The Fool Ch. 02
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Chapter 2. Cat and Mouse Games.
1st May 2016
“All I’m saying is that, if you play with fire, you’re going to get burnt,” Jordan shrugged, but the concern in his voice was very real. “You can’t be working three jobs at once and not get burned out, even if they’re all successful.”
“We still have a business to run, things are coming together nicely at the museum, as well as with Sinclair,” Carrie came to sit with him and put her hand on his arm. “Look, I know you worry, but this is what we do, and, for the first time in either of our family’s histories, we are doing it for the right reasons.”
“Are we?” Jordan looked at her seriously. “Is this obsession of Robyn’s the right reason for either of us? You’re playing a dangerous game against one of the best in the business, if I lost you too…” his voice trailed off.
“Jordy, from the time you came to live with us you have been my best friend, my confidante and partner in crime. She trained us both to be exactly what we are, the best. Until the pistol was stolen, the Hats had no idea it might be a woman targeting them. You know why I have to do this, we’ve come so far, and we promised her we’d see it through,” Carrie said softly. “I can’t do it by myself, Jordy, I need you, but even without you I will find a way.” She said giving him permission to walk away from the decade-long vendetta against the Hats.
“I won’t leave you,” Jordan sighed. “But, we’re playing a dangerous game here, and I think you’re underestimating Mansvelt. He has a reputation for a reason,” Jordan tried to make his point clear. “You’re treating him like a typical mark, and we both know he’s not. I may have promised Robyn we would finish this, but I also promised to make sure you got home safely once it was done.”
“One more year, Jordy, this is the last one, then we can go home,” she said softly, thinking about her home by the bay in Brisbane. “I thought you liked living in London. You seem happy at work, at least.” They both held very respectable day jobs, despite their less than respectable business activities in the evening, and Jordan was dating a nice guy who was understanding about his second job helping his sister out occasionally at night.
“I am,” he nodded. “Just don’t let Mr. too-good-to-be-true get under your skin, okay? I’ve never seen you so on edge. It’s like he intimidates you or something.”
“I have no intention of letting that happen. It’s a job. Robyn planned it years ago,” her voice caught. She still felt her mother’s loss keenly, not so much because of the mother-daughter bond but for her guidance during this early stage of this year’s plan. “Everything has run like clockwork with no one the wiser until we were ready, and we all knew the risks in the end game.”
“Okay,” Jordan held up in hands in surrender and stood. “You have to admit; tonight is a risk. Putting it all on the table like this may not turn out the way you planned. I’d feel better if you wore the tech, at least to the restaurant.”
“We can’t risk it, and I’ll be fine. If Sinclair takes the offer I won’t have time to remove it; we talked about this. If he doesn’t, you’ll see me leave alone and, trust me; you don’t want to listen to the rest of the night,” she smiled crookedly. “I will keep my phone with me, I promise, you can track me and know exactly where I am at any time.”
“Why Diego’s?” Jordan asked in a pained voice. He hated what happened to her there. The fact that Sinclair Mansvelt was a member there, albeit inactive, unsettled Jordan more than he would like to admit.
“You have a date, and I have a business meeting,” Carrie said with a laugh. “I’ll be fine, no matter how this turns out, honestly. Sinclair may have his suspicions, but he can’t prove anything, which makes him more interested in keeping the small connection he has with me going. I can handle him, I promise. You have a great time and enjoy the evening.”
“If Sinclair Mansvelt were gay, I wouldn’t be so cavalier about propositioning him,” Jordy said with a grin. “I don’t know how you keep your hands off him. He reminds me of a Greek god.”
“I’ve always had more self-restraint than you,” Carrie rolled her eyes. “WE,” she pronounced the word with emphasis, “Need Sinclair to think he is making all the decisions right now. The plan has always been to let him think he’s in control, dangle the bait and reel him in on a long line.”
“Well, that explains what you’re wearing, I guess,” he frowned. “The midnight blue bait hooked him, but if you keep throwing him prudish and boring, he’ll lose interest fairly quickly. Where are you going tonight, a library? That dress won’t cut it at Diego’s, and tonight you are going to need real bait.”
