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The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 22

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.
Read Chapter 16 here.
Read Chapter 17 here.
Read Chapter 18 here.
Read Chapter 19 here.
Read Chapter 20 here.
Read Chapter 21 here.

Chapter 22

Seamus heard the pounding of feet on the floor outside his office seconds before the door flew open, hitting the wall stop with a dull bump. He stood abruptly, hope surging inside him.

Gary’s chest heaved as he fought for breath. “A man rang the station. Said he saw a young woman who matched the missing person’s report on last night’s news.”

“Did he give a name? Is it Aislyn?” Hell, he didn’t know how he’d survive if they didn’t find her.

“Joe. He told us to search on Kawau Island. He sounded positive it was Aislyn.”

“Let’s go.” Impatience had Seamus heading for the door.

“But Gill said a team searched Kawau.”

“Use your brain. If Aislyn hasn’t had access to pills, it’s likely she’s shrunk to normal size. Round up a team. Fairy force only. Use the experimental infrared gear the scientists devised for our use. We’ll search on the far end of the island away from Governor Grey’s mansion first. It’s more isolated.” He waited until Gary left and rubbed his right hand across the silver amulet, circling his left bicep. Nothing happened.

“Fuck!” The bloody thing was as dead as a moa bird.

His hand dropped from the amulet in disgust. What was the point of being the Guardian if he couldn’t use magic to save the woman he loved?

 

Seamus hadn’t realized the island was so big or the vast number of private coves where a boat could land without attracting attention, but he sensed the anonymous tip held truth. Aislyn was somewhere on this island. But where?

One hour lengthened into two. Seamus returned to the designated meeting point. Gradually, the others in the twenty-strong search party drifted back. He surveyed their faces, grim expressions telling of their failure without words.

He counted heads. Three more to return.

A cry went up.

“Found her,” a man hollered. He wheezed out his next sentence. “Pure, dumb luck.”

“Where is she?” Seamus grabbed the bag holding the precious medical supplies and sprinted along the beach in the direction the man indicated.

“Over there,” the man shouted after him. “Gary is with her. We’ve found two bodies. One of them looks like Maximillan.”

Ten minutes later, Seamus jogged past a body. It was definitely Maximillan. He didn’t stop until he reached Gary. “Where is she?”

“She’s taken shelter in the drainpipe,” Gary said. “I think she’s alive, but I didn’t want to touch her when she’s fairy size in case I hurt her.”

Seamus’s heart turned over when he peered inside the pipe. She appeared frail and defenseless, her visible skin bright red and covered with blisters. Some of the blisters had burst, weeping clear liquid. A long scratch ran the length of one forearm and her hands… He swallowed. It was a miracle she’d survived. Seamus reached inside the pipe and gently picked her up, cradling her in his palm.

“Gary, make sure the team gets back to the mainland safely. Thank them for their help. Tell them I’ll see them tomorrow.”

“But—”

Gill ran up to them. “I thought you’d found Aislyn?”

“We have. Gary will explain.”

“I will?” Gary’s dark brows shot upward, incongruous with his red hair. He glanced from Seamus to Gill and back again with something akin to horror. “I will?” he repeated.

“Yeah. Explain what you need to.” He glanced at his best friend. “I’ll talk to you later, Gill.” Seamus focused on the magic humming through his veins. He pictured the hospital in the colony before saying one of the Guardian’s incantations. The displacement of air told him the amulet was working this time. He cupped his hands around Aislyn for protection.

As he shimmered out, he heard Gill’s shocked curse. His surroundings blurred. An instant later, they materialized, both fairy size, inside the colony hospital. Seamus clutched Aislyn to his chest and hollered for a doctor.

 

Aislyn opened her eyes, aware of the pain throbbing in her ankle and her shoulders. Tight skin and sore lips brought back the heat of the sun, and she wasn’t surprised at the redness of her arms. A sheet covered her while bandages swathed her chest and upper body. Her right hand connected to a drip. She turned her head to see a dark head resting on her mattress.

Seamus.

He held her hand even in a deep sleep.

A flash of movement caught her eye, and a nurse bustled into her room, taking the chart from the end of her bed.

“Ah, you’re awake now. I’ll get the doctor.”

“Seamus?” Aislyn croaked.

“He’s plain worn out. That worried he’s been about you.”

The Irish in the nurse’s voice made Aislyn want to smile. “Where am I?”

“The colony hospital,” the nurse said. “We’ll have you right in no time. Now that you’re awake, I’ve no doubt you’ll progress in leaps and bounds.”

Seamus shot upright, his eyes bright and alert. “Aislyn. You’re awake.”

The nurse grinned. “I’ll get the doctor, but I’ll be taking my time. You’ll have time to say hello before the prodding begins.”

“Hell’s teeth, Aislyn,” Seamus said, squeezing her hand so hard she feared for her circulation. “What did you think you were doing?”

Her cracked lips flattened to a firm line. Nothing had changed.

He swept an agitated hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up in unruly tufts. “Shit, I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean to shout. You’ve been unconscious for four days. You scared me. Gary and Gill too. I’ve had to report back to them each day.”

“Four days?”

“Yeah. Aislyn, I love you. Please, will you marry me?”

Joy spread through her, then she remembered Renee. She snatched her hand from his touch. “Renee might have something to say about your proposal.”

“Renee and I have called off our betrothal. Please, Aislyn. It’s you I want. I tried to get you out of my head, but I can’t.”

Her mouth fell open. How could she love Seamus? He didn’t even sound happy about his proposal. Honor was everything to him. She understood his attempts to make up for his selfish, weak father, but he shouldn’t take on the load of guilt too.

“I love you,” she said. “I always have, but Seamus, you’re not thinking. What about the colony? You’re the Guardian and me…” She winced at the shard of pain that sliced from her shoulder down her arm. “I’m a rebel, Seamus. The board will never approve of me, and I don’t think I can change, not even for you. Doesn’t the Guardian need to marry for money? I don’t have any.”

He smoothed a forefinger across her cheek, his tenderness making her heart ache. “We’ll get married at Summer Solstice.”

“Stop trying to boss me around and listen to me.”

“You do want to marry me?” A note of panic colored his voice.

“Yes, but I can’t change. If a rule is stupid, the chances are good I’ll ignore it. We’ll end up killing each other. I don’t think it’s right to keep females secluded in the colony. Everyone should have the chance to leave if they want.”

He snorted. “Don’t you mean you refuse to change? You’re the most stubborn female I’ve ever met.” He worked up a glare and failed dismally. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way. You keep me on my toes. What do you say? Will you marry me?”

“That still doesn’t change the fact the colony needs money. I have none.”

“I’m not sure how we’ll fix the colony finances. Nearly losing you made me realize the important things in life, and it sure as hell isn’t anything to do with the colony’s coffers. Do you want to marry me or not?”

He sounded a little pissed now.

“Could we not approach this slowly?” She wanted to give him plenty of time to think this through—the repercussions.

Seamus leaned over her and pressed a gentle kiss to her sunburned lips. “Hell’s teeth, Aislyn. I love you. You can break any damn rule you like, but I warn you, I intend to wear you down. You won’t have the energy to break the rules.”

A grin tugged at her mouth. She tried for meek in the voice department. “If you say so, Seamus.”

“I do.” Seamus rubbed his knuckles across her cheek, sending messages of lust to her brain. His tenderness brought a burst of hope, his smile, an extravaganza of promise and confidence.

“When do you think they’ll let me leave the hospital?” She wanted privacy—lots of privacy with this stubborn, determined male. A thought occurred. “Did you say Gill?”

“He knows about the colony. He saw us disappear and had questions.” Seamus shook his head. “Many questions.”

Aislyn giggled. “Is he okay with keeping it a secret?”

“Yes. We can trust Gill.”

“And when can I leave?”

“Soon.” He kissed her forehead while his fingers traced patterns on her palm. “You’ll make an excellent first lady.”

Aislyn gurgled. “I haven’t agreed yet. Have you mentioned it to the board? Murphy?”

Seamus grinned then—a slow, sexy smile that made her stomach jolt. “Not yet. I thought you’d want to be there.”

A chortle escaped her. “You have a wicked streak in you, Seamus Gallagher.”

“It’s you.” Seamus brushed his cheek against hers. “You make me laugh. You keep me honest.” He kissed her with exquisite gentleness. “You make me whole, and I’m not happy without you.”

She still thought they shouldn’t rush into marriage, but this might be one instance where she’d allow him to call the shots. “Did you find Maximillan?”

“Yeah. Do you know what happened?”

“His stepbrother shot him. From what I heard, Maximillan’s assistant Sameth was in league with John Watson, doing a double-cross.”

“Why?”

“It sounded like revenge.”

“We searched Maximillan’s resort three days ago and found the missing kakapo chick.”

“Alive?”

“Yeah. That was almost as good as finding you. Summer Solstice. You and me. A wedding.”

Aislyn grinned. “Maybe. What about John Watson?”

“He’s under arrest too, but Sameth eluded us. Definitely a Summer Solstice wedding,” he insisted.

They’d stopped the crooks.

A wave of contentment swept Aislyn as she settled against his chest. Soon, she’d agree, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep her man on his toes. Loving him didn’t mean he could have everything his own way. “I do love you, Seamus.”

His smile was big and full as he wrapped his arms around her, then he kissed her. Aislyn clung, euphoria filling her. Finally, she’d found her place in the world, and she couldn’t wait to learn what came next for her and Seamus.

The end

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 21

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.
Read Chapter 16 here.
Read Chapter 17 here.
Read Chapter 18 here.
Read Chapter 19 here.
Read Chapter 20 here.

Chapter 21

Something was wrong. Seamus sensed it in his gut. “Gary, has Aislyn checked in yet?”

“Well, hello to you, too,” Gary said. “No, I haven’t heard from her.”

Seamus paced around the kitchen table, pausing to pick up a magazine then tossing it aside. “She’s overdue for her check-in.”

“Not by much.”

“I have a bad feeling.” Despite several indigestion tablets, his gut burned. He’d tried magic to sense Aislyn, but the bloody amulet wasn’t working. “My amulet isn’t working again.”

Gary sniffed. “You keep putting me off when I ask you about sending it to France.”

Someone pounded on the front door, and Gary jumped up to answer the summons. He returned with Gill.

“Has Aislyn checked in yet?” Gill asked.

Seamus raked his hand through his hair. He hated this helpless feeling. “No, and I don’t like it. The boss shouldn’t have let her go.”

“We didn’t have a choice,” Gill said. “Aislyn will be fine if she keeps her head.”

The phone rang, and both Gary and Seamus sprang to answer. Gary beat him by a hairsbreadth. He picked it up, shaking his head to indicate it wasn’t Aislyn.

Gill nudged Seamus. “Why are you so bent out of shape? Last I heard you weren’t talking to each other.”

Seamus scowled. What if something had happened, and he’d left it too late to talk to Aislyn? His hands clenched, and he renewed his pacing. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“One of my friends,” Gary said. “Are you guys gonna wait for here until she calls? Do you want a pizza?”

“Is water wet?” Gill quipped. “What happened to your hair? I keep meaning to ask.”

“Aislyn.”

“What?” Seamus stared at Gary’s hair. “I thought it was a wig.”

Gary tugged on a springy red lock. “No, it’s attached.”

“You’re saying…” Shock reverberated through Seamus. “Impossible. She would’ve told me.”

“Shall I order the pizza?” Gill asked. “Because I don’t know what the fuck you’re burbling about.”

“Use your cell phone,” Seamus snapped when Gill picked up the phone.

“Keep your shirt on. Gary, do you have the number for the pizza place?”

The pizza arrived, but the phone remained silent. Gill left at midnight.

Gary stared pointedly at him. “You should go home too. Aislyn won’t ring now. It’s too late. You know what it’s like working undercover. She’ll ring tomorrow night, for sure.”

Yeah, and that’s what worried him—the variables. “What about the mobile? Can’t we ring her?”

“And blow her cover,” Gary scoffed. “The staff phone is probably bugged. A cell phone is no safer. If we ring, we’ll draw attention to her. Cripes, if it were anyone else who’d missed check-in, you wouldn’t be worried.”

Yeah, right. This was Aislyn they were talking about.

 

Aislyn spent the rest of the night and the next day locked in the cabin. Johnson delivered food and let her use the facilities before escorting her back and locking her inside the cabin again. The boat never moved until the next evening. She watched through the portholes, unable to make out landmarks or lights from other vessels. She crawled into the large double berth in the early hours of the morning, when it became too cold for her vigil at the porthole. The sway of the boat lulled her to sleep, and the creak of the cabin door opening woke her.

“Breakfast.” Johnson marched into the cabin and placed the tray on a built-in dresser.

Aislyn leaped from the bed, dragging one hand through her tangled hair. “I need to use the restroom.”

“Don’t try anything funny, or I’ll toss you overboard and drop fish-bait in the water. Understand?”

“Yes.”

The trip was a quick one, and after she stepped back inside the cabin, Johnson locked the door. She kneeled on the bed and pulled aside two blue velvet curtains to peer out the porthole. Vision was still limited. All she could see was the sea—endless miles of water.

Dejected, she slumped on the edge of the bed. Gary would start panicking. The boat rolled with the swell, and her stomach lurched. She stared at the tray, but in deference to her unsettled stomach didn’t eat.

Dizziness assailed her, and she closed her eyes. Losing sight made the giddiness worse, and she opened her eyes again. Colored spots danced in front of her eyes. Every muscle in her body tensed. Moaning softly, she curled into a ball and lay on the bed, shivering. Her nausea only subsided when she concentrated on Seamus.

Now that she’d had time to think about his confession, she understood why he hadn’t informed her of his Guardianship. But she didn’t know why he’d kept his betrothal secret. That was the part that hurt.

Aislyn sighed, made an experimental move, and found the queasiness had disappeared. She opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling and shrieked. Panic tore through her. Frantic gasps emerged from her throat, but she clapped her hand over her mouth. She didn’t want Johnson to investigate. Aislyn sat up and stared up at the cup on the breakfast tray, at her hands and feet.

She’d shrunk.

Footsteps thundered outside the cabin, forcing her to explode into action. Johnson mustn’t find her like this. She muttered a magical incantation.

Nothing happened.

She tried again. Still, nothing happened.

“Bother!” She bounded to the end of the bed and used the bedclothes to clamber to the floor. She searched for a hiding place. All the furniture was built-in with no convenient gaps underneath for her to slide beneath. The key turned in the lock, and she leaped behind the door, the only available hiding place.

The door swung open with a protesting squeak. Johnson stepped into the cabin, but Aislyn didn’t wait around to witness his shock. She dropped to her belly and slithered underneath. Once outside the cabin, she sprinted to the wooden steps leading to the upper deck.

Johnson’s roar of alarm made her flinch. Her heart raced as she struggled to regain her breath and remain quiet.

Johnson raced from Maximillan’s cabin and searched the other cabins. Just as she’d hoped, once he’d conducted a search, he thumped up the stairs to hunt for her on the upper deck.

“Dave, the girl’s gone.”

“Didn’t you lock the door?”

“I did.”

“Did you check the portholes? Has she broken one?”

“No, I checked. I had to unlock the door to get into the room. I’ve searched everywhere.”

“Aw, man. You’re pulling my leg,” Dave said.

“You look.”

Aislyn huddled under the stairs trying to decide her next move. Escape. Swimming was out of the question, which meant she needed to get to the dinghy. Then she’d wait until they used the rowboat again. She cocked her head, attempting to listen to their conversation.

