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Archive for February, 2020

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 17

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.
Read Chapter 16 here.

Chapter 17

Aislyn jerked upright in the bed and switched on the bedside lamp when she heard the scrape of a key in the lock. After dragging the wayward curls of hair from her face, her gaze snapped to the empty side of the bed. The tension oozed from her body. Seamus. The smile spread into a broad grin.

She leaped out of bed, scooped up a robe to cover her nakedness, and hurtled down the stairs.

“Seamus! Where have you been?” She threw herself at him, trusting him to catch her. “Ugh. You’re wet.”

Seamus put his hands on her arms and pushed her away. The frozen expression on his face made her excitement fade.

“What’s wrong?”

He shrugged. “Nothing. Everything.”

“Well, which is it?” She stepped forward, intending to give him a quick hug, but he brushed her away.

“I need a shower.” He stomped up the stairs, leaving her staring after him in bewilderment.

Damn it, he would not get away with this. For their relationship to have any chance of working, they needed honesty. She stalked after him.

A pile of wet clothes littered the bathroom floor. Water cascaded against the shower door and tiles with the power of a waterfall. She shrugged off her robe, wrenched open the door, and stepped under the steamy water. His hands shot out to grasp her hips, foiling her attempt to melt against the hard, sculpted curves of his body.

“What the hell are you doing?” The hard angles of his face screamed of determination, the Seamus of old, not her lover.

“I couldn’t wait to learn what’s tied you up in knots. Did you see our watcher?”

Seamus backed into the corner of the shower, avoiding her touch. The telling move brought a wave of fear. Was this about them rather than the case?

“Tell me.” Goosebumps formed over her body despite the warm water pouring over them. They were a couple. A team.

“I walked along the beach and arrived at the beach below Watson’s cabin just as his boat came into shore.” His voice was low, terse, and she strained to catch every detail.

“They moored the boat and dropped a dinghy over the side.”

“The scavenger hunt?” The job intrigued her despite the gnawing uncertainty about their relationship.

“They had something, except I stepped on a stick, and they found me. I told them we’d had a fight, and I’d gone for a walk to cool off.”

“You’re still in one piece.” She inched closer and, once again, his hands snaked out to hold her at bay. “Is something else wrong?” She fought to control the uncertainty swirling inside her, aware her voice contained a note of panic. She kept her gaze glued to his face, trying desperately to interpret his silence.

He closed his eyes.

Her stomach churned. It was as if Seamus couldn’t bear the sight of her.

“I’m betrothed.”

The two words struck like a physical blow. Her knees jellified while she groped for understanding.

“Did you hear?” he gritted out, opening his eyes to glare at her. Dark hair plastered to his head, his face set and rigid.

She wrapped her arms around herself, willing herself not to cry. She fumbled for the door and stepped from the shower. Water dripped from her naked body onto the tiled floor. Aislyn thrust her wet arms into her robe, intent on escape. She swiped a hand over her face, determined to appear stoic. When the shower shut off abruptly, she tensed.

In the bedroom, she dried her hair, thoughts tumbling through her mind. Why hadn’t he told her? He’d given her hope, and now, with two words, he’d smashed her rosy future. She stalked down the stairs, unable to face him.

The floor creaked overhead. A drawer opened and closed. A few minutes later, footsteps sounded on the stairs. Her spine straightened from a slump, every nerve on edge.

“Aislyn?”

“Down here.” She stepped into the small kitchen area and snatched the electric kettle. Desperately needing a drink now, she visualized coffee, laced with whiskey. A red mug materialized on the bench in front of her, and Aislyn seized it and drank a hefty slug. The hot drink burned when it slid down her throat. One sip wasn’t enough to warm the icy chill flooding her insides.

“We need to talk.”

“A bit late, isn’t it?”

“I’m freaking sorry, okay? I didn’t mean for tonight to happen.”

“Why you didn’t tell me?” Before they’d slept together. She glared at him while she waited for his reply then drank the last mouthful of coffee. She needed more. Staring at the bottom of her mug, she wished it full again. Nothing happened.

“I tried to tell you,” Seamus said.

“Betrothals don’t happen overnight. My family spent months on negotiations with Duncan and preliminary contracts with Fergus.” She knew the truth—he’d known for months, probably longer. “When was the betrothal completed? Why haven’t I heard?”

A dull tide of red flooded his cheekbones. “I haven’t made it public yet.”

“You haven’t made your betrothal public because you wanted to keep me onside,” Aislyn snapped. “Who are you marrying?”

“Renee Pompadour.”

“The fairy princess from the Southern French colony?” Fury spiked inside Aislyn at his nod. “You take the bedroom. I’ll sleep down here.” She had no intention of returning to a bedroom ripe with seduction. The rumpled bedcovers and clothes lying on the floor would be vivid reminders of what a fool she’d been to succumb to him.

“You can sleep in the bedroom.”

“I insist,” she said through clenched teeth.

Seamus shrugged and strode for the stairs. Aislyn sank onto a plump leather chair and tried to shut out the sounds of him preparing for bed and her own troubled thoughts.

The man she loved intended to marry another woman. Renee, the beautiful and eligible fairy princess from France who was everything she, Aislyn O’Sullivan, wasn’t had won his heart.

She’d never had a chance.

 

Aislyn stared out the sliding door, noting the approaching dawn. The clouds on the horizon were plump and dark with the promise of rain. Shivering, she climbed to her feet. Every muscle ached, and the crick in her neck indicated she’d fallen asleep at some stage. She stretched, squared her shoulders, and headed for the stairs. When she entered the bedroom, she found Seamus awake.

“Good morning.”

“Morning,” Aislyn said. “Nothing good about it.”

“Hell’s teeth. I’m sorry! What more do you want me to say?”

