Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


“I don’t know, Harry’s pretty cute for a kid. You can tell he’s going to be a knockout when he’s all grown up.”

“Movie Harry is cute, but I don’t get the impression from the books that he’s supposed to be all that gorgeous,” Marcia argued. “Besides, Harry has green eyes in the books, and Owen definitely has blue eyes. Plus, Harry wears glasses.”

“Owen wears glasses sometimes,” I said. “But most of the time, he wears contacts. No scar, though.”

“And didn’t you say something about him being an orphan?” Marcia asked.

“Yeah, but he doesn’t know who his parents were, so it doesn’t look like they were killed by the bad guy. The people who brought him up were strict with him, but they’re basically good people and it doesn’t sound like they made him sleep under the stairs.” I pondered it for a moment, then said, “I think he’s more like Superman, except for the part about being an alien and the exact kinds of powers. And maybe being a bit shorter.”

Gemma nodded. “Yeah, the dark hair and blue eyes fits that, as well as being brought up by good people who aren’t his parents.”

“And I’m his kryptonite,” I said with a deep sigh.

“What makes you say that?” Marcia asked. “Is it something like your immunity cancels out his powers?”

I shook my head. “No, not like that. But I’m afraid I may be his weakness. Owen chose to rescue me instead of catching the bad guy.”

“Well, of course,” Gemma said. “He’s crazy about you.”

“But it was his big chance to catch this guy who’s been causing all sorts of trouble and find out what he’s up to. Because of me, he didn’t.”

“At least you know for sure how much you mean to him,” Marcia said. “That’s something very few people get to have demonstrated for them in such a vivid way.”

“I’m afraid I’m holding him back, though. I don’t want to be what stops him from doing what needs to be done. I’m his biggest weakness.”

“I think you also give him strength,” Gemma said. “Saving the world is an abstract concept, but making the world safe for you is something he can care about. That boy needs you, no matter how powerful he may be.”

That thought made my head spin. It was a real paradox. How could I manage to be both Owen’s greatest strength and his greatest weakness? It was too much for an ordinary girl like me to cope with.

I slept so hard that night I didn’t notice my roommates leaving for work in the morning. When I finally woke up, I was as tired as if I’d stayed up all night.

I put on my robe and slippers and stumbled into the kitchen to make some coffee. While the coffeemaker went to work, I looked out the front window. It had snowed again during the night, but after the rush-hour traffic, the snow had already turned to gray slush that piled up in the gutters and on the edges of the sidewalks. The gray slush matched the gray brick of the buildings and the gray sky above. The only color I could see through the window was the yellow of taxis. Even the row of trees down the street looked gray, their winter-bare limbs bleak and silvery, with no sign of life.

This was the downside of winter in New York, once the Christmas lights were gone and everything returned to normal. As I recalled, I’d nearly packed it up and gone home at this time last year. Mimi had been going through a particularly nasty spell, and the grayness had been almost too much to bear when I saw on the weather report that it was sixty-five degrees and sunny back in Texas.

Now home sounded good for another reason. It was the most normal, safe place I could think of. I’d have my choice of front porch or hammock for plenty of relaxing and reading, and while we might have the odd cold, gray spell, it would only last a day or two before we saw the sun again.

I poured myself a cup of coffee, then went back to the window. I doubted my immunity had returned, so I had no way of knowing if the people I saw on the sidewalk below were what they seemed to be. Were there creatures lurking in the trees or hovering outside my window?

Were Idris’s henchthings waiting for me outside, ready to grab me now that they knew I was Owen’s Achilles’ heel? If they’d bothered me before, I could only imagine what it would be like now that they knew Owen would do anything to keep me safe. That was bound to be a distraction for Owen. How could he focus on what he had to do if he had to worry about what the bad guys were doing to me? It figured. I finally found a great guy who liked me, and our relationship threw a monkey wrench into his life’s work. And since his life’s work was saving the world from bad magic, our relationship had bigger potential consequences than just keeping him off the corporate fast track.