“You really don’t need to go out. I will gladly cover the lost income if that will dissuade you. Duncan seems to be enjoying your company immensely.” I offered, hoping James would give up this “job”.
I was certain that he was perfectly ignorant of this “anonymous” patron’s identity, but taking such a job with a guest in his house was not necessary. There was surely no need for James to even take jobs personally anymore. His business was clearly doing plenty well.
“I’ve already imposed upon your good will plenty, and Duncan will surely be awake when I return home, seeing as your family doesn’t sleep much.” he replied.
I shook my head in frustration as I turned to walk back inside. I felt tempted to tell him that he’d be spending his day with Maxine, but I couldn’t risk fumbling over some obscure clause in one of our contracts that would lead to some sort of penalty. Aaliyah’s contracts were intolerable. However, there was simply no choice but to abide by them.
I took a deep breath and tried forcing myself to calm. My temperature was still rising. I needed distraction to quell my magic. I hurried to see what Ai, Mai, and Duncan were doing.
“Nii-san’s touring the yard with Emma.” I stated.
“We did warn you of his interest in her.” asserted Ai.
“She’ll turn him down, so I don’t really see how that’s a problem.” insisted Jarod.
“Even if she accepted, there wouldn’t be a problem.” snapped Lady Pendreigh.
Her mood soured the moment she heard about James’ secretive job this morning. He was probably the only person who didn’t guess his client immediately.
:The soulless didn’t, at least not Brandon. There’s no way he did.: insisted Ai.
:True.: I replied.
Brandon actually wasn’t completely incapable at most things, but he wasn’t very observant.
:Or tactful.: added Ai.
:Or courteous.: I thought.
As the list went on in our heads, we wondered again at why James kept Brandon employed as a “best friend”. He was more suited to be a bouncer at a disreputable club.
“What’s eating you?” asked Jarod.
“Whatever do you mean?” replied Lady Pendreigh.
“I mean that we’re here if you want to talk, so you might as well try if you’re wanting company.” he told her.
Ai quickly covered Jarod’s mouth with her hand.
“Please excuse Jarod, Lady Pendreigh. He doesn’t mean to be rude.” I insisted.
She brushed off our comments with a wave of her hand before hurrying off somewhere.
“Come on, you know she wanted to talk about something.” claimed Jarod.
“No, she really doesn’t.” I told him.
“She’s jealous that James is going on a date with Maxine, but admitting as much is beyond her.” explained Ai.
“Must you encourage her to be ridiculous?” questioned Jarod.
“We really have tried talking with her about relationships before.” I admitted.
Then Ai said, “She’s already considered everything we have and a hundred things we haven’t.”
“Yes, she overthinks things often. That’s not always helpful. The idea is to help her come to terms with how she feels.” he argued.
“No, she needs to stop feeling. You saw her face…” I told him.
“Yes, she seemed irritated.” he replied.
I took his face in my hands, gazed into his eyes, and said, “If she doesn’t calm down, someone or something could be destroyed. You haven’t seen the power she possesses. She could level the city if she ever lost her temper, probably far more than a city.”
“Well, I have seen some of what she can do.” he mumbled as he furrowed his brows.
We sighed as we answered questions as he became more and more analytical about ways she could use that sort of heat. The mood was completely ruined.
I caused a tree to grow from the ground into the shape of a crutch as I asked “Are you sure you don’t want something to help? You’ve barely had time to recover.” Duncan’s limp was still quite pronounced, but I wasn’t going to offer him my shoulder no matter how he might smile.
“No. Thank you.” replied Duncan in his heavy accent.
“I can do canes as well.” I told him as I changed the shape of the crutch into several different canes in quick succession. I knew he could easily keep up with the shifting shapes. He had dodged the first time I caused a fruit to grow near him.
“The detail in your creations is extraordinary.” he commented. “Do you take commissions?”
“I’ve thought about it but no. I’m often too attached to let them go if I put much effort into them.” I explained. I was stressing out bad. Mai had warned me about her brother’s interest in me. At least, she said she was Mai. Might have been Ai. Either way, I wasn’t going to Japan. I heard enough about Izumi to never want to meet her, even if her son was cute. He really was, but I wasn’t interested in him. Mom would be horrified if she found out someone of his position was interested in me, and even she might be put in a bind if I offended him somehow.
“My sisters have informed me that you can work with any sort of plant matter. There are a large number of flowers unique to Japan. I would be happy to show them to you if you ever visit.” he told me.
I named off a few before telling him that I was familiar with them.
“Sorry. I am not so well-versed in scientific names as to recognize any by what you call them.” he replied.
“I get carried away.” I admitted.
We walked in silence for a few steps before I pointed ahead and said, “In front of us is the labyrinth. At the center are a number of beautiful statues and a large pond that we occasionally use for swimming when not indulging ourselves in your sisters’ pools.”
“Do you tend to this forest as well?” he asked. “The growth seems extraordinary in a city.”
“No, actually. No one goes in there.” I told him.
“We could take a peek.” he suggested.
I quickly said, “I wouldn’t. The forest is off-limits according to Aaliyah. You wouldn’t want to upset James.”
He bowed and apologized. I’d never get used to it. Ai and Mai were so different than their brother. Ugh. I wished I could just turn him down and escape back to the others, but I worked for James now and didn’t want to make a bad impression either. This was so frustrating!
I smiled to myself upon seeing the limousine park nearby. James was here. By tonight, he would be mine. He was incredibly handsome, but he didn’t seem surprised to see me. I was supposed to be an anonymous client, but the idea that he knew and still came thrilled me in its own way.
“A pleasure seeing you again, Maxine.” he told me, nodding to me.
People often forgot when someone near them was blind. Then they’d become overly concerned upon remembering. Ever since I developed technology to obliterate my handicap, I learned a great deal about how to make use of these tendencies to throw people off-guard.
“James, you never called. When I realized what your job entailed, I could see why. You must stay terribly busy. I hope you don’t mind me clearing us a date this way.” I told him.
“When I first started my business, I would’ve been taken aback by the idea, but i can’t say this is the first time anymore.” he confessed.
I frowned, wanting him to realize he shouldn’t say as much. Then I told him “Well, this will be the first time with me,s o you might as well forget the others. You and Lady Pendreigh aren’t exclusive, are you?”
His look of surprise was so plain upon his face that I wondered if he even knew how to be guarded about such things.
“We’re not actually dating.” he assured me.
“Oh? I heard rumors, but I was hoping you had better taste.” I teased.
Lady Pendreigh’s position and power would be most advantageous, but I doubted anyone could make use of her without becoming her pawn.
“Care to show me to the car?” I asked, holding out my arm.
He took my arm and guided me over to the limousine, gently helping me inside. I still didn’t understand my feelings toward James. I had only met him the once, but I could tell right away that he was something special. He looked far better without the elaborate makeup he had worn at the convention.
“I’m a bit parched. Mind pouring me some water?” I asked.
He was quick to respond… attentive.
“So where would you like to go first?” he asked.
“There happens to be a branch of my favorite restaurant in town. Have you ever been to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce?” she asked.
He nodded at first, but then he quickly said, “Yes, actually. You have good taste.”
I was well aware he held significant shares in the restaurant, having looked into his holdings thoroughly. How he managed to get those shares was the more important question. They typically weren’t for sale. If I could persuade James to use his influence, I might be able to study some of the technology the restaurant used.
Along the way, I spoke to James of the city and my joy at different parts of it, comparing and contrasting with my own. He occasionally responded, but I feared the choice of topic wasn’t to his liking. He didn’t inquire into my home no matter what bait I threw. What should I try next?