"Are you sure this is right?"
"Oui, honey. Ya might be unexperienced, but I would know if we were doing dis wrong."
"Thatís not what I meant."
Bobby pushed Mercy away and sat upright in their bed, clutching the sheets about his chest. She looked at him with a puzzled expression on her face. Drops of sweat formed on his forehead at the sight of her. Under normal circumstances, he would have joked about her being hot enough to make him sweat, but he was in no laughing mood. Worse, he had no idea why. This should have been the happiest night of his life. Not only was he going to get rid of the scarlet V on his chest once and for all, but a) he was not paying the woman in question and b) she was stunning. Mercy was wearing the slightest suggestion of lingerie, and had a glint in her eyes that suggested she felt she was overdressed for the occasion. He groaned and wondered what was wrong with himself. He found himself in bed with a beautiful woman, who by some miracle was attracted to him and was prepared to prove it in a very physical way, and all he could think of was Gambit.
For the briefest of moments, Bobby wondered if the gods of his universe were writers and if they were scripting a shonen ai at the moment. If so, he knew what the next, few chapters of his life held. He would declare his love for Gambit. They would overcome the bigotry of homophobic humans. One of them would succumb to a lingering and painful disease, and die. He hoped the last-mentioned would be Gambit. He could do grieving partner. Corpse was a less attractive role. And that was the better case scenario. If the writer gods were working on yaoi . . . He had a suspicion it might be yaoi. His life had seemed curiously plotless the last few days since he had met Mercy. Please, please, donít let it be yaoi. He shuddered at the thought. He could live quite happily without seeing Gambit au naturel and thinking about how manly his manliness was, thank you very much!
Fortunately, he suspected his thoughts of Gambit had more to do with guilt than lust. In and of itself, that was peculiar. Bobby did not like the Cajun. In fact, expressing his true feelings about him would have required inventing new expletives, because all the languages in the world did not have enough to do them justice, even if he took Klingon into account. Succinctly put, however, he felt Gambit was a Grade-A PetaQ. He deserved whatever he got. So, why did he feel so bad about his relationship with Mercy? Why did he care that Gambit disapproved of it, that he was being hurt by it? Why? He sunk his head into his hands with another long moan.
"Whatís wrong, baby?" he felt Mercy begin to massage his shoulders, expert fingers working out the knots and lumps, "Whatís doing my job aní making ya groan?"
"This isnít right," he admitted, reluctantly shaking off her hands and climbing out of bed. He groped for his trousers and shirt on the floor, studiously keeping his back to her. He knew if he turned to look at her, he would do something - or somebody - that he would regret the next morning. She had that effect on him. When she was around, he forgot whom he was. He stopped feeling like Robert Drake, general loser, and started feeling like . . . well, the kind of guy who kicked sand in Robert Drakeís face. It was intoxicating.
"Dis be about Remy, ainít it? Forget him. I donít need my brother-in-lawís permission to be wití ya - or to be wití ya," she said airily, tugging the clothes out of his hands and tossing them into a corner, "Iím a grown woman. I make my own decisions, especially about who to let into my bed. Aní thank heaven for dat - míbrother has de worst taste in men. He keeps trying to introduce me to Marcel Genard."
There was a wry note in Mercyís voice that suggested she was profoundly grateful to have avoided meeting Marcel Genard. Shifting so that he faced her, he was struck by how beautiful she was. Her head shone golden in the electric light, giving her the look of a fallen, Renaissance angel. Beneath finely arched eyebrows, her eyes were the clear, pure colour of the summer sky. She was a classic beauty, whom any of the old masters would have sold his soul to paint. She could have any man she wanted, so why does she want me?
"Mercy," he asked gravely, "Why me?"
"Isnít it obvious, mon cheri?" she said with equal seriousness, taking his large hands in her smaller ones and kissing them gently. He could still feel the warmth of her lips against his skin, as she lifted her eyes to him. In them, past his own reflection, he could see something that he thought could have been love. Her lips curved in a soft smile, then parted as she whispered: "Ya be ridiculously well-endowed."
Continued in Chapter 10
* Puttanesca = prostitute in Italian. The pasta sauce was traditionally made and eaten by prostitutes, apparently.
** Croque-monsieur = the snootier cousin of the grilled, cheese sandwich
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