What she knew in hand was wet diaper.
He’d been staring at the baby. Dragging his gaze away, he glanced at the reed basket, took wide steps around it and headed for the dining room table. She never ate on it, so why not change demon poo there.
"It’s charmed," he said, and pulled out the Pampers.
For a second, she thought he meant the diapers. She realized his stare had fixed on the basket, which looked upscale and trendy. But not so nice you stared at it that much.
It took visible effort for Josh to look away from the basket and focus on the baby, and he shivered, and wrapped his arms tight as if Alaska had shown up in the dining room. She wanted to hug him.
You had to be sensitive to charm, and Josh’s curse was that while his empathy worked as an asset in his career, it kicked the hell out of him. Even with the walls his mentor had taught him to put up, he felt every foul thing going his way, and that was a lot in the business of keeping good and evil from wiping out everything in-between. He could feel the demon blood that had bled into her.
She’d been marked years ago as a warder because of that evil, and the lines on her left arm got darker with every kill. It had taken half a bottle of Cuervo to blunt what Josh had to feel on her. That should have told her that their hooking up was not a good notion. But it was getting harder not to give into those bad ideas.
Yeah, charms weren’t the only thing that rubbed off when you brushed against them too often.
Right now, however, she needed to bush up Junior with a diaper change, and she was struggling with undoing diaper pins. Pins, for hell’s sake!
"I hate to ask, but whose baby is this?" Josh said, arms still folded and voice going distant before it came back to worried. "Are we about to discuss uncanny ninety-minute pregnancies and your child?"
Since Josh sounded borderline confused, she glanced at him and nodded toward the kitchen. "Not mine. And coffee’s fresh."
His arms tightened and so did his mouth. Nice mouth. She noticed it as often as possible. Full lower lip, thin ascetic upper one, and he looked like he was moving to pissed about now. He managed to make that look good, too, because he put so much passion into it.
"This is not about coffee," he said. "This is about a charmed something that’s half demon, and that’s not going to be any baby’s better half. Actually, it’s a charmed basket, too, which is why you’re already so attached. The blanket is charmed as well, and for something this strong over anything with horns showing, I know only two charmers who could pull that off."
"Well...three…maybe four. Possibly five if you count..."
"Y’know, maybe we both could use that coffee. Oh, and put a shot of something in mine. Unless you want to change semi-demon here and I’ll get the coffee."
Josh—bless his soul—hesitated. A lesser man would have been in the kitchen before the threat of baby mess had time to scent the air, but Josh glanced at the kid. The lines around his eyes softened, and a wistful look reached up from somewhere deep. He stretched out a long-fingered hand, stopped himself and folded his arms again.
"He looks... Fine, I’ll get the coffee."
"Yeah, sure thing, sweet cheeks," she muttered, going covert to watch that fine ass leave the room, and wondering what Josh had been about to say that he’d decided to hold back. Josh held back most things; she only knew what she knew of him from his work file: Joshua Michaels, charmer, good guy, number one in his class, and that was it. If she wanted more from him on this new topic, she’d have to go in with a crowbar. She wasn’t up to that before breakfast.
Banging in the kitchen announced imminent coffee. Josh returned with two mugs, set one down out of demon spawn’s waving reach and kept the other. All prim and frowning, he put his boots wide like he was making a last stand.
"Mackenzie, we have to take him in to the Endowment."
She met Josh’s stare before she looked back at the naked imp on the table and, thank the seraphim and the cherubim, it looked like the horns were it. No tail, no cloven hooves, just a reddish rash over his neither parts, but that could be from the diaper—and, yes, some bozo had wrapped a baby boy up in pink. That was just wrong. But the below-belt equipment checked out. Some demons didn’t have anything down there, and others had stuff that gave new meaning to the phrase ‘hose monster.’ That meant the baby really was only part demon, so Mackenzie gave Josh another glance and shook her head.
Josh’s mouth flattened. He put down his coffee and folded his arms. "Zie, they’ll know. He’s small, but he must have crossed over from one of the hells to get here. You know that’ll have registered. And the Endowment will..."
"Maybe he was born here. He’s not all bad—you can see that. And what about the part of him that is just a baby?"
Hell-baby gurgled as she got fresh Pampers spread under him. And, good God, did she want to go buy several pair of mini-Nikes, because the thought of baby feet in shoes to match were mushing her insides into oatmeal and brown sugar.
Junior started to fret, and she started thinking about his breakfast. She did not indulge her own carb addiction unless it was four AM after a fight with bad things when she could justify having burned the calories. Of course, it took a bit of a workout to finish the diaper. The little guy had demon strength stirring in pudgy uncoordinated baby arms and kicking legs, but she tickled his tummy, got him distracted and taped into his diaper. They fit right, so not bad for guessing, but Josh was good at that.
Putting Junior over her shoulder to pat his back, she asked, "What do you think he eats?"
Josh’s frown deepened. "For a guess, blood is involved. At body temperature."
"Let’s start simple with body temp milk. But I don’t have a baby bottle. Think a rubber glove over a glass’ll do?"
"A rub—? Mackenzie, you can’t keep him."
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