Bitten by Cupid (Argeneau #13)

Chapter 5

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The suite was two normal hotel rooms connected by a living/dining area, with a dining table and chairs at one end and a couch, chair, and television at the other. It wasn't very grand, but then the hotel wasn't exactly one of the grand ones either.

It would do for their needs, Mirabeau decided as she glanced over their accommodations.

"I get this room," Stephanie announced peering into the bedroom on the right. She then turned and arched an eyebrow as she asked, "Which one of you gets the other and which one takes the couch?"

"Nice try," Mirabeau growled, tossing the packet of room keys on the dining table. "You and I get that room. Tiny gets the other."

"No way. I'm not sleeping with you," she protested at once. "You probably snore."

Mirabeau scowled, her patience snapping, but before she could blast her, Tiny said lightly, "I wouldn't be so hasty. Your options are Mirabeau in the second bed in your room, or me…And I do snore." When Stephanie opened her mouth, probably to protest further, he added, "It's that or we go find the SUV right now and head out as we are. You can't be left alone until we get you safely to Port Henry. There's still a chance Leonius or one of his men could find us."

Stephanie snapped her mouth closed, then huffed, "Fine. Mirabeau then. But I'm telling Lucian how awful you two are as bodyguards." She whirled away, adding, "I'm taking a bath. A long one. You both stink, and I can't stand it anymore." On that charming note, she stomped into the bathroom of the room she was to share with Mirabeau and slammed the door behind her.

Mirabeau growled and started forward, murder on her mind, but Tiny caught her arm. When she turned furiously on him, he said soothingly, "You can use my bathroom."

"She-" Mirabeau began, but he interrupted.

"Is a teenager who was kidnapped, subjected to who knows what horrors, and turned against her will. In the process, she lost her whole family except her sister and she's now losing her, at least temporarily, while she's hidden away in some podunk town in southern Ontario."

Mirabeau found a smile tugging at her lips at his words. "Podunk?"

"Her word," he said wryly.

Mirabeau nodded. She hadn't paid attention to what they were discussing but had been aware that Tiny and Stephanie had chatted quietly as they'd traveled through the tunnels. It seemed that the girl had been airing her grievances, and she did have more than her fair share. Stephanie had been through a lot, Mirabeau acknowledged, and forced herself to relax. She took a deep, cleansing breath, then murmured, "You're very patient with her."

"I'm a patient guy." He grinned, and Mirabeau found herself relaxing completely and grinning back. The moment she did, Tiny patted the arm he'd grabbed, then stepped away. "Go on. Take a bath in my room. Take as long as you want. I'm going to go out and see if I can scrounge up some food for us."

Mirabeau bit her lip as she watched him walk to the door, suddenly worried about his being on his own. She didn't think anyone had followed them, but there was a slight possibility they had, and she didn't like the idea of his being alone if that were the case. She also knew saying so probably wasn't the smart thing to do. The guy wouldn't appreciate her fretting over him as if he couldn't take care of himself, so instead she said, "Don't you want to at least shower or something first?"

"And get back into these stinky clothes?" Tiny asked dryly, pausing at the door. He glanced back to peer at her and smiled faintly. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. Take a bath, then maybe talk to Stephanie."

"Talk to her?" Mirabeau asked with dismay, forgetting her worry for him. "What about?"

"About what she's been through," he said quietly. "Other than her sister, you can probably help her more than anyone."

"Me?" Mirabeau squeaked with disbelief. "What makes you think I-?"

"Because you lost your entire family at a young age too, didn't you?" he said quietly. "Of anyone, you should understand at least part of what she's going through."

Mirabeau felt herself closing up. It was as if something was squeezing tight around her. The slaughter of her family was a subject she never allowed herself to think of. She supposed Marguerite had told him about it for some reason or other, but she didn't appreciate it and didn't know how to respond other than to say almost resentfully, "Her family is still alive."

"But she can never see them again. She can never enjoy their love and support again," he pointed out quietly.

"She has Dani," Mirabeau insisted grimly.

"Not at the moment, she doesn't," Tiny said, then added quietly, "Talk to her. She's as alone and lonely as you."

This time Mirabeau didn't stop him from leaving but simply watched the door close behind him while a small storm of emotion rolled through her. Alone and lonely? Where the hell had he gotten that idea? And there was a vast difference between Stephanie and her. While the girl couldn't, or at least shouldn't, approach her family now that she'd been turned, she at least knew they lived, could check on them from time to time and reassure herself of their happiness. However, Mirabeau's entire family-mother, father, and three brothers-were all dead, along with the once-favored uncle who had killed them. She had no one, she thought, turning to enter the room Tiny was to use.

She had entered the bathroom before acknowledging that that wasn't really true. She had the Argeneaus. Mirabeau had been seventeen when her family had been killed, and Lucian had taken her to stay with his sister-in-law, Marguerite, afterward. That fine lady had taken her under her wing. As if sensing that treating her like a daughter would be too painful and would simply remind her of what she'd lost, Marguerite had offered her a combination of love and friendship that an aunt might offer a niece. She had opened her home and made her welcome in her family, and Mirabeau had eventually come to be treated by the whole clan as a dear family friend and offered all the love and support she could wish…but lovely as that was, it could never replace the family she had lost and simply made Mirabeau uncomfortable. While she was always included in special celebrations like Christmas or weddings, those events always reminded Mirabeau of her own lack of family…and she supposed that was something Stephanie would have to go through as well.

Sighing, she turned on the shower and quickly stripped off her ruined clothes to step under the hot spray. She turned under the showerhead, rinsing away the worst of the muck coating her, then grabbed the hotel soap, her mind on what she could possibly say to Stephanie to help her through this. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything anyone could really say to make it better for the girl. Even Mirabeau herself could only let her know she understood and perhaps take her under her wing as Marguerite Argeneau had done for her.

The problem was, Mirabeau wasn't sure she was any good at that kind of thing. She hadn't had a lot of practice. Other than Eshe and the Argeneaus, she hadn't really opened herself up to anyone since the deaths of her family, and her opening up to the Argeneaus was wholly Marguerite's doing. The woman was like some irresistible force. If she decided you were family, you were family, and that was that. It was futile to resist. As for Eshe, it had taken a good couple of decades of working together for her to open up and allow herself to be true friends with her. Mirabeau just didn't like to care about people; it meant pain should you ever lose them.

She stepped out from under the shower and wrapped herself in a towel, but then simply stood there frowning, both at her own thoughts and the fact that while she had soaped and scrubbed every inch of her skin, she still didn't feel clean. She also didn't know how she could possibly help Stephanie. The girl was angry and resentful and hurting…much as Mirabeau had been after the loss of her family…and still probably was if she was honest with herself. She had never really healed from her loss but simply refused to acknowledge it. That being the case, she hadn't a clue how she was supposed to draw the girl out and help her.

Tiny was giving her way too much credit in thinking she could, Mirabeau decided as she stared at the empty tub. She decided that perhaps a soak in a steaming hot bubble bath would make her feel clean. It might also relax her enough that she could come up with something to say that might help Stephanie.

Glancing around, she spotted the small hotel-sized bubble bath on the counter and grabbed it up. Mirabeau dumped almost the entire contents of the small bottle into the tub and began to run a bath. She would soak and think.

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