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.
Read Chapter 17 here.
Several days later
Laughter, both masculine and feminine, rippled down the corridor when he exited the stairwell. Fighting to hold his temper, he stomped toward his office. His hands clenched, and jealousy zapped straight to his ego.
Aislyn and Gill.
Ever since their ill-fated assignment at Kowhai Lodge Resort, Aislyn avoided him. Not that Seamus blamed her, but his mistake had thrown Aislyn and Gill together. From the little Gill said, he’d taken her out for drinks and dinner a few times, and the knowledge kept Seamus’s gut-churning.
Seamus paused in the doorway of Gary’s office. The three of them were laughing like loons. Envy and resentment gripped him. Even though he had no rights with Aislyn, he’d promised Duncan he’d watch out for her.
Gill wasn’t safe.
Last night, he’d promised his meddling mother there was nothing between him and the rebel, despite the rumors. Seamus closed his eyes, working to control the maelstrom of emotions creating turmoil inside him. He bore an obligation to provide the best future for the young fairlings in the colony, and now he had someone else to consider.
Seamus stepped into Gary’s office. “Gill, you ready to go?”
The laughter ceased. Gary shuffled behind his desk. Gill straightened, removing his hand from Aislyn’s shoulder while Aislyn glared at him, not bothering to hide her animosity.
“I’m ready.” Gill grinned at Aislyn. “See you later, gorgeous.” He tapped her under the chin. “Seven, okay?”
Aislyn nodded. “At the flat.”
Seamus stiffened in shock. Aislyn had moved from the hostel and hadn’t bothered to tell him. Jealousy gripped him, and, for the first time since he’d met Gill at Police College, he wanted to deck him.
“Before we go, can I have a word with you in my office please, Aislyn?” It was an order. He would drag her kicking and screaming into his office if she refused.
“I’ll wait for you in my car.” With a farewell wave, Gill sauntered from sight.
Seamus couldn’t help but notice the way her gaze followed his friend’s departure. “I don’t have all day,” he snarled.
“After you.” Her polite gesture carried mockery.
She perched on the edge of one of the two mismatched wooden chairs in front of Seamus’s desk, looking as if she wanted to run from the room.
“I’m going back to the colony tonight for a few days. Renee arrives tonight.”
Aislyn stiffened. Her memory produced the face from the photo she’d discovered in Seamus’s bag. Why was he telling her?
“I wondered if you wanted me to give your parents or brothers any messages.”
Aislyn stared. He must know her father forbade her to speak with the rest of the family. “I wrote to Duncan a few days ago and sent my letter in the diplomatic pouch.”
Seamus moved from the bank of windows to stand behind his desk. He thrust his hands in his pockets. “Do you want me to bring anything back for you?”
“No, thank you,” Aislyn said. “I finished the tests on the latest batch of anti-cat remedies and sent the results in the pouch.”
“The latest potion gave me hives. The scientists are accusing me of not testing their remedies. Please reassure them I’m doing my best and maintaining meticulous records.”
“I’ll tell the board.”
“Was there anything else? Gary and I are going on a day trip to Maximillan’s resort. They’re recruiting staff, and the boss wants me and Gary to apply for jobs.”
“Do you think that’s wise?”
Aislyn pressed her lips together to contain her irritation. “I assume our boss knows what he’s doing. Have a nice time at the colony.”
Aislyn wanted to sprint from the room but maintained a casual pace. Her hand was on the doorknob when he spoke.
“I don’t think you should go out with Gill.”
She spun about to stare at him in disbelief. “What?”
A dull tide of color swept across his cheekbones. “Gill is older than you, more experienced. Nothing can come of a relationship between the two of you. You’re a fairy; he’s human. Mixed marriages don’t work.”
“What’s the matter, Seamus? Afraid I might say something I shouldn’t to Gill?”
“Of course not. I’m trying to be a friend—”
“Seamus, you ceased to be my friend when you slept with me then told me you were engaged. If I want to sleep with Gill, I will. It’s none of your damn business.” She wrenched the door open, stalked through, and slammed it using every ounce of her strength.
From his desk, Gary stared at her in half shock, half admiration. She wanted to laugh and couldn’t, not with the tight constriction in her throat.
