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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

Cover Reveal: Maverick Lovers

Maverick Lovers by Shelley Munro

Christina is the sole remaining single left from a group of five friends, and she finally gets her happy-ever-after in Maverick Lovers, the sixth book in the Friendship Chronicles series.

Here’s the blurb:

Maverick: [noun] an independent person who has ideas or behavior that differs from the norm. Someone brave and impulsive who attacks life their way.

Finding and satisfying one lover is difficult…
Adding a second to the equation is an impossible challenge

Christina: her life is spiraling out of control. Her job, her friends, and her family relationships are slipping through her fingers, leaving her achingly alone and staring into the eyes of the black dog of depression. She claws her way free, and finally, a bright spot—she reconnects with a childhood friend. Not a boyfriend, but wow! That’s the way her mind is marching now, straight to Mr. Sexy Pants.

Gabriel: he’s seeing the success he’s worked for after his parents kicked him from their home for something he didn’t do. Christina’s arrival makes him happy, makes him consider a future, a family, then Aidan arrives home. Off-balance because he has feelings for each of them, Gabriel screws up both relationships. Go him!

Aidan: Tired of traveling and clawing his way to the top, he’s come home to claim Gabriel, the man he has always loved. The only problem—while Aidan was running away, Gabriel has moved on with his life. Prepared to fight, he can’t hate the gorgeous yet troubled Christina as much as he wants.

Three lost lovers battle their way to a committed relationship that shouldn’t be possible but has the potential to cement them into a solid and unconventional team.

The release date is 1 Jan 2020, and you can pre-order right now. Grab your pre-order copy here.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 4

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.

Chapter 4

“I thought you were eager to meet the guardian. You went starry-eyed when you mentioned him.”

Rats, her fib was returning to bite her in the bum. “I’ll get evicted from Glenveagh if I set one foot outside the colony.” The consequences made her shudder. Once rumors surfaced, the other colonies would reject her, and she’d end up living life in limbo.

Alone.

He nodded, his expression thoughtful.

“Won’t you get in trouble too?” she asked.

Instead of answering, he reached inside his pocket and pulled out a long, thin cylinder. Using one hand, he removed the tight-fitting lid. A mist of liquid particles floated from the vial and spread until they danced around her. A tickle built at the back of her nose. The sneeze exploded from her, dislodging a wart.

Seamus chuckled when the wart bounced once and rolled across the path, coming to a stop at his feet. “The increasing mist is disconcerting at first. Sneezing is a side effect.”

Aislyn glanced at her feet. Whoa! The ground blurred alarmingly. She swayed and jerked her gaze off the gravel track. The dizziness receded, and she risked another peek. Oh, rats. The ground undulated so much she felt as if she sat in Duncan’s boat, braving the lake waters on a windy day. Queasiness stirred in the pit of her stomach. To divert her attention, she concentrated on Seamus. The nausea converted to such gut-punching lust it stole her breath. Bother, what was she going to do about her crush on Seamus?

Seamus muttered an incantation, the words soft and obscure. A shimmering portal opened in front of them.

“Wow,” Aislyn said, sidetracked from her dilemma.

“Come.” Seamus extended his hand. “We’ll stay for one hour. And don’t worry. If you don’t tell anyone, the board of directors won’t find out.”

“I promise,” she said, grasping his hand. Now that she was close to leaving the colony, she’d pledge anything.

Seamus chuckled. “Minx. Before we go, there are rules.” At her groan, he held up his hand. “This is important. Cats are a threat to you. If one corners you while you’re fairy size, you’re history.”

Aislyn nodded, but impatience made her long to sprint past him, to jump through the portal and into her adventure. Like a bottle of O’Sullivan homebrew, she fizzed with eagerness, greedy to experience, to touch and taste every new sight at once.

“Are you listening?”

“Yeah, you’re giving me the cat lecture. I’ve heard it before.”

“Aislyn.” He grasped her shoulders and turned her away from the portal to face him. “Don’t wander. You must stay close at all times.”

“Yes, okay. What will we see?”

“I’ll take you for a drive around Auckland.”

Auckland! This was better than she’d dreamed. “Will I see the Sky Tower?” Seamus’s touch was the only thing keeping her grounded. A grin stretched from one side of her face to the other, broadcasting her emotions.

“If you’d stop and listen, we might get to the Sky Tower faster. If you’d stop interrupting, we might even have time to take the elevator to the top.”

“I’m listening. I’m listening. I need to stay with you.”

“At all times.”

No hardship there. “Yes, and I have to do what you say when you say. I must keep my visit secret. Got the rules. Can we go now?”

 

“Come on,” he said.

Together, they stepped through the portal and into his garden. The Guardian’s garden, Seamus, reminded himself. Aislyn didn’t need to learn of his Guardian status. He snapped his fingers, chanted, and the portal faded and disappeared.

Punga ferns swayed in the faint breeze while the leaves in the taller kauri and rimu trees rustled. As he led her up the path toward his house, the leaf litter and small twigs crunched underfoot. The closer they walked to the wooden bungalow, the louder the noises of the city. Muted traffic sounds, and the bark of the next-door neighbor’s fox terrier shattered the silence of the garden.

Aislyn’s reaction intrigued him, scouring away years of detachment and letting him experience the world through her eyes. Awe and excitement burned on her face. Her head whipped from side to side, reminding him of a contortionist he’d seen at a circus when he was a fairling.

He took half a step toward her, the urge to brand her with his kiss so strong a tremor racked his body. The roar of a car with a broken muffler jerked him from his folly. His pulse pounded at the near-miss. Fool, he had no business dallying with Aislyn, not with his future etched in concrete.

“Are you hungry? Would you like a drink before we leave?” He hoped Aislyn didn’t clue in on his huskiness. So help him, if she threw herself at him, he feared his big brother pretense might crack wide open.

“I couldn’t eat a thing.” She skipped two steps ahead, her witch cloak billowing in the breeze.

“Come inside while I find the car keys. We’ll stand out in our costumes, but if anyone asks, we’ll say we’re going to a fancy dress party.”

“What of the man who owns this house?” Her tongue darted out to moisten her bottom lip. Seamus watched avidly and barely restrained his groan.

Spending time with Aislyn was a mistake, but it didn’t make a shred of difference. Her tongue moved on to lick her top lip. There was no holding back the groan this time. “Aislyn.”

“What?” She jerked her gaze from the wooden door at the top of the steps, freezing when she caught his expression. Delicate color filtered over her cheeks.

“You’re still wearing orange warts.” Seamus shoved his hands in his pockets so he wouldn’t touch.

A gamine grin lit her face. “Aren’t they sexy?”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“Can you take them off for me?”

Damn. Withdrawing his hands from his pockets, he noted, without surprise, they trembled. His breathing ratcheted up a notch drawing in essence of Aislyn. Seamus stopped inhaling, rapidly plucked the offending warts from her face, and stepped back out of danger. Sweat beaded his brow as though he’d completed a grueling gym session, and his legs wavered.

“That hurt.” Aislyn rubbed her cheek with her right hand.

“Let me see.” Danger! Seamus closed the gap between them and smoothed his thumb over the tiny red spot on her cheek. “You’ll survive. A fairy kiss should do the trick.” He paid no mind to the swirling mass of conscience that jabbed and nattered at him. He lowered his head, body full of tension.