“I’m returning to Auckland.”

“We’re here on assignment.”

“You said Watson suspects us. We know he’s a competitor, and he’s basing himself here. We can get a search warrant—”

“I don’t know where he’s stashed the items he’s collected. If we arrest him and can’t find his stash, we won’t gain anything.”

Aislyn stormed to the wardrobe and dragged out her battered leather case. She yanked a handful of clothes from the hangers and dumped them inside. “What’s the use of being a fairy if we leave our powers back at the colony? If we had the use of our magic, we could stop men like Watson.”

“Do you want to return to the colony?”

Aislyn whirled to glare at him. “No, I don’t.”

With the wardrobe emptied of her clothes, she started on the drawers. She scooped up a handful of silky lingerie and fired it into the case. Once the drawer was empty, she slammed the lid shut. “I’m leaving for Auckland.”

Seamus stalked to the windows and stared out, his hands thrust in his pockets. “Let me check with the boss and see what he thinks. You’re probably right. There’s not much more we can do here now that our cover is blown.”

“I’m ready to go now.”

“The world doesn’t revolve around you. If you can’t stand the sight of me, have breakfast at the restaurant. I’ll make a few calls and join you once I’ve finished.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Aislyn slammed the door on her way outside.

 

Seamus sank to the bed. He’d made a hash of things. Sighing, he pulled on his boots and climbed to his feet to collect the car keys. He locked the cabin and searched for Aislyn.

Forget it, Gallagher. Nothing you do will make things right with Aislyn.

Seamus unlocked his Ford and climbed inside. For seconds, he stared out the windshield, memories of Aislyn’s slender body crushed under his, her enticing lips and breathy sighs flitting through his mind. Fuck! He needed to focus on Renee. He’d marry her for the greater good of the colony.

Sighing, he picked up his cell phone and hit speed dial. “Gill, it’s me.”

“About time you checked in. How’s your wife, the luscious Aislyn?”

“She’s not my wife,” Seamus snapped.

A pregnant silence bloomed. “Struck out, did we?”

“Quit fooling around. I’ve stuffed up. Watson is on to us.”

“What happened?”

Everything went to hell. He gripped his phone. “We had someone watching our cabin. Once they’d left, I walked to the resort boundary. Gill, I swear it was dumb luck, but when I reached Watson’s private beach, I watched a boat drop anchor. Watson was on the beach waiting.”

“Don’t tell me.” Gill’s voice was wry. “They caught you.”

“I stood on a damn stick.”

Gill snorted. “You’re alive to tell the tale. What story did you spin them?”

“Told them Aislyn and I argued. The bodyguard escorted me back to the cabin.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Ring the boss.”

“Yeah, better to use you elsewhere now we know Watson is involved. Any idea where they’re stashing their contraband?”

“No. After last night, it will be difficult to snoop. Any news, your end?”

“We’ve found two bodies, both floaters. Fishermen hooked one near Rakino Island, and another one washed up on the beach at Mission Bay. No identities yet because the fish have nibbled. They might relate to the case or might not.”

“Thanks, I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.” At the thought of eating, his stomach churned. He’d have to track down Aislyn and play happily married couple.

“Thieves hit a private museum in the States. The museum security caught them before they could steal one of Princess Diana’s dresses. We’re hoping we’ll obtain useful information from the two men they nabbed.”

“At least that’s positive.”

Gill grunted. “Told Aislyn about your engagement yet?”

“None of your business.”

“You’re a fool, Seamus. I’ll tell you this for free. Women don’t enjoy being kept in the dark about things like engagements.”

“MacGillicuddy, the advice columnist. I never thought I’d live to see the day.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t sit well on you, mate.”

His savage curse held every drop of the frustration bottled up inside him. If he rejected Renee, the colony would land amid a political war. He sighed. He wouldn’t go back on his word. His honor was the only thing he had left.

Gill laughed. “I’ve got two recruits waiting for me to show them the ropes. Catch ya later.”

Seamus made a quick call to Auckland Central and discussed the situation with his boss. Five minutes later, he searched for Aislyn. He discovered her sitting with Watson and Morgan. She said something to make Watson laugh. Even the dour-faced Morgan cracked a smile.

Seamus slid into the only spare seat left. Their grins faded. Aislyn stared at him with total disinterest, Watson glared, and Morgan wore neutral. One easy step to kill a party.

A young waitress bustled up to the table, holding a coffee pot. “Coffee?”

At least someone was talking to him. “Thank you. Coffee sounds good.”

“Is your business completed, Mr. Gallagher?”

Seamus glanced at Aislyn, hoping for guidance.

“It was only phone calls,” she said. “I didn’t expect them to take long.”

Watson stroked his chin. “Why didn’t you make your calls from your room?”

Seamus felt Morgan’s interest too. “Aislyn and I argued.” He shot her an annoyed glance, and it was only slightly feigned. “Again.”

Color rose on Aislyn’s cheeks. “It wasn’t my fault! I’m glad we’re going home.”

Seamus gritted his teeth, knowing her words weren’t strictly for Watson’s benefit. “We don’t need to air our domestic differences here.”

Watson chuckled. “Ah, wedded bliss. These differences have a way of working themselves out.”

“I don’t think so,” Seamus declared. “Aislyn’s parents arrive tomorrow.”

Watson clapped his hands, his eyes glinting with amusement. “How delightful.”

Seamus witnessed the flash of pain on her face and knew he’d caused it. The urge to comfort was strong, but he suspected she wouldn’t let him near her.

Watson turned to Aislyn. “I’ll be sorry to see you go, my dear. I’ve enjoyed our chats. Maybe we can meet in Auckland for coffee. Perhaps afternoon tea at the Carlton?”

