“James! Mila!? Is something wrong?” inquired Iris as I stepped out of my car. She was just getting home herself. Barely waiting for me to shake my head, she then asked “Then why are you…”
Interrupting her, I said, “I was going to wait for you to arrive at my home, but I was informed that you wouldn’t have time to stop by today. Sorry for the intrusion, but I thought this was a good opportunity to meet your parents, if you don’t mind.”
Mila had not only informed me that Iris would not be stopping by my house but that she seemed concerned about how to broach the trip to France with her parents.
“First off, I have something to give you.” I stated as I held out the enhancement suit for her. “You’re only allowed to wear this while working for me, at my home, or in route to or from a job. You’ll also be expected to wear this during our trip to France, since you don’t seem prepared to taze someone with your magic.”
“Taze someone? Are you expecting trouble?” She asked, looking concerned.
“No, but I would like to be prepared just in case.” I informed her. “I don’t imagine everyone will be with me at all times. My wife might well want to get me alone at some point, and by now I’m sure you’re well aware that some of our friends can be a bit flirtatious.”
She nodded and said, “That’s for sure.”
Smiling, I said, “Groups may well be split up at times. If you ever find yourself alone, I would like you to feel safe still. You will, of course, be able to contact me if needed at any time. Next time you visit the mansion, be sure to stop by Jarod’s lab for a phone upgrade.”
“Phone upgrade?” she inquired.
“Yes. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we have certain technologies available to us that aren’t mass-produced for the world yet.” I told her, motioning to the suit. “Though altering the hardware will void any warranty you have, I promise that your phone will have increased performance. Furthermore, your phone will be able to connect with my network if ever you decide to switch plans, which I highly recommend.”
“Umm… Okay. I’ll have to talk with my dad about it.” she replied.
The front door opened, and Mick looked out at us. “Iris, you okay?”
Nodding, she said, “Mick, this is my boss, James, and Mila, his umm…”
“Maid.” stated Mila.
He glanced over his shoulder before moving out from the door. After walking over to us, he asked in a whisper “You’re the one who told my sister to warn me not to play our games as much?”
I smiled and said, “Yes. She did explain why, didn’t she?”
Mick nodded and then asked “Is it true that you can… You know…”
“I’m certain you would be amazed, but this is neither the time nor the place. Why don’t you stop by the mansion with your sister when you have time?” I inquired.
When Mick looked at her, Iris shrugged and smiled.
“Today I’m here to discuss the company trip with your parents, assuming they happened to be home.” I informed him.
“Company trip? Where are you going?” he asked, looking surprised.
“France. We’ll be attending a concert as well as general tourist sites throughout the country.” I explained.
“Wow. Iris, have you told dad that you’ll need a passport?” he questioned.
“I have already taken the liberty to acquire passports for everyone needing them.” explained Mila.
“Whoa. Sorry. Maids don’t just clean things?” inquired Mick.
“Mila’s a special case and a good friend. I don’t know what I would do without her.” I insisted. “Are your parents home?”
“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. This way.” he stated, turning and heading to the door. After we entered, he called out, saying, “Hey, mom, we have a guest.”
“Coming!” she called.
I could tell by the aroma that she was cooking, and I could hear her hurriedly wash her hands as Mick led me to a living room.
“Would you like a drink?” asked Mick.
“Sure. Orange juice.” replied Iris with a grin.
“I’ll take some as well.” I told him before he could come to his sister.
“Mila, right?” asked Mick as he looked to her. When she nodded, he inquired “Want anything?”
“No, thank you.” she told him with a smile.
“Who’s here?” asked someone just after Mick left the room.
I glanced at Mila who mouthed the name Mike.
“Iris’ boss. Go find dad.” replied Mick.
“Sorry if my brothers get rowdy while you’re here.” stated Iris.
I laughed and said, “If they can be more rowdy than our mutual friends, I will be quite impressed.”
“Yeah… You have a point. Am I allowed to tell them about Mila, or would you prefer that I didn’t?” she asked.
“I don’t mind either way.” stated Mila.
“They probably wouldn’t believe me, so I guess it’s not a big deal.” admitted Iris.
