About Jovial Times

I enjoy writing and hope that I might bring a few more smiles to this world by doing what I enjoy.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 195

“Would you care to join me for some dinner, so we can have something a bit more typical on this date?” asked James shortly after he picked me up.

I smiled and nodded, eager to see what he had in mind. The day we met, James’ birthday, he had taken me to get new clothes and then out to eat. Though the dresses weren’t really to my taste, they were pretty. The meal had shown me far more about him. Everyone gravitated toward James. The idea was confirmed even more at his birthday party. There were so many people, all there to celebrate James’ day.

Working for him over the past month had introduced me to so many new ideas and wonderful people. First he made my life better than ever with a great many new friends and a place I could truly call home again. Then he made me a better superhero. Unlike before, I knew how to really fight now, had my own costume, and even possessed an incredible weapon. None of this could have happened without James.

I couldn’t feel more fortunate to know him. He took two weeks to take me on our date, but things were going so well. We had some entertainment, and now we were going out to eat together like something out of a movie.

“Mila, please drive us to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.” he instructed.

“Of course, master.” she replied.

I felt my grin grow wider. Ever since meeting James, I felt like I was living a dream, at least how people had described them to me. I knew James wasn’t a secret agent like I originally believed when I met him, but I still felt he had a great many similarities to the ones in movies. He was charming, skilled in many things, and perfectly brave when needed. He lived in a world filled with secrets and sought every day to use his craft to improve the lives of others. He carried no gun, but he was always armed. His magic could easily act as a more dangerous weapon than any gun if ever he needed one. Now this man of mystery was taking me to a place said to be mysterious by Jarod, one of the smartest people I knew.

When the restaurant came into view, I felt like jumping out before Mila even stopped the car. The building looked so unobtrusive with its shiny bricks. The sign was cheesily made with a smiley face surrounded by a galaxy off to the side of the restaurant’s name.

“You seem rather excited for someone who doesn’t need to eat.” he told me.

I was thankful as ever that Mila was supplying text for me, so I didn’t miss what he said while staring at the building. “I do still enjoy eating.” I informed him. “Plus, I’ve heard some pretty crazy things about this restaurant from Jarod. He told me that the rooms don’t make sense, like there’s some odd magic taking place when you enter. He also told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if criminals use this place for covert meetings, since overhearing conversations seems virtually impossible. How could I not be interested? We might stumble across drug dealers, mafia members, or some other shady types! I wonder if Maxine ate here while she was in town. I really wish I had my suit and Midnight, just in case.”

“Jarod does love this place as well, but I can’t say I’ve actually seen any evidence of criminal activity when I’ve been here before.” he insisted.

Unlike most people, James could easily afford to eat here often. Jarod probably hadn’t eaten here as often, but I knew Jarod did his research. James, as incredible as he was, did miss things. I sometimes wondered if he chose to miss things.

My mind went blank as the door opened, revealing a second sun setting over a purple ocean in the most spectacular way. I felt the gentle warmth of it on my skin as I followed James inside. As far as I could see was a beach and the ocean, stretching endlessly. The dark blue sand squished beneath my feet as I stepped on it. I wondered how all of this could possibly be in a restaurant, especially as I saw a well-dressed man nodding to us.

“Hello again, James. I’m Abdel, and I’ll be your host again this evening.” he told us.

With James in front of me and facing Abdel, I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I wouldn’t have realized he was even talking if his head hadn’t been turned as much as it was.

Nodding again, Abdel said, “If you would care to get changed, your assistant, Mila, warned us that you didn’t possess appropriate attire for our current theme, so feel free to get changed in the rooms just over there as I set your table. The current temperature might distract you from your meal, dressed as you are.”

I jogged over to the out-of-place structure, wondering what would be revealed to me inside. The doors were marked with the typical male and female symbols found outside of bathrooms, so I had no trouble knowing which to enter. There was also one with what looked like a showerhead.

At first, I was disappointed. The room was plain, simply hosting a bench and pole of clothing bags. I half-expected the room to have some sort of light show or other oddity when I was entering. I unzipped one of the bags and gaped. Was there an outfit split between the bags for some reason? This was barely more than underwear and a see-through top. Oh. Sandals too.

Opening the second bag, I realized what I was actually seeing: a bikini and something to wear over it when not swimming. I hadn’t been swimming for a long time, but I was sure James would help me if I couldn’t remember how. He didn’t have to worry about me drowning at least. I didn’t need air.

I quickly looked through the bags, wondering which swimming suit James would prefer. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable in any of them. The one piece suit was tempting, just to cover more up, but James never minded my skin. If anything, he might enjoy it. Frowning, I thought of how Alma was nearly as white as me. Any whiter, and she’d be albino as well. Well, her hair and eyes wouldn’t work. After a month of seeing him look at her, I recognized his interest. If he could like someone as pale as she was despite her unnatural look, he could like someone as white as snow.

I chose the red bikini and the pink, knit shirt. We were on a date. This wasn’t a time to be timid. I smiled, certain that Alma would never wear something like this. Seeing that James wasn’t out yet when I finished changing, I ran with the sandals in hand, wanting to feel the strange sand beneath my feet. I could hardly believe the view. When I got to the edge of the water, I let a wave splash over my foot, hardly believing this was a restaurant.

The smell of the food called to me, and I took to the table, already anticipating the taste of the food. Where had the server gone? There was no sign of him. I couldn’t explain how the entrance seemed to be a free-floating door either. Maybe Jarod would tell me later.

I forced myself not to eat anything yet, taking a seat and putting on the sandals. When James finally emerged, I was happy to see he was ready to swim as well. I would’ve felt foolish had I been the only one to change clothes. I waved at him, anxious to spend more time with him.

As he ran over to me, I tried not to stare, but the movement of his muscles was yet another thing fit for a movie. I knew he was strong for a human, if he really was human, but I hadn’t seen him quite so bare before. I exhaled and smiled. There were guys, and then there was James.

“The ocean smells so real! I dipped my foot in just to see, and the water is real! How do they do this?” I asked the moment he was seated.

Shrugging, he said, “I have no clue. Aaliyah probably does. I believe she helped with some of the tech here.” He frowned slightly after mentioning her.

“That girl is amazing. I’m really glad I met you, James. Since I started working for you, I’ve met and helped so many interesting people! Well, not all of the helping is on the job, obviously, but being a best friend for people is pretty cool too.” I assured him.

James always worried, and I never thanked him enough. He might have frowned because he was worried that he mentioned another girl on our date, but I couldn’t care. He was here with me when there were so many beautiful girls in his house, and Aaliyah was far too young to be a rival despite her intelligence.

