Laddie sat across from my desk, his long legs stretched before him. With long hair and beads braided into his beard on the deck of a pirate ship, he looked delicious. In a tailored suit that fit him perfectly, he was even more so. I struggled to keep my mind on business.
“Consultant, huh?” I asked with a smile tugging at my lips. “You got a fancy new job title to go along with the suit. Did they also give you a place to stay and an Amex Black?”
His brows furrowed at my mention of the exclusive credit card. “I guess I have a room here. They didn’t tell me the details. Just what I had to do.”
“I can check.” I checked the guest logs and couldn’t find Laddie’s name. I searched under “Lad” just to be safe, but nothing surfaced. I shrugged. “I have a couch in my villa, though we’ll have to get you a place. I guess the island knew that I could arrange these things.” I bit my lip, because as much as I wanted Laddie in my villa, in my life, I also knew for this mission that would be dangerous. The rules had been explained clearly. For my plan to work, he’d come back. And if something happened to him there would be no more late-night visits from his ghost to my shore. He’d be done. Erased from existence. He claimed it would be appropriate penance, but hadn’t he suffered enough? Hadn’t swinging at the end of the hangman’s noose been enough for the crime he felt he’d committed so long ago?
“You knew the rules,” he said. “No need to get maudlin on me. As long as I can manage to stick around, I will.” He flashed a grin at her.
I focused on the work at hand. “As long as they don’t associate you with Par Impar, you’ll be fine. I can call Jim at the resort. He’s taken in guests for me before. I can make sure you have a room there. That will be neutral enough ground.”
“You’re still the captain of your ship, aren’t you? Only this one is on land and your crew is larger. I looked around before I found your office. I’m glad they slipped me that bit of information anyway. You’ll have to teach me how to work some of these contraptions. I saw everyone talking on these small little black boxes or tapping on them. Communications devices?”
I sighed and smiled, because I realized then what a blank slate they’d sent me. “Cell phones, Laddie. I have a lot to teach you before you go.”
“Aye, you do. Starting with how you’re even more beautiful now than when I left you.”
My cheeks heated. “You always were a flatterer. And you know the truth. I’m a goddess.”
“Aye, that you are.” And the heat in his eyes remained the same no matter the century.
~* * *~
“I don’t even know what a consultant is,” Laddie admitted over roast beef sandwiches I’d had the kitchen send up, along with salads and a bowl of fruit. He seemed fascinated by iced tea and sparkling water. If I sent him over now, his simple naive joy would give him away as not belonging to their group. He finished his sandwich. “But the word popped into my mind and your girl seemed to accept it.”
“Minerva. My assistant. Think of her like my First Mate.”
“So we’re still on a pirate ship, then. Good. I’d thought maybe you’d become a landlubber.” He speared a piece of fruit on his fork and ate it. “This is finer grub than we had on board. That’s for sure. Do you always eat this well?”
“Usually not this much. I just have the salad.” I pointed to it. “And maybe some fruit, but yes. This is common for me.”
He gave a low whistle. “You landed on your feet, Lady Tyche. I have so much to learn.” He peered at my smart phone. “You talk to people on this?” He picked it up. “But how? Magic?”
I chuckled. “Might as well be. It’s technology and that’s not my realm. Every person has a number.” I slid my finger across it to reveal my contacts. “See, that’s Minerva.” I pointed to her name and picture. “I tap that, and it will reach her. You will have one when you go. But don’t put my name here. You don’t want them to know that you have any connections to me.”
My phone returned to the home screen with the Par Impar logo.
“I can put pictures on it?”
“But not of me.”
He reached out and stroked his fingers along my cheek. “There is no other I would want to look at.”
“Not even Sardine?” The memory of the small brown kitten taken aboard at some port and who remained on The Lady Luck for rodent control filled my mind.
“He is here?” Laddie had been especially fond of the cat.
“No, but there are others.” I didn’t have the heart to explain the lure of cat videos on the internet or even, for that matter, what the internet was.
“You will have to show me later. I always did like that little scallywag.” Laddie finished his fruit salad. His expression grew soft. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too.” We couldn’t sit here and reminisce. I’d started making a list in my mind of what he needed to know, with the first thing being how to play poker. Laddie excelled at cards, so I knew he’d take to our modern version in no time. It was why I’d made the deal with Rota. I hated using him like this and blamed my own need to see him again as much as anything else. We had to use someone not in their current circle. Sean’s forays into shark territory had been well enough and fraught with danger. I couldn’t risk our healer any more than I could risk well, my own right hand.
I picked up my radio. “Is Alie available? If so, can she and a poker set go to the Coral Room please. I have a private client who wishes lessons. We’ll probably need three players too, but not immediately.”
A few moments later, Alie’s voice came across the radio. “On my way there now, boss. I’ve tapped aces one through three.”
“Thank you.” I knew when she wasn’t teaching lessons Alie often walked the floor and gave pointers to guests. We had about a dozen members of the staff who loved the game and when they weren’t busy, or I could schedule them away from their duties, we set up a table away from the other poker tables and ran mock games to help guests feel at home before diving in with their money.
I put my glass of tea in the small refrigerator in my office and set Laddie’s drink on the next shelf to keep them apart. “Come on. Let’s go have some fun.”
Laddie’s heated gaze swept over me and I shivered. “I hope the fun you have in mind is as much fun as what I’m thinking about.”
I turned because I didn’t want to blush twice in his presence. “We have to focus. There’s work to be done.”
He rested his hand on the small of my back as we strode toward my office door. “There’s always work to be done, Lady Luck. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun too.” He leaned forward and opened the door for me. Always a gentleman, my Laddie, even when he was thinking about naughty things.
The Coral Room was tucked off the main gaming floor in an alcove flanked by two large copper statues of coral with tiny fish swimming around them. The metalwork had been shipped in from Europe, and I loved the serenity of the sculptures. I used my card to access the room and opened it, happy to see that Alie had already arrived and set the deck and chips in the middle of the table. Someone refreshed the ice water and glasses. I pointed him toward the discrete door for the bathroom.
“Alie, this is Lad. He’s going to be consulting for us and I thought it might help him to learn about poker. We’ll be going through the games to ensure he’s comfortable with them.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she said. “Have you played poker before?”
“Not recently,” he answered, and I appreciated his discretion. “It may have been a different version. I am your student.” He sat, then turned to me. “Will you be staying?”
I paused. “I have a meeting with my senior staff, but I don’t anticipate it will take more than an hour. Feel free to call me on the radio when you’re finished, but otherwise I’ll come back and check on your progress.” I tapped the stack of chips twice in the secret signal to Alie that he was to be taught everything and was a senior VIP. “I’m sure you’ll catch on quickly. Bring in your aces when you feel ready. If you need anything, feel free to ask.” A phone hung on the back wall which led straight to concierge.
“Of course. My schedule is free this afternoon.” Alie replied. “Glad to hear it.” I turned to Laddie. “I’ll return later.” I’m sure he watched me leave the room in a way that wasn’t business-like at all, but I couldn’t let it get to me. Laddie was Laddie after all, and those with leprechaun blood never changed.