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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

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 12

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.

Chapter 12

Aislyn escorted Gina to her friend’s house and spent half an hour afterward lurking in the shadows to watch for suspicious activity. Nothing more substantial than a bird disturbed the peace, so she slinked through the dim-lit streets, taking lots of false turns before heading for the bus stop. When the bus arrived in Queen Street, Aislyn alighted, ducked up Vulcan Lane, and turned along High Street, intending to check out the Metropolis hotel.

During the ride back into the central city, she’d decided she needed to glimpse this man, John Watson, to get a sense of him.

At the hotel, she sauntered through the double doors into the vast marble foyer. A bank of elevators filled the wall on her right while an officious man stared at her from behind the reception desk. She hesitated, unsure of what to do next.

A hand settled on her shoulder. “I knew I’d find you here.”

Aislyn spun, ready to defend herself. A male with familiar braided hair halted her arm midair.

“Gary!” She shot a glance at the nosy receptionist and dragged Gary by the arm until they reached a seating set aside for guests. After dropping onto a plush black two-seater, she said, “What are you doing here?”

“Do you think you’re the only one who wants to join the fairy force? Oh, for goodness sake! Pick up your jaw before it strikes the floor.”

“You too?” Stunned disbelief infused her voice.

“Don’t act so surprised. Lots of us have ambition.”

After working with Gary for a week, she’d learned of his intelligence and efficiency. Seamus relied on him. Although on the scrawny side and flamboyant, if he toned the clothes down, he’d fit in with the other recruits.

“Why weren’t you accepted?”

Gary planted his hands on his hips and did a shimmy. “Why do you think?”

Aislyn pretended to ponder as she surveyed his slender body struck in a pose. “Let me see…the board members aren’t progressive, they hate change and love their rules.”

“Yeah, well.” Gary shrugged, but she spotted the vulnerability under the attitude, and it changed everything.

“All right,” she said. “We’re in this together.”

“Seamus will kill us.”

“If we stick together, we’ll be okay. It’s harder to dispose of two bodies.”

“True,” Gary drawled. “Droll but true.”

They shared a grin before lapsing into silence. Aislyn peeked around the sizeable potted fern, screening them from the foyer. The receptionist couldn’t see them, but the porters standing outside could. One of them winked at Aislyn through the wall of plate glass. The admiration on his tanned face brought heat to her cheeks.

“We’re attracting attention. My hair is a bright beacon, and you’re not exactly unforgettable. We’re not doing this scientifically.”

Gary struck a pose. “Unforgettable, that’s what I am.”

Aislyn bit her lip to halt her grin. “Quit fooling around. We need disguises, and we need them fast.”

“I have stuff we can use at my flat, except if we leave, we might miss something important.”

“We’ll have to risk it. What time do people check out of hotels here? Is it like the colonies? Check out is usually mid-morning?”

“Good point, except if the man is a crook, he won’t play by the rules.” Gary’s beads chattered with the motion of his shoulders. “How do we know he’s gonna check out at all?”

“Rats. We don’t. I’m making assumptions, aren’t I?”

“Yep—rule number two hundred and thirty-five. Never assume.”

“There’s no such rule,” Aislyn said. “Gary, we need a plan. We should go to your flat, work out our disguises. Then, we should come back early in the morning and watch for the man to leave. He has to leave sometime, right? When he does, we’ll follow him. If he’s taking part in the scavenger hunt, he’ll need to organize a hit on Little Barrier Island or one of the other islands that have kakapo.”

Gary fiddled with one beaded plait. “Have you seen the list of things the competitors must collect for the scavenger hunt?”

“Not the full list. I’ve heard Seamus and Gill discussing kakapo and tuatara.”

“Well, I’ve read the list and the rules. The competitors have two months to collect fifteen items. Each team comprises three people plus the person who puts up the money. Each person in the team collects certain items, and those people must check the items in with the judging panel in person. If the judges think the team has extra help, they’re disqualified.”

“We need to leave,” Aislyn said. “The porters keep giving us the side-eye.”

As they stood to leave, she noted a new arrival in the foyer. Strong and wiry, although not as tall as Seamus, the man glided across the marble foyer and disappeared into a waiting elevator. Not their man. He wasn’t old enough and didn’t have a scar.

She grasped Gary’s arm. “Let’s go. We don’t want them to call security.”

Half an hour later, they arrived at Gary’s home in Greenlane. When the cab pulled up in the drive, Aislyn noted the old wooden bungalow blazed with lights.

“Is your flatmate afraid of the dark?”

“Not that I’ve noticed.” Gary sprinted up the narrow concrete path, his boots pounding on the wooden verandah. He flew through the open front floor. “Jacob? Are you there? What’s wrong?”

“I’m in the spare bedroom.” His voice held both frustration and irritation.

Jacob was tall with short, brown hair. He wore jeans and a striped cotton shirt. As he swaggered along the passage toward them, Aislyn noted the soft blue halo shining around his head. Another fairy.

“About time you arrived home. Your mother keeps ringing, wanting to speak to you. If you don’t contact her soon, there’s no telling what she’ll do. She threatened to petition the board and mentioned tying herself to the council building.”

“I spoke to her this morning,” Gary said in exasperation. “Let her bother the board. I’ll make a pot of coffee. We need caffeine to help us think. Aislyn, this is my cousin, Jacob. Jacob, why are all the lights blazing? The house resembles the rear end of a firefly.”

Jacob ignored his cousin and stretched out his hand in greeting. “Hi, Aislyn. Have we met before? You look familiar.”

“Aislyn O’Sullivan,” Gary said over his shoulder as he filled the coffee pot with fresh water.

“Oh! That Aislyn.” Jacob grabbed her in an exuberant bear hug and danced her down the hallway into the bright kitchen. “You deserve a medal for battling the board.”

“You’re a lone voice.” Aislyn liked this male. Why weren’t there more liberated men like Jacob and Gary? They didn’t treat her like a helpless, cat-attracting female.

Gary jabbed the start button on the coffee machine. The water gurgled and dripped through the filter. “You haven’t told us why the lights are on.”

Jacob released Aislyn and pulled out a red wooden chair, indicating with a sweep of his hand for her to sit at the table. They exchanged a grin.

Circling the table, he sat opposite. “It was the strangest thing. Someone knocked on the front door. When I answered the summons, I found a half-grown cat sitting in the middle of the doormat. It ran inside before I had time to shut the door. I’ve been looking for it ever since.” His blue eyes widened in sudden alarm. “I say, you’re not going to shrink any time soon, are you?”

“I’m on the pill,” Aislyn said. “This cat—did it have lots of toes and white whiskers on the right side? Was it black?”

“I didn’t get a good look. It was black and on the skinny side.”

“That sounds like my cat. I have a cat called Joe.” Nothing her cat did surprised her.

A grin spread across Jacob’s face, so dazzling it made Aislyn blink.

“Jacob, snap out of it,” Gary said. “Aislyn isn’t looking for a husband. We need help with a disguise. We’ll look for the cat later.”

“Why do you want disguises?”

“The recruits at the hostel keep playing tricks on Aislyn. We intend to pay them back.”

Aislyn blinked at the outright lie. While she couldn’t lie to save herself, Gary possessed the gene.

“What did you have in mind?” Jacob asked.

“We both look distinctive—Aislyn with her red hair and me with my braids and beads. Wigs and makeup would fool the latest batch of recruits. They give Aislyn such a hard time.”

Gary sounded so put out even Aislyn believed his story.

“I can lend you a few wigs and props.”

“Can we do it now?” Aislyn asked.

“After Gary rings his mother. The last thing we need is Aunt Sylvie with her knickers in a twist.”

“Huh,” Gary said. “You’re lucky your parents don’t harass you.”

Pain sliced through Aislyn at the mention of parents. Although her mother contacted her, her father refused to have anything to do with her.

“There’s that damn cat,” Jacob said.

Aislyn leaped to her feet. Jacob did, too, advancing on the cat. Joe didn’t budge from his position in the middle of the doorway. He ignored Jacob to groom his face.

“That’s Joe,” Aislyn said. “He has extra claws. I’ve no idea how he arrived here. I left him in my room at the hostel.”