What? Seamus loathed the idea. He didn’t want her anywhere near this man.

“Thank you, John. That sounds lovely.”

Since when had they become so friendly? He hoped she hadn’t given him her phone number.

“Good. I’ll look forward to it.”

Seamus picked up his coffee cup, noted the uncharacteristic tremble in his hand, and set it down again. “It’s a long drive home, sweetheart. Have you finished packing?”

“All done. I’ll check out while you organize the bags.”

Unwillingly, he stood. After abrupt nods at Watson and Morgan, he headed for the cabin. When he arrived back at reception, Aislyn stood by herself.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Aislyn fixed him with a chilly look. “My job.”

Seamus bit down on his ready retort. She was right. There was nothing left between them except work. Life would go on but without Aislyn.

Return next Monday to read the following chapter.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 16

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.

Chapter 16

Seamus swept her up in his arms, his hand shaking as he smoothed a curl from her face, His gray eyes held a stormy battle as if he clutched her to his chest under protest. A trembling breath of dismay caught in Aislyn’s throat. The idea of him stopping…she couldn’t let him back away.

“I’ll shut the doors,” he said, letting her slide down his body until she gained her feet.

“Kiss me first.” A knot twisted in her stomach while she waited in an agony of uncertainty. She could see his hesitation. “I—” The start of her plea broke off when she noticed his gaze falling to her lips. Her heart pumped out an unsteady beat. Nerves dried her throat, and her tongue snaked out to moisten her lips.

Seamus stepped away with a groan. “You’re not playing fair.”

The balcony doors slammed shut at his abrupt touch, screening their bedroom from prying eyes. He prowled across the woolen carpet to her. A sudden attack of nerves propelled her backward, and seconds later, she found her legs pressed hard against the bed. Off-balance, she toppled onto the silky covers.

Seamus dropped down beside her and blanketed her body. His arms held most of his weight, but every one of her senses leaped in welcome. Although she lacked experience, she wasn’t frightened. Instead, impatience simmered through her sensitized body. She wanted more. Much more.

Large, gentle hands tangled in her hair, holding her for his kiss. Gray eyes glittered as his face drew nearer, and his breath puffed across her cheek. Mesmerized by the sight of him, her stomach churned. Beneath the bodice of her dress, her breasts prickled.

Then his lips touched hers in a forceful, no-nonsense kiss. Her breath eased out in a groan, excitement making her wriggle to get even closer. Silently, she demanded more because she craved his touch.

With a hushed murmur, he slid to her side, his hands smoothed down her neck and came to rest on her aching breasts. He rolled his fingers across her nipples, the sensations he created incredible, indescribable. Ribbons of pure energy danced through her body, and she tingled from head to toe, moist heat building between her legs.

“Seamus,” she whispered, craving more of the sweet torment. Her dress was in the way, as were his clothes. “I want…can I touch you?”

She pushed his jacket down his arms as far as it would go before moving her attention to his shirt. She fumbled with the buttons making a simple job difficult. “Please, Seamus. Let me touch you,” she said. “Help me.”

Seamus hesitated, his expression almost torn. He sat up, wavering yet again before bending to remove his black boots. A soft thud sounded when they hit the carpet. After peeling off his socks, he removed his jacket and dealt with the buttons on his cream shirt.

Aislyn kneeled behind him, running her hands over his broad shoulders. She pushed the shirt aside, baring his entire upper body to her gaze. With a shaky hand, she reached out to touch, part of her waiting for him to call a halt. Heat came off his broad back, warming her palms. A pulse pounded at the base of his neck, and she bent to scrape her teeth across the vulnerable spot.

 

This was a mistake. Seamus sat on the edge of the bed, trying to gain the strength to move. His hands clenched while he stared straight ahead, concentrating on their reflections in the mirror affixed to the wall. She was a copper-hair siren bent on seducing him, but it was the glittering of lust his own eyes that made his breath catch.
He wanted her, despite knowing he shouldn’t have her.

Aislyn nipped his neck again, and a tremor racked his body. Hell’s teeth, they’d barely started, and his body vibrated like an overloaded spring.

Seamus sucked in a deep breath, fighting for control. He twisted around without warning and grabbed her arms, holding them down where they could no longer torment his weak flesh.

“My turn,” he said, a grin escaping at her astonishment.

With ruthless efficiency, he stripped the wrinkled dress from her body, leaving her clothed in a pair of midnight-blue briefs, the exact color of her dress. A tinge of pink highlighted her cheeks while her eyes glowed.

“So beautiful.” His gaze traveling down her face and came to rest on her naked breasts tipped with apricot-colored nipples. He sensed her diffidence and chuckled, charmed at her uncharacteristic shyness. Determined to go slow, his hands skimmed her arms, halting at breast level while he bent to kiss her. He nuzzled her throat and felt the frantic beat of her pulse, the tentative movements of her body as she sought to touch him in return. Their gazes locked. Deep breaths came in unison.

“Touch me, Seamus.”

He shifted his hand and trailed it across her collarbone. Lowering his head, he blew across one pouting nipple. She shuddered. Pleased with the reaction, he repeated the action.

“Please.” One hand tugged insistently behind his neck.

Seamus trailed his fingers down the outer slope of one breast while his other hand smoothed across her stomach. She sighed, her apricot scent filling his senses. Despite the urgency thrumming through him, he kept the pace slow.

Unable to deny either of them a moment longer, his lips closed around one nipple, licking and drawing on it. He massaged her breast, savoring the smooth weight of her and the familiar aroma of apricots.

 

Aislyn arced upward at the sensation of his moist mouth on her breast. Warm and gentle, his touch forcing a gasp from her. He kissed and petted her for a long time. Growing increasingly brave, she touched him back, kissing him everywhere she could reach. She kissed arms, thick with muscle and the tender skin of his throat, the abrasive curve of his jaw.

