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Whisper soft footsteps from behind him indicated Aislyn was ready for Watson’s drink party. Seamus spun around from the view and watched her sashay past the bed toward him. The midnight-blue dress clung to every curve and stopped a good six inches above her knees. Thin straps held the top in place, leaving her arms and a vast expanse of skin on show. Black heels showcased her legs and added extra inches to her height.
His breath hissed out. “You can’t go out for drinks wearing that.”
“Gary and Jacob thought the outfit looked great.”
“It’s too…too…” Seamus gestured with his hands. The dress was so abbreviated, why not call it a shirt? He attempted to keep his gaze off her legs, but that meant looking at her boobs. Who was this Jacob anyway?
“Too what?” Aislyn said sweetly.
“There’s not enough material.”
“Jacob said it shows off my legs.”
Aislyn turned to study her reflection in the mirror and Seamus almost swallowed his tongue. The back of the dress…there wasn’t one. At least, not what a sane man would call a garment, just two straps that tied at her neck, underneath the mass of copper curls. The woman couldn’t be wearing much in the way of underwear. Time to make a stand. “I’m not taking you out unless you wear a jacket. You might catch cold or something.”
Aislyn studied him surreptitiously. In the mirror, she caught the naughty twinkle in her eyes, and she bit the inside of her bottom lip, trying to compose herself. Purely for decorative purposes. Huh! She gave him decorative, and he complained. It wasn’t often the great Seamus Gallagher became flustered. The frank masculine interest didn’t hurt either.
“Seamus, there’s a lacy black wrap in the wardrobe. Would you mind grabbing it for me?”
Seamus yanked open the wardrobe door. He stared at the tidily hung clothing, before turning to glare at her. “Are all your clothes a size too small?”
“It’s called fashion. My wrap, please.”
“I suppose you paid a fortune for these clothes.”
“Better watch out. You sound like a husband.” Aislyn checked her watch. “It’s almost six-thirty now. If we don’t hurry, we’ll be late.”
She draped the wrap around her shoulders and started for the stairs leading down to the main living area. She heard a pithy curse and grinned again. Good thing, Seamus couldn’t use his magic, or she’d wear an encompassing sack-like affair by now. He’d probably add a hood to cover her red hair and obscure her face too.
Downstairs, Seamus opened the door for her and followed her outside to the well-lit pathway. He took her arm and steered her toward Watson’s cabin.
“You’ve remembered our cover?”
“Yes.” She’d bet he didn’t treat the other recruits like this. “Stop worrying.”
They took a left-hand fork in the path. A flash of light made her pause.
“Look,” she said in a low voice. “There’s a boat moored out there.”
Seamus peered over her shoulder. “Could be innocent. Wait and see if we can sight the boat from Watson’s cabin. Slip it into the conversation if you can manage. Can you do that?”
“I’m allowed to talk to him now?”
“Don’t act like a child.”
“I told you I’m a great actress. We’d better get going. If we’re late, we might look suspicious.”
“I doubt it.” The strange note in his voice drew her attention. “We’re newlyweds, remember?”
Cripes, did he have to remind her? Their cover story had seared to her mind and wouldn’t jiggle loose.
The luxurious cabin was ablaze with lights. Pop music tumbled from the open doors along with the chatter of voices.
Seamus knocked on the front door. “Sounds like they have other guests.”
The door flew open, and the bodyguard smiled at them. “Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher. Mr. Watson will be pleased you’ve been able to attend to our little gathering.”
“Seamus and Aislyn,” Seamus said, extending his hand in greeting.
“My name is Morgan.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Morgan.” Aislyn smiled at the gigantic man she’d met a few days ago at the hotel.
Thankfully, not a shred of recognition showed on his face.
“Just Morgan,” he said, standing aside to let them step inside.
A fluffy white cat, so fat it waddled, ambled from inside the small kitchen area. The instant the animal set eyes on Aislyn, it padded straight to her.
“A cat,” she said. “How nice.”
“Go in,” Morgan said. “Mr. Watson is on the terrace with the other guests. Can I get you something to drink?”
“A glass of white wine for my wife. I’ll have a beer, please.”
Morgan left them, and Seamus bent his head to whisper in her ear. “Did you take a pill today?”
“Yes.” As if she’d forget. The cat rubbed against her legs and purred.
“Hello, we meet again.”
