James spent some time answering my questions about how his business got started, but I couldn’t say I was really satisfied with the answers, despite being more than satisfied with him. Most people would have been bragging about such success, but James was perfectly humble, acting is if being in charge of the business was just his own good fortune rather than the reason for the business’ success.
When he seemed to lose steam on the subject, I commented “I really find the idea of your business fascinating. I wouldn’t have guessed such a business could sprout up out of nowhere and get success so quickly.”
“I never thought my business would prosper quickly either, but I do enjoy helping old friends and meeting new ones. Plus, I get the diversity in work that I craved.” he replied with a shrug.
I found myself smiling as I said, “You’re just so charming, James. Is there anyone who doesn’t want to see you again after meeting you?”
“Thank you, but I’m really just another guy who’s had good fortune of late.” he insisted.
“Is meeting me part of that fortune?” I teased.
He paused long enough to stare at me for a second before saying, “I assure you that this is far from my worst date.
I realized I had started pursing my lips and quickly stopped. I didn’t want to make him nervous, even if he wasn’t as complementary as I had hoped. Neither was Camila if I were to be honest, so James might well be the perfect impersonation of a best friend.
“Do you ever worry about needing bodyguards?” I teased. “Given how much you and some of your clients are worth, someone might attempt a kidnapping eventually.”
Well, I was partially teasing. Kidnapping James was tempting, very tempting. I’d much prefer him to come willingly, but I could take him. At least, I could take him if Lady Pendreigh weren’t around. She was far too dangerous to face head-to-head. Though she couldn’t do any lasting injury to me, I was certain she’d destroy my machine and physically restrain me before I could react. I needed time to plan.
James had shrugged nervously and now said, “I never really considered it. I do provide my employees with defensive training, having had a considerable amount myself. Besides, a decent kidnapper would probably plan for bodyguards if I was seen with some regularly.”
I smiled and told him “Then the decent kidnapper would attempt to plan for a competent combatant, which is more difficult without knowing what sort of training regimen you use. Would you protect me if someone attempted to kidnap us today?”
“Of course.” he replied with a nod. “I can’t standby as someone hurts my client, after all.”
“Don’t you mean your date?” I pouted, teasing him.
“Yes, of course. My apologies. Why the sudden interest in kidnapping?” he asked.
“Sorry.” I laughed. “I suppose that might seem strange to you. I heard mention that the crime rate in this city was considerably high, so I was reading about recent events.”
“Oh? I didn’t realize the crime rate was that high.” he admitted.
I shook my head slightly as I said, “Oh come now. You were recently quoted in an article for having been at some sort of robbery.”
He didn’t respond, looking thoughtful.
“Apparently, you witnessed some man in a giant robot crashing through a wall.” I prodded, hoping he’d at least tell the story. What did he think of my alter ego?
“Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was a man, but there was some sort of mechanized suit. What sort of person would blow up a wall without knowing who was on the other side? If I had been just a little farther ahead, I would have surely died.” he insisted.
“I’m actually somewhat familiar with a few ways the alleged criminal might have checked for people through the wall. That must have still been quite the ordeal for you.” I admitted. Why was he complaining when he was perfectly fine?
“Yes. It really was. Would you believe some sort of caped crusader attacked the criminal?” he asked.
“Several witnesses claimed as much, but I can’t see how anyone would’ve survived being hit by a machine that can easily break through brick walls. The journalist who wrote the article didn’t seem to buy that either.” I informed him.
James smiled slightly as he said, “Having been there, I can confirm it. I was certain the hero was dead when she was hit, but she kept fighting till the criminal flew off.”
I needed to clarify things with him, so I said, “I’m not even certain the one in the suit should be called a criminal. According to my sources, the man stole weapon plans before they could be sold on the black market. Isn’t someone who risks arrest for the greater good supposed to be a hero?”
James seemed surprised by the notion. “So the police know what was stolen? I hadn’t heard of this.” he admitted.
I shouldn’t have mentioned that to him. This was bad. I couldn’t afford to be so smitten with anyone to risk telling too much, yet I wanted him to believe in me. I considered a few different ways I might turn things about before saying, “I didn’t get that information from any official source, but I am well connected.”
James rubbed his chin as he said, “Oh, so you don’t know if that criminal might be using the supposed weapon plans for something even more nefarious.”
Criminal. The term was beneath me. I was far more than some mere criminal. I was fighting to save the world from threats most people couldn’t even imagine. I wanted to tell him everything and make him understand, but I needed to be careful. James seemed too set in his belief that Marvelous Max was the bad guy here.
“I was just meaning we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the man’s motives. He could be fighting a battle most people know nothing about.” I informed him.
He seemed to consider my words before saying, “While we’re not making assumptions, we shouldn’t be set on the person’s gender either. There’s no telling who is behind a destructive machine. Maybe aliens even.”
I laughed and said, “Aliens, James? Really? I suppose that technology does seem pretty impressive, but I’d believe in this restaurant’s alien origin first, considering it is the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.”
He seemed more relaxed for a moment, but jumped when our hostess returned to retrieve the dishes.
“I hope you’re ready for dessert!” she exclaimed. “You two are going to love this.”
“Evanna, how do you feel about the idea of this place being created by aliens?” asked James.
Shrugging, she said, “I wouldn’t rule it out. The universe is a big place. You wouldn’t believe my delivery range if I told you.”
She was obviously teasing, barely containing a smile. She failed entirely when James laughed.
“Man, I was doing good up until you laughed.” she claimed.
James looked at me for a moment being turning back to Evanna and asking “So what’s for dessert?”
Evanna lifted tall domes to reveal crystal goblets filled with sparkling gems of various colors. “Enjoy!” she exclaimed before pushing away the cart she had filled with our used dishware.
“So what is it?” I asked, pretending not to know.
“Well, I have no idea to be honest. There are these goblets with tall spoons to the right. The goblets and spoons appear to be made of some sort of crystal while the contents looks to be multi-hued, tiny gems.” he replied.
I grinned as he spoke, allowing my excitement to show. I didn’t even wait for him to finish speaking, so long had I gone without these exquisite delights. Catching how James watched me, I explained “I’ve heard of this, though the restaurant doesn’t give it a name. If heaven were a taste, this would be it.”
James seemed lost in the taste the moment he tried the dessert. I felt the same. My senses seemed incredibly sharp as ecstasy suffused me. I could hear the conversations throughout the enormous room with ease. The feeling of the light breeze piercing my clothing to tickle my skin was intense enough to make me shiver but pleasant enough to make me sigh in comfort. My clothes themselves seemed both softer and rougher at different parts. I was so aware of everything, and then the dessert was gone, leaving my senses to return to normal. Was the experience as delightful for James as it was for me?