He smiled at me, and I instantly felt more at ease again.

“I’m glad you are doing well. I was honestly being a bit selfish when I started the business. My father wanted me to get a job, but I couldn’t think of anywhere with the flexibility and variety of work I desired. Then I decided to start my own business, and I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well with it if not for all of the help I’ve received.” he claimed, modest as ever.

“But you inspire people, James. Whenever I’m around you, I feel so… full of hope. I know the other girls feel it too. You’re not some average guy who just happened to get lucky. You’re amazing.” I insisted, reaching out and gently touching his hand.

He pulled back, frowning again. “Sorry.” he told me. “What you’re probably feeling is magic, actually.”

Having him pull away from me was discouraging, but having him worry about his gifts was so weird. Why did he treat his incredible abilities like a curse at times?

“I found out a while ago that my body absorbs residual energy and creates this sort of magical field which causes people to like me. I can’t control it. There’s no way for either of us to know if anything you feel around me is real or not.” he stated.

I stared into his eyes, still wondering why he seemed to be in pain. “You mentioned this before when we first met.” I reminded him.

He nodded.

With him being silent, I then said, “You’ve gotta be one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, but you let your abilities bother you too much.”

He stared into my eyes and I wondered what all he saw. There were times when James seemed to be delving into my soul. For all I knew, the feeling might be true. I smiled at him, trying to be reassuring.

“Well, you have to admit that sounds pretty lucky as things go. Vampires have to deal with finding a source of blood. Werewolves have to fight the urge to eat people. I have cold skin, which freaks guys out. You have to deal with everyone liking you.” I explained.

“I see your point, I guess, but aren’t you bothered by the idea that you’re forced to like me?” he asked, still looking upset.

I took a bite of my food, some sort of incredible chicken dish. The taste was too amazing to keep from smiling even if I wanted to try. James was worrying himself far too much, especially here. “How can I be bothered by liking my date when we’re eating on a beach during sunset?” I asked.

He nodded. I wished he would smile again, but I was glad he wasn’t frowning. We talked idly as we enjoyed our meal. The food here was easily as good as Marco’s, which was a feat by itself. Had Marco helped the chefs here as well? This past month had spoiled me more than I would’ve thought possible before coming here. I felt guilty at times, knowing there were people struggling for food out there when I ate incredible meals daily and didn’t even need food to survive. Emma couldn’t be everywhere to make the vegetables, and Marco couldn’t be everywhere to make the meals. We needed to do our best with what we have, and today I was fortunate. Not eating would only disappoint Marco, and I was making a difference in this city.

When we finished eating, I said, “Ready for a swim?”

“Huh?” he asked, looking surprised.

I took off the knit shirt, placing it on the back of the chair. “Swimming. Why get dressed like this if we’re not going to enjoy this exotic ocean?” I asked, nodding toward the water.

“Oh. Yes. I suppose we can.” he replied, looking nervous.

“Can’t swim?” I asked with a grin.

“What? Of course, I can swim.” he stated.

“Then come on!” I exclaimed, interrupting whatever else he was going to say and pulling him toward the water.

The water felt wonderful, but I was surprised by the lack of salt. There was no sting when some got in my eyes. I supposed they weren’t trying for authenticity, not with purple water and blue sand. The feel of the waves was plenty authentic for me, and being able to swim alone with James was amazing.

He eventually started to suggest we should leave, but I just dove back into the water. He knew I couldn’t hear him, so I didn’t know why he tried telling me such things. He needed more fun! If he had been serious about needing to leave, he wouldn’t have followed me back into the water, so I knew he was just being overly cautious.

I swam to the shore when I spotted someone odd. A very old looking man wearing robes like some sort of wizard was walking toward us. He took his time making his way across the sand, but he seemed plenty strong to me, especially for someone so obviously elderly. There was a confident ease to his stride that made him seem quite capable.

“Sorry to interrupt, but Aaliyah just called and informed me that you’re going to be late for your practice with Alma if you don’t leave in the next seven minutes.” stated the man when he reached us.

Turning to James, I asked “Why didn’t you tell me you had practice tonight? I don’t want to make you late!” I then ran to use the shower next to the changing rooms.

I didn’t quite trust Alma yet, especially alone with James, but I was aware that she was powerful. She was far faster, stronger, and more knowledgeable than me. If she was willing to instruct James, keeping him from the lessons was criminal. Before meeting James, I wouldn’t have thought of such a thing as criminal, but I realized now what a difference instruction could make. My world was expanding a little more each day, and a better me would exist tomorrow to give back to the world.

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Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 194

I bumped my coffee, knocking it over as I reached for the radio. Sighing, I started cleaning it up. I was later than usual for lunch already, and the coffee had gone cold. I’d just pick up a new one when I picked up my sandwich. While still trying to wipe up the coffee, a call came over the radio. Someone was injured just two blocks from me. Lunch would wait. I told the dispatcher that I was on my way, not wanting some rookie to get caught up in the affairs of the triangle. Dangerous neighborhood.

When I arrived, there was someone in a too-large, black hoodie kneeling over what hopefully was the victim and not a new body. The man in the hoodie turned, and I knew something was off. He was perfectly clean-shaven, had well-groomed hair, and his shoes looked expensive. He was also young, probably a teenager. I knelt down by him and told the man on the ground to sit tight. Possible broken arm and leg. No bleeding. Nothing I could do that wouldn’t just hinder the paramedics when they arrived.

“Mind telling me what happened here?” I asked.

“Oh. No, sir. I was just walking by when this man fell, landing here pretty much as you see him.” explained the kid, his accent further betraying that he didn’t belong around here.

“He fell? Tripped and broke his arm and leg?” I asked.

Shaking his head, he said, “No. From up there somewhere. I’m not precisely sure how high he was, since I didn’t see him until he screamed. He was still in mid-air, so I came running over.”

I looked up and didn’t see any broken windows, though there were a couple open. Was our “victim” trying to jump between windows? If so, why? He was lucky he didn’t end up even worse for wear.

“Mind if I take down your information? Name, date of birth, phone, etc.” I told the boy.

“Oh. Sure.” he replied before listing off his information.

I wrote everything down in my notepad for my report. “Thanks, James. You’re free to go. I’ll take care of him from here.” I assured him. I’d love to know what his story was. What brought him to this neighborhood? I was sure he had his reasons, but this type of place wasn’t safe for a kid like him.

As James walked off, I started questioning the man on the ground. I didn’t want him to pass out for one, and I was very interested in what he was doing that led to his fall. He wasn’t very coherent and probably had a concussion. The ambulance arrived before I asked too much, but I was betting his fall didn’t come about simply from goofing off.

