“Finally found time for me?” asked Maxine after stepping into my office in front of Mila.
I found out last night that Maxine shared her birthday with Alma and Portentia. Though I considered the shared date with Alma to be a coincidence, I wondered if being born on the exact same day as Portentia showed another connection between the two. Mila was searching through old records for me, but many documents from that time were still kept on paper, slowing things down considerably.
“Depends on how you want me to take the question.” I replied as I perused through some documents on a purchase Aaliyah wanted to make for my company.
“Your tenant agreement is outlandish and nearly incomprehensible. I doubt I’d fully understand it even if I were to study law for several years before returning to it.” she stated.
“Given your intellect, that really is saying something, but what is your point?” I inquired.
“Signing a document under duress invalidates it, so you can’t possibly expect me to abide by it, especially with how convoluted the thing is. I could violate it without ever knowing.” she insisted.
“Though you could make a wonderful argument in court if you were allowed to open the case, you will be expected to uphold your end of the agreement while staying here. Alma was confident that she covered what you are and are not allowed to do while staying here in enough detail for you to understand. Certain violations, as you were informed, are punishable by death, which I’m confident can be carried out. Please don’t put that contract to the test.” I replied, frowning as I realized what I was to be purchasing.
“You are aware that I heal just as quickly as Portentia?” she inquired.
I nodded out of habit as I said, “Yes, but I believe someone I know is capable of killing you both. Trust me when I say that you do not want an introduction.”
“And you’d be willing to kill me?” she asked, sounding doubtful.
“My staff is very efficient, but you’d probably be dead before I even heard of the violation. On a more pressing note, my company will be acquiring a large part of your holdings soon, and I wish to assure you that I’ll return things to you if ever I feel you are rehabilitated.”
“That is not amusing. None of my assets are for sale.” she stated.
“Mila, am I correct in assuming that Alma is already pressuring for a quick transition?” I asked.
“Yes, master. Maxine’s position as CEO of her family’s corporation is already under scrutiny. Evidence will be found, showing criminal activity through the company. Her shares will then be sold off, since Maxine won’t be available to make an innocent owner claim to the courts after the asset forfeiture. Within two months, you or Lady Pendreigh will have control of her estate, since proceedings are being pushed forward.” explained Mila.
“My lawyers will…” started Maxine.
Interrupting her, Mila said, “not do a thing, given that Lady Pendreigh is purchasing their firms. You are willfully ignoring Lady Pendreigh’s influence in all branches of the government as well as her ability to purchase what’s in her way. Mother put a word in with the vampires on James’ behalf to influence other sections. This will happen.”
“Sorry. I assure you that your company will stay afloat. Before you make any more angry remarks, do understand that I’ll have to give my fiancée news she won’t like, since I’ll be intervening on your behalf. You know as well as I do that she would not be so kind.” I stated, hoping to deflect Maxine’s anger.
She stood still enough that she might as well have been a statue. I had moved onto other documents when I caught motion in my peripheral vision. She was smiling.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes, James. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Sorry to intrude.” she told me, turning around and stepping toward the door. Her voice sounded flat… controlled.
“Did you ever play Ancient Tribes of Earth or did you merely try to crack it?” I asked.
“Yes, I played. The programming behind it is truly extraordinary.” she replied without turning to face me again.
“I’ll hire Jarod and Mila to recreate your visual apparatus if you wish to play again. You could pass some time and possibly ingratiate yourself with some of my friends here.” I suggested.
“Thank you. I’ll consider your offer.” she truthfully assured me.
A while after she left, I asked “What’s Maxine doing?”
“Thinking, I assume. Since we returned to her room, she’s been standing completely still.” explained Mila.
“Didn’t you order some furniture for her?” I inquired.
“No, master. She refused to assist in the choices, claiming that her cell might as well feel like one.” replied Mila.
I sighed, curbing my impulse to try reasoning with Maxine. As far as I knew, she might be plotting her escape. Given her abilities, she had little reason to take my warning about the risk of death seriously.
“Is Iris here?” I asked.
“Master, five in the morning is a bit early to expect her arrival.” replied Mila.
“Oh. True. I was just considering a break and thought I might convince her to do a bit of gaming again. She rarely logs on from home, despite having a laptop now.” I commented.
“I know, master. She really does prefer being outside. Don’t forget that your parents will be visiting today.” insisted Mila.
“I know. How’s Dejon acclimating?” I inquired.
“There have been no complaints from his clients, he is dutifully completing coursework, and I have seen no signs of him attempting to control others.” she reported.
Nodding, I said, “Thank you, Mila. Are Jemal and Kayla still doing well?”
“Of course, master. Though Kayla is not as diligent as her brother in her coursework, she is a very gifted girl, getting well ahead for her age. Jemal has a one hundred percent return rate from his current clients.” she explained.
“Wow. He has me beat in that regard.” I admitted, knowing I was just resisting the urge to pester Alma.
Our wedding day was steadily growing closer, and I felt a sense of excitement for it. I knew I was probably being naive to some extent, but my own parents made marriage seem so wonderful. Jarod’s relationship with the twins certainly benefited from it. For me, I’d finally be able to relieve myself of a seemingly endless stream of secrets. Keeping as much from her as I did didn’t feel right, despite knowing she kept things from me as well. I wanted to be open and honest with her even though I’d never get to be so open with others I care about. There were only ten more days to wait.