One Lucky Vampire An Argeneau Novel Page 0,1

a lifelong friend of my mom’s. She and her hubby hang with my parents all the time and she’s been ‘Aunt Betty’ most of my life. Dotty old biddy now, but good-hearted.”

“Yeah, this is the same deal,” Jake said, ignoring the twinge of guilt the words caused. The lady in question was old as hell, but “dotty old biddy” didn’t exactly fit her.

“Well . . .” Dan eyed him silently, and then smiled wryly and said, “I’m kind of glad to hear about this aunt who’s not an aunt. You never mention family. I was beginning to think you were hatched or something.”

“Nah. There just isn’t much to talk about,” Jake said quietly. “Most of my family live on the West Coast or out of the country. Haven’t seen much of them the last few years or so.”

“Ah.” Dan nodded. “So . . . ? Siblings? Parents still alive? Kissing cousins around?”

Much to Jake’s relief he was saved from answering the probing questions when they reached the main floor and the doors began to open. Moving forward, he said, “See you in a couple days,” over his shoulder.

“Yeah.” Dan said, following him off the elevator.

Jake hurried for the building’s exit, but his expression was tight. He knew damned right well that wouldn’t be the end of the questions. Dan would repeat them at the first opportunity, and have a dozen more.

Putting away that worry for now, Jake pushed through the front doors and turned right, moving quickly. He was supposed to have been at the restaurant ten minutes ago. Fortunately, the Protection One offices were downtown, just around the corner and down the street from where he was headed. A three- or four-minute walk if he moved fast.

Of course, it was possible he was rushing for nothing. His dinner companion may already have given up and left. He couldn’t say he’d be sorry if she had. He wasn’t looking forward to this meeting. He had no doubt his “aunt” was trying to arrange a family reunion, and while it may have been more than half a dozen years since he’d left the bosom of his family, he wasn’t ready to return. Not yet anyway.

Worrying about how to politely say as much, Jake reached the restaurant and hurried inside, only to pause abruptly, his gaze searching the patrons.

“Hi. Did you want a table or are you meeting someone?”

Jake glanced to the young woman who had spoken. Dressed all in black, she was blond, beaming, and perky as hell. She waited wide-eyed and head tilted for his answer.

“Meeting someone,” he assured her, and then turned his attention back to the room, his eye immediately caught by the auburn-haired beauty waving at him from a table in the back corner. She hadn’t left. Damn, he thought wearily and headed for the table. She was on her feet by the time he reached her, and immediately stepped forward to hug him.

“Sorry I’m late,” Jake apologized as he self-consciously returned the embrace. “I just got out of work.”

“No need to apologize, Stephano. I’m just glad you agreed to meet me,” Marguerite Argeneau said, leaning back in his arms to smile at him warmly. “It’s good to see you.”

“You too,” Jake said stiffly as he released her. Voice gentle, he added, “I don’t go by Stephano anymore.”

“Oh, yes, of course, I’m sorry,” she said apologetically. “You go by your second name now. Jacob.”

“Call me Jake,” he suggested, urging her back to her seat, before settling in the one across from her as another woman all in black approached with menus in hand. This one was a brunette, but she wore a beaming smile as perky as the blonde’s at the door as she stopped at the table.

“Good evening!” she said gaily as she set a menu in front of each of them. “Would you like something to drink while you look at the menu?”

“Water,” Jake said quietly.

Nodding, the girl then turned to Marguerite. “How is your tea? Would you like fresh tea, or something else to drink?”

“Another tea, please, and a glass of water,” Marguerite said, her smile just as wide as the girl’s.

Nodding, their waitress beamed again and rushed off.

Marguerite immediately turned to him with a more natural smile. “Jake. The name suits you. And I understand now you use Colson, your father’s last name, rather than Notte?”

He shifted uncomfortably as he nodded, and then waited for her to give him hell for being an ungrateful wretch and dropping the name of the man who