Bitten by Cupid (Argeneau #13)

Chapter 10

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Mirabeau glanced at Tiny as panic and shock coursed through her. She hadn't expected the blunt question, and responded harshly. "What do you mean? I never said we were life mates. What makes you think-"

"It was obvious you couldn't read me in my room when you tried," Tiny interrupted quietly, then added, "You're eating too, which is another sign. And I'm pretty darned sure I was enjoying some of that shared pleasure in my bed this morning or last night or whatever it was."

"You two did it last night?" Stephanie squawked.

Mirabeau turned sharply to see the girl still wore her earplugs. Her confusion as to how she could have heard their conversation must have shown because Stephanie rolled her eyes.

"I don't need my ears to hear your thoughts," she said overloudly thanks to the movie sound track playing in her ears.

"Yes, but we were speaking what you heard," Tiny muttered.

"And you're thinking as you speak," she pointed out dryly, then shook her head. "Honestly, this life-mate business makes complete idiots out of adults. I mean, Dani's a doctor, for God's sake, and she's been pretty brainless since meeting Decker. Now you two." She shook her head again and turned her concentration to changing movies as she muttered, "Never gonna let myself get into that state. No sir."

Mirabeau flopped back in her seat with a sigh. Honestly, teenagers were a pain. She was amazed her parents had been willing to have more than one, let alone not take very long breaks between them…like maybe a millennium or something. Certainly her time so far in this kid's company was making her think a person had to be insane to want children. Sure, they were all cute and cuddly when they were someone else's baby, but that was when you could send them home. Spend twenty-four hours with them, and there were messy diapers, burping up on you, and the endless crying…then they grew up into smart-ass teenagers.

"I don't know who you think you're fooling, Mirabeau," Stephanie said with amusement. "I can read your mind, remember. I know you like me."

Mirabeau grimaced but didn't argue the point. Despite all the smart-ass comments, she did like the kid. Stephanie reminded her of herself when she was young. She'd bite her tongue off before saying that out loud though, she realized, and grimaced again as Stephanie began to chuckle in the backseat, positive she'd heard it anyway.

"So?" Tiny prompted after a moment.

It figured he wasn't going to let the subject go, Mirabeau thought unhappily. The problem was she didn't know what they were going to do about it. In truth, she knew that what Stephanie had said last night was right. While losing her parents and brothers had hurt horribly, she would never have dreamed of missing out on the years she'd had with them to save herself that loss. So, did she really want to walk away from what she could have with Tiny just to be sure she never suffered the pain of possibly losing him? Something that may never happen, she reminded herself. After all, she could die first, or they might die together.

However, while she thought she might be willing to go forward with it and be his life mate, there was more than just herself to consider here. Tiny too had a choice to make, and he was the one who still had family to lose. Not that he would have to give them up at once, but eventually, he would have to break away from them to prevent their noticing that he wasn't aging.

"What do you want to do about it?" she asked finally, rather than answer.

"I really don't know, Mirabeau," Tiny admitted with a wry smile. "A little more than twenty-four hours ago I stood in that church in New York and told Marguerite that I had a family, one I wasn't willing to lose even for the bliss of a life mate, but now…" He shook his head, and said with bewilderment, "They seem so far away when I'm with you. I love them, but…" He turned to peer at her briefly, then returned his gaze to the road, and said, "Twenty-four hours ago, to me you were just the gal with the black-and-pink hair. How could you become so important so quickly?"

Mirabeau had no idea. She had no idea how this life-mate business worked, just that it did, that she was showing all the symptoms of it, and that the longer she spent with him, the more she wanted to take that risk.

The sign warning of the approach of the off-ramp that led to Port Henry appeared ahead, and Mirabeau stared at it, rather surprised. She hadn't thought that much time had passed since they'd left the restaurant, but then she supposed she'd been a bit distracted with their conversation.

"I guess we'll have to leave this talk for later," Tiny murmured, putting on his blinker to take the off-ramp. "After we leave Port Henry, we'll stop somewhere and discuss it."