“Are you ready to go?” Gary asked. “We need to stop by the flat and work out our disguises. The ferry leaves in two hours.”
“Yes, I’m ready.”
“What did Seamus want?” Gary asked as they waited for an elevator to arrive.
“He’s going to the colony for a few days because his betrothed arrives tonight. He offered to take some messages to my family for me.”
The news of Seamus’s betrothal distracted Gary, as she’d planned.
“Seamus is betrothed? When? Who? Where? Tell me everything!”
The elevator arrived, and they stepped inside to join the other passengers. When they reached the ground floor, Gary dragged Aislyn through the foyer of the building to the car park where he’d left his rusty Toyota.
“Right,” he said, his beads clacking when he tossed his head. “We’re not leaving here until you give me the gossip. Every juicy detail.”
“The short story is all we have time for. You should start driving, or we’ll miss the ferry. The boss will send us back to paper-pushing if we miss the recruitment presentation.”
“Okay, but if I think for a minute, you’re skimping on details, you’re in trouble.”
The Toyota started with a protesting whimper then fell silent. Gary scowled and tried again. “Damn car.”
Aislyn scanned the car park for witnesses. “I have an idea that might work, and then again, it mightn’t.” She closed her eyes and concentrated. The Gaelic words danced off her tongue. Gary’s gasp of shock, his muttered words of horror, did nothing to distract her. To her relief, a cool breeze whooshed over her face, and a sense of weightlessness lightened her body.
They materialized in the middle of Gary and Jacob’s living room. Gary’s head whipped from side to side before he fixed a horrified gaze on Aislyn.
“How…” Words failed him about the same time his legs gave way. He sank onto a faded, sagging armchair. The chair emitted a loud squeak of protest, but Gary ignored it to stare dumbly at her.
“How did you do that?” Gary regained his powers of speech.
“What?” Aislyn studied her fingernails and decided she’d try a different color of polish.
“I want to know how you transported us here when the pills contain an anti-magic compound. I know you’re taking your pills.”
“No idea. I only discovered by chance.”
“Do you have full power?”
“I have no control at all. Sometimes my spells work, and sometimes they don’t.”
Gary leaned back. The chair squeaked again. “What does Seamus say?”
“I haven’t told him.”
He nodded, setting his beads chattering. “Probably for the best. He’s likely to send you back to the colony.” He paused. “Be careful, Aislyn. You love it here on the human side. You don’t want Seamus to send you home.”
Gary was right. The idea of living in the colony made her shudder. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.”
“Cripes, look at the time. We’d better get our disguises in place and call a cab. You start, and I’ll order the cab.” Halfway to the door, he paused. “Since there’s just the two of us here, why don’t you try to zap us into our disguises?”
“Organize the taxi, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Once Gary left for the kitchen, she closed her eyes and concentrated. She wanted long brown hair, conservative dress. Something to scream, I’m a good worker. Hire me now.
A soft ripple of warm air blew against her face. Her clothes stirred, and the air disturbance faded. She opened her eyes to check the result. A grin bloomed. Perfect.
Now, a disguise for Gary. The braids would have to go. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on conjuring a new Gary.
A loud yelp came from the kitchen.
Aislyn chortled and hurried to witness the results of her magic.
“You could have warned me.” Gary peered into a china cabinet and studied his reflection. “Where are my braids?”
“You make a very handsome redhead.” Maybe she’d overdone the freckles, but he had sincerity galore.
“Where have my braids gone?” Gary turned to her, his brown eyes narrowed in a glare. “Tell me my braids are under this wig.”
“It’s not a wig.” Aislyn tugged on her own long hair. “See?”
“Do you know how long it took to get my braids done?”
A honk of a horn outside the flat saved her from replying. “Cab’s here.” She seized the small black bag she’d conjured up to go with her disguise and ran for the door. It would be safe in the cab. Gary couldn’t discuss spells in front of the human.
Gary sulked for a large part of the ferry ride to Maximillan’s island resort.
“Come outside. Maybe we’ll see some dolphins,” Aislyn said finally, running out of patience. She navigated past a group of school children, their harried teachers, and helpers before pushing through the door leading to the open deck.