“Go on,” Johnson snapped. “I tell you, she’s not there.”

They thumped down the stairs and into Maximillan’s cabin. Aislyn dived from cover and clambered up the steps, arriving at the top exhausted and out of breath. No time to stop. Pounding footsteps raced from cabin to cabin, rocking the boat. She sprinted the length of the deck, holding her side when the stitch threatened to defeat her.

The dinghy. It was her only lifeline since they’d use it to land on the island.

She reached the stern to find the dinghy trailing behind the launch, attached by a stout rope. Her stomach turned when she saw the drop to the water. She hesitated, but the thud of boots helped her to decide in a hurry. If they caught her, she’d never live a normal life again. The threat of capture made her fear of falling in the water seem ludicrous, her decision easy.

Aislyn ran to the railing, where the rope held the dinghy fast. The approaching footsteps and voices raised in anger propelled her to speed. Gripping it with both hands and feet, she swung out over the water. Don’t look down. Do not look down.

A blur of red and white stripes flashed before her eyes. The man was close. If he looked to the right… Panic made her rush, despite the burn of her palms. Then she was over the edge and out of sight. She kept her hands and legs moving and hoped like heck neither of the men checked the dinghy.

Sweat dripped in her eyes. Each time she changed her handhold, she had to push her fingers into the rope strands. A jagged pain sprinted from her fingertips up her arm as she bent a fingernail back. She bit down hard on her bottom lip to stem her agonized cry. Tears clouded her vision, and for an instant, terror clogged her throat when she slipped and almost fell. Both shoulders screamed for relief, and her hands burned from the friction of the rope.

Her abused fingernail throbbed. Fiery hot agony throbbed the length of her body, screaming at her to give up—to release the line. Waves slapped the boat, splashing Aislyn. The line shook like a live beast. Droplets of icy water soaked her clothes.

Aislyn glanced down and shuddered with horror. If she let go, she’d drown. She had to continue. She was fairy force, dammit! If she fell to her death, Seamus would never give another female the chance to join the force.

Doggedly, she reached for another handhold and inched her body down the rope to the dinghy.

“The girl’s not here.”

“She can’t have vanished.” Johnson’s disgruntled voice sounded from above.

“You didn’t lock the door.”

“Of course, I did. I had to unlock the door to get into the cabin.” Fury and a trace of fear colored the man’s voice.

A swell hit the rowboat, kicking up a curl of white. Droplets of seawater splashed her square in the face. She spluttered and almost lost her grip on the rope.

The journey to the dinghy became a battle with the elements—a quick frenzied scramble in between waves.

When her feet clattered against boat, she sobbed with relief. Just a little farther. She fought the tremble of her arms, the furtive urge to give up. A tiny metallic rattle sounded when her legs and bottom hit the aluminum dinghy.

She released the rope and fell in an untidy sprawl against the solid surface.

A wave hit, water rushed over the edge, sweeping her across the dinghy bow like a piece of flotsam. She grabbed the nearest handhold. Her jaw clenched, and her shoulders shrieked at the strain but she clung like a limpet. The water subsided, and she half clambered, half fell into the body of the dinghy before another wave hit.

Safe.

Her chest heaved, each muscle in her body screamed of abuse, but for now, she was safe.

“She’s not in the dinghy either. Damn, the woman can’t just disappear. I locked the door, I tell you.”

“You can tell Maximillan tonight when we meet him.”

The voices faded, still arguing. Aislyn slumped in a dry corner where she hoped to escape notice when the men used the dinghy.

Hours passed. Exhausted, she slept, waking in alarm when the boat tilted to one side. From her hiding place, she glimpsed a faded canvas shoe. She edged back until the wall of the aluminum dinghy pressed against her spine. A pulse roared in her ears. If they saw her…

She prayed the closing night would hide her until they reached the shore.

The engine started with a gruff roar. The dinghy lurched, the movement sending Aislyn flying. She grabbed for a handhold, saw the man’s striped T-shirt before she scuttled back into hiding.

Johnson stepped into the boat, his face sullen.

The journey to their meeting with Maximillan seemed endless. The swell tossed her from side to side and battered her against the hull of the dinghy. She bit back her cry of pain, tears filling her eyes.

“Over there,” Johnson grunted. “There’s the light.”

The dinghy changed direction. Waves continued to pound the hull. Aislyn closed her eyes and prayed they’d drag the dinghy ashore like last time they’d landed. She’d never survive the waves crashing to shore.

The noise the dinghy made as it scraped the sandy bottom brought more tears to her eyes. Solid ground.

Johnson jumped out, and Dave turned off the outboard engine before leaping out too. They hauled the boat onto dry sand.

“They’re over there,” Dave said. “Don’t forget, you tell Maximillan about the girl.”

“I’m not likely to forget with you harping on the subject.”

Aislyn counted to fifty then crept from hiding. She cocked her head, listening for voices but couldn’t hear anything except the waves. Ignoring her aching body, she hauled herself onto the rim of the dinghy and slid down the rope hanging over the side.

With her feet on solid ground, she stood, trying to decide which direction to hide. A gunshot echoed through the night. A shout followed, and a second gunshot.

Pounding feet raced toward her, and Aislyn scrambled for cover behind a nearby rock.

“Damn, did you see that?” Johnson spluttered. “The man’s crazy. He came out of nowhere and shot Maximillan point-blank.”

“I was there, dammit.” Dave manhandled the dinghy out to sea. “Give me a hand, will you? I want out of here before that fanatic comes after us.”

“Who was he?”

“Looked like Watson. Maximillan’s stepbrother.”

Johnson peered over his shoulder. “Shit.”

“We’re out of here.”

As the sound of the dinghy outboard receded, Aislyn stepped from behind her rock.

She’d heard the gunshots and the discussion between the two men. Watson had shot Maximillan? Was he dead or injured? And Maximillan and Watson were stepbrothers?

Wanting answers, she crept in the direction the men had come from. Then she needed to figure out where she was and how to get back to Auckland.

Voices guided her steps, and she crept as close as possible. A group of people stood next to two bodies on the ground. Neither moved.

“John, what are you going to do next?” a woman asked.

The cluster of people moved, and the light shone on the woman’s face. Sameth—Maximillan’s personal assistant.

Aislyn frowned at this new piece of the puzzle.

“I will play the bereaved brother to the hilt, my dear, and savor the feeling when I inherit all of Max’s beloved possessions.” He chuckled. “Ah, my dear, revenge is so sweet. And I owe it to you. A reward. Anything within my power—ask and it’s yours.”

“All I want is to marry Kyle and take two months off.”

Watson grinned. He turned to the tall, silent man at his side. “I can arrange that. Look me up when you get back.
There’ll be jobs for both of you.”

While Aislyn watched, the couple left.

“What will we do with the bodies, boss?”

Watson stared down his stepbrother, his expression dispassionate, cold. “Leave them for the birds to eat.”

As one, the rest of the men turned. Aislyn noticed the boat pulled up on the sand and cursed. With no time to get to the boat, all she could do was watch while the men departed, leaving her stranded.

 

The piercing cry of a gull jerked Aislyn from a deep sleep. The flap of wings and painful peck on the foot galvanized her to action. She sprang to her feet and ran, zigzagging to a small pile of rocks. The gull squawked, flapping after her, but panic lent her greater speed.

From beneath the rocks, she took stock. Her skin felt stretched and tight. Sunburn. A thud sounded, and the gull’s red legs strutted toward her. Hell, she needed a better hiding place.

After five long minutes, the gull gave up and took flight. She peeked from under the rock and scanned both beach and sky. No birds. No animals. No humans. She wriggled from her hiding place and raced to the undergrowth for shade and protection.

The mew from the bushes took her by surprise. She came to an abrupt halt on seeing two glowing orange eyes. A purr rumbled from within so loud the ground under her feet shook. Aislyn backed up rapidly. The eyes edged toward her as the animal stalked her. Terror froze her on the spot.

“Joe?” she croaked.

It was Joe, and he looked hungry.

The black cat stalked closer. With nowhere to hide, a quiver racked her body. All she could think of was Seamus and how much she loved him. Her last words to him had been hateful, angry ones. And it was too late to confess the truth now. How much she’d always loved him.

She hung her head, knowing her luck had run out. She was going to die.

Seamus was right.

She wasn’t smart enough to make it as a fairy force member.

Leaves rustled, and grass twigs snapped. Joe prowled closer. Fishy breath whooshed across her face, hot and fetid.

She held her breath, waiting for sharp teeth to rip into her flesh and waited.

When nothing happened, her head jerked up. Joe sat in front of her, and she could’ve sworn his feline face bore a smirk. Hope of survival surged through her only to die when Joe resumed his stalking. Soon his furry face and wet nose filled her vision. Her breath quickened, and she wiped her clammy palms down her legs.

Joe rubbed his nose against her, opened his mouth, and swiped his rough tongue over her face. Then he backed up, leaving her reeling in astonishment. Swallowing, she stared at the myriad colors sparkling around Joe. His feline features warped, twisting to a new shape.

“Yes!” he squeaked in a high voice. His fur changed to a smart red shirt and dazzling pair of lime green trousers.

A pointed hat appeared on top of his head, held in place by a pair of pointed ears.

Aislyn’s mouth dropped open. “You’re a gnome.”

“Of course, I’m a gnome,” he snapped.

“But you were a cat.”

“Old Lady Wickham put a spell on me.”

“Lady Wickham from Glenveagh?”

“That’s the one. Wanted me to pose nude while she painted, and when I refused, she bespelled me. I’ve waited twenty years for a fairy female to flout the rules and leave the colony. And now I’m free!” He spun about, clicking his heels together in a snappy jig of delight. “I’m free, and I’m going home!” Joe warbled, painfully out of tune, then he started to fade from view.

“Wait!” Aislyn shrieked in panic. “I helped you. Can’t you help me too?”

“Nope,” Joe said. “Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

Her hand darted out to grab his shirtsleeve and snatched empty air instead. Joe faded in front of her eyes, leaving her alone with no way of returning home.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 20

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.
Read Chapter 16 here.
Read Chapter 17 here.
Read Chapter 18 here.
Read Chapter 19 here.

Chapter 20

“I rang Seamus. He knows you’re here.”

Aislyn glowered at Gary. “It’s none of his business. Or yours.”

“Don’t get snappy with me, miss.” Gary planted his hands on his hips and tossed her glare right back. His red curls glinted in the morning sunlight, clashing with his lime T-shirt and black-and-white check trousers. “Personally, I’m glad you’re back. This hair is driving me crazy. I want my braids.” He thrust his face right up to hers. “And I’m not giving you any peace until you put them back.”

Aislyn yanked a stool from under the breakfast bar and plunked her backside down. “I can only perform elementary magic because they slapped this security bracelet on my leg.”

“Take it off,” Gary snapped, “or else you’re moving back to the hostel instead of sharing with me. I noticed you changed your hair back quick enough.”

“I promise I’ll try to fix your hair. Tell me about the case. Have we heard from the Maximillan resort? Did either of us get a job?”

“Two letters turned up yesterday. They didn’t want me. Here’s your mail.” He passed her three envelopes. “I wouldn’t get too excited. Rumor says they didn’t hire many applicants.”

She ripped open the top envelope and scanned the contents. “I’m in!” she shrieked. “I got the job and start…” She read the bottom line of the letter. “Today. Gary, what’s the time? I need to catch the midday ferry to attend the orientation and familiarization afternoon. The letter says I should take my bags with me. Accommodation is at the staff hostel.”

“That’s great! We’ve been trying to get someone on the island for months. The midday ferry—damn, that doesn’t give us much time. You pack your bags, and I’ll contact the boss and Seamus.” Gary paused in the doorway. “Will Seamus stop you going? And what about your hair? It’s a different color from when you went to the interview.”

Not if he knows what’s good for him. “This is a coup,” she said. “I don’t think there’ll be problems with my hair. If anyone asks, I’ll say I dyed it. Do you have a hacksaw?”

 

The ferry pulled alongside the dock, and Aislyn disembarked with the rest of the passengers. Most were guests. A woman with a clipboard escorted them to a small open-sided bus while two men piled their luggage on a truck with the Maximillan resort logo painted on the side.

“New staff over here, please,” a crisp voice ordered.

Aislyn recognized Sameth from the recruitment day but didn’t recall any of the four women who crossed the jetty to join her.

“My name is Sameth. I’m Maximillan’s assistant, and over the next hour, I’ll take you through the familiarization process where we will sign confidentiality contracts, arrange accommodation, and job assignments. Questions?”

Aislyn had lots of questions, none suitable for Maximillan’s assistant. She would need to find the answers on her own.

“No questions?” Sameth scanned their faces, her dark gaze intense and disconcerting. “Good. Ladies, if you’d follow me, please?”

I want you to remember every little detail about the resort. The boss’s words flitted through her mind while they walked through the resort. During her previous visit, she’d seen the conference room, but now Sameth led them through a different part, down lushly carpeted corridors and past rest areas filled with green tropical plants. Large windows overlooked the sea.

“How many people does the resort cater for at one time?” Aislyn asked when they reached a small office tucked deep inside the bowels of the resort.

“Since we target the luxury end of the market, we take a maximum of thirty couples at once in the private bungalows. We have day-trippers from the mainland, but we regulate the numbers, so the visitors do not inconvenience our guests.”

Aislyn nodded. “But you hold conferences on the island.” Although she’d learned brief details during the recruitment drive, she wanted to confirm her facts.

“That’s correct.” Sameth sounded intrigued, and Aislyn prayed this was a good thing. The woman’s intent gaze made her worry she’d given herself away with her questions. “We hold at least one conference each week, sometimes two overlapping. The conference guests stay in the hotel part of the resort. Any further questions?” Sameth glanced at her clipboard and reached for a pile of papers. She handed one to each of the women. “Take a seat, ladies. We need to get through this quickly since I have a meeting in an hour.”

One hour later, Aislyn unlocked the door of her assigned room. Excitement and trepidation made her insides flutter. This spy business was both interesting and challenging. She was determined to do a professional job and prove a point to Seamus. This was the reason for joining the fairy force—to fight crime and make a difference.

After a quick exploration of her room—it was plain and held a single bed plus a set of scarred wooden drawers—she sauntered to the window. A distinct rustle under the bed made her freeze. Seconds later, something patted her ankle. She squeaked and backed rapidly away from the bed, her heart halfway up her throat. With a trembling hand, she yanked on the blinds. Light flooded the room, and she looked beneath the bed. A familiar cat hid in the far corner.

“Joe? How did you get here?” She coaxed him out of hiding and scooped the small black cat into her arms. He emitted a purr when she stroked his head. She set him on top of the bed and started to unpack, the animal’s presence making her feel less alone.

 

Maximillan strode backward and forward in front of Sameth’s desk, unusually agitated. Sameth guessed the cause but waited for his confirmation.

“John rang. He wants to meet.”

She sighed. “You must have known this was a possibility since you invited your brother to join the scavenger hunt.”

Maximillan dropped onto one of the chrome chairs. “I wanted to show off,” he admitted. “Show him I could run a successful enterprise. I didn’t expect him to accept my invitation.” He threw his hands in the air. “My stepbrother is practically a recluse. Ever since the accident…” He trailed off and stared at her wordlessly.

Ever since the accident, you caused. “The accident happened before you employed me.”

“Ah, yes. I forgot. It appears you’ve worked for me forever.”

Sameth studied the clipboard in front of her. Her boss was right to feel nervous. The noose was tightening around his neck even as they spoke. “Where are you meeting? You intend to meet him?”

