Font Size:  

“Jayna thinks I bought the park because I have a mermaid fetish.”

Emmaline’s surprise was genuine. “She what? Why would she think that?”

“That’s what Rosalind told her.”

Emmaline went rigid. She smiled, but the expression was forced. This was the second time she had grown wary after Sid mentioned Rosalind. “What exactly did Rosalind tell her?”

“Apparently, they had a conversation about aggregators in the lady’s room. Jayna came away convinced that when I purchased Realms of Neptune, I was really trying to buy her.”

Emmaline scoffed. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Of course, it is. I didn’t do a compatibility assessment until three days ago. Yet Jayna was convinced I bought the park because of Rosalind’s assessment.”

Emmaline’s lips pulled into a tight line, and the realization that had eluded him during his mad dash through Manutai finally took root and blossomed into a knot that tore at his gut.

“Em, why would Jayna think I bought an amusement park based on Rosalind’s assessment?”

Emmaline didn’t answer.

“Emmaline, look at me.” She did, and even in the dark Sid could see the concern on her face. “Look me in the eye and tell me Rosalind Aria had nothing to do with my decision to purchase the Realms of Neptune.”

“Does it really matter?” Emmaline asked.

Anger blossomed and twisted his insides. “Yes, it matters. Em, what were you thinking? Jayna accused me of being a stalker who bought the park to buy her. Loudly. Publicly.”

Emmaline opened her mouth to speak, but Sid cut her off.

“She even accused me of getting her boyfriend to break up with her so she would have to fly to Manutai with us. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

Emmaline’s voice took on a pleading tone. “He was going to get that promotion anyway. I just called in a favor so he would get it a little sooner, that’s all. Their relationship fell apart on its own.”

Sid failed to keep his voice calm as his anger grew. “That’s not the point, Em. She blames me, when in reality it was you manipulating her. Manipulating both of us. I trusted you!”

Emmaline pulled back at Sid’s raised voice.

He took a calming breath and repeated quietly, “I trusted you. How could you do this to me?”

She regained her composure and gave him a weak smile. “All I did was give the two of you an encouraging nudge. Everything else was all you. Your feelings for her are real. And so is the way she feels about you.”

The knot in his stomach grew. Did Emmaline think she was helping? “Her feelings for me are real, all right. Thanks to you, she hates me.”

Emmaline put a hand on his arm, and it was all he could do not to pull it away. “She doesn’t hate you. She’s just upset. You both are. Give it some time.”

She began tapping on her tablet. He watched her for a moment, and his anger grew. He had trusted her, and she had betrayed that trust.

Whatever she was doing out in the Myst, Sid had to stop her before she made things worse. He unrolled his own tablet and breathed a sigh of relief when it powered on, apparently undamaged by his tumble into the fountain. Then he activated one of the emergency scripts that he’d never imagined he would have to use.

Emmaline’s tapping paused a moment later, and she scowled. Her gestures resumed, slowly and deliberately, and her scowl deepened.

“It’s no use,” he said, keeping his voice as even as he could. “Your access to all Hayes Corp systems has been terminated.”

Emmaline whipped her head towards him, and the look on her face would have been comical under different circumstances. But the situation was anything but funny.

“A severance package has been delivered to your wallet. You can return any and all Hayes Corp property via courier, and I expect you to vacate the hotel by checkout time tomorrow.”

“Obsidian, please. Don’t be rash. We’ll fix this. We’ll make it right, and it will be okay.”

Sid shook his head. “There is no we. You’re fired.”