Aislyn’s eyes widened, the pupils growing large, the blue color deepening. “I…I don’t think this is a good idea.” The stuttered objection came in a heated rush.

“A kiss won’t hurt.” Even as he uttered the words, his fingers threaded through soft copper curls. Conscience poked him mercilessly. Hell’s teeth, couldn’t he do a thing for himself for once? Did he always have to put duty to the colony first?

One kiss.

Just one.

Seamus touched his lips to hers in a chaste, friendly kiss. Over and done in mere seconds once he’d quenched his curiosity.

Instead, he fitted her softness to his chest, sipped her mouth, and encouraged her to let him taste her. His heart thumped erratically, slamming against his ribs. She gave a sexy moan deep in her throat. Reaction to her innocent sensuality made his entire body clench in need.

Conscience let rip, barking orders with the precision of a military commander. Wrong. Stop. Duncan will kill you. No future here.

Seamus eased away until inches appeared between their bodies. He closed his eyes, fighting the urge to sweep her off to his bed. His hands tightened around her biceps, but he forced them to relax and drop to his sides.

He took another step back, ripping his gaze from her red, kiss-moistened mouth.

“Am I interrupting?” Gill asked, his tone dry.

“No, dammit.” Seamus straightened to glower at his partner.

Gill folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against a verandah support. “Glad you cleared that up for me.”

Part of Seamus wanted to hug his friend with gratitude. The other part of him wanted to thump him for ogling Aislyn. “Aislyn, meet my partner and friend, Gill.”

“Pleased to meet you, Aislyn. Seamus, a word.” Gill gestured with his head for privacy and came to the point once Seamus followed him. “Got a lead. An insider who’s willing to help us with Maximillan. Where the hell have you been? I’ve been waiting for ages.”

Seamus flinched at the gleam in his friend’s eyes.

“Never mind,” Gill said. “You’re here now. Send the girl home, and we can get going.”

“I can’t send her home.” Damn, Gill was right. They couldn’t let this opportunity pass. They needed someone inside Maximillan’s estate, but he couldn’t leave Aislyn on her own. He dragged his hand through his hair, trying to come up with a solution.

Gill started toward the driveway. “We have to go now. We owe it to Hone.”

“Aislyn will have to come with us. Look, Gill, I can’t explain, but trust me, she won’t cause any trouble.”

Gill shrugged one shoulder. “On your head.”

“We’ll meet you at the car.”

Gill disappeared around the corner of the house, and Seamus hurried over to Aislyn. “Change of plans.”

Aislyn scowled at him. “You can’t send me back. You promised.”

“I’m not sending you back, but I can’t leave you here. You’re coming with us. Promise to sit in the car and keep your mouth shut. As soon as we finish our business, I’ll take you for the drive I promised. If you behave, I’ll buy you breakfast before we return to the colony.”

This whole situation was snowballing out of control. Damn his impulse. The way his luck was running, one of the fairy force members would eyeball them, then hell would break loose. The roar of Gill’s car prompted him to haste.

“Deal?”

“Deal.” Her blue eyes sparkled with life again, allowing Seamus to exhale with relief. Crisis averted.

“Hurry, Gill’s waiting.” He grabbed her forearm and dragged her around the corner of the house. Seamus jerked open the back passenger door and hustled her into the back before climbing into the front and slamming his door shut.

Gill took off with a spray of gravel, the car sliding before the tires gained traction. A small squeak from the back seat made Seamus grin.

“I’d prefer to arrive in one piece,” he said. “And Aislyn wants to see Auckland.”

“I’ve arranged to meet Elsa near the kiosk in Cornwall Park,” Gill said. “That’s if she’s bothered to wait.”

 

Aislyn listened to the two males fascinated with the way they interacted. One seemed to know the other’s thoughts before they spoke a word. A real human male. Curiosity bubbling over, she studied the back of Gill’s head. They didn’t appear different. His hair was blond, long and shaggy, in need of a visit to the colony hairdresser, Snip ‘n Curl. He needed a shave too, but one glimpse of the human’s intense green eyes and dark lashes and his scruffiness faded into the background. He’d cause chaos amongst the female fairies if he visited the colony. Cleaned up, he’d look almost pretty, except for the large nose.

The car brakes shrieked as Gill hurled the vehicle around a corner. Aislyn grabbed the front seat for purchase. The sun climbed sluggishly above the skyline, allowing her to read the road signs as they darted in and out of traffic.

Remuera. In her mind, she sounded each syllable. A warm glow spurted through her body. The world outside the colony was foreign, and she loved it.

Gill pulled up at a set of traffic lights, his fingers drumming on the wheel while he waited for the change to green. The brick-and-tile buildings gave way to a vast expanse of green grass and trees bordered by a stone wall. Gill slowed and turned into the park. Cornwall Park.

So much to see and so little time before Seamus returned her to the colony. Resentment fanned to life without warning. It wasn’t fair a male could experience the wonder of Auckland and the towns and countries beyond while she kicked around the colony discussing sewing techniques.

“There she is.” Relief shaded Gill’s voice. “Thank God, she waited. We have to convince her to work with us.”

Seamus cursed. “I thought she’d already agreed.”

“I said she was thinking about it. But we have leverage, so she’ll come round to our way of thinking. Her older brother is doing time for aggravated robbery. She’s stayed out of trouble, but we picked up her younger brother shoplifting for the second time since school let out for holidays. I’ll suggest we help each other.”

“Let’s do it.” Seamus turned to face Aislyn. “Stay in the car. Don’t move.”

Gill shot her a quick, easy grin that warmed her insides. “Have a heart, Seamus. Let the girl get out of the car. This might take a while.”

Seamus’s glare drilled holes, nailing her in place on the backseat. “Follow my orders,” he repeated. “Or I’ll put you over my knee and blister your backside. Clear?”

“Crystal.” Aislyn fired back the glower with every ounce of her Irish temper. She pictured her hands around his neck and ran through her store of rat spells.

Gill shook his head as he climbed from the car. “You need to get laid.”

“None of your business,” Seamus said.

The two men strode over to a massive, sprawling fig tree. A young girl waited by the base of the tree, her hand jerking as she puffed on a cigarette. When the men approached, she blew one last cloud of smoke before tossing the butt on the ground and rubbing it out with her foot.

Aislyn sighed. She wanted to hear the conversation. After all, she was part of the team, or she would be once she started on the job and worked with Seamus. Her hand crept to the door handle. A faint click came when the door opened. Aislyn almost leaped out of her skin at the sound. She cast a guilty glance Seamus’s way. When he continued his conversation, she let the door fall open just to let the fresh air into the car.

Once the door was open, she decided she might as well stretch her legs. They were so much longer than usual. She’d need to keep her circulatory system in tip-top condition. With another glance at Seamus, she stepped from the car.

A gentle breeze tickled her cheek and tossed her corkscrew curls into disarray. She sniffed, trying to identify the strange smells carried in the wind. There were car fumes, the richness of the earth beneath her feet, and a faint whiff of pine and greenery. Mindful of Seamus’s warnings, she checked in both directions and sniffed, trying to discern anything out of the ordinary. Yep, just as she’d thought. Not a thing out of place. Feeling both bold and invincible, she crept toward the two males and the girl. Her black cloak dragged along the dew-covered grass, mopping up water until the bottom six inches was sodden. Aislyn paid no mind, her attention centered on the trio standing by the fig tree.

“We can keep your brother’s record clean, but you have to work with us,” Gill said.