Maximillan frowned and fingered the heavy gold ring on his left hand. “John says he’s collected the items on the list. I don’t see how since the competition hasn’t been going for long. He can’t finish this soon if he abides by the rules.”

“Max, you’re whining.”

“I never whine.”

Sameth shrugged. “What do you intend to do?”

“I’ll meet him at the prearranged checkpoint for competitors. I can hardly break the rules in my own competition.”

Exhilaration pounded through her. The plan was working, as John expected. She reached for a pen, determined not to falter at this stage. “Would you like me to go instead?” Her nerves jitterbugged while she waited for the answer to seal her future.

“Would you?” Maximillan asked. “No. No, I’ll go,” he said in a quick about-face. “I want a kakapo chick for my private collection.”

“Whatever you think best.” She picked up the clipboard. “Did you want to meet up with the new employees?”

His pensive expression retreated. “Any redheads in the group?”

 

On the second day of the job, Aislyn kneeled on her hands and knees and scrubbed a toilet in one of the private bungalows. She wasn’t surprised when Joe appeared behind her. “I don’t know how you manage it,” she scolded the cat. Aislyn had checked her room door was locked before she left to start her shift. She scratched the cat behind one ear.

“These people might have piles of money, but they’re slobs.” She clambered to her feet and winced at the flash of pain from protesting muscles. After listening for approaching guests, she searched the bathroom before moving to the bedroom.

She discovered a rugby jersey hidden in the depths of the walk-in wardrobe, and since it was from the Scottish football union, it was obviously part of the scavenger hunt list. Once her excitement calmed, she replaced the jersey and continued with her cleaning duties.

In the second bungalow, she found literature for upcoming stamp auctions strewn over the top of the coffee table. In the third bungalow, her search revealed airplane ticket stubs for flights to Brazil—not a frequent destination for the average tourist.

“Hello?”

Aislyn paused in the middle of toilet scrubbing. “Yes?”

A man appeared at the end of the passage. “Hello, I’m Maximillan, the owner of the resort.” He sauntered closer and thrust out his hand in greeting. “You’re new, I understand.”

He was so pretty with his boyish face and golden hair Aislyn couldn’t help but stare, but the hedonistic lust in his blue eyes warned her to take care. She gestured at her pink rubber gloves with a smile. “I’m pleased to meet you, Mr. Maximillan.”

“Call me Maximillan.” His gaze wandered down her tunic top and trousers, the uniform provided by the resort for employees to wear. “I like to greet my new employees in person.”

So, this was the famous Maximillan—the man Gill and Seamus both hated. According to Seamus, the man dipped his fingers in every crime pie in the city. Aislyn didn’t like the way his gaze crawled up and down her body.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Auckland.”

The man smiled, and she acknowledged his charm. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Yes,” Aislyn lied. “We’re engaged,” she added. Dirty, old lecher! “You have a beautiful resort.”

“Thank you. It suits my needs.”

I bet it does. “I haven’t explored yet, but the parts I’ve seen so far are stunning.”

His smile widened into a wolfish smirk. Even without prior knowledge of the man, something in his assured manner made her wary.

“I can give you a personal tour if you like. And if you’re interested, I’ll show you my private residence. It’s a listed building. Reverend Rogers built the house during the 1800s. I have renovated, of course, but I’ve retained the character of the building.”

“It sounds fascinating.” Despite her need to investigate, the last thing she wanted was a personal tour.

“Shall we say on your day off? You can stay for dinner, can’t you?”

Aislyn took a deep breath, accepting he’d neatly trapped her. “That sounds lovely. I have only one day off this week, and it’s not worth catching the ferry home.”

“That’s settled then. I’ll contact you later in the week. Welcome to my resort, Aislyn. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time here.”

Maximillan left. He knew her name, which meant he’d checked up on her, perhaps watched her at some stage. A warning shrieked inside her. Maximillan’s interest might make her situation difficult. On the other hand, he was offering her an open invitation to visit his estate. She could hardly refuse this opportunity, even if the man made her cringe.

 

The flat door opened at his thump, and Seamus pushed inside. “I’m here to see Aislyn.”

Gary shut the door after him. “She wants nothing to do with you.”

“She can tell me in person.” Seamus was in no mood for Gary’s shenanigans. He’d sorted out things with Renee, and now he wanted to fix things with Aislyn. He intended to ask her to marry him despite the fallout. His mother and the board could protest as much as they liked. He wouldn’t change his mind. The antique ring worn by Gallagher brides for centuries was a solid weight in his pocket. A unique ring, it absorbed the properties of the wearer. He imagined the stone would glow a fiery green, bright enough to dazzle everyone, just as Aislyn overwhelmed and continuously amazed him.

Gary folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall. “She’s not here.”

“Aislyn.” Seamus started with the kitchen and rapidly searched the rest of the rooms.

“I told you she wasn’t here.”

He grabbed Gary by the collar of his hot pink shirt and shook him. “Where is she?”

“I’m not telling you until you stop shaking me.”

Seamus scowled. Gill always said he excelled at intimidation, except his skill was failing him today. He loosened his hold on Gary’s shirt and stepped back.

“Look what you’ve done.” Gary smoothed his hands over the wrinkled fabric.

“I’ll buy you another one. Tell me where to find Aislyn. I need to talk to her.”

“I bought this shirt from Barkers. It’s not a cheap rip-off.”

Seamus snorted. The pink hurt his eyes. “I’ll purchase two shirts. Please, tell me.”

“Maximillan’s resort. She got a job. I didn’t.”

Fear whopped Seamus in the gut. “What about backup?” They’d found it impossible to place their people on the island. The boss would’ve grabbed the opportunity to put Aislyn on the workforce.

“She’s allowed to return to Auckland every second week. She has a cell phone for emergencies, and she calls every third night to talk to me. We’ve prearranged a code to prevent anyone eavesdropping from becoming suspicious.”

“Why didn’t someone tell me?”

“You’ve been busy at the colony. No doubt, the boss will tell you today. Gill and I kept it quiet.”

“In case Maximillan has someone inside the police force.” Seamus felt sick to his stomach. The dangers Aislyn faced alone on the island chilled him to the bone. What the hell would he do if something went wrong? Hell’s teeth, he loved Aislyn. He’d die if anything happened to her. “Thanks for telling me. I’d better go. Gill and I are checking out a lead.” He bolted for the door.

“Don’t forget my shirts,” Gary hollered after him. “I’ll have one shirt in peach and the other in lapis lazuli blue.”

 

The day before her scheduled time off, a note appeared under her door. Aislyn eyed it with misgiving. Although instinct shrieked to turn down Maximillan’s invitation, she couldn’t. There was too much at stake.

She ripped the envelope open and perused the contents. He wanted to spend tomorrow afternoon and evening with her. Joe jumped onto the bed and rubbed against her arm until she scratched him behind the ears.

“I hope I’m not making a mistake accepting this invitation,” she said. “Especially while my powers are AWOL.” Each day she attempted to use her magic and failed. Scowling, she stared at a jar of moisturizer sitting on the dresser.

The jar rose and hovered for two seconds before crashing to the surface and rolling onto the floor. “Better than yesterday, I suppose.”

She glanced at her watch. “What do you say to an evening stroll, Joe?”

Minutes later, she hurried down the beach path. The trail wound through the resort, past one of the swimming pools, and a stand of kauri trees before arriving at the jetty. The nippy breeze tugged at her hair. She zipped her jacket and thrust her hands in her pockets before turning right.

The farther from the resort she walked, the more care she needed to take. The sea air filled her lungs, the surge and retreat of the waves oddly restful.

A quiet hum of voices made her hesitate. She ducked behind a flax bush and waited anxiously. Two men strolled past without noticing her presence. She waited for several minutes before venturing out of hiding.

The path ended, leading down to the water. The beach comprised sand and broken shells that crunched underfoot. Not the ideal situation for someone who wanted to skulk.

With the resort in proximity to the protected island sanctuaries, she thought she’d discover nocturnal activity on this beach.

Clouds skittered across the face of the crescent moon, obliterating the scant light. Aislyn pulled out her torch. A foreign noise made her freeze. She strained her ears to identify the sound. A pebble kicked by a careless foot? She waited for agonizing minutes before deciding to proceed. Afraid to switch on her torch, she fumbled along the beach in the dark.

In the distance, the lights of one bungalow glittered. Officially named the Veronica bungalow, it was situated nearest to the sea. Aislyn had no idea why, but all the cottages had women’s names. As she neared the accommodation, she eased into the deep shadows thrown by a pohutukawa tree. She crept closer, intent on learning if the guests were inside.

The wind shifted, and low voices carried from the balcony above the lounge—a male and a female. When a third voice joined the discussion, disappointment surged through her. All the Veronica occupants accounted for. She slipped back the way she’d come when the rattle of pebbles occurred again.

She stilled, and when the noise subsided, she moved down the beach away from the resort. The moon appeared briefly and disappeared. She kicked something…a large log she discovered when she cautiously stretched out her hand.

Ow! Something stunk to high heavens. She wrinkled her nose and breathed through her mouth.

Without warning, the unidentified sound came again, carried on the wind. A knot of fear constricted her throat. Had someone heard her? She crouched low, unwilling to sprint for cover, and attract attention. At least her dark clothes wouldn’t be too noticeable. If she kept her face from the light, she might escape notice. A pebble dislodged, and the distinctive crunch of footsteps on the broken shells escalated her anxiety. Half of her wanted to flee, while the other half was too petrified to move. And she wanted an active part in the fairy force. The wry thought echoed through her mind and lent steel to her backbone.

People were counting on her.

She cocked her head, listening to the retreating noise. Her breath eased out with relief. Yes, she was positive. She stood and stole down the beach, away from the foreign stench and possible discovery.

The lights in Veronica bungalow winked out, and she hesitated in the total darkness. Then she heard a boat motor, the low throbbing of an engine carrying across the water. A man on a fishing trip would use lights to help him navigate and avoid another boat, but someone with something to hide might try a clandestine landing.

The boat moved away from her. Bother. She took two quick steps and stumbled. A startled cry escaped as she sprawled head-first on the sand. The air exploded from her lungs. She gasped for breath. Something furry rubbed against her face. Terror welled inside her. Damn, she wasn’t cut out the fairy force. Then she heard a familiar purr.

“Joe?”

A second purr and the flick of a tail across her cheek made her giddy with relief.

“I thought you’d gone back to our room.” She sat up and gathered the black cat to her chest. “You’ve interrupted an important mission.” Once her tremors receded, she placed the cat on the ground and clambered to her feet. She needed to hurry if she wanted to witness the boat landing.

Aislyn increased her speed, grimacing at the noisy rattle of shells when Joe raced after her. Someone would hear, but his presence made her feel braver. She paused. Frustratingly, she couldn’t see or hear a thing. Perhaps she’d try again tomorrow. Make that the night after. Tomorrow she had a date with Maximillan. Disappointed and disheartened, she turned back in the resort’s direction.

The lights blinked in the distance. Aislyn frowned, surprised at how far she’d walked.

“Are you coming, Joe?”

The chug of a motor halted her on the spot. Surely, she couldn’t be so lucky? The splutter of the engine died. Voices carried from nearby. Two men, maybe three, strode toward her from the resort.

She hesitated, unsure whether she should wait or move toward the boat. The voices were louder, too close for comfort. She crouched, making her body small and unnoticeable in the dark. Soon, she made out the silhouettes of three men. Their faces were turned to the sea. She felt Joe brush her leg and stroked his fur while she waited. As the boat neared the shore, a single light flickered on. The boat coasted with the waves and finally ground to a stop in the sand. Two men jumped from the boat and hauled it clear of the water.

The men from the resort joined the boat occupants. Now what? She was too far away to eavesdrop on the discussion, and her frustration made her fidgety. The wind nipped at her face and hands, making her shiver. Finally, she sank onto the damp sand and thrust her hands in her jacket pockets to keep warm. Joe climbed on her lap while she waited.

“Now, what have we here?”

Aislyn stopped breathing. Her head turned to find a man right behind her.

Busted. She pushed Joe off her knee and jumped to her feet, dusting the sand off her ass with a loud slap. Then she opened her mouth in a wide exaggerated yawn. “What time is it?” Her groggy voice sounded perfect. “I went for a walk after dinner and sat for a while and enjoy the peace. I must have gone to sleep.”

The man snorted. “Good try. I don’t buy it. Hey, boss.” His voice traveled to the group standing near the boat. “We got ourselves an audience.”

“Only the one?”

“Far as I know. Johnson’s along the other end of the beach. I’ll check with him.” The man grasped her elbow and shoved her forward.

A torch clicked on, the beam shining in her face.

“Aislyn. I thought our meeting was for tomorrow. Did I get the day wrong?”

Rats, Maximillan. She’d done it now. “I told the other man, I decided to walk after dinner, sat for a while, and nodded off to sleep.”

Maximillan’s brows shot upward. “In this cold breeze, my dear? Hard to believe. Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing alone in the dark?”

Aislyn forced a frown to her face and sighed. “I know it’s against the rules, but my boyfriend said he’d try to come over to meet me. His friend has a boat.”

“Really, my dear. Would you like to try again?” Maximillan stepped close and brushed a curl off her face. Although the gesture was careful, gentle even, she shuddered inside, recoiling with horror. The fury in his eyes didn’t match his kind actions. “Unload the cargo and take the girl with you. Keep her on the boat until I direct otherwise. Lock her in my cabin.”

Maximillan stepped away, and another bigger man grabbed her forcibly by the arm. He dragged her down the beach, Aislyn struggling every step. She took a deep breath and screeched. “Help!”

“Really, my dear,” she heard Maximillan say. “Johnson, hit her if she screams again.”

She yanked from Johnson’s grip and glared up at the mountainous hulk. One glance at his detached expression told her he’d strike her, given provocation. She willed her body to relax and silently chanted a magical spell. Nothing happened. When Johnson took his gaze off her for an instant, she bolted.

Johnson gave a gruff shout. Adrenaline lent her feet wings, but the soft sand made speed difficult. If she failed to escape this time, she was in big trouble.

Footsteps thundered behind her, then the man tackled her, knocking her to the ground. The air collapsed from her lungs. She struggled, kicking and punching, but the massive brute overpowered her.

“Keep that up,” the man gritted out next to her ear, “and I’ll think you’re attracted to me, that you’re interested in a little bed sport.”

Aislyn froze, her skin crawling once she realized the full extent of the danger. She’d be alone with this hulk of a man and his partner on a boat. They could do anything to her, and without magic, she was powerless to stop them. Gary wouldn’t raise the alarm until after she missed the check-in tomorrow night. No one would miss her at the resort either since it was her day off.

Johnson jerked her to her feet. In the tussle for freedom, grains of sand had collected in her shirt and shoes.

“Move,” he snarled, giving her a shove in the middle of her back. “Dave, you ready?”

“Coming.”

The moon peeked out from the cloud cover and shyly lit the night. Aislyn watched the second man exchange a few words to Maximillan and look at her.

“In the boat,” Johnson ordered, digging her in the ribs with his elbow.

Aislyn sent him a belligerent glare and climbed into the dinghy. The two men pushed the boat into the waves before leaping inside. Dave started the outboard motor, and they headed away from the island, navigating without lights. Ten minutes later, they arrived at a moored launch.

“Get up on the boat.”

Aislyn followed his instructions, knowing Johnson would force her if she disobeyed. Another shove in the middle of the back, and she’d end up in the water. And that would be a problem because she wasn’t a strong swimmer. Once she stood on deck, Johnson followed and caught the rope Dave tossed him. He tied up the dinghy and jerked his head at her, indicating she should go below the deck. Furious with herself, she stomped down the steps into the luxurious living area.

