Bitten by Cupid (Argeneau #13)

Chapter 6



Tiny returned from his hunt for food with several bags in hand. One held sandwiches, chips, and various soft drinks, the others held loads of tourist wear. There were T-shirts, tank tops, joggers, and jackets all in various sizes and all saying I love NEW YORK or something else about the city. It wasn't ideal, but he thought what he'd found was better than the clothes they were wearing and hoped the women would agree.

In one of the clothing bags, there was also a se-lection of temporary tattoos. They were for Stephanie. As they'd walked through the sewers, the girl had been complaining about all the things she couldn't do now that she had been turned, and tattoos had been high on the list. It seemed she'd planned to get one as soon as she turned eighteen. Her parents had refused even to consider her getting one until then. He was hoping these would cheer her slightly.

"Ooh, is that food I smell?"

Tiny turned from closing the hotel-room door as Stephanie hurried to his side. Much to his surprise, she was wrapped in a hotel robe. Few hotels had robes in the rooms anymore.

"I called down to the desk for the robe. Most hotels have them to purchase. They'll put it on the room bill," Stephanie explained absently as she began plucking at the bags he held. "What is this? You found clothes too?"

"I found a twenty-four-hour market. It's amazing what they carry in those places," he murmured, as she urged him toward the table. The moment he set the bags on it, she started poking through the contents. While she'd at first been interested in the food, she now ignored that bag and began dumping out the contents of the others to sort through them.

"Nice." She held up a black tank top with NYC on it across the breasts. Tiny had picked it up thinking of Mirabeau. It had seemed her style, and he hoped it was her size. He could actually imagine her in it. Apparently Stephanie read the thought in his mind and dropped it on the table. "It would look better on her anyway. I don't have the boobs for it."

Tiny sighed to himself, thinking it might be nice to be an immortal if he could then guard his thoughts from others. It was bad enough having every adult immortal he encountered in his head, but even worse to have Stephanie in their sifting through his sometimes less than PG-13 thoughts. He would definitely need to start editing his own thinking around the girl.

"Hey! What are these?"

Tiny glanced to the girl to see that she'd found the tattoos. Clearing his throat, he said, "I thought you might have fun with them. I know they aren't the same as getting a real tattoo, but that just means you can change them as you like and won't be stuck with one you might get tired of."

"That's true, I guess," she murmured, leafing through the sheets of tattoos. "How come they're all hearts and lovey-dovey stuff?"

"It's Valentine's today, kiddo," he pointed out, then realized that wasn't true. While the wedding ceremony had taken place on Valentine's Day-an effort he suspected to be sure the men never forgot their anniversary-it was now past midnight and February fifteenth. Shrugging, he added, "That's all they had besides I ♥NEW YORK tattoos, and I didn't think you'd be interested in them."

"No," she agreed with a grimace, then brightened. "I'm going to show Mirabeau. Where is she?"

"My bathroom," Tiny guessed, and when she quickly headed in that direction, warned, "She's probably in the tub."

But he was too late. Like all immortals, the kid could move fast. By the time he even started the warning Stephanie had already passed through his room, and burst into the bathroom. He winced and moved into his bedroom as he heard Mirabeau squawk, curse, and ask something about the girl's having any boundaries.

"Sorry." Stephanie's voice sounded deflated, and there was misery on her face as she turned toward the door, muttering, "I used to talk to my mom all the time while she was in the tub. I guess I wasn't thinking."

He caught a glimpse of Mirabeau as Stephanie shifted to leave the room and saw that she was now biting her lip, regret on her face. He smiled to himself when she suddenly said, "So did I."

He'd known she could handle the kid and wasn't at all surprised when Stephanie paused and turned back uncertainly to ask, "Really?"

He saw Mirabeau nod solemnly and was just thinking it would be all right when Stephanie said, "They had baths in your day?"

That had definitely been the wrong thing to say. The kid didn't seem to be able to say anything to Mirabeau that wasn't insulting, and he wasn't surprised to see Mirabeau's eyes narrow, though he was surprised that he was managing to keep his eyes on her face. Fortunately, only her head and upper shoulders were sticking out of the sea of foamy bubbles in his bathtub.

"Can you say anything that isn't insulting?" Mirabeau asked grimly. "Did the turn somehow eradicate your manners? Or maybe your mother never taught you any."

"She did too," Stephanie said at once, her voice high and harsh. "She was a good mom."

"So what's your problem?" Mirabeau asked.

"What's your problem?" Stephanie countered, and stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Tiny stepped out of her way as she passed and watched her go with a sigh. His head came back around to the bathroom door, however, when he heard sloshing water in the bathroom. Mirabeau was getting out of the tub, he realized. Not wanting to get caught eyeing the door, he busied himself emptying his pockets in preparation for stripping to take his own bath. When he finished, he moved out to retrieve the 3X T-shirt and joggers he'd bought for himself as well as the black tank top, a medium-sized T-shirt, and the medium-sized joggers he'd bought for Mirabeau.

He was carrying them into the bedroom when the bathroom door opened and Mirabeau appeared, wrapped in a towel. The sight brought him to a dead halt. It wasn't that she wasn't covered at all the important points, but he couldn't help but be aware that she was completely naked beneath the towel.

She paused on spotting him and her shoulders sagged as she said wryly, "I guess I didn't handle her as well as you'd hoped."

Tiny couldn't seem to drag his eyes away from their inventory of the naked flesh visible above and below the towel, but did manage to murmur, "Well, she was kind of rude."

"I was probably ruder at her age," Mirabeau admitted wearily, then noticed the clothes he held and started forward, her expression brightening. "You found clothes?"

She said it in a tone of voice he would have only expected from an offering of a designer original, but he completely understood her happiness. He'd been pretty thrilled himself when he'd spotted the clothes in the store.

Tossing the clothes for him on the bed, he offered the others to her. "I guessed you were a medium, but wasn't sure which you'd prefer. I thought probably the tank top, but it is winter, so-"

"Cold doesn't bother me," Mirabeau assured him, choosing the tank top as he'd hoped.

Her words made him wish he'd brought the short shorts as well. She probably wouldn't have worn them, but he could fantasize.

"These are great," Mirabeau said happily as she took the joggers as well. When she caught his wry expression she laughed, and pointed out, "They don't stink and cover more than a towel."

"Yeah, that's what I thought," he admitted, his eyes dropping to run over the back of her legs as she spun away and headed for her own room.

"I rinsed the bath, it's ready if you want to take your turn at it," she said, then slipped through the door and out of sight. Tiny sighed as the door closed behind her. He supposed it had been too much to hope that the towel might slip or something. Ah well…He would shower to wash the stink away, then eat some of those sandwiches he'd brought back. While he was hungry, the thought of eating in his present state just made him want to gag.


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