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The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 5

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.

Chapter 5

“Does this mean I won’t get breakfast?” Aislyn asked, unable to bear the suspense. A real date with Seamus, a memory to hold close and treasure once she returned to her humdrum existence in the colony. He wouldn’t withhold this treat. He couldn’t.

Gill stepped close and slid a comforting arm around her waist. “Don’t you worry, cupcake. If this grumpy lout refuses to buy you breakfast, I’ll take you.”

Seamus glowered, and Aislyn noticed with surprise, he shared his glare with Gill. She’d disobeyed orders. What had Gill done? Sure, the man made cryptic comments regarding mysteries and women, but the interview with Elsa had gone well.

“Thank you, Gill.” A peek at Seamus told her he intended to return her to the colony without the promised sightseeing trip. “Where do you suggest for breakfast?” she asked, fluttering her eyelashes at Gill.

Seamus scowled. “Do you have something in your eye?”

“Has this lout shown you any of the city?” Gill’s lips quivered as if he were suppressing laughter.

“Not yet,” Aislyn said. “We were going this morning. Unfortunately, I’m not here for long.”

“Where are you from?”

“Tipperary,” Seamus said. “If you cease the chit-chat, we can get going.”

Gill kept his arm around Aislyn’s waist as they ambled to the car. “Tipperary? In Ireland?”

“That’s what I said.” Seamus jerked open the car door for Aislyn and waited. He drummed his finger on the car roof. Bang. Bang. Bang.

She slid inside the vehicle.

“Tipperary,” Gill mused. “That’s a long way to go.”

“Hell’s teeth.” Seamus stomped around the front of the car and wrenched open the passenger door. The slam of the door punctuated his tetchiness.

Gill whistled and climbed into the driver’s seat. He turned to wink at Aislyn. “We’ll work on changing his mind.
I’m sure we can fit in a night on the town before you leave.”

“Sounds good,” Aislyn chirped.

“Over my dead body.”

Gill started the car. “That could be arranged.” He glanced at Aislyn. “How does breakfast at The Viaduct sound?”

“Near the harbor?” Aislyn had read of Auckland and the beautiful harbor.

“Ah, the voice of approval. The Viaduct, it is.”

Gill sped from the park. Aislyn spied more people this time. They scurried to work, and the children, wearing cute matching clothes, were heading to school. More cars. She concentrated, attempting to remember every detail. This visit to Auckland was a treat, and she wanted to make the most of her opportunity.

* * * * *

Appearances were deceptive.

Maximillan, for one, understood the cliché rang with truth. Each morning when he glanced in the mirror, he saw himself as others saw him—a man with the face of an angel. He chuckled and sauntered along the jetty to meet the incoming boat. The smooth tanned skin, the clear sparkling blue eyes, and the golden curls hid the soul of a depraved man.

The chug-chug of the launch distracted him from his musing. The captain had notified him of Sameth’s presence on board. Acute eagerness churned his gut, although, to outward appearances, he remained a calm, suave man in control of his destiny.

He spied his second-in-command standing at the bow of the boat and fought an uncharacteristic need to fidget. Had his idea borne fruit? Had his friends, his enemies taken the bait?

The churn of the engines slowed, and the skipper guided the launch alongside the jetty with precision. Two of the crew jumped ashore and fastened the mooring lines. Three minutes later, by Maximillan’s watch, the gangplank hit the dock with a metallic clank, and the passengers disembarked.

His second-in-command left the boat last. In her short, tight red skirt and fitted red jacket, Sameth strutted like a high-fashion model. The tall woman possessed a sharp brain along with Eurasian beauty.

“Maximillan, is something wrong?” she asked in her smooth, well-modulated tones.

He hid his impatience with difficulty. “Nothing at all. I worked in the office this morning and decided I needed fresh air.”

One dark brow arched. “Are you returning to the office? Would you prefer a verbal report now?”

He prolonged the anticipation to test his willpower. Waiting improved the soul, even his depraved one. His gaze followed the sleek curves of her body, and he experienced a lightning bolt of lust. The woman had class, but he thrust aside thoughts of physical gratification. Messing in his backyard was distasteful. Assistants of Sameth’s caliber were challenging to find.

