Authors: Shelley Munro
They worked together for most of the afternoon.
Eva took great satisfaction in delivering the mortgage payment with money she’d
hidden away, and returned to the restaurant before darkness fell to retrieve
Robbie. “Let’s go to the other restaurant. We’ll document everything that’s
gone wrong there and find proof where we can. I’ll send a com to the palace and
beg an audience at the next people sessions. When are the next sessions? Do you
“In three solar days, I think. Sometimes
they have two a week if there is a demand.”
. We’ll be lucky if we
get on the list.”
“It’s worth a try. My cousin works the
people sessions. I’ll consult with him,” Robbie said.
Eva locked the door and set a rapid pace to
get to her second restaurant, which was in a better part of town. Even so, she
jumped at the slightest noise, her gaze darting left and right, assessing every
hint of danger. Robbie limped beside her and rattled off facts and figures,
oblivious to her tension. She tried to listen, she really did. Difficult to
concentrate when she was forced to walk through the marketplace after dark.
Especially after the attack not long before
her trip to Tiraq…
Relief struck her when the sign for her
restaurant came into sight.
“Right,” she said, pushing open the door.
“Go to the office. We need a list of the damages here. Add the names of
witnesses—as many as you can—while I speak with Junita.”
Eva glanced around the restaurant—the
sparse furniture, the lack of customers, the badly cracked mirror behind the
bar and the lack of drinking stock.
The buxom restaurant manager sported a
black eye and her bright-blue hair tendrils waved in unceasing motion—a sure
sign of her agitation. Her bodice was laced tight, her black dress and white
apron pristine, but she walked with a pronounced limp and leaned heavily on a
“What happened, Junita?”
“I tried to stop Lady Almeda and her
sidekick from taking the contents of the safe,” Junita said in a stiff voice.
Despondency ripped through Eva’s carefully
built defenses. No matter what she did, no matter how hard she tried, the
Dearbhorgaills seemed to win. She was so tired. Tired of fighting, battling,
struggling to keep Pryce’s dream alive. All she wanted to do was cook and plan
menus, present good food that people talked about for solar days after they’d
eaten in one of her restaurants. Her eyes started to sting, but she clenched
her hands to fists, the pain of her nails digging into her palms giving her
She would not break.
She’d go through with this plan.
It would work. It had too.
“Okay, Junita. Robbie is in the office.
Give him all the details of what happened and when. He’ll record the
information.” Junita sashayed away, her blue tendrils calmer now, and Eva
sighed as she scanned the empty restaurant.
Saber was right. Documenting everything to
present at once built a better case, and would support the most damning
proof—the currency transfer certificates she’d inscribed with special ink, a
concoction of her own devise made from the juice of a limonadoc fruit. She had
the certificate numbers, and once they were matched with where they were spent
and she made the ink react, it would become clear they were stolen.
Hmm, maybe some of the market dwellers had
even seen Lady Almeda in the market.
Strange that she’d risked a visit.
Eva’s brow furrowed. Maybe she should do a
little sleuthing of her own.
* * * * *
Saber strolled the market from stall to
stall, asking questions and pumping the stallholders for information. Even
though he was a stranger, it was remarkably easy to gain information. The Dearbhorgaills
had attacked one of their own. Everyone loved Eva.
He approached a red mumber after a
stallholder had directed him to the tavern where the male worked, and asked his
The swarthy red man eyed him up and down.
“What’s it to you?”
“Eva Henry is my woman, and I don’t take
kindly to folks upsetting her.” Saber wasn’t intimidated by the man’s height or
his fists, which were almost the size of dinner plates.
The red mumber shifted his gaze first, his
red skin taking on a deeper hue—caused, Saber knew, by strong emotions. “Used
to work for the Dearbhorgaills as security in their home. Lady Almeda took
exception to my color. Said I clashed with the uniform and the furnishings.”
No question of loyalty here. “Do you know
who ordered the hit on Pryce Dearbhorgaill? Who carried it out?”
