Home > The Vampire's Mail Order Bride (Nocturne Falls #1)(13)

The Vampire's Mail Order Bride (Nocturne Falls #1)(13)
Author: Kristen Painter

Hugh choked on his wine. “Something like that.”

“So what’s the deal? You agreed to put up with me for a month and make a good show of it in exchange for what? Keeping your name in the will?” It was Anthony Rastinelli and Little Tony all over again, except Anthony had only ever threatened to take away Little Tony’s Cadillac Escalade if he didn’t “fall in line.” She had a much better idea of what that line was now.

Hugh set the glass down and stared at her. “Are you psychic?”

She laughed. “No, I just work for a big family, and I know how those kinds of things play out sometimes.” Then her humor faded. Once again, she’d said something that might not be true of Annabelle.

Fortunately, Stanhill returned with her food at that moment. She kind of wanted to kiss him for it. “Thank you!” The words came out with a little more enthusiasm than she’d intended.

His brows lifted slightly. “You must be hungry.”

Sure, let’s go with that. “Starved.” The steak did smell incredible. She picked up her knife and fork and looked at Hugh. “Shall we?”

“Absolutely.”

Around bites of food, she kept the conversation directed at him, asking him questions about the town, his family, the house—anything she could think of to keep herself out of trouble. She learned he had two brothers, a little more about the history of the town and that apparently he wasn’t a lover of vegetables because, while he devoured his steak, the Brussels sprouts and potatoes remained largely untouched.

The meal flew by, and before she knew it, Stanhill was clearing their plates. “Dessert now or later?”

“None at all.” Hugh set his napkin on the table. “We’re going to go into town.”

Stanhill nodded. “Would you like me to drive you?”

“Yes, but we can walk home.” Hugh looked at her. “It’s only a fifteen-minute walk. Is that all right with you?”

“Totally. I walk a lot at home so—” She shut up before she said too much again. Oversharing was now her thing apparently—and her potential downfall. “Walking would be great. I’ll just run upstairs and grab a jacket.” She stood.

Hugh got up at the same time she did, and she realized it was out of politeness, not because he was as eager to leave as she was. “I’ll meet you in the foyer then.”

“Great.” She held her smile until she hit the stairs.

She was never going to manage pretending to be another woman for an entire month.

There were no true weekends in a resort town like Nocturne Falls. A Monday night could be just as busy as a Friday night. That was one of the reasons Hugh rarely went into town, unless Didi or one of his brothers requested he put in an appearance.

Being the Vampire On Duty was really Julian’s job, but every once in a while, Hugh filled in as VOD. Sebastian never did. Sebastian rarely left his house. Hugh was okay with that. Sebastian did enough keeping the family’s finances in order.

“What do you think?” Hugh asked Annabelle as they strolled Main Street along with the rest of the visitors.

Her gaze ricocheted from one thing to the next. “It’s amazing.”

It kind of was if he imagined it through her eyes. At night, the town was lit up like a jack-o-lantern. All the buildings were outlined with fairy lights. Shifts of character performers, every one of them a genuine supernatural (although the tourists didn’t know that), walked the streets taking pictures with tourists who wanted to show their friends on social media how they’d howled with the wolfman or the witch had almost turned them into a frog. And then, of course, there was the ever-present threat of being bitten by a vampire.

“Speak of the devil,” Hugh muttered.

Julian was a block ahead of them, posing with a group of college girls. Hugh pointed to one of the touristy shops that sold souvenirs. “Let’s go in here.”

“Where?” She stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and looked at him.

Hugh pointed again, taking her elbow and trying to aim her toward the store.

Too late. Julian’s voice rang out over the pseudo-scary soundtrack piped in through hidden speakers. “Well, well, well. Look who’s decided to grace the streets of Nocturne Falls this evening.” He parked himself in front of them, hands on his hips, cape billowing out behind him. To say that Julian embraced his role as VOD was a substantial understatement.

“Hello to you too.” Hugh smiled tightly. “You look busy, so we won’t keep you.”

Annabelle stuck her hand out. “Hi, I’m Annabelle. You must be a friend of Hugh’s. Love the getup, by the way.” She winked at him. “Very authentic.”

Julian took her hand, turned it over and kissed it. “A friend? Sweetness, this bastion of boringness standing next to you is my brother.”

“What?” She grinned and looked at Hugh. “This is Julian, the man whore?”

Julian dropped her hand and his grin.

Hugh’s smile was instantaneous. He might have fallen a little in love with her right then and there. “Yes, this is my brother.” He put his arm around Annabelle as he turned to Julian. “And this vision of loveliness is Annabelle Givens, whom you will not try to sleep with. Understood?”

Julian clutched at his chest as though he’d been mortally wounded. “I would never try to move in on your territory.” He wiggled his brows at Annabelle. “Unless you’d welcome such an invasion.”

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