"You left this hospital alone in the middle of the night?" he demanded. They were both in their mid-twenties, college graduates, on their own, but he was still a father, their father, and would always be so.
Jade glanced at Shanna.
"Dad, I was here, too-"
"And I was with them as well."
Peter jerked around, recognizing Sean Canady. From his long-running job at the paper, he had become acquainted with the Homicide detective.
Canady's words, however, were not as reassuring as he would have liked. Great, the girls were not alone, they were being looked after by a tall, intelligent, muscular cop- who carried a big gun.
But why was it necessary that they have a big cop watching over them?
Canady was quick to assure him, striding forward, shaking his hand. "Peter, it's good to see you. And it's good to hear your wife is doing so well."
"We called on our way in," Shanna explained.
"You got my messages then?" Peter asked, feeling puzzled and not sure why. Then he realized that there was another man with the girls and the detective. Physically they might have been cloned; both were well over six feet, toned, and dark-haired.
"How do you do?" the stranger said, stepping forward. "Dad, this is Lucian DeVeau," Shanna said quickly. "Mr. DeVeau."
"An old friend, Peter," Sean explained. "I've been disturbed by the things happening. You know, the case in New York-"
"Yes, and that massacre at the theme park," Peter said. "We were working story angles on the murders all day yesterday. It was why I was out when ..." His voice trailed. "Is there some danger to Jade?" he asked sharply.
"We're not taking any chances," Canady said.
Peter stared at Lucian. "You're not a cop?"
"He's a friend, Peter. Someone I've known-"
"Mr. DeVeau! Liz interrupted suddenly, smiling. "I've met you somewhere before, haven't I?"
"Who knows, Mrs. MacGregor. It's a small world," he said politely. But the tall, dark-haired man walked toward Peter's wife, taking her hand, placing a palm on her forehead. "You seem to be doing well. How are you feeling?"
"Better. Much better, thanks," she said. Her eyes were bright as she looked at him.
"So, Mr. DeVeau," Peter said, startled by the sharp coil of jealousy that sprang to life inside him. "Are you a doctor, then?"
"He's a writer, Dad," Shanna said quickly.
"Oh?" Peter said suspiciously. "You've just met?"
"I just met him, yes," Shanna said.
"Lucian and I met in Scotland," Jade told him.
He suddenly wanted to wrench his daughters and his wife away from the fellow. He wasn't sure why.
Lucian DeVeau was staring at him with his dark eyes open and frank, as if he were ready to respond to any question.
"I could just swear that we have met somewhere!" Liz said.
"Daddy," Jade said, coming over to him. She smiled and gently touched his cheek. "Daddy, you look like hell, which is understandable. I'm so sorry you couldn't reach us. But you need some coffee, some breakfast, something. Shanna is going to take you to the cafeteria for a few minutes, and I'm going to sit with Liz."
"Jade, you should be sorry-the two of you had me scared silly. But I'm all right."
"Peter, dear, please, go-get yourself some coffee and something to eat," Liz told him.
"Come on, Daddy."
Shanna came over and took him by the arm. He looked back suspiciously as she led him out.
"I'll be right back!" he warned them all.
Why was he worried? His daughter was looking at him with her beautiful turquoise eyes wide and innocent.
He liked the cop.
He didn't know the damned stranger; that was it.
And Jade seemed to know him too well!
The minute her father was out of the room, Jade returned to Liz's side. "Liz, you're really feeling okay?"
"So much better."
Lucian was beside her, smiling, touching her cheek, twisting her head this way and that. Liz stared at him, allowing him to do so. "You're not a doctor, but I feel that I know you. And I feel that you did something kind for me."
"Liz, what do you remember?" Lucian asked her.
"Nothing. Nothing but the cable man."
"The cable man?" Sean said sharply.
"They're testing some new market," she said dismissively. "What does that have to do with anything? I was just sick, wasn't I?"
She stared at them all hopefully. Then she looked worried. "Because I can't quite place it, but I feel ... I feel that something bad happened. I can't say it to your father
... I don't even know what I'm trying to say."