Seamus scowled at the girl. “No point. Gill, we’re wasting our time.”

Aislyn’s mouth dropped on hearing Seamus’s harsh tone. The girl cast a panicked glance at Gill. Why was Seamus speaking to the girl in that manner? She’d never work with them if Seamus treated her this way.

“Seamus, don’t be so hasty,” Gill said. “Elsa wants to help us. Don’t you, Elsa?”
Elsa’s head moved in a jerky nod.

Ah! They were playing a classic good cop, bad cop scenario. Enthralled, Aislyn edged closer, not wanting to miss a word of the technique.

“We can help your brother,” Gill said. “We might even swing a job for the boy to keep him out of mischief. How does that sound, Elsa? A job to help him build pride.”

Elsa nodded again. She fumbled in her jacket pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes.

Aislyn tsked under her breath. Didn’t she know those things killed? What was the point of trying to save her brother if she traveled on the path to an early death because she smoked?

“A job sounds good,” Elsa said, her voice low and throaty. “Real good.”

Seamus threw up his arms, snorting his disgust out loud.

Elsa threw him a panicked look and turned to Gill. “Don’t listen to him,” she cried. “Jason is a good boy. He’s fallen in with the wrong crowd. A job might make a difference.” She coughed then brushed a lock of dark hair from her face with a trembling hand. “I’ll do it,” she said. “I’ll help you, Gill, as long as you look out for my brother.”

“Good girl.” Gill’s voice was full of approval. “I’ll give you a cell phone. Ring me when you have something to report. If anyone asks who you’re ringing, tell them I’m your cousin, and I’m watching over your family for you while you’re working on the island.”

“What sort of things do you want to know?” Elsa asked.

“Arrivals. Departures. We need the names of guests staying at the estate, names of visitors from the resort who meet with Maximillan. Watch whenever you can. Tell us everything. We’ll work out what’s important. Can you do that, Elsa?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Good girl,” Gill said, and his soft voice stirred the hairs at the back of Aislyn’s neck. Wow, this man was good.

Aislyn imagined him with a haircut and better clothes and nodded. Oh, yeah. He’d do nicely.

A low cry came from the leafy bush, a few feet from where she hid. The leaves trembled at ground level, rustled again, and parted.

“Wow.” With a furtive glance at Seamus, she crept closer to investigate the small fluffy creature that emerged from the bush. She crouched and stretched out one hand in greeting. To her delight, the black and white animal swaggered closer.

“You’re cute,” she cooed. She held her breath, silently urging the creature to step close enough for her to touch. Just as her knees started to protest, the creature strutted up to her, its tail swishing through the air. Then, wonder of wonders, the animal rubbed its fluffy head against her hand. She grinned and sank to the ground, unperturbed by the damp seeping through her cloak.

Meow.

A gurgle escaped Aislyn when the creature climbed on her lap and nibbled at her arm. She ran her hand over the animal’s soft fur. What was it? They didn’t have them in the colony.

The bush rattled. Two more creatures appeared. Just as cute, but in different colors. They slinked toward her on their bellies. A black and white one leaped at her, landing with a bump, sharp claws extended to catch her cloak.

“Ouch,” she scolded the creature. “That hurts.” When she tried to remove the animal, it bunted her with its head and slid a small pink tongue across her skin. It charmed Aislyn. “I wonder if Seamus will let me take you home with me,” she said, lifting the white one and holding it in front of her face. “I bet all the fairies will want one.”

“Aislyn!”

The roar made her shriek in alarm. The creature hissed and leaped for safety, leaving a track of claw marks across her hand. The animals scuttled into the leafy undergrowth. One glimpse of Seamus’s face made her wish she could follow.

“I told you to stay in the car.” He grasped her hand and hauled her to her feet, the black glower on his face leaving little doubt of his mood.

“I’m sorry.” Aislyn yanked from his touch because she had the urge to step closer. “I wanted to see more.”

“I turn my back for one minute, and you disobey my orders. What was I thinking of bringing you here?” A vein pulsed at his temple.

“I’m sorry. I…I…” she trailed off, unable to put her sense of exhilaration at leaving the colony into words.

Seamus hauled her into a bear hug, holding her so tight she could scarcely draw breath. “If anything happened to you, I’d never forgive myself.”

A surge of intense excitement flared in her, the smoldering flame she saw in his eyes igniting hope.

“I thought you said she was a relation.” Gill’s laconic voice broke the dangerous currents swirling between them.

“She is,” Seamus snapped, loosening his hold.

“I presume it’s the kissing kind.”

Seamus pushed her away, treating her as if she carried a contagious disease. “I’m meant to look after her. She’s not used to the city.” He dragged a hand across his face. “If something happened to her, I’d never hear the end of it.”

Gill sent Aislyn a pitying glance. “Hell, Seamus. Lighten up. Your mystery woman’s tied your good sense into knots. The girl was playing with a few cats, for God’s sake. She wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Cats? Aislyn peeked at Seamus. “They were cats?” she asked in a hushed voice.

The deep color on his cheekbones highlighted his fury. He folded his arms across his chest. “Oh, yeah, sweetheart. Those cute, cuddly animals were cats. The things you’re allergic to, remember? See the blackbird sitting in the fig tree?”

Aislyn nodded when she spotted the bird.

“Cats hunt birds that size.”

A solid pressure formed in her chest. Her normal size. She swallowed, trying to release the tension choking her throat.

“If I see you within spitting distance of a cat again, I’ll blister your backside so hard it will hurt you to sit for a full week.”

Aislyn’s gaze slid away, guilt making it difficult to maintain eye contact. Now she’d done it. Did this mean she’d miss breakfast and a visit to the Sky Tower?

Chapter 5 coming next Monday

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 1

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Chapter One

Duty called.

Seamus Gallagher’s eyes shot open as the sharp instinct settled in his gut. He wrestled his battered body from tangled sheets and crawled out of bed. One glimpse in the mirror elicited a grunt. He’d felt better, but instinct gnawed at him, urging him to speed.

The human side or the fairy colony?

Concentration—heck, any rapid movement—set off pounding vibrations inside his head.

Was it time for Hone’s report, or had Aislyn O’Sullivan pulled another prank and upset the colony board of directors?

Closing his eyes gave the drummer permission to perform a solo complete with a laser-light extravaganza. Next time he’d think twice about a night on the town with Gill.

Biting back a groan, he groped for his cell phone.

No messages.

That decided the matter.

This wasn’t police business.

His guardian duties on the fairy side required attention.

Through bleary eyes, he checked his wristwatch. If he hustled, he’d have time to visit the colony before meeting his partner, Gill, at the Auckland Central police station.

He meandered out his back door into the wild jungle he called a garden. The fresh air revived him, and he charged down a narrow pathway leading into the tangle of overgrown ferns, trees, and shrubs. The gravel crunched beneath his boots as he skirted the puddles created by last night’s rainstorm. Already, the sun shone brightly, and steam drifted off the mounds of fallen leaves beside the path.

When he neared the portal, caution had him pausing. A glance over his shoulder reassured him he was alone, apart from the chatty fantail flitting through the treetops.

Seamus muttered an incantation in the old Celtic language from Mother Ireland. In the emptiness before him, a shimmering portal formed—the doorway to Glenveagh, the fairy village beyond.

Hell’s teeth, his eyes hurt when he focused on the damn thing.

