Marguerite wasn’t sure what woke her; a sound perhaps, or the crack of light from the bathroom being momentarily blocked, or maybe it was simply an instinct for survival that dragged her from sleep. Whatever caused it, she was alert and tense when she blinked her eyes open and spotted the dark shape above her. Someone stood at the side of the bed, looming like death. That thought had barely formed in her mind when the dark shape used both hands to raise something overhead. Recognizing the action from her youth when broadswords and weapons of its ilk were more common, Marguerite reacted instinctively, rolling abruptly to the side as the assailant’s arms started their downward swing. She heard the weapon slam into the bed just before tumbling off the bed. Marguerite landed on the floor with a thump and a shout that became a frustrated curse as she found herself tangled in the sheets. Glancing up, she saw her attacker jump onto the bed to follow. When he swung the sword again, she promptly gave up on the sheets, snatched the lamp off the bedside table, and swung it around to block the blow. Pain vibrated up her arm on impact, eliciting another shout. Marguerite turned her eyes away from the flying sparks as metal met metal, and spared a bare moment to be grateful that the Dorchester was a five-star hotel with quality—and fortunately—metal-based lamps that didn’t snap under a sword’s blow. “Marguerite?” The call was followed by a knock at the connecting door to the rest of the suite that made both she and her attacker pause and glance toward it. In the next moment, her attacker apparently decided he didn’t wish to take on two of them and leapt off the bed to race for the balcony doors. “Oh, no you don’t,” Marguerite muttered, dropping the lamp and lunging to her feet. She wasn’t the sort to allow someone to sneak up and attack her in her sleep, then run off to do so again another day.
Unfortunately, she’d forgotten about the sheets tangled around her legs, and crashed to the floor with her first step. Gritting her teeth against the pain vibrating through her, Marguerite peered toward the balcony doors as the curtains were tugged open. Sunlight immediately poured in, and she saw that her attacker was encased from head to toe in black: black boots, black pants, long-sleeved black shirt, and all of that covered by a black cape. He also wore black gloves, and even a black balaclava covering his face, which she saw as he turned to look back at her. Then he slid out onto the balcony, allowing the curtain to drop back into place as her bedroom door slammed open. “Marguerite?” Tiny rushed toward her, concern on his face. She waved him toward the balcony doors. “He’s getting away!” Tiny didn’t ask questions, but immediately changed direction, rushing for the doors leading onto the terrace. Marguerite stared after him with amazement. The man wore nothing but a pair of gold silk boxers with a big red heart on the backside.
The sight made her mouth drop open in surprise, but the moment he disappeared through the billowing curtains her surprise turned to concern. She’d sent an unarmed, nearly naked man after her attacker—who had a sword. Cursing, Marguerite concentrated on the sheets wrapped around her legs. Of course, they fell away easily now that she was no longer under threat. Muttering with exasperation, she scrambled around the bed and hurried to the balcony doors, charging right into Tiny’s bare chest as he stepped back into the room. “Careful. It’s daylight,” he rumbled, catching her upper arms and moving her back away from the curtains. He turned to close and lock the doors. “Did you see him? Where did he go?” Marguerite asked, trying to peer around his large frame as he pulled one of the heavy curtain panels into place. The action blocked out the worst of the sunlight and most of her view of the terrace.
“I didn’t see anyone. Are you sure you weren’t dream—?” Tiny paused mid-sentence as he glanced back and caught a glimpse of her in the bit of sunlight slipping between the gap in the curtains. Marguerite raised an eyebrow at the sudden widening of his eyes as they traveled over her in the short pink silk nightie she wore. His stunned gaze moved slowly down all the way to her pedicured and red-painted toes and then just as slowly back up, skimming her shapely, bare legs, her rounded hips, and then skipping up her stomach to her breasts, which she knew were more revealed than not by the low neckline. His eyes stopped there, the dazed look turning to a concerned frown. “You’re hurt.” Tiny caught her by the chin and tipped her face up and to the side so he could get a better look at her neck. After a second, he released her with a soft curse. “What is it?” she asked as he took her by the arm to hurry her across the room. Marguerite glanced down at herself.
