his toothpick, frowning. "I'll need to be there, along with my two deputies."

"We'll be glad to have your help," Heather assured him. Ian had told her that if the mortals saw anything they shouldn't, the Vamps would erase their memories.

Billy strolled back to the front door. "Cody's acting weird again. He was at Schmitty's Bar last night. Got drunk and started raising a stink about you. Then, all of a sudden, he says he's a cockroach and scrambles all over the pool tables, messing up everybody's games."

Heather sighed. One more problem to deal with.

"I had to lock him up for the night." Billy opened the door and paused on the front porch. "He was fine this morning, but I'm telling you, the guy's psycho."

"I understand. Thanks for stopping by." She closed the door and locked it.

It was a strange world when the vampires appeared more normal than the mortals.

Chapter 24

That night, Heather learned about another super power the vampires possessed. She stood in the showroom, amazed, while Robby and Ian hung material from the catwalk to make a curtain that partitioned off the back of the showroom. The models would use the back section as their dressing room during the runway show.

What amazed Heather was the two Scotsmen didn't need a ladder. They simply levitated in the air.

"I guess you can do that, too." She slanted a glance at Jean-Luc, who stood beside her.

"Yes." He leaned toward her. "In my arms, we could rise to new heights together."

She wasn't sure he was referring to levitation. "I'm fine being a lowly mortal."

"There's nothing lowly about you. And I've had some trouble lately with certain parts levitating on their own."

She snorted. "What other powers do you have?"

"Superior vision and hearing. An advanced awareness of my surroundings. For instance, did you know Fidelia is hiding behind the scarf display case?"

"No. Why on earth would she do that?"

Jean-Luc's mouth twitched. "You can't guess?"

Heather lifted her gaze. Above the display case, Robby was hovering in the air, wearing his blue and green plaid kilt. "Good Lord. This is embarrassing." Thankfully, Bethany was in the kitchen, eating cookies, while Phineas stood guard.

Ian dashed into the showroom, carrying more bolts of fabric to use as curtains. He moved so fast, his body was a blur.

"You're super fast and strong," Heather observed.

"We have great endurance." Jean-Luc smiled. "We can last all night long."

She scoffed. He had a one-track mind tonight. In that respect, Vamp men had not advanced one iota from their mortal beginnings. "Your eyes put you at a disadvantage."