“Your hostel is in central Auckland.”

“Yes.”

They both stared at Joe as he finished his grooming and ambled toward Aislyn.

“Aren’t you frightened?” Jacob asked. “Can’t you read its mind? Those orange eyes are imagining T-bone steak a la Aislyn.”

Aislyn shrugged. “I’m safe enough as long as I take my pill. Seamus assigned Gary to remind me every day. Seamus asks me every time I see him. I carry spare pills—enough for three days. I’m covered.”

The cat sidled past Jacob and slipped under the hem of the bright floral tablecloth to rub against Aislyn’s legs. Unable to resist, she bent over to stroke the animal’s smooth black fur. A rumbling purr like the putter of a small engine emerged from the cat. A grin surfaced. “This is one clever cat, but I’m not in any danger.”

* * * * *

“Are you clear on the plan?”

“Yes.” Aislyn studied the pedestrians strolling along the footpath outside the Metropolis Hotel. All her bravado had seeped into the car upholstery, not that she intended to admit her trepidation to Gary. Irritably, she brushed a blonde curl off her forehead. She resisted the impulse to fiddle with her wig. “You’re as bad as Seamus. We’ve been over our plan so many times, I could recite it in my sleep.”

“Get on with it then.” Gary drummed his hands on the steering wheel of the van. He shuffled on the driver’s seat, sending anxious gazes at the hotel and her. “This skullduggery is making me nervous. My heart can’t take much more stress. Here, take the package. Let’s get this done.”

With a cheeky wink, Aislyn let herself out of the van and sashayed toward the hotel. Gary’s nerves had given her a new surge of courage. They could do this—she was sure of it. She smiled at the doorman who held the glass door open for her and marched across the marble foyer carrying the package under her arm. The weight of a stare told her the doorman had continued watching her. Maybe it was true—that blondes had more fun. She fluttered her long and false eyelashes at the receptionist and stuck out her chest, showcased in a tight, black T-shirt. Emblazoned across the front were the words Kiwi Couriers.

“Hello,” Aislyn chirped.

The receptionist was an older woman. Aislyn realized she was in for a hard sell the instant the woman glared over the top of her gold-rimmed glasses. Aislyn chewed vigorously on her wad of gum, maintaining her friendly smile.

“Yes?” Even though the woman remained sitting, she peered down her nose.

“Package for John Watson.”

“Leave the package with me. I’ll see he receives it,” the woman said, reaching for the package and dismissing her in one smooth move.

Aislyn stepped away from the counter out of the woman’s reach. “Sorry, I need a signature. Company policy.”

“I’ll sign for the package,” The woman grabbed a pen.

“Sorry,” Aislyn chirped. “I need Mr. Watson’s signature. Company policy.”

She could literally hear the woman’s teeth grind together, and she bit back a smile of triumph.

“Take the elevator to the twenty-sixth floor. Mr. Watson is in the Rata suite.” The switchboard rang, and she answered it with a professional smile in her voice, her conversation with Aislyn finished.

With the first hurdle over, Aislyn trotted over to the bank of elevators. From the corner of her eye, she saw Gary loitering outside, somber in a pair of black jeans, a black T-shirt, and his colorful braids tucked under a nondescript brown wig.

A bell indicated the arrival of the elevator, and Aislyn stepped inside. The doors whooshed shut. In the elevator where no one could see, her confidence wavered. She sucked in a fortifying breath. Okay, so she had a few nerves dancing inside her tummy. No problem. Nerves were good. The elevator sailed up to the twenty-sixth floor far too fast. Hesitation made her dawdle until she realized she was acting silly. Seamus wouldn’t hesitate. Tightening her hold on the package, she strode to the door of the Rata suite. One brisk knock and it was too late to turn back.

The door flew open, and the tallest man she’d ever seen stood in front of her.

“Yes?”

“I have a package for Mr. Watson.” Aislyn fought to keep her voice confident, but to her discerning ear, she spoke with a distinct wobble.

“I’ll take it.”

“No! I mean, Mr. Watson needs to sign for the package.” With a racing heart, she waited for the man’s response. What happened if he refused?

“He’s having breakfast. Give me the package, and I’ll get him to sign for it. Where does he need to sign?”

“Ah…no!” Panic made Aislyn splutter. “I can’t let you do that. I…ah…have to see Mr. Watson sign for the package.” She forced herself to meet his gaze while she continued to pray.

“Very well,” he said. “You’ll have to wait.” He pointed to an upright chair sitting in the corner. “I’ll inform you when Mr. Watson is free.”

Aislyn was sure a courier wouldn’t stand for a delay—not when their livelihood depended on delivering packages as quickly as possible. “How long? I have other packages to deliver. Should I come back later? Or I could deliver the package tomorrow. The package is from England.” Holding her breath, she waited for his reaction. Would the man call her bluff, or would he want the package delivered to his employee?

“Mr. Watson won’t take long,” he said. “Please take a seat. I can get you a cup of coffee while you wait.”

Aislyn chewed on her gum, hovering indecisively from one foot to the other. “I don’t know.” She glanced at her watch and frowned. “I have a schedule to keep. Five minutes. That’s all, then I’m outta here.”

“I’ll check with Mr. Watson.”

She crumpled into a heap on the chair. Unable to keep still, she bounded to her feet and peered out the large window. The view of the harbor and the bridge was incredible but didn’t hold her interest. When she spun away from the window, a pile of suitcases caught her attention. It looked as if Mr. Watson and party were leaving the hotel. Aislyn sidled toward the luggage. Her heart thudded faster than usual. How long would the bodyguard take? Did she have time to inspect the bags? Terror welled inside as she bent to read the luggage label.

John Watson.

Bother. Aislyn knew the bags belonged to John Watson. Aislyn peered at the next label half expecting to hear the bodyguard’s firm footsteps at any second.

The door burst open, and Aislyn sprang away from the suitcases. Did she look guilty? Under the blonde wig, her ears burned. She certainly felt awkward.

“Mr. Watson will see you now,” the man informed her.

Aislyn tucked the package under her arm and stepped toward the big man. Her knees shook as she followed him.
A middle-aged man sat alone at a round table, a china coffee cup to his left, and a cooked breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs sitting in front of him. Instantly, Aislyn’s stomach growled, reminding her she’d skipped breakfast. As she neared the table, the man set down his knife and fork and wiped his mouth with a linen napkin. The scar on his face told her this was the right man.

Forcing a smile, she stepped forward, her hands extended with the package.

“Good morning, Mr. Watson. I’m sorry to disturb your breakfast. I need your signature. Company policy, I’m afraid.” To her horror, she noticed the faint tremor of her hands when she handed over the package along with a pen. Would he notice? Every bit of spit dried inside her mouth, while she waited for the man’s reaction.

He scrawled his signature on the courier sticker Gary had designed.

“Thank you, Mr. Watson.” She replaced the pen in her pocket and forced a smile even though frustration beat at her. What now? She’d learned zilch. Dispirited, she turned and walked to the door where the bodyguard waited. She glanced back over her shoulder and noticed Mr. Watson watching. The intent pale eyes stared holes through her. Aislyn fought to conceal a shudder. Good job she wore a disguise. The way he hadn’t uttered a word the entire time she’d waited for him to sign the parcel was weird, but his rapt gawp put the seal on it. Truly strange. It was a relief once the connecting door closed behind her. Now all she had to do was vanish before he opened the parcel.

Even though she needed to hurry, each step they took toward the front door caused Aislyn’s spirits to plummet. Do something, her brain screamed. Don’t let this chance waste.

“Are you spending long in Auckland? Or are you holidaying in another part of the country? I noticed the accent. British, isn’t it?” Thank you, Gina! Aislyn wouldn’t have known an accent if it hit her on the head. Another of the many things she scrambled to learn, so she didn’t stand out as a newcomer.

Frustration at the man’s slow, careful consideration of her question made her want to shake him despite the considerable difference in size. The silence stretched until she feared he didn’t intend to answer.

“We’re here for two more days before we head to Coromandel.”