Eager for more, she gasped when his hand stole beneath the blue briefs she wore, dipping low and making her entire body clench.

When he moved, she gave a cry of protest, but he murmured soothingly. He rose and dispensed with the rest of his clothes and her panties.

My. Her eyes widened. Seamus was the beautiful one, all sculpted muscles with no surplus fat, just like the naked statues in Lady Wickham’s garden in Glenveagh. In fascination, she explored his chest, skimming her hand over his abdomen. She exalted in his catch of breath, the clenching of muscles. Her hand trailed lower still, her teeth closing on her bottom lip as her trembling hand traced the length of his cock.

His moan shocked her. Startled, she froze.

“Don’t stop. It feels great.”

She curled her fingers around him, learning his shape and watching his responses to each stroke.

“Hell’s teeth,” he muttered. “That’s enough.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Of course not. Ah, sweetheart. Hang on. I forgot something.” He levered off the bed and stalked to his bag. He pulled a box of condoms from a side pocket and returned to the bed.

“Will we need all of them?”

“Maybe.” The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled.

He gathered her into his arms, their bodies sliding together with exquisite friction. Their lips met again, and she moved against him. Seamus bent to trail a path of teasing kisses across her breasts, down her soft belly and across the tops of her thighs. She stirred restlessly, her legs falling apart. His hand drifted lower in a teasing pass down her cleft.

A muffled sigh emerged from him when she gasped and arched upward. Her eyes drifted closed while she savored the way his knowledgeable hands circled lightly. She tensed. Shivered. Sighed, enjoying the wet glide of his fingers, the pleasure suffusing her body.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I want this. I want you.”

Seamus rose over her, smoothed one unruly copper curl off her face, and kissed her hard. Hungrily.

Finally, he guided his cock to her entrance. He pushed inside her, and a sharp pain made her wince.

Seamus stilled but continued to kiss her. Long moments later, he withdrew before invading her again, keeping the pace easy. After a while, he retreated slowly, the friction making her arch and deepen the angle. It felt strange, yet she ached for more now that the sting had lessened. He kissed her, their tongues twining together in an echo of their lovemaking. Then he withdrew and surged deeper.

“Okay, sweetheart? I know it hurts.” His mouth moved from her lips to nibble on her neck. He tugged on her nipple, the pleasurable sensation streaking to her clit.

She moaned, now enjoying the strokes in and out of her body.

He thrust again and again, lighting a fire in her. Sparks of desire sizzled across her nerve endings. Her eyelids grew heavy, drifted shut, and her senses picked up every nuance of the experience—the spicy masculine scent of his body, his hoarse breathing, the touch of his hand. Pleasure pulsed through her, emotions whirling when the fire whipping through her peaked. Burning hot explosions nipped at her body, radiating outward from where they joined.

His next frenzied plunge shoved her into pleasure so good, she let out a sharp cry.

Seamus kept moving, extending the pleasure until she stilled, her body replete.

He clutched her closer, his hips pumped, and seconds later, he froze, his breathing coming in deep, gasping pants.
His arms tightened as he eased away. “Okay?”

She caressed the length of his sweaty back and smiled. “I feel great.” The truth was she didn’t think she could explain her exhilaration—not adequately. Making love with Seamus would change her life. She knew it.

Seamus sat up to deal with the condom. She’d read about this means of human contraception, and she supposed he was right to use one. They were young, and there was plenty of time for children.

He stretched out on the bed beside her. One arm snaked out to draw her flush against his chest. “I didn’t hurt you?”

“A little. I’m fine now.”

His hand danced down her side, smoothed across her hip and cupped a buttock. He pressed a kiss to her temple.

“Why don’t you go to sleep? I’ll check to see if our watcher has left for the night.”

“Stay.” She wanted to remain in his arms with their bodies pressed together. He sighed but tightened his hold, and she relaxed. Her eyes drifted shut, her breathing slowed.

 

Seamus continued to hold her even when she drifted off to sleep. In slumber, she appeared relaxed and peaceful. Awake, she was in constant movement, seldom still.

Reality hit with gut-kicking swiftness. He’d made a mistake—a hell of an error and one with far-reaching implications. Too bad he’d given up on brain function and let his body take control.

He slipped from the bed and dressed. Feeling like a bastard, he crept from the bedroom to the living area below.

Concentrate on the job.

Renee.

And the fact he was Guardian, responsible for making sure the colony survived into the future.

Always remember that, son. His mother’s words were cold comfort.

He cursed under his breath. The rule about no magic for financial gain sucked. He suspected life in the past, before rules, had been much easier, certainly, less complicated for the Guardian.

Seamus glanced up the stairs to the bedroom. Hell, all he could think about was crawling back into bed with Aislyn, shaking her awake and making love to her again. Muttering another succinct curse, he slipped out the front door, locking it behind him.

Seeing no sign of surveillance, he took the path to reception, deciding he’d have a drink at the bar. Maybe he’d walk to the far end of the resort and return along the beach.

Their watcher wasn’t where they’d last seen him. Seamus passed the spot and slowed to scan the ground. Several cigarette butts littered the area.

Up ahead, a stone rolled along the gravel path. Seamus ducked out of sight and hid behind a large rimu tree. The long dangling leaves hung to the ground like a curtain, screening him from view.

The Barkers strolled past. Seamus frowned, wondering about their part in the plan. He waited several minutes before venturing from hiding, but another noise up ahead made him pause. Slipping into cover, he waited yet again. The bodyguard. Impatience and plain bad temper made Seamus mutter a low curse. He couldn’t stand here and play freaking musical chairs for the rest of the night.

