Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)

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04.03.2019

The scene was right out of a slapstick comedy. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Keystone Kops had shown up to stop the riot. And the Baptists used to accuse the Methodists back home of being wild, I thought with a grin. At least we’d never had a food fight in the fellowship hall. Well, not when it was anyone other than the kids involved. I decided that James had the right idea, so I moved to the far side of the room, well away from the fracas and near enough to the door that I could escape if I needed to.

Then while I was still fighting back giggles, the sense of magic intensified and someone grabbed me from behind.

Nine

At first I thought it was Owen, having made it safely out from under the table and ready to make his escape with me. I went willingly as he pulled me through the door to the parking lot outside. But then he didn’t release me, and I realized that something was wrong. I kicked my captor in the shin and pulled away.

It was my old friend Mr. Bones, one of Idris’s cronies, and now I was absolutely certain that it was the same skeleton guy I’d seen in that office. He had a bunch of his goons lined up, surrounding me.

He didn’t have to tell me that screaming would do no good. The noise from the riot inside spilled into the parking lot. One more female scream wouldn’t stand out in all that. Instead, I did what I did best. I bent down and scooped up a handful of slushy snow, packed it into a ball, and threw it. I needed to come up with a new trick for when I got into a tough spot, but I had a good arm and good aim, so I figured I might as well stick with what I knew for the time being. Maybe I’d sign up for a karate class when things settled down some at work.

The snowball hit Mr. Bones square in the face and some of the slush trickled into his eye socket, which couldn’t have felt good. While he was still reacting, I made another snowball and threw it in the general direction of the other goons. I’d been in all of two snowball fights in my life, on the very rare occasions when we’d had enough snow to make snowballs back home in Texas, so I didn’t have a lot of practice with this. The goons were closing in, and it was harder and harder to keep them at bay with snowballs.

Something came out of the sky, and I instinctively ducked. It had been my experience that some truly scary things could come at you from out of the sky. This time, though, it looked like the air force was friendly. Two unfamiliar gargoyles swooped around, keeping themselves between the goons and me. “You’d better make a run for it, miss,” one of them shouted as it flew past me. “We don’t got a lot in the way of attack magic.”

“Yeah, just staying animated takes a lot out of us,” the other said.

“Bein’ a gargoyle ain’t easy,” the first one said.

“Watch it, you idiot!” the other called out when they almost collided in midair. After the near miss, both of them laughed so hard they almost fell out of the sky.

These gargoyles were keeping the goons from getting to me, but I was still surrounded. I wasn’t sure how long the gargoyles could hold them off. I made another snowball and took aim at the goon that was between me and the door to the church hall. If I could just create a gap in that circle and make a break for it, I was sure I’d be safe inside, surrounded by Owen, Gloria, James, and a whole bunch of presumably friendly magical people. I could even kill two birds with one snowball by creating a distraction to break up the fight inside and rescue Owen from the horde of matchmaking mamas.

Then the church hall doors flew open and a lone figure tore outside like the hounds of hell were on his heels. It was Owen, and just as I recognized him, so did Mr. Bones and his goons. I shouted a warning, but not before the goons had forgotten about me and turned their attention to Owen. I wondered if that had been the plan all along, to use me as bait to capture him.

I was worried because although he was pretty powerful with magic, it could also be used on him. The air zinged with magic as they threw spells at him and he deflected them. I tried to pitch in by throwing a few more snowballs, and the two gargoyles kept trying to create a distraction, but it was still many against essentially one.

Not for long, though. Owen wasn’t going to get away from the mob that easily, and soon the mothers and their man-hungry daughters spilled out of the hall, in search of their quarry. I wasn’t sure what they thought was going on in the parking lot, but they reacted as though yet another party was trying to steal Owen from them, and they turned their efforts against the bad guys. Mr. Bones found himself beaten soundly by high-end designer handbags. A few of the women were still fighting each other, but there was enough confusion for Owen to get away from the attackers and catch my arm as we ran for James and Gloria’s car.