It bit: New York hotels cost an arm and a leg, and Terri had flown from England
to help plan her cousin's wedding. The new in-laws offered lodging. But they were
a weird bunch. There was the sometimes-chipper-sometimes-brooding Lucern, and
the wacky stage-actor, Vincent. (She couldn't imagine Broadway casting a hungrier
singing-and-dancing Dracula.). And then there was Bastien. Just looking into his
eyes, Terri had to admit she was falling for him - someone even taller, darker
and hungrier than the other two. She was feeling a mite peckish herself. And if
she stayed with him, those bloodsucking hotel owners wouldn't get her!
“The chicken’s very good.”
Bastien watched with amusement as Kate C. Leever scraped up a forkful of the
Poulet au Citron she’d ordered and held it to Lucern’s lips.
He was even more amused when his brother opened his mouth to accept the bite of
food, murmured in appreciation, chewed and swallowed. He hadn’t seen Lucern
do more than pretend to eat in his whole life. By the time Bastien was born, his
brother - already two hundred plus years old - had tired of even gourmet fare.
The taste of food began to pall after a hundred or so years of feasting on whatever
you wanted. Now, having passed his four hundredth birthday, Bastien himself found
eating to be nothing more than a nuisance, something he forced himself to do occasionally
at board meetings or dinner parties to prevent discovery of his true nature.
“It really is good,” Lucern announced. “Everything’s
a little new and different nowadays.”
“No,” Bastien disagreed. “It probably tastes much the same
as it always did. It’s love that’s reawakened your taste
buds and rejuvenated your desire for food.”
Lucern shrugged. He seemed not at all upset by the teasing emphasis Bastien
put on the word and had no trouble admitting his deep and abiding feelings for
the woman seated beside him. “Perhaps. Everything does seem more vibrant
and interesting now. I find myself seeing things anew, seeing them as Kate must
see them, rather than with the jaundiced eye I’ve cast over everything for
ages. It makes a nice change.”
Bastien said nothing, merely lifted his glass of wine. But as he took a sip,
Lucern’s words caused something of a twinge inside him. Were he to examine
it, he might have likened it to envy. But Bastien wasn’t prepared to examine
it. There was no time for love or even loneliness in his life, he had too many
responsibilities to fill his day. Bastien had always been responsible. When their
father died, it had been Bastien who stepped up to take over the duties of the
family business, it was in his nature. Bastien’s life was made up of taking
care of each individual crisis that came along, whether in business or within
the family. If there was a problem, Bastien was the man everyone looked to for
the solution, and that was how it had been even before his father’s death.
Bastien had often run the business and made decisions in his father’s stead
over the last several hundred years since Jean Claude Argeneau had developed the
drinking problem that saw him burn to death: One of the very few ways their kind
His eyes narrowed at Kate’s tone. He’d known her long enough to
recognize the “we’re- about-to-tackle-something-unpleasant,-but-it-needs-to-be-done”
voice. He’d heard it often enough, but always directed at Lucern. It
was unusual to hear with his own name in the mix.
“We invited you out to lunch for a reason.”
Bastien raised his eyebrows at this announcement. He’d suspected as much
when Lucern called and invited him to meet here at La Bonne Soupe for this meal.
His brother knew he wasn’t much into eating anymore. That being the case,
Bastien had suspected that this sudden invitation might have something to do with
the couple’s upcoming nuptials, but he wasn’t sure what his brother
The wedding was in exactly two weeks. It was here in New York which had seemed
the most likely choice for the ceremony as Kate, and now Lucern too, lived and
worked here. The oldest Argeneau son had made the move to Manhattan six months
earlier to be closer to his fiancé who also happened to be his editor.
It had seemed a good idea for him to be near while she made the necessary adjustments
to her turning. Aside from the physical changes, becoming one of their
kind meant learning a whole new range of habits and skills, so Lucern had made
the move to New York to help her with those, as well as to help with the wedding
arrangements. Fortunately, being a successful author allowed him the freedom to
make such a move with little difficulty.
Bastien had to admit that New York was the best place to hold the ceremony
and celebration. While neither family lived here - the Argeneaus were based in
Toronto, and the Leevers, Kate’s family, lived in Michigan - all her friends
and co-workers were in New York. And, as this was where Kate - as well as Lucern
now - lived and worked, it made it easier for them to make the necessary arrangements
for the wedding.
