Authors: Dara Joy
Then he turned to Zanita and gingerly placed her dish down, mumbling quietly, "And a… steak bomb."
Zanita looked down at the jumbled plate of food, and her eyes glittered like a predator's just before it strikes its prey.
"Anything else with that?" the waiter asked apprehensively.
Tyber choked on his water.
"Worcestershire… Right away, ma'am." The waiter sped off and immediately returned with a bottle of the sauce. He quickly placed it in front of her before another wacky request issued forth from those soft, full lips.
Zanita happily slathered sauce over the mess, slapping the back of the bottle with a prizefighter's determination.
"I think Blooey is spoiling you," Tyber murmured.
Blooey was Tyber's all-around man and cook. He was also an ex-mathematician named Arthur Bloomberg who had gone slightly over the edge during his research with imaginary numbers. In Arthur's case, the study of imaginary numbers had the unfortunate tendency to illuminate the existential spirit. He couldn't find the "point" anymore.
So he left the building.
Now, the man was convinced he was on a pirate ship and Tyber was his captain.
Which was surprisingly close to a certain reality.
Tyberius Augustus Evans often looked like one, spoke like one, acted like one, and made love like one. In other words, once the rogue boarded, he gave no quarter. The man was ruthlessly sensual.
Zanita finished dousing her concoction with the Worcestershire sauce. "Don't be silly, Doc, Blooey hates when I add anything to his 'grub,' and you didn't answer my question."
Tyber put down his sandwich and regarded her intently. "Then we're even."
Zanita paused, hand in the air, holding the upside-down bottle. "What do you mean?"
"Our wedding," was all he said.
"Wh-what about it?" Zanita had been dreading this topic.
Tyber exhaled noisily. He spaced each word with the pause of importance. "When—are— we—getting—married?"
She swallowed. "Ummm, this looks great, don't you think?"
"Stop trying to change the subject. May I remind you that you asked me? I am going to hold you to this, Zanita—when is it going to be?"
Zanita's shoulders sank.
"Why are you suddenly so skittish?" He had already figured out the answer to that but he was setting a nice Evans trap. His love was hedging a wee bit too much. He recognized the signs. Parabolic Maelstrom was approaching. He intended to do everything he could to subvert it.
Zanita reached across the table and placed her hand over his. "Tyber, everything is going so great between us."
"And…?" he prodded.
"Well, I'm afraid if we change anything, well lose what we have."
"You mean if we get married."
She bowed her head. "Yes."
Tyber looked down at the top of the short, black, curly mop and shook his head. She was nonlinear thinking at its finest.
"Baby, it will only get better once we are married."
She shook her head in tiny negation.
Tyber leaned forward. This was the one part he hadn't been able to figure out—exactly what was motivating her. "Why do you think that?"
"Because once we are married the romance will die," she said in a knowledgeable voice.
Tyber's lips parted in astonishment. "Where did you ever get that idea?"
She raised her enormous violet eyes to his. "I just read it somewhere—maybe in TV Guide."
"That's your source for marriage counseling? TV Guide?"
"Of course! I've been thinking about this. No one's ever allowed to be married in romantic movies and books; it's a rule of some kind. It has to do with the excitement factor."
"The excitement factor."
"Yes, because they're, well, married."
Now there was a premise he could fight with logic.
Even though he hadn't known her exact reason, he had expected something along these lines. Not only expected it—he was prepared for it. He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and slapped several folded papers onto the table.
"What are those?"
"Take a look at them."
Gingerly, Zanita picked them up. Her mouth fell open when she saw what they were. A marriage license and several computer readouts which clearly stated that they were married on today's date at
There was a computer copy of the same license, which stated that their marriage had been witnessed by Judge Jockey and his assistant, Ms. Skootch. There were other sheets which confirmed their marital status; even a change of her name to Evans on her Social Security records.
"The program engages tonight," he said softly.
Another woman would have had a conniption fit. Zanita, being Zanita, reacted true to her Zanita way. In other words, she failed to see the forest because she was fascinated by the patterns of the leaves.
A tingle washed over her. She shivered with a reporter's delight at having made a discovery. She gazed up at him, eyes gleaming with awe, and reverently said the very last thing he expected. "You're a hacker!"
He rubbed his ear in embarrassment. "Ahhh… no, no, I'm not."
Zanita raised a skeptical brow, not even deigning to give the denial a whiff of belief. "This is incredible! You know, I suspected when you got those LaLeche files from the FBI, but this! How did you get the marriage license and the other documents? It all looks genuine."
Now she frowned at him.
"Well… in one sense. I did this as an experiment, baby."
"What kind of experiment?" she asked warily. Zanita was very familiar with the Doc's experiments.
He held up his hand to forestall her objection.
"Don't worry, I put in an executable code which will go into effect in five days. It undoes all this."
"I have five days to prove to you that you are wrong."
"What if I'm not?"
"We go back to the way we are now, and only you and I will know about our marriage. All proof will be wiped clean. But I am positive I can convince you to stay married."
As ideas went, this was a lulu. Zanita was not amused. "So if I win, there is no proof that we are married and we go on as we are?"
"Exactly." He grinned outrageously at her. "Fits your requirements to a tee, baby. Don't you love it?"