“I thought I’d walk to the headland first and enjoy the fine weather before the forecast front brings rain.” Curiosity had him pondering his assistant’s family. Sameth was close-mouthed—useful for his business purposes—but it left a yawning gap in personal details. Perhaps she had a sister or a presentable cousin he could use for his sexual pleasure?

“Shall we meet in an hour?”

“Excellent. I look forward to your report.”

 

Sameth strolled with Maximillan along the length of the wooden jetty, the strap of her laptop bag hitched over one shoulder. Their shoes thudded on the wooden planks, marking their progress. At the end of the dock, they parted ways, Maximillan taking the right fork of the path and her to the left. She strode straight to the office, wanting to open the mail she’d collected at the post office box before Maximillan returned. More entries and she wanted to vet them in private.

She tapped on the heavy, steel-plated door and waited. The scrape of metal indicated the movement of the surveillance equipment. Another metallic clatter sounded before the door creaked open.

“Miss Sameth, I thought you were arriving later,” the butler said.

Sameth gave a natural smile of greeting. “I finished earlier than expected.”

“Would you like coffee?”

“Coffee sounds perfect. I’ll be in the office. Maximillan is joining me at eleven.”

Jansen nodded. “Very good, miss. I’ll see to refreshments.”

Jansen made the flesh at the back of her neck crawl. The man might appear benign. She knew better. While he bore the title of butler, his duties were many and varied. Put simply, the man did disposal work for Maximillan, both on the island and farther afield. Body disposal. She didn’t trust him but maintained a cordial working relationship with the man. No way did she want to appear on his future hit list.

In the office, she opened the mail and sorted the correspondence into piles. The number of acceptances would please Maximillan—twenty-five in total. Initially, they’d limited the competition to twenty. However, twenty-five was equally manageable and more profitable. A cool twelve and a half million to bolster the coffers plus the interest they’d earn.

Jansen arrived with a pot of coffee, a teapot, and a plate of her favorite chocolate-and-ginger biscotti. Maximillan walked in soon after.

“Excellent timing.” Sameth leaned back and crossed one leg over the other. The whisper of stockings was loud in the quiet business atmosphere. “I’ve finished with the mail.” She ignored the way both men followed the shift of her leg.

Jansen coughed and gestured at the teapot. “Shall I pour, sir?”

“Please, Jansen. How was your week, Sameth?”

Sameth accepted a cup of coffee, smiling her thanks. “Excellent. I’ve hired the new staff you requested. They’re due to arrive on the late afternoon launch. The upcoming recruitment drive should take care of the rest of our requirements.”

“That will be all, Jansen. Make sure we’re not disturbed.”

“Yes, sir.” Jansen backed from the office, pulling the door shut after him.

Sameth waited until Jansen’s footsteps faded. “We have twenty-five confirmed entries for the scavenger hunt. I’ve directed the funds to the trust account.”

A glow of satisfaction flickered across his angelic face, and Sameth consulted her notes to hide her distaste. “We’ve decided on fifteen items. I’ll take care of printing the lists this week.” She bent to extract a manila envelope from her briefcase.

Maximillan frowned. “Security?”

Sameth schooled her expression to neutral while inwardly, she cursed. Maximillan continued to question her every step of the way. Surely, after working with him for five years, he trusted her? “The printing will take place in-house. Your secretary understands discretion is essential. I pointed out the benefits to her health.”

Maximillan chuckled, his rusty cackle producing goosebumps on her arms. “Ah, clever girl.”

Sameth experienced little satisfaction even though he phrased the words as a compliment. Showing the secretary photos of a mutilated body and telling the woman her daughter could suffer the same fate if she blabbed a word of the scavenger hunt made Sameth realize she’d reached the ranks of the lowest. Witnessing the horror on the secretary’s face had confirmed she’d plummeted straight to hell.

After five years, Sameth had assumed immunity to the reactions of other people. Maximillan paid well, and money was a powerful incentive for a girl born into a poor family. There were alternatives, but spreading her legs bore no appeal. Still, the horror on the woman’s face left her feeling tainted.