Seamus turned away from the path and made his way through the dense bush, guided by the sound of the sea and the beam of the torch he’d tucked in his jacket pocket earlier. Dead leaves crackled under his feet as he crept down the hill. A bird called overhead, the shrill shriek mournful and lonely.

He’d have to tell Aislyn about Renee before his betrothal became public knowledge. He should tell Aislyn he was Guardian too. He owed her an explanation—now more than ever.

She must suspect he knew the Guardian’s identity, although she’d never questioned him, not even when he’d taken her through his private portal on the night of the ball.

Deep in thought, he missed his footing. His foot slid between an exposed tree root and the leaf-cover. He struck the ground with a thump, the impact forcing the air from his lungs.

Gasping, he pulled himself upright with a muttered oath. “Pay attention, idjit. Quit thinking about Aislyn.”
He took three exploratory steps. Pain jabbed his thigh and streaked down his leg. “Fuck.” He staggered before grabbing the trunk of a karaka tree for balance.

The sound of waves breaking on the shore was louder now. He glanced down and froze. “Damn.” The tide was almost in, and if he walked along the sand, he’d get soaked. He gritted his teeth and looked back the way he’d come. Nope. The only way was along the beach—the slog along the top of the cliff was too dangerous in the dark.

Grim-faced, he stepped onto the sliver of sand still showing above water. A wave rushed to shore, swallowing the visible sand. Water seeped into his boots and soaked his trousers to knee height. The surge of cold stole his breath, and he shivered at the burst of icy water.

A gust of wind whistled in from the sea, swirling the waves into white, foaming crests that splashed him. The only good thing about being wet through was he couldn’t feel the nagging ache in his leg any longer.

Frozen to the bone, he trudged along the base of the steep hill toward Watson’s cabin.

The chug-chug of an engine had him squinting through the inky darkness. A boat approached, with the lights switched off.

Voices floated on the night air. Watson? Seamus hunkered behind a rock, only partially hidden. With his dark jacket, he might escape detection. Anticipation soared through his veins, his gut telling him he’d chanced on a promising scenario.

As the boat neared the shore, navigation lights popped on. The anchor chain rattled as it sank into the water. He peered into the night and glimpsed a figure ghosting across the deck. A splash told Seamus the figure had lowered a dinghy. Two people crawled over the side of the boat into the rowboat, and a third person handed a package down to them.

He was too far away.

Seamus crept from hiding and noted the rowboat had almost reached the shore. He needed to discover the contents of the box. The bank dropped to knee level, and he climbed from the water, deciding to skirt the bush while trying to move closer.

“Do you have it?”

Seamus stilled. Watson. The Englishman spoke louder than usual, his voice boosted by excitement.

“Yes, sir,” Seamus heard one man reply. Damn, he needed to get closer. He jogged across an open space and hoped like hell no one would notice him. A loud snap sounded as he trod on a small brittle twig. Bugger that had torn it.

With a sinking heart, he watched a large figure peel off the group to head in his direction, and his hand reach into his jacket to pull out a weapon. A gun.

Before the bodyguard reached him, Seamus stepped from his cover. Naïve openness was his only chance. He held his hands out in the open in front of him, palms facing the dark sky as he strode forward and forced a smile into his voice. “Hell, I’m sorry if I startled you. I was miles away. Didn’t even see you there until someone called out.”

Morgan, the bodyguard, approached. “What are you doing?”

Seamus affected both surprise and exasperation. “I’m sorry I frightened you, folks. Had a damn fight with the wife,” he said, trying to look sheepish. “Would you believe it? She wants to invite the in-laws to stay as soon as we get back to Auckland. Hell, we’ve been married all of five minutes, and she wants her family. I mean, what am I? Chopped liver?”

Morgan scrutinized him, weighing his story. “Why did you come down here?” he asked, his dark face full of suspicion.

“I walked to the far end of the resort, then back along the beach.” Seamus shrugged, maintaining eye contact. He gestured at his wet clothes. “The tide beat me.”

Seamus noticed another man split from the group. As he neared, Seamus recognized Watson.

“Hello,” he said.

“Strange time to be out,” Watson commented.

Seamus grimaced. Damn straight, it was a weird time of the night to loiter on the beach. He was positive they wouldn’t produce a single fish if he asked.

“Tell me about it. Aislyn and I had a humdinger of a fight. She made me so angry I just had to get out of the cabin.”

“Why are you wet?”

Seamus glanced down at his wet trousers. “I walked along the beach from the other end. I didn’t realize the tide was on its way in. Once I was halfway along, it was too far to walk back.”

Watson exchanged a glance with Morgan. Seamus held his breath, wondering if his story sounded plausible. He glanced over at the two men who waited by the dinghy, frustration simmering inside. He’d blown it tonight—big-time.

Go for broke. He glanced back at Watson. “Catch any fish?”

“The crew went out for two hours,” Watson said. “Didn’t catch much, though. One John Dory, they said.”

“Good eating fish,” Seamus said.

“Perhaps you should return and make things up with your lovely wife?” The suggestion sounded more like a demand.

“Morgan is heading that way. You can walk together.” An order with a bodyguard attached.

“Yeah, I guess I might as well. I’m soaked through. Although if Aislyn thinks I’m changing my mind about the in-laws coming to stay, she can think again.”

“Good night,” Watson said in his crisp English accent.

Seamus sensed the crate in the rowboat held one of the native species on the scavenger hunt list, yet he was powerless to take further action. Would it be worth contacting Gill to arrange a search warrant? They might get lucky if they searched Watson’s cabin or the boat. They might not too. Seamus suspected the latter since Watson struck him as smart.

“Did you hear me, Mr. Gallagher?” Watson’s voice grew harsh.

