Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


“Yes, I am here, and I request that you release the young lady there. She has no part in this.”

“Why should I do that?”

“Because I have two of your people in my custody, and I’m sure they could be persuaded to give us some interesting information on your operation.”

Rod did something else with his fingers, and then Sylvia went white. “How did you get yourself involved in this?” she hissed at Idris. “You were told to refrain from contact.”

For a split second he looked like a schoolboy being scolded, but then his posture relaxed and he said, “Don’t worry, though, I’ve got it under control.” He turned his head toward Owen. “You’re not the only one who has a threat to make. I happen to have people placed all over the city. One word from me, and the illusions I have covering all of my ads are gone. The whole city will learn the truth about magic all at once. How do you like that?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. The rest of them turned to look at me. “You have got to be kidding. Those ads won’t convince anyone of anything. People will think it’s a prank or publicity stunt, if they even see the ads. They once put a seventy-foot robot in Times Square to promote a movie, and not only did no one notice the robot, nobody saw the movie.” I wasn’t sure if the words were mine or Ari’s. The tone was meaner than I’d like to think I ever sounded, but I agreed with the content.

I thought I saw a hint of worry cross his face, but then he put his usual sneer back on and said, “And my people are ready to demonstrate the magic to anyone who’s there to see it. They’ll act if they don’t hear from me.”

“You idiot!” Sylvia screeched. “You’ll ruin everything if you reveal it all right now. We’re not ready.”

That deflated Idris. His shoulders slumping, he said, “Oh. Well. Never mind.”

Owen and Merlin exchanged a worried look, then Sam nodded at them and took off, flying past the dragon in one of the doorways. The dragon made as though to try to play with Sam, but Owen called it back to attention.

“Very well, then,” Sylvia said. “You can have the girl. But this isn’t over.” She addressed Philip. “You can’t imagine I’ll give up easily.”

“I’ve waited a hundred years. I can be patient, but I will have what’s mine,” he said.

Sylvia nodded at Mr. Bones, who shoved Marcia forward. Rod moved to steady her. “What’s going on?” she asked in a voice more frantic than anything I’d ever heard from her.

“It’s okay, you’re safe,” Rod said. He removed her blindfold and started moving her toward the exit, Rocky and Rollo flanking them. I hoped for Marcia’s sake that he was using illusion to hide the rest of the madness from her.

But before they were clear of the room, Sylvia launched a magical attack at Philip. All the good guys rushed in to help. Owen managed to deflect most of whatever she’d sent toward Philip, but Philip still froze, then slumped to the floor. Ethan put himself between her and Philip’s motionless form. “He’s alive, but out cold,” he reported.

A scream rang out, echoing painfully in the chamber. I spun to see Marcia looking horrified. Rod must have dropped his illusions when he went to help Philip. “Marcia, it’s okay, I’ll explain later,” I said, then I told Rod, “Get her away from here.”

“I’m not leaving until I get some answers. Katie, what the hell is going on here?”

I knew her well enough to know that she’d dig in her heels and refuse to go until she was satisfied. “Okay, short version: Magic is real, the guys are all wizards. I’m not, but I work for a magical company. Those are the bad guys. We’ll do the Q and A later. Now, Rod, get her out of here.”

While I was talking to Marcia, Sylvia and Mr. Bones made a run for it, only to find themselves facing a roaring dragon. Owen brought it into view just before it got to roast Sylvia. Marcia screamed again.

“Oh yeah, there are dragons, too,” I told her. “But these are good guys. They love Owen.” I had to give her credit for not fainting. Marcia was made of pretty stern stuff.

“I demand you let me leave,” Sylvia said to Merlin. “I gave you what you wanted.”

“And with you here, I’ve gained even more of what I wanted. With you in our custody, we might even be able to find out who’s directing you,” Merlin said. His voice and bearing made him seem like he’d look a lot more appropriate in old-fashioned wizard’s robes and a pointy hat than he did in his modern business suit. This was definitely the guy who’d put King Arthur on the throne.