Maximillan tapped the edge of the envelope she’d handed him. “I’m looking forward to the scavenger hunt.”

“The contestants arrive in two weeks. I’ve organized suites at the resort, and the contestants have received invitations to your cocktail party here at the house.”

“The competition should prove interesting.”

Sameth stared at Maximillan, registering the gloating in his smile. The man resembled a cat with a saucer of cream, which ratcheted up her worry.

“Indeed,” she replied, concealing her anxiety with the ease of practice.

Maximillan dropped a slice of lemon into his china teacup. “I’ll leave the details in your capable hands.” He handed her the envelope to lock inside the wall safe.

Sameth sighed, sensing the next month might make or break her position on the island. That was the trouble when you joined the bad guys.

Everyone had an agenda.

* * * * *

“It was great meeting you, Aislyn.” Gill enveloped her in a bear hug and gave her a big smacking kiss on the mouth.

“No doubt, I’ll see you again, since you’re staying with Seamus.”

“Not if I can help it,” Seamus muttered.

“We could have dinner one night,” she suggested.

Seamus took a firm grip on her forearm, dragging her away from Gill. “Aislyn, it’s late. We have that appointment. Remember?” He glared at his friend.

“I can take a hint.” Gill climbed into his car and waved before departing.

“Have you seen the time?” Seamus strode along the footpath leading around the rear of his house. “Someone’s bound to notice you’re missing.”

Lethargy made Aislyn wobble. He let her plop down to sit on the first step. “Apart from the costume hire place, I doubt anyone will care.”

Seamus dropped to the step beside her. “We’d better go back now. How are you feeling?”

“A bit tired, but we didn’t sleep last night.”

“You’re not dizzy?”

“Should I be?”

“Some recruits experience dizziness when they change size. The research team is working on a fix for the side effects.”

“I’m fine,” Aislyn said.

Didn’t she realize she was wobbling? She reminded him of a newborn foal with gangly legs and no balance. And she was slurring her words. Seamus curled his hands to fists, resisting his urge to gather her into his arms.

“You’d better cross your fingers because if one fairy sees us when we cross through the portal, we’re sunk.” Steeling himself, he reached for her hand and tugged her to her feet.

At first, she resisted until his greater strength prevailed. She moved with the speed of a cork popping from a champagne bottle, smacking into his chest and hitting his chin with her head.

“Ouch! What did you do that for?” Aislyn sent him a sullen glower.

Ignoring the inappropriate surge of lust, Seamus grabbed her black skirts to keep her upright and frog-marched her to the bottom of his garden. She staggered, her legs becoming increasingly uncoordinated. Her lost expression made him want to hold her and never let go. Mistake. He wished he’d never succumbed to her tears.

Muttering a curse, he scooped her off her feet. At first, he clutched her to his chest. Too tempting. He tossed her over his shoulder, dangling her like a sack of vegetables. He’d take her through the portal, escort her back to her flat and leave. Think of this as work.

Once through the portal, he set her down and activated the shrinking particles. Instead of walking back, he used his Guardian’s armband. He prayed the damn thing worked.

“Aislyn, are you awake?” He shook her. A series of tiny grunting snorts confirmed she was asleep. Probably for the best—he could drop her back and leave without messy recriminations. He picked her up, draping her over his shoulder again.

Seamus rubbed the blue stone embedded in his amulet. Nothing. Scowling, he jabbed the stone with his index finger. A sharp pop sounded in his ears, and a sense of weightlessness made him breathe a sharp sigh of relief. At last—something happening to plan. He’d pop in and out of Aislyn’s room, and no one would suspect a thing.

A flash of lights across his eyes warned Seamus of his impending arrival, and he flexed his knees, ready for landing. The bright blur coalesced into objects.

Seamus froze and clasped Aislyn more tightly, his eyes widening. Hell’s teeth. Desperately, he rubbed the blue stone in his amulet again. The bloody research department should quit watching old James Bond reruns and forget the whiz-bang gadgets.