“What? Sorry.” Seamus grimaced. “Mind’s on Aislyn.”

“I said, good night.”

Seamus nodded. “Good night. I’ll see you around the resort. Thanks for inviting us to your cocktail party tonight. Aislyn and I enjoyed it.”

Morgan pulled a torch from his jacket pocket. “Let’s go.”

“Sure,” Seamus said. What else could he say under the circumstances?

They walked side by side along the beach, and when they approached the path leading up toward the cabins, Morgan gestured for Seamus to precede him. Not the ideal situation.

His back itched as he climbed the path. The residue of water in his boots sloshed making squelching sounds while his wet jeans clung to his chilled legs with each step. The wind had picked up and howled in from the sea, ruffling his hair, tugging at his clothes, and foretelling of the storm to come.

“Looks like a storm is on the way,” he said over his shoulder.

Behind him, Morgan grunted, a noncommittal sound.

Now that they’d caught him, he and Aislyn might as well leave the resort and return to Auckland. They’d confirmed Watson was a competitor in the scavenger hunt, and it was unlikely they’d discover anything else to help the investigation. Besides, he’d feel better with Aislyn out of reach.

They reached the path branching off to Watson’s cabin.

“I’ll say goodnight,” Seamus said cheerfully. “Thanks for the torchlight. At the rate I’m going tonight, I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck.”

“I’ll walk you back to your cabin.”

“I don’t want to take you out of your way.”

“It’s no trouble.”

Great. The bodyguard intended to escort him back to the cabin, and Seamus would bet the man or someone from the Watson camp would watch over them for the rest of the night.

“The path is lit.”

“Mr. Watson would never forgive me if an accident were to befall you on the way back to your cabin.”

Seamus rolled his eyes. Despite the ache in his leg, he poured on the pace, and the bodyguard sped up too. The cabin soon came into sight.

“Thanks. I guess I’d better see if Aislyn is speaking to me. A shame about the fishing,” he added. “One John Dory won’t feed the number of people in your party.”

Seamus unlocked the door and stepped inside, waving at Morgan before closing the door.

“Damn,” he muttered, knowing he’d made a hash of things. Watson would be on his guard now. Maybe he and Aislyn should stage a public fight. It wouldn’t take much in the way of acting, especially after he told Aislyn about Renee.

Come back next Monday for the following chapter

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 15

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.

Chapter 15

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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

“Good point.”

“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.

“Good plan.”

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.”

Seamus sighed.

Showtime.

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.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 14

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.

Chapter 14

Seamus kicked off his sandals and reached for his swim shorts. He glanced at Aislyn, noting a frozen quality about her. Had he upset her? Sometimes he forgot she was unused to the human side.

She stooped to spread her towel on the sand and unfastened her sandals. When she straightened, her hands unbuttoned to the front of her dress. Seamus stilled. She wasn’t…

The dress slid over her shoulders, baring a large expanse of skin to his avid gaze. A quick shimmy of her hips made the dress slither farther, exposing slim, tanned legs before it puddled at her feet in a whisper of fabric.

Seamus swallowed, his gaze caught on the hot pink bikini. He needed to say something, do something instead of standing there like a colossal dummy—a naked dummy. Abruptly he lifted one leg to step into his swim shorts. When he looked up again, he saw Aislyn sprinting toward the sea as if thirty cats chased after her. When she neared the water’s edge, she never hesitated. She dove under a wave and came up swimming.

What the hell? He ran after her, hit the water with a loud splash, and stroked out to sea. With his superior strength, he soon caught her. Breathing easily, he touched her arm to let her know he was alongside. She jerked in fright and floundered, going under the waves.

Seamus snaked out an arm to grab her. She came up spluttering, and he trod water until she caught her breath.
“What did you do that for?”

Seamus couldn’t help noticing the way her chest heaved from her recent exertion. He kicked his feet, moving them inshore until he touched the bottom. “You took off abruptly. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“I’m fine. No thanks to you.”

A flash in the trees snagged his attention. “Someone’s watching.”

“How do you know?”

“The sun reflected off his binoculars.” The touch of her sleek skin was driving him crazy, making him think things no betrothed male should consider. Her legs kicked to keep her afloat and, since he still gripped her arms, their bodies brushed, smooth limbs sliding against his legs. Lust struck a blow, and he ached to draw her closer to kiss her.

“Can I look?” Her blue eyes glowed with excitement.

“Not yet.” He hesitated, his gaze drawn to her lips. “We need to reinforce the honeymoon angle.” His conscience shrieked at him, and he cursed, admitting to bad behavior. Unfortunately, he was helpless to halt the slow slide into intimacy. He let the gentle waves jostle their bodies together. As he lowered his head, his heart battered his ribs.

Fool. They stood close enough to convince anyone watching. Kissing wasn’t obligatory. He stared at Aislyn’s pink lips. One taste…then he’d do the right thing and tell her of his betrothal to Renee.

She swallowed, her lashes lowering to screen the secrets swirling through her eyes. With blood roaring through his veins, Seamus gently covered her mouth with his. The soft pliancy of her lips sent a surge of lust to his cock.
Slow. Easy.

She issued a sigh. Her arms snaked around his neck, one hand moving upward to cup the back of his head and pull him closer. Panic roared through him then, his conscience hollering this was wrong even though his lusty body greedily craved more. Before he could retreat, she gripped his shoulders and returned his kiss.

Without volition, he gentled his hold and gave into his desperate need to learn her curves, to commit her body to memory. His lips seared a path across her jaw and down her neck. The saltiness of the water contrasted with the faint scent of apricots.

He’d lied.

One kiss wasn’t enough.

The hunger inside him spread to full arousal. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the taste, the scent, the silken feel of her beneath his lips. God, he’d never wanted a woman like this. Ever.