I wasn’t even back to my car yet when another call came over the radio. Robbery just down the street. Did someone miss the flashing lights over here, or was I supposed to be too busy to respond? Someone replied to the dispatcher just before me and went flying past as I stepped into my car. I sighed, knowing the voice. Pat. Good kid, but he had a lot to learn still.

Another police car sped past. I followed. Seeing someone in a red hoodie running remarkably fast, I knew where Pat was going. He’d forget about checking for injured, accomplices, or anything else. The figure in the red hood had been acting as a vigilante for months now. Rumor was that he had a fancier costume now, so why the red hoodie again? Did we have multiple vigilantes running through the streets? Possible, but unlikely. Considering some of the people we’ve found tied up, the person was incredibly tough.

The car in front of me was quick to pull over. Peterson stepped out. He had enough experience to know what he was doing.

I slowed down, looking around. A silver DB5 had parked across from the shop, looking completely out of place. The owner perhaps? I was somewhat tempted to follow Pat and keep him out of trouble. I shook my head as I noticed James standing next to a man who was probably the shopkeeper by the uniform. The altercation was over, and I knew Peterson would be able to cuff the man on the ground easily enough without me. James seemed to have the man on the ground secured. Still, this was the scene of the crime, and the person in the hoodie had never injured an officer.

Wanting to hear what James’ story was now, I parked behind Peterson’s car. Peterson was already frisking the robber and had a firearm off the man.

“James, right? This just isn’t your lucky day, is it.” I stated. “Any idea who that guy in the red hoodie was, James?”

He shook his head and said, “Not a clue, sir. The whole thing happened in a flash. One moment, the robber there was stepping out of the store, and the next moment, the guy was taping up his hands.”

His blue eyes stared into mine, daring me to doubt him, but he seemed a bit nervous. Most people would be nervous this close to an armed robbery, but James didn’t seem to have a problem holding the man down.

“That’s what I saw too, sir.” claimed the shopkeeper.

Peterson had removed the robber from the scene as we were talking and came back.

“Would you mind showing Officer Peterson any surveillance footage you have?” I asked.

He nodded.

I waited for them to go inside before asking “Did you get a look at the guy in the red hoodie, James?”

“No, sir. Things happened too fast. Sorry. I was still mulling over what happened down the street when this fell in my lap. As you implied, this just isn’t my day.” he replied.

I nodded, though I still felt something was off about him, so I asked “You don’t really look like you’re from around here. Do you come this way often?”

“No. I just happened to be in the area today. I can’t imagine I’ll come this way again though. Things are a bit too wild for my tastes.” he explained.

Pulling out a card, I said, “Well, here’s my card. Give me a call if you remember anything else. Oh, and I didn’t get your address earlier. Mind writing it down for me?” I asked. I handed over my notepad with a pen. There was something about James that made me feel he was a good kid, but I really wanted to know how he ended up here today.

When he handed back my notepad, I looked to find he had written down an address. If he actually lived at the address, his parents had to be well off. I couldn’t afford to live in Naperhill.

“Thanks again, James. Take care of yourself.” I told him.

To my surprise, he crossed the street and hopped into the DB5. Where was the driver? Was the car his? If so, who was he? I quickly wrote down the license plate. Then I did a search on my phone for the price of his car. My jaw dropped. Who was he?

After I helped Peterson wrap things up, I ran James’ license plate. He was the registered owner. I called in my lunch break and looked up James’ name online. Turned out that he owns a business called Best Friend For Hire. If someone from the triangle had hired him, there was dirty money involved. Some of the suggested rates listed on Best Friend For Hire’s website were up there, especially for James himself.

My phone rang before I could look at anymore. I didn’t recognize the number but answered. As the Superintendent of Police announced himself, explained that he was informed I ran James’ plate, and directly ordered me to drop any investigation into James Michael Somerset III, I found myself wondering yet again who that kid is. He certainly had friends in high places.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 193

“Let us off here.” I ordered, not wanting to get too close to the triangle yet. Turning to James, I said, “I know Mila can take care of herself, but we’d stick out like a sore thumb in such a fancy car. Probably should do something about your clothing as well.”

James nodded, but seemed lost in thought. Then he shivered as if the cold just cut through his clothes.

“Oh! If you’re cold, we can get you a hoodie like mine. No offense, but even your hair is a bit too clean cut for this area.” I warned him.

“So says the girl with perfect white hair and skin.” he teased.

Grinning, I said, “Thank you! You wouldn’t believe how paranoid I’ve been about it lately. Everyone at your place is so beautiful. I sometimes wonder if you even notice me.”

I hadn’t meant to admit quite that much, but I was flying high on James’ compliment.

“There is a thrift shop just ahead on the right, master, if you do wish to change.” stated Mila as she displayed text for me to read. She also displayed a map for us, showing where we were and the simple path to take. “I’ll remain here and care for anything you wish to take off.”

“Okay. Thank you, Mila.” replied James just before stepping out.

If he said anything else, she didn’t show me, so I quickly hopped out of the car to follow him. His long strides carried him quickly ahead, but I kept up easily enough, half-jogging at times to close the gap.

I knew this store, having passed it numerous times. A sense of nostalgia swept of me as I looked around. Not so long ago, I came to stores like this relatively often, needing the cheapest clothes I could get when my clothes were too badly damaged to patch up.

“Oh! Try this on!” I exclaimed, noticing a very colorful, Hawaiian-style shirt. I didn’t really want James to buy it, but I wanted to see him in it.

He agreed, sliding the shirt over his own before looking in the mirror.

I grinned as I watched him. He looked so ridiculous. “I think that might make you stick out even worse!” I teased, helping him out of the shirt.

I found several more obnoxiously bright shirts for him to try, and I love how he smiled as he tried each. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Then he found a gigantic, black hoodie. I wondered how wide the previous owner was when the hoodie hung loosely on James.

“I’ll just get this.” he told me as he examined himself.

I wanted to stop him, suggesting anything else to have a bit more fun, but I shrugged instead. The hoodie hid his expensive shirt and hung low enough to cover the brand of his jeans. If he was happy with how he looked, I couldn’t argue.

“Let’s just hope no one looks too hard at your feet. Since I don’t recognize that brand, it’s gotta be expensive.” I cautioned.

James smiled and shrugged. He knew what his clothes were like. As I walked toward the triangle, he followed. I tried thinking of something to say, but he started texting before I managed to come up with something he’d find interesting. When he looked up again, he seemed startled, glancing over his shoulder and back in front of him quickly. I walked ahead, glancing back to make sure he was following again. He was.