Aislyn smiled at the older man who strode toward them. Taller than her but not as tall as Seamus, he possessed a full head of gray hair and wore what Jacob and Gary described as smart-casual clothes—black trousers and a pale gray shirt.
“Hello, John.” To her surprise, Watson bent to kiss her on the cheek. The liberty flustered her. Despite what she’d learned of his criminal dealings, she liked him. Despite the man’s age and the puckered scar on his cheek, Watson was attractive. “This is my husband, Seamus. Seamus, this is John Watson.”
Watson shook hands with Seamus. “Is Morgan getting you drinks?”
“We’ve placed our order.”
“Good. Good.” Watson took Aislyn’s arm and drew her toward the deck. “Come outside and meet the others. The evening is mild, and we have a wonderful view.” He cut Seamus off and led her outside.
“The view is gorgeous.” From where they stood, Aislyn caught the flicker of lights farther down the coast. The boat she and Seamus had discussed earlier was visible.
“Oh.” Aislyn turned to Watson. “Is that a boat down there?”
“Do many boats moor down there? Surely the resort frowns on boats mooring in their bay. I mean, most of the guests come here for privacy.”
Watson leaned closer. The spicy aftershave he wore reminded her of her mother’s tasty cookies. His arm creeping around her shoulders made her stiffen. “The boat’s mine. I’ve acquired it for the duration of my visit. After hearing about Auckland’s lovely harbor and the excellent fishing, I felt I should make the most of the opportunity.”
“Oh?” Aislyn said. “Are you intending to sail farther afield? The Bay of Islands up north is exquisite.”
“My plans are fluid at present, my dear. Just the way to act while on vacation, don’t you think?”
Aislyn smiled politely. The man was flirting with her. “I think you’re fortunate.”
“Let me introduce you to my other guests. This is Margaret and Gerald Barker. They’re in the cabin on the other side of you. The two men and the young lady over in the corner are the competent crew who look after me while I’m on the boat, and you’ve already met my assistant, Morgan.”
Aislyn offered Morgan a quick smile of thanks when he handed her a glass of white wine.
“This is Seamus, Aislyn’s husband,” John said, his gaze sliding to her face before wandering lower to study her breasts. She suppressed the urge to pull her wrap over her chest and suspected her red face might give away her unease.
“I hear you’re newlyweds. It’s nice of you to socialize with us this evening.” Margaret flicked her straight, dark hair over her right shoulder, her dark brown eyes gleaming when she spotted Seamus. Her burgundy-colored lips curved in approval, and her gaze lingered after doing a full visual sweep. Aislyn glanced at Gerald Barker with a trace of discomfort, expecting him to show anger. Instead, she found him staring at her in the manner a cat allegedly eyed a female fairy. She sipped her wine and moved closer to Seamus.
“I’m afraid we won’t be staying for long,” Seamus said.
Aislyn sensed Seamus’s glare at John Watson. Taking another sip, she edged even closer, intent on making a silent statement of possession. How dare Margaret gawp at Seamus as if he were a piece of Death by Chocolate cake? Two rats and a mouse—what part of married didn’t they understand?
“Great view,” Seamus said, slipping his arm around Aislyn’s waist. He pressed a kiss to her temple before resuming his conversation. Her irritation dissipated, replaced by edginess. It was more to do with Seamus’s proximity and his warm breath on her neck than the other couple’s rudeness.
“Are you here for the fishing? I don’t fish myself, but the girl at reception told me the fishing is excellent,” Seamus said.
Watson’s brows rose. “If you don’t fish, what do you do in the way of recreation?”
“I like to swim. I run when I can,” Seamus said. “Although since we’re on our honeymoon, we’re not racing around too much.”
“You’re from Auckland?” Gerald Barker asked.
“That’s right. Aislyn and I live in Newmarket.”
Margaret slid her fingers along Seamus’s forearm. “We enjoyed Auckland. Such a pretty setting.”
Seamus slid from the woman’s touch and tugged Aislyn against his chest. “Yes, we think so.”
“How nice. What do you do for a job?” Margaret closed the distance.
“I work in an office.” Aislyn’s wrap slipped off one shoulder, revealing the neckline of her dress. It seemed to her every male gaze zeroed in on her breasts. Once again, she wished for her magic. A quick magical spell would zap some manners into these people. Almost as the desire crystallized in her mind, Watson winced and dropped his glass. Wine splattered across the wooden decking, and the glass bounced but didn’t break.