He tried to remind himself of the reasons to stop. His betrothal. He owed his loyalty to the colony and had to consider their future. Aislyn was his best friend’s sister. He’d promised to look after her—not seduce her.

“Seamus,” she whispered.

He traced a fingertip across her bottom lip. His gaze dropped to her breasts, straining against bright pink material. They rose and fell with each breath. The yearning to proceed was a hunger inside, slow and insidious.

Wrong.

“Touch me. Please, Seamus.”

His gaze shot back to her face. He swallowed, his hands clenching convulsively on her upper arms. “I… It’s wrong, Aislyn. We shouldn’t do this.”

Her breasts abraded his chest when she drew a deep breath. “Why? How can this be wrong when we both want the same thing?”

“We’re working. We’re not here to enjoy ourselves. And Duncan will kill me.” His mouth twisted in the parody of a grin. “You know I’m right.”

“I’m sick of you flinging Duncan’s name at me. I’m not a fairling any longer.”

The constant waves nudged their bodies together, making it difficult for him to concentrate. He should tell Aislyn about Renee. If he explained he was Guardian, Aislyn would understand.

A lone gull wheeled overhead, screeching in its search for food.

Alone.

He was tired of his Guardian position, of the duties the office imposed. For once, he’d like to do something purely for selfish reasons.

“Please,” she whispered. “For once, I want something for myself.”

For an instant, he stared. Of all the words to choose, she’d picked the ones to duplicate his thoughts.

They both wanted a relationship without the ties of duty and loyalty.

“Seamus?” Her hands caressed his shoulders and trailed across his chest. His pulse jolted, and a groan escaped as the fight bled out of him. He hauled her against his chest and put his heart into a kiss.

 

Aislyn wondered if Seamus would feel her desperation. Her body knew what she wanted, even if her mind hadn’t caught up with the play. His hands smoothed over her arms and wandered down to cup her buttocks. A shudder worked through her when their lower bodies caressed. Although she hadn’t done this before, she’d attended sex education classes at college and knew what to expect. He desired her as much as she wanted him. Her breasts ached, and only his touch assuaged the persistent throb.

He pulled away, an anguished expression on his face. “I’m sorry, but I can’t—” He broke off. “I need to contact Gill.” He swam to shore without glancing back.

The ache in her chest intensified at the rejection.

A lone tear trickled from one eye, and she brushed it away before swimming to shore. Fergus still wanted to marry her. Jacob had asked her out on a date. The minute she returned to Auckland, she’d ring Gary’s cousin and accept.

When she reached the shallow water, she stood. A flash from the trees over to the right snagged her attention. When she walked closer, she glimpsed the edge of a building. Watson’s cabin?

Aislyn dragged herself up the beach and stooped for her towel. After shaking the sand-free, she wrapped it around her body to stave off the chill—a bone-deep chill that emphasized her loneliness.

 

Seamus yanked on his clothes, heedless of the droplets of water still coating his skin. Fool. After tugging on his sandals, he hurried along the beach and up the sloping path, desperate to put distance between him and Aislyn. He needed to contact Gill but not so urgently he couldn’t have done it later.

Needing privacy to gather his thoughts, he stopped by the cabin to grab the car keys and his cell phone before hurrying from the resort. Fifteen minutes later, he drove along the main street of the small township of Coromandel. After parking, he punched in Gill’s number and waited for his partner to answer. He tried not to think of Aislyn, her hurt expression.

“Yo!”

“It’s me,” Seamus said tersely.

“What’s up?”

Aislyn. “Nothing.”

A few beats of silence played out. “Aislyn giving you problems?”

“This is nothing to do with Aislyn.”

“Why don’t you sleep with the girl?”

Seamus gritted his teeth. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m engaged.” The instant he spoke, Seamus wanted to create a magic spell to snatch the words back. As Guardian, he possessed the power, but it probably wasn’t ethical to mess with his partner.

“Since when? Who’s the lucky lady?”

“The marriage is an arranged one.”

“Fuck. When do I get to meet her?”

Never. Renee wouldn’t leave the colony to come to the human side. Not something he could discuss with Gill. “Renee will arrive in two weeks. She’s staying with friends.”

“What will you do about Aislyn?”

“I didn’t ring to discuss my love life. We’ve located Watson. He’s in the cabin nearest the beach. We need someone to watch the shoreline. It’s too easy for a boat to moor at night. They could hit one of the offshore islands, and we’d be none the wiser.”

“We’re short of manpower as usual.”

“Aislyn and I will monitor things as best we can. Any news your end?”

“Someone hit Little Barrier Island last night. The tuatara they keep there has vanished, and the DOC. guys think they’re missing a kakapo chick.”

Seamus cursed. “How the fuck did they learn the chicks were there? It’s not public knowledge. The media reported their transfer to Maud Island.”

“Don’t know, bud. We’re doing our best to contain the situation.”

“It’s frustrating.”

Gill laughed. “Probably doesn’t help with the gorgeous Aislyn sharing a room?”

“Can it,” Seamus snarled. “I’ll check in on Thursday unless we have a problem.” He disconnected the call, even more unsettled than before. Damn, Gill. They’d been friends for too long.

Seamus rubbed his face and groaned out loud. There were only 86 of the native parrots in existence. The country couldn’t afford the loss of even one. Now they knew Watson was a competitor in the scavenger hunt, they needed to keep him under surveillance.

He parked the car and strode through reception to reach their cabin. “Aislyn, I’m back.”

“Up here, Seamus.”

Half expecting anger, relief filled him when she replied. He jogged up the stairs and into the large double bedroom.

The view of the Hauraki Gulf was stunning, but it didn’t hold his attention. His gaze zapped straight to Aislyn, who reclined in the middle of a king-size bed.