How did this place look to James? He lived in such an enormous, well-kept house in a beautiful neighborhood. What did he think of people who lived like this? Did he realize that an area similar to this is where he would have found me a year ago?

I stopped, glancing back at him as he tapped my shoulder.

Pointing, he said, “I just heard glass break. I think from over there.”

I nodded. I would have glanced down the alley anyway, but now I knew someone was probably there. I frowned and turned down the alley after seeing a large man on the ground. James fell behind when I turned off, but he hurried to catch up now. I quickly moved to catch him as he slipped.

Seeing that the man was still breathing, I started feeling the man’s pockets, looking for a wallet. James tapped my shoulder again, so I turned toward him.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Finding out where he lives.” I replied. “How else are we going to get him home?”

“But what if he’s injured? Should we get him to a hospital?” asked James as I pulled a wallet from the guy’s back pocket.

“Most of the people in this area don’t want to end up in a hospital for anything minor. He probably just slipped like you. Can’t you smell the alcohol?” I asked.

There was even part of a bottle still in the man’s hand. Having seen his address on the ID in the wallet, I slipped Louis’ wallet back into his pocket and lifted him up. James looked surprised.

“Care to give me a hand?” I asked him.

He nodded and hunched down to put Louis’ arm over his shoulders as I had done. James struggled a bit as we walked the block, readjusting his position several times. Being that tall apparently was a disadvantage at times like this.

When we reached the right address, I knocked on the door. An older woman answered the door, probably Louis’ grandmother.

“Oh! What happened to my Louis?” she asked.

I glanced over to James, but he was already talking. I couldn’t really see what he was saying past Louis.

The woman shook her head, looking glum as she looked at Louis. What had James told her?

Motioning to follow her, she said, “Well, get him in here. Good Lord knows we don’t want the neigh-…”

I had no idea what she was saying now that her back was to us, but I followed till she stopped and pointed at the couch. I followed James’ lead positioning Louis on the couch. A young boy came running into the room, staring at Louis the moment he was in the room.

“Is he dead?” asked the boy.

I shook my head as the lady seemed to be saying something.

Turning to us, she then said, “Well, you two sit right there, and I’ll dish you up some pie. Louis will want to thank you when he comes around.”

I nodded and took a seat, not wanting to offend her. I tried not to laugh when I noticed how uncomfortable James seemed. Had he ever been in a house this small? I wondered what he would have done if the place wasn’t as well-kept, somewhat of a rarity in neighborhoods like this.

The lady came back with two plates and handed me one, saying, “Here you are. Now I baked that myself. Bought…” She turned to walk around over to James, leaving me clueless as to what she was saying. She smiled wide after giving James his plate. Looking surprised, she said, “Oh, heavens, I forgot to introduce myself. My name’s Edna. Now who might you be?”

“James. Meeting you is a pleasure.” he told her, holding up his hand to shake.

I quickly set down my plate as Louis moved. Standing and touching his shoulder, I said, “Easy. You hit your head.”

He stared up at me and said, “Are you an angel?”

I smiled, having had this happen before. “You’re home.” I assured him.

“Gran-gran?” he asked.

I turned to see if she responded.

“Who else would be in our house taking care of our guests?” she asked.

I backed up, so I could see them both more easily.

“What happened? Who are you two?” he asked.

“Sorry. I’m James.” replied James, holding out his hand again.

“I’m Portentia. We found you in the alley back there.” I explained.

“Alley?” he asked.

“You drunk fool.” stated Edna.

“Drunk? Nah, gran-gran. I was buying you more eye medicine. Smell my breath.” he told her.

“I can smell you from here.” she stated.

James quickly said, “He was on top of a shattered bottle.”

“I didn’t smell anything on his breath.” I assured her.

“Oh. Now that’s a good boy. You sit there, and I’ll get you a slice of pie.” she told him.

“Thanks for getting me back. Sorry if gran-gran’s pushing you around.” he told us. Looking to the door, he said, “What kind of question is that? Boy, you better learn yourself some manners!”

I looked to the doorway to see the young boy smiling.

“Portentia’s deaf. That’s why she often signs thing as she speaks.” explained James.

“Care to learn something?” I asked.

He grinned at me and said, “Sure!”

Demonstrating as I spoke, I told him “This is how you say ‘grandmother’ in sign language.”

“My word, aren’t you just precious.” stated Edna as she walked in with Louis’ pie.

Not much later, James and I were playing board games with them. Edna insisted, saying that James and I might keep her grandsons honest. The game took quite a while and we all ended up in the poor farm, but James seemed to be having fun. Despite Louis wanting another game, James and I excused ourselves when Edna left for work. We had more to do out there!

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 192

The door opened as I reached for it. That sort of thing happened frequently around here when Mila was being helpful. I realized I was even luckier this time as I saw James. He was home!

“James, we have to talk!” I exclaimed, signing quickly as I spoke.

“What’s the matter?” he asked as he looked down to me.

He always made me feel so tiny next to him with his broad soldiers and greater than average height.

“The matter?” I asked. “What would be the matter? It’s not like I’ve been waiting two weeks for the date you promised only to find out that you went out with her instead as soon as you were free.”

Alma said something to him. She didn’t seem to be very happy either, running off with her incredible speed. I still wasn’t used to someone moving that fast.

“Umm… I think I hear my daddy…” started Aaliyah, turning before I could catch all of it. She had followed James and Alma inside. After a couple steps, she turned back to face me. Then she signed and said, “By the way, why are you in your hoodie?”

I fidgeted as I replied “Oh. I was getting frustrated waiting, and thought I might bump into James if I was out on patrol.”

“What happened to your other outfit?” she asked with wide-eyed innocence.

“I sorta lost part of it when Maxine hit me with a missile.” I explained.

She face-palmed before saying, “You’re not supposed to let missiles hit you, silly. If I were you, I’d ask Mila to print you a new outfit. See ya!”

New outfit!? I turned to James, grabbed his hands to get his attention, and asked “Was she being serious? Mila can do that?”

He shrugged said, “Mila ,are you capable of printing a superhero outfit for Portentia?”

Appearing on a nearby mirror, Mila signed as she said, “Oh, master. I would have no idea what you’re speaking about, though I do have a design in my database for Calamity’s outfit, strictly for cosplay purposes, of course. I think Portentia would be able to fit into it if she wished to cosplay as the city’s greatest superhero.”

James was saying something back to her, but he had turned to face her, blocking my sight. Oh! Mila was transcribing again.

“Are you saying she’s not the only one?” he had asked.