Luc had originally intended on occupying the penthouse suite above the New
York offices of Argeneau enterprises until the wedding, but after moving his things
into the apartment that first night, he had gone to visit Kate and simply stayed.
By the time Bastien fled Toronto - and his mother’s matchmaking efforts
there - to work out of the Manhattan offices, Lucern had already moved most of
his things into Kate’s tiny apartment, and Bastien had the penthouse to
himself. As usual. He rather preferred it that way and wasn’t looking forward
to the temporary invasion of guests and family that the wedding would bring. However,
he consoled himself that it should only be for a weekend, then he would have his
blessed peace again, and no interference from his mother.
He shook his head at the thought of Marguerite’s latest antics. She had
always been involved in her children’s lives, eager to see them happy, but
her latest stunt had shocked even him. Bastien was the last of her children to
remain single, and the woman was determined to see him settled in a loving relationship
like his brothers and sister. That was understandable, he supposed, but her way
of going about it was madness. His sister Lissianna and her psychologist husband,
Greg, had worked out so well, Marguerite had decided to round up a female psychologist
for Bastien in the hopes that he would fall in love with her. The silly woman
had made appointments with every female psychologist in Toronto, ferreted out
the single ones, chosen those she liked best and thought he might like, then had
announced she was a vampire and put the thought into their heads that they should
request to speak to a family member about her “delusions.” Bastien
had spent weeks running around Toronto, going from psychologist to psychologist,
clearing memories and ensuring no damage resulted from her stunt. Then he’d
escaped to New York to avoid getting caught in anymore of her madcap schemes.
Yes, his mother was going off her rocker with nothing to occupy herself. He
hoped Lissianna’s recently announced pregnancy would prove a distraction.
Bastien didn’t mind the idea of settling down and having someone to share
his life with, like his siblings had, but he wasn’t holding his breath waiting
for it to happen. He’d been alone so long he began to wonder if it would
ever be otherwise. Perhaps Josephine had been his one hope at happiness.
Unwilling to contemplate the memory of the human woman he had loved and lost,
Bastien glanced between Lucern and Kate in query. “So, what is this favor
The couple exchanged a glance, then his brother said, “You should have
ordered something to eat, brother. It’s on me.”
Bastien was vaguely amused at the stalling tactic. Much like himself, Lucern
hated to ask for anything. “It must be a big favor if you’re willing
to spring for lunch,” he teased.
“You make me sound cheap,” Lucern said with a scowl.
“You are. Or were,” he allowed. “Though you appear to have
improved since Kate’s arrival in your life. She’s managed to make
you loosen the purse strings somewhat. There was a time you wouldn’t even
consider living in a city as expensive as New York.”
Luc shrugged. “She’s here,” he said simply.
“Actually, I’m the one who needs the favor,” Kate announced.
“Oh?” Bastien turned to her with interest. He liked his soon to
be sister-in-law. She was perfect for Luc. His brother was lucky to have found
“Yes. My best friend, Terri - well, she’s my cousin, really. Well
she’s both, cousin and best friend, but-”
“This would be your maid of honor?” Bastien interrupted patiently.
“Yes!” She beamed at him, apparently pleased that he recognized
the name. But it shouldn’t have surprised her, Bastien was good with details.
Besides, the woman was the maid of honor and he the best man. As such, they would
be paired off and stuck together for the whole of the upcoming wedding. Of course
“What about her?” he asked as Kate continued to smile in silence.
When she hesitated, he prodded, “Is she arriving at the same time as everyone
else, or a day or two early?”
“Actually, she’s coming two weeks early,” Kate admitted.
“She had vacation time coming to her and took it all in one large lump to
fly over here and help with the wedding.”
“It’s a good thing, too,” Lucern muttered, then admitted,
“We can use all the help we can get. You wouldn’t believe how complicated
weddings are, Bastien. First the date has to be picked, the hall reserved, and
the invitations selected and sent. Then there is the caterer to be chosen, the
meals decided on, what wine to serve, the flowers to use and in what arrangements,
the music in the church, whether you’ll have a band or d.j. at the reception,
and what music to play there. The colors have to be picked and coordinated so
that the decorations, flowers, tuxedos and dresses can be chosen and so on.”
He shook his head. “It’s a wonder couples survive all of that and
make it to the wedding still together. Take my advice: If you ever find a mate,
skip the wedding nonsense and fly to Vegas.”
“Skip the wedding nonsense and fly to Vegas?” Kate echoed in disbelief.
