Alexei

"We have the Egyptian singer, Isis Shenouda working with us."

I leaned back in my chair, completely relaxed. "I haven't seen her since we were fifteen. That concerns me why?"

The woman across from me fidgeted. "So, I want you to join Logical Paradox."

"I know. You've stated that point three times. You really must learn to speak concisely, Miss Houghton."

She bobbed her head nervously. "Yes, sir, Mr. Jovanovich. So, will you join?"

I crossed my legs at the ankle. "I'll think about it."

She stood uncertainly. "You'll think about it?"

"I'll think about it?"

"Think?"

"Yeah, yeah," I said impatiently. "Think. Go before I change my mind and say no altogether."


Isis

I folded my hands in my lap and said bluntly, "No. I don't want to."

"But, Miss Shenouda--" she began.

"Look, Miss Houghton, I gave up singing. I don't play any instruments. I'd walk through coals before I took up dancing again. I'm useless."

"Miss Shenouda, Logical Paradox needs you."

"Needs me like I need a hole in my head," I remarked. "Isis Ahmed was a rockstar. Three years ago. At age fifteen. Isis Shenouda, however, is somebody totally different."

"Miss Shenouda, We already signed the Russian fellow, and we can't just leave him hanging?"

I perked up. "Alexei Jovanovich? His father's Russian, not him," I corrected. "And what do you mean you signed him? I haven't seen him since I was fifteen."

"Yes, yes, Mr. Jovanovich agreed to work with us."

I narrowed my eyes. "Did he agree or did he agree to think about it?"

She paled.


Alexei

I tapped my foot impatiently. "Come on, Iona," I said sharply. "You told me that Isis would be here. I'm still waiting," I sing-songed the last word.

Iona Houghton shifted uncomfortably. "Well, she didn't exactly promise she would come."

I snapped the pen I had been twirling between my fingers. "You brought me here for Isis. If she isn't here, then I can leave," I reasoned, staring at my ink-stained fingers.

"Mr. Jovanovich," she wailed, just as Isis walked in.

I smiled as she approached. She didn't bother to even glance at Miss Houghton. She just came, threw her arms around my neck, and kissed my cheeks.

"Hello, Russia," she said, a pleased smile on her face.

I kissed each of her cheeks, Spanish-style, and answered gravely, "Hello, Egypt. How has your life been?"

One eyebrow shot up as she lookeed at Miss Houghton. "Interesting of late. Definitely interesting. And yours?"

"The same, Egypt. The same."

"So, you know why we're here, Russia?"

"Of course."

Miss Houghton relaxed. "So, shall we?"

As she turned away, I leaned over and whispered to my sister-in-law, "She blackmailed me."