“If there are others, none have been successful enough to catch my attention, but I don’t claim to know everything.” she insisted.

I’d argue on her behalf. Mila certain seemed to know everything when asked. She wouldn’t always tell what she knew, but she knew.

“Please, get started with it!” I pleaded, nearly bouncing in my excitement. “I’ll put off going on patrol until after my date with James.”

I never dreamed getting a new outfit could be that easy. If only they could be as durable as me. Noticing Mila frowning, I felt a moment of unease.

“As you wish, but don’t let the master forget he still owes me a date as well, though I’m not quite ready for it.” she insisted.

I snapped my mouth shut, realizing it had dropped open. Then I turned to James and asked “You’re going on a date with Mila? James, why didn’t you tell me!?”

He seemed to be thinking too hard about what to say.

“Ugh. Now I’ll really have to show you that I’m more fun.” I insisted, grabbing his hand and pulling him back through the door.

Was I though? Mila was incredible. She was beyond incredible. I had no doubts she’d come up with some incredible date specifically designed for their needs.

James tugged back, so I stopped and looked at him.

“Are you sure you want to do this right now?” he asked. “I’m not entirely certain that I’m even done babysitting Aaliyah for the day.”

He quickly pulled out his phone to check.

I said, “She’s gone, so you must be. I have to grab you before you promise ten other girls dates before me. You’re not forgiven for giving Alma a date first.”

“Actually, I owed Alma a dress, since one of hers was ruined when she was helping me.” he stated.

I stared up into his eyes. He seemed to be perfectly sincere… When he wasn’t teasing someone, he was usually sincere. He was a good person.

Grinning, I said, “Sorry! I should’ve known better than to have doubted you. I’m still questioning this date with Mila. How is that even supposed to work?” I couldn’t get past the part where Mila was stuck in mirrors and phones.

He shrugged and told me “I have no idea, but she cornered me into it. Mila’s extremely bright.”

I nodded and pulled him forward again. “I know!” I assured him. “I’ve spent enough time watching Jarod and her talk to realize that they’re amazing.”

“So… what do you do with Jarod?” he asked, trying to be casual.

Was he jealous? I tried not to grin as I said, “Just hang out and talk about ways to stop Maxine, really. I’m not into him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Why are we walking?” he suddenly asked.

“Sorry. Are you cold?” I inquired. “I can’t really help with that. I don’t get cold, so I generally don’t think about it.”

“No. I dressed for the weather when I left this morning. I merely meant that we could be taking my car.” he explained.

“I don’t have one of those either, so that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. I have borrowed Mila a few times when she’s free. You don’t mind, do you?” I asked, feeling embarrassed by asking after the fact. Mila always seemed fine with the idea, and she was actually reliable, unlike most cars.

James laughed and said, “No, not at all. She needs to be kept entertained, so she doesn’t end up finding trouble.”

I found myself wondering if Mila’s idea of a date involved her using the car to be out with James, but I quickly said, “Thank you! You wouldn’t believe how difficult hiding the fist off maxine’s machine was. If not for Mila, I wouldn’t have managed getting it all the way here.”

James put his phone to his ear and said, “Mila, could you give us a lift?” After a moment, he looked down to me and said, “Mila’s bringing the car.”

I nodded and said, “I know. I was watching.”

Mila would never turn James down. Her admiration of him was obvious whenever we talked about him. She could seem so… human. I found myself wondering again what I was. I never really had this problem before. Meeting Alma changed things. She forced me to consider that I might not really be human. Most people certainly couldn’t keep up with me, and they certainly didn’t heal as I do.

James waved to get my attention before asking “So what do you have planned for this date of ours?”

“Huh?” I asked, blinking. “You don’t have anything planned?”

He sighed before saying, “Of course not. I didn’t realize we were doing this today.

I shrugged and admitted “I guess I just thought you’d have done some planning already. You had two weeks. Don’t worry though. Let’s just go down to the triangle and roam around.”

“Sorry, but I’m not familiar with that area. What’s ‘the triangle’?” he asked.

“It’s a bit of a slum, really. I’ve been trying to clean up the streets some now that Maxine’s not keeping me busy. Since you don’t have plans for us, I figure we might as well check if anyone needs some help today.” I explained.

He nodded and seemed to get lost in thought again, standing there silently. He never seemed to understand how incredibly handsome he was. One way or another, I was going to show him a good time.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 191

“Please, boss-man, sir? I want a dress too!” begged Aaliyah as she stared up at James.

Shrugging, he said, “Sure.”

Was he forgetting that we were here for me, since one of my dresses was destroyed by that fey he refused to restrain? I turned to him and said, “James! Really. You shouldn’t give into her begging so easily. Who knows what your amicable attitude will cost you when she’s involved. You know good and well that she can easily afford her own dress, so must you indulge her in such a manner?”

He really needed to learn a modicum of caution when dealing with Aaliyah. If he had the slightest clue what she really was, he’d be horrified all over again by her. I still hadn’t worked out why she displayed herself to him again, killing a man right in front of him in her true form, but she always had a plan. If her plans didn’t often cause difficulties for others, I wouldn’t feel quite so worried about his attachment to her. Why was she grinning at me with such apparent glee?

“Why should you get one from him and not me?” she asked, looking at me with such earnestness that I almost believed her confusion despite myself.

“You know very well that his little friend cost one when I was simply trying to persuade her to go home.” I snapped, annoyed that I couldn’t figure out what game she was playing with us.

“I really do appreciate what you did, but I have mentioned before that my friend knew you wouldn’t get hurt. Frankly, I’m surprised she’s not more intimidated by you, like the rest seem to be.” stated James.

I knew at a glance that he meant well, but that didn’t stop the anger in me from lashing at its cage. I turned away from him, trying to calm down. He was far too trusting. That was the root of the problem, but I couldn’t deny my own frustration at knowing I couldn’t protect him from Aaliyah. Okay, so there might be some small part of me disheartened by knowing the truth of his words too. I had felt the fear within the fey. Most of them feared me even as they accepted me as one of their own. Were they scared of my power or the other part of my heritage? I couldn’t say.

James took my hand as he said, “Alma, please don’t be upset.”

I wanted to squeeze his hand in turn, but I also wanted to pull away. I did neither, just letting myself enjoy the feel of his hand around mine. I never wanted to hurt him in any way. I basked in my memories with him. There were plenty of disheartening ones, but I wasn’t anymore immune to James’ charms than anyone else, despite my protective spells. He was an incredible person with a heart far too big for his own good, and I would protect him as well as I could.

“Aaliyah has worked incredibly hard for me, so showing a little gratitude to her isn’t unreasonable. Besides, you know she can look perfectly cute when she’s not completely mismatched.” he claimed.