Seamus fumbled in his pocket for sunglasses and slapped them on as he stepped through the fiery blue-white light. Melodic Gaelic tripped off his tongue, interspersed with heartfelt groans. While displacement was standard, nausea and starbursts of white-hot pain through his body were not. Seamus clapped his hand over his forehead and gritted his teeth as he shrank to the size of a Jim Beam bottle.

God’s balls, alcohol was the devil. Deep breaths. In. Out. Gradually his insides realigned, and, feeling marginally better, he clicked his fingers in a rapid staccato code. Seconds later, the portal vanished.

Seamus followed the winding path leading to Glenveagh. The forest gave way to meadows edged by fuchsia hedgerows. Cottages studded the landscape, growing denser when he neared the village proper. He strode down the cobblestone road into the business center. In the square, young fairlings played tag, racing about with shrieks of laughter. Seamus halted to avoid a collision with a blond youngster intent on escape.

A few feet away, fairy women gossiped while examining potatoes and squeezing melons at Marion’s market stall. Seamus smothered a grin because Marion stood poised to pounce. They’d better watch out since she’d attacked customers caught fondling her produce.

At the far end of the square, a group of males huddled in vehement discussion. A spurt of curiosity snared him and, while he pondered possibilities, every shop and civic building in the square altered color. The pristine whitewash walls changed to a sunny buttercup yellow. Voices rose in a heated debate. Seconds later, the yellow buildings transformed into an eye-popping hot pink that made him glad of his sunglasses.

He suppressed a smirk at the cry of outrage. Ever since the O’Brien clan had returned from Ireland, marveling at the colored cottages, the idea of beautification and the resulting squabbles had spread like a smallpox epidemic. The board would face a fight if they wanted to stick with dull white buildings.

Seamus checked the familiar faces in the square, searching for Aislyn. He’d promised her brother he’d monitor her, so he was…

Hell’s teeth! Who was he trying to kid? His entire body hummed with the urgent need to see her—a mistake since she spelled trouble.

With limited time available, he rubbed the Guardian’s silver amulet circling his right biceps and summoned Aislyn’s likeness to his mind. Almost instantly, he materialized on the far side of the village near the stockyards. Rory was talking to someone inside the chute. A frantic neigh rent the air. Timber creaked. Clouds of dust rose from the chute.

Seamus scanned the arena and frowned. Aislyn wasn’t here. The amulet had failed. Again. Gary, his assistant, kept telling him to send it to the French colony for repair.

It was for the best, anyway.

Aislyn unsettled him.

She made him crave the impossible.

A cynical snort escaped. Two hundred years ago, after a war of magical proportions decimated the fairy colonies, the clans signed a treaty. There would be no magic for financial gain. The clans could no longer manufacture riches with magic. Each territory must earn their way with trade. He sighed.

His path was set.

The New Zealand colony’s finances were a mess. The Guardian must marry money and, since he was it, that made him the official sacrifice—the chump marrying for money.

The first obstacle.

Then there was good old Dad and his shenanigans. The jet-setting lifestyle his father had maintained during his term of Guardianship had sucked the colony dry. The cat attacks and the six fairy deaths on the Northern boundary were a direct result of his father’s skimping on security to fuel his entertainment fund. Obligation compelled Seamus to make restitution for his father’s sins.

Face it, Aislyn’s an unattainable dream.

And he was a bloody fool since the Guardian role belonged to him, whether he wanted it or not.

Loyalty and promises.

Responsibility.

Duty.

No matter what, the colony came first in his life—before any physical attraction to a woman.

Seamus was the only one with experience on the human side, familiarity the colony needed to survive into the next century.

Yeah, duty and responsibility sucked.

Pushing aside his futile yearnings, Seamus stepped up to the wooden railings, slid off his sunglasses, and settled in to watch the show.

 

Aislyn glanced at Rory as he peered through the sturdy wooden gate.

“Are you ready, lass?” His wrinkled face bore concern, although he’d stopped trying to talk her out of the ride.

Inside the chute, Aislyn gave a clipped nod. She clamped a black cap on her head and waited, her stomach jitterbugging with nerves.

“On the count of three, lass. One.”

A shuddering breath filled her lungs.

“Two.”

She tightened her grip on the reins, wrapped her slim legs around the streamlined body quivering with fury beneath her, and leaned back in the saddle.

“Three!”

The gate shot open with a protesting creak. Muscles bunched beneath Oher, and a bad-tempered neigh exploded from the brumby as the creature sprang from the chute. Aislyn’s body jerked. She ignored the protesting shake of taut muscles and clung like a leech, determined to emerge the winner in this battle of wills.

She had to win—she just had to.

The brumby skewed to the left, bucked and twisted mid-air. One jolting buck merged into another. Aislyn’s entire body jarred with each powerful surge. Her head snapped back. Her teeth rattled. She could do this. Eight seconds wasn’t long.

The brief lapse in concentration proved the edge her opponent required. Aislyn sailed over the brumby’s head, landing in the dusty arena with a bone-crunching thump.

Aislyn sucked for breath. Rat’s tails! Failure when the honeyed taste of success hovered so near. Close enough to touch. She tried a tentative movement. A jagged shaft of pain shot up her leg, radiating outward. She gasped as every bone in her body protested the abuse. The thump of running feet beat in unison with her head.

“Aislyn, sweetheart. Are you all right?”

A stupid, idiotic question. With her hearing fuzzy from the fall, she didn’t recognize the strong brogue. Probably Rory rushing to her aid and about to tell her she was a fool to attempt to ride one of the Aussie brumbies.
Was she okay? Of course, she wasn’t!

She’d failed to last the required eight seconds.

“Aislyn.” Gentle hands probed her body, leaving tingling warmth in their wake. They turned her over, and she bit back a moan of protest. “Aislyn!” The voice took on a stern tone, while hands grasped her shoulders.

“Stop squeeze…squeezing me.” Her eyelids fluttered open.

“How many fingers?”

She focused and gasped at the harsh visage swimming into view. Midnight black hair and gray eyes the color of the Tasman Sea on a stormy day. She sighed, convinced she was dreaming. “Seamus?”

“Hell’s teeth, Aislyn. What were you thinking?” Seamus pushed the words between clenched teeth while his fists tightened on her shoulders. She winced at the flash of pain. “You could’ve been killed.”

Well, she’d wanted his attention but not like this. Aislyn groaned and pushed his hands away so she could rise to a sitting position.

“Why?” His gray eyes glinted diamond-hard in an unforgiving face.

A fiery blush heated her face and spread downward to her chest. Rats. Why did he have to arrive home right now? All the most embarrassing moments in her life occurred in front of Seamus.

“Are you going to answer me?”

The way he loomed over her made her vulnerable. Not a good look for a recruit.

Avoiding his gaze, she gritted her teeth and pushed to her feet with a wobble. Masculine hands shot out to steady her, and she shrugged them off. “I don’t need your help.” And I can’t think when you touch me.

“You need a keeper.”

She tried to meet Seamus’s gaze—she really did, but managed scant seconds of his mesmerizing glare before her attention shot to her dusty black boots. She sighed, acutely aware of his athletic physique and the way he towered over her by a good eight inches. He wasn’t handsome or pretty, more rugged and masculine. Solid and confident. A reassuring male to have around and the one she lusted…

Two rats and a mouse! She’d thought she had this crush thing beat.

“Why, Aislyn?”