Right now, he wanted to leave before Murphy and Moira realized their romantic rendezvous had become a cozy foursome.

A glance at Murphy’s pale white bottom had Seamus screwing his eyes shut. Way more than he needed to see. Seamus inhaled and stabbed the blue button again, picturing his destination in his mind.

Aislyn’s room. Aislyn’s room. The flurry of movement on the bed made him freeze.

“Who…what?” Moira stammered.

Seamus cursed under his breath. If there was ever a time, he needed the blasted thing to work. No time for an incantation. Work, dammit.

The familiar displacement made him release a breath. His knees braced. The world came into focus. Aislyn’s bedroom.
An untidy pile of textbooks propped up a three-legged dresser and yet more filled a bookcase to overflowing, some of them appearing ancient. The bed was unmade. Seamus set her down and smoothed the bed covers over her slumbering form.

“Keep safe, little mischief-maker,” he said, brushing her copper curls off her face.

One final glance over his shoulder was all he allowed himself before he departed.

Chapter 6 coming next Monday

A Research Visit to Barista Cats, Auckland, New Zealand

Barista Cats

These days, many families live in rental accommodation or high-rise apartments are unable to keep pets. Enter – a business opportunity. Barista Cats in Queen Street Auckland is one of the new cafes where animal lovers can go to have a coffee and get their pet-fix without having the responsibility of a full-time pet.

Barista Cats has fifteen cats who live at the café and mingle with the café patrons as they chill with a tea or coffee. All the cats are ex-SPCA cats, and all have had tough lives, so they lap up the attention and care they receive at the café. One is deaf while another is blind. One or two of the cats wobble as they walk or climb, but all are healthy and happy.

Barista Cats Cafe

A visit to the café must be booked online beforehand, and only children over the age of fourteen can enter the premises. They must be with a guardian.

Hi Cutie

A Barista Cat

On arrival, all visitors are introduced to each cat, and the rules are explained. The cats have loads of toys and different bedding, but most are happy to plop down and enjoy a stroke or two from their visitors.

Each session is one hour, and the café hosts special sessions with kittens. They also have yoga and movies several times a month. You get to do yoga or watch a movie with a cat on your lap.

Dinner Time at the Cafe

Want to chill out and destress? If you’re a pet-lover without a pet, this is definitely the place for you.

Military MenI enjoyed my visit, and some of my experience will go into my current, as yet unnamed work-in-progress, which is part of my Military Men series. Watch this space!

The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, New Zealand

Whenever we have friends visiting from overseas, we take them to the Waitakere Regional Park. A short drive from the inner city and you’re in the middle of nature. The views from the visitor center are gorgeous, and it’s an interesting place for kids of all ages!

Waitakere View from Lookout

This is the view from the lookout at the rear of the visitor center. On a clear day, you can see for miles.

View of Auckland

It was a little hazy on the day I took this photo, but you can make out the Sky Tower and the other highrise buildings in the central city.

Native NZ trees

These are some of the native trees. The punga ferns were striking and pretty this day.

About the kauri tree

A Young Kauri Tree

A young kauri tree. This native tree is in danger from kauri dieback. It’s incurable, and currently, many of our tracks in the park are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

The bush and river

Another view of the bush and the river.

Maori carving

Maori carving

Maori carving

These are some of the Maori carvings at the visitor center.

Shelley at Waitakere

And finally, this is me hamming it up with a view of the bush and sea behind me.

I’ve used the Waitakere area in my book Black Moon Dragon, and the heroine lives on the coast at Piha, which is not far away.

I highly recommend a visit to the Waitakere Ranges if you’re a visitor to Auckland. You won’t be disappointed!

Exploring Ponsonby, Auckland

This week, I decided to do my writing session in a different place. I ended up in Ponsonby.

Ponsonby Road

Ponsonby is an inner-city suburb, around 2 kilometers from the city center of Auckland. The origins of the name Ponsonby are a bit murky, and my search didn’t produce a definitive answer on how the place got its name.

Ponsonby is one of the original suburbs of Auckland. In the 1950s and 1960s, the area was a low-cost housing area, but these days, things are very different. It’s a thriving suburb with expensive property and lots of cafes and restaurants.