I stood as Iris’ mother entered the room, and said, “Mrs. Storm, please pardon my intrusion, but there is business which I would like to discuss with you and your husband. I am James Michael Somerset III, Iris’ boss.”
“Welcome to our home, Mr. Somerset.” she replied, shaking my proffered hand.
“James, please.” I told her.
I heard the front door open and shut followed by someone running.
Smiling, Mrs. Storm then said, “Call me Mirabella. Pleasure to meet you, James. Iris has been strangely tight-lipped about you, but my husband is excited to have new blood joining his baseball league.”
“We at Best Friend For Hire appreciate the opportunity.” I assured her.
“Have you started practicing yet?” she asked.
As she spoke, Matt ran up behind her saying, “Mom, you’re not going to believe this, but there’s a talking car out front.”
“Sorry if I startled you, Matt, but I prefer that the master’s personal transportation goes untouched without his permission.” explained Mila.
Pointing at her, Matt said, “You sound just like the car!”
Mila smiled and nodded.
“Wait. How did you know that…” started Matt.
“Matt, behave!” snapped his mother. “This is James, Iris’ boss.”
For a moment, he looked as if he wanted to argue, but he took a deep breath and then said, “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize.” I assured him. “My DB5 has had some considerable upgrades, and few wouldn’t be surprised by her.”
Two sets of footsteps were coming down stairs, and I was certain one would be Iris’ father.
“Mila would you mind showing Matt the car?” I inquired. “Mike would probably be interested as well if you catch him in the hall.”
“As you wish, master.” she replied, standing and walking toward Matt.
“Can I?” asked Matt, facing his mother.
“Just be careful.” she told him.
“Sorry about my brothers.” stated Iris.
“She says that even though Kayla nearly ran into her when she came for an interview.” I teased.
As I spoke, I heard Mila introducing herself in the hall and asking if Mike would like to join them. Mr. Storm seemed enthusiastic as well, though he continued walking toward us. Mick returned with the orange juice, beating Mr. Storm to the room.
“Kayla’s ten. My brothers are older than me!” she argued.
I shrugged and said, “Still, things happen.”
“Who is Kayla?” asked Mirabella.
“She’s the sister of an employee who lives at my company headquarters.” I explained. “Many of my employees live there, since we have exceptional accommodations.”
“He’s understating them dramatically. I really can’t explain.” insisted Iris.
Stepping into the room, Mr. Storm asked “Explain what?”
“How incredible Best Friend For Hire’s headquarters is.” stated Mirabella. “This is Iris’ boss, James. James, this is my husband, Grayson.”
I shook his hand and said, “Meeting you is a pleasure, sir. Thank you for inviting my company to join your baseball league. I do feel obligated to warn you that most of my company is young and highly athletic.”
“Iris has mentioned that you do martial arts training each morning. What’s the reason for it?” he asked.
“In addition to being a good general fitness program, I like the idea that all of my employees will be able to protect themselves in case a client becomes less than pleasant.” I explained. “We do, of course, screen our clients before pairing them with any given best friend, so there is yet to be a serious incident.”
“I’m glad to hear you’re cautious, given your unusual line of work. The company doing okay?” he inquired.
I nodded and said, “We’re still expanding, and our profits are quite substantial. Just this past winter, I added a hotel chain to the company’s assets. We also have close ties with Global Princess Entertainment and the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce, given that I’m a primary shareholder in each.”
Looking surprised, Grayson said, “Wow. Impressive. That restaurant chain is something else. We’ve eaten there a couple times.’
“You should see James’ chef in action. That guy’s amazing too.” insisted Iris.
“My wife assures me that Marco is one of the best chefs in the world. As head of the Pendreigh Group, she’s done enough traveling for me to take her word.” I added.
“The Pendreigh Group!?” he asked, sounding shocked.
“Yes. Heard of them?” I inquired.
Nodding, he said, “They’ve been buying up companies all over the city, so I did a bit of research a while back. You say your wife runs it!?”
“Yes. She also manages her father’s estates. He’s the Duke of Caerllion in Wales.” I explained.
Grayson nodded and took a seat, so the rest of us did as well. Talking with him and his wife about the trip to France didn’t take terribly long, but I chose to stay a while and reinforce the idea that Iris was in good hands. As a father myself, I knew how important a sense of security for one’s children was.