Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)

36,747
04.03.2019

That made me suddenly self-conscious of my work clothes, which were nowhere near stylish and which probably bordered on frumpy. It was going to take a lot more than undoing one button to make me fit in here. In fact, I was fairly certain that this was all going to turn out to be one huge mistake and they wouldn’t let us inside.

I wasn’t the only one having such worries, apparently. Owen froze just inside the restaurant doorway and patted his pockets. “I bet I’ll need my tie to be let in here,” he said. “It looks like that kind of place.”

That was when I noticed something different about Owen. It must have slipped my attention earlier because he was wearing a dark overcoat, but inside, with the coat unbuttoned, he was now wearing a different suit. It wasn’t that much nicer than his work suit, since his work clothes were usually really nice, but instead of his usual white shirt he now wore a dark blue dress shirt with a bit of a sheen to it along with a silk tie in a similar shade. It was a look I recognized from some movie star at the previous year’s Oscars.

“You’ve already got a tie on,” I said, and to his credit, he actually checked instead of automatically telling me he thought I was wrong.

“This is weird,” he said. “And I guess since you’re seeing it, it’s real.” He then blinked as he looked at me. “I’m not the only one it happened to.”

It was my turn to look down at myself. Instead of my frumpy work clothes, I had on a low-cut, flowing dress in a complicated print. I’d seen one very much like it—or possibly even the same dress—in one of Gemma’s fashion magazines. If it was the same dress, I wouldn’t want to take my coat off because then I’d feel naked. As it was, I kept wanting to pull the top up. I’d have to remember to sit up straight, or else the neckline would hit my waist.

The maître d’ greeted Owen, then called someone over to take our coats. I considered putting up a fight for mine, but decided to be a big girl about it. Still, I couldn’t help but cross my arms over my chest as we were escorted upstairs. The dress left my arms bare, so I hoped it was warm in the dining room.

In spite of our designer duds, we were nobodies for this kind of place. Owen might have looked like a movie star, but no one knew who he was. Meanwhile, if they had any idea who I was, they wouldn’t have let me in the door for fear of damaging their cool rating. As a result, our table was strategically located behind a large potted plant. “Dr. Livingston, I presume,” I quipped as we fought our way past the greenery to get into a banquette. I looked around the room at all the beautiful people making sure they were seen eating beautiful food and unconsciously straightened my spine. “Don’t tell Rod because I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I liked the original place better. This is nice, but that would have been more comfortable.”

“I know. This wasn’t quite what I had in mind for the evening. I was hoping we could relax.” I noticed that he was sitting up straighter, too.

A waiter came and pushed back the palm fronds so he could hand us leather-bound menus before reciting a list of specials that sounded more like avant-garde poetry to me. Owen’s face was about as blank as mine felt, and he just smiled and nodded at the waiter. I hoped the menu was a little more understandable. It was about the size of an abridged version of War and Peace. Owen had magical tomes in his office that were less intimidating.

“I may have to just point to something on the menu,” I said. Most of the dishes seemed unnecessarily complicated to me. I was a pretty good cook, if I said so myself, so I recognized all the culinary terms and ingredients, but I’d never considered putting any of them together in quite this way. Aspects of some of the dishes sounded like they might be good, but then there would be some oddball ingredient thrown in, as though the chef had an uncontrollable urge to make the dish different. Like, they couldn’t just serve beets as a side dish. It had to be beet froth, whatever that was.

I went with something that sounded like it might be a steak with sauce on it when the waiter reappeared to take our orders. If I didn’t like the sauce, I could always scrape it off. Owen ordered the same thing. The waiter sniffed disapprovingly when we declined a meeting with the sommelier.

“I think I’ve had enough to drink for the evening,” Owen said, rubbing his head, as soon as the waiter disappeared. “I’m still fuzzy from the champagne in the limo. But I guess that’s terribly unsophisticated of us.”

“Well, I am a hick from a small town in Texas,” I drawled. “I don’t know what your excuse is.” I shoved aside a palm frond so I could look out into the rest of the restaurant. “If you had a machete with you, there might be good people-watching here. We could even get ourselves kicked out by asking for autographs. Wait’ll the folks back home in the trailer park hear about this.”