“Fine, what do you suggest?” she sighed.
“The teal dress!” he said emphatically.
“Seriously?” she tilted her head
“Trust me,” he nodded, “Aside of the midnight blue it’s about the sexiest thing you own, and I believe the extra peek-boo skin on bahis firmaları the shoulders and lower back will play to his weaknesses. I may be gay, but I understand Mansvelt, trust me on this.”
“You don’t think it’s too conservative for what I’m about to propose?” she said in a disapproving tone.
“Sometimes I seriously worry about your dress sense, Carrie. That dress is a far cry from conservative,” Jordan shook his head. The truth was that he was bisexual, but chose to date men only because the one woman he truly wanted was so damaged by her upbringing that having a real loving relationship with all that it entailed was a totally foreign concept to her. She hadn’t been raised in a loving nurturing way; she had been groomed. She was praised and rewarded for her successes and punished harshly for her failures.
“Alright, I’ll change,” Carrie agreed and walked away from Jordan.
He watched her go, admiring the view. No woman he’d ever met came close to her beauty and intelligence. Men fell for her easily when she turned on the charm. She never had any problems finding strong partners willing to be her booty call. She’d told him it was the thrill and high of rough and kinky sex she sought, not the relationship. That, too, was Robyn’s doing. Preaching constantly that Carrie should only ever give herself to someone strong enough to be her equal both physically and mentally.
Jordan knew he was that man, just as Robyn had when she began separating them as teenagers. He’d been sent to a different University in a different state for four years, just as the two teenagers had begun to form an intimate bond and started to experiment with sex. Since his arrival at their house after his parent’s death they had been inseparable, they trained together constantly toward the sole purpose of fulfilling Robyn and Edith vendetta. Carrie had no friends, no life, nothing beyond the constant and punishing regime her mother had forced on her. It was no wonder she constantly sought out men like Diego, where she could satisfy her needs without the risk of intimacy and treated him strictly as a brother figure. Once this vendetta was done, he’d show her exactly who was strong enough to take her and keep her, by force, if necessary.
Was she intimidated by Sinclair? Carrie asked herself as she changed into the teal dress, she trusted Jordan and wondered if he was right. She’d given Sinclair a glimpse at the body beneath the silky midnight blue material, then covered up and never quite re-emerged the same way. He certainly had an effect on her, even that first night when she had purposefully lured him into an encounter upstairs in the Rackham mansion.
She considered why she was quieter and less flirty with him than with other men like him. He was tall, and athletic, not overly muscled nor wiry thin, he was, she had to admit, just her type physically. He was obviously smart and had an education similar to her own. If his reputation was to be believed, he might be considered to be her equal on some levels and would be someone Robyn might have approved as good enough for her. Few men could match her talents, but she acknowledged he was one of the few that could come close. He didn’t wear the knowledge that he was considered the best in his profession like a badge, he was strong without being overpowering, intelligent without being arrogant. He had a quiet confidence that rattled her, in a strange way she hadn’t felt before, she admitted in the quiet of her mind. Had he been arrogant or pompous she might have found it easier to flirt with him.
She looked at herself in the mirror, Jordan was right, the dress was exactly what she needed to take control back and lead Sinclair down the path she wanted him to go. She continued to analyse why she was so slow in her seduction of this man as she left the house and drove to meet him at Revolver, an upmarket restaurant and bar.
Seduction was the first step in the plan, after all. “Steal the heart of the heartless,” Robyn had said when referring to the treasure they had targeted from Sinclair Mansvelt’s private hoard. The large heart-shaped red diamond was a prized piece looted from the royal family of Spain somewhere back in the sixteenth century. It had popped up on the black market from time to time until it disappeared for a time and finally re-emerged in the Mansvelt family vault where they claimed it had always been and that any other on the market had been a fake.
She’d believed with the confidence of youth and her mother’s absolute belief that stealing both the jewel and Sinclair’s heart would be an easy feat. For her, it would just be the final job to exact the vengeance on the families who had shunned the talents and ancestry of her own. Her mother and grandmother before her had worked hard to get themselves into well-respected positions within the disreputable world of art theft and forgery, making inroads into other areas of expertise in the seedy underworld of the black mark kaçak iddaa thieves. Her mother’s knowledge was such that she could have been the sole expert on The Antiques Road Show.
