Archer laughed and waved to the waitress.
“Another one of whatever he’s having, please.”
The young woman nodded and headed to the bar, returning moments later with a cold bottle and a tall glass.
She blushed and smiled at his thanks and instruction to keep the change, it was a generous tip to say the least.
Roman seemed lost in thought, gazing out of the window. Seemed. Archer realised he was using the glass as a mirror, studying the reflection of them, and the room.
“Is there a reason we’re here?”
“There’s a reason I’m here. Your motives are yet to be disclosed.”
Archer shrugged and poured the beer.
“Heard you’d shifted base, the grapevine’s still pretty quick. Thought I’d drop by, satisfy my curiosity.”
“And is your curiosity now satisfied?”
“Hardly. The split with your pretty gold digger was hardly surprising, I think you’ve been looking for an excuse to cut the cord for a while. No, I want to know why here. You never move anywhere ‘just because’ and you’ve confirmed it.”
Roman sighed, “And you’re going to give me no peace until I fill you in. Fine. I’m going to ask our lovely server for a refill. Watch her reflection, but do try not to set off alarm bells.”
Archer rolled his eyes, but nodded and became interested in a group of yachts, racing on the bay, asking a few questions of Roman, then the waitress while keeping his attention on the glass.
The waitress proved fairly knowledgeable, they were Flying Fifteens, based out of the yacht club on the outer side of the bay, and they raced every Saturday afternoon in summer.
“We’ll get a few of the crews coming by after racing, their club’s not got much more than bar snacks, and they tell me the afternoon’s action works up quite an appetite.”
Archer, having seen what he wanted, raised a teasing brow at Roman. “A new hobby for you, perhaps? You know what they say about all work and no play.”
Roman gave a half laugh in return. “I’m pretty sure none of them will be looking for an anchor as part of their crew. I’m not good on the water.”
The waitress smiled at their banter, accepted payment and tip, and wandered back to the bar to pick up her conversation with the woman standing behind it.
Both men maintained a casual watch on the racing as they spoke.
Roman said, “Well?”
“Interesting, and unexpected. What about the other one, behind the bar.”
“The reflection’s not good enough to see the full room, and I’m not sure we can stay here until full dark without attracting attention.”
“Leave and return?”
“No, leave and investigate.”
They finished their beers and pushed away from the table, nodding to the two women as they left.
Roman was halfway across the car park when he realised their waitress was chasing after him. He stopped, and waited for her to reach him. Strange, why had she come after him, rather than Archer, who’d flirted and chatted?
She was twisting her fingers into her apron as she stood in front of him.
“Bonnie, the woman behind the bar. She said you were both watching me in the window.”
Roman stayed silent.
“She also said that, in the reflection, your eyes glowed, same as mine.”
Roman’s head went back, this was unexpected, and he wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“That’s an interesting observation. Are you sure it wasn’t just the sun on the water mixing in strange ways?”
“She said it was like mine, and that if I wanted to know why they did that, I should just gussy up and ask.”
Roman groped for words, and retreated into diversion.
“So why did you choose to ask me, rather than my friend? You spoke with him more, and it would have been easier to catch up with him than me.”
She shrugged, “He’s quite charming, which means he’d probably just blow me off with some flip answer. You seem to take things a bit more seriously. I figured I’d have a better chance at the truth with you.”
Roman blew out a breath, “When do you get off work.”
“My shift finished an hour ago, I stayed when Bonnie told me what she’d seen, so that I could maybe have the chance to ask.”
“Okay. I agree, I think we need to talk about this glowing reflection thing because I need to know a bit about you before I can even start to explain anything more. Go get changed, I’ll wait here, and we’ll go somewhere we can’t be overheard. You’ll need to pick a place. I’m too new in town to know.”
“You’ll stay? You won’t disappear on me?”
“No. I’ve got as many questions as you now. I’ll be out here when you’re ready to go.”
She gave him a bright smile and squeezed his arm, “Thank you, thank you so much.”
She turned and ran back inside.
Roman dug his hands into his pockets and ambled back towards the restaurant’s front doors, propping himself on a convenient pillar at one corner of the porch.
Message Archer now, or later? He decided to wait until he had a little more information from their rather intriguing new acquaintance.
She reappeared a few minutes later, anxious, until she spotted him.
He stood straight as she approached.
“First things first, introductions. Roman Greyson, nice to meet you.”
He held out a hand. She took it, turning slightly pink.
“Oh, I should have thought of that. I’m Melissa Stone, and I’m very happy to meet you and hopefully, finally, get some answers.”
Roman smiled, “Are we walking or driving?”
“We can walk along the shore a bit. It’s not so warm there’s likely to be anyone making use of the beach, and there are some benches there if we need to sit for a while.”
“Are you going to be warm enough?”
“Oh yes, I’m used to it.”
Roman wasn’t convinced by the answer, but decided to cross that bridge when he came to it.
He turned in the direction she indicated, and they started walking.
A couple of minutes of silence, and he had his first list of questions more or less lined up in his mind.
“So, your eyes glow, but it’s only noticeable in reflections, is that right?”
“Yes, I have to be really careful when I’m out and going to a public toilet or something.”
“Can you remember when it started?”
Melissa looked thoughtful, “High school sometime, I can’t pin it to any particular event. I was just lucky it happened over summer, so by the time I was back in school, they’d calmed down a bit.”
Interesting way of putting it.
“What can you tell me about your parents?”
“Mum’s got totally normal eyes and completely freaked out when mine went weird, wanted to take me to all sorts of doctors, but I didn’t like the idea and managed to get them to stop when she was around pretty quickly, so she just decided it was an unusual teenage hormonal thing, and we’d probably both imagined it.”
“And your father?”
“My Dad’s totally normal as well, and frankly was way less worried about my eyes than Mum. He was the one that managed to delay the doctor’s appointment. But he’s not my sperm donor. I’m the result of a one-night stand about a year before Dad and Mum met.”
“Interesting way of putting it, but apt. Your Dad sounds like a decent guy.”
“He’s the best. So you think this might be something I got from the SD?”
“Yes, it’s most definitely hereditary, and it’s also extremely unusual for people with this trait to indulge in casual sex. The consequences can be alarming.”
“You mean more than my eyes?”
“Yes. You probably have access to a couple of other unusual traits and unfortunately for us, that’s made us very, very interesting to some less than scrupulous groups of scientists and researchers. The fact you were able to control your appearance so quickly is likely the only reason you’re not currently ‘assisting’ in some lab-bound experiment in a building with more security than MI6.”
She gulped and looked up at him, “What am I?”
He put a hand under her elbow and steered her to a nearby bench.