A/N: It's been a truly insane summer for me, leaving me almost no time to write; but I finally have a story ready to go, and should have the rest of it up tomorrow (August 10). I hope everyone's had a great summer so far. This story comes from a suggestion offered by Misheemom, which finally developed into something postable after all this time. Enjoy!
§ § § - August 15, 2006
It was one of those deadly quiet Tuesday mornings when Leslie was at home with Christian and the children, and Roarke was alone in his study, taking this time as he usually did to catch up on any backlogged paperwork and to choose fantasies to grant from letters presorted by Leslie. Rarely was he interrupted, except by the occasional vacationer looking for routine information; so he was slightly surprised when the door opened and someone came in who looked as if she had more on her mind than just lying on a beach for a few days and soaking up some sun. He arose immediately at sight of the woman standing in the inner foyer. While she was engrossed in taking in her surroundings, he studied her.
She was younger than Leslie, he noted, and had straight red-gold hair cut a couple of inches shorter than Leslie had lately grown hers. Her eyes were blue, and her features carried a sort of haughty beauty that looked cold and uninviting at first glance, but softened with emotion. He watched in silence as she absorbed the sight before her, before finally offering, "Good morning, may I help you?"
She started and blinked at him as if she hadn't seen him there at all. "I beg your pardon," she said a little breathlessly, a hand over her heart. "I apologize." She spoke in a crisp British accent.
"Not at all," Roarke said. "What can I do for you?"
She stepped slowly down into the study, now regarding him as intensely as she had the interior of his home. However, this time she spoke after a moment or two. "So you are Mr. Roarke," she said, and at his nod, went on: "I understand my brother lives on this island. I…my name is Miranda. Miranda Roarke." She yanked her gaze away from his and glanced around the room again, then cleared her throat. "My brother would be Rogan Callaghan."
Roarke nodded once or twice, regarding her in a new light. "My cousin's daughter."
That seemed to startle her; she stood up straight and stared at him. "You're Daddy's cousin? But…he never mentioned having any family at all…that is, except for Rogan, but I never learned much about him, since Rogan didn't live with him. I never really knew the full story, you see. Daddy spoke very little of certain things, even to me."
Roarke smiled faintly. "My cousin was not the most forthcoming of men, I must admit. However…yes, your brother does indeed live on my island, with his wife and young son. If you like, I'll take you directly to them."
Miranda opened her mouth, hesitated, then shut it again and simply nodded, with what looked like resolve. "Thank you, I'd like that."
Roarke drove her to the MacNabb B&B, where at the moment things were quiet. Rory was in the front yard, engrossed in some game involving a lot of model dinosaurs, but his parents were nowhere in sight. As Roarke stopped the rover beside the yard, Rory looked up and came trotting over to meet them. "Hi, Uncle Roarke!"
"Hello, Rory," Roarke said warmly. "Are your parents nearby?"
"Mom's cleaning rooms and Dad's in the greenhouse," Rory said. "Should I get one of them for you?"
"Yes, if you'd fetch your father for me, I'd be grateful," Roarke replied, and watched the boy tear across the yard in the direction of the greenhouse.
"So that's Rogan's son?" Miranda asked, staring after him.
Roarke nodded. "He's six and will begin first grade in the fall."
"My nephew," Miranda murmured, a sad, longing quality in her tone. Roarke looked askance at her; when she became aware of his attention, she schooled her features and even managed a smile. "Is he Rogan's only child?"
Roarke had just nodded again in confirmation when Rory emerged from the greenhouse and pounded back across the grass toward them, followed at a more leisurely pace by his father. "He's coming, Uncle Roarke!" the boy yelled.
"Thank you, Rory," Roarke said and killed the rover's engine, getting out of the car. Miranda followed more slowly, looking apprehensive; Rogan, for his part, stopped short for a moment, astonishment washing across his face. He leaned forward and squinted, then resumed his approach, staring at the young woman all the while.
