Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


That was when I knew what I had to do. Actually, I’d known the night before. It had just taken me awhile to convince myself. I got dressed, got my laptop bag, and headed out into the cold, gray day, taking the subway downtown to the office. Sam was in his usual spot at the front door. “Hey, doll,” he said in greeting. “I didn’t expect to see you here today.”

“I just want to wrap up a few things,” I told him. I then went straight up to Merlin’s office, hoping desperately that I didn’t run into anyone else I knew along the way. I knew it would be far too easy to be blown off course. To do this, I’d have to focus on my resolve, and I couldn’t do that if I had to face anyone I really cared about.

“You’re right on time,” Trix said to me as I entered Merlin’s tower suite. “Go right in.” Merlin’s office doors opened for me, and I took a deep breath before crossing the threshold.

“Good morning, Miss Chandler,” Merlin said when he saw me. “How are you faring?”

“I’m okay. Still tired. My roommates took the news about magic pretty well, and they don’t seem to have any grudges about what I did under Ari’s influence.”

“I’m pleased to hear that.” He gestured me toward a chair, and then sat in the chair next to me. “I believe you handled the situation admirably, from determining the problem to helping find the solution. You even helped salvage the operation by capturing our prisoner.”

“I was highly motivated. I’m just worried that Owen was willing to let them go.”

His expression darkened. “Yes, that is a concern. He cares for you, and that can be dangerous under these circumstances if he puts his personal desires ahead of the greater good. I’m also worried about his loss of control. That isn’t like him, from what I’ve seen.”

It was exactly what I’d been thinking, but I didn’t like hearing it confirmed. I had to take a couple of deep breaths before I could bring myself to say, “I think I might be in the way. Whatever I bring to the table in terms of magical immunity might be outweighed by the fact that the bad guys now know that Owen will choose to save me instead of choosing to stop them.” I took another deep breath, hoping to get rid of the tremor that had taken over my voice, and threw out the idea that had been stewing in my head all morning. “Maybe I should take myself out of the picture for a while.”

“That might be the best option,” he replied somberly.

My breath caught in my throat. I hadn’t really wanted him to take me up on the offer. I’d hoped he’d say it wasn’t necessary, that he had a plan for dealing with the situation, and then I could stay, guilt-free. He wasn’t supposed to agree with me. “If you think it’s best,” I hedged.

“I’m primarily concerned for your safety. Mr. Palmer can take care of himself, and I have full confidence that he will eventually prevail. But now that our enemies can be sure where you stand in his priorities, that makes you even more of a target in the future.”

“Okay, then. I guess I could go back to Texas for a while, at least until things settle down here. My parents will be glad to see me.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure things will ever truly settle down. Not around here. I do hate to see you go, for I’ve found your input quite valuable, but you’re right, it would be best for you to be away. Kim is handling your tasks well enough that I believe I can get by without you.” And there she’d done it. She had my job. It was almost enough to make me change my mind and stay, regardless of the consequences.

But this was for the greater good, I reminded myself. It wasn’t about how valuable I was. It was about beating the bad guys, once and for all. Maybe when that happened, I could come back. I’d managed to get from Texas to New York once before, when I hadn’t known what I’d be facing in the city, and with nothing to draw me there other than my college roommates. I stood up. “It’s been a pleasure working here—well, other than the various times I’ve been enchanted or attacked. Good luck fighting the bad guys, and all that. Uh, do I need to hand in a formal resignation?”

“That won’t be necessary.” He stood and gave me a formal nod. “Thank you for your contributions.” I was glad he left it at that, without any long good-bye speech. I wouldn’t have been able to hold off the tears much longer, and it’s never a good idea to cry in front of your boss—or ex-boss. Lucky for me, Trix was on the phone when I left, so I just waved at her as I passed. I could send her an e-mail later, I knew.