Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)

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04.03.2019

“Yeah, that would tend to keep you busy,” I agreed. “And you’re right, it would be hard to explain. But have you told her you’re busy at work? She should understand that much.”

He reassembled the headless gingerbread man on his plate, shoving the broken leg back into place with his index finger. “I’m not even certain that us being together is a good idea at this time. She came across me when I was feeling very lost, and she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Now, though, I have business I must attend to, and her association with me could put her at risk from my enemies. I cannot expect her to wait for me, either.”

“You know, I work for the big guns in the magical world, so I’m sure I could get you some help if you needed it.”

Hope flickered in his eyes. “I could use your assistance with something. As I understand it, you’re a magical immune.”

“That’s right.”

“I’ve scheduled a meeting with the new head of what should be my company. He doesn’t know who I am, simply that I’m a potential investor. It might be useful to have a magical immune present to help me determine if underhanded means are being used.”

“I guess I could do that. When’s the meeting, and what’s your excuse for having me with you?”

“The meeting is Thursday afternoon. I thought perhaps you could pose as my wife or lady friend.”

“Undercover work sounds like fun, and I get off early that day. Maybe I could be the daughter of a Texas oilman with money of my own to invest.”

The blank expression on his face reminded me that he’d never seen an episode of Dallas. He nodded politely and said, “Whatever you think is best. The meeting is at two in the afternoon. Shall I call for you here?”

“Yeah, that’ll be fine.”

“I appreciate your assistance. And I thank you for the tea.” He put on his coat and hat and left, and I finally had the apartment all to myself. Talking about Gemma’s relationship issues reminded me of my own. While I was looking forward to living out all of my romantic holiday fantasies now that I finally had someone to share them with, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. I was about to meet Owen’s foster parents, and I knew they’d see this as a big event. I had to find gifts.

If ever there was one, this sounded like a time to call on a fairy godmother. I went to my nightstand to retrieve Ethelinda’s locket from the jewelry box I kept in the back of the drawer. I hesitated, though, as I sat on my bed and prepared to open the locket to summon the fairy godmother. I was almost always a hit with the parents of men I dated, even if the men weren’t so crazy about me. In fact, back home I’d been the number-one choice of parents for their sons’ girlfriend, which was one of the reasons I’d had so few dates in high school (three overprotective big brothers were among the other reasons). It wasn’t as though I needed a fairy godmother to help me with that sort of thing.

I put the locket back into my nightstand drawer and closed it. A firework then went off right outside the bedroom window. That window faced a narrow air shaft—so narrow I was sure if the people across the air shaft needed to borrow a cup of sugar, we could easily pass it over. It was unlikely that anyone was shooting off fireworks in that confined space. I went to the window, raised the blinds, opened the window, and leaned my head out to see what was going on.

Five

I jumped back in surprise when I saw Ethelinda hovering right outside my window. “I can’t enter your home magically,” she said. “Your young man does very good wards. I couldn’t find a single chink in them.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I didn’t summon you. There’s no need for you to come inside.”

“You don’t have to summon me. I’ve been watching your case, and it seems to me that you’re in need of advice.”

“No, not really, thanks. I’ve got it under control.”

“Have you eaten?”

“Huh?”

“Tsk, tsk, what kind of response is that, Kathleen? It’s better to say, ‘Pardon,’ or ‘Excuse me.’”

“What does me eating have to do with anything?” I clarified.

“It’s better to discuss these things over food, don’t you think?”

No, I didn’t think. Eating meant being in public with a fairy godmother who seemed a bit ditzy. I could never be sure she’d remember to hide her magic from the rest of the world. Never mind the fact that I didn’t need her there. “That’s not necessary,” I insisted.