And he was right. As she was now, Aaliyah appeared as cute as she was terrifying in her normal form. The girl was disarming, helping James in countless ways toward some plan I could not fathom. Would he survive her schemes? I hoped.

“Boss-man, sir! Are you saying I’m not always cute?” asked Aaliyah, seeming to plead with him through her large, blue eyes.

“Oh, enough of that.” I snapped. “Let’s just proceed.”

Aaliyah’s grin to me was disarming. She climbed up on my lap as if that were perfectly normal, and I indulged her as we started using the store’s tablet to peruse and modify dresses. I also made mental notes on where the software could use a little work. The U.I. was fairly elegant in this version, but I felt the utility of it could be improved. As Aaliyah and I worked, I tried not to be too competitive in my redesigns, but the girl’s skill was formidable as ever. If James were to participate, he’d surely help us both keep in line.

“James, which style trim do you prefer?” I inquired as I showed him the original, my own, and Aaliyah’s.

He studied them all intently but said, “I find them all to be perfectly lovely, so why not trust your own instincts and go with the style that suits you best?”

He couldn’t have given a more typically noncommittal answer, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes as I told him “The twins always spoke about how much they enjoyed shopping with you. Is your current company so much worse that you can’t be more interested?”

“What?” he asked in surprise. “No. Of course not. I simply know next to nothing about dress design and would hate to lead you astray.”

“Then let us teach you.” I suggested, wiping the current project into storage.

He didn’t argue, so Aaliyah and I commenced with explaining the high and low points of current fashion as well as the nuances in detailing which could make or break a design. James proved to know more than he had admitted, but I always knew he had good sense in fashion. When I brought back the previous project, he still wouldn’t commit to a favorite between the designs, but he at least explained why this time. I resisted the urge to argue for mine, knowing I was simply being biased against Aaliyah’s.

After the orders were placed, we discussed where to eat, but Aaliyah and I couldn’t agree. James declined to state a preference even as he suggested possible courses when he knew the restaurants.

Several minutes into the conversation, he told us “I’m sure Marco could have something prepared by the time we arrive if you two don’t mind just eating at home.”

Her home is on the opposite side of the park.” I pointed out.

I couldn’t argue against Marco’s meals being the best we could find even if we were to include the whole of the world as possibilities, but I wasn’t ready to return home quite yet, not with knowing James’ time would be taxed by the others there.

“You don’t really want to go back already, do you, boss-man, sir? Alpy’s actually taken time off work for once.” explained Aaliyah.

“Well, more or less.” I replied, having been in constant communication with some of my employees via text on my phone.

I was both grateful and nervous about her statement. Did she have plans for us nearby? Was there something happening at Somerset Estate that she was keeping from us?

“I only suggested it because I adore Marco’s cooking. Why don’t we just go to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce?” inquired James.

“No, sorry. That won’t do.” I stated. Part of the binding contract between the Slayer’s and Aaliyah was to avoid entering that restaurant in all of its locations, one of the many parts that contract which often had me on edge. What was Aaliyah hiding there?

“There’s a pizza place around the corner that has great reviews!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she stared at her phone.

Nodding, I said, “Oh, yes. I haven’t tried that one yet.”

James looked at me in surprise.

“What?” I asked. After some thought, I decided he was confused as to how I knew which one Aaliyah had meant. “I’ve memorized every street of this city as well as the suburbs.”

“What!? That’s incredible!” he exclaimed.

I shook my head and explained “No. You simply don’t give me enough credit. Knowing your way around is important.”

We then proceeded to the restaurant, making idle conversation along the way. I found the place a bit quaint, given the appearance. At a glance, most consumers would probably feel the place hadn’t been updated in sixty years, but the registers were actually computerized, despite their appearances. In the heat from the oven, I could easily picture the entire kitchen, which utilized a large number of modern implements. By the designs, I’d guess the place had been refurbished within the past two years. I allowed myself a wry smile as I realized why this place seemed familiar. This place would have needed refurbished after the massacre Aaliyah had committed. Fifteen people were found decapitated. Weapons were found on all of them, and not one managed to get off a shot. Adelmar had thought someone was trying to send our family a message. If he would have known then what we do now, would he have wanted my mother to come here at all?

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 190

I looked around in wonder, amazed that these primitive giants had even managed to colonize this world. During my brief stay, I quickly realized that they do not deserve the planet. Pollution was rampant and very few seemed to care. My kind would thrive here and easily repair the damage, though it would take some time.

I suddenly froze, sensing danger. I couldn’t see anything threatening, at least not at first. A shadow loomed over me, and I prepared to release my venomous cloud. The fear increased as I stared up. Something terrible and vast was looming over me. I named her Death as a voice penetrated my mind.

:Wrong planet, little one.: she stated.

I wanted to respond. I wanted to assure her that my people could better care for this place. I wanted to explain that my own planet was too populated for my offspring to really thrive. I wanted to say so many things, but I could only nod.

:You’ll be a good girl and leave now, yes?: asked the voice.

I knew to my core this wasn’t a request. I quickly thought :Yes. I’ll leave this night. I won’t leave anything behind.:

The feeling of terror instantly abated as she vanished from my sight, but something dreadful remained just past what I could see. I felt it there, watching me, waiting. I was frozen, fear building inside me again. Humans passed me, unaware of how close my family was to colonizing this planet ourselves. I wanted to look at the thing near me, yet every fiber in my being warned against turning. I ran as fast as I could. This planet was guarded by Death herself and possibly something worse. We would never come back here.

,,,^._.^,,,

“I don’t see why she needed to come along.” I stated, resisting the urge to tap my foot as Aaliyah crouched over some type of large beetle. I didn’t recognize the species, so I was guessing the creature was rare. I wasn’t going to admit my ignorance, not with how gladly Aaliyah would surely give me an overly detailed explanation which would undoubtedly tell me little of actual interest.

“Sorry, but you know my schedule is pretty tight. How was I supposed to know that Chad would desperately need a babysitter today?” asked James.

I rolled my eyes and said, “You could have pawned her off on Emma. Emma would’ve been overjoyed.”

James was quite well aware that Aaliyah was an exceptionally dangerous being who didn’t need “babysitting”, but he took the role seriously, as if what he did could make any difference to her. Would he still believe himself a babysitter if he ever found out that Aaliyah was Death herself? He had seen her true form once already, a fact that gave him nightmares for a month. Would he even be able to handle that knowledge?

Aaliyah looked up at me with her wide, blue eyes as she said, “Emma’s modeling for one of her favorite brands. You wouldn’t really want to have her be distracted on such a big day, would you?”