“Oh, now, Kate honey, you know I didn’t mean it,” Luc began
backpedaling in earnest.
“I gather weddings are a pain to arrange, but surely the worst of it
is out of the way now?” Bastien queried, trying to save his brother from
the wrath filling his fianceé’s face.
A relieved Lucern eagerly grasped at the change of subject. “Well, yes.
Most of the arrangements are made and set, but there always seems to be something
cropping up that needs doing. Last week, it was making toilet-paper flowers. Who
knows what it will be next week.”
“Toilet paper flowers?” Bastien asked in surprise.
“Kleenex flowers,” Kate corrected, sounding irritable. “We
made them out of Kleenex facial tissues.”
“Yes,” Lucern said agreeably, then turned to explain to Bastien,
“She had me folding and tying all these bloody toilet tissues, then fanning
them into flowers to put on the cars for the wedding party as well as the ones
the family will ride in. I told her we should have someone else do them, or just
buy them, but she insisted that making them was a tradition in her family. Bought
flowers wouldn’t do, so I spent hours and hours last week just folding and
tying and fanning out toilet paper.”
“Some of them are toilet tissues,” Lucern informed her.
“What?” She looked at him with horror.
“Well, I ran out of Kleenex, and you insisted on so many for the cars,
I started using toilet tissue. I don’t think it will make much difference.
Tissue is tissue, right? Besides, you weren’t there to ask. You were working
late as usual.” He turned to Bastien and explained, “She’s been
working late a lot lately, trying to do Chris’s work as well as her own.”
Bastien raised an eyebrow, but Kate just made a face. “I’m not
doing C.K.’s work. Chris is editing his own writers and I’m editing
mine. It’s just that he’s going away to the California writers conference
today, and I’ll be fielding any emergencies that arise while he’s
gone. I’ve been trying to get ahead on my editing so that I don’t
fall behind while he’s gone because of attending anything that crops up,
if you see what I mean?”
Bastien nodded in understanding, then returned the conversation to the subject
it had started on. “So, your maid of honor is coming two weeks early. She
should be arriving soon, then. Where is she staying?”
“Ah.” Kate looked uncomfortable, then blew out a breath on a sigh.
“Actually, that’s the favor I wanted to ask,” she admitted.
“You see, I considered having her stay with me, but my apartment is really
small. A tiny little one bedroom is the best I can afford in Manhattan on my salary,
and with Lucern there it’s already quite crowded. I considered putting Terri
up in a hotel. Luc even offered to pay for it, but I know she would refuse and
insist on paying for herself. And what with all the expense she’s already
going to as my maid of honor, I didn’t want to burden her any more than
necessary. She really can’t afford this, but she wouldn’t say so.”
“Proud?” Bastien guessed.
“Yes. Very. Her mother was a single parent, and Terri’s been taking
care of herself since Aunt Maggie died when she was 19. She’s stubborn and
has trouble asking for, or accepting, help.”
Bastien nodded. He understood pride. He had a good deal of it himself. Too
much, perhaps, at times. “You want me to put her up in the penthouse,”
“Yes. If you wouldn’t mind,” Kate admitted, looking hopeful.
Bastien smiled indulgently. His brother’s fiancee made the request as
if it were a huge imposition. Which it wasn’t. This was one lone female,
not a passel of relatives. The penthouse was huge with five bedroom suites. He
also wasn’t there very much and would probably never even see the girl.
He’d leave Terri in the housekeeper’s capable hands, she wouldn’t
be any bother to him at all.
“That isn’t a problem, Kate. She’s welcome to one of the
rooms in the penthouse. When is she arriving? Sometime this weekend I should imagine
if she’s coming two weeks early.”
“Yes.” Kate exchanged another glance with Lucern before admitting,
“She arrives today, actually.”
“Today?” Bastien didn’t bother hiding his surprise.
“I know. It’s very short notice, and I’m sorry. I would have
asked sooner if I’d known. Originally, she was supposed to come the day
before the wedding like everyone else. But Terri decided to surprise me and took
the time off. I only found out an hour ago, because it apparently occurred to
her that she’d better be sure I was home and she wouldn’t be left
sitting on my doorstep for a couple days or something. So she called me from the
“Well, it’s a good thing she did,” Bastien commented, then
noticed another exchange of glances between the pair and narrowed his eyes. It
was obvious there was more to this favor than Kate’s maid of honor staying
with him. It suddenly struck him: “I suppose she needs a lift from the airport?”