“In there,” Johnson ordered.

She stepped inside, and Johnson slammed the door shut. The key rattled when he twisted it in the lock.

The pitch-black cabin reinforced her dangerous position. No one would help her.

She was on her own.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 19

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.
Read Chapter 16 here.
Read Chapter 17 here.
Read Chapter 18 here.

Chapter 19

Not one thing had changed in Glenveagh. The fairies who inhabited the village still thrived on gossip.

Aislyn sat at an outside table in front of the Majick café, trying to ignore the gaggle of fairies at a neighboring table. They whispered, glanced in her direction, and laughed. Life in the colony was the same—it sucked.

She pulled on her sunglasses and sprawled back in her chair, pretending their discussion didn’t bother her in the slightest.

When the male waiter strolled over, she ordered a flat white. While she waited for her coffee, every building in the square changed color from dazzling lime green to a pristine white. A howl of protest erupted from the cluster of fairies at the far side of the square. Aislyn sighed.

It was as if she’d never left.

“Aislyn O’Sullivan! Just the fairy I wanted to see.”

She rolled her eyes. Patrick Leary, the reporter from the News of the Colony tabloid. Ever since she’d returned from the human side, he kept popping out of the woodwork and hounding her for a story.

“Aislyn, sweetheart.” His grin was wide and insincere. “Fairies have a right to learn the identity of the Guardian. I’m offering big money, enough for you to set up in one of the other colonies. Ever thought of moving to the French Riviera?”

She tsk-tsked. “Patrick, I know nothing about the Guardian. And even if I did, I wouldn’t sell a story to you.”

“The board treats you like a leper,” he said in a low voice. “Don’t you want payback?”

A snort escaped her. The board acted like a bunch of scared, old women, immersed in the past with not an original thought between the lot of them. When would they decide it was time to incorporate modern ideas? “Go away,
Patrick.”

Since her arrival back in the colony, she’d been under restrictions. Another blast of whispers from the neighboring table made her fidgety. Realizing her agitation was visible, she froze, but not before the tinkle of the security bracelet encircling her left ankle underlined her lack of freedom. She reported to Murphy every morning at ten sharp. During the meeting, he interrogated her as to her plans for the day. That was bad enough, but worst of all was the way they’d stripped her of all but the most basic magical powers.

Seamus’s fault.

A fuss at the other end of the square drew Aislyn’s attention. Murphy. She’d expected his appearance, but she stiffened when she noticed the dark-hair female with him. Why did it have to be Renee who witnessed her embarrassment?

Renee had arrived one week ago. Everyone adored her. Heck, even she liked Renee. She was charming, and she followed the rules.

“Ah, Aislyn,” Murphy boomed.

“Hello, Aislyn.”

Aislyn forced a weak smile. Renee possessed an adorable French accent and dressed with distinct Gaelic flare. Squirming uneasily in her scruffy jeans and T-shirt, she eyed Renee’s short black skirt and form-fitting shell. Her makeup looked flawless.

No wonder Renee was the chosen one.

“Waiter!” Murphy pulled out a seat for Renee, seated her, and dropped onto a chair opposite Aislyn.

The waiter arrived with Aislyn’s coffee and produced beverages for Murphy and Renee in double-quick time.

“To business,” Murphy said in a brisk voice. “I’m too busy to oversee your integration back into the community. It’s the middle of tax season, so Renee offered to help.”

Aislyn’s stomach flipped and tied in a painful knot. She placed her cup on its saucer to hide the tremor of her hands. Why Renee? Hadn’t this fairy mucked up her life enough?

“I don’t see why I need to report to anyone,” Aislyn said.

“Seamus ordered it,” Murphy boomed.

Several fairies turned to stare in their direction with great interest.

She cringed and lowered her voice. “Why did Seamus order this? I’ve done everything expected of me. I haven’t spread gossip, and I’ve kept to myself, and I’ve done the community work you assigned me. I even agreed to wear this stupid bracelet around my ankle.” This time she needed to work hard to keep resentment from her tone.

“No point arguing, O’Sullivan. Renee will oversee your rehabilitation from tomorrow.”

Bitterness warred with frustration and coffee seesawed inside her tummy. The punishment wasn’t fair. Seamus had overreacted because she was friendly with Gill. She wondered how he’d explained her absence.

“Fine.” She forced herself to turn to Renee. “What time would you like to meet each day? At ten?”

Renee pouted. On her, it appeared charming rather than sulky. “We’ll discuss this later, no? Let us enjoy this coffee and the sunshine.”

“Seamus is a lucky man.” Murphy punctuated his words with a loud gobble, and Aislyn huffed in exasperation. “Yes, a lucky man.”

“Renee, have you met Lady Wickham yet?” Murphy asked.

Aislyn tuned out. She stared into her coffee cup and stewed over the injustice of Seamus’s punishment.

“O’Sullivan, one more thing. The board filing system requires modernization, so we have purchased one of these new-fangled computer systems. You will load the data onto the computer. Plenty of work there to keep you out of mischief.”

Aislyn cast a resentful glare his way. While Murphy and Renee continued to chat and discuss the current state of the colonies, she mulled over a plan she’d been pondering for the last three days.

 

Night fell. The colony inhabitants retreated to their homes. The sickle moon hung low, shedding scant light over the village.

Perfect for her plan.

Aislyn skulked past the young security guard posted outside her dwelling and made her way to the track she’d used on the night of the ball. Although, she wore the security bracelet on her ankle, she hoped no one would note her absence straightaway, since she’d delivered a bottle of Irish whiskey to the guardhouse earlier in the evening, ostensibly to apologize for the error of her ways.

She hurried along the twisting path, pushing her body hard on the uphill parts. Her breaths came in strangled gasps. The backpack she carried dug into her shoulders. Packed with supplies for her trek to the Guardian’s house, she’d no intention of ditching a thing, no matter how heavy her pack. It was time the Guardian knew what sort of tyrant he’d appointed to run the fairy force on the human side.

After ten minutes, Aislyn reached the area where she’d stood to spy on the Guardian. The magical barrier between the two worlds made the view hazy, and she couldn’t see much. She paced the boundary, a scowl firmly in place. This was the spot where Seamus called forth the portal entrance. Yes, right by the totara tree.

She tugged a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket. Torn from an old spell book, it was very similar to the one Seamus used. This journey from the village might turn out a waste of time. The spell was ancient. There weren’t many fairies practicing Celtic magic now, but Aislyn had always loved to read of the Motherland. She’d picked up an old text years ago at the second-hand market stall. Time to see if her skills were good enough to use the spells and open a portal.

But first, she needed to locate the opening. She stilled to focus, seeking an invisible surge of power. There it was. A faint hum no louder than a buzzing bee. She sucked in a deep breath, suddenly apprehensive. She wiped moist hands on her jeans and centered her mind.

The old Celtic language tripped off her tongue concisely as the book of spells specified. The words still echoed through the air when the first shimmer began. Holding her breath, she spoke the second part of the incantation. The portal coalesced into a shining doorway, a bridge between the fairy and human.

Exultant, she stepped through and muttered the words to close the portal. Now for the tricky part. Since she hadn’t been able to get her hands on size-enhancing pills, she needed to hurry before every cat in Newmarket discovered her presence.

The plants towered above her, the leaves spreading overhead like huge umbrellas. An ant clattered past only a few feet away, its mandibles crammed full of seeds. The insect let out a warning hiss, and Aislyn stood aside.

She peered through the gloom. Tiny green lights signposted the ant pathway into the distance, and she sprinted across. Ants didn’t travel alone, and she didn’t want another face-to-face experience.

Aislyn trotted through the thick grass jungle using the steady drone of the traffic on the street outside the Guardian’s house to guide her. Given her size, the journey would take time. She didn’t care. Anger at the injustice of her position propelled her onward. She’d plead with the Guardian. Let him deal with Seamus.

Since she’d left the colony without permission, she needed to present her case with care. Unfortunately, there were a few variables in her plan. Given her luck, the whole scheme might backfire, but she couldn’t be worse off than she was now, stuck with community work and an outcast, ignored by most upstanding citizens.

The grass forest gave way to a mountain range. The footpath. She pulled a compass from her pocket, double-checked the direction, and proceeded down the edge of the path.

Three-and-a-half-hours later, she reached the three steps leading up to the Guardian’s front door. She swiped the tail of her shirt across her brow and studied the climb in front of her. After sliding her pack off her back, she opened it to retrieve climbing gear.

She inched her way up the steep face, banging in spikes to take her weight, climbing up one and thumping in the next. A thin film of sweat beaded her forehead and dripped into her eyes. She swiped it away and kept doggedly going, determined to make the top. Finally, she heaved her trembling body over the lip of the last step. Tired but exhilarated, she stood to confront the next obstacle—the door.

Bother. This might prove more difficult. Aislyn tilted her head upward. Heck, no way was she going through the door. Perhaps under? She studied the gap—a tight squeeze but manageable. She dropped to the ground and slithered beneath the door. Halfway through, her bottom caught fast. She wriggled to no avail.

Aislyn groaned, trying to suck in her stomach.

Too many hokey pokey ice creams while she was on the human side. Then she heard a sound to make her blood chill.

Meow.

She wriggled, frantic to escape the cat.

A tiny bell tinkled. Meow.

Scented flea powder filled the air. She sneezed and popped out the other side like a champagne cork exploding from a bottle. Hot breath wafted under the door. A disgruntled meow sounded, followed by scratching. She scooted away from the gap and crawled to her feet. Three rats and a mouse—a close call.

A low rumble sounded in the distance.

Her breath stalled halfway up her throat. What…what was that? The foreign noise rumbled through the room again like an earthquake. She hesitated and edged forward with caution. When the sound repeated for the third time, she slumped in relief. A giggle punctuated the rumble.

The Guardian was snoring.

She wandered toward the racket. At the doorway, she nibbled on her bottom lip, hesitating about her bold plan.

“Things can’t get much worse,” she muttered while she stood in indecision. She’d already broken too many rules to count. Seamus would instruct the board to ship her to Outer Mongolia or an equally isolated colony.

Too bad!

Boldly, she strode inside the Guardian’s lair. The drapes were open, allowing moonlight to creep into the room. The Guardian’s arm hung over the edge of the enormous bed. A pile of clothes covered the floor between her and the bed. From her perspective, they seemed like a mountain range.

A loud roaring snort shook the floor. Her feet parted company with the ground. She clapped a hand to her chest, poised for flight before she realized it was another round of snoring. Cripes, for a moment, she’d thought the heavens were falling.

A navy-blue sheet hung over the end of the bed. She took a running jump and shimmied upward before she lost her courage. She clambered on top of the mattress and paused to regain her breath.

Another snuffle came from the Guardian, and the mattress trembled beneath her feet. Aislyn’s eyes widened, and a squeak of alarm escaped her. The Guardian was turning over in his sleep! She whirled and half scrambled, half sprinted across the mattress to the bottom of the bed. When she reached the end, she squeezed into a tiny ball, her breath coming in wheezy pants of terror.

The Guardian turned, flinging his arm out and dislodging the sheet. The navy-blue sheet whispered to the floor.

When the mattress stilled, Aislyn uncurled and stood. Her brows rose before she slapped a hand over her mouth to cover her giggle.

The Guardian slept in the nude.

She swallowed and pondered the ethics of seeing the Guardian without clothes. Her gaze wandered the length of his legs, the light dusting of dark hair, and the muscular thighs. Keeping a close eye on him, she moved another step up the bed and came to a halt.

The Guardian was large. Ah, she meant tall! She averted her gaze from his cock and chewed her lip. Meeting the Guardian face-to-face suddenly seemed like the worst idea ever.

Too late for second thoughts now, especially with a cat outside. She bounded two rapid steps up the bed, gaining a view of the Guardian’s flat belly and muscular torso. His arm was in the way. She’d have to climb over. Hopefully, the man wasn’t ticklish or, worse, mistake her for a pesky insect and try to squash her.

As she clambered over the Guardian’s arm, she noticed the silver armband on his left biceps. It looked familiar.

She moved farther up the bed, past the man’s shoulders to survey his face.

“Hell’s teeth!” Aislyn’s shocked curse blistered the air.

She stared at the familiar dark hair, the harsh planes of his face, and sank down to sit on the mattress.

Why was Seamus at the Guardian’s house? In the Guardian’s bed?

The obvious answer…no. Aislyn shook her head in disbelief. Yet, the truth lay before her in full naked glory.

Seamus Gallagher was the Guardian.

Fury rose within her. Of all the lying, cheating…

The Guardian won’t like you doing that. It’s dangerous for the fairy colony if you do that. Follow the rules, Aislyn. The Guardian says we must for the good of all.

And Renee.

The situation with Renee had confused her most of all. She’d never understood Seamus’s betrothal to a princess from a European colony, but if he was Guardian that explained everything. The role of the Guardian carried clout—political clout, and he made an attractive marriage prospect.

No wonder he’d turned her away. The Guardian had to marry for the good of the colony. Especially since the last Guardian had run off with the colony funds—those he hadn’t squandered on wine, women, and a jet-set lifestyle.

It was surprising Seamus had associated with her given her penchant for breaking the rules. The last lingering shreds of hope for reconciliation between her and Seamus faded. She jumped to her feet and stomped up to the pillow.

“Seamus. Wake up.” When the great lug didn’t move a muscle, she reached up to tug his earlobe. “Seamus.”

He stirred, and when it looked as if he might roll again, she prepared to jump to safety. She’d rather face a broken limb than have her death certificate read squashed by Guardian.

“Seamus!” Aislyn roared.

Seamus jerked upright. “What? Who’s there?”

She whipped up her hands to cover her ears. “Seamus, it’s me.” She stormed across the mattress and kicked his upper arm.

He flinched and glanced down. “Aislyn? Aislyn, what the devil are you doing here? You…you’re fairy size. Are you mad?”

“Damn straight, I’m mad,” Aislyn spat. “Why didn’t you tell me about your office instead of lying to me? Did you think I’d toss you to the tabloid press? I thought we were friends.”

“We are friends.”

“We’re not,” she snapped. “Gary is my friend. Gill is my friend. You…you’re the Guardian.”

Seamus bent to snatch up the sheet over jerked it over his lap. He scrubbed a hand across his face. “Aislyn, keep still. I don’t want to squash you.” He rubbed a thumb over his silver armband and murmured an incantation.

Without warning, she grew to human size. She toppled off the edge of the bed and landed on the floor, scrambling to her feet. “I suppose you think that’s funny.”

“None of this is funny. How did you leave the colony? You’re wearing a security bracelet.” Seamus glanced down at her leg. The security bracelet glinted in the moonlight.

“I wanted to appeal my punishment with the Guardian. Seems like I’ve made a wasted trip.” She whirled and made it to the door before Seamus rose from the bed.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said, grasping her arm and jerking her to a halt.

Aislyn sneaked a look at his naked body. “Won’t Renee object to you wandering around naked in front of me?”

“We have to straighten out this mess.”

Her brows arched. “How? You’re the Guardian, and you’ve abused your position.” She folded her arms across her chest. “I think the tabloids will be very interested.”

 

Awareness shot to his cock. God, Seamus had missed her biting, teasing tongue. He wanted to grab her, to hold her and never let go. “Let me dress, and we’ll talk.”

“We’ll talk, or you’ll talk at me?”