Mirabeau nodded at the suggestion but suspected that if they stopped anywhere the least bit private, they wouldn't get much talking done. Even somewhere very public wasn't likely to stop them from consummating their relationship if they were inside the SUV. Once the assignment was over, there would be nothing to stop them except themselves, and life mates weren't known for having a lot of restraint. She'd heard it said that new life mates were like drug addicts, constantly jonesing for a life-mate fix, and she finally understood the comment. She was jonesing for Tiny, very aware of his scent and the heat coming off his body, wishing she could sit closer, run her hands over his chest and legs, nibble at his ear…She didn't much care that he was driving. The only thing really preventing her doing all of that was Stephanie's presence and the fact that they had been charged with getting her safely to Port Henry. But once that was out of the way…

Mirabeau squirmed in her seat and licked her lips in anticipation.

"What are they doing here? I would have thought they'd be on their honeymoon now," Tiny murmured as he parked the SUV behind the Victorian house. Elvi and Victor Argeneau, one of the couples whose wedding she had stood up for, had just come out of the back door and were crossing the deck toward the driveway. Apparently the couple had flown back and beat them to Port Henry.

"They probably wanted to be here to welcome Stephanie," Mirabeau murmured, undoing her seat belt and opening her door.

"Are we glad to see you," Elvi announced, rushing forward to clasp Mirabeau's hands as she stepped out of the SUV. "We were really starting to worry. We expected you hours ago."

"We got a little turned around in the tunnels, then had a couple of unscheduled stops," Mirabeau muttered apologetically.

"Well, at least you're here now," Elvi said with a smile, her gaze shooting to Stephanie as the girl climbed out of the back of the SUV. Releasing Mirabeau, she moved to clasp the girl's hands, and said, "And you must be Stephanie. I saw you at the wedding, but we didn't really get to meet. I only found out afterward that you were the special guest Lucian had asked about staying with us."

"He probably didn't want anyone to read your mind and figure out where Stephanie was," Tiny said as he came around the vehicle to join them.

"That's what he said," Elvi acknowledged, her gaze still on Stephanie who-much to Mirabeau's surprise-had shifted rather close to her, like a shy child attaching herself to a parent's or older sibling's side on meeting strangers.

"Well…" Mirabeau hesitated, but then glanced back toward the SUV, wondering if they were to head out right away to report to Lucian in Toronto. She doubted they were to risk calling from the house, and the sooner she got it done, the better. The minute she'd made her report, she would be free to do what she wanted…or whom she wanted, she thought, her eyes sliding to Tiny. At least she could until another assignment came up.

"You aren't leaving already, are you?" Stephanie asked, sounding alarmed.

"Of course, she isn't, dear," Elvi said at once, slipping between them to put an arm around each female and urge them toward the house, leaving Tiny to follow with Victor. "Mirabeau and Tiny need to check in with Lucian. And then we'll have a nice meal, and they can rest after the long journey before deciding what they'll do next."

Mirabeau felt her eyebrows rise at the words "deciding what they'll do next." It seemed such an odd thing to say considering the woman didn't know them or the situation they were presently in.

"Lucian said not to call using anything but Tiny's cell phone, and we lost that in New York," she explained quietly, as they crossed the deck to the back door. "It's why we couldn't call ahead to explain that we'd be late."

"We have a safe phone," Victor assured her, pulling the door open and holding it for all of them to troop inside.

Mirabeau followed Elvi through an open kitchen with a breakfast counter, then into a large dining area with a beautiful fireplace.

There were three people seated at the table-a very pretty blond woman, and two men, one dark and one blond. All three rose at once to greet them as Elvi said, "This is my best friend Mabel, her life mate DJ and a dear friend of ours, Harper." She gestured to each in turn as their group came to a halt and spread out a bit in the dining area. "And this lovely young lady is Stephanie, who will be staying with us for a while." She beamed a smile at the girl, then added, "And Mirabeau and Tiny, who were kind enough to see her safely here and miss out on the wedding party after the ceremony."

"You didn't miss much," DJ, the darker male, assured them as he moved forward to shake hands. "There was no drunkenness or bawdy jokes, just a bunch of dressed-up people wishing they could go home and get naked."

"DJ" Mabel shook her head, but she was smiling at the man, obviously not really upset by his words.

"Well it's true," DJ said, unrepentant. "What's the first thing we did when we could finally leave and go back to our hotel room?"

