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Author’s Note: Thank you once again to everyone who leaves comments and feedback on my writing, it is much appreciated. Thank you very much to Paul who continues to my second set of eyes, he is a great friend to help me out so much. I hope you enjoy it. ~ellie
The Fool Chapter 5: Hook line and sinker
Carrie knew she had been lucky. She was bruised and battered and had a mild concussion, but the way Sinclair and Jordan both hovered around her and treated her like a frail little bird with a broken wing irritated her beyond measure. Sinclair had become more than overbearing in his protectiveness. Each time she tried to argue with him, he would use reason and logic rather than the teasing humour she had become so used to, and often combined that reason and logic with the backing of Jordan, which caused her to accept, more often than not, what he wanted, albeit reluctantly.
He had brought her team from the museum to work from her home rather than allow her to go to work. He’d also refused to talk about the job they had been training for when she had been injured on any level, and, as two of her work colleagues arrived with food for an evening meeting, Carrie realised that Sinclair and Jordan had left to do the job without her. She understood his concern about being shot at, it had rattled her too, but she was furious to be excluded this way.
Part of Carrie was relieved, she admitted to herself. She couldn’t have faced repelling down the old building, even with the ledges and foothold its weathered exterior would afford her. The other and more dominant part of her remained furious that they would exclude her so completely. She had loved Alice, on some level, and felt she owed it to her to be the one to retrieve her stolen painting. The question suddenly rose in her mind that Jordan must have told Sinclair something for them not to have just passed on the job after her fall, and she wondered what he had said.
She sat in the front living room long after her team had left, brooding over what was taking them so long. She knew they couldn’t call and risk their location to an errant security guard or the owner of the apartment, so she sat and brooded, letting her imagination run wild with scenarios about why they could be taking so long.
“Finally!” She yelled as she heard the door open.
“Was there a curfew, Mother?” Jordan asked sarcastically.
“Where’s Sinclair?” Carrie demanded, ignoring his jibe. “You should have told me you were going to do the job tonight!”
“Whoa, slow down, you’re not making sense. We passed on the job after your fall, you know that. Sin farmed it out to one of his friends, though, so Alice will be fine,” Jordan said frowning at her.
“Where’ve you been then? You and Sin left together,” her frustration slowly turned into confusion.
“We left at the same time, not together. I had a date,” Jordan grinned. “Sin didn’t tell you where he was going?”
“No, I assumed you had gone to do the job. Why didn’t you tell me you’d passed on it?” Carrie asked with a frown.
“Because Sin got a friend of his to take the gig, so we didn’t exactly pass on it, we just subbed it out,” Jordan explained. “I told him she was an old family friend, which was why we had considered it in the first place.”
“That’s all you told him?” she asked, suddenly not caring if she disturbed Sinclair’s evening with a phone call. She snatched her phone from the table as Jordan nodded and watched her.
“You think he double-crossed us?” Jordan asked anxiously.
“No, but I think something else is going on here,” she said, “or why wouldn’t he have said where he was going tonight. A simple ‘I’m going to meet a friend’ would have sufficed, but he said nothing at all.”
“Missing me already?” Sinclair answered his phone cheerily.
“Sure, let’s go with that. Where are you?” Carrie asked testily.
“Having a dinner with a couple of old friends, but, seeing the time, I invited them back to the house to have a night cap so you and Jordan could meet them,” he said easily.
“That’s not necessary, it’s late, I think I will just go to bed,” she said carefully.
“So, you just rang to check on me?” he chuckled.
“No, I thought… it doesn’t matter what I thought, I’ll talk to you about it tomorrow,” she sighed.
“We can talk now,” he said, and she spun, hearing the front door open. “Seeing as I just got home.”
Carrie was about to yell at him the way she had when Jordan had arrived home, but, seeing the two men walk in behind him, she bit her tongue. She was grateful she hadn’t bothered to change into her pyjamas and was still in a loose dress that covered most of her injuries. Sinclair advanced on her and took her in his arms, kissing her.
