Lighting a Fire

“Well,” Keenan said, as he strode into the main lodge. He flopped down in an overstuffed chair and smiled. “I’ve done all I can. The rest is up to them.”

Tiana glanced over at him, a faint smile playing at her lips. “Orienteering?” she said. A soft chuckle escaped her. “Do you think they realize that the orienteering is meant to give them an opportunity to check out what we wanted them to investigate?”

“Most did,” Keenan said, nodding.

Bertram paused in poking the weak flames in the fireplace. Glancing at Tiana, he said, “Don’t think we want the ones that didn’t figure it out.” Turning back to his work, he asked, “Are there any that we’ll have to light a fire under?”

“I did all the fire lighting that needs doing,” Keenan said. He snapped his fingers and the flames that Bertram was trying to coax to life flared up. Keenan gave his friend an innocent smile. “I’m good with lighting fires.”

Glaring, Bertram adjusted his glasses and set the poker to one side. “You might have warned me,” he groused. In truth, though, he wouldn’t have liked Keenan’s way of warning him any more than he had the way Keenan lit the fire.

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Two Graves

Bertram looked at the graves and then out at the water. The stone were visible from the lake. The campers shouldn’t have any trouble seeing them. The key was to make them enticing – make them stand out in their minds.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice soft. He knelt and laid a single red rose on one of the graves. Then, he touched the stone and stood. Without another word, he left the scene. There were other preparations to be made.

Preparations

“So, we’re going to let them tool around the lake,” Tiana said. “When are we going to give them their assignments?”

“After we’re sure they’ve each seen what we want them to see,” Keenan said. When Tiana arched an eyebrow at him, he smiled. “Ti, if they fail to see what we want them to see, what kind of agents are they going to make?”

“Not the sort we want,” Bertram said, his voice soft.

Keenan nodded in agreement.

A Matter of Good Manners

“Why is the spell only on the girls’ cabins?” Tiana asked. She shook her head. “Do we honestly think that it will stop any trouble? If we were serious, it would be on both cabins.”

“Yeah, but it would smack the girls in the face, then,” Keeanan said. He gave Tiana a playful wink. “Wouldn’t be polite to smack girls that way.”

Tiana just stared at him. “Are you serious?” she asked. She couldn’t tell, because he just chuckled and made his way towards the main lodge.

What’s in a name?

“You do realize you haven’t told them your name,” Bertram said, giving Keenan a sidelong glance.

Keenan blinked. “I haven’t?” he said.

When Bertram shook his head, Keenan chuckled nervously and rubbed at the back of his head. “Yeah, I’ll need to give them an alias, won’t I?”

“Makes it a little hard to hide if you give your real name,” Tiana interjected. She shrugged. “Call yourself Master Haku.”

Keenan gave her a sidelong look. “You think the sovereign of Shynia should use an alias that means count?” When she nodded, he smiled at her. “I like it,” he said.

Hidden Secrets

“Think they’ll figure it out?” Bertram said, giving Keenan a sidelong glance.

Keenan’s brows furrowed. After a moment, he shrugged. Then, he shook his head. “That’s why they’re here, isn’t it?”

For a moment, Bertram just stared at him. Then, slowly, he nodded. “I suppose so,” he said. In a faint voice, he repeated the three words.

that stupid four-eyes

Keenan stifled laughter as he listened to Haruko grumble and gripe in the next room. He’d known when he created Matthew Sherwood as the new Field Director for the Agency that sparks would fly between the two men.

Earnest was a sweet guy, which meant that Haruko had walked all over him. Having Matthew as the buffer between them now was just what Keenan needed to keep the man in check.

Bertram’s brows twitched when Haruko’s complaints got loud enough that he heard them as well. He adjusted his glasses and looked at Keenan. “Does he have a problem with glasses?” he asked, bristling.

“Only on Matthew,” Keenan said. He chuckled and held up a finger. “Wait for it!”

“Director Haruko,” a soft, pleasant voice said from the other room. “I’ll thank you not to call me stupid when you think I can’t hear you.”

As Haruko growled, Keenan burst out laughing. “It’s past time Haruko had to deal with someone that would put him in his place,” he said, giving Bertram a malicious grin.

“While I agree,” Bertram said, hiding a smirk, “the cackle of glee was probably an uncalled for and inappropriate response.”

“As if I care,” Keenan replied, shaking his head.

everything it seems I like’s a little bit stronger

Keenan frowned at the large horse. “He’s lovely,” he said, his voice soft. He reached up to caress the beast’s nose.

“A gift for you, your highness,” the merchant said, bowing politely.

Smirking, Keenan shook his head. He knew what the merchant was thinking. If Keenan accepted this gift, he’d end up with a stable full of horses that he didn’t really need. “That’s very generous of you,” Keenan started.

He was saved from trying to find a polite reason to refuse the gift when the horse clamped its teeth on a stray lock of hair. He squawked and then stumbled when the horse just as quickly released him.

“Yeah, no,” Keenan said, smoothing his hair back into place. As the merchant stammered an apology, he whirled away in a flurry of fabric. Ignoring the horse entirely, he stalked away from the merchant. He gave Bertram a sidelong glance. “Not a word!”

“What is it with horses trying to eat your hair?” Bertram said, ignoring Keenan’s words. He chuckled and said, “Maybe they think your hair is straw?”

Keenan’s reply was not appropriate for a person of his gentle birth. Then again, he seldom spoke like a person of his gentle birth.

two is a crowd

“Stop,” Keenan said. He whirled to look at his self-appointed bodyguard. Frowning, he added, “There are some places where you can’t follow me.”

“Sir,” he said, “it may not be safe!”

“I’ll take my chances,” Keenan growled. Then, he strode into the room.

Marken frowned at the door for a moment. Then, his ears pinned and he looked over at Bertram. “How am I supposed to protect him, if he leaves me out here.”

“Guard the door,” Bertram said, shrugging. “Just… Keenan’s not going to let you follow him into the bath, Marken. He doesn’t let anyone join him in there.”

that’s because we’re intelligent

“HumInt?” Chris said. His brows furrowed and he looked at Keenan. “Why do they call it that?”

“Because,” Keenan said, grinning. “It’s people gathering the data, rather than machines or computers or what-have-you.”

“Why?” one of the visitors asked, “What do you call it?”

Chris smiled faintly and said, “Usually, we call it foreign research.”

When the visitors looked at them in surprise, Keenan grinned. “We call it that because we’re clever,” he said. “We don’t want to tip our hands, ya know?”

“I thought we called it that because we were sneaky,” Bertram said, his voice soft. He shrugged. “We almost never refer to our agents as ‘Agent’, either.”

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