Seamus searched for his jeans and found them in a heap on the floor. He yanked them on and zipped them up, watching Aislyn the entire time. The idea of her traveling from the colony and arriving in his bedroom, still fairy size, made him sick to his stomach. “Please, Aislyn. You’re here now. You might as well stay for a while. Please?”

“I’ll wait in the lounge,” she said. “Which way?”

“Down the passage, turn right at the end.”

Aislyn left, and Seamus scrambled to find a shirt.

He arrived in the lounge, out of breath, with no idea how to handle her. “The trip here was dangerous and foolhardy.”

She shot to her feet so quickly, her chair teetered off balance. “Punish me if you want, send me to the colony in Outer Mongolia—I don’t care. All I wanted was justice from the Guardian. Instead, I discover a tissue of lies.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Tell someone who cares,” she snapped. “You’ve lied to me from the start. I’m going to Gary’s flat.” She swept from the room, the set expression on her face daring him to stop her.

Seamus let her go. He sank onto his shabby armchair and held his head in his hands. Everything thing he said, everything he did concerning Aislyn misfired. Hell’s teeth, she was a stubborn wench.

And he loved her like crazy.

His feelings had grown stronger. How could he forget the woman who held his heart in her hands? How could he marry Renee when he loved another?

“Hell, what a mess,” he muttered.

It wouldn’t be long before his alarm went off. As he opened the cupboard to find the coffee, he made a mental note to courier a supply of pills for Aislyn to Gary’s flat. His magical spell to change her to human size wouldn’t last long.

The phone rang, jerking his mind off Aislyn.

“Ah, sir.”

Seamus’s mind diverted straight back to Aislyn. “Yes, Gary?”

“Aislyn’s here.” He sounded hesitant.

“I know.” And he had no idea what to do about the situation. She’d called him a liar.

“Can she stay with me?”

Seamus’s smile was wry. Aislyn had escaped from the colony without setting off any alarms. She’d managed once.

Seamus had no doubt she could repeat the feat. “Yes, that’s fine. I’ll send a package of pills to your flat today. I expect you to make sure she takes her pill each day.”

An exuberant cheer filtered down the line as he replaced the phone. A sense of loneliness assailed him without warning. Everything in his life was on schedule. His betrothal to Renee was official, and the board intended to organize a ball to celebrate the coming nuptials. Renee was charming, and both colonies approved of the match. The refilled coffers didn’t hurt either. So why did he feel the nagging sense of dissatisfaction?

He glanced out the window. The sky had lightened to a soft blue-black, and it wouldn’t be long until the sun rose. He checked his watch and decided to visit the colony. No doubt, someone had noted Aislyn’s disappearance.

Seamus stepped out the door and almost tripped over the small black cat crouching in the middle of his doormat. He cursed. The cat arched its back and hissed before retreating under the hedge. The creature blended with its hiding place, but a pair of yellow eyes glared out at him. Aislyn had risked death to visit the Guardian.

A twinge of guilt made him examine the real reasons he’d sent Aislyn back to the colony. Jealousy. Shoving aside the uncomfortable thoughts and soul-searching until later, he hurried down the garden path. The portal appeared the instant he spoke the Celtic incantation. He stepped through and strode along the road that led into the village.

At this early hour, the square was deserted. The owners of the deli where Aislyn used to work were setting tables ready for breakfast. He hesitated, then turned up Tui Lane and cut across to Pohutukawa Drive, a residential street. He strode up the narrow path of number five before he could change his mind and rapped on the bright yellow door.

“Seamus!”

“Renee. Can I come inside?” Her bright smile dredged up a wave of guilt.

She stepped aside and made a sweeping motion with her hand. “But of course, Seamus.”

Now he’d arrived he wasn’t sure what to say. More self-reproach washed over him. His hands clenched and unclenched as he considered her. Renee was beautiful with her glossy raven hair and her smart clothes. Despite the early hour, her mouth bore red lipstick, and she’d done something to her eyes to make them appear dark and lustrous. Renee was everything Aislyn wasn’t.

“Is something wrong, Seamus?”

Seamus started to speak, to deny anything wrong. “No, I—” He loved Aislyn. Seamus glanced at Renee again. He knew she was intelligent, she followed the rules, and she’d no desire to leave the colony. Renee was a fairy satisfied with her lot. A sigh escaped. “I’m in love with someone else,” he blurted.

A hushed silence fell upon the room. Renee stared at him, her mouth dropping open in an uncharacteristic loss of composure. “You don’t want to marry me?”

Seamus braced for tears, knowing they were inevitable. Somehow, he’d have to cope. “I’m sorry, Renee. It’s nothing you’ve done. It’s me.”

“You wish to wed someone else?” Her French accent was more pronounced than before.

His gaze dropped to his feet as he edged toward the door. One of his socks was red while the other was black. He glanced back at her, regret slicing deep. “Renee, I’m sorry. Really sorry. I’ll organize your trip back to—”

Renee launched herself at him. He flinched, prepared for her to strike out with her fists, or burst into a noisy tantrum.

“Excellent.” She hugged him so tightly he’d thought his ribs would crack. Finally, she loosened her hold and stood back to beam at him. “I am glad.”

Seamus frowned. “You don’t want to marry me either?”

“No!”

“Is there another man?”

“No.” She paused, appearing to search for the right words. “I want to marry where my heart leads. I do not wish to go where my father orders.” As she spoke, her chin tilted upward. “I do not love you. I offend you, yes?”

“No, I’m not offended.” Seamus indicated she should sit. “What about your father?”

“Pah!” Renee exclaimed. “What my father does not know will not hurt him.”

Seamus took in the stubborn look on her face and felt a twinge of alarm. “I don’t want to give your father grounds to declare war on my colony.”

“If I remain with your colony, he will not declare war. My father received two offers for my hand—one from you and another from an English prince. He will renegotiate. He does not care who I marry.” She gave a Gaelic shrug, and Seamus read the hurt flickering across her face. “My mother will side with me should I wish to stay in New Zealand.

She was born in the Australian colony. Her parents immigrated when she was young.”

Before he’d arrived here, Seamus had envisaged a distraught Renee, a female wronged. This happy, smiling fairy was an enigma.

“Who do you love?”

He hesitated. No, he owed Renee the truth. “Aislyn O’Sullivan.”

Renee grinned. “Ah! The pretty copper-haired fairy, no? The one who makes Murphy gobble with alarm.”

Seamus nodded. Yes, Aislyn was pretty. She was also determined, brave, stubborn, and a credit to the fairy force. He realized he didn’t want to change her. “Renee, I need to go back to the human side. Will you talk to Murphy and cancel the ball?”

“I will take care of Murphy and the board,” she agreed. “You find Aislyn. Put your ring on her finger. Make your engagement official, no?”

What’s going to happen next? Come back next Monday to find out.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 18

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

Missed a previous chapter?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read Chapter 3 here.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read Chapter 5 here.
Read Chapter 6 here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Read Chapter 8 here.
Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
Read Chapter 12 here.
Read Chapter 13 here.
Read Chapter 14 here.
Read Chapter 15 here.
Read Chapter 16 here.
Read Chapter 17 here.

Chapter 18

Several days later

 

Laughter, both masculine and feminine, rippled down the corridor when he exited the stairwell. Fighting to hold his temper, he stomped toward his office. His hands clenched, and jealousy zapped straight to his ego.

Aislyn and Gill.

Ever since their ill-fated assignment at Kowhai Lodge Resort, Aislyn avoided him. Not that Seamus blamed her, but his mistake had thrown Aislyn and Gill together. From the little Gill said, he’d taken her out for drinks and dinner a few times, and the knowledge kept Seamus’s gut-churning.

Seamus paused in the doorway of Gary’s office. The three of them were laughing like loons. Envy and resentment gripped him. Even though he had no rights with Aislyn, he’d promised Duncan he’d watch out for her.

Gill wasn’t safe.

Last night, he’d promised his meddling mother there was nothing between him and the rebel, despite the rumors. Seamus closed his eyes, working to control the maelstrom of emotions creating turmoil inside him. He bore an obligation to provide the best future for the young fairlings in the colony, and now he had someone else to consider.

Renee.

Seamus stepped into Gary’s office. “Gill, you ready to go?”

The laughter ceased. Gary shuffled behind his desk. Gill straightened, removing his hand from Aislyn’s shoulder while Aislyn glared at him, not bothering to hide her animosity.

“I’m ready.” Gill grinned at Aislyn. “See you later, gorgeous.” He tapped her under the chin. “Seven, okay?”

Aislyn nodded. “At the flat.”

“Sure. Seamus?”

Seamus stiffened in shock. Aislyn had moved from the hostel and hadn’t bothered to tell him. Jealousy gripped him, and, for the first time since he’d met Gill at Police College, he wanted to deck him.

“Before we go, can I have a word with you in my office please, Aislyn?” It was an order. He would drag her kicking and screaming into his office if she refused.

“I’ll wait for you in my car.” With a farewell wave, Gill sauntered from sight.

Seamus couldn’t help but notice the way her gaze followed his friend’s departure. “I don’t have all day,” he snarled.

“After you.” Her polite gesture carried mockery.

She perched on the edge of one of the two mismatched wooden chairs in front of Seamus’s desk, looking as if she wanted to run from the room.

“I’m going back to the colony tonight for a few days. Renee arrives tonight.”

Aislyn stiffened. Her memory produced the face from the photo she’d discovered in Seamus’s bag. Why was he telling her?

“I wondered if you wanted me to give your parents or brothers any messages.”

Aislyn stared. He must know her father forbade her to speak with the rest of the family. “I wrote to Duncan a few days ago and sent my letter in the diplomatic pouch.”

Seamus moved from the bank of windows to stand behind his desk. He thrust his hands in his pockets. “Do you want me to bring anything back for you?”

“No, thank you,” Aislyn said. “I finished the tests on the latest batch of anti-cat remedies and sent the results in the pouch.”

“Any good?”

“The latest potion gave me hives. The scientists are accusing me of not testing their remedies. Please reassure them I’m doing my best and maintaining meticulous records.”

“I’ll tell the board.”

“Was there anything else? Gary and I are going on a day trip to Maximillan’s resort. They’re recruiting staff, and the boss wants me and Gary to apply for jobs.”

“Do you think that’s wise?”

Aislyn pressed her lips together to contain her irritation. “I assume our boss knows what he’s doing. Have a nice time at the colony.”

“I will.”

 

Aislyn wanted to sprint from the room but maintained a casual pace. Her hand was on the doorknob when he spoke.

“I don’t think you should go out with Gill.”

She spun about to stare at him in disbelief. “What?”

A dull tide of color swept across his cheekbones. “Gill is older than you, more experienced. Nothing can come of a relationship between the two of you. You’re a fairy; he’s human. Mixed marriages don’t work.”

“What’s the matter, Seamus? Afraid I might say something I shouldn’t to Gill?”

“Of course not. I’m trying to be a friend—”

“Seamus, you ceased to be my friend when you slept with me then told me you were engaged. If I want to sleep with Gill, I will. It’s none of your damn business.” She wrenched the door open, stalked through, and slammed it using every ounce of her strength.

From his desk, Gary stared at her in half shock, half admiration. She wanted to laugh and couldn’t, not with the tight constriction in her throat.

“Are you ready to go?” Gary asked. “We need to stop by the flat and work out our disguises. The ferry leaves in two hours.”

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“What did Seamus want?” Gary asked as they waited for an elevator to arrive.

“He’s going to the colony for a few days because his betrothed arrives tonight. He offered to take some messages to my family for me.”

The news of Seamus’s betrothal distracted Gary, as she’d planned.

“Seamus is betrothed? When? Who? Where? Tell me everything!”

The elevator arrived, and they stepped inside to join the other passengers. When they reached the ground floor, Gary dragged Aislyn through the foyer of the building to the car park where he’d left his rusty Toyota.

“Right,” he said, his beads clacking when he tossed his head. “We’re not leaving here until you give me the gossip. Every juicy detail.”

“The short story is all we have time for. You should start driving, or we’ll miss the ferry. The boss will send us back to paper-pushing if we miss the recruitment presentation.”

“Okay, but if I think for a minute, you’re skimping on details, you’re in trouble.”

The Toyota started with a protesting whimper then fell silent. Gary scowled and tried again. “Damn car.”

Aislyn scanned the car park for witnesses. “I have an idea that might work, and then again, it mightn’t.” She closed her eyes and concentrated. The Gaelic words danced off her tongue. Gary’s gasp of shock, his muttered words of horror, did nothing to distract her. To her relief, a cool breeze whooshed over her face, and a sense of weightlessness lightened her body.

They materialized in the middle of Gary and Jacob’s living room. Gary’s head whipped from side to side before he fixed a horrified gaze on Aislyn.

“How…” Words failed him about the same time his legs gave way. He sank onto a faded, sagging armchair. The chair emitted a loud squeak of protest, but Gary ignored it to stare dumbly at her.

“How did you do that?” Gary regained his powers of speech.

“What?” Aislyn studied her fingernails and decided she’d try a different color of polish.

“I want to know how you transported us here when the pills contain an anti-magic compound. I know you’re taking your pills.”

“No idea. I only discovered by chance.”

“Do you have full power?”

“I have no control at all. Sometimes my spells work, and sometimes they don’t.”

Gary leaned back. The chair squeaked again. “What does Seamus say?”

“I haven’t told him.”

He nodded, setting his beads chattering. “Probably for the best. He’s likely to send you back to the colony.” He paused. “Be careful, Aislyn. You love it here on the human side. You don’t want Seamus to send you home.”

Gary was right. The idea of living in the colony made her shudder. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.”

“Cripes, look at the time. We’d better get our disguises in place and call a cab. You start, and I’ll order the cab.” Halfway to the door, he paused. “Since there’s just the two of us here, why don’t you try to zap us into our disguises?”

“Organize the taxi, and I’ll see what I can do.”

Once Gary left for the kitchen, she closed her eyes and concentrated. She wanted long brown hair, conservative dress. Something to scream, I’m a good worker. Hire me now.

A soft ripple of warm air blew against her face. Her clothes stirred, and the air disturbance faded. She opened her eyes to check the result. A grin bloomed. Perfect.

Now, a disguise for Gary. The braids would have to go. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on conjuring a new Gary.

A loud yelp came from the kitchen.

Aislyn chortled and hurried to witness the results of her magic.

“You could have warned me.” Gary peered into a china cabinet and studied his reflection. “Where are my braids?”

“You make a very handsome redhead.” Maybe she’d overdone the freckles, but he had sincerity galore.

“Where have my braids gone?” Gary turned to her, his brown eyes narrowed in a glare. “Tell me my braids are under this wig.”

“It’s not a wig.” Aislyn tugged on her own long hair. “See?”

“Do you know how long it took to get my braids done?”

A honk of a horn outside the flat saved her from replying. “Cab’s here.” She seized the small black bag she’d conjured up to go with her disguise and ran for the door. It would be safe in the cab. Gary couldn’t discuss spells in front of the human.

 

Gary sulked for a large part of the ferry ride to Maximillan’s island resort.

“Come outside. Maybe we’ll see some dolphins,” Aislyn said finally, running out of patience. She navigated past a group of school children, their harried teachers, and helpers before pushing through the door leading to the open deck.

Outside, the wind whipped through her hair, and she pushed the dark strands off her face. She grinned. At least her hair wouldn’t blow off because of an unfortunate gust of wind.

“What are you smirking about?”

“Nothing. I’m enjoying seeing some of the countryside outside of Auckland.” She raised her face to the wind and drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the tang of the sea.

The ferry rounded the jutting fingers of the mainland, rolling in the swell on the way to their destination.

