Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


“But there’s a table open, right there. And my name is in your book.” He pointed to the entry that very clearly showed a table for two reserved for Palmer at six.

“Ah, but that is because we moved your reservation to another restaurant to accommodate you.”

Owen turned to me and gave me a confused look. I responded with a shrug, and Owen returned his attention to the host. “I don’t understand. I made a reservation for two not too long ago. I spoke to you, if I’m not mistaken. And now you’re telling me you moved my reservation to another restaurant—and that it’s somehow to accommodate me?” His voice remained calm and even, so you would have had to know Owen to realize exactly how angry he was. The fact that he turned white instead of red was the only visible sign.

I put a hand on his arm. “It’s okay. Maybe they can give us something to go and we can eat at home,” I said. “That might be even better.”

The host shook his head. “No, no, you do not understand. The new reservation, it is for a better restaurant. We will even arrange for a car to take you there. Make it a nicer evening, no?”

Owen again looked to me. “What the heck,” I said with a shrug. “Just as long as the car isn’t being driven by the same drivers we had the last time.”

We went outside to wait for the car. “I don’t get it,” Owen said, still stewing. “I eat there regularly, but not to the point they’d go out of their way like this for me, and I’ve never heard of a restaurant sending business to another place. I know that me having a real date is a special occasion, but I didn’t think they’d go nuts just because I made a reservation for two.” After a moment of silence, he laughed. “Wait a second, I know what’s going on. I bet Rod did it. I told him what I had in mind earlier in the day, and player that he is, he probably didn’t think it was good enough. And maybe I do need dating lessons from the master.”

“Just as long as you don’t take too many lessons from him. You don’t have a second date with someone else lined up for later this evening, do you?”

“One person at a time is all I can handle,” he said as a white limousine pulled around the corner and stopped for us.

A uniformed chauffeur—who was fully human and not at all goofy-looking, thank goodness—got out of the car and came around to open the passenger door for us. “Mr. Palmer?” he said.

“Um, yeah. This is for us?”

“Yes, it is. Now, miss?” He held a hand out to me to help me into the limo. With a glance and shrug toward Owen, I stepped in and settled onto a plush leather seat. Owen then joined me. “Please enjoy the champagne during your ride,” the driver said before closing the door.

“Yeah, this is definitely Rod,” Owen said, eyeing the champagne in the ice bucket and the red rose lying on the seat between us. “It’s very much his style. Shall we?” he asked, indicating the champagne.

“Sure, why not? We might as well enjoy this.”

He popped the cork, then poured two glasses and handed me one. “Cheers,” he said, clinking his glass against mine.

“To a work-free, stress-free evening,” I said.

“Oh, I’ll definitely drink to that.”

As I leaned back in the seat and stretched my legs, I said, “This is the life.” Never mind that in the rush-hour traffic, walking or the subway would have been much faster. Traffic jams weren’t so bad when you weren’t driving and when you had champagne.

“And he’s a better driver than we had on our last trip,” Owen added. “BRAAAAKE!”

His imitation of Rocky was so uncanny and so unexpected that I almost choked on my champagne. “Wow, when did you become a comedian?” I sputtered.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me. Come to think of it, there’s a lot I don’t know about me.” He sounded almost, well, bubbly, and then I realized the champagne must have gone straight to his head. I knew he wasn’t much of a drinker, and I didn’t remember him taking a break for lunch.

“You might want to ease up on that stuff,” I warned, feeling my own head get a little fuzzy. But before we had a chance to get too tipsy, the car came to a stop and then the passenger door opened.

We’d arrived at a restaurant Gemma was always talking about because of someone famous having eaten there with some other famous person the night before, both of them wearing something fabulous by an equally famous designer. It was the kind of place where the paparazzi hide in the bushes nightly, just in case one of their usual targets happens to drop by. Even on a slow night they could probably get at least one tabloid-worthy photo of a socialite showing off the latest designer creation.