"Dear God, they're everywhere," Stephanie muttered.

Knowing she was talking about new life mates who couldn't seem to do anything but "lust after each other or do it" as she'd put it earlier, Mirabeau turned her back to the group to give a warning look to the girl and heard a horrified gasp behind her.

"Child, what happened to your hair?"

Mirabeau turned back around, a hand going self-consciously to the back of her head at that exclamation from Mabel, but the woman hurried forward and immediately turned her around to get a better look at it.

"What on earth," Elvi's friend breathed, and Mirabeau felt her plucking at the hair left on the back of her head.

"A homeless guy ripped some of her extensions out," Stephanie said helpfully, and Mirabeau didn't miss the amusement in her voice as Elvi and Mabel crowded around to examine the damage.

"Well, we'll have to fix that for you," Mabel decided firmly.

"Yes," Elvi agreed, and began to urge both Mirabeau and Stephanie out of the dining room and toward a winding staircase in the front foyer. "Come along. Tiny can call Lucian while we fix your hair."

"Yes, you can't go around looking like that. I thought you'd been scalped when I first saw it," Mabel said from somewhere behind her, then asked, "Are there supposed to be pink patches in your hair, or is that a result of the extensions?"

"She had fuchsia tips before Marguerite took her to the hairdresser," Elvi explained in a hushed tone.

"Oh, my, well…that's…interesting, child," Mabel responded weakly, and Mirabeau felt a bubble of laughter at the back of her throat. It was obvious the woman wasn't sure what to make of it, but then despite her youthful looks, Mabel was somewhere in her early sixties and probably not into the new styles. Of course, Mirabeau was even older still, but had been born immortal and had never looked or even really felt old. These two ladies were new turns who had been gray-haired and grandmotherly before their turn. Which was probably why Mabel had called her child when Mirabeau was actually her elder. The woman hadn't gotten used to the idea that, at least physically, she was now a young woman.

"Here we are," Elvi said cheerfully, steering them into a large room with a king-sized bed and sitting area. "This will be your and Tiny's room while you're here."

Mirabeau was blinking at the announcement, when Mabel explained, "Marguerite told us she felt sure the two of you were life mates when she had Lucian put the two of you together to bring Stephanie here. And it's obvious she was right."

"It is?" Mirabeau asked with dismay, sure she hadn't said or done anything that might give away her feelings for the mortal.

"You don't have to say anything, dear," Elvi said gently. "Your thoughts are pretty loud. They must be. Mabel and I haven't quite got the hang of reading thoughts yet. We can barely read mortals, and only then with a lot of effort, but you and Tiny are like a pair of radios playing at top volume."

"And you're broadcasting a porno station," Mabel announced with a grin. "Every time you glance his way, your mind is undressing and doing delicious things to him, and he's no better."

"I told you you were screaming your thoughts," Stephanie said with vindication.

Mirabeau merely closed her eyes and wished she were dead.

"You can hear her thoughts then too?" Elvi asked with surprise, and Mirabeau opened her eyes to see Stephanie nod.

"I can hear you too, and everyone downstairs," she admitted.

"Even Harper?" Mabel asked with a frown.

"Yes."

"Well, aren't you clever?" Elvi said, rubbing the girl's shoulder. "That must be a special talent then, because Harper is apparently quite hard to read."

"Really?" Stephanie asked, standing a little straighter under the praise.

"Yes indeed. Even Victor has trouble reading him since he lost his mate." She sighed unhappily, and explained, "He and the other boys found life mates while here the summer before last. But Harper's didn't survive the turn."

"Hmm," Mabel muttered, urging Mirabeau to sit on the bed so that she could fuss with her hair. "And that was a shock, I can tell you. We were all worried about Alessandro's mate because she is in her eighties, but she came through with flying colors. Instead, Harper's life mate, who was young and seemingly in good health, was the one to have trouble. It seems she had a bad ticker no one knew about. She died before the nanos could get to her heart to repair and strengthen it."

Silence filled the room for a moment, then Mabel announced, "I think I can get these out, but we're going to have to move to the bathroom to do it."

Mirabeau immediately found herself ushered to the bathroom.

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