Pt. 19

Maggie stretched, standing on her toes and reaching for the sky. "Well, that was interesting - not. And I'm right back where I started, with an estate to close out, a house full of magical books, and absolutely no desire to deal with either."

Roarke looked back at the house with a frown. "Raul may have set other traps in there."

"Probably," Maggie agreed, blowing out a stray flame on a nearby rosebush. "But it's not like I've got much of a choice. I can't just leave this place as it is. Someone might wander in and get into trouble."

Byron looked at both Roarke and Maggie with a frown. "Question: Mr. Roarke said it was his island when he sent your grandparents off to wherever it is he sent them – so how come he got caught in the house?"

Roarke eyed the young wolf with amusement. "It may be my island, but not every event that occurs on it is totally within my control – especially if I wasn't expecting it. Raul was always very cunning. I should not have let my guard down when we entered the house."

"Cunning or not, we still have to deal with all those Books of Shadows he's got in there. And I still need to find my birthday present. That thing is a horror just as a book – but the aura that clings to it makes it even more dangerous."

"Perhaps you should consider taking a break for a few days and then come back with a plan." Roarke started back towards the front of the house. "I, for one, could do with a break."

"Not a bad idea," Byron replied. He and Maggie followed closely behind, stomping out stray embers as they walked. "We can head back to the other island and get some sun before you have to come back. I think the other Mr. Roarke would be happy to see you again."

"I doubt it," Maggie said diffidently. "He doesn't know me well enough to like or dislike me. If he's expecting me to be like my mother, he's in for a shock – I'm so not like her."

Byron grinned. "He could always ask Saito about you. I'd give real money to hear that conversation."

Maggie snorted in amusement. "You and me both." She brushed ashes off her sleeve and looked back at the house. "Tell you what – why don't you go back and hang with that pretty shifter assistant of his and I'll hang here. We spend so much time together out in the world, it would do us good to have some down time apart. One island is pretty much like another – sand, sea, surf, tropical drinks with silly umbrellas. I can have fun here and not have to feel like a third wheel while you work your wiles on…what was her name again?"

"Ariel," Byron replied with a grin. "And I was wondering how I could get some alone time with her if you were sharing a room with me. We'd also better check office messages. We've got a couple of outstanding cases that we might need to get back for." He looked at Roarke, who was listening to the young couple's banter with an amused expression. "So, Mr. Roarke, can I trust you with my friend?"

Roarke raised one eyebrow at the young man's teasing tone. "I beg your pardon?"

"I think the better question is, can you trust me with Mr. Roarke," Maggie quipped, grinning at her host. "After all, my grandfather did think we were a good match." Roarke laughed and led the amused couple to the path back to the main house.

In the dark recesses of the house's study, a panel slid open silently, triggered by an invisible hand. Inside the compartment was a square object wrapped in moleskin. Voices emanated from the package, sounds of pain and fear and horror, coupled with an eerie light. Part of the wrapping fell away to reveal an elaborate initial engraved on the face of the book. A woman's voice, sultry and low, called from the depths of the book. "Roarke! I'm here, Roarke! Come to me!"

A masculine voice laughed softly in the shadows. "Soon, Elizabeth. Soon."