Outside, the wind whipped through her hair, and she pushed the dark strands off her face. She grinned. At least her hair wouldn’t blow off because of an unfortunate gust of wind.
“What are you smirking about?”
“Nothing. I’m enjoying seeing some of the countryside outside of Auckland.” She raised her face to the wind and drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the tang of the sea.
The ferry rounded the jutting fingers of the mainland, rolling in the swell on the way to their destination.
“That’s the resort,” Gary said, pointing at a smudge of green on the horizon.
“There are lots of people our age on the ferry. They must be attending the recruitment drive too.”
The landmass grew larger, and in no time, the ferry docked at the resort wharf. She and Gary disembarked with the rest of the passengers.
A young woman, dressed in the black-and-white uniform of the resort, waited on the end of the wharf. “All those here for the recruitment seminar wait over by the sign. Sameth will be along to escort you to the theater.”
“I wonder who Sameth is?” Aislyn whispered to Gary.
“No idea.” He studied the rapidly growing group of people. “Do you think we stand a chance of scoring a job with all these people after work too?”
“Okay, listen up, everyone.”
Aislyn and Gary turned to study the tall, slender Asian woman who clapped her hands, indicating they should listen.
“We’re conducting the seminar in the Rimu theater. We will run a short video presentation before starting the interviews. I’ll conduct the interviews in the registration order. Keep your registration cards handy to check the numbers. Any questions? No? Good. Follow Caroline to the theater. The presentation will start in five minutes.” She turned and glided away.
“I wouldn’t want to come up against her in a battle,” Gary said.
They trailed along with the rest of the group, both taking mental notes of the resort layout to report back later.
“Hi, sweetheart.” Gill breezed into the office with Seamus trailing behind. “How did the recruitment seminar go? Do you have a job?”
Aislyn’s smile of welcome froze. Her insides churned in trepidation when she glanced past Gill to Seamus. “We’ll know by the end of next week.” Aware of Seamus’s displeasure, she forced a laugh. It sounded unnatural, and her stomach turned over when his frown intensified. “The process was nerve-racking but not difficult. We met Maximillan’s assistant, Sameth. She conducted the interviews.”
Seamus loomed in front of Aislyn’s desk. “She keeps a low profile. Word is she’s in charge of major decisions. We know little about her.”
Why was he here, anyway? “I thought you were going to…” She glanced at Gill. “Have the weekend off.”
“I leave later tonight.”
“Have a nice time.” Aislyn turned to smile at Gill and forced enthusiasm into her voice. “I’m looking forward to tonight.” She stood and sashayed over to Gill and trailed one hand down his chest. “I’m due at a strategic meeting.”
“Aislyn.” Seamus’s voice sliced through the silence, making her flinch. “I’ll walk you down.”
“There’s no need.”
Seamus took her arm and steered her out the door, his iron grip determined. To Gill, the move would have appeared polite. Aislyn knew better. “What’s your problem?”
He maneuvered her into the elevator—unfortunately for her an empty one. She wrenched from his touch, annoyed at his highhandedness and her own breathless reaction.
“You’re grounded. I’m sending you back to the colony. In fact, I’ll escort you.”
“Why? You can’t do that.”
Seamus looked grim. “Watch me.”
“I’m a part of the team. What will you tell the others?”
“I’ll tell them you’re sick. And don’t even think about trying to return. You can’t. Not without a supply of pills.” He glared at her. “Since you refuse to follow instructions, you can suffer the consequences.”
“I have done nothing wrong.” She gritted her teeth. “The boss told me I was doing a good job. Besides, no one wants me back in the colony, certainly no one on the board.”
“You’re a maverick. You don’t follow the rules.”
She glowered at Seamus, so angry words almost failed her. “This has nothing to do with rules. This is about you. You made your choice clear when you chose the rich princess to bear your children. You can’t turn around now and give me advice on my personal life.”
A flash of emotion crossed his face, darkening his eyes. For an instant, she thought she’d got through to him. He couldn’t have her friendship when he’d chosen Renee.
“My decision is final. There’s nothing you can say to change it.”
Return next Monday to read the following chapter.