“Are you sure about this? You really don’t have to go.” I assured Portentia.
She took her bag from my hand, laughing as she said, “I’ve been hired, James. I accepted the job, and I’m going. Don’t worry so much! This won’t take long.”
I held back a sigh. Alma had hired Portentia to chase after Maxine and dismantle her criminal network. I didn’t doubt Portentia would’ve gone for free, but Alma was probably paying her a hefty sum. Personally, I was against it. Yes, Maxine was problematic. I didn’t agree with her outlook or her methods, but I did feel her intentions were decent. If good intentions was no longer enough to let someone live peacefully, then I should be at war with my own fiancée. We certainly didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything.
As misguided as Maxine’s attempt to save me from the Slayers was, she did have a point about their behavior. The family was influential and powerful in a very lethal way. Their infighting was disruptive to the global economy as holdings could shift based on fighting prowess rather than business merit.
Alma took my hand and said, “Don’t worry, my love. I’m confident Portentia will be finished in time for our wedding.”
I nodded. She was passively watching as Portentia stepped into the limo. A short ride, a relatively quick flight in Alma’s private jet, and Portentia would be causing trouble for Maxine. I hoped the criminals around here didn’t get word of the city’s superhero being away.
“If they do, you can be a good sidekick and tell them to behave.” commented Aaliyah as she stepped out from behind Alma.
“If who does what?” inquired Alma, looking down at her.
“Aaliyah’s suggesting that I do a bit of crime fighting on Portentia’s behalf while she’s gone.” I explained.
She rolled her eyes as she gazed up at me, but she was smiling. “You worry too much. With Jarod’s suit and her weapon, Portentia is more than a match for Maxine. She’ll finish promptly and return.” she insisted.
“Don’t forget my daughter’s help!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Mila will surely be invaluable.” agreed Alma.
“You’ll have to get used to this, boss-man, sir. Employees will need to fly away at times if you’re going to expand, and you simply must expand.” stated Aaliyah.
“Why?” I asked. “Aren’t I doing well enough?”
She grinned at me and said, “I’ve already made some arrangements on your behalf. I can cancel them if you want, but Best Friend For Hire isn’t really about you, is it? I thought you wanted a job where you could make a difference in the lives of others.”
I nodded. “Yes, I do want to make a difference.” I agreed.
“James, I understand that you trust her, but shouldn’t you look into these arrangements of hers before deciding?” inquired Alma.
I shrugged and said, “If she wants me to know, she’ll tell me. If she doesn’t, I wouldn’t be able to understand the paperwork even with Mila’s aid. I’ve told you before that she’s the one with actual power.”
“You’re still the boss, boss-man, sir.” insisted Aaliyah with a giggle. “Just tell me what you want, and I’ll start the arrangements!”
Looking to Alma, I said, “There’s another side of my argument. She already knows what I want, so the arrangements are made to get me there. I don’t have the knowledge or the wisdom to question her judgement on what is best.”
“I do hope you know marriage will change us. I don’t plan to be separated more often than not as is normal for my family, so we’ll both have to grow accustomed to proper discussion over big decisions.” she replied, staring into my eyes.
“Planning on us merging businesses as well?” I asked.
“Well, no.” she replied.
“Then you really don’t need to worry over how mine is run. I’m confident things will continue to go well.” I told her.
Aaliyah giggled as she said, “You have no idea how well.”
Alma’s gaze shifted to her, and I wondered what was going through her mind. She had seen a glimpse of what Aaliyah could do. I wondered if Aaliyah would ever let her see more. I rubbed my aching head, pushing the thought of what I had seen back again. There was just too much of Aaliyah for my poor, little mind.
Hearing the door open, I turned to find Mila standing there in one of her maid outfits. There were subtle differences between them.
“Master, your appointment is nearly here. Do you intend to greet her personally?” she asked.
I shrugged and said, “Might as well.”
She gave a small nod, curtsied, and went back inside.
“What appointment?” inquired Alma.
“Another applicant. A fair number are getting through Aaliyah and Mila’s combined scrutiny lately.” I explained.
“How do you feel Dejon is doing?” she questioned.
I shrugged and told her “Cosette was happy with his performance the other day, and Mila has told me that he is studying with almost as much fervor as Jemal. I think he’ll work out.”
“You were hoping he’d fail, so you could poach him.” I inferred.
Her lip twitched just before she said, “Maybe. You must admit that his magic is useful.”
“No, darling. I refuse to ever admit such a thing.” I half-teased. I still didn’t like the idea of him using his gift very often.
“You two are soooo mushy that you might as well get married.” stated Aaliyah with a sigh.
“Ha. You’re not going to take credit for this too?” replied Alma wryly.
“I can if you want!” exclaimed the tiny girl. “You know I’ve given James advice about you, right? I mean, I have been helping you both out.”
Sighing, Alma looked down at her and said, “I do at times realize why James doesn’t bother questioning you more thoroughly. I don’t actually want to know to what you are referring.”
Grinning back, Aaliyah told her “You have a number of ideas in your head, so you know well enough without me.”
“Behave, you two. My potential new hire has arrived.” I playfully chided as I watched the distant gate open.
“She left. Have you ever tried working through the significance of her actions? Everything she says and does has a purpose.” insisted Alma.
“I know. I’ve considered some of her actions from time-to-time, but I don’t believe…” I started.
Interrupting me, Alma said, “Another girl? Should I start worrying about your fondness for beautiful women?”
I leaned down, kissed her head, and assured her “You know better.”
“James, not in front of the new hire.” she rebuked.
“Yes, dear.” I told her as dryly as I could manage.
Smiling up at me, she lightly punched my arm before saying, “I’ll leave you to it then.”
Her hand left mine, and I found myself instantly missing her. Since our engagement became official, we spent far more time together than we had before, despite my lessons in magic from her coming to an end. My intense studies of magic through the virtual grimoire had boosted my skill enough that Alma no longer seemed inclined to attempt showing me anything new there, though we did spar almost nightly still. Despite our closeness, I still felt we had too little time to ourselves. Our honeymoon after the wedding would lend us some quality alone time, but I was already certain our honeymoon would feel too short.