“Hey,” he grinned.
“Hi. You took my advice about bodyguards?” she teased, glancing at the two Hulk-like men.
“Sort of. They’re not for me. Angus and Landon, this is Jordan and Carrington,” Sinclair introduced the people in the room. “Shall we go get that nightcap?”
“Wait… bahis firmaları what?” Jordan asked as what Sinclair said sunk in. “Why do I need a bodyguard?”
“Because Carrie and I are leaving tomorrow, and it’s better to be safe than sorry after everything that’s happened lately,” Sinclair said glibly.
“Wait… what?” Carrie said echoing Jordan’s earlier question.
“They’re like twins,” Landon chuckled. “Where’s that drink you promised us?”
For months Carrie had been flying around the world to large, often fortified houses in remote locations owned by Sinclair Mansvelt. Each time she found an assistant who acted as owner and caretaker of the property, and, after two weeks of research and finding a suitable person to act as an assistant curator at the house, she would move back to London for a few days before moving to yet another location. This time she was going to Treasure Island, Sinclair’s home in the South Pacific.
Treasure Island was the goal and what she had been waiting for, and she found she was disappointed not to be able to share it with Jordan, who they had left in London with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. After Sinclair’s explanation, they hadn’t fought him on his plans, but she had been furious not to be consulted before he went ahead and made plans.
The friend he had given the job to was a police investigator, who, after being given a credible anonymous tip, had shown up at the thief’s house with a search warrant and recovered several highly-publicised articles that had been stolen over the last two months. Each of them was insured by the company that Jordan and Carrie had a business relationship with. It was too much of a coincidence for Sinclair, who had called in a lot of favours to gather the information rapidly after someone had taken a shot at them. While none of the information was conclusive, it all pointed to Miles Rackham, and he knew he would need help to reason with the crazy old man.
Carrie had always known this would be a risky endgame, and she felt grateful for the way Sinclair was trying to keep her safe, but she also felt guilty because she would ultimately have to betray him. The last few months of living with him had confused her as they grew closer and became more like the couple they portrayed to the public. Their battles became fewer as they began to trust each other and, while their sex life was still an aggressive show of dominance, there were moments of real tenderness that only added to her confusion.
At each location they found the time to train together, whether working out at the gym or a dojo. They were constantly busy, and each night she would sleep deeply, being totally exhausted by the pace and demands of her life with Sinclair. When he’d announced they would be going to Treasure Island, he’d seemed to be holding something back. It was a gut feeling rather than anything he had said, and it nagged at a corner of her mind that she could be walking into a trap, that everything that had happened lately could be a trap to make her reveal herself.
She was feeling strangely odd sitting with Sinclair on his private jet and reading through a file Jordan had put together for her with the new information they had found on the Mansvelt family over the last two months. The large gaps in their information which had concentrated on Sinclair himself had been largely lacking she’d found, and she realised with a little sadness just how unwell Robyn had been toward the end of her life.
A driver had met them when they finally landed in Fiji and took them to a seaplane for the last leg of their journey. She looked out of the window as the small seaplane flew low over the Island that was about to become her home for the next few weeks. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but the massive house that seemed to grow out of the rainforest was surprising. It seemed like a multileveled tropical treehouse at first glance. It sat high on the top of the island, and, with so much vegetation obscuring the land below, she wondered if she would be expected to walk from the landing point up to the house.
The sunlight hit the tall poles which were a main feature of the house front. It was as if tall pine trees had been stripped and polished where they stood on the ground, and the house had been framed around them in the same golden timber. The thatching on the roof looked like bamboo, and she looked closer, trying to make out more detail as the plane flew into the sheltered bay and landed.
She smiled as the pilot helped her from the plane, thanking him for the smooth ride. She looked down the pier and saw a tall, dark man walking toward her. She looked at Sinclair who was smiling, and she tilted her head. He had a nice smile, though she didn’t see it as often as the self-satisfied smirk that drove her crazy.
“Welcome, I’m Rennie,” The man said when he came close enough. He bent and took her bags. “How was the flight?”
