Reissue
December 2009
Dorchester
ISBN 10: 0-8439-6344-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-8439-6344-1

First Edition
July 2004
Dorchester
ISBN 0505525836
Argeneau Family Tree
Notte Family Tree

Audiobook
Brilliance Audio
Nov 24, 2009
Order audiobook at Amazon.com

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!

 

When it comes to marriage, it often seems that the woman does all the work, and all the man has to do is show up. They rarely have to fuss over floral arrangements or worry about things like those little tissue flowers for the cars. I decided it was time to dump the problem in a man's lap. So I dumped that and a lot more - including the maid-of-honor -- in the lap of a four hundred year old vampire named Bastien. Then I waited to see what he would do about it. Actually, he handled it pretty well.


Chapter One

“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 could die.

“So, Bastien.”

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 could want.

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 you want?”

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 her.

“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 he recalled.

“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.”

“Kleenex,” Kate snapped.

“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,” he guessed.

“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 plane.”

“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 else.

“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, Luc.”

“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 again.

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 his soon-to-be-wife.

“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?”

“J.F.K.”

“Dear God.”

“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?”

Lucern grunted.

“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, not mine.”

“Yeah,” Luc agreed, pursing his lips thoughtfully. “Didn’t Kate mention it at lunch?”

“No. Not that I recall.” Bastien glanced at him. “You really don’t know?”

“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 for her?”

“Probably Kate’s office.”

“Yeah. That would thrill Kate. Let’s hope the flight isn’t early.”

It wasn’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 made?”

“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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