Seamus picked up her wrap and smoothed it into place, leaving his hand on her shoulder. Warmth emanated from his touch, and her pulse leaped when their gazes connected. Damn, he was a good actor. Aislyn was sure Margaret, Gerald, and Watson would think they were newlyweds.
“Are you all right, John?” Margaret asked.
“Some sort of biting insect,” he said, probing the side of his neck with careful fingers.
“Will you have some canapés?” Morgan handed the tray around, picked up the empty glass, and returned seconds later with a fresh drink for his boss.
“There are mosquitoes around at this time of the night,” Seamus said.
“You don’t say.” Watson aimed a tight smile at Seamus and Aislyn before turning to speak to his crew.
Seamus drew Aislyn over to the balcony edge. “Auckland is in that direction,” he said. “Hell,” he said in an undertone meant for only Aislyn. “I feel as if he chastised me. Did you see his eyes? Stay away from him. He’s dangerous.”
“Behave,” Aislyn said, leaning into him to make the most of his proximity. No longer proud, she’d take crumbs.
“Just a little longer, and we can leave.”
“I didn’t like the men watching you, and the damn cat’s no better.” He glared at the purring cat, nudging the creature away from Aislyn with his shoe.
“We should split up and socialize,” Aislyn said. “We won’t learn anything if we stay together. You talk to the crew—pretend you’re thinking of buying a boat. I’ll speak with the Barkers.”
“The minute I leave your side, Watson’s gonna land like a rash.”
Aislyn wanted to roll her eyes at his jealous husband act. “Well?”
“All right.” He nudged the cat away for a second time and sauntered over to the crew.
“So you work in an office,” Margaret gushed when Aislyn joined the couple.
“I’m afraid so. It’s boring but pays the bills.”
“Which company do you work for? Will I have heard of it?”
Aislyn reached for a bite-sized smoked salmon tart. Rats talk about pushy. She popped the savory into her mouth to give herself time to think. She swallowed and drank a sip of wine. “I work for an office supply company. Whitcoulls. I’m sure you’ve heard of the chain.”
Margaret nodded. “What about your delectable husband?”
Aislyn couldn’t believe the woman, narrowing her eyes when Margaret licked her lips and stared at Seamus’s butt. A magical spell wouldn’t go astray here. Aislyn pondered what she’d do if she were in the colony. Something subtle and sneaky. Perhaps a bee sting on the corner of the woman’s lips? No, an unraveling spell would be better—a loose thread mysteriously unraveling, exposing everything beneath, especially since Margaret’s dress was even briefer than hers.
Without warning, Aislyn noticed a long thread hanging from the side of Margaret’s dress. Morgan arrived with another tray filled with delicious canapés. When he moved to the next group, the thread caught on his shoe.
Aislyn’s mouth dropped open as Margaret’s dress started to disintegrate before her eyes. She clapped a hand over her mouth to contain her laugh. Morgan strode over to offer the tray to Seamus and the crew and returned inside.
“Margaret,” Aislyn said, a gurgle of amusement escaping her. “Your dress.”
The screech Margaret loosed stopped chatter dead. Everyone gaped as her dress shrunk from tiny to non-existent. She wasn’t wearing much in the way of underwear—just one of those little thong things.
Watson snapped from his stunned stupor. “Morgan, a robe for Margaret.”
Margaret cowered behind her husband, bent over at the waist, to hide her breasts.
“What happened?” Watson slipped his arm around Aislyn’s shoulders.
“I’m not sure.” Had she caused the dress to unravel? She didn’t know. She tried to ignore his hand, caressing her shoulder. Her gaze connected with his, and she shuddered at the lust in his pale blue eyes. Silently she cast a spell to make Watson’s hair stick up on end.
As she watched, every hair on his head stood to attention.
The hand on her shoulder traveled down to hover below the curve of her hip. Biting insects, she decided. No sooner had she thought the spell than Watson leaped from her side, slapping at his bare forearms. She resisted a smirk.
Somehow, her magical powers had returned, which was odd, considering none of the male fairy force members retained their magic. Too bad. She’d go with the flow. Not that she’d mention the return of magic to Seamus. This was just the edge she needed.
Seamus appeared at her side. “Are you ready to leave?”
His warm breath caressed her face. “If you think it’s okay.”