“It was long but good,” she smiled in return. Sinclair kaçak iddaa took her hand and followed the man. “Have you hidden all the family treasures from me?” she teased as they walked down to the end of the long pier.
“I might have tried to save you from temptation,” he chuckled. “But where would the fun be in that. I’d hate to disappoint you by hiding all the family jewels.”
“When are you going to finally believe that I am strictly above board and only take legitimate jobs, unlike yourself,” she shook her head.
“The day we catch the April Fool,” he too shook his head, mimicking her.
“Or I confess to being the teenage mastermind behind it all from the very beginning,” she laughed.
Over the last two months, he had made no secret of the fact that he still believed that she had pulled off the impossible feat of stealing the pistol and somehow getting it out of the mansion that night, despite being only a minute or two behind her as she had gone upstairs. Carrie, and her brother, for that matter, had never wavered in the declarations of innocence, and he had found no evidence to the contrary. He and Carrie had grown closer, and during their time here at his island home he planned to surprise her, and he hoped to force her hand in one way or another.
At the end of the pier sat a quad bike with small trailers for their luggage. Carrie was surprised, but said nothing as she climbed onto the back and wrapped her arms around Sinclair’s waist. While they still battled for dominance in their relationship occasionally, they had lapsed, for the most part, into an easy banter that bordered on teasing. She’d never had a real relationship before and, although there was a purpose to her wanting to be part of Sinclair’s life, she found she was enjoying being part of a couple and had to remind herself that she would have to betray him in the end.
The trail was more of a goat track, and she was glad she was holding onto him tightly as they bounced over tree roots and small dips on their way up to the house. It was fun, and she squealed as he went too fast around a bend in the track and the wheels on one side left the ground, making her think they would tip over. Had she been driving instead of being a passenger she was sure she would have enjoyed the trip far more.
“A little bit shaken?” Sinclair asked with a wide smile as he helped her from the quad bike.
“You’re a lunatic, you know that, right?” she laughed, pushing away his help.
“I do,” he said with a perfectly straight face. “It’s part of my charm,” he smirked and hefted her bag from the small trailer, placing it on the ground. They’d driven into a deep carport of sorts, and she looked around, noting a range of bikes and water sports equipment. “Come in and I’ll show you around,” he walked towards a side door.
Nothing about this house seemed secure, and she frowned as she followed him into the lowest level of the house. The ground floor was full of equipment rooms and workshops with workbenches cluttered with tools and debris.
“This place is always a bit of a mess, everyone always seems to have a few abandoned projects they are going to get back to,” he chuckled, leading her to a staircase.
When he said everyone, she assumed he meant the caretakers. She had met caretakers who acted as the owners and maintained the property at each of his homes. When she entered the first floor, she realised that his house was built to accommodate a much larger group of people than she had encountered in his other homes. The open floor plan was vast, with a large kitchen floating in the middle of the space and several areas where people could congregate around the room. This was obviously a house built for entertaining, despite being in an isolated location.
The pale wood furnishings lent themselves to the tropical feel of living on an island, and she felt like she was in an exclusive resort built not so much for romantic getaways but large gatherings of friends or family. She felt a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the room, despite the simplicity of its furnishings, which made her remain silent as she took it all in.
“This is the great room,” Sinclair said into the silence. “When we’re all at home we gather here for most of the day.”
“Great room’s a good name, it’s huge,” Carrie turned to look at him. The fact that he said ‘we’ again registering in her brain. “You mention everyone downstairs, and now you said when everyone’s here? Do you live with a lot of people here?” She was genuinely confused. At his other homes, a married couple had been the caretakers, and he’d never referred to them as We or Everyone. They welcomed him and retreated to their rooms when he arrived, giving them privacy. She had yet to see another soul on this island, aside from the man at the pier, and this house seemed too big for a couple to maintain and enjoy by themselves.
“Carrington, this is the Mansvelt family home, it will become mine when my parents pass, but they are still very much alive,” kaçak bahis he said, wondering how this had escaped her investigations. “Is it a turn off that I still officially live at home with my parents?” he asked with a perfectly straight face.