“I have to prove I can ride,” she said. “I want to join the fairy force.” Since I can’t have you.

“What?” His eyes turned to molten steel. A vein twitched in his clenched jaw. Seamus stalked closer, and she fought to stand her ground.

“You’re always yelling at me.” Aislyn scowled at him. Quick, shallow breaths partially blocked his appealing citrus scent. Frustration at his attitude made her tense like a mythical cat primed to pounce. Seamus had no right to boss her around.

“The fairy force doesn’t accept female recruits.”

“Says who?” His smug tone infuriated her so much she whipped a small black book from her trouser pocket and slapped it against his chest. “Where in the rule book does it say that? Show me.”

Aislyn placed her hands on her hips and gave a triumphant smile. He couldn’t. She’d spent every waking hour of the last month poring through the same black book, checking the fine print. No way did she intend to knock herself out training to suffer a check on the brink of success because of a stupid rule she’d missed.

Seamus glanced at the book before placing it on a nearby railing. “You don’t have a hope. When the board of directors stops laughing, they’ll screw up your application form and send you away with a pat on the head. Hell, even if it’s not against the rules, nothing will come of your scheming because you’re not strong enough to complete the final training.”

“I’m smart. That’s half the battle won.”

His dark brows rose, and he snorted. “You forgot, stubborn.”

Aislyn conceded, knowing the accusation was nothing less than the truth.

“Why do you want to leave the safety of the fairy colony? It’s dangerous outside for fairy females.”

Why? He should try stepping into the shoes of a female fairy, restricted to Glenveagh, and never allowed to leave because of stupid cats. Huh! She’d bet the creatures were an urban legend invented by males to keep their female counterparts under control. She remained silent. Only to herself did she admit the truth.

There were two things she wanted from life—Seamus Gallagher and the fairy force. And since Seamus treated her like a younger sibling, she intended to concentrate on joining the fairy force—even if she had to make fairy history to do it.

 

“Well?” Seamus stared at the copper-hair sprite standing in front of him, defiant to the last. Her obstinate expression made him want to shake her silly or at least put her over his knee and spank some sense into her. The thought sent a jolt straight to his cock, and he glared. This was her fault.

“I imagine for the same reasons you joined.” Her face flushed with indignation. “I want to experience the human world. Explore Auckland and compare the city to our colony. Do good deeds, fight destructive crime. I don’t like needlework. The other females can sew to their heart’s content. Why do I need to learn to sew a straight line?”

She needed sense spanked into her delectable… Appalled, he put a brake on his thoughts. “Tell me again. The truth this time.”

“I’ve told you the truth.” Aislyn’s chin shot up, and she inhaled, thrusting her stunning curves into prominence.
Seamus averted his gaze. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. The enticing vision remained imprinted in his mind, so he started silently counting backward from one hundred.

“You—you’re an MCP.”

Her sky-blue gaze struck like a bolt of lightning, stabbing right to his heart. His counting ground to an abrupt halt. “MCP?”

She gnawed on her bottom lip, and he realized he was staring. Ninety. Eighty-nine. Eighty-eight.

“Male chauvinist pig.”

“Male…that’s a human term. Where did you hear it? Have you been spying on the human who lives at the top of the garden? Have you been spying on the Guardian?”

Given the right atmospheric conditions, fairies could see through the colony walls, but humans couldn’t observe them.

“No!”

“Aislyn.”

Guilty color flooded her face and crept down her neck. Seamus grinned, starting to enjoy her predicament. Aislyn had been spying on him, not that she knew he was the guardian. He’d made the board agree on secrecy before he’d accepted the position. There was enough to worry about without fairy paparazzi dogging his heels, attempting to establish if he took after his fickle, womanizing father.

One dainty foot traced a pattern in the dusty arena. “I was passing.”

“That’s a bit out of your way.” This sounded promising. Damn. Eighty-seven. Eighty-six. Don’t say it. “Fancy him, do you?” Dammit, stop fishing, Gallagher. Eighty-five. Eighty-four.

“Yes. No! All right,” Aislyn admitted.

This was Duncan’s baby sibling. Eighty-three. Hades, he needed to pick a candidate for his first lady and announce the betrothal before he committed a supreme act of stupidity. Even imagining the possibilities was foolish.

Aislyn O’Sullivan was out of bounds. Eighty-two. Eighty-one. Eighty. Do not pursue this conversation. “And if you were a member of the fairy force, you could travel between the human and fairy worlds. You could meet your human on equal terms.”

“Yes,” she said in a small voice. “Now, you know my pitiful secrets.” She averted her face, but not before he witnessed the renewed flush on her cheeks.

Tenderness twisted inside him, and he reached out to grasp her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze. “The fairy force is hard work.” He wasn’t so old he didn’t remember the exhausting training, both mental and physical. “Fairy force work isn’t glamorous. The human world isn’t much different from our colony. We have the same facilities here, the same problems. Why would you want to leave?”

“You don’t understand. Everyone expects me to follow the feminine arts, but I’m bored rigid. I want this, Seamus.”

“Ah, Aislyn.” Despite thoughts of self-preservation, he pulled her into a loose embrace and smoothed his hand over her unruly mop of hair. In the bright New Zealand sunshine, the curls shone like shiny Irish pennies. They were soft and springy to his touch and smelled like fresh juicy apricots. She cuddled closer, giving a soft sigh. Seamus cursed. He wished he wasn’t attracted to her. She made him want things he couldn’t have, not if the colony was to survive into the next millennium.

He stepped back, putting a safer distance between them before cupping her face with one hand. “Have you any idea what you’re letting yourself in for? The odds are against your success, even if you persuade the board to let you try out for the recruits.”

 

Aislyn smiled. His earnest words were cute. He was intent, so sincere. In fact, he looked very similar to the human who lived at the top of the garden. A small gasp escaped. Was that why she watched the human whenever the opportunity arose? Was it because he looked like Seamus? Not that she’d managed a good look at him. The veil separating fairy from human-made everything hazy.

“What?” A smile lurked in his eyes.

Some might call the glint a mischievous twinkle. She knew better. Seamus considered her an annoying younger sibling in need of protection while she loved him. She railed at the injustice while her heart sank at the enormity of her problem.

“Nothing.”

Seamus was a lost cause. He’d never consider her in a romantic light. That’s why she’d set her sights on the force, despite carrying cat-attracting pheromones.

Every female fairy carried the pheromones. Frankly, Aislyn couldn’t see the problem. According to rumor, a cat was a huge, hairy beast with fangs and smelly breath. The stories were pure exaggeration. They must be. She’d questioned several fairy force members when they returned to the colony on leave. They avoided straight answers, but cats must be smaller in stature than humans.

“I’ll help you,” he said without warning. “Duncan would want me to help you.”

Her brother.

Again.

Aislyn tried to read him and failed. She had no idea what went on in that mind of his. Suspicion made her question.

“You’re not joking? Making fun of me?”

Seamus clutched his chest and raised his gaze to the sky. “She wounds me.”

“Fool,” she snapped, trying not to stare at the rippling muscles under his pale blue shirt.

“I’m offering to help you train.”

“Why? You don’t approve.”

“Think of it as a favor to my best friend’s baby sister.”

Aislyn deflated inside like one of her manual attempts at baking a soufflé. Verbal proof. He looked on her as a sister. Despite her hurt, she decided to accept his offer and make him suffer for the unknowing damage he’d inflicted.