“Well, she was going to take a taxi, but you know how expensive that
is, and she really-”
“Can’t afford it, but is too proud to say so, and you know she
wouldn’t take the money from you if you offered it, so you insisted you’d
have someone pick her up,” Bastien finished for her.
Kate narrowed her eyes. “Are you reading my mind?”
“No,” he assured her. “It was just a lucky guess.”
“Oh.” She relaxed. “You guessed right. Would you mind?”
Bastien’s gaze slid to his brother, and Kate added, “Lucern will
go with you, of course. He offered to do it himself, but he doesn’t know
the highways as well as you do, or the airports or where to go. I would have gone
myself, but I’m so swamped at work right now, I-”
“Luc and I will collect her,” Bastien assured her, smiling at Kate’s
diplomatic excuses. Lucern didn’t need to know the roads; he could have
taken one of the family’s company cars, with a driver. The truth was, Lucern
was still somewhat antisocial. He wasn’t as bad as he use to be, but he
was still a touch awkward in social situations, and Bastien suspected Kate was
afraid that he would greet her cousin and best friend with a grunt of “follow
me,” then remain silent all the way into town. Bastien, on the other hand,
dealt with humans all the time and was a little more social. He also - luckily
enough for Kate, and for the as yet unseen Terri - happened to have a light afternoon
at the office. It wouldn’t be a problem taking time off.
“Great,” Lucern commented in dry tones. “Has it occurred
to you, Kate my love, that you are sending two men, who haven’t a clue what
your cousin and best friend in the whole world looks like to collect her? How
will we spot Terri?”
“You can make up a sign with her name on it,” Kate suggested brightly.
“And between the two of you, I know you’ll find and deliver her safely.”
Bastien took in his brother’s doubtful expression with amusement. There
had been a definite warning in Kate’s words; Bring her back safe, or
“Darn, I have to go. We have a production meeting this afternoon. That’s
why I couldn’t get out of work to pick her up myself,” Kate explained,
getting to her feet. She bent to kiss Lucern, started to straighten, then bent
to press another kiss to his lips. It ended with a sighed, “I love you,
“And I love you, Kate,” Lucern replied. His tongue slid out to
lick quickly across her lower lip and in the next moment the two lovers were kissing
Bastien sighed and directed his gaze to the diners around them, knowing from
experience that there would now be several more moments of soft sighs and kisses
before Kate would tear herself away. The pair of them were pathetic. He only hoped
this honeymoon phase they were enjoying passed soon. He feared not, however. It
had been nearly a year since his brother Etienne had married Rachel and two years
since Lissianna and Greg’s marriage; yet neither couple appeared to be passing
out of this same lusty, loving phase. His whole damned family seemed to be rather
slow at moving out of it. They were all equally pathetic. He was the only member
of the family, aside from his mother, who didn’t spend ridiculous amounts
of time making out in public, private, or anywhere they found themselves. But,
then, neither he nor his mother had anyone to make out with.
Bastien ignored the twinge of envy that ate at him as he heard another soft
sigh from Kate, followed by a faint moan. In the next moment, his head whipped
around in surprise when Kate spoke in suddenly businesslike tones.
“This might help.” Kate had straightened and was digging a photo
out of her purse. “It’s a relatively new picture. Terri e-mailed it
to me last month. Now, I have to go. Be nice to her.” She set the
photo onto the table between them, then turned and began easing her way through
the tables toward the exit of the tiny, crowded restaurant.
“God, she’s wonderful.” Lucern sighed as he watched Kate
pause and step to the side to make room for someone entering the small eatery.
Bastien rolled his eyes, not missing the fact that his brother’s gaze
was fixed firmly on his fiancee’s derriere. Suddenly aware that his own
gaze had followed Lucern’s, he gave his head a shake and turned his attention
to the photo on the table. It was a picture of a woman in her late twenties. She
had full lips curved in an impish smile, and large, soft eyes.
“A beauty,” he commented, noting that Kate’s cousin appeared
to be her opposite. She was brunette to Kate’s blonde and buxom and curvy
in a way that made him think of ripe fruit, as opposed to Kate’s slender
figure. But she was stunning in her own way.
“Is she?” Lucern asked with disinterest, his gaze still following
“If you’d stop ogling Kate and take a look, you could see for yourself,”
Bastien pointed out.
