One Lucky Vampire Page 29

“Melly?” Nicole asked, glancing around. “Is she here?”

Even as she asked the question, Nicole spotted the beautiful redhead standing by the couch. It wasn’t hard to believe she was a model, Melly was gorgeous; large exotic eyes, a straight nose, full, pouty lips, flowing red hair and stick thin. The woman looked like she was born to walk the runways of Europe and grace magazine covers.

Nicole was suddenly very aware that she was dressed like a bum, completely makeup free, and that her hair was a damp mess stuffed into a ponytail. Damn, she thought, life could be so unfair at times. Pushing that thought away, she produced a perfectly sincere smile and crossed the room to greet the woman her brother loved.

“Hello, Melly. It’s so nice to meet you,” she said, taking the woman’s cold hand in her own and shaking it warmly.

“It’s Melanie,” the woman said, with a cool smile as she retrieved her hand. “Only Joey calls me Melly.”

“Oh.” Nicole smiled uncertainly, glanced toward the men and then turned to head for the kitchen. “I’ll put coffee on.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” Melly announced. “It ages you prematurely.”

“Well then I’ll put water on for tea,” Nicole said, moving a little more quickly.

“Tea is as bad as coffee,” Melly announced as if she should know that and added, “Just hot water with lemon for me.”

“Right,” Nicole said through her teeth as she escaped into the kitchen.

She only realized that Jake had followed her when he said, “I’ll make the coffee and put the kettle on. You go visit with your brother and Melly.”

Nicole grimaced. “I’ll just get out some of that cake I saw in the refrigerator earlier.”

“Cake?” Jake asked with surprise.

“Mmm-hmm. I think Marguerite bought it while she was here.” Grinning, she added, “She has a sweet tooth.”

“What kind of cake is it?” Jake asked with interest, moving over to peer into the fridge over her shoulder. “And why the hell didn’t I see it when I was making our snack?”

“It’s double chocolate,” Nicole answered, pulling out a large carton of orange juice, another of milk, and a couple of creamers to reveal the covered cake at the back of the refrigerator. “Because I hid it so the boys wouldn’t gobble it down. They have a tendency to inhale everything.”

“Yeah, they do. They were always like that,” Jake commented, stepping back to get out of the way as she pulled the cake out and turned to set it on the counter.

Nicole started to take the lid off, and then paused and frowned. “I suppose if she won’t drink coffee, Melly probably doesn’t eat sweets either.”

“Yeah, she does,” Jake assured her absently, his attention on the cake. “She plans to puke it back up afterward.”

“What?” Nicole turned to him with surprise.

“I read her mind,” he explained, glancing to her and then smiled crookedly and added, “She doesn’t know you’re serving chocolate cake, of course. But when you said you were putting on coffee, she hoped you would serve a sweet too. She’s starved, wants to gorge on two or three pieces, and then slip away to the bathroom and purge it to avoid the calories.”

“Geez,” Nicole muttered, peering at the cake. It seemed a terrible waste to feed it to Melly just to have her puke it up afterward. “Maybe I won’t put it out.”

“Good. Save it for later. We can watch a movie and eat cake,” Jake said with a grin.

Nicole smiled faintly, but then her expression turned serious and she said, “Please don’t read Joey and Melly while they’re here, Jake. It’s kind of rude.”

His grin died slowly and he nodded. “You’re right. I hated it when my mother and the others read me. I shouldn’t do it. I’ll try not to.”

“Thank you,” she murmured, reaching out to place a hand on his chest to balance herself as she leaned up to press a kiss to his cheek. At least, she meant to kiss his cheek, but he turned his head at the last moment so that her lips landed on his.

“Is that chocolate cake?” Joey said behind them just as their lips brushed across each other’s.

It was probably a good thing, Nicole admitted as she turned to smile and nod at her brother. The way Jake affected her, she very well might have tried to climb him right here in the kitchen.

“Good,” Joey said grimly. “Chocolate is Melly’s favorite.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Nicole murmured with a sigh. It looked like she was serving it after all. Forcing a smile, she suggested, “Go sit down and relax, Joey. We’ll be out in just a minute with coffee and cake . . . and water and lemon,” she added quickly when he frowned. Truly, it had just slipped her mind.

“You’re right. We shouldn’t leave Melly alone. It’s rude,” Joey said with forced cheer. “Besides, you should get to know her. She’s going to be your sister-in-law someday.”

“Oh—” Nicole glanced to Jake.

“Jake will bring out the coffee and cake when it’s ready,” Joey added grimly and then arched an eyebrow and added, “That’s what he’s here for, isn’t it?”

Annoyance slid through Nicole at the comment. Jake was more than just a cook/housekeeper to her now, but she wasn’t sure just what that more included yet. However, Dante and Tomasso’s talk had convinced her to give this . . . whatever this was, a chance.

“Then he can come back in the kitchen and cook or clean or whatever while we visit,” Joey added firmly and Nicole felt herself stiffen.

“Actually, then he can visit with us so that you can get to know him,” she said sharply, and then mimicked him, adding, “You never know, he might be your brother-in-law some day.”

The minute the words were out of her mouth, Nicole wanted to pull them back in. Jake had stiffened behind her, and Joey looked horrified, but no more than herself. She’d said them out of anger . . . but they were too much. She’d agreed to give Jake a chance, not accept him as a life mate. She wasn’t ready for—

“Go visit with your brother,” Jake said quietly, his hand landing on her shoulder and squeezing gently before he urged her forward. “I’ll bring everything out when it’s ready.”