Aislyn’s palms moistened. She wanted to wipe them on her trousers. Instead, she smiled. “I haven’t visited the Coromandel, although I’ve heard it’s beautiful. Where are you staying?” The pause, while she waited for the bodyguard to speak, was long and nerve-racking. Part of her waited for Mr. Watson’s inevitable roar when he opened the parcel and found the Suzanne Brockmann book inside wasn’t the one on the scavenger hunt list.

“At the Kowhai Lodge Resort.”

Aislyn beamed at the man. He blinked as he opened the suite door for her. Oops—too many megawatts. Dimming the smile, she said, “I’m sure you’ll have a great visit. Crap, is that the time? I’d better hurry, or my boss will sack me. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit to New Zealand.” After adding a breezy wave to her smile, she strode to the elevator. The edgy sensation between her shoulder blades told her the bodyguard loitered to watch her departure.

The elevator doors edged together slowly as if an invisible force held them back. Through the gap, her gaze stayed on the bodyguard. She froze then recalled her very first ride in an elevator. Seamus. The kiss. A flash of heat joined the nerves inside her stomach.

The doors shut.

Aislyn sagged against the back wall, her eyes fixed on the indicator lights. Without warning, the elevator stopped. The doors slid open. She gasped.

Two men dressed in business suits stepped inside, and one reached toward her. She flinched, but the man pressed the button for the second floor, and the elevator continued its descent. On the second floor, the two men left. Alone again, she sent the elevator to the ground floor. When she couldn’t see Gary, she hurried for the exit. The memory of Mr. Watson’s pale eyes sent fear slithering through her body.

To her relief, Aislyn spotted Gary parked several spaces from where she’d left him. He was arguing with a short, dumpy woman in a uniform.

“Where am I meant to park?” Aislyn heard Gary demand. “I’m a courier. We deliver packages.”

The woman planted her hands on broad hips. “You’ve parked here for thirty-five minutes. The sign says ten-minute parking only.”

Aislyn hurried up to the van. “Can I help?”

“Yes,” the woman snapped. She thrust a piece of paper at Aislyn and stomped off.

Aislyn glanced at the paper. “What’s this?”

“A parking ticket,” Gary said. “I’m dying of stress out here, and you calmly waltz out after thirty-five minutes.” Gary glared at her. “Next time you get the waiting job, and you’ll pay half the cost of this bloody ticket.”

“We should leave in case they open the package and want to ask questions.”

“Get in.”

“Did you get hold of Gina?” She climbed into the passenger side, put on her seat belt, and waited for Gary to answer. He pulled away from the curb, merging with the traffic on Victoria Street. She’d enjoy learning how to drive one of these machines.

“There’s no answer on either her cell phone or at her friend’s flat.”

Aislyn frowned. “I’ll drop around after work.”

“Did you find out how long they’re staying in Auckland?”

“Yep, they’re staying for another two days before they move to Kowhai Lodge Resort in the Coromandel.”

“Really?” Gary took his eyes off the road to stare at Aislyn. “How do you know? Are you sure?”

“The bodyguard told me,” Aislyn said with a nonchalant shrug. No way did she intend to confess how fear and panic had paralyzed her.

“Brilliant, Aislyn. If we catch a cab to work after we drop off Jacob’s van, we won’t be late. Since Seamus is away, we should let the big boss know.”

“Okay.” Aislyn shared a grin with him. This investigative business was easy. She’d no idea why Seamus insisted it was too dangerous for a female fairy to undertake.

* * * * *

“Seamus is back,” Gary said when Aislyn hurried past his desk to her small adjoining office.

She careered to a halt. “Have you seen him? Was he angry?” A stupid question. What she wanted to know was his depth of anger.

“He seemed more tired than anything. Seamus and Gill are with the boss right now.”

Aislyn rolled her eyes. “Why do I have a sense of impending doom?”

“We did good, Aislyn. The boss said we’d used our initiative.”

“Yeah, after he shouted,” Aislyn pointed out.

“Aislyn! My office. Now.”

At the whip-crack of Seamus’s roar, Aislyn jumped. She was chagrined to realize her feet actually left the ground. She glanced over her shoulder, took one look at his face, and wanted to hide.

“I’ll deal with you next.” The words wiped the grin from Gary’s face.

Aislyn sent silent commiseration in Gary’s direction. At least they’d had fun investigating, even if it meant the end of their budding careers.

A hand gripped her upper arm and propelled her forward at a fast rate of clicks. Seamus shoved the door open, and it flew back against the wall with a sullen thud. Once they were inside his office, he grabbed the door and slammed it. Finally, he turned and nailed her with a glare.

Aislyn braced for worse to come.

“Of all the foolish, hare-brained schemes. I leave you alone for one week. One week, and you’re knee-deep in trouble. And if that isn’t bad enough, you drag Gary with you.”

She drew a sharp breath. Gary had demanded participation. She hadn’t dragged him anywhere. “Gary and I did a good job.”

 

The female didn’t have a single scrap of common sense rattling round in her brain. Reckless fool. Gary and I did a good job. Hell’s teeth! They were lucky they’d escaped Watson’s clutches alive. The man’s rep preceded him from England. Just considering the consequences made Seamus break out in a sweat.

“You’re sore because the boss let us help,” Aislyn said.

Seamus gnashed his teeth together, while his hands clenched to tight fists. “Do you know what my boss has suggested?”

“No, but I’m sure I can manage.”

Seamus prowled across the space separating them. He stopped inches from her, close enough to smell the apricots in her hair. The familiar scent riled him, stirring the embers of anger to new heights. “Even if your task is to pretend to be my wife? Even if you have to share the honeymoon suite with me at the Kowhai Lodge Resort?”

Come back next Monday to read the following chapter.

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The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 11

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.

Chapter 11

A pile of papers plopped onto the top of Aislyn’s overflowing in-basket. She grimaced. “More?”

Gary’s grin held sympathy. “Afraid so.”

A heartfelt sigh escaped. The flood of papers pumped out by the police department seemed never-ending. And for some insane reason, Aislyn needed to study each one and attach a rubber stamp before burying the pages inside filing cabinets. She jerked her gaze from the offending papers. “Please remind me why I wanted to join the fairy force.”

“You wanted adventure.”

“Exactly.” Frowning at her right hand, she leaned back in her chair until it squeaked a protest. “Not a mass of paper cuts.”

A distinct rustle had a frown sprinting across Gary’s face. “Ah, girlfriend, whatever do you have in that bag?”

“My lunch. Why?” Aislyn bolted upright.

Gary shook his head, and the beads he’d had woven into the long extensions the day before clacked together in a musical tinkle. “Because whatever you brought for lunch today is still on the hoof. Probably objects to being the dish-of-the-day.”

Aislyn followed Gary’s gaze and gasped when her bag inched across the linoleum floor.

“What do you need such a big bag for, anyway? Do you have money to burn?”

“I wish. Things are expensive human side.”

“I hear you,” Gary said. “But that doesn’t answer my question.” He stepped behind Aislyn when her bag shot another three inches across the floor. “Why is your lunch moving?”

“Coward. You’re bigger than me, and you’re frightened of a bag.”

“Ain’t my bag moving,” Gary pointed out.

“True.” Aislyn stood and stole stealthily toward her bag. Just as she reached for it and her hand touched the bright red elephant appliqué on the side, the bag wriggled. The contents rattled.

Gary jumped back a foot. “Shoot it,” he ordered. “Where’s your gun? Shoot it.”

Aislyn rolled her eyes. “Good idea, Gary. My gun is inside the bag.”

His beads clacked in agitation. “Your gun? With your lunch?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, man. I think we’re in trouble.”

Aislyn snorted at his theatrics. “Come here and help me.”

Ah-ha. Not me.” Gary folded his arms across his skinny chest. “I’m staying right here behind the desk.”

“Coward.”

“Better a live coward than a dead hero.”

Amid their argument, the bag emitted a soft sigh.

“Whoa! Did you hear that?” Gary’s eyes bulged. “Your bag is haunted.”

“More likely, a recruit has somehow put a spell on it.” Aislyn seized her bag and shook it. The closing flap flew open, and a small furry beast leaped out.

“A cat,” Gary said with a squeak.

The half-grown creature sprang on top of Aislyn’s in-basket and balanced precariously on the pile of papers. The black cat glared at them with huge orange eyes.

