artwork by callmeplisskin
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Chapter 2: Infiltrating The Order
The next morning I was in the city center long before most of the businessmen of the city began their walk to their offices. I sat on a bench and studied the workers entering the largest building in the center, the one with the logo on the front of a red rose superimposed upon a full moon.
The women who entered the building were all in simple refined dresses and heels, wearing muted colors and with their hair up off their shoulders. The men were all in sharply tailored suits and polished shoes.
While most wore only a solid tie with their suit, I noted several with lapel pins of a red rose. A couple more had a differently shaped pin on their lapel, but I was not close enough to see them. Those were the men who carried themselves with the most confidence and determination.
I glanced around the city square and saw a shopkeeper opening up a dress shop. I stood and headed that way. ‘Time to invest in a lovely new dress,’ I thought to myself. ‘But not one of those bland business dresses. Something that will catch the eye of the men with the lapel pins.’
From a window above, two men watched the blonde woman leave the bench and walk to the dress shop.
“Marcus, you really think letting a ranger into our business to snoop around is a wise idea?”
“I am intrigued by this one. She is no mere ranger coming to save missing girls. My contacts tell me that her interest in our lore seems insatiable, that her eyes light up whenever they mention the ritual or the beasts. She seems particularly curious about The Order.”
“You’re suggesting she is taking a personal interest in our order? That she wants to somehow be involved?”
“I’m saying, Jackson, as a matter of fact, that she has a curiosity and desire that goes beyond the simple solving of alleged crimes. And I’m saying, we can use this to our advantage.”
“I sincerely hope you’re right.” At a glance from the other, he cleared his throat. “Sir.”
“If I’m wrong, you can keep her locked up until the ritual. If I’m right…” a mischievous grin crossed his face. “I get to keep her with me until the time comes for her to meet the beast.”
I decided to stick with my original cover story as an investigating scholar. I’d told that story to enough locals that I didn’t want to pretend to be applying for a job, as Jess had. I took a seat just inside the front door and waited patiently for my interview with an executive who had, surprisingly, agreed to discuss the company’s history with me.
I smoothed the short hem of my pretty blue wispy summer dress and pushed my bare shoulders back to sit up straight. The dress was awfully snug on me, and the thin straps over my shoulders strained to keep my breasts contained by the slim triangles of fabric they supported.
The strikingly beautiful receptionist had skeptically listened to my request for an interview and was about to shoo me away when a door opened behind her. A young man whispered to her that his boss wanted to meet me. He blushed when I caught him checking me out.
Now she occasionally shot me and my dress a disdainful look, clearly thinking that my dress was inappropriate for a business setting. Kinda the point, I thought as I smiled at her. I suspected she was also a little jealous of my new spiked-heel strappy sandals–I was certainly proud of them. Imagine how scandalous she would think my lack of underwear was!
I was just noticing the snug choker she wore about her neck, and the small rose pendant that dangled from it, when the door opened behind her again. A distinguished looking man with a clean-shaven head stepped into the room.
He stood there with an air of confidence and seemed to stare right into me with cool dark eyes. I felt an instant flash of–something–and involuntarily squeezed my knees together to make it go away. Or at least try to suppress it. ‘Calm yourself, girl,’ I ordered, knowing it was in vain.
“Miss Lucksworth, is it?” he asked with a grin. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Marcus–come right in.”
Yeah, you heard him right. My cover name was Alynnya Lucksworth. Who else’s name was I supposed to use when I went undercover as a scholar?
To be continued–