Huge mature trees grow on the grass verges, casting shade while the pedestrians get glimpses of the harbor and the Sky Tower. I particularly loved the wooden bungalows and villas that lined some of the streets—a reminder of an earlier time with their white picket fences.

Row of Bungalows

Wooden Bungalow

Bungalow

Mature Trees

The mature trees that grow in the area are beautiful and the shade is welcome during the hot summer.

Old wooden church

This old wooden church is a Samoan church these days.

View of Sky Tower from Ponsonby

The Sky Tower is visible from many parts of Auckland. This is the view from Ponsonby.

I had a fun morning exploring Ponsonby, and I managed to get lots of work done too. Win-win!

A Stroll Up a Dormant Volcano #Adventure2019

Adventure 2019

The city of Auckland is built on and around a field of volcanoes, which I think accounts for my fascination with volcanoes. One day, I will use volcanoes in a romance. Somehow.

I’ve been lucky enough to see most of our New Zealand volcanoes, including the more active ones farther south of Auckland. (White Island, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Tongariro)

On one memorable trip we visited an active volcano in Guatemala. It was almost dusk and we stood next to the glowing lava flow. The conveyer-belt glide of the molten lava, full of rocks and popping gases, and the heat that came off that shimmering ribbon lives with me still, despite the passing of years.

On Auckland Anniversary day, we had friends visit from Winnipeg, so we marched them up to the top of one of our dormant volcanoes—Mount Eden. Mt. Eden is interesting because it has a perfect crater and the view of the sprawling city below is fantastic.

Auckland weather was on its best behavior and the views were stunning. From the summit, it is easy to see the other dormant volcanoes that stud the landscape. One Tree Hill, Mt. Hobson, Rangitoto Island, and Mt. Victoria to name a few.

Mount Eden, Auckland

The crater as seen from the top of Mount Eden.

Auckland harbor bridge and Sky Tower

View over downtown Auckland. Spot the Auckland Harbor Bridge and the Sky Tower.

Rangitoto

This is Rangitoto, which is the youngest volcano in the Auckland region. It erupted around six hundred years ago.

Other dormant volcanoes

The grassy hills are also dormant volcanoes. These ones are visible from the top of Mt. Eden.

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill is yet another volcanic cone.

Drinks to rehydrate after our sightseeing

Drinks to replace the liquid lost while sightseeeing. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

If you ever visit Auckland, this spot is the perfect one to get an overview of the city with 360 views. From here, you can see both coasts (the Manukau and Waitemata) but a warning—if the day is windy. Hold onto your hat!

Rangitoto, Auckland. The Youngest Volcano #travel #newzealand

This year we’ve had lots of overseas visitors, which means we’ve been reacquainting ourselves with the sights around Auckland.

The city of Auckland is built on on a field of volcanoes, and Rangitoto Island is the youngest one – a mere 600 years-old. The island is pest-free (a big deal for our native bird populations) and is a short ferry ride from the central city.

The fascinating thing is that the silhouette of Rangitoto looks the same, no matter which part of the city you’re viewing it from.

Auckland_RangitotoFullView

Auckland_RangitotoDevonport

Auckland_Rangitoto

These photos were taken on different days, from different parts of the city.

We didn’t have time to do the walk to the summit, but if you visit Auckland for a few days, I highly recommend it since the walks are easy and the view back to the city is beautiful.

For more information on island walks and details of travel to the island check out the Rangitoto Govt site.

Fishing in the Hauraki Gulf #travel #NewZealand

A favorite activity – for hubby, at any rate – is to go fishing. We’re blessed with many choices of fishing spots in Auckland. Usually hubby tags along with his brother and they go fishing somewhere in the Hauraki Gulf.

Fishing

Here are some friends that decided to tag along.

Fishing dolphins

They like to play and take a good look. Must be a spectator sport…

Fishing scenery

When they overnight on the boat, they tuck into sheltered bays near one of the many islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

Fishing mooring

Lots of neighbors to chat with…

Fishing Allen

Then there is the fishing. The ones that got away…

Fishing Paul

And the ones that didn’t.