There was a line of blood dripping down her upper chest and soaking into the lace neckline of her nightie. Frowning, she felt around on her throat until she found the nick in her neck. Apparently the sword had caught her as she rolled away. “Tell me what happened,” Tiny ordered as he ushered her into the en suite bathroom and flipped on the light. “I woke up to find a man standing over the bed. He had a sword. I rolled off the bed as he swung it,” Marguerite said simply, her gaze shifting out toward the bedroom and the balcony doors as he snatched up a clean washcloth and turned on the taps to wet it. Her adrenaline was still pumping and she now found she had itchy feet. She wanted to pursue the man who’d attacked her. “Roll faster next time,” Tiny muttered, reclaiming her attention as he began to wash the blood away from her skin.
He scowled as he worked, and then relaxed a little and said, “It isn’t too bad. Not deep I don’t think. Just a nick.” “It will heal quickly,” Marguerite said with unconcern as she moved away from him and back into the bedroom. She wasn’t used to being taken care of and wasn’t comfortable with it. Her feet took her to the balcony doors, where she shifted the curtain to peer out on the bright terrace. There was no one there, and no rope or anything else to suggest how they’d got onto her balcony either. She scowled out at the skyline. They were on the seventh and top floor. Her attacker must have climbed down from the roof.
“He was aiming to cut off your head.” Marguerite released the curtain and glanced around at that comment. Tiny was at the side of the bed, examining the slice across the mattress right where her neck had been. She shifted on her feet, her thoughts starting to take order in her head. Her attacker had used a sword. That told her he was definitely an immortal. Mortals usually killed each other, with guns or knives. If they were trying to kill an immortal they went for the classic stake. Beheading with a sword was usually the sign of another immortal. “Do you have enemies here in England that you forgot to mention?” Tiny asked suddenly, straightening from examining the bed to spear her with a frown.
Marguerite shook her head. “It must be connected with this case.” He raised a doubtful eyebrow. “Why? We haven’t found out anything yet.” Marguerite grimaced, disgusted by their inability to unearth even a bit of information regarding their case. They were here to help Christian Notte, a five-hundred-year-old immortal, find out the identity of his dead birth mother. It had sounded an easy task in the beginning, but it wasn’t turning out that way. A lot of time had passed since his birth, and Christian had little information he could offer them except that he’d been born in England and his father had returned home to Italy with him when he was only two days old. Tiny and Marguerite had started the search in England, spending the last three weeks searching through dusty church archives looking for mention of his birth or even of the name Notte. They began in the southernmost part of the country, working their way north until they’d reached Berwick-uponTweed.
It was there that Tiny had finally suggested they question Christian again to see if there wasn’t some bit of information he could give them to help narrow the search to one area, or at least one half of the country. Relieved by the suggestion, Marguerite had promptly agreed. She’d expected private detective work to be much more interesting than it was turning out to be and was seriously reconsidering her career choice. But she’d promised to help Christian find out the identity of his mother and intended to do her best to accomplish that. Tiny was the one who called Christian in Italy and arranged to meet in London. Rather than wait and catch a train the next morning and have to travel during daylight, Marguerite rented a car and they drove through the night, arriving at the hotel shortly before dawn. Christian had already arrived and checked in. They’d met briefly with Christian Notte, and his cousins Dante and Tommaso on arriving, but only long enough to arrange a meeting at sunset to discuss the case. They’d then parted to go to their rooms. “No, we haven’t found out anything,” she agreed now, pursing her lips as she peered at Tiny and then added, “But I can’t think of any other reason someone would try to kill me.