“Okay.” She thrust out her hand to seal the bargain, steeling herself against the shiver of pleasure she knew would follow his touch. “So,” she said. “Where and when do we start?”

* * * * *

Hell in a handbasket.

That about summed up the day. Seamus shouldered open his front door and stood aside to let his partner enter.
First Aislyn then Hone—not a day to record for prosperity.

Gill stormed down the passage and turned into the living room. Seamus followed.

“Hone is dead? You saw his body yourself?” Total disbelief covered Gill’s face.

“Yeah.” Seamus stalked the length of his living room and back, ignoring the magnificent view of Auckland city and the harbor beyond. His mouth compressed. “What was left of him.” No one should have to die that way. Dammit, he was responsible. He should’ve taken more care, instructed Hone to take extra precautions.

He whirled to a halt and glanced at his partner and friend, MacGillicuddy. One look told him Gill felt the same burning need for revenge.

Maximillan was going down.

Gill straightened from his slouch and jerked his head toward his fridge in the adjacent room. “Drink?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?” Seamus displayed a flash of teeth in the hope it might pass as a grin. He shrugged off his jacket and flopped down on the nearest chair, thrusting his feet out in a comfortable sprawl. Inside, his gut churned with guilt, self-recrimination, and a hundred other emotions he failed to control.

Gill thrust an ice-cold can at him and dropped into the shabby blue chair opposite.

Seamus bit back his frustration and tugged on the ring-pull. A soft hiss escaped as the can opened. He closed his eyes, tipped back his head, and drank, savoring the crisp taste of hops as the beer slid down his parched throat. A few more beers, and he might even relax. On feeling the weight of a stare, his eyes popped open.

Gill studied him intently. “Do we have anyone in place at Maximillan’s?”

Bloodlust glittered in Gill’s pale blue eyes. Seamus knew the same fierce emotions reflected in his own gaze. “No, but, thanks to Hone, at least we have more info.”

“Hone’s dead because of a scavenger hunt, for God’s sake.” Gill leaped to his feet and paced. With his blond hair sticking up in wayward tufts, scruffy undercover clothes, and his fierce expression, he resembled a demented street person. “Maximillan is stark raving mad if he thinks we’ll let him get away with Hone’s murder and decimating New Zealand’s wildlife all in the name of a friggin’ game. You’ve seen the list?”

“Yeah.” Seamus had seen the scavenger hunt list. The idea that an eccentric millionaire thought he had the right to take whatever he pleased because he possessed big bucks and political clout made him sick. Maximillan’s day would come. Of that, Seamus was confident. Maximillan would make a mistake. So far, the man was wily as a weasel, too crafty to walk into their traps.

Gill whirled about after another lap of pacing. “How the hell do the fools expect the competitors to bag a kakapo chick?” Disgust made his top lip curl. “Smuggling a tuatara and a kiwi egg out of the country is bad enough. Have we notified the conservation departments in Australia and Brazil?”

“Talked to the Aussies half an hour ago. I left a message for the Brazilian contingent. Diego’s gonna ring me.”

“What’s the plan? We’re not overloaded with manpower.”

Seamus shot to his feet, desperate to soothe his agitation with motion. “Another beer?”

“Yeah, but I need to get going soon. Are you sure you don’t want to come? Rachel has a twin sister.”

Seamus grabbed another two cans and handed one to Gill. Although a night on the town sounded frivolous, he knew it was Gill’s way of coping with Hone’s death. Seamus understood the need to push aside the unspeakable, even if escape was for a mere night. “Another time. I have things to do.” Like working out how to deal with Aislyn.

Gill’s brows rose. “The mystery woman again.”

“There is no woman.” A vision of Aislyn with her vivid copper curls danced through his mind. He thrust it away.

“Argue all you like. I don’t believe you. One day you’re gonna break down and tell me.”

Seamus coughed and spluttered when a chug of beer went down the wrong way. He gasped for breath and wiped a dribble of beer from his chin. Gill might be his best friend on the human side, but if he told him the truth, the man would start running and never look back. Some facts were better kept secret. He shrugged, doing nothing to confirm or deny.

A grin twitched at Gill’s mouth. Seamus stiffened. He didn’t trust that look.

“Man, keep your secrets.” Gill sipped his beer. “She’s married,” he said without warning, his tone flat, betraying disappointment.

“She’s not married.”

“Ah! So it is a woman.” Gill’s triumph made Seamus want to put a kink in his friend’s impressive Roman nose.

“Think what you like. Truth is, I don’t feel like going out on the town tonight. Not after last night.”

Gill sobered. “What are we going to do about Maximillan?”

“I’m going to pull a few favors. Try to arrange more police to take in the slack. At least with the list, we have a better idea of the areas they’ll hit. Most of the endangered birds are safe on the offshore islands, but Maximillan’s resort in the Hauraki Gulf is the ideal base for competitors. That’s our main problem.”

“Since it’s right next to Little Barrier Island. Yeah, I know. That’s why we need someone inside the resort or better yet working on Maximillan’s estate.”

Seamus scowled. “Who? Neither of us can go. Maximillan knows our faces.”

“How about one of the recruits?”

Seamus didn’t like the idea. The recruits were keen but inexperienced, and this situation was too bloody dangerous. The empty can in his right hand crumpled as he sought an alternative. “I don’t know. I’ll give the situation some thought.”

Gill grunted. “We need a woman.”

Seamus knew Gill meant a woman undercover on the island, but amusement sparked, anyway. “It always comes down to a woman with you.”

“Nothing better to keep you warm at night,” Gill agreed with a grin. “And on that note, I’d better leave. Don’t want to keep the lady waiting. See you tomorrow.”

“Early,” Seamus warned. “Don’t get too comfortable with all that warmth.”

Gill fired his empty can at the bin and whooped at the noisy clang of success. “A dedicated bachelor, that’s me. You’re the one with the dark, dangerous secrets. Later.”

Gill’s footsteps echoed in the passage as he headed for the front door. Seconds later, his friend’s Ford started with a throaty rumble.

His mouth twisted as he replayed Gill’s words. Secrets. His friend knew Seamus Gallagher, police detective. He didn’t have a clue about Seamus’s double role as Guardian in charge of the fairy colony. Yeah, he possessed dark secrets. Dangerous secrets and it was a damn juggling act trying to keep the balls in play. He hoped like hell he didn’t take a wrong step and suffer a concussion in the fallout.

He headed off for a shower, and ten minutes later, dropped into a leather recliner in his den. Despite the cold water, his blood still ran hot.

Aislyn’s fault.

He rubbed his hands over his face and cursed softly. Talk about a big mouth. The instant he’d spoken, he’d known he should turn and walk—hell—sprint in the opposite direction. Instead, he’d offered to help her train when he needed to concentrate on avenging Hone’s death and stopping Maximillan.

His fists clenched while he contemplated his stupidity. Too late to take back his offer now. He’d given his word. The future loomed full of cold showers and long sleepless nights filled with fantasies that wouldn’t quit—of copper curls, firm breasts, trim thighs…curves in all the right places.

Bloody hell. He should’ve taken up Gill on his offer of a night on the town.

Then he laughed, the hard edge holding not a trace of humor. He stood to pour a glass of Jameson’s and stared into the amber liquid, deep in thought.

The names of the successful applicants would be announced at the Witches and Goblin’s ball in one month. Working with Aislyn until then would be like staring temptation in the face and daring it on.