Her nostrils flared in rising temper. "Brilliant as usual." She stirred her coffee briskly. "Now tell me why you did such an outrageous thing before I bash your skewed head in!"
His square jaw dropped. "I told you, I can make it all disappear with a few keystrokes. I simply want to prove to you that nothing will change between us. I want to give you a test opportunity to show you that your theory of romance is wrong. That was all I wanted to do."
"But don't you see, Tyber, if I know that we are not really married, it won't work. The excitement will still be there."
He tried not to cross his eyes. He knew from experience how to deal with his love. "But we will be married, baby. For the next five days, actually four and a half, you will be Mrs. Evans."
"What happens after the five days go by?"
"I put a delete code into the executable…" He stopped suddenly before he revealed too much. He wasn't called a pirate for nothing. "Let's just say it all goes to the way it should be."
Zanita thought about the strange plan, wondering if it could work. It sounded interesting… maybe it would work.
Pressing his advantage, Tyber lowered his voice to a sexy purr. "
Zanita gulped. A Tyber who was even more motivated was sure to be trouble. And she knew for whom. It was a radical experiment; she shouldn't even consider it.
On the other hand, Tyber had been dragging his feet on their next investigation. It was almost as if the man didn't want to investigate the ghost! Since she couldn't imagine anyone not being as excited as she was by the prospect, she brushed the silly thought away.
For whatever reason, Evans was procrastinating.
She drummed her fingertips on the table top.
This might be a good way to get him involved.
His observations were always right on the mark, and his keen mind was quick to put forward alternative explanations for events that seemed to have no logical explanation. His input was invaluable on these investigations, and she was not about to let him off the hook!
Besides, he was too damn sexy to leave at home.
A girl knew what to pack when she traveled, and stunning, sensual male was at the top of the list.
She narrowed her eyes at him.
Damn. Not the violet slits! Tyber inwardly steeled himself. The violet slits were always trouble. He waited patiently for the other foot to fall. She was up to something.
"What about our investigation of the ghost on
Now Tybers blues narrowed to icy sparks. The adversaries faced each other like two cutthroats on the bounding main. He called her bluff across the sea of food. "What about it?"
She hitched her shoulders preparing to fire at will. "Well, what's it going to be, Captain?"
He slowly gazed up at the ceiling, examining the painted cloud formations. He watched the wind catch at the billowing curtains—which began to look like sails. A pulse ticked in his maurader's jaw as he weighed the advantages.
"Very well. We'll investigate the 'ghost' and you'll be my wench… ah, wife." He raised his brows at her in challenge.
Zanita's eyes gleamed in satisfaction. "For five days."
"We'll see." With those ominous words, he lifted his goblet of milk, saluted her with it, and chugged it down. Zanita acknowledged the agreement by ramming her steak slice with her fork. It wasn't easy living with a pirate, but she was learning how to deal with him when he set a course to Kooksville. Temporary marriage. She hid her smile by taking a big bite of meat. Seemed apropos.
Tyber rolled his red pickup truck to a stop in front of the iron gates that barred his Victorian mansion from the overly inquisitive.
According to the clock, they were now married.
She frowned. How had she let him talk her into this?
The sign on the gate read "My Father's Mansion."
Zanita remembered the first time she had ridden up to these gates, the distinct impression she'd had that her life was about to change forever. And it had.
She had been invited by Dr. Evans to what she had thought was a pool party. Tyberius Augustus Evans was a renowned recluse, an eccentric genius who valued his privacy above all else.
Back then, she had been interested in obtaining an interview with the elusive physicist.
Back then, he had been interested strictly in her.
She had soon found out that the "pool party" was in actuality a private party for two engineered by the playful Doctor. Not that she had minded.
She never did get the interview.
But she did get the Doctor. Since that very first night, he had taken her into his world.
Tyber rolled down the window and pressed the button under the intercom panel by the gate.
"Did you leave the remote in the house, Tyber?"
"Nope. You might say this is an Easter egg in the Evans video game of life."
"An Easter egg? What does that have to do with—"
His features took on a mysterious, gleeful cast. "Never mind, baby. Just want to keep that old scalawag on his toes."
Static burst through the grill along with a squawk. A raspy voice fraught with irritation boomed through the intercom. "Blast and damnation!"
Zanita's lips curled. They were the exact same words Blooey had used the first time she had pressed that button.
"Who be ye, friend or foe? And ye better be friend for ye pulled me away from swabbing the kitchen decks and now that rapscallion Hambone is skidding across the floor like a bloody ice dancer! Speak up, I say, or I'll blast ye where ye stand!"
Tyber chuckled. Blooey, his all-around "man," gave idiosyncrasy a whole new definition.
"Stand to, sailor," Tyber's deep voice drawled. "We're coming aboard."
"Blast, Captain! I knows ye got that thigga-jig what opens the plank!"
"Then why did ye go bothering me?" the voice boomed, getting louder as it reached the end.
"Because I could." Tyber grinned outright.
A snort came over the intercom. "That ye can. C'mon wit ye then."
The gate squeaked open.
Zanita shook her head. She often wondered who was nuttier—the two eccentrics she lived with or herself for enjoying them so.
Tyber pulled through the gates.