Lucern turned an amused glance his way, then looked at the picture and shrugged
with disinterest. “She’s all right. Not as beautiful as Kate, though.
Bastien snorted. “No one is as beautiful as Kate, in your eyes.”
“You’re right,” Lucern agreed, lifting his glass to take
a swallow of whiskey before adding, “Kate’s perfect in my eyes. No
one comes close to her in anything.”
“Forgive me, brother. But I believe the modern expression is ‘You
got it bad.’” Bastien gave an amused shake of his head. He liked Kate
well enough, but she wasn’t perfect. Damned near perhaps, but not quite.
“So? What time does this Terri person’s plane get in?”
Lucern glanced at his wrist watch. “In about an hour.”
“What?” Bastien squawked.
“What, what?” Lucern asked.
“You’re joking! She doesn’t get in in an hour.”
“Yes, she does.”
Bastien stared at him blankly, then asked, “Which airport?”
“What?” Lucern asked. He looked concerned as Bastien began scanning
the tiny restaurant in search of their waitress. Of course she’d disappeared
right when they wanted her, probably into the kitchen.
“You could have mentioned this before, damn it,” Bastien growled.
“Hell, why didn’t Kate mention it? She knows it takes an hour to get
to J.F.K . Where the hell is that waitress?”
“She probably didn’t realize how late it was,” Lucern excused
Kate. “Besides, she’s a little distracted right now.”
“Yeah? Well it will be her fault if we’re late.”
“We’ll make it,” Lucern said soothingly as the waitress walked
back out of the kitchen. Gesturing her over, he added, “Terri has to collect
her luggage and go through customs anyway.”
Bastien shook his head in disgust. Lucern rarely worried about anything anymore,
but a couple hundred years in the business world had made him a details man. “She
may have to get through customs, but we still have to get the car and drive there.
Let’s just hope traffic isn’t particularly slow today.”
Leaving Lucern to deal with the bill, Bastien took out his cellphone and called
his driver. While he drove himself or took taxi’s at night, when he traveled
during daylight, Bastien always had a driver. Aside from saving him the trouble
of finding parking, it prevented his being out in sunlight any longer than necessary,
he simply had to jog from the car to the entrance of wherever he needed to go.
Not that he couldn’t have stood walking a few minutes in sunlight, or even
longer than that really, but it meant he would need to ingest more blood which
could be pretty inconvenient at times.
Once assured that the car was on it’s way, Bastien snapped the phone
closed and slid it back into his pocket, then began to consider how best to handle
this situation. While he used a chauffeured limo when necessary, his usual driver
was on vacation and Bastien really didn’t want to spend the hour long drive
out to the airport watching everything he said around the replacement driver.
They would have to ride back to the office to collect his own car. He’d
also pack some blood in a cooler to take with them in case of an emergency, Bastien
decided. All of his cars had special window treatments to prevent UV rays from
getting in to do any of their damage, but should the car break down or get a flat
tire and they be forced to fix it or walk any distance in sunlight, things could
get uncomfortable, or even dangerous.
All of this would take time, of course, and increase the chances that they
weren’t going to be on time to collect Terri, but if luck was with them
and traffic wasn’t slow...
“Traffic’s slow,” Lucern said a short time later.
Bastien gave a laugh. “Of course it is. Murphy’s law, right?”
“Reach in the back seat and grab my briefcase, Luc. You’ll have
to make the sign.”
“Won’t we recognize Terri from the picture?” Lucern retrieved
the case and set it on his lap.
“Maybe. But I don’t want to count on that. If we miss her, Kate
will kill us both.”
Luc gave another grunt. He had never been big on talking. Bastien supposed
that was why Kate had wanted someone else along to collect her cousin. The only
time Luc seemed to talk was when she was around. It was also the only time he
smiled. She brought something out of him no one else could, and which apparently
retreated or dropped dead the moment she was out of sight. When Kate wasn’t
around, it was difficult to get more than a couple words out of Lucern. A grunt
was his response of choice.
“What do you want on it?”
Bastien glanced to the side. Not only had Lucern managed to string more than
two words together, he’d pulled a large notepad and pen from the briefcase
and was ready to write. “Just put her name on it.”
“Right.” Lucern scrawled the name ‘Terri’ across the
paper, then paused. “What’s her last name?”
“You’re asking me? She’s your fianceé’s cousin,
Luc agreed, pursing his lips thoughtfully. “Didn’t Kate mention it
“No. Not that I recall.” Bastien glanced at him. “You really
“I can’t remember.”