“That’s the resort,” Gary said, pointing at a smudge of green on the horizon.

“There are lots of people our age on the ferry. They must be attending the recruitment drive too.”

The landmass grew larger, and in no time, the ferry docked at the resort wharf. She and Gary disembarked with the rest of the passengers.

A young woman, dressed in the black-and-white uniform of the resort, waited on the end of the wharf. “All those here for the recruitment seminar wait over by the sign. Sameth will be along to escort you to the theater.”

“I wonder who Sameth is?” Aislyn whispered to Gary.

“No idea.” He studied the rapidly growing group of people. “Do you think we stand a chance of scoring a job with all these people after work too?”

“Okay, listen up, everyone.”

Aislyn and Gary turned to study the tall, slender Asian woman who clapped her hands, indicating they should listen.

Hush fell.

“We’re conducting the seminar in the Rimu theater. We will run a short video presentation before starting the interviews. I’ll conduct the interviews in the registration order. Keep your registration cards handy to check the numbers. Any questions? No? Good. Follow Caroline to the theater. The presentation will start in five minutes.” She turned and glided away.

“I wouldn’t want to come up against her in a battle,” Gary said.

They trailed along with the rest of the group, both taking mental notes of the resort layout to report back later.

 

“Hi, sweetheart.” Gill breezed into the office with Seamus trailing behind. “How did the recruitment seminar go? Do you have a job?”

Aislyn’s smile of welcome froze. Her insides churned in trepidation when she glanced past Gill to Seamus. “We’ll know by the end of next week.” Aware of Seamus’s displeasure, she forced a laugh. It sounded unnatural, and her stomach turned over when his frown intensified. “The process was nerve-racking but not difficult. We met Maximillan’s assistant, Sameth. She conducted the interviews.”

Seamus loomed in front of Aislyn’s desk. “She keeps a low profile. Word is she’s in charge of major decisions. We know little about her.”

Why was he here, anyway? “I thought you were going to…” She glanced at Gill. “Have the weekend off.”

“I leave later tonight.”

“Have a nice time.” Aislyn turned to smile at Gill and forced enthusiasm into her voice. “I’m looking forward to tonight.” She stood and sashayed over to Gill and trailed one hand down his chest. “I’m due at a strategic meeting.”

“Aislyn.” Seamus’s voice sliced through the silence, making her flinch. “I’ll walk you down.”

“There’s no need.”

Seamus took her arm and steered her out the door, his iron grip determined. To Gill, the move would have appeared polite. Aislyn knew better. “What’s your problem?”

He maneuvered her into the elevator—unfortunately for her an empty one. She wrenched from his touch, annoyed at his highhandedness and her own breathless reaction.

“You’re grounded. I’m sending you back to the colony. In fact, I’ll escort you.”

“Why? You can’t do that.”

Seamus looked grim. “Watch me.”

“I’m a part of the team. What will you tell the others?”

“I’ll tell them you’re sick. And don’t even think about trying to return. You can’t. Not without a supply of pills.” He glared at her. “Since you refuse to follow instructions, you can suffer the consequences.”

“I have done nothing wrong.” She gritted her teeth. “The boss told me I was doing a good job. Besides, no one wants me back in the colony, certainly no one on the board.”

“You’re a maverick. You don’t follow the rules.”

She glowered at Seamus, so angry words almost failed her. “This has nothing to do with rules. This is about you. You made your choice clear when you chose the rich princess to bear your children. You can’t turn around now and give me advice on my personal life.”

A flash of emotion crossed his face, darkening his eyes. For an instant, she thought she’d got through to him. He couldn’t have her friendship when he’d chosen Renee.

“My decision is final. There’s nothing you can say to change it.”

Return next Monday to read the following chapter.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 17

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

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

Chapter 17

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?”

He shrugged. “Nothing. Everything.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He closed his eyes.

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

“I’m betrothed.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Aislyn?”

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

“We need to talk.”

“A bit late, isn’t it?”

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

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

“I tried to tell you,” Seamus said.

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

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

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

“Renee Pompadour.”

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

“You can sleep in the bedroom.”

“I insist,” she said through clenched teeth.

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

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

She’d never had a chance.

 

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

“Good morning.”

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

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

“I’m returning to Auckland.”

“We’re here on assignment.”

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

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

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

“Do you want to return to the colony?”

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

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

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

“I’m ready to go now.”

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

“I’m not hungry.”

Aislyn slammed the door on her way outside.

 

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

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

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

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

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

“She’s not my wife,” Seamus snapped.

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

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

“What happened?”

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

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

“I stood on a damn stick.”

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

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

“What are you going to do?”

“Ring the boss.”

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

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

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

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

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

“At least that’s positive.”

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

“None of your business.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is your business completed, Mr. Gallagher?”

Seamus glanced at Aislyn, hoping for guidance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, John. That sounds lovely.”

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

“Good. I’ll look forward to it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return next Monday to read the following chapter.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 16

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

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

Chapter 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Touch me, Seamus.”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

His moan shocked her. Startled, she froze.

“Don’t stop. It feels great.”

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

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

“Did I do something wrong?”

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

“Will we need all of them?”

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

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

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

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I want this. I want you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A little. I’m fine now.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Concentrate on the job.

Renee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was too far away.

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

“Do you have it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello,” he said.

“Strange time to be out,” Watson commented.

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

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

“Why are you wet?”

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

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

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

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

“Good eating fish,” Seamus said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I said, good night.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind him, Morgan grunted, a noncommittal sound.

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

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

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

“I’ll walk you back to your cabin.”

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

“It’s no trouble.”

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

“The path is lit.”

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

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

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

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

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

Come back next Monday for the following chapter

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 15

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

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

Chapter 15

Whisper soft footsteps from behind him indicated Aislyn was ready for Watson’s drink party. Seamus spun around from the view and watched her sashay past the bed toward him. The midnight-blue dress clung to every curve and stopped a good six inches above her knees. Thin straps held the top in place, leaving her arms and a vast expanse of skin on show. Black heels showcased her legs and added extra inches to her height.

His breath hissed out. “You can’t go out for drinks wearing that.”

“Gary and Jacob thought the outfit looked great.”

“It’s too…too…” Seamus gestured with his hands. The dress was so abbreviated, why not call it a shirt? He attempted to keep his gaze off her legs, but that meant looking at her boobs. Who was this Jacob anyway?

“Too what?” Aislyn said sweetly.

“There’s not enough material.”

“Jacob said it shows off my legs.”

Aislyn turned to study her reflection in the mirror and Seamus almost swallowed his tongue. The back of the dress…there wasn’t one. At least, not what a sane man would call a garment, just two straps that tied at her neck, underneath the mass of copper curls. The woman couldn’t be wearing much in the way of underwear. Time to make a stand. “I’m not taking you out unless you wear a jacket. You might catch cold or something.”

Aislyn studied him surreptitiously. In the mirror, she caught the naughty twinkle in her eyes, and she bit the inside of her bottom lip, trying to compose herself. Purely for decorative purposes. Huh! She gave him decorative, and he complained. It wasn’t often the great Seamus Gallagher became flustered. The frank masculine interest didn’t hurt either.

“Seamus, there’s a lacy black wrap in the wardrobe. Would you mind grabbing it for me?”

Seamus yanked open the wardrobe door. He stared at the tidily hung clothing, before turning to glare at her. “Are all your clothes a size too small?”

“It’s called fashion. My wrap, please.”

“I suppose you paid a fortune for these clothes.”

“Better watch out. You sound like a husband.” Aislyn checked her watch. “It’s almost six-thirty now. If we don’t hurry, we’ll be late.”

She draped the wrap around her shoulders and started for the stairs leading down to the main living area. She heard a pithy curse and grinned again. Good thing, Seamus couldn’t use his magic, or she’d wear an encompassing sack-like affair by now. He’d probably add a hood to cover her red hair and obscure her face too.

Downstairs, Seamus opened the door for her and followed her outside to the well-lit pathway. He took her arm and steered her toward Watson’s cabin.

“You’ve remembered our cover?”

“Yes.” She’d bet he didn’t treat the other recruits like this. “Stop worrying.”

They took a left-hand fork in the path. A flash of light made her pause.

“Look,” she said in a low voice. “There’s a boat moored out there.”

Seamus peered over her shoulder. “Could be innocent. Wait and see if we can sight the boat from Watson’s cabin. Slip it into the conversation if you can manage. Can you do that?”

“I’m allowed to talk to him now?”

“Don’t act like a child.”

“I told you I’m a great actress. We’d better get going. If we’re late, we might look suspicious.”

“I doubt it.” The strange note in his voice drew her attention. “We’re newlyweds, remember?”

Cripes, did he have to remind her? Their cover story had seared to her mind and wouldn’t jiggle loose.

The luxurious cabin was ablaze with lights. Pop music tumbled from the open doors along with the chatter of voices.

Seamus knocked on the front door. “Sounds like they have other guests.”

The door flew open, and the bodyguard smiled at them. “Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher. Mr. Watson will be pleased you’ve been able to attend to our little gathering.”

“Seamus and Aislyn,” Seamus said, extending his hand in greeting.

“My name is Morgan.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Morgan.” Aislyn smiled at the gigantic man she’d met a few days ago at the hotel.

Thankfully, not a shred of recognition showed on his face.

“Just Morgan,” he said, standing aside to let them step inside.

A fluffy white cat, so fat it waddled, ambled from inside the small kitchen area. The instant the animal set eyes on Aislyn, it padded straight to her.

“A cat,” she said. “How nice.”

“Go in,” Morgan said. “Mr. Watson is on the terrace with the other guests. Can I get you something to drink?”

“A glass of white wine for my wife. I’ll have a beer, please.”

Morgan left them, and Seamus bent his head to whisper in her ear. “Did you take a pill today?”

“Yes.” As if she’d forget. The cat rubbed against her legs and purred.

“Hello, we meet again.”

Aislyn smiled at the older man who strode toward them. Taller than her but not as tall as Seamus, he possessed a full head of gray hair and wore what Jacob and Gary described as smart-casual clothes—black trousers and a pale gray shirt.

“Hello, John.” To her surprise, Watson bent to kiss her on the cheek. The liberty flustered her. Despite what she’d learned of his criminal dealings, she liked him. Despite the man’s age and the puckered scar on his cheek, Watson was attractive. “This is my husband, Seamus. Seamus, this is John Watson.”

Watson shook hands with Seamus. “Is Morgan getting you drinks?”

“We’ve placed our order.”

“Good. Good.” Watson took Aislyn’s arm and drew her toward the deck. “Come outside and meet the others. The evening is mild, and we have a wonderful view.” He cut Seamus off and led her outside.

“The view is gorgeous.” From where they stood, Aislyn caught the flicker of lights farther down the coast. The boat she and Seamus had discussed earlier was visible.

“Oh.” Aislyn turned to Watson. “Is that a boat down there?”

“Yes.”

“Do many boats moor down there? Surely the resort frowns on boats mooring in their bay. I mean, most of the guests come here for privacy.”

Watson leaned closer. The spicy aftershave he wore reminded her of her mother’s tasty cookies. His arm creeping around her shoulders made her stiffen. “The boat’s mine. I’ve acquired it for the duration of my visit. After hearing about Auckland’s lovely harbor and the excellent fishing, I felt I should make the most of the opportunity.”

“Oh?” Aislyn said. “Are you intending to sail farther afield? The Bay of Islands up north is exquisite.”

“My plans are fluid at present, my dear. Just the way to act while on vacation, don’t you think?”

Aislyn smiled politely. The man was flirting with her. “I think you’re fortunate.”

“Let me introduce you to my other guests. This is Margaret and Gerald Barker. They’re in the cabin on the other side of you. The two men and the young lady over in the corner are the competent crew who look after me while I’m on the boat, and you’ve already met my assistant, Morgan.”

Aislyn offered Morgan a quick smile of thanks when he handed her a glass of white wine.

“This is Seamus, Aislyn’s husband,” John said, his gaze sliding to her face before wandering lower to study her breasts. She suppressed the urge to pull her wrap over her chest and suspected her red face might give away her unease.

“I hear you’re newlyweds. It’s nice of you to socialize with us this evening.” Margaret flicked her straight, dark hair over her right shoulder, her dark brown eyes gleaming when she spotted Seamus. Her burgundy-colored lips curved in approval, and her gaze lingered after doing a full visual sweep. Aislyn glanced at Gerald Barker with a trace of discomfort, expecting him to show anger. Instead, she found him staring at her in the manner a cat allegedly eyed a female fairy. She sipped her wine and moved closer to Seamus.

“I’m afraid we won’t be staying for long,” Seamus said.

Aislyn sensed Seamus’s glare at John Watson. Taking another sip, she edged even closer, intent on making a silent statement of possession. How dare Margaret gawp at Seamus as if he were a piece of Death by Chocolate cake? Two rats and a mouse—what part of married didn’t they understand?

“Great view,” Seamus said, slipping his arm around Aislyn’s waist. He pressed a kiss to her temple before resuming his conversation. Her irritation dissipated, replaced by edginess. It was more to do with Seamus’s proximity and his warm breath on her neck than the other couple’s rudeness.

“Are you here for the fishing? I don’t fish myself, but the girl at reception told me the fishing is excellent,” Seamus said.

Watson’s brows rose. “If you don’t fish, what do you do in the way of recreation?”

“I like to swim. I run when I can,” Seamus said. “Although since we’re on our honeymoon, we’re not racing around too much.”

“You’re from Auckland?” Gerald Barker asked.

“That’s right. Aislyn and I live in Newmarket.”

Margaret slid her fingers along Seamus’s forearm. “We enjoyed Auckland. Such a pretty setting.”

Seamus slid from the woman’s touch and tugged Aislyn against his chest. “Yes, we think so.”

“How nice. What do you do for a job?” Margaret closed the distance.

“I work in an office.” Aislyn’s wrap slipped off one shoulder, revealing the neckline of her dress. It seemed to her every male gaze zeroed in on her breasts. Once again, she wished for her magic. A quick magical spell would zap some manners into these people. Almost as the desire crystallized in her mind, Watson winced and dropped his glass. Wine splattered across the wooden decking, and the glass bounced but didn’t break.

Seamus picked up her wrap and smoothed it into place, leaving his hand on her shoulder. Warmth emanated from his touch, and her pulse leaped when their gazes connected. Damn, he was a good actor. Aislyn was sure Margaret, Gerald, and Watson would think they were newlyweds.

“Are you all right, John?” Margaret asked.

“Some sort of biting insect,” he said, probing the side of his neck with careful fingers.

“Will you have some canapés?” Morgan handed the tray around, picked up the empty glass, and returned seconds later with a fresh drink for his boss.

“There are mosquitoes around at this time of the night,” Seamus said.

“You don’t say.” Watson aimed a tight smile at Seamus and Aislyn before turning to speak to his crew.

Seamus drew Aislyn over to the balcony edge. “Auckland is in that direction,” he said. “Hell,” he said in an undertone meant for only Aislyn. “I feel as if he chastised me. Did you see his eyes? Stay away from him. He’s dangerous.”

“Behave,” Aislyn said, leaning into him to make the most of his proximity. No longer proud, she’d take crumbs.

“Just a little longer, and we can leave.”

“I didn’t like the men watching you, and the damn cat’s no better.” He glared at the purring cat, nudging the creature away from Aislyn with his shoe.

“We should split up and socialize,” Aislyn said. “We won’t learn anything if we stay together. You talk to the crew—pretend you’re thinking of buying a boat. I’ll speak with the Barkers.”