Carrie had been groomed to fulfil a specific role for her mother. She was the prodigy needed to pull off the most audacious series of thefts on some of the most formidable and disreputable men in the underworld market. Carrie knew four languages, could crack most safes and pick a lock within seconds. She knew how to fight and could hack most simple security systems if she had to, and, in her spare time, she had practised parkour and mixed martial arts with a wild tribe of extreme sports fanatics. Add to that an education supplied by private tutors and an accelerated degree at university, and she was a formidable woman herself, despite her young age.
Her whole life had led her to this point, and she couldn’t let a man like Sinclair Mansvelt derail Robyn’s grand plan now. If he wasn’t going to make the first move then she would, she hadn’t picked him for a man who preferred women to make the first move, but she had been wrong before. Rarely, she laughed to herself, but it did happen now and then.
She pulled up in in front of the restaurant and, knowing he was probably watching from the glass fronted bar, she slid out of her car letting her dress ride up even higher on her thigh. She’d put her hair up, and she tucked a stray curl behind her ear, letting her fingers trail down her long neck as she walked toward the building in the too high shoes that matched her too short dress. She knew her legs looked even longer in the figure hugging dress. The neckline scooped low enough to give just a hint of cleavage, and the cut outs at the points of her shoulders allowed the golden freckled skin the show. The dress was completely backless but held together in the middle of her back by an interlocking pair of diamante studded rings.
She knew she looked good, and that gave her a sense of empowerment as she spotted Sinclair pretending not to watch her approach from his position at the bar. Up until this point, she had been dressing as the conservative museum mouse he had taken to dinner with the offer of a job on that first night. Tonight, however, was time for her to take some control of how their business relationship was going to be concluded and taken to the next level on a personal front.
Sinclair sat at the bar watching the entrance without seeming to. It had taken him longer than expected to get the information he wanted on Carrington Wordsworth Ward, but he’d managed to discover a great deal more along the way. He was sure she was the April Fool, and he had come across some circumstantial proof, but there were several pieces that didn’t fit into the puzzle yet. He saw her walking toward the door and smiled. This sexy creature was more like the woman that he had met that first night at the party and had discovered in his investigations. Over their last few meetings, however, she had dressed as if she was the museum mouse she pretended to be, and he wondered why she had given up the persona tonight.
He stayed where he was as she entered the restaurant bar and noted the other men around him turn in her direction with a hopeful glance. He felt her approach by watching their reactions and slowly turned on the stool to gaze in her direction. Her hair was loose in its updo, which suited her far better than the tight bun she had been wearing when he saw her. The dress clung to her in all the right places, revealing flashes of golden tanned skin and legs that seemed to go on forever. She was beautiful, there was no doubt of that, and he knew that every other man in the bar was looking at him as she approached and took the seat beside him.
“You look lovely, tonight,” he said with a small smile. “Do you have plans for later tonight?” Their dinners had never gone very far past dessert, and they had always left separately, she had given him no reason to believe she would want anything more.
“Not yet,” she said, momentarily stung by his dismissal that she might have dressed up for him. “I guess that depends entirely on you.” She said with a smile, her meaning quite clear in the way she touched his arm gently.
“Is that so?” he said with a tilt of his head. “You gave me the impression you didn’t like to mix business with pleasure.”
“Is that what this is? We’ve had five dinners so far to discuss the idea of curating your collection, but it doesn’t seem like we are any closer to coming to some agreement about the proposition. You gave me the impression that these dinner’s had an ulterior motive. I apologise if I misread your intentions.” She said coyly as if embarrassed by her attempt to come onto him.
“Let’s get a table and discuss my intentions, shall we?” Sinclair stood and guided her from the bar to the restaurant with a hand on the bare skin in the small of her back. The Maître ‘D seated them, handing Sinclair the wine list and kaçak bahis placing menus on the table for them.
“Maybe we could discuss the wine list,” Carrie said, quickly seeing him about to return it to the man, assuming her response would be the same as other nights when she had declined any form of alcohol.
