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Atlantis Betrayed wop-8 Page 10

by Alyssa Day


  He caught up with her, and she tried not to notice how his closeness made her skin tingle. Dangerous bad boys had never been her type before, but apparently her hormones were up for new things. The memory of him rising over her, hard and urgent in the moonlight, flashed into her mind and she caught her breath.

  “Are you okay?” His gaze moved back and forth, scanning the sidewalk, the street, and everyone on both.

  “I’m perfectly fine, thank you.” She gritted her teeth against the sound of her own voice, which had come out exceedingly prim, proper, and headmistress-ish.

  “Okay, Princess,” he drawled, grinning at her.

  “Don’t call me that,” she snapped. “And your humor is inappropriate. Those guards died.”

  “Maybe. Maybe not. We have an unconfirmed report by a hysterical woman, based on a tabloid story. The radio report didn’t mention murdered guards. If you believe everything in the London tabloids, then you also know Elton John is supposedly having an alien baby any minute. Should we stake out the hospitals?”

  “If you think—” Fiona stopped mid-sentence and took a deep breath. He was right. She was operating purely reactively, which was not only stupid, but dangerous. “You’re right. We need to get to that press conference.”

  “I’m always right. You’ll get used to it,” he said cheerfully “There’s a big group forming over there, just inside the gate.”

  She followed Christophe through the throng of people clustered around a makeshift podium until they stood roughly in the middle of the crowd. Close enough to see and hear everything, but far enough away so as not to draw too much attention. When the official spokesperson stepped up to the microphone, Fiona ducked partway behind a large man in front of her, out of the spokesman’s line of sight.

  Christophe raised an eyebrow.

  “I know him. Lord Fairsby, formerly of Interpol. Now he’s the director of Scotland Yard’s new Paranormal Ops division.”

  “Does he know you?”

  “We’ve met a time or two, at charity events. I doubt the man remembers me.”

  His green eyes flared hot as he stared down at her. “Oh, he remembers you. Any man who met you even once would remember you.”

  Her cheeks heated up, and she tried to ignore the warmth sweeping through her from his tone. “Quiet. He’s starting.”

  Lord Fairsby looked out over the crowd and then down at his notes. “As you may have heard, we’ve had an incident. The villain who calls himself the Scarlet Ninja has struck at the very heart of our nation, leaving behind his calling card as proof positive. The scoundrel made off with one of England’s most precious treasures—William the Conqueror’s sword, Vanquish.”

  The crowd surrounding Fiona erupted with excited chatter, but subsided when Fairsby held up his hands for quiet.

  “It’s far worse than even that, unfortunately. He managed to brutally murder three of our guardsmen. We promise you this fiend will be tracked and captured with all haste. We at Scotland Yard will be working with Interpol, as well, to bring all possible resources to bear.”

  One of the reporters raised his hand and waved it around. “Lord Fairsby, why are you on the case? Is there reason to believe paranormal forces are involved?”

  “We’re pursuing all options at this time,” Fairsby responded smoothly. “We will keep the public informed as to our progress.”

  “When swine fly,” Christophe muttered. “There’s something off about that man.”

  “Pigs,” Fiona said automatically. She glanced up at Christophe and hissed in a breath. “Your eyes. Tone them down. They’re glowing.”

  He scowled but closed his eyes for a moment. When he reopened them, they were normal again. He leaned down and spoke into her ear, so as not to be heard, although it probably wasn’t necessary in the din of the crowd’s noise. “He’s not human.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve known his family for years.” But her gaze returned to Fairsby, now striding toward the exit. He had always seemed a little off to her, too. Aloof. Arrogant. Even more so than the usual English upper crust.

  Not that she was a biased Scottish lass or anything.

  She shook her head, though. “No, I don’t think that’s possible.”

  “Does your magic tell you when you’re around other magic?” he asked, putting his arm around her shoulders and steering her toward the exit, following the crowd of media still shouting questions at Fairsby.

  “No, but—”

  “Mine does. That’s how I knew you were there, outside the door of the jewels room before the guard opened the door. Trust me, that man is not strictly human.”