“What have you been doing?” He neared the bed with caution, eyeing the green robe that clung to her curves.

Aislyn’s blue eyes shimmered with excitement.

Seamus tensed. What the devil had the girl been up to now?

“I met John Watson.”

“You what?” Seamus collapsed onto the corner of the bed, his legs trembling. “When?”

“After you left, I sunbathed until I dried off, then walked back to the cabin. I encountered him on the path.”

“Don’t tell me you talked to him? Did he recognize you?”

“Yeah, I spoke with him. What did you want me to do? Tell him, oops, you’re Mr. Watson. I’m not supposed to talk to you. Don’t you think that might have raised a few questions?”

Seamus wanted to grin, but he needed to show Aislyn that taking part in this investigation meant teamwork. It was dangerous for her to question Watson on her own. “Cut the sass, sweetheart. This is serious. If he has ties with Maximillan, he’s capable of anything, including murder.”

“He spoke to me first. When I heard his accent, I asked where he came from.”

She’d caught the sun today. Her nose was pink, and he’d swear there were more freckles than usual. She was damn fidgety. She hadn’t told him everything yet and positively vibrated with importance. “And?” he asked in a soft voice.

“We chatted about England, and he invited me for a drink.”

“You said no.” Even though he had no rights with Aislyn, jealousy flared in response.

“I told him yes.”

His mouth worked, but not a sound emerged. He stared in disbelief. Hadn’t Aislyn listened to a word of his lecture during the drive from Auckland?

Seamus leaped to his feet and started to pace. It was that or wringing her neck to release his building tension. No wonder the board had jumped at his solution. They’d wanted to be rid of the responsibility for her. “Would you care to explain what transpired during your talk with John Watson?”

Aislyn narrowed her eyes, and her exuberant air deflated. Her chin shot up in belligerence. “I told you. We talked about England—”

“Tell me about meeting him.” Seamus rubbed his temple, feeling the onset of a headache.

“He asked me out for a drink. I told him I was married.” She waved her left hand in the air and wriggled her fingers to show Seamus the gold wedding band she wore. The ring glittered in the afternoon sun, the weight on his finger a reminder of the matching band on his left hand.

“And?”

“He said that didn’t matter.”

“Dirty old leech.” Seamus hated hearing that. He couldn’t believe Aislyn would be so gullible. “I hope you told him to get lost.”

“Will you let me speak?” Aislyn snapped. “Are you finished? Can I speak?”

“Someone should’ve disciplined you more when you were younger.”

“And spanked me?” Aislyn asked, her tone sugary sweet.

Seamus took two steps toward the bed. “It’s not too late for someone to take you in hand, sweetheart.”

“Is that a threat?”

Seamus gritted his teeth. “Why don’t you tell me what you told him?”

“I told him I was married, and he suggested we both go along for drinks. I thought you’d want to meet him in person. We’re due at his cabin at six-thirty for drinks and canapés.” Her blue eyes glinted with a challenge. “Did I do good or what?”

“You did well.” His tone sounded grudging.

Aislyn preened. “I know.”

“But you’re still a little baggage.” And I should put you over my knee except I don’t trust myself to touch you.

“What are we doing for the rest of the week? Are we going to keep watch at night?”

Aislyn’s questions reminded him of the missing kakapo chick. “It appears as if one of the scavenger hunt competitors stole a kakapo chick from Little Barrier Island. The DOC staff noticed the chick missing during routine checks yesterday.”

“Can a chick live without the parents? I know little about kakapo or any of the birds on the human side.” Aislyn gestured at the book lying face down beside her on the bed. “Don’t say more reading. I’m doing so much reading my eyes will turn square.”

“Here’s a summary. Kakapos are a parrot. They are nocturnal and aren’t big on flying, so they’re susceptible to predators. They were thought extinct, but in 1952, the birds were rediscovered. DOC captured the known birds and placed them on pest-free off-shore islands in the hope they’ll breed. The numbers increased to 86 this year.” Seamus felt his mouth tighten. “85 now that one is missing.”

“And if we let the rest of the competitors bag a chick each, the kakapo will be extinct in no time.”

“The only good thing I can say about the competition is they specified a live chick, which gives the competitors an incentive to look after the birds. They’ll need incubators to keep them alive.”

“Can we get leads on the people who’ve purchased incubators?”

“Probably wouldn’t help since they’re used in the poultry business.”

Aislyn frowned. “They’ve got to keep the birds somewhere, that lizard thing too.”

“The tuatara.”

“The maid service might notice a bird or a lizard in a guest’s bedroom.”

“There are lots of vacation cottages for rent around the Auckland area. Waiheke Island would be ideal. Lots of the properties have private jetties.”

“So it’s like looking for a needle in Murphy’s haystack. Nigh on impossible.”

“Afraid so.”

“Did Gill have any information for us?”

Oh, yeah. Seamus wished she hadn’t asked. “I’ll call him in two days. Sooner if we have anything to report.”

Aislyn wriggled around to find a more comfortable position on the bed.

Seamus averted his gaze but not before her silky green robe gaped to reveal a glimpse of creamy curves.

“How do we handle the visit to John Watson’s cabin?”

“Let me do the talking. I don’t want you within ten feet of the man.”

When he found his eyes straying to the neckline of her robe for the second time, his humor dissipated. He needed a distraction. For a few brief seconds, he thought about Renee. He should tell Aislyn, but pure selfishness made him hesitate. He wanted to enjoy her company, her sense of humor, even if she drove him mad and tested his reserves of willpower.

“So, you want me for decorative purposes?”

“That’s right.” He’d finally got through to her.

“Okay,” she said. “I can do decorative.”

Come back next Monday to read the following chapter.