“I thought I heard a noise before,” Aislyn said.

Gary approached the desk, eyeing the cat with misgiving. “I thought you were meant to test the anti-cat remedies, not attract the wee beasties.”

As they glared at each other, the cat slid off the mountain of papers. Clawed feet scrambled for traction, and papers flew into the air, scattering in all directions.

“This is the cat I saw in the alley last week. I’ve no idea how it got inside my bag.”

“You’d better get rid of the beast before the boss arrives.” When Aislyn bent to pick up the cat, Gary seized her forearm. “Wait! I have a better idea. Why don’t you try out one of the anti-cat remedies on it? You said you couldn’t find any cats for your experiments. The fluffy black thing there is your opportunity.”

“The remedies are back at the hostel.”

“Take the beast home with you.”

“Seamus won’t like it.”

Gary’s brows shot upward. “Since when do Seamus’s finer feelings worry you? I thought you lived to rile him.”

Aislyn studied the cat. It was calmly grooming itself. Gary might have a point. The supply of cats in the middle of a city was something the board hadn’t taken into account. “Good idea, but where do I stash him? I can’t keep a cat here because Seamus will notice. I can’t take him back to the hostel because those stupid recruits will tell tales.”

“Easy. Smuggle the cat in and out of the hostel in your bag, and at the weekends, when you need to test your potions, you can bunk at my flat. Or…” He scratched his chin. “Why don’t you get your own flat? That way you won’t have to put up with the bozos at the hostel, you can keep the cat and test your potions with no one else being the wiser.”

“I don’t have enough money—”

“Gary! Where the devil are you?”

“Oops, the boss hails. I’d better find out what he wants.” Beads clacked as Gary sauntered toward Seamus’s roar.

“You’d better do something with the cat before Seamus freaks.”

“Gary!”

“In here, boss.”

Aislyn scooped up the cat and thrust him back into her bag. She shoved the bag under her desk out of sight.

“Why didn’t you answer me? Aislyn, haven’t you finished the paperwork yet? We don’t pay you to sit around. Gary, I want a fairy force meeting scheduled for this evening. Do you have questions before Gill arrives? Good, I need the Scavenger Hunt file. I want to study the info again.” He dragged a hand through his dark unruly hair, and Aislyn noticed his exhaustion with a trace of concern. If this was a sample of his workload, no wonder he didn’t spend much time at the colony.

Seamus stared at the desk. “I’ve a niggling feeling I’ve missed something. I want to go through the file again. Now.”

The last thundered word made Aislyn jump.

“Hell’s teeth, what are you waiting for?” He stormed into his adjoining office, the slam of the door summing up his mood.

Gary exhaled loudly. “Whew. I thought he’d sensed the cat for a moment there.”

“I do not have a crush on that man,” Aislyn said, her tone crisp and concise.

“Neither do I,” Gary added with feeling.

A slow clap of applause sounded, and they both whirled to face the newcomer. Gill grinned, his brown eyes alight with silent laughter. “I’m pleased to hear it. I’m sure the news will please Seamus too.”

“You did not hear our conversation,” Aislyn said.

Gary’s hair beads clacked in agitation. “We were having a private discussion.”

Gill chuckled, and the sound wasn’t reassuring. “Of course, it’s my business. Seamus is my best friend.” He laughed and entered Seamus’s office. The thud of the door closing again chopped off the mocking sound.

Aislyn glared at the door. “Are you sure we can’t use magic on the human side? The pair of them are crying out for a sneaky spell to teach them a lesson.”

Gary sniffed. “I hear you. Your bag is on the move again.”

Aislyn shunted her bag under her desk with a gentle sweep of her foot. “I’ll take the cat back to my room during my lunch break. I’ll buy a paper too and start searching for a flat. Even sharing a flat would be better than the hostel.”

Gary left, and Aislyn started on the paperwork again, after sorting the papers the cat had dislodged. A loud huff of exasperation emerged when she picked up a form in triplicate.

Boring. Boring. Boring.

This wasn’t what she envisaged before she left the colony.

And the way Seamus hovered like a clucky hen was driving her insane. Nuts. Batty. All the above. She couldn’t move without tripping over the bad-tempered male. His mood had jammed in grumpy, and his mouth set in a permanent frown. One black scowl and everyone fled.

Aislyn frowned. Tomorrow her first report on the anti-cat measures was due, and she hadn’t tested a thing. She smoothed her shoe over the red elephant on her bag. “You, my little furry friend, are a savior. Gary’s right. I’ll take you home and start tests straight away.”

* * * * *

The alarm chirped. Aislyn groaned and slapped at the clock. The noise continued—loud, piercing, and annoying. Aislyn lifted her head from the pillow and remembered she’d stashed the clock across the other side of the room.

With a loud groan, she crawled from the warmth of her bed, knocking a book of spells to the floor. During the night, the cat had curled up against her back, and he grumbled at the rude awakening.

“Do you think I’m happy about getting out of bed?” Goosebumps sprang to life on her bare arms and legs as she hurried across the dark green carpet to shut off the pesky alarm. “Next, you’ll want breakfast.”

The cat stirred at the mention of food. It bounded off the blue fleece blankets and jumped to the floor to stretch lazily. Exercise completed, he padded over to Aislyn and rubbed against her legs.

“Shower first,” Aislyn said. “Then I’ll find something for breakfast. Tomorrow, we can move into our new flat, and we can keep our food handy instead of trekking to the ground floor for sustenance.”

Aislyn yanked a faded floral dressing gown from the back of the wooden door, grabbed her towel and toilet bag, and headed for the female shower block. Two women leaned against the wall, waiting for their turn. Aislyn attached to the end of the line, and stared straight ahead, pleased no one expected scintillating conversation. She stared out the dusty third-floor window and noticed the streetlights still glowed. The gloom of the early morning, combined with the wisps of fog made the narrow street outside the hostel forbidding and unwelcoming. Aislyn stirred herself when the line moved.

“O’Sullivan,” a masculine voice roared along the passage.

Aislyn straightened from her slouch, her heart upping its tempo. Maybe it was work—a case. “Yeah?”

“Phone.”

Rats, the call was probably a furtive message from her mother or Seamus with another lecture. Sighing, Aislyn yielded her place in the line and went to answer the summons.

“Aislyn.”

“Hell’s teeth. Does it take that long to answer the phone? Why don’t you get a mobile?”

Irritation sliced through her along with something else more complicated and confusing—an emotion that cropped up a lot where Seamus was concerned. If he hated her presence in Auckland, why did he keep bothering her? If he’d leave her alone, she’d get over the unhealthy crush she harbored for him. She could consign the trembling hands, uneasy belly, and the heat that made her heart pound, to the past.

She rubbed her arm and pressed harder when the itching continued.

“Have you taken your pill?”

His voice, although harsh, sent yearning throbbing through her body. She swallowed and hoped she didn’t give herself away. “I’ve just climbed out of bed. Give me a chance.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“But—” A loud click signified the five-minute countdown had commenced. Bother the man. If he thought she intended to miss her shower because of his visit, he could think again. Aislyn stomped back up the stairs and joined the line of five women waiting for their turn in the showers.

Half an hour later, showered and dressed in black jeans and a pale green T-shirt, Aislyn hurried back to her room, her damp curls swinging around her face. Seamus pushed away from the wall outside her door, his scowl making her mutter under her breath.

“I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes.”

“I’m here now.” Aislyn silently counted to ten. It was the kid-sister syndrome over again. The kiss in the elevator was a figment of her fertile imagination. “What’s so important it couldn’t wait until I arrived at work on Monday?”

“I have to leave for a while.”

Aislyn lowered her voice. “The colony?”

“For part of the time, but the rest of the week, Gill and I are visiting Little Barrier Island to help with security. Aren’t you going to ask me in? I’ve brought breakfast.” He held up a bag from Peter’s Bakery.

Why wouldn’t he look at her? She opened her door and halted. The cat—he’d see the cat.

“Aislyn, we can’t talk out here. I need to tell you something.” Once again, his gaze wandered across the top of her head before skittering away to study the pale yellow walls.

His mind was set—the stubborn set of his jaw told her that. Silently, she opened the door and stood aside to let him enter.