“We’ve stayed a reasonable time considering our newlywed status.”
“Are you going to tell Watson? It must seem as if his party is falling too pieces with all the excitement. Did you see what she was wearing under her dress?”
Seamus squeezed her shoulder. “You can talk. You’re not wearing much under your dress, either. What would your brother say?”
“It’s none of his business,” Aislyn snapped. “And it’s not nice of you to use Duncan as a weapon all the time.”
Seamus turned her to face him. “No one ever accused me of being nice.”
Maybe not nice, but he championed the people unable to care for themselves. It made him an excellent cop.
“Come on. Let’s say our goodbyes and get out of here.” He tucked his arm around her waist and led her in Watson’s direction.
“John, Aislyn has the start of a headache. I’d like to take her for a walk before we head back to our cabin.”
“Oh, dear.” Watson stroked her arm. “That’s too bad.”
Aislyn wrinkled her face up in a pained expression and remained silent.
“I’m hoping the fresh air will help.” Seamus fit her snugly against his side. “We can’t have illness on our honeymoon, can we?”
“No.” The man looked as though he’d swallowed a prune pit.
“Thank you for inviting us tonight,” Seamus said. “No doubt, we’ll see you during the week.”
“I’m sure you will,” Watson replied, studying her as he answered.
Too bad for him, she was a one-man woman. “Good night. Thanks.”
They said goodnight to the other guests and left.
“Where are we going?” Aislyn asked in a whisper.
“For a lover’s stroll along the beach. I want to check out the launch. The crew told me the boat is going out on a fishing trip later tonight.”
“And you wondered what sort of fishing takes place at night.”
“Exactly. Once we’re on the beach, you can take those shoes off and walk barefoot.”
“Did the crew tell you anything else? Margaret and Gerald kept on and on about my job. I told them I worked for Whitcoulls as we’d decided.”
“The crew was close-mouthed, but they told me there are other people aboard. Not all of Watson’s guests attended his party. Strange, don’t you think?”
They left the path and stepped onto the sand. Small waves swished to shore in a relaxing cadence. Over in the trees to the right, a bird warbled a warning.
“A Morepork,” Seamus said. “A native owl. If you want to take your shoes off, use me for balance.”
In the moonlight, touching Seamus seemed more personal. His muscles flexed under her touch, and she inhaled, trying to calm her surging pulse. It wasn’t fair. All it took was one whiff of his aftershave, one quick smile, and her insides turned to mush. Her fingers fumbled with the buckles on her shoes.
“Do you need a hand?”
Wordlessly, she peeked at him. He must have read her silence for assent because he kneeled before her, his nimble fingers undoing the straps with ease.
“Thanks,” she whispered.
He stood, sliding his hands up her forearms. “We’ll leave your shoes here and collect them on the way back.” He paused. “Someone is watching. Can you see them?”
Aislyn summoned her magical abilities, and sure enough, she sensed a person hiding, close to them. “Do you think they heard us talking?”
“No, we’ve kept our voices low, but we should put on a show for them.”
A show? Seconds later, he covered her mouth, his demanding lips exploring hers. Strong arms wrapped around her shoulders, drawing her close, fitting curves to hard muscle.
She sighed and settled in to enjoy the kiss, knowing the intimacy would end soon—the minute Seamus decided they’d convinced the watcher of their cover as newlyweds. Her skin tingled at his touch, and she wanted to clutch him to her, refusing to release him.
As if he read her thoughts, he pulled away, his chest heaving. He pressed his forehead against hers and smoothed his hands over her shoulders, down her sides and behind to cup her bottom.
Aislyn swallowed, savoring his body’s reaction to their kiss. Why did he have to stop when things were just heating up?
“Let’s walk along the beach and see if our watcher follows,” he whispered.
“What if he has a weapon and tries something?” Aislyn was all for heading to their accommodation, where they could kiss and cuddle in comfort. She dug her toes into the coarse sand. Not unpleasant, but if she was going to remove clothes, she’d like comfort, soft sheets, and privacy.
“Why don’t we return to our room?” She kissed Seamus, using her tongue to flick across the seam of his lips. His mouth opened on a surprised groan, and she took immediate advantage. Going up on tiptoe, she held his head between her hands. She craved a taste of him, and while she’d blindsided him by taking the lead, she dived right in. Aislyn loved the feel of him, his dark hair, the rasp of his cheeks against hers, and the taut muscles flexing under his clothes. He gripped her shoulders and returned her kiss with a groan of surrender.