Perhaps the very fact that we’re here and looking is enough to worry someone.” Tiny didn’t look convinced. He did look worried though so she wasn’t surprised when he suggested, “I think we should switch rooms…possibly even hotels.” Marguerite was frowning at the thought of having to dress and pack and move when Tiny suddenly added, “It was an immortal, wasn’t it?” Her startled eyes shot to his face, though she knew she shouldn’t be surprised. She might be a newbie at this detective business, but Tiny was the real thing. She should have realized he’d put it together. Sighing, Marguerite ran a hand through her hair and nodded. “Yes. I am sure he was. And, yes, we should switch hotels and even use a different name.
But not this morning,” she added firmly. “I am sure he will not try again this day and I’m exhausted.” Tiny nodded and then asked, “Did you leave your balcony door open?” “No.” “Was it locked?” Marguerite hesitated and then shrugged. “I did not open it when I came in, so have no idea.” Tiny frowned at her answer, and then announced, “You aren’t sleeping in here. You can take my bed.” “Well, you are not sleeping in here either,” she said firmly. “No,” he agreed. “I want to stick close to you until we move hotels.
Jackie and Vincent would never forgive me if I let you get killed under my nose.” Marguerite smiled faintly at the mention of her nephew, Vincent Argeneau and his lifemate, Jackie Morrisey, who also happened to be the owner and president of the Morrisey Detective Agency, Tiny’s boss…and hers now too, she supposed. “I’ll nap on the window seat in my room while you take the bed,” he decided. “You’ll not get any sleep there.” Marguerite moved to the door leading to the rest of the suite. “You can sleep in the bed with me.” Tiny snorted at the suggestion as he followed her through the sitting area to his door. “Like I’d get any sleep there.” Marguerite glanced back and grinned when she caught him watching her behind as he followed her into the second bedroom. It didn’t take her ability to read his mind to know he found her attractive.
She’d been aware of that from the beginning of their friendship. And she found him attractive as well; tall, handsome, built like a line-backer with one of those lovely, wide chests a gal could spend hours exploring…and he could cook too, a skill Marguerite had never acquired. The man was practically perfect. There was only one flaw to him as far as she could tell, but it was a big one. Marguerite could read and control him. Having spent the last seven hundred years trapped in a marriage with a man who could read and control her—and couldn’t resist doing so at every opportunity—she wasn’t willing to visit that on someone else. “You are perfectly safe with me,” she assured him solemnly as she crossed the room to his bed. “Marguerite, honey, no man is safe with a woman who looks like you,” Tiny muttered as he closed the door. He watched her climb into bed and added with a shake of the head, “Especially in that nightie. What the hell did they make it out of? A hankie and some lace?” Marguerite peered down at herself.
The nightie wasn’t really that revealing. Or at least, it wasn’t as revealing as some of her other ones. And she liked pretty lingerie, it made her feel sexy. Single gals like herself had to get that feeling somewhere. Besides, she hadn’t expected anyone would see it. She raised her gaze to Tiny again to find him settling on the window seat. It wasn’t long enough for him to stretch out on, so he sat himself on it, back against the wall at one end, arms crossed over his chest, expression grim as he avoided looking at her. “You are not going to get any sleep like that,” Marguerite said with a sigh. “Yeah, well, I don’t need a lot of sleep,” he muttered, his gaze sliding to her and then quickly dancing away. Marguerite stared at him for a moment and then shook her head and lay down in the king-sized bed.
She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but after a couple of moments, she opened them again to stare at the ceiling overhead and then finally turned a scowl in Tiny’s direction. This was just stupid. He wouldn’t catch a lick of sleep on that window seat, and she was never going to sleep knowing he couldn’t sleep. Besides, it was a huge bed, with plenty of room for both of them. Narrowing her eyes, Marguerite gave in to temptation and slipped into his thoughts. It took little effort to take control of the man, bring him to his feet, and direct him across the room to the bed. She made him lie down beside her and then took a moment to ease him into an untroubled sleep before slipping free of his mind with a little sigh. Marguerite peered at him for a moment, and then turned out the bedside lamp, scooted under the sheet and blankets, and closed her eyes…only to have them pop open a moment later. She peered at the dark outline of the man in bed beside her, a frown curving her lips as she realized that she’d just done to him, what she’d so resented her husband doing to her throughout their marriage. She’d made him do what she’d thought was best rather than what he wished.