“Well, Kate must have mentioned it a time or two over the last few months.”
“Yeah.” Luc was silent for a moment, then bent his head to write
on the page again.
Relieved that his brother remembered, Bastien turned his attention back to
traffic, then spared a glance at his watch. “If her flight isn’t early
and customs takes twenty minutes or so, we might just get there before she gives
up and hops in a taxi. Where will she go if she doesn’t find anyone waiting
“Probably Kate’s office.”
“Yeah. That would thrill Kate. Let’s hope the flight isn’t
“Two hours late,” Lucern grunted as they made their way into the
arrival’s terminal. “All that rushing about to get here on time, and
we end up cooling our heels for two hours.”
Bastien smiled faintly at his brother’s disgust. They had arrived at
the airport only to discover Terri’s flight had made an unscheduled stop
in Detroit due to “mechanical difficulties,” and had stayed there
while something was fixed. It was due to arrive two hours late. Bastien had been
concerned by the news until he had approached the airline desk to enquire and
learned that the problem was with one of the bathrooms on the plane. Not that
the clerk had told him that; Bastien had slipped briefly into her mind to find
out. It wasn’t something the airline wanted to advertise, and the mysterious
“mechanical difficulties” sounded better to them than admitting one
of their toilets had gone screwy. They didn’t want the motto “Fly
the crappy skies.”
With two hours to kill until Terri’s flight arrived, Bastien and Lucern
had retired to a bar, having to make their way to the nearest departure terminal
to find one. Now they were returning to the arrival area to await Terri, hoping
as they did so that she wouldn’t be held up too long at customs. Both were
rather weary of waiting, and eager to get out of the airport with its buzz of
stressed-out travelers and anxious friends and family.
“Here they come,” Bastien announced as the first weary travelers
began to appear beyond the blocked-off area. “Where’s the sign you
“Oh, yes.” Lucern pulled the piece of paper from his pocket. The
moment it was unfolded enough for Bastien to read, he snatched it incredulously
out of his brother’s hand.
“‘Terri, Kate’s cousin and best friend?’”
he read with disbelief.
“I couldn’t remember her name,” Lucern said with a shrug.
“She’ll know who it’s for. Hurry and hold it up, a whole load
of them are coming out and she might be one of them.”
Bastien glanced toward the arch where travelers were now appearing in clusters
of three or four. It would seem that customs wasn’t holding them up long
at all. “They must have worked double-time to get the luggage out so fast.
And customs must have extra people on.”
“Hmm,” was all Lucern said. Bastien raised the makeshift sign over
his head to be easily seen. “They’re probably rushing them through
to try to make up for the delay.”
The two men were silent as several dozen people arrived, were met by happy
relatives or friends, and departed the arrivals area. Bastien would guess that
a good fifty people came and went before he spotted a woman making a beeline for
them. He might not have recognized her if she weren’t walking toward them
with a tired smile of greeting on her face. Without realizing it, his arms relaxed,
allowing the sign to lower.
The woman was just as curvy and ripe-looking as she had been in her photo,
but her hair-style had changed. It had been up in a ponytail in the photo, now
it was down and flowing around her shoulders in soft chestnut waves. She still
wore jeans, Bastien noted with interest. Tight white jeans, a white University
of Leeds T-shirt, and white running shoes made up her outfit. She had obviously
dressed for comfort.
“Lucern!” She beamed at Bastien as she paused before him, then,
after the briefest hesitation, gave him a warm welcoming hug. “Kate’s
told me loads about you. It’s a pleasure to meet the man who’s made
her so happy.”
Bastien stared down at the top of the woman’s head with surprise, his
arms dropping automatically to embrace her. Lucern watched with amusement. Catching
the grin on his brother’s face, Bastien cleared his throat as Kate’s
cousin released him and stepped back. “Terri, I presume?”
She laughed at his stiff tone. “Yes, of course.” Then she paused
and tilted her head to examine him. “Kate was right. You must be the most
handsome man in New York. She said that’s how I’d recognize you,”
she confided with a grin.
Bastien found himself grinning back, ridiculously pleased at the compliment,
until Lucern got tired of being ignored and announced, “That would be me,
then. I’m Lucern, the most handsome man in New York. The man you just hugged
is my brother Bastien.”