Masochist.

He dragged out a file, intending to bury himself in work instead of fixating on Aislyn O’Sullivan. This surge of lust for her was a temporary blip. It would pass, and life would go on. Police work had filled his life for a decade, his Guardian duties two years. Guilt pricked him. He should decide on a wife and announce his betrothal, yet he hesitated, and his remorse grew.

Purposely pushing Aislyn to the back of his mind, he shuffled through the papers in his manila file until he found the scavenger hunt list. According to intelligence Hone had supplied, each of the twenty competitors put up half a million American dollars to enter with the winner taking out a cool ten million in prize money. The challenge attracted the competitors most, not the prize package.

Too much money to know better.

Boredom was a hell of a thing.

Seamus ran his finger down the list. Fifteen items, all rare and challenging to attain, and they came from far-flung corners of the world. Fury built within him, burning his gut, fueling his determination to capture Maximillan.

Kakapo chicks. They were an endangered species, so scarce there were eighty-six in existence. Damn if he’d let Maximillan and his mates take what they wanted without a fight.

The persistent ring of the colony cell phone jerked Seamus to the present. “Gallagher.”

An Irish brogue blasted down the line. “Dammit, what do you mean by encouraging the O’Sullivan lass? You might be Guardian, but you should’ve consulted the rest of the board first.”

Seamus frowned. A rattled Murphy. “What’s happened?”

“The O’Sullivan lass applied to join the fairy force. When Moira McKenzie refused her application, the lass turned her into a white rat.”

Seamus’s lips twitched when he pictured the board’s office assistant in white fur and whiskers. Hell’s teeth, what was he going to do with Aislyn O’Sullivan? “I thought there was an ordinance against the use of magic on the board premises?”

“Yes, well.” Murphy spluttered, sounding like a gobbling turkey. “If the fairy force recruits were chosen on sheer ingenuity, the O’Sullivan lass would be a shoo-in. She accosted Moira in the Dunlewy deli. Only the owners, Max and Hilda, witnessed the debacle. Thank goodness!”

“No problem then.”

“I haven’t got to the good bit,” Murphy said. “The rat…ah…Moira ran up Hilda’s skirt, Hilda tripped and fell over the dessert trolley. The sweets went flying, and Hilda sacked the O’Sullivan lass. Aislyn O’Sullivan is trouble. Moira is blaming me.”

“Murphy, if you must dip your wick—”

“That’s none of your business!” Murphy made the crazed gobbling sound again.

Seamus bit back a grin. The affair between Murphy and Moira was an open secret.

“Boy, this is your fault. You encouraged the lass. We can’t have females joining the fairy force. It’s unthinkable. If we let her join, the womenfolk will push for more. We can’t allow it. If we let one female out of the colony, they’ll all want to go.” Murphy’s voice rose with each successive sentence. “Next thing we know, they’ll want females on the board!”

“Would that be a bad thing?” Seamus heard Murphy’s sharp intake of breath and waited for the inevitable gobbling.

“Women on the… Are you mad?”

Seamus grinned, unsurprised at the older male’s reaction. “The doctor passed me on my last medical. I’m quite sane.”

“Then why are you encouraging the O’Sullivan fairy?” Murphy roared.

Seamus held his mobile away from his ear. “I tried to talk her out of applying, but she’s adamant. She wants to try out for the next intake of recruits.”

“It’s against the rules,” Murphy said.

Seamus glanced over at the black rulebook sitting on the corner of his desk. He’d read the thing from cover to cover after talking to Aislyn. “There’s nothing in the rules to prevent a female from applying.”

“Nothing?” Murphy demanded in a hoarse voice.

“I checked. Murphy, you’re panicking over nothing. She has to make the cut first.”

“You mean—? Ah, I’m with you. We’ll make sure she doesn’t make the cut. Now I know why we voted you Guardian.”

“Coerced and blackmailed, you mean. And no, that’s not what I meant,” Seamus snapped, incensed on Aislyn’s behalf.
“We have to take care of our reaction. The fairy press will scrutinize everything we do, and the other colonies around the world will run the news because it’s a good fairy interest story. Consider the facts. Making the cut is difficult, even for a male. You know how high the drop out rate is during hell week.”

“So you’re saying let the O’Sullivan lass compete and give it her best shot?”

“Legally, we can’t stop her applying, but physically I don’t think she’s capable.”

“Then why are you training her?”

“I want to keep an eye on developments.” Seamus worked to keep the bite from his voice. If he repeated this often enough, maybe even he’d come to believe his own excuses.

Chapter 2 coming next week.

New Release: Josh’s Fake Fiancee (Military Men 5)

Yay! I’m doing better at corralling my muse these days, and I’m adding to existing series instead of trying new stuff.

Josh was first mentioned in Innocent Next Door, and it took me a while to find the right lady for him. I think Ashley is the perfect one.

Josh's Fake Fiancee

Here’s the blurb:

A fiancée fabrication might just save her life…

Ever since she was a five-year-old with pigtails, Ashley Townsend has dreamed of becoming the prime minister of New Zealand. Now, with a career in politics, she’s well on the way to achieving her goal until a stalker threatens her life.

Josh Williams is taking time off after retiring from the military. A favor for a soldier friend? No problem. A pretend engagement? Okay, it’ll allow him to assess his future. Hands-off? Sure, he’ll treat Ashley like a sister.

After his first glimpse of his temporary fiancée, Josh admits he’s in trouble, and suddenly this easy assignment is a mite trickier. Soon Josh is dealing with the stalker, protecting his sexy and smart fiancée, and his heart is on the line. The press is asking nosy questions, the gap between pretense and reality is blurring, and Josh is wondering if granting his friend this favor is such a bright idea.

You’ll love this romantic suspense because it features an intelligent heroine and a protective soldier determined to keep his lady safe. Oh, and a little of New Zealand politics for spice and seasoning.

Grab your copy here!

P.S For a limited time, you can get Innocent Next Door, the first book in the series on sale for 99c. Get it at your favorite retailer.

Behind the series: Dragon Investigators Series and the Moon Titles

Dragon Investigators series

When I wrote the first book in the Dragon Investigators series, the story was for an anthology, and the book had a different title. It was a fun one-off that I enjoyed writing since it was set in New Zealand and I made a foray into Maori mythology.

A few years later, I started thinking about Hone Taniwha who was one of Jack’s co-workers and a friend. Blood Moon Dragon was the result of all that thinking. At the end of the book, I left Hone’s cousin Manu in a difficult predicament, which took a bit of consideration and more pondering. Recently, I wrote the third book in the series, Black Moon Dragon, and it is due for release on 21 May 2019.

The moon plays a big part in my Dragon Investigators series, hence my choice of titles. Before I started writing I had no idea there were so many types of moons. I know better now.

Here are the definitions for the types of moons I’ve used in my titles:

Blue moon – a blue moon occurs when there are two full moons during a calendar month. In Blue Moon Dragon the hero Jack’s control is tested during the upcoming blue moon.

Blood moon – this occurs when the moon is in eclipse. The moon’s orbit places it behind the Earth and in Earth’s shadow. The Earth’s atmosphere bends light into the shadows. The blue colors are scattered until only red remains, so we get a blood moon. In Blood Moon Dragon the blood in this romance is literal rather than an eclipse of the moon.

