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Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
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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.
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.
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.
“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?”
“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.
“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.”
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.