Chapter 23: Investigation

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Liam wasn’t sure what he was expecting to find when he excused himself from the dinner table and left the ballroom in search of Leta. The stairways were blocked off by security, but there was a door left open in the courtyard that seemed to have been used recently. Drink in hand, he half-walked, half-wandered up the carpeted staircase, away from the party. It wasn’t the first time he went exploring where he wasn’t supposed to: it was rather in his nature, as an investigative journalist, to poke around a bit. He just didn’t think he would have to seek out his own date and her ex.

Still, the thought didn’t sour him: he was surprised Leta had agreed to be his date at all. After his messages had gone unanswered, he’d nearly given up on her. And now he was terribly glad he hadn’t. Amazingly enough, Leta seemed to enjoy his company.

Upstairs, Liam was just wondering if he would soon be accosted by security when he spotted the missing pair. Fiearius and Leta stood in the doorway of a guest bedroom, their heads bowed closely together as they looked down at a tablet’s screen and whispered amongst themselves.

” — we don’t know who he’s after,” Leta was saying in a hurried tone. She hadn’t noticed him yet. “Or do we?”

“Well,” FIearius grunted, “we can probably guess.”

When neither of them looked up, Liam broke in. “Everything alright?”

Leta looked up quickly, startled. Then she relaxed. “Liam,” she sighed. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you down there.”

“What’re you sorry for? I love a good party.” He grinned, and Leta looked relieved. Liam noticed, with some amusement, that Fiearius’ face fell into a scowl. He dropped the tablet out of sight.

“Someone after you?” Liam asked, nodding toward the screen, then meeting Leta’s eyes in concern. “Again?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We’ve sort of stumbled into — “

But Fiearius cut her off, holding out his hand sharply. “Hang on. We’re not sharing what we’ve found with this guy. Have you forgotten what he is? Because I haven’t.”

“Not this again,” Leta groaned. “Didn’t you just get done telling me you’d behave like an adult?”

“I am behaving like an adult. And any sensible adult would know that this can’t get out,” Fiearius snapped, his eyes were locked on Liam with a sort of intensity he imagined probably intimidated some people. Wasn’t that what his colleagues said? That Admiral Soliveré was a towering, intense force of nature that on one in their right mind would cross? That it was no surprise he did so well in the shadier regions of the Span? That if he wanted to be, he was terrifying? Himself, he wasn’t phased.

Leta wasn’t either. She rolled her eyes. “For the gods’ sake, Fiear.”

“This is why I didn’t want him following us.”

“Why? You really think he’s going to take this and go straight to his editor? Right now?” She put her hands on her hips. “Before we can do anything. Really.”

Dov’ha ti’arte, Leta, is it really worth the risk?”

Did they forget he was standing right here? He was almost tempted to just let them carry on. It wasn’t the worst thing to hear Leta Adler defend you. Still.

“Might be for the best.” Liam smirked. “Can’t promise I won’t bust open the story, you know, like I have a thousand times before.”

The irony seemed to be lost on Fiearius, who just glared at him for a moment longer then replaced the tablet where he’d presumably found it. “Come on, we have work to do,” he growled, sweeping towards the door, catching Liam and Leta in his wake. The door was shut, the lock was clicked and they were on their way back down the hall, walking faster than Liam even thought Leta could in those shoes. Whatever was going on, they were in a hurry.

The trio descended the main stairs back towards the ballroom. Liam couldn’t help but catch the eye of one of the guards, confused, in all likelihood, how they’d gotten up there to begin with. Neither of his companions paid the man any heed, however, so he just smiled briskly and made to follow after them.

But suddenly, there was a large calloused hand in his face that made him stumble to a halt. “Nope, you stay here, don’t have time to deal with you,” Fiearius barked sharply. “Go eat some cheese or tiny sandwiches or something.” The man waved his hand in the air flippantly and then stalked off, leaving only Leta, more apologetic than he’d ever seen her.

“I’ll see you later, alright?”  Leta knit her brow, looking troubled, but with a familiar light of determination in her eyes. “I’ll tell you everything, there’s just something we need to take care of first. And be careful at the party, okay?”

“Careful how?” he wondered, unsure if she was joking or not.

“Just watch out for yourself.”

“You too.”

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