Seamus prowled straight across to the single window in the room and pushed back the torn net to peer at the street below. Aislyn shut the door, dumped her dressing gown and toilet bag on the bed, and waited for an explosion.

The cat padded from under the bed, swishing its black tail. It stilled on seeing Seamus and sat back on its haunches. “Meow.”

Seamus whirled. He took one look and speared her with a scowl so black she thought he’d blow a blood vessel. “Have you taken leave of your senses?” His quiet voice sliced through the air with the preciseness of a surgeon’s knife.

“Have you taken your pill?” Aislyn retreated two steps before she realized she’d moved. Halting abruptly, she reclaimed the space she’d yielded. “If it’s the weekend, Gary rings me at eight in the morning. During the week, I take my pill when I arrive at work. I’m following procedure. It’s not eight o’clock yet.”

“A cat is sitting by your bed. If I look under the bed, will there be one there too? Or behind the door?”

Aislyn sniffed and settled her butt on the only chair in her room. “Did you come to harangue me or to bring
breakfast?”

“There’s a cat in your room.”

“I heard you the first time. Do I get breakfast or not?”

Seamus eyed the cat with distaste and crossed the room to sit at the end of the bed. “The cat is dangerous.”

Aislyn gaped at Seamus. If she stood and walked to the bed, she could join him. They could sprawl together, remove their clothes. Wrap their arms around each other. Naked skin. Kissing. Hot, fiery sex. She swallowed, the sharp meow from her cat interrupting her steamy yearnings. The feline arched his back and glared at Seamus with his orangey eyes.

She bit back the urge to chuckle. “Seamus, you’re overreacting.” She glanced at him and rose to her feet. “Joe is scarcely bigger than one of your hands.”

 

“That’s not the point.” Seamus tucked his trembling hands out of sight and scowled at the cat. It was safer if he concentrated on the animal because Aislyn presented a hell of a temptation in her tight T-shirt and form-fitting jeans. The itch to run his hands through her copper curls and kiss the pale skin at her nape was driving him crazy.

Seamus shuffled uncomfortably, willing the blood from his cock. A week away from Aislyn would do him good. He forced his lungs to expand with fresh air and only succeeded in drawing the essence of apricots and Aislyn into his befuddled brain.

“Is there a reason you have a cat?” There, that was better. He’d sounded reasonable instead of deranged and cranky.

“The cat followed me,” Aislyn said. “Then I realized he was the answer to my problem.”

“What problem?” Damn, she shouldn’t look at him like that. One glance from her innocent blue eyes, and he wanted to lay another kiss on her and damn the consequences. Instead, he grabbed the bag of donuts and shoved them at her.

“Joe is the first cat I’ve seen since I arrived. I need cats to test the anti-cat remedies.”

Good point. He wanted to laugh, but his mouth was full of donut. After chewing, he swallowed. “I don’t think anyone contemplated the problem of finding cats in a city.” Even though the first sighting of Joe scared him to death, he was proud of her ingenuity. “How are the anti-cat remedies working out?”

“The one I tested yesterday made both of us sneeze.”

Seamus leaned forward, interested despite his concerns for her safety. “Did you follow the instructions?”

“See the fat book over there, the one keeping my dresser level? That’s the list of instructions and the tests the inventor wants me to run on this one anti-cat remedy. I followed the instructions in the first two chapters, and, apart from violent sneezing, not a thing happened.”

“Have a donut,” Seamus said. “I thought you’d have coffee up here. Pretty small room.”

“Yes.”

When she reached for the bag, her shirt rode higher. His pulse ratcheted upward on seeing the two inches of pale flesh. Man, he was one sad puppy.

“I spilled some of the potion when I sneezed. The liquid splashed my arm, and now I have a rash.”

Glad to focus elsewhere, he studied the angry red marks on her forearm. “Send the potion back to the inventor.”

“I haven’t finished the tests. Murphy said—”

“The potion is useless if it causes sneezes and brings you out in a rash. Fill out the report, and I’ll take the lot back with me this afternoon. I’ll speak to Murphy. Did you want to go anywhere? I’ll drive you.” While Seamus waited for her to answer, he tried not to think about his real reason for visiting the colony. Today he’d make his final decision on a wife and send off the contracts. The board expected him to make the official announcement this week.

“Thanks, but I want to walk to the Domain today. Joe and I will conduct a test in the park.

Seamus nodded and stood, her refusal feeling like a rejection. He knew he was lying to himself. He had it bad for Aislyn O’Sullivan, and the knowledge his betrothal to another woman was mere hours away was slashing his heart in two.

* * * * *

A man and woman filed into John Watson’s penthouse suite on the top floor of the Metropolis Hotel in High Street, Auckland.

John remained by the picture window, staring at the view of Rangitoto Island until the shuffling of chair indicated they were seated. Not a trace of impatience showed on his face. He’d learned long ago as a child, emotions made a man weak. These days he wielded the knowledge as a weapon to aid his cause.

He turned to face his visitors. “Tell Major he can come out now.”

His beefy assistant inclined his head and withdrew. Another man joined the group. He was the spitting image of the man already seated.

Watson allowed a pleased smile to flit across his face. His assistant had done well—very well.

“Good. Everyone is here.” Watson limped behind a solid kauri desk and sat on the large leather chair. “I want a progress report,” he said.

The woman cleared her throat. “We have collected several items on the list. I’ve arranged shipment to the central judging point on the island.”

“Security?” Watson scrutinized the woman. Early thirties. Dressed in a classic style—smart but not flashy. Efficient, according to the references his assistant had provided. Good at her job but not flexible enough to bend the rules. She was balking at the native animals.

The woman consulted a clipboard and named a reputable company with branches worldwide. John gestured for her to continue with her report.

“We’ve collected the bottle of wine, the Penny Black stamp, and the sapphire.”

Watson leaned back in the swivel chair. That was all? Three lousy items? What the fuck was he paying these people for?

The woman faltered under his disapproval. “The competition has strict rules. It’s difficult to collect fifteen rare items with only three people allowed on each team.”

“Why do you think I specified twins? Your job is to coordinate. The scavenger hunt started last week, and we have three items. Pathetic. I intend to win this competition. Do you understand?”

The men stared straight ahead with impassive expressions. A flash of unease flickered across the woman’s features. She caught her bottom lip between white teeth. A replacement. No time for deadwood on his team—not if he intended to win. Employing the woman had been a mistake.

He would rectify the error.

“Right,” he said to the woman. “Go to the central judging point and organize suitable storage for each item. Stay there to liaise with security. I want you to check in each item when it arrives.”

“Who will organize the collecting?”

“I’ll assemble the necessary items,” John said. “Thank you. That will be all.”

“But—”

John eyed the woman, letting his distaste show. “Go.”

She clambered to her feet, glancing over her shoulder once as she left the room.

John steepled his hands in front of him and surveyed the two men. In their mid-twenties, they appeared capable of carrying out the duties he required of them. Both trained in the forces, they now sold their skills to the highest bidder. They were his backup plan. His primary strategy should come to fruition soon.

“I want you to fly to London to liaise with my people. Collect the items required and bring them back personally. I don’t care how you obtain them. Don’t return without the goods. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Understood, sir.”

John nodded in approval. “Check with my assistant on the way out. He’ll give you your flight documentation. You’re on separate flights, so you don’t attract attention.”

The two men stood and left the room. John heard the soft murmur of voices as Morgan gave them relevant instructions. While he waited for his assistant’s return, he planned the rest of the week.

Revenge would need to wait a little longer.

John drummed his fingers on the glossy top of the wooden desk and picked up the phone to make a call.

“Rick? John Watson here. I need you to do a job for me.” He listened to the man for an instant. “Cash. Half now and the rest once I’m satisfied the job is completed. It should take three days. A week at the most. My assistant will meet you at DeBretts with instructions. You remember Morgan? Is that acceptable? Excellent. Good doing business with you.” John replaced the phone before standing and crossing to the bank of windows.

That was one loose end snipped. Now it was time for a reunion with his stepbrother. After all, he’d been in New Zealand for a week now. It’d be rude not to look up his only surviving family member.