“The minute I leave your side, Watson’s gonna land like a rash.”

Aislyn wanted to roll her eyes at his jealous husband act. “Well?”

“All right.” He nudged the cat away for a second time and sauntered over to the crew.

“So you work in an office,” Margaret gushed when Aislyn joined the couple.

“I’m afraid so. It’s boring but pays the bills.”

“Which company do you work for? Will I have heard of it?”

Aislyn reached for a bite-sized smoked salmon tart. Rats talk about pushy. She popped the savory into her mouth to give herself time to think. She swallowed and drank a sip of wine. “I work for an office supply company. Whitcoulls. I’m sure you’ve heard of the chain.”

Margaret nodded. “What about your delectable husband?”

Aislyn couldn’t believe the woman, narrowing her eyes when Margaret licked her lips and stared at Seamus’s butt. A magical spell wouldn’t go astray here. Aislyn pondered what she’d do if she were in the colony. Something subtle and sneaky. Perhaps a bee sting on the corner of the woman’s lips? No, an unraveling spell would be better—a loose thread mysteriously unraveling, exposing everything beneath, especially since Margaret’s dress was even briefer than hers.

Without warning, Aislyn noticed a long thread hanging from the side of Margaret’s dress. Morgan arrived with another tray filled with delicious canapés. When he moved to the next group, the thread caught on his shoe.

Aislyn’s mouth dropped open as Margaret’s dress started to disintegrate before her eyes. She clapped a hand over her mouth to contain her laugh. Morgan strode over to offer the tray to Seamus and the crew and returned inside.

“Margaret,” Aislyn said, a gurgle of amusement escaping her. “Your dress.”

The screech Margaret loosed stopped chatter dead. Everyone gaped as her dress shrunk from tiny to non-existent. She wasn’t wearing much in the way of underwear—just one of those little thong things.

Watson snapped from his stunned stupor. “Morgan, a robe for Margaret.”

Margaret cowered behind her husband, bent over at the waist, to hide her breasts.

“What happened?” Watson slipped his arm around Aislyn’s shoulders.

“I’m not sure.” Had she caused the dress to unravel? She didn’t know. She tried to ignore his hand, caressing her shoulder. Her gaze connected with his, and she shuddered at the lust in his pale blue eyes. Silently she cast a spell to make Watson’s hair stick up on end.

As she watched, every hair on his head stood to attention.

The hand on her shoulder traveled down to hover below the curve of her hip. Biting insects, she decided. No sooner had she thought the spell than Watson leaped from her side, slapping at his bare forearms. She resisted a smirk.

Somehow, her magical powers had returned, which was odd, considering none of the male fairy force members retained their magic. Too bad. She’d go with the flow. Not that she’d mention the return of magic to Seamus. This was just the edge she needed.

Seamus appeared at her side. “Are you ready to leave?”

His warm breath caressed her face. “If you think it’s okay.”

“We’ve stayed a reasonable time considering our newlywed status.”

“Are you going to tell Watson? It must seem as if his party is falling too pieces with all the excitement. Did you see what she was wearing under her dress?”

Seamus squeezed her shoulder. “You can talk. You’re not wearing much under your dress, either. What would your brother say?”

“It’s none of his business,” Aislyn snapped. “And it’s not nice of you to use Duncan as a weapon all the time.”

Seamus turned her to face him. “No one ever accused me of being nice.”

Maybe not nice, but he championed the people unable to care for themselves. It made him an excellent cop.

“Come on. Let’s say our goodbyes and get out of here.” He tucked his arm around her waist and led her in Watson’s direction.

“John, Aislyn has the start of a headache. I’d like to take her for a walk before we head back to our cabin.”

“Oh, dear.” Watson stroked her arm. “That’s too bad.”

Aislyn wrinkled her face up in a pained expression and remained silent.

“I’m hoping the fresh air will help.” Seamus fit her snugly against his side. “We can’t have illness on our honeymoon, can we?”

“No.” The man looked as though he’d swallowed a prune pit.

“Thank you for inviting us tonight,” Seamus said. “No doubt, we’ll see you during the week.”

“I’m sure you will,” Watson replied, studying her as he answered.

Too bad for him, she was a one-man woman. “Good night. Thanks.”

They said goodnight to the other guests and left.

“Where are we going?” Aislyn asked in a whisper.

“For a lover’s stroll along the beach. I want to check out the launch. The crew told me the boat is going out on a fishing trip later tonight.”

“And you wondered what sort of fishing takes place at night.”

“Exactly. Once we’re on the beach, you can take those shoes off and walk barefoot.”

“Did the crew tell you anything else? Margaret and Gerald kept on and on about my job. I told them I worked for Whitcoulls as we’d decided.”

“The crew was close-mouthed, but they told me there are other people aboard. Not all of Watson’s guests attended his party. Strange, don’t you think?”

They left the path and stepped onto the sand. Small waves swished to shore in a relaxing cadence. Over in the trees to the right, a bird warbled a warning.

“A Morepork,” Seamus said. “A native owl. If you want to take your shoes off, use me for balance.”

In the moonlight, touching Seamus seemed more personal. His muscles flexed under her touch, and she inhaled, trying to calm her surging pulse. It wasn’t fair. All it took was one whiff of his aftershave, one quick smile, and her insides turned to mush. Her fingers fumbled with the buckles on her shoes.

“Do you need a hand?”

Wordlessly, she peeked at him. He must have read her silence for assent because he kneeled before her, his nimble fingers undoing the straps with ease.

“Thanks,” she whispered.

He stood, sliding his hands up her forearms. “We’ll leave your shoes here and collect them on the way back.” He paused. “Someone is watching. Can you see them?”

Aislyn summoned her magical abilities, and sure enough, she sensed a person hiding, close to them. “Do you think they heard us talking?”

“No, we’ve kept our voices low, but we should put on a show for them.”

A show? Seconds later, he covered her mouth, his demanding lips exploring hers. Strong arms wrapped around her shoulders, drawing her close, fitting curves to hard muscle.

She sighed and settled in to enjoy the kiss, knowing the intimacy would end soon—the minute Seamus decided they’d convinced the watcher of their cover as newlyweds. Her skin tingled at his touch, and she wanted to clutch him to her, refusing to release him.

As if he read her thoughts, he pulled away, his chest heaving. He pressed his forehead against hers and smoothed his hands over her shoulders, down her sides and behind to cup her bottom.

Aislyn swallowed, savoring his body’s reaction to their kiss. Why did he have to stop when things were just heating up?

“Let’s walk along the beach and see if our watcher follows,” he whispered.

“What if he has a weapon and tries something?” Aislyn was all for heading to their accommodation, where they could kiss and cuddle in comfort. She dug her toes into the coarse sand. Not unpleasant, but if she was going to remove clothes, she’d like comfort, soft sheets, and privacy.

“Good point.”

“Why don’t we return to our room?” She kissed Seamus, using her tongue to flick across the seam of his lips. His mouth opened on a surprised groan, and she took immediate advantage. Going up on tiptoe, she held his head between her hands. She craved a taste of him, and while she’d blindsided him by taking the lead, she dived right in. Aislyn loved the feel of him, his dark hair, the rasp of his cheeks against hers, and the taut muscles flexing under his clothes. He gripped her shoulders and returned her kiss with a groan of surrender.

Long moments later, she broke away, breathing hard. Her heart raced while her breasts ached. She wanted to throw off her clothes, rid her body of the manmade cloth, and replace it with Seamus.

“Hell’s teeth, Aislyn.” Seamus was also short of breath.

He squinted into the darkness to get a fix on their audience. She quivered in his arms, and he frowned. Perhaps she was right about returning to the cabin. She wore scanty clothing, and it was colder down here by the sea.

“You’re right. Let’s go.” He smoothed the wrap across her shoulders, unwittingly skimming one breast. She shuddered again at the dart of pleasure.

“It is a little chilly.” Her voice sounded lower than usual and husky.

 

Damn, he wanted her. Tension throbbed through Seamus while his erection ached. Damn, they were on an assignment together, and nothing must impede the case.

And there was Renee.

“I saw something move in the trees to our right.” Aislyn gave a soft laugh and linked arms with him. “Don’t forget my shoes,” she said, speaking in a normal voice now. “They’re Italian, and I refuse to leave without them.”

They ambled along the beach, back to the path leading to their cabin. The Morepork called again, the mournful call eerie. The knowledge of a watcher, malevolent, and likely wishing them harm urged him to speed. Aislyn was right. They were at a disadvantage out in the darkness. The gun hidden away in the cabin was of little use.

Aislyn shivered again, and he tucked her against his side. “Would you like my jacket?”

She stooped to pick up her shoes, and he took them from her, placing them in his jacket pockets.

“I’ll need them for the gravel path.”

“It’ll be quicker if I carry you.” He scooped her up and strode to the start of the path.

“The boat’s leaving. It sounds as though the anchor is being hoisted.”

“I wish we could see the bay from our cabin. We won’t see the boat return unless we keep watch from down here.”

“Difficult when we have a spy on our heels.” She buried her face against his throat, her curls tickling his skin.

Seamus drew a deep breath, savoring her apricot scent and the slight weight of her in his arms. Reluctantly, he spoke. “We’ll put on a show for our watcher and hope he’s satisfied enough to leave us without surveillance for the rest of the night.”

The plan involved laying his hands on her again, more kissing and intimate touches. His heart leaped at the idea.
His mind fought tooth and nail.

“You going to tell me the plan?”

“Once we arrive back at the cabin, we’ll go upstairs. We’ll turn on the lights and go out on the balcony to make sure our spy thinks we’re doing typical newlywed stuff.” A sense of urgency and panic drove him, making him walk even faster.

The plan was perfect—the logical thing to satisfy their audience; they were what they appeared. But his willpower to keep their touching relatively innocent teetered. Aislyn wasn’t helping matters with her enthusiastic acting skills. His self-control held by a thread.

“Good plan.”

Little witch. She sounded excited by the prospect.

Seamus bounded up the steps of their cabin and set Aislyn on her feet. He followed her upstairs to their bedroom and out onto the balcony.

She strolled to the far end. “A pity we don’t have the same view as John.” A throaty chuckle escaped. “Not that it matters, sweetheart. We’ll be too busy to study the view.”

Her words were for the benefit of their audience, but her sentiments eroded more of his restraint. Thank God, the light was dim out here. Did they still have an audience? He’d spare himself some grief if they’d disappeared.

Aislyn padded back to his side. “They’re still outside. I saw the glow of a cigarette in the trees below our bedroom.”

Seamus sighed.

Showtime.

The lurch of excitement inside made him pause. He rubbed his hands across his face to clear his mind. He could do this. A few kisses. Some light touching. He’d cope.

He stepped back into the bedroom to find Aislyn had turned on the two bedside lamps. They gave the room an intimate glow. Her hair caught the light and glowed, a rich copper that reminded him of a fiery sunset.

She glanced over her shoulder, her gaze teasing, and he read the underlying dare in her bright blue eyes.

Unwillingly, he grinned. Some of her actions made him shudder with horror, yet without fail, she made him smile.

“What are you doing, sweetheart? You’re not much use over there.” One shoulder lifted, and her wrap slid to the ground.

His breath caught. So beautiful. He wanted to stroke her creamy skin and strip that sorry excuse of a dress away. Her grin widened, she crooked her little finger, and just like that, his control snapped. With a giant step, he snatched her into his arms and covered her mouth with a hungry kiss.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 14

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

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

Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m fine. No thanks to you.”

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

“How do you know?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’d lied.

One kiss wasn’t enough.

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

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

“Seamus,” she whispered.

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

Wrong.

“Touch me. Please, Seamus.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alone.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The ache in her chest intensified at the rejection.

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

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

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

 

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

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

“Yo!”

“It’s me,” Seamus said tersely.

“What’s up?”

Aislyn. “Nothing.”

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

“This is nothing to do with Aislyn.”

“Why don’t you sleep with the girl?”

Seamus gritted his teeth. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

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

“Since when? Who’s the lucky lady?”

“The marriage is an arranged one.”

“Fuck. When do I get to meet her?”

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

“What will you do about Aislyn?”

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

“We’re short of manpower as usual.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s frustrating.”

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

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

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

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

“Up here, Seamus.”

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

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

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

Aislyn’s blue eyes shimmered with excitement.

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

“I met John Watson.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I told him yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

“And?”

“He said that didn’t matter.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that a threat?”

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

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

“You did well.” His tone sounded grudging.

Aislyn preened. “I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The tuatara.”

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

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

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

“Afraid so.”

“Did Gill have any information for us?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, you want me for decorative purposes?”

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

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

Come back next Monday to read the following chapter.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 13

The Adventures of Aislyn O'Sullivan

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

Chapter 13

Going out on assignment thrilled her even if it was with Seamus. None of the realities had registered. Until now. Aislyn smiled until her jaw hurt. If Seamus touched her again or called her sweetness in that soppy voice, she’d deck him. She forced another smile for the benefit of the receptionist at the Kowhai Lodge Resort, an elderly maternal type who bore a visible romantic streak. After Seamus’s lectures during the drive here, Aislyn’s nerves jangled as she tried to remember everything. The list of rules was long and varied. And she thought she’d escaped the specter of regulations on leaving the colony. If the situation wasn’t so dangerous, she’d have laughed herself silly.

This time the joke was on her.

“I’m sure we’ll have a lovely time, won’t we sweetness?”

The gleam in Seamus’s eyes told her he knew how close she walked to the edge. Too bad. Two could play at that game.
She sidled closer until her breasts flirted with his arm and stood on tiptoe to brush a warm, moist kiss right below his ear. “I will adore our stay here, honey. And such a surprise,” she gushed, smiling at the receptionist. “Do you know I’d no idea of our honeymoon destination? This man is an angel. I will love marriage.”

“Shall we go to our room, sweetness?”

Aislyn smirked. His words implied togetherness, but sparks of irritation shot from his stormy eyes. The firm grip on her upper arm would leave a bruise. Satisfaction blunted her own irritation.

“Sure, honey. After traveling, I’m feeling grubby.” Ugh, the saccharine endearments were enough to make a female sick. She fluttered her eyelashes at her new husband. “I might take a quick shower then soak in the spa pool.” She allowed a soft girlish giggle to escape, before leaning forward to breathe in his ear, “With no clothes on.”

His body jerked. Aislyn witnessed the color highlighting his cheekbones in fascination. The man was good and rattled, and it felt damn fine standing in the instigator’s shoes.

“Let’s go,” he said.

Impatient man, especially when things weren’t going his way.

“Remember to complete your breakfast order and leave it on the door outside before you retire. We find that newly married couples get hungry.”

Aislyn grinned while the muscles in Seamus’s arm tightened even further. No teasing smile lit the woman’s face. She was deadly serious.

“Thank you,” Aislyn said. “We won’t forget.” She didn’t dare glance at Seamus again because of the steamy images the woman’s words created in her mind. She fanned her face with her free hand. Was it hot in here?

“Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable.”

“Thanks,” Seamus gritted out.

At one with the idea of escape, they trailed the porter waiting to direct them to their suite. Once they’d climbed aboard the motorized golf cart, the porter set off down the narrow sloping track.

The resort sat on a small peninsula overlooking the sea with bungalows tucked away to blend with the trees. According to their chatty driver, the main resort area included two restaurants, a bar with views out to sea, two swimming pools, and several exclusive shops catering to the discerning tourist.

When they arrived at their cabin, Aislyn followed Seamus and the porter, admiring the décor. Polished wooden floors glowed in the sunlight while the sea view was spectacular. Lush green ferns filled the small foyer and water tinkled in an indoor water feature. Native birdsong drifted inside through the open windows.