  She pulled free of his arm and headed for the gate. That was the problem, of course. Trusting him. Blackmail and wild sex did not make a terrific foundation for trust.

  Ahead of them, Fairsby reached the street and slid into the backseat of his car, which immediately pulled away from the curb. The reporters took several final photographs and then turned around, almost as one, to face the Tower gate.

  The Tower gate she was walking through.

  Damn.

  The first one recognized her and it was all over.

  “Lady Fiona! Lady Fiona Campbell! Over here, Lady F,” the lead photographer shouted, aiming his enormous camera at her.

  At them, she realized, panic sweeping through her. She was about to be captured on film with Christophe. For all she knew, he could be a wanted fugitive.

  “What are you doing here? Were you here for the press conference? What do you think? Are you going to write a book about the Scarlet Ninja?”

  As they barraged her with questions, she tried to edge away from Christophe, but he was having none of it. He put his arm around her shoulders and grinned at the journalists. She gritted her teeth around a smile.

  “I was just here showing my friend the sights, when we happened to see the crowd gathering,” she said, as politely as she could manage. “Was that a press conference?”

  The whirring of cameras sounded like a horde of locusts attacking, and she fought to remain calm. Publicity was the very last thing in the world she wanted at this moment.

  “Who’s the guy? Is this a new man in your life?”

  “No,” she said.

  “Yes, definitely,” Christophe said, flashing that sexy smile of his.

  Two female journalists and one male in the front row nearly swooned.

  “I’m going to kill you,” Fiona murmured, smiling for the press.

  “I get that a lot.”

  Of course, their different answers sent the reporters into a feeding frenzy.

  “Who are you, anyway?”

  “Are you Scottish, too?”

  “Are you an author?”

  “How long have you been together?”

  “You can call me Christophe,” her partner drawled. “Not Scottish, not an author. Just Fiona’s bodyguard. Those kids at book signings can get kind of frisky, can’t they, darlin’?”

  He winked, as if sharing a great joke with the crowd, and they ate it up. Stupid charming man. Fiona shuddered to think of what the morning papers would be like.

  More questions flew at them, this time mostly directed to Christophe. Fiona tried moving him along, but the fool was enjoying it.

  “We haven’t known each other long, but it was love at first sight, wasn’t it, sweetheart?”

  Her face went hot, and from the intensifying sound of the cameras clicking, the photographers caught it all.

  “Christophe is just having a bit of a laugh. We’re only just friends. Thank you all, but we’ve got to be moving along.”

  When the crowd showed no sign of dispersing, she came up with an inspired idea. “Of course, I’d be glad to talk about my new book, The Forest Fairies. I first thought of the idea for the book when—”

  As if she’d sprinkled a little fairy dust herself, the reporters magically found other things they’d rather be doing. Amazing how interviewing an author about her book wasn’t nearly as interesting as mur
der and mayhem.

  “We’re leaving. Now.” She marched toward the street, texting Sean to meet them.

  “Whatever you say, Princess.”

  “If you call me that again, I’ll let Hopkins shoot you.”

  He laughed all the way to the car.

  * * *

  Campbell Manor

  Fiona had never been so glad to return to her home. After the painfully long drive in the Saturday afternoon traffic, during which she’d done her best to ignore Declan’s chattering and Christophe’s responses, she practically flew out of the car.

  As usual, Hopkins was standing in the doorway. “Anything you wish to tell me? Shall I offer my congratulations, perhaps?” His usual dry tone dripped frost.

  “Funny. Did you see the press conference?”

  He moved to let her pass by him into the house, then shut the door behind them, right in Christophe’s face. “Yes. I also saw the bit where your new partner claimed the two of you were in love. Shall I serve lunch or retrieve the Glock first?”

  She sighed. “I don’t know what we can do, so long as he has blackmail material on me. We—”

  The door opened, and Christophe sauntered in. “I guess you didn’t see me,” he said to Hopkins. “I’ll give you a free pass this time, but don’t let it happen again.”

  Hopkins looked at her. “Definitely the Glock.”