Without volition, John’s hand lifted to his face. He stroked the scar that slashed the length of his cheek. His smile held little amusement.

I wonder if Maximillan knows I’m here.

He limped back to the desk to reach for the phone. About time he made his presence known. Tomorrow, he’d move over to the island, and with a bit of luck, brother Maximillan would invite him to stay at the estate, which would bring him right into the thick of the action.

The island was the perfect place to launch his assault.

* * * * *

“Aislyn.” Gary’s whisper held a sibilant, secretive undertone.

After dropping her purple pen on the desktop and flexing her fingers, she glanced at the doorway where Gary hovered. “Don’t tell me you have more paperwork? It’s late—way past time to go home.”

“Nope, something better. I wanted to check you were alone.” He scurried through the doorway and shut the door behind him. “I have a young lady in my office. She asked to speak to Seamus or Gill. It’s something to do with their current case. I thought you could talk to her.”

“Me?” Aislyn’s eyes widened.

“I’m administration,” Gary said. “I don’t think I should talk to her, but you’re classified as fairy force.”

A vision of Seamus roared through her mind with all the finesse of a freight truck. He’d be furious, yet temptation stayed her protest. It couldn’t hurt to talk to the woman.

She tossed the pros and cons briefly. Sanity prevailed. “She should come back next week.”

“Talk to the woman. This paperwork won’t disappear.”

Aislyn stared at Gary, about to tell him he was crazy. Then the siren lure of the forbidden whispered in her ear. Gary was right. If she didn’t grasp the opportunities presented to her, she’d end up old and gray and still pushing paper around a desk.

“Show her in here.” As she issued instructions, Aislyn shoved her papers in her desk drawer.

Gary hurried out to show the woman in. Aislyn dug through the mess left on her desktop for a jotter pad. Nerves quaked inside her stomach, but anticipation counteracted the worst of her anxiety. At last, she was doing something concrete to help with Seamus’s case.

After a brief tap on her door, Gary ushered the woman inside. Although she accepted the seat he offered, the woman perched on the edge, as if she’d bolt at any second. Her smart black suit bore splotches of mud and her pale shirt showed through a rip on the right sleeve near her elbow. Pansy-colored shadows under her eyes indicated a lack of sleep and fine stress lines bracketed her lips.

Determined to put the woman at ease, Aislyn stepped around the corner of her desk and stretched out her hand in greeting. “Hello, I’m Aislyn O’Sullivan.”

The woman hesitated. “Gina. Gina Wilkins. I wanted to see Mr. Gallagher.”

“I’m his assistant,” Aislyn said, giving herself a large promotion without blinking an eye. She stepped back until her butt leaned against the desk. “His second-in-command.”

“Someone is trying to kill me,” the woman blurted.

“Kill you?”

Gina glanced over her shoulder as if she feared someone would overhear her confession. She swallowed. “Yesterday when I was waiting at the traffic lights to cross from one side of Queen Street to the other, someone shoved me off the footpath into the path of an oncoming bus.” The woman shuddered. “Somehow the driver managed to stop.”

“Are you sure? Could it have been an accident?”

“That’s what I thought at first, but a woman saw the man push me off the sidewalk. Tonight, when I was boarding the ferry to cross the harbor to Devonport, a man shoved me over the side of the wharf just as the ferry moved.” The little color remaining in Gina’s face bled away when she spoke of the incident. “I grabbed the railing and glimpsed a man wearing a hat before the crew came to my aid.”

Caught up in the drama of Gina’s story, Aislyn’s heartbeat raced. “Did you see his face? Did you recognize him?”

“It was getting dark. And he wore a baseball cap pulled low over his face. He looked familiar, but I can’t place where I’ve seen the man before.”

“Can you think of anyone who has a grudge against you?”

Gina shook her head.

“Who do you work for?”

“I’m not meant to tell anyone.” She chewed on her bottom lip, her blue eyes surveying Aislyn with doubt. “I signed a confidentiality clause. It was a condition of my employment—I can’t say who I’m working for or talk to anyone about my duties.”

“Didn’t that strike you as strange?” Aislyn demanded.

Gina’s eyes narrowed. “I do nothing illegal.” Her back straightened, her fearful demeanor replaced by indignation.

“Why the secrecy?” Something in the woman’s expression suggested illegalities were part of the equation, even if she didn’t take part.

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t help if you won’t tell me anything.”

“Seamus will help me,” the woman said.

This time Aislyn’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know Seamus?”

“He’s friends with my sister. I’ve met him twice.”

“Seamus is away for the rest of the week.” Jealousy clawed at Aislyn. “You can wait until he returns.”

“I need help now.” Gina closed her eyes and opened them to stare at Aislyn. “Do you promise not to repeat this to anyone, if I tell you about my job?”

“Just Seamus.”

“Fine. It’s not as if I’ll keep the job for much longer. My boss is less than impressed with my results.” She paused. “He’s an Englishman called John Watson. He’s a collector, and my job is to help him add to his artifacts while he’s visiting New Zealand.”

“What sort of things does he collect?”

“The list is a weird assortment of things ranging from jewelry to clothes to birds and animals. Endangered animals,” she said, color coursing along her pale cheeks.

Gary burst into the office carrying a tray with three cups. “Did you say endangered animals? Carry on,” he said taking a chair right next to Aislyn. “I’m all ears.”

“And mouth as well,” Aislyn said drily. “What do you think this man is up to?”

“I know what he’s up to,” Gary said. “It must tie into Seamus’s latest case. We should contact Seamus and Gill and stash Gina somewhere safe until they can talk to her.”

“Seamus told me I couldn’t contact him.” Aislyn turned back to Gina. “Where is John Watson staying?”

“He has a suite at Metropolis.”

“What does he look like?”

“He’s not tall, maybe a little taller than me. Say around five-eight or nine, he dresses in Italian suits. He has short-cropped gray hair and a scar down one side of his face. His eyes are pale blue and shaking his hand is like touching a wet fish.”

“He should be easy enough to find him if he’s at Metropolis. Do you have somewhere you can stay, Gina?”

“I can stay with my friend, Lucy.”

Gary stood. “I’ll go to find some clothes for you—a disguise. Hopefully, we can fool anyone who is watching for you.” He hurried from the office.

“What are you going to do?” Gina asked.

“We’ll report to Seamus as soon as he returns.” Aislyn hoped like heck she didn’t look as though she was lying through her teeth.

“I’ve found clothes for you,” Gary said, holding up a pair of jeans, an ugly gray jacket and a navy-blue hat. “The jeans will be too big, but Seamus has a tie in his drawer for formal occasions. You can borrow it as a belt to hold up the jeans.”

Five minutes later, Aislyn ushered Gina out a side door of the police station.

“Do you see anyone familiar?” she asked. “What about that man standing over by the Post Office?”

“I’ve never seen him before.”

“Let’s walk up to the corner and catch the Link bus. We can get off opposite TwoDoubleSeven in Newmarket.”

Gina gave a wan smile. “Lucy’s flat is five minutes walk from there.”

“Good,” Aislyn said, grabbing Gina by the arm. “If we hurry, you’ll arrive at your friend’s house in no time. No one is taking any notice of us.” The words sounded sincere or at least she hoped they did. Aislyn hated the way the spot right in the middle of her back prickled. Once they exited the bus, Aislyn hastened her pace, dragging Gina after her. “Which street? This one?”

Gina glanced over her shoulder. “Is someone following?”

Aislyn didn’t answer, instead picking up her speed even more. She couldn’t see anyone behind them either, but her gut told her otherwise.

Come back on Monday to read the next chapter.

The Adventures of Aislyn O’Sullivan – Chapter 10

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.

Chapter 10

“Sorry, I took so long.” Aislyn flew into Gary’s office, the breeze she created, sending several papers fluttering from their neat piles. “I missed the bus.”

Gary slapped his hand on the closest pile of papers. “Too busy gawking, huh?”

Shame-faced, she nodded. “Something like that. What do you want me to do?”

“I’m checking through the missing person’s files we collected earlier.”

Aislyn accepted the file he handed her and plonked onto an upright chair. She wriggled her bottom to the edge and placed her feet on the nearby two-drawer filing cabinet. “How do we know these women haven’t disappeared to start a new life?”

