‘You know I worry about you, darling. I’d feel so much better if you had someone in the city taking care of you.’
Alaina, previously almost dozing as she listened to Andrea, her mother, go on, jerked to attention at the words.
‘What?’ she said confusedly.
‘Call me paranoid, honey, but I know being an insurance agent can be quite dangerous. I know I feel like hitting insurance agents who approach me sometimes!’
‘Er ... yes, Mum. What do you mean I need someone taking care of me? I have ...’ Monty? Something went ping! in Alaina’s brain. ‘Wait – insurance agent?’
‘Do you mean you’ve been promoted, honey? Of course you have, you left home to work so long ago! I’m so sorry if you’ve told me before, my mind is like a sieve these days. Besides, your father –‘
Alaina let Andrea continue rambling while she wracked her brains. Had she told her mother that she had gone to the city to work as an insurance agent, all those years ago? Apparently so. And then she had only gone on and forgotten to tell her parents something else vitally important about her current life situation.
‘Aha, now I remember why I called!’ Andrea said, summoning Alaina back to earth once more. ‘Since your father and I have decided to take a nice long trip before we get too old to anymore, we’re going to come down to the city and meet you! Won’t that be lovely, dear?’
‘Oh.’ Alaina had unblinkingly faced down countless mafia bosses and psychotic killers, but none of her training had prepared her for this bombshell. ‘Um ... that’s really great, Mum.’
‘Isn’t it just? It’s been so long since I’ve seen you face-to-face, sweetie. What a woman you must look now!’
Andrea went on for a few more minutes before saying goodbye and ringing off, by which time Alaina was nearly hopping with impatience. As soon as the line went dead, she tossed down her mobile and yelled, ‘Monty!’
‘Yes?’ Monty backed out of the kitchen wearing an apron and a curious expression. ‘Something wrong?’
‘You bet! Come here!’
‘No, no, I’m cooking,’ Monty said, and withdrew into the kitchen. Alaina gave a great snort of disgust and ran after him.
‘Monty, do your parents know you’re a secret agent?’ she demanded as she burst in.
‘Probably. They’re pretty influential mob bosses and they’d know people who have met me. But then, they might not care,’ he concluded cheerfully.
‘My parents don’t.’
‘But they’re normal, right?’
‘Yes, but listen. Do you remember how we met?’
‘Babe, how could I forget?’ Monty said with a grin. ‘It was when I’d just decided to quit the criminal life and go straight. You pointed a gun at me because you thought I was holding one of your friends hostage. It was love at first sight.’
It really hadn’t been, but Alaina had to admit, that mission had sent her blood singing in a way it never had before then. It was one of the most intense assignments she had ever received, and meeting the strange, funny, almost naïvely sweet young man who would become her husband had been one of the highlights.
‘Right. Well, because of how we met, and my parents not knowing what I do for a living ... I kind of forgot to tell them about you.’
Monty was suddenly quiet. His eyes were wide, and the hand holding a ladle remained suspended in the air. Alaina stood her ground, though her heart was beating so loud, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to hear if Monty decided to speak ever again.
Then the façade crumpled and Monty laughed. Alaina gave a great huff of indignation, trying to hide her relief.
‘Shut up, you!’ she said.
‘Alaina, we’ve been married for three years.’
‘I haven’t seen them in five, okay? I kind of forgot how much they didn’t know. And they want to come over soon.’
‘What are you going to tell them?’ Monty asked, returning to his cooking. Alaina was surprised to see that he was trying to hide his apprehension, as if he thought she would kick him out just to continue keeping her marriage a secret.
‘I was hoping you would know.’
He gave her a sideways glance, and smiled at her frown. ‘How about ... “ignorance is bliss”?’
‘Actually shut up,’ she growled, and he laughed again.
‘I’m sorry, love, I don’t know,’ he said. ‘But I’d love it if you told them about me. I want to meet the people who raised my lovely wife to be the most amazing person on the planet.’
‘God.’ Alaina opened the fridge and squinted inside to hide her blush. ‘I wasn’t asking you whether or not to tell them about you. I was asking how.’
‘Ah, I think I know how to do that.’ Monty turned off the stove and went over to her. Alaina straightened up and whirled around with defiance in her gaze, her blush not having quite receded. He leaned forward and said, ‘We’ll tell them together,’ before closing the distance between them for a kiss.