“Depends what you do with the information,”
the red mumber said. “If you intend to take legal action against the shooter or
punish him in another manner, I refuse to tell you.”
“I’ll pay for the information.” Somehow
he’d squeeze the money out of his budget to help Eva. Her current situation
wouldn’t be so bad if he hadn’t kidnapped her and kept her from returning to
“Goes without sayin’,” the red mumber said.
“But if you intend to hunt down the killer or bring him to trail for murdering
a toff, I ain’t playin’. The man has suffered enough. The lord ’n’ lady forced
him to do it, threatened if he didn’t kill the man, his wife and his kids would
die.” The red mumber curled his top lip to bare big square teeth, the front one
of which was missing. “What would you do for the ones you love?”
“I’d kill,” Saber said.
The red mumber nodded, as if he’d made his
“The Dearbhorgaills are trying to hurt the
woman I love,” Saber said, deciding to play it straight from the gut. “They’re
trying to destroy her when all she wants is to live in peace and run her
restaurants. I’m collecting information,” Saber said. “Because I intend to
bring them down.”
“Would a signed statement help?”
“Yes. How did they pay him?”
The red mumber’s lip curled again. “They
released his wife and son from captivity once the deed was done.”
“Where were his family held? Could I get
signed statement from people there?”
“I’ll give you one. Pretty sure the other
men would cooperate, long as they don’t get dragged out and punished,” the red
“You have my word,” Saber said. “All I’m
interested in doing is taking down the Dearbhorgaills.”
“The lady be the worst. The lord stays at
his club, doesn’t go home much these days from what I hear.”
Saber bought the man a drink and arranged
to return with gratitude payments in return for the sworn statements.
All in all, a good few hours’ work. Saber
strolled through the streets, keeping a close watch for cutpurses. God, he
missed Tiraq and the resort. The clean air of the island. The sooner he talked
Eva into leaving this shithole, the better.
He arrived at Penny Lane and knocked on the
door of number eight. The door opened seconds after his knock and Eva stood
“I have a hearing with the king,” she said.
“Robbie’s cousin came through for us.”
“The bribe of a ginger cake swung it,”
Robbie called from somewhere behind her.
“I’ll make him two,” Eva said.
Saber stepped inside and closed the door,
shutting out the hustle of the street. “When is your hearing?”
“Tomorrow,” Eva said. “Earlier than we
thought. I have some of the documentation ready and can gather the rest in the
“I’ve discovered who murdered your
husband,” Saber said, and cursed his bluntness when the color fled her cheeks.
He reached out and drew her against him, angry at himself for causing her
“Go ahead,” she said. “No, wait. Come into
the other room. I’ll make us something to eat while we talk.”
“Do you need me?” Robbie asked.
“Tomorrow morning. Early,” she added. “We
have a lot of work to do before our audience.”
“Right you are,” Robbie said, and limped to
“Robbie.” Eva stayed him with a hand on his
arm. “Be careful walking home. I’d never forgive myself if something happened
“See you tomorrow,” Robbie said.
Once he’d left, Saber locked the door.
“This way,” Eva said and led the way into a
room off the entrance. It was full of solar light, with stone counters, a
sparkling hot cube and a cool cube. “I stopped at my favorite market stall to
“How bad are things with the restaurants?”
“Nuisance stuff. The customers will return
once the trouble is settled.”
Saber stalked the length of the room,
needing to burn off excess energy. “I talked to a red mumber. He knows the killer,
but says he was blackmailed into committing the offence. Said the
Dearbhorgaills had his wife and son stashed away and threatened to kill them if
he didn’t do as instructed.”
“Doesn’t surprise me. Will he come
Saber fingered the leaf of a bright-copper
plant. “He’s frightened of the repercussions.”
“Again, that doesn’t surprise me.”
“He’s willing to give a signed statement,
plus some of the staff who worked where the wife and son were jailed will give
“I can pay them,” Eva said. “I wasn’t
stupid enough to leave all my currency in my account. You should have seen the
surprised and dismayed expression on the lawyer’s face when I arrived with the
second payment this afternoon. He knows what they’re doing.”