When Nicole glanced over her shoulder to him uncertainly, he smiled reassuringly and nodded her on. Letting her breath out on a sigh, Nicole followed when her brother turned sharply and strode out of the kitchen.

Melly was lounging on the couch, and lounging was the only description; she looked like she was posing for an ad for some exotic tropical resort. Nicole smiled at the girl, but before she could say anything, Joey caught her arm and pulled her close.

“What’s going on, Nicole?” he asked in a low, worried voice. “When I arrived just a couple days ago, Jake had just started on as your cook/housekeeper and you hardly knew him. Now he might be my new brother-in-law? What’s going on? Has he drugged you? Hypnotized you? Are they holding you hostage and forcing you to say this stuff?”

Nicole sighed and shook her head. “I didn’t mean that, Joey. I was just annoyed that you were treating him so badly.”

“He was naked and coming out of your room,” he pointed out grimly. “You aren’t the type to sleep with someone you barely know. And they haven’t been letting me speak to you. Something isn’t right here, and I’m worried. Please tell me what’s going on. I’m your big brother. I want to help you.”

Nicole relaxed and gave him a hug. “And I appreciate that. Thank you.” Pulling back she added, “But really, everything’s fine.” When he didn’t look convinced, she added, “There are some weird things going on, and Jake, Dante and Tomasso are trying to help me.”

“And Jake’s coming out of your room naked?” he asked.

Nicole opened her mouth, closed it, and then shook her head, aware that she was blushing. She also couldn’t help noticing that he hadn’t asked what weird things were going on . . . which she found a bit weird.

“You are sleeping with him,” Jake accused with amazement.

“Look, this is—really, I—we’re being rude to Melly,” she said desperately.

“Nicki, this isn’t good. You haven’t fully got over Rodolfo. I don’t want to see you hurt again,” Joey said quietly.

Nicole shook her head. She really didn’t want to get hurt again either, but after getting over her humiliation at knowing that Dante and Tomasso were the ones who had put her and Jake to bed after they’d passed out in the shower, Nicole had sought the men out and asked them to tell her about life mates. They’d said that life mates were made for each other. That Jake would never cheat on her, never hurt her, and never abuse her because he couldn’t risk losing her. That losing her could very well mean losing his sanity and humanity and going rogue. She didn’t understand how that could be the case, but those promises were tempting and—

“Nicki?” Joey said with a frown. “I really—”

“We’re being rude to Melly,” Nicole interrupted, and this time followed it up by moving away and settling on the couch to offer the other woman a smile. She didn’t want to discuss this with Joey. She didn’t want to think about it at all. She was giving Jake a chance and that was that. The only other thing she could do was pray that Dante and Tomasso were right, everything would work out, and she wouldn’t get hurt again.

“Well,” she said with forced cheer, smiling at Melly. “Joey tells me you’re a model, Melanie.”


Nicole hesitated, but when she didn’t add anything else, said, “That must be exciting?”


Again, the girl didn’t follow up with any experiences or how it was exciting. She didn’t seem to grasp the concept of a conversation. Person A spoke and then person B responded . . . with more than a flat “yes.” Or she just couldn’t be bothered, Nicole supposed, and glanced to her brother for help.

That was a mistake. Rather than help get his girlfriend talking, he went right back to the conversation they’d been having, and hissed, “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine, Joey, really,” she assured him with a touch of exasperation. He was like a dog with a bone.

“But they said you were sick when I called,” Joey said with a frown. “Were you? Or were they just not letting me talk to you? If they’re making you do something you don’t want, or are here against your wishes, Nicki, we can leave now and—”

“No, no,” Nicole assured him quickly. “It’s nothing like that. They—I—” She blew her breath out on a sigh. Either she told him that Dante and Tomasso and whoever the woman was who’d answered one of his calls had lied, which would just freak him out further, or she lied to him now. As much as she hated to do it, her lying now seemed the best option to calm him down. Joey was already freaked out and suspicious, unreasonably so and she had to wonder what Dante or Tomasso had said or done to cause it.

“I’m fine now, but I wasn’t . . . myself the last few days.” Nicole smiled as she finished that, proud of herself. She hadn’t had to lie, after all. She really hadn’t been fully herself while Marguerite, Dante and Tomasso had been playing with her head.

Joey frowned. “Well, what was wrong? Was it the flu, or what?”

“Oh, just some—” she waved vaguely, and finished, “thing. I’m fine now though.”

“And these men who are here?” Joey asked.

“You know who Jake is, and Dante and Tomasso are his cousins. They’re visiting from out of town. Jake was very sick for several days and they came to make sure he was all right.”

“He was sick too?” Joey asked with surprise.

“He was very sick,” she assured him.

“With what?” Joey asked suspiciously.

“He had a bad reaction to the chemicals in the hot tub,” she said, and then frowned and murmured, “Which reminds me, I need to get someone in to empty, clean, and refill it.”

“I’m bored.”

Nicole glanced to Melly with a start at that announcement.

“I want to leave,” she added, and Nicole was sure her jaw dropped to the floor. The woman made the announcement like she was some royal princess and expected everyone to start jumping to please her . . . which Joey did. Much to Nicole’s amazement, her sometimes selfish and annoying brother was immediately on his feet, and moving to take her hand to help her up.

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