“We don’t, but we need to check the descriptions in the files with the details we’ve received regarding the floater. Clothes, facial features—that sort of thing, though with a drowning and since the body’s been in the water for a while, it’s difficult.”

Aislyn nodded and turned her attention to the report. She flicked over the page and read the other side. The phone’s strident buzz cut through the industrious silence.

Gary scooped up the phone. “Auckland Central.” A roar blared down the line, making Aislyn jump. Grimacing, Gary extended the phone to her. “It’s for you.”

As she accepted the phone, the ferocious roaring became more recognizable. “And hello to you too,” she said sweetly.

“What the hell are you playing at?” Seamus’s aggressive shout subsided to an icy chill that sent a shiver along her spine.

“I’m doing my nice little admin job, just as you and the board instructed.” As long as she did her job and tested the anti-cat remedies, he had no right to complain.

“Put Gary back on,” Seamus said.

Aislyn saluted with her free hand and thrust the phone at Gary. “Seamus wants to talk to you.”

“Oh, joy.” After taking a deep breath, he spoke into the phone. “Yo, boss, I’m all ears. Okay. Got it.” He replaced the phone. “They’ve identified the body. It’s Elsa. I’ll send these files back to missing persons and show you what to work on for the rest of the week.”

“That’s sad.” Aislyn thought of the young woman she’d seen during her first visit to the human side. She spent the next hour filing and starting on the list of jobs Gary gave her to complete.

“What should I wear to this party tonight?” she asked during their tea break. “Is it casual or dressy?” With his fancy duds and colored hair, it seemed natural to ask him.

“Think casual sexy,” he said. “With your coloring, I’d suggest opting for your basic black. Black trousers and a snug black top should do the trick.”

Aislyn nodded. Basic black, she had. Sexy…well, that might take longer, but she’d do her best.

* * * * *

Streetlights lit the road, piercing the gloom of the night by the time Aislyn left the hostel with a group of recruits.

A brown-hair recruit waved his arms at a passing cab. “We will need two,” he said. “There’s another one. Grab it.”

Aislyn climbed into the back seat of one cab.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

Muddy Farmer,” the brown-hair recruit said and slid into the taxi beside Aislyn.

The cab pulled away from the curb. Aislyn pressed her nose to the window, eagerly taking in the sights on the way to the pub. They whizzed past huge towering buildings and brightly lit shops. The windows displayed intriguing fashions and products to tempt customers to part from their money. Vehicles of varied colors and designs zapped past in both directions, their speed making her head spin.

The male sitting behind the driver nudged the brown-hair one sitting next to Aislyn. He jerked his head at her and sniggered. “You can always tell the new recruits by the way they gawk. It seems the female ones are no different.”

Let them poke fun at her. Stupid male fairies. And they were fairies—Aislyn could tell by the faint blue aura surrounding their heads. No matter—she didn’t need them. She’d find friends among the humans. She turned her attention back to the world outside the taxi. As the cab slowed for a set of traffic lights, a group of six young humans—teenagers—ran across the road, whooping and hollering. The city was so busy.

With privacy at a premium, she wondered where she could test the anti-cat potions. She hadn’t seen a cat, and she’d been looking.

The cab stopped outside a pub. The sign read, The Muddy Farmer. Everyone piled out, and the last male out pointed at Aislyn.

“She’s paying,” he said to the driver. The fairies disappeared inside the pub as fast and fleet of foot as Murphy when Moira was on the warpath. Aislyn scowled at the empty doorway of the pub. They wouldn’t catch her again. The board had given her fifty human dollars to start off, and she couldn’t afford to waste a cent.

“Fifteen dollars fifty thanks, luv.”

Aislyn clambered out of the cab, pulled a battered leather wallet from her pocket, and opened it to extract the single crisp fifty-dollar note. “Here you go.”

The driver handed her change. She glanced at the notes curiously before she put them away.

“I’ll take that!” A stranger snatched her wallet and raced away.

“But that’s…” Shock yielded to fury. How dare he steal her money? She whipped back her hand, muttered a quick incantation, and pointed an index finger at the fleeing thief.

Nothing happened.

Perplexed, Aislyn tried a different spell. The man disappeared around a corner into an alley with every single hair on his head intact.

“You all right, luv?”

Aislyn gaped at the taxi driver, shock robbing her of rational thought. Her magic had failed. “Ah, yeah,” she said, turning to stare at the alley where the thief had disappeared. “I’m fine.” Apart from the fact, her last dollars now lived in the thief’s pocket, and her magical powers had vanished. Yeah, she was fine and dandy.

“Here’s my card, luv. If you need the name of a witness when you report to the police, get them to contact me. You can ring them from inside the pub.”

“Thanks.” Aislyn’s mind was on more immediate concerns—like the failure of her magical powers.

The driver climbed back into his vehicle. Seconds later, the cab pulled away from the curb and drove off. Aislyn took one step toward the entranceway of the pub and came to an abrupt halt. Her mouth tightened, her eyes narrowed.

She wanted her wallet back.

Aislyn stomped away from the pub to the alleyway. Her magic might have failed but, thanks to her training with Seamus, she knew several hand-to-hand combat moves to send the thief limping for the hills—if she caught him.

The alley ran between a warehouse and the rear of an Indian restaurant. A huge bin overflowed with debris from the gutted warehouse. A smaller red bin held rubbish from the restaurant. The pungent stench made Aislyn’s eyes water. Aislyn inhaled through her mouth to block the worst of the smell. It was an excellent place for a thief to loiter because no sane being would stand next to the bin wafting such noxious odors. She adjusted her firm footfalls to a noiseless skulk. A loud clatter up ahead froze her in place. Her heart pattered, but she inched forward, impatience throwing prudence by the wayside. Something, a foot perhaps, knocked a piece of wood against the bin.

“Hiyah!” Aislyn hollered and sprang, hands raised in a classic defense position. From the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of movement in the dark shadows. Mid-air, she realized something small had caused the noise.

Frantically, she twisted to avoid the creature. She fell, hitting the ground with a thud, the air exploding from her lungs with a pained wheeze.

She groaned while she struggled to breathe. Minutes passed. Her elbows smarted, and her right hip felt as if someone was jabbing it with a sharp stick.

Aislyn struggled to rise.

“Rats,” she muttered.

So much for her wallet. The thief had scampered.

As she brushed her black trousers, the creature that caused her fall slinked from the shadows and approached her cautiously. “Meow.”

“A cat.” Aislyn eyed the skinny black animal with irritation. “Why didn’t you trip over the wallet thief? Why me?”

“Meow.” The cat sprang onto a low window ledge and up to a piece of timber jutting out from inside the bin. A few inches to the right of where the cat landed, Aislyn spied her wallet. Standing on tiptoe, she grasped the brown leather wallet and combed through the contents. No money, but everything else was intact, including her precious photo of Seamus. She sighed. “Thanks, cat. I’d better get to this party. Maybe someone will lend me enough money to buy a drink.”

She wandered back along the alley to the pub. The door flew open seconds before Aislyn grasped the handle. The man on the other side winked and stood aside to let her enter.

“In you go. Wish I was staying.”

“Thanks,” Aislyn said.

Myriad scents assaulted her as she glanced around with interest. Happy men and women took up the available floor space, and their chatter pounded her ears. Music poured from the corner of the room. Irish music. The twang of the fiddle, a flirty tin whistle, and the thud of the bodhrán made her feel right at home.

“Where’s the private function room?” Aislyn asked the man standing next to her.

“See the sign over there? The room is to the right, along the passage, turn left, and right again. You can’t miss it.”

“Thanks.”

Up ahead, she caught the faint flash of a blue aura. A fairy. She pushed through a gap in the crowd and collided with a muscular chest.

“Hello, sweetheart.”

Seamus. Before she could move clear, another hard jolt from a woman tottering past on high heels sent her flying into his arms. Hard, sculpted muscles pressed against her chest, her belly, her legs, and instant desire speared her. A blush heated her face, and an internal shudder rocked her from her head to the tips of her toes. Memories of the kisses they’d shared sped through her mind.

“You’re late,” he growled next to her ear. “Where have you been? I know you arrived at least half an hour ago with a group from the hostel.”