Marguerite tried to excuse herself by pointing out that it was late and they were both tired and he really would sleep better in the bed, but that didn’t ease the guilt she was feeling. Tiny wasn’t the first mortal she’d controlled during her seven hundred years of life, and normally she didn’t have any guilt over it, but Tiny was a friend and friends didn’t control friends…just as her husband, Jean Claude, shouldn’t have controlled her. Grimacing, Marguerite sat up in bed again, turned on the light, and nudged Tiny’s arm to wake him. His eyes immediately shot open. “Wh—What’s happened?” He peered around a bit wildly, then spotted her in the bed beside him and appeared confused. “What?” “I put you in bed so you would sleep comfortably, but then realized that it wasn’t right for me to control you. So, if you really want to sleep on the window seat…” She shrugged. Tiny stared at her blankly, and then slow anger crossed his face. “You controlled me?” Biting her lip, Marguerite nodded apologetically. “I’m sorry.
I realized it was wrong, that’s why I woke you up.” Tiny’s anger slid away, leaving him deflated as his gaze slid to the window seat. He didn’t look particularly eager to leave the bed, but sighed and started to shuffle out of it, only to pause when he realized he was under the comforter, but on top of the sheet. “I thought if you woke up before me it might make you feel better if you were on top of the sheet and I was under,” she explained when he glanced her way. Tiny relaxed and nodded. “It does. I guess it’s okay if we sleep like this. But next time don’t control me. We’re partners, Marguerite…equals. I need to be able to trust you, but I can’t do that if you’re going to control me any time we disagree on what to do.
” “I won’t,” she promised. Nodding, Tiny lay back in bed and Marguerite turned off the lamp and followed suit. They lay there in silence for several moments, and then Tiny sighed. “I can’t get back to sleep. Do you think you could do that control thing and make me?” Marguerite turned her head to peer at him with surprise. “You want me to control you?” “Just to put me to sleep,” he muttered. The last of her guilt slipping away, Marguerite slid into his thoughts and put him back to sleep, and then lay back with a small smile. She liked Tiny. He was a good man. It was really a shame she could read and control him.
He would make a good lifemate for some lucky gal. Perhaps she should see if she couldn’t find him a lifemate, Marguerite thought. It would be nice for her nephew’s wife, Jackie, to have her friend with her in the future. She knew the woman would be shattered when he died whether it was next week or some time in the far distant future when he’d reached his dotage. Marguerite closed her eyes, her mind filling with immortal after immortal she knew that may suit Tiny. He was a big, sweet man, a gentle giant. He deserved a sweet, kind wife who would appreciate him as he deserved to be appreciated. She drifted off to sleep while still considering the matter. Julius Notte looked down at the empty bed and frowned. It wasn’t even five o’clock yet, more than an hour from sunset.
Marguerite Argeneau should be snug in her bed, but wasn’t. He knew he had the right room. The scent of a woman’s perfume—sweet and musky like fruit at harvest time—assured him that this was her room. And she’d obviously been sleeping here earlier, but now the room was empty. Scowling, he glanced over the mess around him, taking in the rumpled bed with its sheet and comforter trailing onto the floor, the broken lamp next to it, and the shattered glass that had been knocked from the bedside table. Concern replacing his annoyance, he retraced his steps, instinct sending him to the door of the other bedroom in the suite. It should be where the private detective, Tiny McGraw, was staying, but when he inhaled he caught a faint whiff of that sweet and musky perfume. Marguerite was in there, or had been at some point. Julius opened the door and moved silently inside.