Long moments later, she broke away, breathing hard. Her heart raced while her breasts ached. She wanted to throw off her clothes, rid her body of the manmade cloth, and replace it with Seamus.
“Hell’s teeth, Aislyn.” Seamus was also short of breath.
He squinted into the darkness to get a fix on their audience. She quivered in his arms, and he frowned. Perhaps she was right about returning to the cabin. She wore scanty clothing, and it was colder down here by the sea.
“You’re right. Let’s go.” He smoothed the wrap across her shoulders, unwittingly skimming one breast. She shuddered again at the dart of pleasure.
“It is a little chilly.” Her voice sounded lower than usual and husky.
Damn, he wanted her. Tension throbbed through Seamus while his erection ached. Damn, they were on an assignment together, and nothing must impede the case.
And there was Renee.
“I saw something move in the trees to our right.” Aislyn gave a soft laugh and linked arms with him. “Don’t forget my shoes,” she said, speaking in a normal voice now. “They’re Italian, and I refuse to leave without them.”
They ambled along the beach, back to the path leading to their cabin. The Morepork called again, the mournful call eerie. The knowledge of a watcher, malevolent, and likely wishing them harm urged him to speed. Aislyn was right. They were at a disadvantage out in the darkness. The gun hidden away in the cabin was of little use.
Aislyn shivered again, and he tucked her against his side. “Would you like my jacket?”
She stooped to pick up her shoes, and he took them from her, placing them in his jacket pockets.
“I’ll need them for the gravel path.”
“It’ll be quicker if I carry you.” He scooped her up and strode to the start of the path.
“The boat’s leaving. It sounds as though the anchor is being hoisted.”
“I wish we could see the bay from our cabin. We won’t see the boat return unless we keep watch from down here.”
“Difficult when we have a spy on our heels.” She buried her face against his throat, her curls tickling his skin.
Seamus drew a deep breath, savoring her apricot scent and the slight weight of her in his arms. Reluctantly, he spoke. “We’ll put on a show for our watcher and hope he’s satisfied enough to leave us without surveillance for the rest of the night.”
The plan involved laying his hands on her again, more kissing and intimate touches. His heart leaped at the idea.
His mind fought tooth and nail.
“You going to tell me the plan?”
“Once we arrive back at the cabin, we’ll go upstairs. We’ll turn on the lights and go out on the balcony to make sure our spy thinks we’re doing typical newlywed stuff.” A sense of urgency and panic drove him, making him walk even faster.
The plan was perfect—the logical thing to satisfy their audience; they were what they appeared. But his willpower to keep their touching relatively innocent teetered. Aislyn wasn’t helping matters with her enthusiastic acting skills. His self-control held by a thread.
Little witch. She sounded excited by the prospect.
Seamus bounded up the steps of their cabin and set Aislyn on her feet. He followed her upstairs to their bedroom and out onto the balcony.
She strolled to the far end. “A pity we don’t have the same view as John.” A throaty chuckle escaped. “Not that it matters, sweetheart. We’ll be too busy to study the view.”
Her words were for the benefit of their audience, but her sentiments eroded more of his restraint. Thank God, the light was dim out here. Did they still have an audience? He’d spare himself some grief if they’d disappeared.
Aislyn padded back to his side. “They’re still outside. I saw the glow of a cigarette in the trees below our bedroom.”
The lurch of excitement inside made him pause. He rubbed his hands across his face to clear his mind. He could do this. A few kisses. Some light touching. He’d cope.
He stepped back into the bedroom to find Aislyn had turned on the two bedside lamps. They gave the room an intimate glow. Her hair caught the light and glowed, a rich copper that reminded him of a fiery sunset.
She glanced over her shoulder, her gaze teasing, and he read the underlying dare in her bright blue eyes.
Unwillingly, he grinned. Some of her actions made him shudder with horror, yet without fail, she made him smile.
“What are you doing, sweetheart? You’re not much use over there.” One shoulder lifted, and her wrap slid to the ground.
His breath caught. So beautiful. He wanted to stroke her creamy skin and strip that sorry excuse of a dress away. Her grin widened, she crooked her little finger, and just like that, his control snapped. With a giant step, he snatched her into his arms and covered her mouth with a hungry kiss.