  “How about lunch? I’m starving,” Declan said, following Christophe inside. “Hey, why are we standing in the hallway? Let’s get some food. I’m off to get cleaned up, back in a jif.” He bounded up the stairs, and Fiona spared a moment to wish she had some of his energy. She felt as if she’d been up for days.

  “Indeed.” Hopkins led the way to the dining room and then vanished, presumably to find something for a late lunch. At the thought, Fiona’s stomach rumbled a little. She hadn’t been hungry for the pastries and fruit they’d had that morning, due to pre-book signing nerves, and was surprised to be hungry now.

  Someone claiming to be her had murdered those guards. “Brutally murdered,” Lord Fairsby had said. The room suddenly spun around her and she stumbled, only to find a firm arm around her back.

  “Are you okay? You need to eat and have something to drink,” Christophe said quietly. “You may be dehydrated.”

  “No. No, I’m not okay. I’m not dehydrated. I’m thinking about those men. How can you joke about love and lunch and whatever, when somebody killed them? Brutally murdered, he said. Somebody claiming to be me.” Her chest was so tight. Too tight. Why was it so hard to breathe?

  “Not somebody claiming to be Lady Fiona. Someone claiming to be the Scarlet Ninja,” he said. “Nobody else knows that’s you.”

  “Except you, and you’ve already proven you’re capable of using it against me,” she said, yanking her arm away from his hand. “Do you think that makes me feel safe?”

  His lips tightened and his eyes turned to green ice. “My apologies for that bit of foolishness. I give you my word—no. I give you my oath, as a Warrior of Poseidon, that I will not betray your secret.”

  “Your oath?” She shook her head. “I don’t even know you. Why should I trust your oath? What’s a Warrior of Poseidon, anyway?”

  “I have been the victim of betrayal, Princess,” he said, so softly she had to strain to hear. “I would never turn that anguish on another.”

  Hopkins chose that moment to pop his head out from the door to the kitchen. “Tea will be served in a few minutes. I shall serve, since I gave the staff the entire weekend off, due to our new circumstances. Do you have any preferences?”

  The pain on Christophe’s face vanished as if she’d imagined it, and he grinned at Hopkins. “How about some of those little cakes?”

  Declan burst into the room. “Oh, yes, definitely cakes. Roast beef sandwiches, too, please. Thick ones—I feel as if I could eat an entire cow. Those book signings always wear me out.”

  Hopkins nodded and left the room again, and Christophe roamed around, pacing the floor, picking up objects and putting them back down.

  “Casing the room, are you?” Hopkins said, returning through a different doorway.

  Christophe shrugged. “You still won’t tell me where the good silver is.”

  Fiona remembered the last time the silver had come up in conversation, and her face heated up approximately a thousand degrees. Christophe must have had the same thought, because he flashed her a wicked grin.

  Hopkins, unfortunately, must also have remembered, judging by the way he glared at them both.

  “So, love at first sight,” Declan said, breaking the heavy silence. “I always wanted a brother.”

  Chapter 15

  Christophe patted his full belly and finally put down his fork. “I’ll say one thing for you. You put out a great spread for tea. I expected something haggis-like, Your Scottishness.”

  He grinned as she put her head in her hands and quietly moaned. He was having a great time with this fake cowboy act—he’d encountered enough of them in America’s Old West to know how to play it—and it was accomplishing exactly what he’d hoped. He’d kept her distracted and aggravated at him enough during the meal to help keep her from brooding about those murdered guards. She’d even managed to eat a little. Still, it was time to make plans.

  “I’m going to hit the night side tonight. London’s underbelly doesn’t start rocking until after midnight. I’m heading out then to check it out and see who might know what about the theft.”

  Hopkins, who’d finally consented to sit with them, after Fiona had practically issued a royal command, nodded. “That’s where you’re going to find news, if there is any. I’m going with you. Declan can stay here with Lady Fiona.”

  Fiona put her teacup down with a distinct clatter. “If you don’t stop talking about me like I’m not in the room, I’m going to throw you both out of my house.”