"Mrs. MacGregor," Sean said. "If you start to remember something-if you even think you imagined something- will you call me, please?"
She stared at Lucian. "Why do I think I know you?"
"Perhaps we met somewhere."
She nodded. "I do know you. I know that I do. Take care of Jade, will you?"
"I intend to," he told her. His dark eyes touched Jade's. "I intend to."
"Matt Durante! Get in here!"
Matt had been tapping at Jade's door when Renate made an appearance in the hallway.
Renate wasn't his favorite person at the moment. She had invited him in for champagne and caviar; then she had spent the evening telling him how he needed to join a gym and how his taste in clothing was disastrous. If he wanted to keep his head up among world-class and literary writers, he was going to have to shape up.
Writers, he'd told her, were supposed to be eccentric. They were supposed to come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, and ages.
She had waved him off and sent him packing. If he didn't want to be helped, well, then, she wasn't even going to try to teach him how to appreciate good caviar.
"Renate, what? I want to try to see Jade."
"She's not there."
"Oh? How do you know?"
"Because I saw her leave, you idiot"
"Oh." He felt like an idiot. It didn't make him feel any more kindly toward Renate at the moment.
"So she's out. Well, then-"
"Matt, damn you, this is important."
He sighed. "Oh, all right, what?"
"Come in! I can't stand here talking to you in the hallway." She met him halfway down the hall, caught his arm, and dragged him into her apartment. When he was inside, facing her, she leaned dramatically against her door, as if she were afraid he had been followed and they were in grave danger.
"What?" he said.
"Jade is dating a vampire!" she said dramatically.
He stared at her for several long moments, then shook his head.
"Renate, let me out."
"I'm telling you the truth!"
"Jade is dating a cop named Rick Beaudreaux."
"Beaudreaux is in the hospital, probably dying from the bite of one of the head vampire's little vixens.
Jade is sleeping with the head bloodsucker!"
He arched a brow, sniffing the air. "Renate, did you try to drink up all the leftover champagne on your own? Or is it vodka? I know you like a good martini-or two-now and then."
"Damn you, Matt! I have not been drinking at all! I am telling you the truth."
"And I'm leaving."
He started toward the door. Renate jumped away from it-not because of him, but because there was a knock on it.
"The vampires?" he asked.
"Danny. Danny Thacker. I've asked him over."
She swung the door open. It was Danny standing there, yawning. "All right, Renate, I'm here. Hey, Matt, how are you?"
"Leaving," Matt said.
"No, you're not."
"Jade's dating a vampire," Matt said, rolling his eyes.
"I thought Rick was a cop," Danny said.
"Rick is a cop!" Renate said, aggravated. "I'm telling you that she's sleeping with-"
"Luke?" Danny said, his eyes going wide.
"You know the guy?" Renate asked.
"Real tall dude, about six-three, dark, damned good-looking son of a bitch?"
"So he's real, not a vampire?" Matt said.
"His name is Luke ... Lucian. Yeah, he introduced himself as Lucian. DeVeau. Nice guy. He wants to be a writer. I think he's independently wealthy."
"He doesn't want to be a writer-he just wants to get close to us. He wants us all to invite him in-that's the way it works, you know. You have to invite a vampire in." Both men stared at her. "I'm telling you the truth."
Matt grinned suddenly. "Okay, I got it. You want to start writing horror. You want to be a major commercial success-"
"No!" Renate cried with frustration.
"You'll meet this guy, Matt, I'm sure," Danny said. "He's really decent. I had one hell of a snocker going the other night, man; I was just about falling down drunk after spending an evening with that kid's corpse. They brought me home."
"They who?" Renate asked suspiciously.
"They-Jade and this guy Lucian. She met him in Scotland, I think. I met him here. In New Orleans. At a cafe. Separately from Jade."
"They brought you home!" Renate repeated.
"Took me to bed, tucked me in."
"You invited him in!" Renate charged breathlessly.
"Well, yeah, I guess. And I'm still walking and talking."