Blood Moon

Photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash

Black moon – this occurs when there are two new moons during a calendar month, and this is relatively rare. In Black Moon Dragon our hero and heroine are both experiencing new things, which made this title perfect.

What’s next? Well, I’m not sure, but there are lots of other moons to choose from.

A wolf moon, which the tribal Indians named because wolves called during January. Source: Farmers’ Almanac.

A snow moon, which occurs during February when the full moon lights up the snowy panoramas.

There are pink moons, worm moons, harvest moons, frost moons, super moons. I’ve discovered loads of inspiration for the future and rather fancy working a frost moon into a story because I like the sound of a Frost Moon Dragon.

Watch this space…

Stranded With Ella – A tale of a ghost, a landslide, and pink hair…

Stranded with Ella by Shelley Munro

 

Stranded With Ella, book 4 in the Military Men series is out today!

 

Why should you read this book?

It has a quirky heroine with pink hair.

It has a grumpy alpha soldier hero.

There’s a ghost.

It’s set in New Zealand.

There is danger.

Romance and spicy love scenes.

A happy-ever-after ending.

Grab your copy at your favorite online book retailer.

Cover Reveal: Stranded with Ella, Military Men #4

At long last—a new addition to the Military Men series.

The Military Men series features three NZSAS soldiers who met during training and became close friends. There is love, adventure and a good dose of humor in the first three books. The heroes are all military men and their heroines are equally strong with a side of sassy determination.

I’m really excited to show you the latest cover in the Military Men series. Stranded with Ella features Dillon Williams (Summer’s brother) and Ella Liddington-Walsh, a woman with pink hair and a love of vintage clothing.

And NEWSFLASH, there’s a giveaway to celebrate my cover reveal. Scroll down for details!

STRANDED WITH ELLA

Military Men, #4

Release Date 20 March 2019

Stranded with Ella by Shelley Munro

Here’s an excerpt from INNOCENT NEXT DOOR that introduces Dillon and his brother to the reader. Note: There are a few F-Bombs in this particular excerpt.

“Summer!” a masculine voice hollered. The angry sound echoed and bounced off the walls in a too-familiar manner.

“Oh, no,” Summer muttered. Somehow, she didn’t think closing her eyes and pretending she was asleep would solve this one.

Nikolai slithered from the bed and pulled an ugly-looking gun from under the bed.

“Don’t go. Did you lock the bedroom door?”

“No.”

“Summer!” The second voice sounded a shade deeper but just as angry.

“Shit, there’s two of them,” Nikolai said, and he grabbed his jeans and yanked them on.

“Unfortunately.”

Nikolai cast her a strange look, but the thump of heavy boots outside the bedroom forestalled his questions.

“Don’t come in!” Summer shrieked. “I don’t have any clothes—”

The door burst open and crashed against the bedroom wall. Two huge men paused at the threshold, and the four of them stared at each other with varying reactions.

“Fuck,” Nikolai said in a fierce undertone.

Summer nodded.

Yep, this was a situation that called for a stronger word than “shit”.

She tugged the covers up to her chin and considered crawling right underneath to hide. She thought about it for all of two seconds and cast away the cowardly idea. Someone needed to referee. She was the lone candidate.

“What the hell are you doing?” Dillon, her oldest brother, roared. He balanced lightly on his toes, his biceps bulging beneath his T-shirt. His dark hair stuck up, appearing as ruffled as his temper.

Josh, her other brother, folded his arms across his broad chest. He didn’t smirk but the glint in his baby-blue eyes said he wanted to. “Oh, it’s obvious what they’ve been doing,” he drawled, confirming her supposition. The louse thought this was funny.

“Tarei.” A pulse throbbed at Dillon’s temple, and he looked as if he wanted to haul Nikolai from the room and beat him to a pulp. “Jake said Summer was here. Didn’t expect you too.”

“Sex,” Josh added helpfully.

Summer swallowed despite her best efforts to keep her anxiety contained. Her week just kept getting better. Murder, a little sex, and a fistfight chucked in for good measure. She had it all. Who needed to read the Sunday tabloids?

“I don’t want to think about my sister and sex in the same sentence,” Dillon snapped.

“Especially with him.” Josh shifted his weight and clenched and unclenched his fists. The ever-present humor in his baby-looking face riled Summer. Time to take control.

“Out,” she snapped, trying to ignore the fine tremor of nerves that shook her limbs.

“Fine.” Dillon glared at Nikolai. “He can come with us.”

“I don’t think so,” she returned sweetly. If they laid one hand on Nikolai, so help her… She would Tae Kwon Do her two soldier brothers. “Nikolai stays with me.”

Dillon and Josh exchanged a glance.

Summer narrowed her eyes. “He stays with me. He’s seen me dress before.”

“I don’t think they want to hear that, sweetheart.”

“Fuck, no.” Dillon jerked his head toward the door. “Out, Tarei. You’re coming with us.”

“You do know Nikolai?” Summer glanced from brother to brother. Their hard faces gave away little, but she guessed they weren’t telling her something big. Fine. She’d worm the information from Nikolai the minute she got rid of her brothers.

Summer sat and made a show of grabbing the covers. The sheet slipped dangerously close to flashing her nipples.

“Aw, Summer!” Josh said, starting to back away. He grabbed his brother’s arm and yanked.

Dillon resisted until Summer made another move. “The kitchen in five minutes,” he ordered. “A second longer and we’ll come back and drag you out.”

Her brothers exited the room, their remarks to each other peppered with enough swear words it was a wonder her mother didn’t make an appearance with her bar of soap.

The Giveaway:

One reader will win a paperback copy of Enemy Lovers, a cute plus Kiwi, and an olive soap that comes complete with an Evil Eye good luck charm all the way from Greece. (It’s the bar of soap Summer needed for her brothers!)

The giveaway is open to all readers including International. Complete the rafflecopter below with at least one of the options and you’re in the draw!

Stranded with Ella Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Visit the Country Town of Sloan Today #newrelease #romance #steamy

They’re here! The first three books in the Fancy Free series are finally live and available for purchase at Amazon. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read them as part of your subscription.

Protection

Who needs Protection? Find out at Amazon. (99c for a limited time)

Romp

A rubber duck? And rotten tomatoes? Learn more at Amazon.

Buzz

What is the buzz about Buzz? Check it out at Amazon.

My Second Chance is out today! #paranormal #romance

The Middlemarch adventures continue! My Second Chance, book 10 in the Middlemarch Shifters series is now live.

ShelleyMunro_MySecondChance_600x900

Here’s the blurb:

Lion shifter Leticia Huntingdon has FIV, the feline version of AIDS. For months she’s been in remission, treated by Gavin Finley, the Middlemarch feline doctor. Now the disease has returned. Her feelings for Gavin can’t go anywhere because of the FIV, so it shouldn’t hurt when Gavin turns to Charlie, the new male cop.

Gavin can’t believe how good sex is with Charlie, can’t believe he’s found a mate. The loving is amazing and hot, but Gavin can’t forget Leticia. He wants her in his life. He wants Charlie too. Confusion and jealousy create torrid undercurrents for the trio.

Charlie McKenzie falls for Gavin quickly and can’t understand why he’s attracted to Leticia. A nightmare changes everything, drawing the three together and bringing new possibilities. A ménage a trois. Raw need and passion brings them closer. If only the disease threatening Leticia’s life didn’t loom on the horizon…

Purchase e-book: Amazon | iBooks | Nook | ARe | Kobo



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