  Declan chimed in: “You tell ’em, sis. Also, I’m going, too.”

  Everyone started arguing at once. Christophe watched Fiona, entranced with the way her cheeks flushed a dusky rose-pink when she was angry. The same color they turned when she was aroused. His pants started to feel uncomfortably tight, as he remembered the way she’d arched her back against the window, her pale skin glowing in the moonlight like a fever dream. He shifted in his chair, which was surprisingly comfortable, given the elegance of the room, and cleared his throat for attention.

  All three of them ignored him.

  “Hey. Hey.”

  They finally stopped talking and he seized his chance.

  “We can’t all go,” he pointed out. “Hopkins, I know I’d trust you to back me up in a fight, but you come off a little too much like a butler to go to the places I have in mind. The folks who hang in this kind of pub have never seen the inside of a drawing room.”

  Hopkins bared his teeth. “I am a butler. Also, appearances can be deceiving.”

  He stood up, hunched his shoulders, tilted his head to the right, twisted his mouth up a little, and suddenly, impossibly, the perfect, impeccable butler looked like a homeless drunk from the seediest part of the city. “Spare a euro, guv’nor?”

  Fiona gasped. “How did you do that? That’s rather terrifying.”

  Declan started applauding. “That’s brilliant. You should be on the stage, Hopkins.”

  “Definitely brilliant,” Christophe admitted. “But you’re still not going. You’re not a shifter, a vampire, or a sorcerer. You won’t be welcome, and nobody will talk to you.”

  “There’s no way anybody without magic pulled off that heist,” Fiona said slowly. He could tell she was agreeing with him only reluctantly, but it was still agreement. He’d take what he could get.

  “Unless it was an inside job, which, though doubtful, is still possible,” he countered. “On a different but related topic, I don’t believe in coincidences. Why is this sword suddenly so popular?”

  “Let’s adjourn to my office,” Fiona said, glancing around. “We may be interrupted here.”<
br />
  Christophe followed the rest of them up the stairs, taking the opportunity to enjoy the sight of Fiona’s lush, curvy ass. There was something about her. Something different. It wasn’t just her body that was spectacular.

  When the realization hit, it knocked him back a step. He didn’t just lust after her. He liked her. He admired her courage. Sure, she was a thief, but she was a thief with integrity, if that even made sense.

  A thief with integrity. Oh, boy. He was in trouble.

  Fiona turned, waving Hopkins and her brother past her at the top of the stairs, and cast an impatient glance back at him. “Any day, now,” she said, tapping her foot.

  She was absolutely gorgeous and unbelievably desirable. He should run. He should run fast. Instead, he followed her up the stairs, wondering if this was how Prince Conlan had felt when he’d met Princess Riley.

  Terrified.

  Back again in her comfortable suite of office space, he commandeered the chair behind her desk, just to irritate her, and grinned when it was obvious he’d succeeded.

  “So,” he said, drumming his fingers on her desk. “Why Vanquish? There were plenty of jewels there that would have been easier to steal and more profitable to unload, right?”

  She narrowed her eyes. “You first.”

  “What do you mean?”

  Declan piped up. “She means, why were you after Vanquish?” The boy was nothing if not helpful.

  “Shouldn’t you be off chasing girls?” Christophe asked him.

  “It’s a fair question, partner,” Hopkins told him. “Answer it.”

  Christophe swiveled in the chair to face him. “Why do you always sound as though you’d rather shoot me than talk to me?”

  “Perhaps because you have some measure of perceptiveness?”

  Fiona held up her hands. “Enough, boys. Instead of shooting each other, let’s find out what happened, who has Vanquish, and how they framed the Scarlet Ninja for the crime.”

  “If you hadn’t left your calling card,” Hopkins began, before he stopped and shook his head. “Forgive me, Lady Fiona. This is not your fault.”

  She raised her head, and Christophe had never seen despair written so painfully on a face in his centuries of existence. “Yes. It is my fault. I played this game, and now the penalty is mine. Those guards’ families rightfully must be cursing my name. I owe it to them to discover the truth.”

 

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