Was she threatening me? There was just enough variance in her tone toward the end that she might have been. I was surely over-thinking the situation.

“Are you quite finished now?” I demanded.

The girl looked too adorable as she excitedly nodded and said, “Yep! She’s promised to return home tonight, so all is well! Crisis averted!”

Was she protecting the beetle, knowing it was rare? Could she actually communicate with it? I shook my head as I started walking. I would get nowhere if I allowed myself to continue this line of thought. Aaliyah would kill me in a heartbeat if I revealed her secret to anyone, she might well kill me just for discovering another one.

“You do know that as the owner of the company you do have a say in the schedule.” I pointedly told James, settling on a safer line of thought. “I realize that Aaliyah is a marvelous secretary, but don’t you rely on her a bit heavily?”

I was dramatically understating things, but telling James he was being deceived wouldn’t get me anywhere. Unfortunately, his trust in Aaliyah grew by the day.

“You do realize that I can’t keep up with her at all, don’t you?” he asked. “The amount of work Aaliyah does in her free time is mind-boggling.”

“Quite, but aren’t you making enough to spend more time managing and less time in the field, babysitting your employee?” I pointed out, perfectly well aware that I couldn’t come close to keeping up with her either.

“But the boss-man likes his job, Alpy!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

I really disliked that nickname.

“You shouldn’t bully him when he’s finally having some fun with his life.” she continued.

I started to argue, pointing out that James had been having a sufficient amount of fun merely playing her game, but he was being oblivious when I tried to get him to confirm the point. What was distracting him now!?

Gently squeezing his hand, I asked “James, are you even listening?”

“Sorry.” he stated, blinking and looking at me. “Was thinking about stuff. You wouldn’t believe how strained my head’s felt of late, having to communicate with a fey so frequently.”

I nodded and said, “I actually appreciate the fairy’s company during your lessons. I never would’ve guessed quite how skilled you are with multitasking without seeing you attempt to fight, chat with her, and maintain a spell. You’ve been improving quite satisfactorily. However, I do still maintain that the fairy should not be allowed off your yard, particularly out of that forest. Can you imagine what she’d do to some daft bloke that attempted to mug you?”

If someone managed to harm the little creature, we’d both be quite devastated. She was probably the last of her kind. As pointless as her conversation regularly was, she always brought smiles and laughter. I really would miss her if she were gone.

“I am getting better at communicating with her, you know. I might be able to persuade her to stay out of it.” argued James.

“Alpy, want to hire a mugger and test it!? We can place bets and everything!” suggested Aaliyah.

“I’ll never speak with either of you again if you hire a criminal to attack me.” he told her, attempting to appear quite put off by the notion.

“Come now, James. We would just be having a little fun.” I teased.

He stared at me in that way which encouraged an urge to embrace him. I wished he wasn’t so fragile… I could literally hug him to death with next to no effort. I refrained from further acknowledging the urge and instead started speaking of his staff, gently pointing out ways he might be able to guide them more.

“Here we are.” I stated, having walked another block. “This will only take a few minutes, but please make yourself comfortable.”

Anna worked for me, using her antique business to aid in finding non-humans to investigate. She barely started discussing this month’s leads when I realized James seemed to grow cold in the other room. Whatever could be troubling him? He was shivering!

“Boss-man, sir? What’s wrong?” asked Aaliyah.

The way James grabbed her protectively against his chest worried me too much. I dashed into the room and inquired “James, whatever is the matter?”

“I’m… well… I’m fine, so far as there’s nothing physically wrong with me.” he assured me with a tremor in his voice.

I didn’t think he was lying, considering I could find no wound.

“Anna, might I trouble you for some tea?” I asked loudly enough for Anna to hear from the other room.

“I want some too!” exclaimed Aaliyah, her voice muffled behind James’ arm.

He released her, saying, “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t trying to suffocate you.”

“Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. Everything’s fine!” she assured him.

Everything was most certainly not fine. What happened!? I needed to be more delicate. James looked on edge, and his mind was quite obviously not with us at the moment.

I gently touched his shoulder to get his attention before saying, “James, you can talk with me. What happened?’

He looked from me to Aaliyah. Was he not wanting to say something in front of her? He seemed to be considering a long time and concern was clearly on his face.

“Aaliyah, will you cover your ears until the tea is out?” I asked, knowing she’d hear us from half a block away with ease. “I’ll give you the last of my chocolates if you don’t listen to us for the next couple minutes.”

She grinned and nodded, looking every bit the adorable child she pretended to be. She might well be gouging out her own eardrums at the moment, though I didn’t sense anything of the sort. A deal was struck though, so she would adhere to it.

“I really don’t see how covering her ears will stop her from hearing us.” stated James.

I sighed and explained, “Due to her condition, she is quite capable of turning off her hearing. We made a deal some time ago that she’d do so for me whenever she covered her ears. Now please explain what happened to frighten you.”

I was well aware of some type of machinery inside her, but the entire form was a ruse. The machinery seemed nonsensical at best and changed periodically.

James looked embarrassed as he said, “I saw Death’s daughter when I looked in one of the mirrors. She killed someone outside, and I just started shaking. I couldn’t help it.”

What was she playing at!? Was she purposefully messing with us, or was there a bigger game afoot? I had no doubt she could seem to be in two places at once to James. Aaliyah was the fastest being known to me by an incredible margin.

Trying to console James, I said, “Don’t feel bad. You’ll meet few who aren’t traumatized by the sight of her.” Then I inquired “Sorry, but I have to ask, were you holding Aaliyah the whole time?”

“No. I grabbed Aaliyah the moment I managed to look away.” he told me.

I smirked and tried my best not to laugh. I was relieved that James hadn’t gone completely crazy from the sight of her and amused that he was trying to protect the very being who terrified him.

“Sorry. Truly. I’m terribly sorry.” I insisted, unable to explain to him why I was having difficulty containing my mirth.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, looking as if he might laugh now.

I started laughing, unable to keep the mirth inside any longer. He was completely adorable.

“I can’t help it. You’ve seen some of what she can do, yet you were trying to protect her of all people? James, I am sorry for laughing, but you’re ridiculous!” I explained, trying not to laugh anymore.

He was laughing too hard to reply, possibly realizing how absurd the situation was to some degree.

“Would you do the same for me if I would have been the one close at hand?” I asked after he calmed down some.

He shrugged and said, “I’d probably hide behind you, honestly.”

“Somewhat more sensible, but a bit less chivalrous, don’t you think?” I replied, not that I was disappointed in his response. The idea of having him pull me protectively to his chest was simply at the forefront of my thoughts.