With privacy guaranteed by the resort, it was no wonder John Watson chose to stay here. The proximity to the offshore islands offered an even bigger incentive since he was right in the back yard of the scavenger hunt competition.

To her right was a small kitchen and breakfast bar. The granite counter held a large bowl of red and green apples, oranges, kiwifruit, and bananas. A crystal vase of white roses filled the vicinity with their delicate scent. On her left, two comfortable chairs flanked a Persian rug. A glass coffee table sat nearby. Very spiffy and not bad for a fake honeymoon.

The porter placed their luggage on the floor. “The bedroom and bathroom are upstairs. Should I show you the features, sir?”

“We’ll be fine.” Seamus handed the porter a ten-dollar note to hurry him on his way.

The man shot a grin in Aislyn’s direction. “Of course, sir.”

It wasn’t difficult to read the young man’s thoughts, and to Aislyn’s annoyance, heat surged to her cheeks. The young man thought they intended to leap into bed to celebrate their nuptials.

She wished.

Maybe she should seduce Seamus? Immediately her nipples pulled hard, the friction against her bra sending messages of lust streaming through her body. The heat in her face intensified.

The instant the front door shut behind the porter, she turned to Seamus. “I think I’ll jump in the shower.” Escape—she needed time to regroup.

“Not so fast,” Seamus snapped.

“Sweetheart, I’m hot and grubby. I need a shower after the long trip here.”

“What do you mean by kissing me?”

She allowed her mouth to fall into a pout. “Do you mean I wasn’t doing it right? I’m new to this acting game. You’d better tell me what I did wrong, so I don’t repeat my mistake.”

“Quit fooling around.”

“But, sweetheart—”

“Have your shower before I put you over my knee. I’ll bring up the bags.”

 

Seamus glared after her when she sauntered up the stairs. Each sensual sway of her hips heated his body, and tension thrummed him, his cock painfully erect. He’d almost lost it when she kissed him at reception. Her scent, the soft press of breasts, almost made him forget why they were here. A mistake he couldn’t afford.

He stepped onto the balcony in the hope the breeze would cool his raging libido.

He had to stop letting Aislyn rile him.

During his quick visit to the colony, he’d signed a betrothal agreement with Renee from the French territory. He was officially off the ranks of single men. Pity his libido hadn’t caught up with the fact.

The wedding he’d provisionally planned for Summer Solstice would become a reality. And he’d become a married man. He gripped the balcony railing with his hands, tension humming through him.

A voice raised in song drifted to him. His stomach lurched, and the blood that had seeped from his cock rushed right back, forcing it into prominence.

Aislyn.

The one and the only reason his body resonated with sexual tension.

He glared in the direction of the singing. Aislyn was his best friend’s baby sister and the one female with whom he couldn’t conduct a simple affair.

The splash of water registered and an X-rated image of sleek feminine curves, water-beaded skin…not a scrap of clothing in sight rushed to mind.

“Seamus?”

He was not walking up those stairs.

“What?”

“You said you’d bring up my suitcase.”

Damn. “All right.” Seamus stalked inside and grabbed his bag and Aislyn’s battered suitcase. When he lifted her suitcase, the strap holding it shut broke, and the case burst open, spewing clothing across the wooden floor.

He swore, scowling as delicate pieces of lingerie fluttered to the ground. Some items weren’t much bigger than the scraps of cloth Aislyn used to tie her hair off her face. He cast a guilty gaze toward the bedroom and quickly grabbed the non-lingerie items.

“Seamus, how much longer are you going to be? Should I come and get my case? I think there’s a robe…”

Hell, that’s all he needed—Aislyn to catch him pawing through her silk and lace underwear. He snatched up a lacy confection in blue and thrust the silky apparel into the case. Now he’d start wondering what she wore beneath her jeans and T-shirts.

“What are you doing?” The feminine screech of horror made his ears ring.

Caught—holding the evidence. Seamus glared at the scrap of silk in his hand and thrust it out of sight under a wooly jacket.

“The strap holding your bag shut broke.”

She clattered down the stairs, the robe she wore billowing around her legs. From his crouched position, Seamus caught a flash of slender legs and tanned thighs. He reminded himself of the betrothal, but the vision played over and over through his mind’s eye. He kept picking up the scattered clothing. Man, this day kept getting worse.

Seamus smelled apricots and knew Aislyn stood a few feet from him. The delicate scent of freshly bathed female battered his senses, creating havoc with his good intentions.

“You’re creasing my clothes.”

He wanted to do way more.

“I was going to soak in the spa, but maybe we should explore the resort first. What do you think?”

What did he think? He was in charge here and made the decisions.

Seamus sucked in a fortifying breath and puffed it out quick before Aislyn’s scent snapped his fragile control. He raised his brows and risked a direct look. “You’re not going dressed like that?”

“No, I need my case.”

Seamus thrust the case at her and retreated two steps. “I’ll wait outside.”

Two seconds later, he dragged in great breaths of Aislyn-free air. He glanced at his watch. They’d been here what? Forty minutes. And already, he felt like a coiled spring.

How was he going to cope with a week of up-close-and-personal with Aislyn?

Gill had volunteered for the assignment, but that wasn’t gonna happen. Seamus knew of his friend’s reputation firsthand and no way was he letting him loose with Aislyn. Gill had agreed to let Seamus pose as Aislyn’s husband and had worn a smirk ever since.

The clunk of the cabin door opening made him freeze. The click of heels jerked him free of the spell. Do something. Anything. Don’t let Aislyn rile you.

He turned and almost knocked her off her feet.

“I’m ready, sweetheart,” she cooed.

Seamus’s hands whipped out to catch her. He did a double-take at her clothes. She wore the shortest mini-skirt he’d ever seen, teamed with a skintight lacy top and heels that made her legs seem endless.

“Are you ready?” she demanded. “I want to explore and take a walk on the beach.”

His gaze caressed her legs. “You expect to walk along the beach in those shoes?”

She lowered one eye in a saucy wink. “You’re nice and strong.” She inched closer and, right about the time her scent hit him, she reached out to trail one hand down his chest.

Her touch jolted him clear to his toes. His gaze flicked from left to right, checking the vicinity. “We’re alone,” he said, jerking out of her reach. “You don’t have to keep the pretense every single minute.”

“I read a book about method acting last week.” Her smile held more than a smidgeon of craftiness. “The process sounded interesting.”

Anger warred with plain lust. Seamus barely trusted himself to speak. He hurried through the front door and along the gravel path, intent on putting space and fresh air between them.

“Let’s go,” he growled over his shoulder. He jerked his gaze off Aislyn and directed his eyes front. Hell, if Gill saw him now, he’d bust a gut laughing.

The thought of Gill reminded him of work. Aislyn was right. They needed to reconnoiter. Unwillingly, he slowed his pace for her to catch up. Maybe if he concentrated on the job, he’d make it through the week.

“We’ll wander around the main resort area. If we’re lucky, we’ll see either Watson or his bodyguard.”

“And work out which cabin they’re in.”

“Cross your fingers, we get lucky.” Seamus paused, stricken by the unfortunate choice of words. His mind clicked into top gear. A big bed. Silky sheets and Aislyn. A long night of lazy loving followed by an equally slow wake-up call. He cursed under his breath. “What was I saying?”

“We need to locate Watson,” Aislyn inserted smoothly.

If it weren’t for the wicked gleam in her blue eyes, he’d think she had no idea of the effect she was having on him. The twinkle gave her away.

Seamus stopped dead in the middle of the path. Aislyn halted too. From where they stood, the central part of the resort remained hidden. Waves crashed to shore in the distance, and closer, an insect clicked in an insistent beat. The sounds should have soothed him.

They didn’t. They reminded Seamus he and Aislyn were consenting adults. They were alone together in a luxurious resort, ensconced in the honeymoon suite.

“I’ve worked out your game.”

“What game?” she murmured in a throaty voice, one that sent his hormones hopping.

“Your flirting—the sexy lingerie and come-hither looks. You and Gill have a bet.”

“I’d never play a trick like that.” A shocked expression settled on her face while her eyes twinkled.
Years of dealing with criminals made Seamus an expert on body language, except when it came to her. He frowned, and his confidence wavered. “I don’t have time for this.”

“Good. I want to see the rest of the resort.” She captured his hand and twined their fingers together.

Seamus started in shock but left his hand in hers. It couldn’t hurt. “Are you hungry?”

“Not really, but I wouldn’t mind a drink.”

They wandered along the path to the main resort. Seamus steered her to the bar by the swimming pool.

“You sit there while I get the drinks.” He leaned closer and whispered, “Tell me if you see either of our men.”

“I’ll have a glass of white wine.”

 

Aislyn thought he’d protest. Instead, he nodded and strode to the bar. She whipped a pair of dark sunglasses from her pocket and pushed them on her nose. Neither Watson nor his bodyguard was present, but the resort covered a large area. They’d find him eventually, and when they did, she’d be in the thick of the action.

After a quick scan of the vicinity and the people near the pool, she turned her attention to Seamus. Her husband. Probably as close as she’d ever come to marriage with him.

At the bar, Seamus grinned at the barmaid pouring his drinks, an easy grin that made Aislyn wish she were the recipient. With his dark hair, gorgeous gray eyes, and his muscular body, he attracted attention.

She’d never seen him with a woman human side. Gill conducted a parade of women through his bedroom, but she knew nothing of Seamus’s love life. She’d suspected he and Christel were close, but his recent visits to the colony were of short duration. They couldn’t see much of each other.

He picked up the drinks and, after smiling at the barmaid again, headed to Aislyn. When he wasn’t snapping and snarling, he was a fun companion. Maybe she should stop baiting him.

“One glass of white wine.” He placed the glass on the small table and dropped into the seat opposite.

“Thanks.” She traced a finger around the rim of the glass and leaned toward him. “Our men aren’t around the pool.”

“Early days yet. The resort organizes trips out to the old goldmines, and they do bush walks. There’s no law against them playing tourist.”

Aislyn snorted. “Hardly likely, though.”

“Gill and I arrested a man for murder last year who attended a church meeting every Friday night, right before he met with his latest cyber date and raped them. Takes all sorts.”

Conceding the point, she took a sip of wine. Tart and crisp with a faint hint of peaches, the cool liquid slid down her throat. Much better than the wine at the pub. She closed her eyes to concentrate on her next sip. A croak made her eyes fly open, and she caught Seamus gazing at her with an intensity that sent her stomach swirling.

“How are the cat remedy tests coming along?”

That was the reason for the attentiveness? “I received a new shipment three days ago.”

Seamus grinned suddenly, and her heart did a distinct flip-flop.

“Have any of the products worked yet?”

“I’ve tested two from this batch. The first one made Joe and I sneeze. The second one was a siren. It made every dog in the vicinity howl for an hour solid. We left them to it and went for a walk at Mission Bay.”

Seamus regarded her with a lazy smile. “You walk your cat?”

“He hates being left in the flat on his own. If I don’t take him with me, he just turns up. I’ve no idea how he finds me, but it’s easier if I don’t leave him alone.”

“You didn’t bring him to the resort.”

“I left him with Gary. He adores Gary.” Aislyn chewed on her lip. “Even the way I found him was strange. You don’t think he’s magical?”

Seamus almost spat out a mouthful of beer. “Imagine the mass panic, if the colony inhabitants thought they were in danger from a new strain of magical cats.”

“Seamus, on your right at two o’clock. That’s John Watson’s assistant.”

He leaned over and brushed a casual kiss on her lips. “The big guy?”

“Yeah.” She couldn’t take her gaze off his mouth. She wanted him to kiss her again.

As if he read her mind, his lips brushed hers. “Which direction is he heading? I can’t see, and I don’t want him to notice me staring.”

She forced herself to concentrate. “He’s heading to the reception desk.”

“Stay here and finish your drink. I’ll inquire about the bushwalking tours.”

He left before she could protest. Irritated with him for leaving her out of the investigation, she sipped her wine and stewed. No doubt, he’d leave her out as often as he could.

Seamus returned a few minutes later. “They’re staying in the two cabins nearest the beach. We’ll wander to the beach now, and, with luck, he’ll pass us on the track when he returns to his cabin.”

“Sneaky.” She wobbled when she rose to her feet.

Seamus glanced at her empty glass. “Did you eat before we left?”

“I didn’t have time. You told me not to be late.”

“Never mind. Damn, he’s finished in reception.” Seamus propelled her into a brisk walk. “Hurry, or we’ll lose him.”

“You go after him, and I’ll go back to the cabin. How about if I grab your swim gear and meet you at the beach?” Suddenly the high hopes she’d entertained of becoming closer to Seamus seemed pointless. He wasn’t interested.

“Grab a towel for me. My swim shorts are on top of my bag.”

“I’ll find them.” Aislyn watched Seamus hurry after the bodyguard and sighed. All work and no play.

Back in the cabin, she hunted for the bikini she’d purchased while on a shopping jaunt with Gary. The man was knowledgeable when it came to fashion. She changed clothes, mindful of Seamus waiting. She pulled a dress over the top and dug a pair of sandals out of her case.

Seamus’s bag sat in the middle of the spacious living room. She jerked the zipper open and grabbed his swim shorts. About to leave, the edge of a photo caught her curiosity. She hesitated, torn. Taking a deep breath, she gently pushed the photograph clear of the zipper and shut his bag.

She grabbed two of the large beach towels provided by the resort and hurried down the stairs. Halfway down, she stopped. She needed to look at the photo.

Glancing at her watch, she tried to decide how long ago she’d left him. Ten minutes? Fifteen? She wasn’t sure. Without giving herself time to rethink, she retraced her footsteps and opened his bag to pull out the photo.

A woman.

She grimaced. Of course. A brunette, her hair reached halfway down her back. It was difficult to tell, but she seemed tall. There was no doubt about her curves.

On the back, someone had scrawled Renee.

A sharp pain jerked her back to the present. She shoved the photo away, wishing she’d never succumbed to her curiosity.

Seamus had a girlfriend.

She picked up the towels again and trudged the stairs, locking the door after her. Nothing like reality to bring you back to earth with a thump.

After three minutes of fast walking, the trees gave way to a clearing, and the path ended. She smelled the salty tang of the sea before she saw it. Huge gnarled trees clung to the bank, and cliffs ran along the beach to her left.

She bent to remove her shoes, eager to experience the sand beneath her feet. At the far end of the beach, Seamus waved at her. After finding the photo, she needed every ounce of her acting ability. She walked to the water’s edge and paddled in Seamus’s direction, careful to keep the towels from trailing in the water.

Someone had moored a small motorboat out to her right. The people on board held fishing poles and occasionally raised their lines to check the bait. Farther out the offshore islands were smudges on the horizon.

She glanced the other way, wondering about the location of the other cabins. She mentally kicked herself for the lack of attention.

“You took a long time,” Seamus said when she approached him.

“I couldn’t find my bikini top.” She handed him a towel and his swim shorts.

He shrugged off his shirt, and his hands dropped to the button on his trousers. “If you want to spare your blushes, look away.”

Aislyn turned to scan the horizon. She tried to concentrate on the scenery and her assignment, but the rustle of Seamus’s clothes distracted her. His zipper whined when he yanked it down. The soft denim of his jeans made a whooshing sound.

Abruptly, she squatted to spread her towel on the sand. She tugged the buttons of her dress and let it slide down her body. She’d heard cold showers worked. Perhaps a swim in the sea would do the job too.

Return next Monday for the following chapter