"Sure and if it isn't Miranda," he said at last, pausing a couple of feet shy of her so he could stare some more. He shook his head a couple of times. "Well, now, didn't you grow up to be a lovely lass. What brings you to Fantasy Island?"
Miranda bit her lip and shrugged slightly, then peered at Roarke over her shoulder. "I think you can leave me here for now," she said, her voice taking an upswing at the end of the remark as she turned back to Rogan.
Rogan nodded immediately. "It'll be fine, uncle, she can stay with us. We've plenty of room," he said. "Thank you for bringing her over."
"Of course," Roarke said, then paused before getting back into the car. "If you need anything, either of you, don't hesitate to contact me." He waited for Rogan's and Miranda's acknowledging nods, then turned the car around and drove back the way he had come.
Brother and sister watched him go; when the car had disappeared around a curve, he turned to her and regarded the suitcase she had pulled out of the backseat. "Here, let me take that for you. Ach…you travel light, don't you."
Miranda blushed at his ironic tone. "I planned on a fairly long stay…if no one minds, that is. I know I came unannounced."
"Aye, that's for certain," Rogan agreed, heading for the kitchen door with his younger sister trailing him. "I suppose you resorted to buying a last-minute pass at the airport in Honolulu, then. Those'll set you back a very pretty penny or two."
Miranda shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I had to come. There was nowhere else for me to go, and money's no object, so…" She let the sentence trail off.
Rogan gave her a look over his shoulder, but she said nothing else, so he let the matter drop for the moment while he led her through Julie's spacious kitchen and into the front-facing living room. There he paused at the bottom of the steps to the second floor and called, "Julie, lass? We've a visitor."
They heard footsteps overhead, and a moment later Julie appeared at the top of the stairwell, peering down. "Huh? Sorry, I'm into heavy cleaning."
Rogan grinned. "Your favorite thing. Come down and give yourself a bit of a break, then, and meet my little sister Miranda." He registered, but set aside for the moment, the sharply startled look Miranda gave him.
Julie promptly trotted down the stairs and held out a hand. "Hi, Miranda, nice to meet you. I'm Julie—Rogan and I've been married for seven years now."
"Hello, Julie," Miranda said, shaking hands and smiling slightly back. Sensing her sister-in-law's reserve, Julie toned down her high-wattage smile, but remained warm.
Rogan hefted up his sister's suitcase again. "Have any rooms ready yet? I thought I'd get this thing up there for Miranda so she can change or rest, or whatever she wants."
"I'd like to change," Miranda agreed, "but I rested enough on the plane. I'd…rather talk. To you, Rogan."
"All right then," he agreed with a one-shouldered shrug. "Just follow me."
Julie said, "The two rooms at the left-hand end of the hall are ready." Rogan nodded, and she headed for the kitchen while Miranda trailed her brother up the stairs.
When he came back down, he found that Julie had set out a plate of cookies and another of crackers and cheese, along with a pitcher of pink lemonade and two tumblers. "I'd join you," she said, "but I need to get those last rooms finished."
Rogan grinned. "Never knew anyone who was into the domestic arts the way you are, lass. Tell you what, if Rory happens to come in, I'll send him up to help."
Julie snickered. "I'm sure that'll get an enthusiastic response! But if you think you can get him to do it, be my guest. See you later." She dropped a kiss on his cheek and trotted back upstairs; a few moments later Rogan heard the roar of a vacuum cleaner overhead as he sat down and poured some lemonade. He placed a square of cheese atop a cracker and munched placidly while he waited for Miranda to come down; to tell the truth, he was glad of the break as well. He had been grinding amakarna all morning, trying to prepare a shipment to send to Christian's nieces in Lilla Jordsö, and had had to stop long enough to clean out the grinder when it jammed and refused to work. The only way to get the spice to the consistency he wanted it was to painstakingly grind it by hand, which was exhausting both mentally and physically. At those times, he sometimes found himself cursing the LiSciola family almost as much as he figured Christian probably did.