Carrie blinked; it hadn’t even occurred to her that his father would remain here after retiring his place within the association of Hats. She imagined that when Sinclair stepped up to take his place, he would have also taken possession of Treasure Island for himself. Her mind worked quickly. His parents were Frazer and Georgia Mansvelt. Sinclair had four older sisters, all married and living in various parts of the world. ‘Thank goodness they wouldn’t be here,’ she thought, and was thankful for the file Jordan had prepared for her on the Mansvelt family. She cursed herself for not investigating his family further instead of relying mostly on the information Robyn had gathered for her, and then on Jordan, who didn’t have the same obsessiveness for details as her mother had.
“Your parents are here?” she asked, a little bit of panic creeping into her voice.
“Not at the moment,” Sinclair said, noting the tension her voice and body language. “They made me promise not to throw any wild parties or invite girls back to my room,” he teased her. “I promised no wild parties, but I did mention that I fully intended to break the other rule. Speaking of which,” he took her hand and led her through the great room.
There was a playfulness to Sinclair that she hadn’t seen before. It was as if he could fully relax in this place and not feel the need to keep his uptight air of total control over his life and everything in it, including her. He led her to a staircase on the far side of the room. The staircase led up to a platform from which three sturdy rope bridges radiated. Taking her hand, Sinclair led her along one of the bridges under the canopy of the rainforest. She looked up, surprised to see a narrow suspended roof that the vegetation had grown around and under.
They reached, what looked like, a replica of the main house, although not as big and not having a ground floor, meaning that to get back to the ground they would have to pass through the multi-storey main house. The jungle was thick and made seeing any distance difficult, but, as her eyes grew accustomed to it, she could make out the shapes of other buildings at various distances within the foliage. She realised what she had seen from the air had been a series of buildings under interlocking roofs across the pathways.
“So this is where you live?” she asked the obvious question, walking into the large open room of his tree house cabin.
“When I come home, yes,” he said softly, watching her as she looked around.
“And the other tree houses?” she asked, tilting her head as she looked at him.
“The other ones on this side of the great room belong to my sisters,” he explained. “On the other side there are guest houses, and one my Uncle’s still use from time to time.”
“Do your sisters live here too?” She asked. Carrie knew he had sisters, though there was little information about them as they seemed to be sheltered from publicity. She knew they were married and appeared to live in different parts of the world. Although after Jordan’s revelations about the alternative surname of Mansfield she may have to look into that again.
“No, but we all come home a few times a year and hang out,” Sinclair said casually, as if it was what every family did. “They’re all married and have their own homes and families, so the place gets pretty full when we’re all home.”
“You just hang out with your family?” she asked confused. She had never just hung out with Robyn or her grandmother. There was always a lesson or an investigation or a job to be done. Even when Jordan had come to live with them she had been allowed to do some training with him, but hanging out or wasting time was never tolerated by Robyn.
“You know, having fun with each other and catching up. I think we could both use some down time,” Sinclair said, pulling her against his body. “It’ll be good to relax for a little while after all the travel. Don’t look so worried; they aren’t here right now,” he chuckled. “The bedroom’s upstairs,” he led her up to the mezzanine level.
The tree house was unlike any of his other homes. Though all his homes were different, his other homes had an air of wealth and sophistication about them. This home felt lived in and cosy, despite the open plan and vast rooms of the main building. There seemed to be nowhere to hide, and the openness of the connected buildings and walkways, combined with Sinclair’s unusual mood, made her feel uncomfortable. She needed to do something familiar and routine, so she took her bag from where it had been left on the floor and lifted to the bed and opened it.
“I made some room for you in the closet, and you can have this draw,” Sinclair said, confused by her obvious anxiety. She had easily gone into each of his homes that they had visited and acted as if she belonged there as his girlfriend, for some reason the discovery that this was, in fact, his parents home had made her withdraw back into herself and become quiet and distant with him.
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