Do you like to fish? If so, where is your favorite fishing spot?

Y is for Yachts

Y

New Zealanders love their boats, and particularly those who live in Auckland, which is also known as the City of Sails. There are several marinas around the city, and we have some excellent boat builders who are based here. They make huge super yachts for wealthy people who like to sail around the world.

We have many champion sailors who have won medals at the Olympic Games and also world championships. At one time we held the Americas Cup. We contested for it last year, but unfortunately didn’t win.

Below are a few photos taken last year when hubby and I did a day trip from Auckland Harbor up the river to Riverhead.

Auckland Harbor Bridge Boats

This is one of the marinas. In the distance you can see the Auckland Harbor bridge.

Auckland Harbor Bridge

Yachts

Shelley CBD Sky Tower

And this is me with the main city center in the background, including the Sky Tower.

Trip to Riverhead

Yachts were even moored in the middle of the river when we cruised up to Riverhead.

Unattended Children

I have to admit that although I enjoy day trips on boats and I love cruising, I have no ambition to own a boat or yacht.

What about you?

S is for Sky Tower

S

Sky Tower is an Auckland icon, and the tower can be seen from all over the city. Here are a few facts:

1. The tower is a telecommunications and observation tower.

2. At 1076 feet (328 meters) it’s the tallest free-standing building in the Southern Hemisphere.

3. There are two restaurants and a cafe at the top. One of the restaurants is revolving. There are observation decks, and you can also bungee jump off if you want to get down quickly.

4. It took two years and nine months to build the tower.

5. The tower is built of 15,000 cubic meters of special high performance concrete, 2000 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 600 tonnes of structural steel.

6. The foundations go down more than 15 meters and are specially designed in order to spread the force load.

7. If the day is clear you can see the view for around 51 miles (82 kilometers)

Auckland city and harbor

Sky Tower

Do you like to visit the high spots in order to get a good view? Do you have a good head for heights?

(Sources: Wikipedia and Sky Tower website)

O is for One Night of Misbehavior

O

Titles are hard things to pin down—at least I find them difficult, and I can ponder and panic about finding the perfect title for a book for weeks. Titles also don’t begin with an O, but bear with me.

Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale. I guess it’s the romantic in me, but I like the idea of a prince searching the kingdom for his special woman and finding her in the most unlikely place. When I wrote the book that became my first self-published title, I decided to take the tale of Cinderella and give it my own special New Zealand spin.

And that’s when my title problem rose up like a many-headed snake. I thought and wrote lists, I pestered my husband for ideas then promptly said, “no, no, no,” because none of them were right. For a long time I called my story One Night With Zorro, which I really liked, but I worried about the Zorro part of the title and copyright.

Then, one day it hit me—the perfect title.

One Night of Misbehavior.

Here’s the blurb for One Night of Misbehavior, my Cinderella inspired romance, which is set in New Zealand.

One Night of Misbehavior

He wears his scars on the outside. She keeps hers safe inside.

Charlotte Dixon ignores her stepmother’s edict and, in an act of disobedience, attends one of the social events of the year—a masquerade costume ball. Charlotte’s naughtiness escalates when she dances and smooches with a sexy mystery man. The night of anonymous passion that follows makes her yearn for a different life, but the next day she’s back to her dull routine of household management.

Advertising tycoon, Ash Marlborough is about to set a private investigator on the trail of his nameless princess when she waltzes right into his place of work. Charlotte is shocked to meet her masked man in the flesh, and even more perturbed when he asks her out on a date. Despite craving another night of sexy loving, she doesn’t have time for a man, not when she wants to reinvent herself and grasp a new, improved life with both hands. But Ash knows what he wants, and he’s determined to win the heart of his princess. Let the dance of seduction commence.

Warning: Contains a conniving stepmother, selfish stepsisters, a grandmother with fairy godmother tendencies and a sexy masked man who is willing to face them all for the love of a good woman.

What is your favorite fairy tale? And authors out there, do you have trouble with titles?