They walked down State Street towards the restaurant. Kat and her alien escorts were already seated when Rae and Nin made it to the restaurant. Rae glanced around the small, intimate space with square tables and cloth napkins. Intriguing artwork lined the walls, and the light was a soft, orange glow that illuminated the open design.
A waitress seated them at a long table toward the front with huge floor-to-ceiling windows that opened up to the night air. Rae’s heart skipped a beat when Nin pulled her chair out and waited for her to sit. He looked at her with his beautiful silver eyes. Rae melted a little. She barely knew this man, yet Rae caught herself falling for him. Nin sat down next to her and smiled. He was a sensitive and caring being, and Rae found herself trusting him. She glanced around the table.
“Caprice isn’t here yet?” Rae tried to keep the exasperated edge out of her voice, but it wasn’t working.
Kat arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t know Caprice was meeting us.”
Rae took a sip of water. “Yeah, she texted, and I told her to meet us here.”
“Who’s Caprice?” Nin glanced over his menu at her. He held the electronic device that resembled a watch up to the words as if it translated the menu for him.
Rae smiled. “She’s my little sister. Well, she’s only three years younger than me, but she’ll always be a little sister to me.”
“We should wait to order until she gets here,” Kat suggested.
Rae nodded in agreement.
Xavi looked up from the menu. “Well, I hope she gets here soon. I’m starving!”
Ferrix shook his head. “You’re always thinking with your stomach. I’m sure she’ll be here soon.”
Rae laughed. “You don’t know my sister. She’s always late. I’ll text her.” She reached for her purse to grab her cell phone right when Caprice walked up to the table.
Caprice stood a couple of inches taller than Rae. Other than that, there was no mistaking they were sisters. Caprice wore a blue blouse and white jeans. She held a purse in one hand, with a white scarf tied around her neck. Kat was earthy and wore the most beautiful handmade jewelry and sundresses, while Caprice always appeared as if she had stepped off a magazine page.
Caprice marched around the table and threw her arms around Rae. “Sorry, I’m late!” Then Caprice stepped past Rae and slid into the empty seat next to Xavi. He leaned forward as if to catch her, but Xavi watched as Caprice’s blouse slid down with the movement. His eyes went from silver to almost blinding blue for a split second.
“It’s worth the wait. I’m Xavi, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Caprice nodded at him, then glanced back at her sister. “Thanks for inviting me tonight, Rae. This place is great.”
Caprice beamed. “Kat, you look amazing!”
“Thanks.” Kat cleared her throat. “This is Ferrix, Nin, and you’ve met Xavi.”
Nin, Ferrix, and Xavi rose to their feet and bowed slightly.
“Sit down!” Kat hissed, her eyes widening. “You don’t need to bow!”
Ferrix frowned. “I’m sorry. We’re not used to your customs.”
“Oh, where are you guys from?” Caprice took a sip of water.
Rae shrugged. “They’re foreigners.”
But Xavi didn’t pick up on Rae sugar-coating their arrival with a white lie. “Our planet is in a solar system that is twenty light-years from Earth.”
Caprice almost spewed her water as she tried not to laugh. “Right. You’re funny!”
Rae shook her head. Her sister didn’t believe him and thought Xavi was joking.
Nin glanced at Caprice. “You don’t believe us?”
Caprice pursed her lips together and shrugged. “Yeah, sure. I’m famished! We should order a pitcher of margaritas.”
“Good idea!” Kat winked at her from across the table.
Rae sighed. “Xavi is telling the truth. You better tell her, Nin.”
Nin nodded. “Yes, Xavi is telling the truth. We came from a solar system approximately twenty light-years from Earth.”
Caprice’s eyes were the size of quarters, and their sheen was like the reflection of a mirror.
Rae regarded her sister evenly. “I know it sounds crazy, but they are telling the truth.”
Caprice’s face seemed to be at war. A flash of confusion, a sharp narrowing of her gaze, then a slight pull of her eyebrows, exasperation maybe, but smoothed away to make room for a clenched jaw. “How?”
Then a waitress interrupted Caprice’s discovery that they weren’t alone in the universe. The waitress glanced around the table. “Are we ready to order?”
Nin answered with an appetizer and main course. “Yes, I would like the octopus tostadas to start and the carne asada. What would you like, Rae?”
Rae’s attention moved from her sister’s expression to the waitress. She gazed at the menu quickly, picking the first items that sounded good. “I’ll have the tuna tostadas for an appetizer and the salmon al tequila.”
Kat lifted a finger from the menu. “Could we get two pitchers of margaritas for the table? And I’ll take the mussels al chipotle and the Bronzino a la Veracruzana.”
The waitress stared at Ferrix. “What would you like?”
Kat ran her finger along Ferrix’s arm to draw his attention, and he glanced up from the menu. “I’ll have the carne asada as well.”
The waitress nodded and glanced at Xavi.
“I have to try your tacos. I want the tacos de carnitas.”
The waitress finally looked at Caprice. “And what about you?”
Caprice’s mouth was still agape. She glanced around the table as if she thought they’d all gone mad. Rae couldn’t blame her.
Her sister looked down at the menu and cleared her throat. “I’ll have the Camarones a la Diabla.”
The waitress finished jotting down the last order on her pad before moving away from their table.
Caprice started laughing. “This isn’t a joke. You guys aren’t actors, are you?”
The guys glanced at each other. One side of Xavi’s mouth curled into a half-smile. A shake of his head made his hair fall into his face, and Xavi pushed it back with a flat palm. “We’re not from your world.”
Rae nodded. “No, they come from a planet twenty light-years from Earth.”
Caprice stared. “You’re not messing with me?”
Rae shrugged. “I’m not. If you don’t believe me, then you don’t believe me. I took them at their word when their spaceship landed in my backyard.”
“Oh, I bet the HOA is going to love that,” Caprice joked while rolling her eyes.
Xavi tilted his head. “HOA?”
Rae grinned. “The homeowner’s association. They’re evil.”
“Shall we eliminate them for you?” Nin’s tone seemed casual like he was discussing killing a spider.
Rae had always believed that capturing injects and placing them outside was better than squashing them. “No! Definitely not!”
Caprice shook her head, still laughing. “How come they haven’t noticed the spaceship in your yard?”
Nin leveled her with a look. “That’s easy enough. People only understand things from their perception or agreement with reality, making our technology cloak our ship even more effective.”
Caprice finally stopped laughing, and her eyes softened. “You’re serious!”
Kat nodded. “You’re going to have to get used to this.”
“I’m fine. This whole thing is a lot to take in, and I need a drink.”
As if on cue, the waitress returned carrying a tray with two pitchers of margaritas and six tumblers rimmed with salt and a lime slice.
“Allow me.” Xavi poured her a drink.
When Xavi handed her the glass, Caprice took it with both hands with a sweet, shy smile. Then she lowered her gaze to the table near the salt shaker before raising the glass to her lips. Xavi poured drinks for the rest of their party. Xavi practically fell over himself to get close to Caprice, but her sister was only back in town for the summer because of an internship. Soon enough, she would be on a flight back to Florida, and her sister had started dating someone.
Kat raised her glass. “Let’s make a toast. To new friends and great food.”
They lifted their glasses and clinked them together before taking a drink. Caprice raised her eyebrows and took a sip of her margarita. “Well, they are better than the margaritas at Hildago, that’s for sure!”They all laughed, but then Basil walked into the restaurant. He made a slow and casual entrance, with a smooth and confident movement, as if he had simply come to eat. Only Rae knew better, and Basil didn’t belong there because of the meeting with a new client at a different restaurant. Rae’s heart raced as Basil walked toward