The sound of footsteps brought him back to the present and he shifted his attention to the kitchen doorway. Miranda came in, clad in a sundress and flat sandals, her hair caught back by a bejeweled barrette. She looked a little uncertain, and he smiled, hoping to ease it. "Have a seat," he invited, "and help yourself."
Miranda settled slowly into a chair, surveying the items Julie had laid out, and picked up a cracker, placing some cheese atop it and nibbling. "Not bad," she murmured.
"Julie's an excellent cook," Rogan said. "This is her childhood home and she runs it as a bed-and-breakfast inn, so you'll be well fed here. It's the slow season on the island, so you'll probably be able to stay as long as you like." Miranda nodded, and he cleared his throat and shifted position in his chair. "So…you wanted to talk, then?"
Miranda nodded again, a pensive expression clouding her features. Rogan waited patiently for her to speak; but when she did, the question surprised him. "What happened to Daddy?"
He gave her a cautiously inquiring look. "How do you mean, exactly?"
"I went to his island first," she said, and he blinked, a tingly cold sensation sweeping through him. She eyed him with a flash of concern. "You're pale; are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Go on," Rogan said, his voice unintentionally brusque.
She squinted a little at him, as if she weren't sure she believed him, but then seemed to put it aside and continued. "Now that I think about it, I'm surprised I didn't have much trouble chartering a flight there. But the only one to meet me at the dock was Ariel, that shape-shifter Daddy had as one of his staff. In fact, she was all that was left, living alone in a cottage. The main house is falling apart from neglect, and Ariel said it's been closed up for years. Cal and Harry left a long time ago and she's heard nothing of them since. Ariel put me up overnight, but she said I might as well leave the island, since nothing was left for me there anyway. When I asked her about Daddy, she wouldn't tell me anything."
"More than likely she doesn't know, though I'd not be surprised if she did. Never did understand what Da saw in that woman," Rogan muttered.
"Didn't you get along with her?" Miranda asked.
"No. Rubbed me the wrong way somehow. So anyhow…you came here, then?"
"Mmmm." Miranda poured some lemonade and took several deep swallows. "Ariel suggested it. She told me this is the 'original' Fantasy Island and now it's really the only one left. Whatever that means." She frowned and pinned Rogan with a demanding look. "So that brings me back to my original question. Where's Daddy, and what happened to him?"
Rogan broke their gaze and made an elaborate production out of topping a cracker with a bit of cheese. At length he warned, "You're not gonna like it, lass."
Miranda's eyes widened and then seemed to ice over. "I'll be the judge of that. Just tell me what you know."
Rogan sighed. "Before I start…you're aware that Mr. Roarke, the man who runs this island, is Da's cousin, aren't you?"
"He mentioned it, yes," Miranda said.
"Uh-huh. Well, for many, many years, they were on the outs. Da had a lot of bones to pick with uncle, y'see. He had the harebrained notion that uncle had been handed everything he has here, while he himself got the short end of the stick. Ever since I first met the man, he'd been bitter as hell, and that had mostly to do with this imaginary rivalry between him and his cousin. At the time, uncle was ill with the bone-eating disease, dying from it, and Da was the only one with the cure. To shorten a very long story, Da was going to turn over uncle's soul to Mephistopheles, but in the end he couldn't do it, and gave me and Leslie the cure for uncle's disease. But in so doing, he sacrificed himself to Mephistopheles."
Miranda blinked once, twice, her face seeming stuck in one mode. Then she shook her head hard. "You're not saying Daddy's literally gone to hell?"
"That's what I'm saying, lass. It's what happened. Leslie and I saw it all."
Miranda scowled. "Who's Leslie?"
"Uncle's adopted daughter," said Rogan deliberately, and again Miranda blinked. "Yeah, it caught Da off guard too. Matter of fact, he made a point of twitting uncle about Leslie, since Leslie's merely human, and the only reason uncle adopted her was because he was fulfilling the fantasy her late mother asked of him. I thought it was the most hypocritical thing I'd ever seen. You're merely human too, after all."
