Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


A vase of flowers appeared in the middle of the table, and Gemma jumped back. “Magic does exist,” Owen said softly before making the vase disappear. He waved his hand, whispering some words, and Marcia’s red wine turned to white, complete with beads of condensation dripping down the outside of the cool glass. Another wave, and the wine returned to red.

Gemma shook her head. “Nice tricks, but…” She shook her head again, unable to even form a question.

“It is real,” Philip put in. “I can vouch for their truth.”

She turned to him, openmouthed. “What, you’re mixed up in this, too?”

“I am like he is.” He gestured toward Owen. “However, at an entirely different level. I don’t have his degree of power.”

“How do you fit into that?” Marcia asked me.

“I’m immune to magic. Well, I normally am, but I’m not at the moment and that’s a very long story. Remember back when we first met Rod and he was recruiting me? It was because they’d discovered I have this magic immunity, where nothing they do works on me. I don’t see the illusions they use to hide magic from everyone else. That’s a useful ability in their company.”

They looked dazed. I couldn’t be sure that they bought it or even understood it fully, but I forced myself to go on. “Meanwhile there’s a bad guy using magic the wrong way, and our company is trying to stop him. Owen’s in the thick of it. I got mixed up in it, and that’s brought me to the attention of the bad guys. A lot of the strange stuff that’s been going on with me in the past few months has been because of that.”

“Including New Year’s Eve?” Gemma asked.

“Especially New Year’s Eve,” I confirmed. “It’s a really complicated explanation, but the simple version is that I was possessed by one of the bad guys, and all the stuff I said and did was really her. I just got rid of her last night.”

“But I thought you were immune to magic.”

Owen stepped forward. “We had to remove her immunity temporarily to check on something. They took advantage of the vulnerability.”

“And all that stuff last night?” Marcia asked.

“I’m afraid that was because of me,” Philip said. “One of their enemies is my enemy, as well, a descendant of the man who enchanted me to take over my family’s business.” I noticed that he left out the nature of the enchantment, but that was his secret to tell Gemma when he was ready for that level of sharing. “If I regained the business, they lost funding for their schemes. They seem to have known I had feelings for one of Katie’s roommates, but when they took one of you hostage, they got the wrong one.”

“We’ve spent the last couple of days trying to find a way to get Marcia back and get rid of our enemies,” I wrapped up the story as simply as I could.

“You beat the bad guys, I take it?”

Owen and I looked at each other. “Not exactly,” I said. “We haven’t yet had the ultimate showdown, but we’ve managed to head off each of their evil schemes before it gets out of control. They’re still out there, and that’s why I wanted to tell you guys the truth. It may get even hairier in the future, and you need to know what’s going on.”

“Why haven’t you told us before now?” Gemma asked.

“We’re not supposed to let outsiders know,” Owen said. “We could only tell you now because of what Marcia saw last night. If knowledge of the existence of magic and the fact that there are people with fantastic powers walking among you got out among the general public, the result would be chaos. The rule is to protect you as much as it is to protect us. If we’re forbidden from showing our power, that makes it harder for us to use it against you. The problem with our current enemies is that they’re not abiding by the rules. We’re worried they might try to use their magic to gain real power.”

Gemma nodded, glanced at Marcia, then said, “Okay, we’re in. What do you need us to do?”

I’d been expecting to have to go into hours of explanation, lots of demonstrations, and even then face skepticism. This was almost too easy. “You mean, you believe me, really? You’re not just humoring me to keep me calm while you go off and call the funny farm to reserve me a room?”

“I was there,” Marcia said with a shrug. “It makes more sense than most of the stories you’ve told to cover it up.”

“What do we need to do to help fight this bad guy?” Gemma asked. “Or is there something we need to do to protect ourselves? Hang garlic from the doorways? Wear crosses?”