Grabbing my hand, he said, “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you either.”

I smiled as I gazed up at him. His sincerity and kindness were admirable, even if they led him to rash judgements at times. James was undeniably a splendid person.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 189

James and I continued talking for quite some time as I drove us around. His worries kept appearing each time magic re-entered the conversation. I was far more impressed than I was concerned. If anyone could be trusted with extraordinary abilities, James could. He’d probably argue that I was just being affected by his enchantment, but I could think of far too many examples of James’ good nature and fair judgement for some enchantment to be the only reason. He was incredible.

James looked down in surprise as his phone started ringing. Considering his phone was generally muted, I could see why.

“Hello?” he asked, answering the call.

I could see the worry on his face as he listened. Something bad had happened.

“Oh no. Jarod and I are on our way. I honestly forgot about her. What happened?” he asked.

Her? Ah. The fairy was the most likely candidate. He wasn’t accustomed to her presence yet and left her out back earlier. I started heading home, assuming that was where the trouble was happening. James seemed to be listening intently. What happened?

“I’m terribly sorry. I truly did forget about her. Who would have thought that she’d still be out there after so many hours? I’ll hurry back there as soon as we arrive.” he assured the caller.

“What’s going on?” I inquired, having been accelerating for most of the caller’s monologue. If there was a situation the twins and Alma couldn’t handle, something seriously bad was happening.

“See you soon.” stated James before ending the call. Then he turned to me and said, “Apparently, the little fairy tried blasting her way into the house, got in a disagreement with Alma, and attacked her.”

I eased off the gas a little as I nodded. “Don’t forget to get the other side of the story before you start chastising someone.” I cautioned.

“I have a feeling that no amount of chastisement would faze the fairy.” he suggested.

“You’re still going to try. Besides, Alma has a tendency to be a bit forceful with people.” I reminded him, trying not to be too critical of her. “Do you really believe she didn’t provoke the attack?”

James frowned. “I’ll do my best to appease everyone.” he assured me.

I laughed and then said, “Don’t get me wrong. They both might need chewed out a bit. I was just thinking that this isn’t a time to leap to a conclusion, not with your volatile girlfriend involved.”

James sighed loudly. Staring at me, he replied “Jarod, we’re not dating. I don’t know that we will ever date, though I do like her company. We’re just… friends? I’m not even sure. She’s complicated.”

I laughed some more. James was obviously head over heels for her. I had no doubt that the two would end up dating. I wished I knew if that’d be a good thing, but I let the matter drop. There was nothing I could do at the moment, and James did have something to worry about at the moment if the fairy actually did attack Alma. Most people couldn’t survive being hit by a powerful laser, so he’d need to come up with safety measures against the fey in that scenario.

James hopped out of the car the moment we arrived in the driveway.

“Good luck!” I called, not wanting to follow. There was nothing I could do if the fairy or Alma was angry. However, I could come up with contingencies for various outcomes and consult with James should he ask. I had a feeling things wouldn’t get that far.

,,,^._.^,,,

I fought my temper, unwilling to harm this creature even by accident. James wouldn’t forgive me if I did, and I’d never forgive myself. As dangerous as the fey was, she might be the last of her kind. I hadn’t sensed any others quite like her when I was in the forest.

I sensed James jogging toward me just after the car arrived. His slow, human motions seemed to take an eternity to bring him here.

“Alma?” he called, looking around as if to find me in the mist.

He was unreasonably handsome, and I moved to him, taking his arm. That fairy should at least come to realize that James was with me. He looked down at me, concern clearly visible on his face, at least until the fairy flew up to him and hugged his nose with her entire body.

“James, letting her do that really isn’t appropriate, especially considering there isn’t a stitch on her.” I informed him.

“Huh? She’s… well… I hadn’t even thought of that of all things. None of the fey seem to feel a need for clothes. What of the fighting? Why is there fog everywhere?” he demanded.

“The fog makes destroying things with lasers much more difficult at any range. That was Mila’s doing, not mine in any case.” I explained, wishing again that he was better educated. We needed to rectify his ignorance. “Imagine what your mother would say if she were to find out that you let naked girls cling to you simply because they’re of a different species.”

He laughed, telling me “I’m sure mother would simply be in shock that there was a fairy hugging me.”

I let go of him, not feeling comfortable holding onto him in my current mood. Why was he being so dense? I decided to alter my approach slightly.

“Oh? And what about the taller one who is difficult to detect?” I inquired, wishing the fey would accept names. If nothing else, we could label them. No, they deserved better than to have our ways force upon them. Fey couldn’t be domesticated in any case.

He seemed to be considering my words, but he was taking quite some time to do it.

“Well?” I asked. Seeing that he had no reply, I stated “I thought as much. No, I’m not suggesting that we introduce your parents to these creatures, but I do feel you should be a little more sensitive to proper decorum around them. Having met Emma as well as her grandmother, I’m sure you can see that these creatures don’t always have innocent intentions.”

A smile played at his lips as he said, “Aren’t you descended from one as well?”

I crossed my arms as I told him “If anything, that proves my point about their intentions. If you don’t respond soon, that one might grow violent again.”

I could see the change in his expression as he listened to the fey. What did he tell her that made her so exuberant? Probably nothing of importance. James had that effect on people, and the fey weren’t above his gifts. Neither was I.

After some time, he said, “As far as I can tell, she just missed me. I don’t see what is so improper about her intentions.”

“James, you’re… you’re…” I started, having the earlier images the fairy had shown me still playing in the back of my mind. She was far from an innocent creature. “You’re being hoodwinked!” I exclaimed. “You have no idea of what she was thinking about just moments ago, and I am not going to repeat it.”

I spun around to leave. “When you finally come to your senses, will you please at least attempt to reason with her about staying in the forest for the sake of your employee.” I insisted, too upset to safely remain here. “Goodnight!”

I hurried to my domain to calm myself down. I was not going to lower myself to discuss that creature’s suggestive thoughts with him. Couldn’t he understand that she desired him as a man, not merely as a friend? She might well be able to change her size. Though there was obviously some record of interactions between my family and the fey, we hardly had a detailed catalogue of the means such creature possessed to take a lover. Besides, what made him believe fey even understood the difference between friendliness and something more? They weren’t like us!

I unclenched my fist and sighed. There was work to be done, and I couldn’t do anything more to alter James’ views at the moment. If the fairy grew too enthusiastic, he would grow uncomfortable and reprimand her. Despite how terribly slow he could be to analyze a situation at times, he was of excellent character. James wouldn’t fall victim to the whims of a fey.