Aislyn sighed and made no attempt to evade the truth. “I had a tiny accident.”

Seamus pushed her far enough away to see her face. “What happened?”

“It was my fault,” she said.

“It’s always your fault.”

Hands fisted at her sides, his words igniting her ire. “Do you want me to tell you or not?”

“Go on.”

She wanted to hit him, she really did—smug, arrogant, know-it-all. She sucked in a breath. “When I was paying for the taxi, a man appeared from nowhere and grabbed my wallet.” She lowered her voice. “I tried to zap him, but nothing happened. He stole my money and got clean away.”

“I told you to read the manual. If you had, you’d know the pills we take to keep us human-size strip our magical powers.”

Chagrin swept her. “All of them?”

“We can’t have fairies going around performing magic whenever they please.”

She sighed. “That means I need to keep up my fitness levels.”

“You could always go home.”

“I can’t go home. You heard what the board said.”

“Aislyn—”

“I don’t want to go home, and you can’t make me.” She turned toward the function room.

“Will you wait?” He grabbed her elbow, drawing her to a halt and gestured at her trousers. “All I wanted to say was that you should clean up first. You have a streak of dirt on your cheek too.” Grasping her shoulders, he indicated the restroom sign. “I’ll wait for you outside.”

“I don’t need a babysitter. Forget your promise to Duncan. I absolve you from responsibility. My father has disowned me. You should too.”

“Quit babbling. Clean up, and we’ll go to the party.”

Aislyn slammed through the swinging door into the ladies’ restrooms.

 

“Seamus.” A stunning blonde halted inches from him.

He wrenched his gaze from the restroom door and forced a polite smile. One decent gust of wind, and she’d end up plastered against him. He inched back and tried not to breathe in her cloying scent.

“Seamus! Great to see you again.”

He maintained his smile and hoped Aislyn appeared soon. “Geraldine, how are you?”

She closed the distance between them with one deep breath. “I deserve a better hello than that.” Her eyelids fluttered shut and her lips puckered.

The seconds ticked by while Seamus furtively checked for means of rescue.

“Seamus?” Her eyes popped open.

“Thought I saw someone I knew.” Finally accepting the inevitable, he brushed a light kiss across the russet-colored lips. From the corner of his eye, he caught the flash of copper. About time. “I’m with someone,” he said to Geraldine.

“Figures.” One tanned shoulder lifted in a delicate shrug, her lips pursing in a moue of regret. She combed through a bag the size of a small envelope and produced a pale yellow business card. “If things don’t work out, call me.”

“I’m ready, Seamus.”

Relief made his knees weak. He draped an arm around Aislyn’s shoulders and tugged her to his side. “Geraldine, this is Aislyn.”

A frown created a furrow on Aislyn’s forehead. “Seamus, you should have told me you were meeting friends. I can go to the party by myself.”

Geraldine’s expression did a three-sixty, disappointment transforming into predatory interest. Hell, Aislyn was supposed to rescue him, not dump him straight into women trouble.

“I assumed you were with someone special,” Geraldine said.

“I am,” Seamus said a trifle grimly. He dipped his head to kiss Aislyn. The minute his lips touched Aislyn’s, he forgot they had an audience.

A sharp kick on his right ankle brought him back to the present. He lifted his head, his gaze diverted by Aislyn’s moist lips. An elbow to the ribs jerked his gaze farther north to her indignant eyes.

“Aislyn and I are close.”

“Right,” Aislyn agreed, her tone hovering close to mutiny.

“Nice to see you again, Geraldine.” Seamus had experienced difficulty extracting himself from Geraldine’s claws once before after a blind date. Gill’s fault. “We’re attending a party in one of the private rooms. I’ll see you around.” He hustled Aislyn in the direction of the private room.

“What was that?”

“Keep your voice low.”

“A discarded suitor?” Now Aislyn sounded amused instead of pissed.

“An ex-girlfriend who won’t take no for an answer. Until now, I’ve avoided her.”

“That’s mean-spirited.” A devilish smile zapped to her lips. “You should’ve told me earlier. I could have made the kiss appear more authentic. I’m an excellent actress.”

Seamus shuddered, managing a weak grin. A good actress—damn—that one kiss packed more punch than any of Geraldine’s attempts. Without volition, his gaze drifted to her lips. A soft natural pink, they held more allure…

“We’d better appear at the party,” he said.

“Humph!” She flounced in the direction he indicated. Unbidden, his gaze zeroed in on her pert backside, the subtle rock of her hips, and moved higher to study the two-inch gap of creamy white skin between the band of her trousers and her skimpy black top. His breath eased out with a soft hiss. Man, he was in big trouble but had no idea how to halt his escalating attraction.

A fast worker, his mother had emailed him back already with her shortlist of three favored candidates for a daughter-in-law. Seamus tried to picture their faces and failed. Instead, a vision of copper curls formed, laughing blue eyes, and a stubborn chin. Yep, he was in trouble.

Men lined the small bar. Seamus caught up to Aislyn and shouldered his way through the press of bodies towing her behind him.

“Seamus, you made it.”

Blast! He’d meant to avoid Gill. “Gill,” he said, gritting his friend’s name through his teeth.

“Aislyn too.” Gill’s mouth twitched.

Seamus tensed, wanting to turn the air blue with his curses. No prize for guessing his friend’s thoughts. “Aislyn is staying at the hostel with the other new recruits.”

Gill’s blond brows shot toward his hairline. “Is she now?”

“Quit it,” Seamus growled. “I’m looking out for a mate’s sister.”

“Is that right?” Gill’s mouth curled up at the corners.

“Duncan and Seamus went to school together,” Aislyn said.

Gill scratched his chin this time. “You don’t say?”

“Knock it off.” Seamus turned his back on his friend, his jaw flexing as he fought for control. “Aislyn, what do you want to drink? Orange juice or a soft drink?”

Her chin rose, and Seamus tensed.

“I’ll have a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, please.”

The thought of a drunk Aislyn brought a cringe. “Are you sure?”

“I’m buying,” Gill said. “One glass of wine for the lady and a beer for you, Seamus? I’m with Rachel.” He jerked his head to the left. “We nabbed a table in the corner. I’ll bring over the drinks.” Gill plunged into the melee at the bar, leaving him alone with Aislyn.

“What do you mean by ordering a glass of wine? Have you tasted wine before?”

“No,” Aislyn said. “I saw wine mentioned when I flicked through the manual and decided to try it at the first opportunity.”

“If you read about wine, how come you missed the losing your magical powers bit?”

“I looked at the pictures.”

“Aislyn!”

“You have no sense of humor.”

Seamus bit back his exasperation. His hands itched to paddle her backside, and his gaze drifted in that direction. A massive jolt of lust rocked his system. He ripped his gaze away. “We’d better find Rachel.”

“Will there be dancing?”

“No.” He intended to hustle Aislyn out of here after one drink.

“I enjoy dancing,” she said, plowing into one of Seamus’s workmates. “Sorry. My fault.”

The man’s hands dropped to Aislyn’s waist while his smile ratcheted into charming. Seamus bristled, recognizing a competitor when he saw one. “Are you going to let her go soon, Robinson?”

The man focused on Seamus. His brows rose, and Seamus knew his glare was solely responsible. Dammit, he didn’t want anyone touching Aislyn but him. For an instant longer, they held gazes, then Robinson grinned.

“My mistake,” he said, his hands falling away from Aislyn.

Seamus let his breath ease out, grabbed Aislyn by the hand and tugged her after him, using his larger body to force their way to the other side of the crowded room. There were way too many lecherous men for his liking.

“What took you so long?” Gill complained. He indicated the drinks on the table. A heartbeat later, he smirked.

“Never mind. You’re here now. Rachel, you remember my partner, Seamus? And this is his…” His mouth curled up in a wicked grin. “…friend, Aislyn.”

Seamus scowled

“Quit while you’re ahead,” Gill advised in an undertone as he handed Seamus a drink. “Your single days are numbered. You’re crazy if you think you can outrun her.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Gill smirked again, and this time one brown eye closed in a sly wink. “Care to bet on it?”

Come back on Monday for the next chapter