“Of course, choose whatever you like,” he smiled. Then to the Maître ‘D, he said, “If you could give us a few minutes?”
Sinclair considered Carrie across the table as he picked up his menu. The change in her tonight was not quite as startling as the dress made it seem. She was still the same confident woman she was when looking like a prudish museum curator. She had always said that she chose not to drink during business meetings, so he guessed that asking about the wine made it clear that she did not see this dinner as a business meeting. What had changed, he wondered, between their last dinner and tonight to make her thinking about that altering the purpose of their dinner?
“No business talk tonight?” he asked.
“We discussed your collection and the need for it to be curated properly several times now, yet nothing has led me to believe you will offer me the job in reality. So, unless you are going to make me an offer that could tempt me to leave my job at the museum, I am going to believe you continue to ask me out to dinner because you enjoy my company, and I say yes for the same reason.” She looked him squarely in the eye as she spoke. “It was a little silly of me ever to believe that you would let a junior museum staff member anywhere near your personal collection of artefacts, let alone curate it.” She lowered her eyes to study the menu a blush filling her face.
“Sounds like you’ve given this some thought,” he nodded, neither confirming nor denying what she had said.
“Well, it was a very exciting proposition, and I got carried away on with the idea, but I’ve come to my senses now, and if this is going to be our last date we may as well have fun,” she said. “We can’t keep pretending these dinners are business meetings. I think I’ll have the eye fillet, so is red wine okay with you?” Carrie asked, putting down the wine menu.
“That’s fine. I believe I will join you,” Sinclair said, closing his menu having barely glanced at it. “And the wine?”
“I think the Taylor’s Pinot Noir,” she said passing him the list. “I’m not overly fussy, though if you’d prefer to choose.”
“Not at all,” he smiled. “I’m quite enjoying seeing this different side to you. Much like the girl I first met in midnight blue.”
When the waiter came to take their order, Sinclair sat back and indicated Carrie as the person who would be ordering for them. She was flirty and sweet with the waiter, and, although she asked more questions that he thought was usual, the waiter seemed to enjoy the interaction with her. When the wine arrived, some minutes later, he allowed her to taste it before pouring for them both. Sinclair had always been the dominant person in all of his relationships, by choice, and he found the whole situation quite amusing.
“Do you want to share what is so amusing?” Carrie asked, put off by his soft chuckle as the waiter left them.
“You are,” he chuckled again. “You are quite the surprise tonight, Carrington.”
“Not used to a girl who can speak her mind?” she challenged him. He lived in a misogynistic world, just like all of his fellow Hats, where women would never be accepted as equals. “Given your reputation, I am sure women fall at your feet on a daily basis. Yet, here I am on a sixth business meeting that will go nowhere. Tell me, Sinclair, what is it you want from me?”
“How’d you do it?” he asked bluntly, taken aback by her question but not showing it. “That dress you were wearing wouldn’t have hidden the valet ticket you hid in your hair, let alone a pistol. How did you get it out of the mansion?”
“What?” she choked on the mouthful of wine she had sipped. “The police said the thief must have been known to Mr. Rackham. I’m hardly in his social circle. I doubt he even knows I exist outside of the museum, or even in it, for that matter.” She shook her head.
“Carrington Wordsworth Ward, daughter of Robyn Ward, granddaughter of Edith Overland and great granddaughter of Florence Bonnet. Florence was the only child of Stede Bonnet, a direct descendant and namesake of the infamous gentleman pirate,” he said casually as if admitting that he had investigated her background was inconsequential. “Florence, Edith and Robyn all have quite remarkable reputations of their own, as do you.” She looked back at him totally unfazed by his disclosure as if she had expected this investigation.
“Then you know that I m aware that Miles Rackham was robbed by the April Fool, like many of his associates,” she said casually. “You can’t seriously believe I am the Fool?” she laughed merrily. “Oh, that’s precious! You realise I would have been fifteen when the Fool first showed up.” She let out another peal of laughter. “If you had done your research properly, you’d know I only do legitimate work finding lost items for insurance companies, and it pays so badly that I have to have a regular job as well.”
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