“You know, I’m so tired of this crap. After
this is over, I’m going to consider relocating. A place Bluebird will enjoy.”
Saber sucked in a rapid breath. “I thought
Bluebird would stay at the resort.”
“Not likely,” Eva said, and he wished he
could see her face, but she’d turned away to stir something in a pot.
“Do you think the king will listen?” Saber
asked, changing the subject before he snapped out something he shouldn’t in
sheer frustration. He’d chased her once, and he’d do it again without
“From what I know and have seen, he seems a
fair man. I’ll do my best to get justice for Pryce.”
Eva served a meaty sauce on top of noodles.
It looked and tasted a lot like spaghetti Bolognese. They ate quietly until
Saber eased back his chair, relaxed with a full belly.
“Tell me about the black cat here on my
He sat upright. “I’m tired,” he said.
“Let’s go to bed.”
“I have a spare room.”
Saber stood and rounded the table to stand
by her chair. “I sleep where you sleep.”
“I thought that was just while we were
together on Tiraq?”
Eva stared at his set face, felt a tiny
jolt go through her body. She stood, as he so obviously wanted, and led the way
up the stairs to her bedroom.
“Did Pryce live with you here?” His tone
was clipped now.
“This was your bedroom?” Still abrupt.
“It was, but I’ve changed it since he died.
It reminded me too much of him.”
“Good.” Saber’s fingers went to his green
shirt and he unfastened the tabs to display his hard chest. “I’m trying to be
reasonable, but jealousy keeps raising its annoying head.”
“I…” She paused wondering if she should
tell him the truth. Then began again with a sigh. “I didn’t love Pryce. I
tried.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I really tried.”
“Shush.” He wrapped his arms around her and
held her against his chest. He was always holding her, touching her. “You were
happy with him, and I’m sure he was happy too.”
“He was always smiling,” she said.
“What did I tell you? Happy.”
“I hope so.”
hoped she’d made Pryce content, hoped he hadn’t felt the lack, that he had in
fact mistaken her gratitude for fonder feelings. They’d slept together, worked
together, and she’d found happiness in almost all areas of their marriage.
“Clothes off,” he said with his usual
A laugh spilled out. “You just want to see
“Correct.” He stepped back, cocked one hip
against the wall and folded his hands across his broad chest. A tiny grin
played on his lips. “I’d appreciate that very much.”
Eva bent to remove her boots, but before
she could put fingers to fastenings, her clothes started dissolving. She gaped
at her legs and watched her trews, the rest of her clothes fade from sight
until she stood in front of Saber, naked.
“How convenient,” Saber said, and prowled
toward her, smirk lighting his sexy green eyes.
Eva opened her mouth, snapped it shut and
opened it again. “Why haven’t
His smirk widened, his gaze doing a
thorough survey of her nakedness. “Because I wished harder.”
Eva tried covering herself.
“Are you turning shy?” Saber’s hands
settled on her shoulders, his amusement in full bloom. It made her more
self-conscious. “You’re beautiful.” His breath caressed her face as he moved
her toward the bed. She toppled backward, legs splayed, and he stepped into the
space between them.
“Your clothes are still on.” She wouldn’t
mind a better visual.
“I can fix that,” he said in a silky voice.
He took off his shirt and tossed it aside. His boots clomped onto the floor,
and he peeled his trews down his legs. “Now can we move to the next stage?”
“Your clothes didn’t disappear.”
“Nope.” He ran his hand over her thigh,
making her breath catch in anticipation. “I have a theory.”
“Do tell.” She suppressed a shiver with
difficulty, and judging by the flash of white teeth, he knew what his touch was
doing to her.
“When we were at the ruins, things appeared
after we thought about them. Once they were no longer needed, they
disappeared.” His fingers teased the delicate skin behind her knee.
She bit her lip. “L-Like the shuttle.”
“Right,” he said. “I presume you have other
clothes here at your dwelling.”