Miranda folded her arms over her chest and gazed at him with a gradually mounting chill in her eyes. "Seems you were on no better terms with Daddy than he was with…with his cousin."
"No, can't say as I was," Rogan said, hiking one shoulder for a second or two to show carelessness he didn't quite feel. "I grew up with me mother till I was around fourteen or so, then she died and I was sent to Da. My reception was…well, let's just say he wasn't very happy to see me. I've never felt that he was glad to learn he had a son. And then I discovered some four decades back that he adopted you—"
"I beg your pardon," Miranda snapped immediately. "I'm only thirty-seven!"
"My apologies," Rogan responded, cocking one brow. "My point is, he happily took you in after that shipwreck you were involved in. Aha…" He caught the expression that flitted over her face. "So ye're surprised I know, are ye?"
His brogue was emerging again; Julie, Leslie or Roarke would have recognized it for the sign it was, but Miranda didn't know him well enough. "It's not as if we ever heard a word from you, after all," she pointed out.
"Sure an' ye didn't, for I knew well enough I wasn't welcome. It was Harry who let me know I suddenly had a little sister. He kept me apprised once in a while, when he thought to do it, I suppose. Da was thrilled with you, but he couldn't care less about me. Never really did, I expect." He hiked a shoulder again and swept an impatient hand through the air as though to wipe away the topic. "Now, there's a question ye haven't yet answered for me. What brings ye here? Just looking to find out what happened to Da, then?"
Miranda shifted in her chair and stared at her glass of lemonade. "I suppose so. I mean, I hadn't really thought of anything else."
"But you can't just up and leave, not when you just got here!" Julie was standing in the kitchen entrance, and Rogan wondered what she'd overheard. "You have to stay at least one night…it's such a long flight, even to Honolulu, after all the distance you've probably traveled." She sat down and helped herself to some lemonade and a cookie. "So you live in England, right?"
"No, New York City," Miranda said guardedly. On Julie's surprise, she added with a shade of reluctance in her tone, "I've never been to England, actually. I just absorbed the speech of my adoptive father. To be honest, I don't know where I was born, or who my parents were."
Julie's eyes rounded. "Oh my gosh. Well, then, maybe you should check with uncle. He might be able to find out for you, if you'd like to know."
Miranda snorted. "It doesn't matter much to me—never did. I was very happy growing up with Daddy. According to everything I've been told, I washed up on the shore of Daddy's island after a shipwreck in which everyone else apparently perished, including my parents. Even Daddy didn't know what ship it was or whose flag she flew."
Rogan grunted. "Shoddy, if ye ask me. Wouldn't get all the information he possibly could. Ship's name, skipper's name, passenger manifest, country of origin…couldn't even be bothered to find out if there were other survivors, I'm sure. He evidently never thought you'd have any curiosity about your ultimate origins."
There were two bright spots of color high on Miranda's cheeks, and her eyes blazed. "I was perfectly happy growing up with Daddy! We were both happy. He doted on me and I always knew he loved me. I had no reason to go looking for any family. They certainly didn't come looking for me. And I wouldn't have wanted to leave if they had." She leaned forward and glared at Rogan. "I think you're merely jealous because I got the attention he never gave you."
"Wait a minute," Julie cried, looking frightened.
But Rogan had had enough. "I don't need to sit here and swallow this. Julie, lass, I'll be in the greenhouse in case ye or Rory want to find me." He snatched up the tumbler of lemonade and vacated the kitchen.
"Stubborn old git," Miranda bit out, and left the room in her turn, stomping all the way up the steps. That left a very embarrassed Julie alone in the kitchen.
"Huh," she muttered. "That went well." Puzzling over Rogan's and Miranda's antipathy in her mind, she began to clear the table.