Terri Simpson turned a startled gaze to the man who had just spoken. Perhaps
an inch shorter than the man she’d just hugged, the speaker eyed her with
amusement. Terri was surprised she hadn’t noticed this fellow, but while
he was almost a twin to the man he’d just called Bastien, he wasn’t
an exact copy. They had the same nose, but his lower lip wasn’t quite as
full as Bastien’s, who also had a more defined jaw line. There was also
something different about the eyes. Both had large silvery blue irises, but Bastien’s
were deeper and filled with an indefinable emotion that called out to her.
Actually, Terri was almost relieved that the man she’d hugged wasn’t
Lucern. Deciding not to dwell too deeply on the reason why, she stepped forward
to hug Kate’s fiancé. “My apologies, Lucern. I just spotted
the sign and assumed...” She let the sentence trail off as she briefly embraced
him, then stepped back. “You two must have been waiting here for hours.
Sorry about that.”
“There was nothing you could do about it,” Bastien remarked, “so
there is nothing to apologize for. Can I take that for you?”
Terri found herself relieved of her luggage as Bastien took the handle of her
suitcase while Lucern slipped the strap of her carry-on off her shoulder, then
the two men ushered her out of the building. Moments later, she found herself
in the front seat of a Mercedes on the highway.
“You must be exhausted after your flight.”
Terri flashed a smile at the man seated beside her. Bastien. She liked the
name. She liked the look of the man too. She didn’t usually go for business
types, but he cut a sharp figure in the no doubt designer suit he was wearing.
She glanced over her shoulder at Kate’s fiancé, who now sat silent
in the back seat. He had a notepad out, resting on his knee and was scribbling
away on it. For the first time, she noted he wore cords and a sweater. He was
a writer. No need for a business suit.
“Actually, I caught a bit of a nap on the plane,” she answered
finally, settling back in her seat. It seemed obvious that Lucern wasn’t
going to do much talking. Kate had warned her that he wasn’t very sociable,
and had assured her she’d try to get his brother to accompany him to the
airport. Kate hadn’t mentioned that the brother was even better looking,
however. Terri decided she’d have to talk to Kate about leaving out such
details. A little mental preparation would have been a good thing. At the moment,
she felt like she’d been kicked in the stomach. Butterflies were definitely
taking wing in her tummy. “I’m more hungry than tired. I slept a little
on the plane, but with the delay and everything it’s been a while since
the flight meal was served.”
“We’ll take care of that as soon as we get you to the penthouse,”
Bastien said, his gaze finding her briefly before returning to the highway traffic.
“My housekeeper is an excellent cook, and will no doubt be grateful for
the chance to prove it.”
“I take it you don’t eat in much?” she asked.
“What makes you say that?”
Terri raised her eyebrows at his sharp tone, then merely shrugged. “If
you ate in a lot, and had lots of dinner parties and such, your housekeeper wouldn’t
be grateful for the chance to cook for someone.”
“Oh, yes. Of course.” His frown became a wry smile.
“Am I waiting for Kate at your place, then?” Terri asked. She was
made curious by the surprise that covered Bastien’s face. When he glanced
in the rearview mirror, Terri turned to peer at the other passenger in the car,
but Lucern apparently wasn’t listening; he was still scribbling busily away
in his notepad. She turned back in time to see Bastien scowl, then he glanced
at her and sighed.
“Kate didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“You’ll be staying at the penthouse. Her apartment is too small
for the three of you.”
“Three of us?” she asked in surprise.
“You, Kate and Lucern.”
“Oh, of course!” It hadn’t occurred to her that Lucern might
have moved right in with her, but if the two were as in love as Kate said, Terri
supposed it was to be expected. He would hardly want to stay in Toronto while
she was here in New York, and fortunately his work allowed him to live where he
liked. Of course he would be staying with Kate. No doubt they would move somewhere
larger than her one-bedroom soon, but Terri knew her cousin well enough to expect
that she would stay in her little apartment and support herself until the wedding.
Which left Terri apparently staying with Kate’s brother-in-law to be.
Discomfort nipped at her at the idea of his having to put her up for the next
two weeks. She didn’t like to trouble people. “Perhaps I should rent
a hotel room. I don’t want to put you out.”
“That isn’t necessary,” Bastien Argeneau assured her firmly.
“The penthouse has five bedrooms and a housekeeper, as I mentioned. And
I’m quite busy at the moment, so you probably won’t see much of me.
You can come and go as you like. You are most welcome in my home.”
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