My thoughts were still filled with Alma when I arrived back in the entry hall. Having seen her nearly die hours before, how could they not be? Yet my shock was so great at what I was seeing that the thoughts left me for a moment. There was a very large, ornate throne sitting in my entry hall, and Adelmar lounged on it as if he were already bored.
“James, your employees seem to be taking their time.” stated Adelmar in an accusatory manner.
“Don’t mind my cousin, James. He just likes showing off.” claimed Alma with a small smile.
“Cousin! What a thing to say about me. I should punish you… Maybe give that chocolate factory of which you’re so fond to one of your rivals.” he mused. He then frowned as he said, “This damnable interference is not welcome. Fix this as soon as you can.”
“I will do what I can, but the concoction did come from Aaliyah.” replied Alma.
I expected her to be half-lying, but she wasn’t. She sincerely wanted Adelmar to have access to her mind? The idea seemed repulsive to me. I had barely been around the man yet and already wanted to leave his company.
“Adelmar!?” exclaimed Ai as she entered, curtsying deeply.
“We didn’t know you’d be here.” added Mai as she curtsied.
“Who’s Adelmar?” asked Brandon, stepping in front of his sister as he entered. His jaw literally dropped open as he took in the throne before him.
Adelmar straightened in his throne gazing intently at either Jarod or Cosette as they followed the others into the room. Cosette looked frozen in place, apparently realizing who this was, though she might well be thrown off by the attention she was getting. The entire throne vanished and Adelmar landed lightly on his feet.
Smiling that smile which didn’t reach his eyes, Adelmar walked toward Jarod and offered his hand. “Jarod, I am quite pleased to meet you. Lady Pendreigh has informed me of your achievements, and I look forward to you joining my family.”
Shaking Adelmar’s hand, Jarod smiled wryly as he said, “Things haven’t quite gotten that far yet, but thanks!”
Adelmar seemed to forget he was shaking Jarod’s hand as he turned to Cosette, letting his hand drop back down. I didn’t understand what he said as he spoke to her, but I was guessing by the sound that he was speaking French.
Alma leaned against me, nearly causing me to jump in surprise, and said, “He’s offering her France if she chooses to join the family.”
I gazed incredulously from her to him. How could he simply give her a country? Cosette’s reply was also in French. The words were beautiful to the hear, but I still had no clue what was being said.
Alma’s smile seemed rueful as she said, “I think that one is more clever than I originally guessed. Perhaps her father did teach her statecraft, since she obviously knows diplomacy. She declined his offer quite well.”
Adelmar was smiling, but he didn’t appear happy.
“Don’t worry, James. He’s not trying to force her, though he is explaining that the offer will remain open.”
“When you said he was offering her France, what precisely did you mean?” I asked, wanting to know if she was turning down what I thought she was.
“The country, of course. He’d probably not bring back the monarchy, but making her Prime Minister or even their President would be easy enough. Whatever he chose for her official position, she’d be in charge of Slayer family interests for a majority of France.” she replied.
“Wouldn’t that put her immediately at odds with the current… umm… ‘leader’ there?” I asked.
Laughing, Alma said, “Not at all. I wouldn’t mind having my load lightened for her sake.”
“But don’t you already meddle with England?” I asked.
“I have influence throughout the world, James, especially in Western Europe, parts of the United States, and a few other areas.” she informed me.
I vaguely remembered Maxine mentioning that Alma had her “fingers in countless pies throughout Europe”. There was a reason that someone of such extraordinary speed was still busy with work at nearly every moment. But…. What was our life together going to be like? Would she have time for me? I supposed that was what dating would tell us.
“If any of you are finding yourselves famished after this night’s excursion, feel free to join me in dining. James has asked Marco to prepare a meal for us, and I do enjoy company.” stated Adelmar to everyone around him. Then he turned to me and said, “James, how long do they have to change?”
“I’d guess the food will be ready in around thirty five more minutes, so we could all meet in the dining hall in thirty minutes.” I told him.
“Excellent.” he replied. Then he turned to Cosette and said, “Cosette, you should join us as James shows me around the grounds.”
I most certainly did not offer to show him anything, but Alma would be more than a little disappointed if I refused. Plus, I didn’t want to insult Adelmar, not when he obviously could convince Alma to part ways with me.
I barely kept myself from laughing when Adelmar nearly tripped over Aaliyah, who had appeared out of nowhere in front of him.
“Adelmar, you look so cute! Are these new clothes?” asked the tiny girl, gazing up at him with wide eyes.
“Aaliyah, I apologize for not greeting you. I had thought you were engaged elsewhere.” stated Adelmar.
Smiling widely, she told him “I couldn’t miss you on your very first visit here! Anwen’s going to be sooo jealous that you came here without her.”
“Yes, I suppose she might be. Perhaps she’ll be able to join me if I come here again.” he replied somewhat stiffly.
“Did you say you’re going for a walk? I love walking.” claimed Aaliyah, still grinning.
“Of course. Why don’t you join us?” he asked begrudgingly.
“Gladly!” she exclaimed. Then she said, “Too bad you missed my auntie. I’m sure Alma told you how she was dying to meet her.”
Ignoring her, Adelmar turned to me and said, “James, if you don’t mind leading the way, I’d love to see your estate, especially the forest.”
I did as he requested and took the lead, comforted that Aaliyah was here. If Adelmar were to try something with the fey, I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to stop him. Even if I could, what would the consequences be? He was quite obviously accustomed to getting what he wanted. If he truly could place someone in a position of leadership for a country with the ease Alma claimed, I was certain he could just as easily cause trouble for me.
From what Alma had said at the cemetery, their family had contacts in the FBI. I would guess that they had contacts in plenty of other government positions as well. He could easily fabricate trouble for my business. Even with Aaliyah here, I needed to be careful not to offend Adelmar Slayer.