Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


The waiter returned, straightening his jacket collar. “Your bill has already been taken care of, sir. Thank you, and have a nice evening.”

We didn’t waste any time verifying who’d paid for this ridiculous night as we hurried to escape from the restaurant. There wasn’t anyone manning the coat check when we got there—probably upstairs helping break up the fight that had started between two pop princesses who’d stolen each other’s boyfriends—so Owen waved a hand and our coats flew to join us. We then ran outside to the sidewalk.

When we’d caught our breath, I turned to Owen and said, “I can’t take you anywhere.”

He looked stunned for a second, and then he broke down in near-hysterical laughter, bending over and bracing his hands on his knees as he gasped for breath between laughs. I imagined he was still a little tipsy, and he was pretty tightly wound, so if he started letting his emotions out, there was bound to be a lot pent up. His laughter was infectious. Soon, I was laughing, too. With the kind of dating luck we seemed to have, we had to laugh at it, or else we’d go crazy.

When he caught his breath, Owen looked up and down the street. “I wonder if the limo is supposed to take us home, or if we’re on our own. Where are we, anyway?”

“I don’t see any familiar landmarks. We must be uptown somewhere. I guess we could start walking and see if a street name rings a bell.” I wasn’t too excited about that prospect. Our fancy clothes hadn’t changed back to normal when we left the restaurant, so I wasn’t exactly dressed for walking. I pulled my coat’s collar as tightly closed as I could over my bare chest.

Owen continued looking up and down the street. “And then maybe we’d pass a burger joint or any other place that serves actual food. I think I may have to hit Rod tomorrow.”

“You’ve already hit Rod. Please don’t make it a habit. Besides, he did pay for the dinner.”

Just then, the limo pulled up, and the driver hopped out and hurried to open the door for us. Owen and I looked at each other, shrugged, then climbed in.

Owen glanced at his watch as the limo took off, then winced. “I didn’t realize it was so late. I thought time only flew when you were having fun.”

“It was kind of fun, in retrospect.”

“And we got some valuable information.”

“Was it just me, or did Sylvia sound like she wasn’t happy about having to work with Idris?” I asked.

“I can’t say I blame her. Would you be happy to work with Idris?”

“But you may notice I’m not working with him. It almost seemed like she was being forced.”

“So maybe she’s the one funding him, but there’s yet another person pulling the strings.”

“Is there anyone you know of who’d be powerful enough to force someone like her to invest in Idris?”

“I have no idea, but James might know some names to start with.”

The driver’s voice came over a speaker into the back of the limo. “Where would you like me to take you?”

Owen turned to me. “Up for some leftover Chinese? I still have plenty.”

I checked my watch. “You know, you’re right. It is late, and it’s a school night. I’d better just go home.” We had to search to find the controls that allowed us to talk to the driver. When the limo came to a stop and the driver told us we were at our destination, Owen helped me out of the car. “Well, it was interesting,” I said. “And no, it didn’t entirely suck.”

“Next time it’ll be normal. I promise.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” I said before he got back into the limo. He rolled down the window and waved as the limo drove away. Only then did I realize that we’d both forgotten to kiss good night. So much for a grand, romantic evening. We weren’t adapting well to this whole dating thing, though I had a feeling we’d do a lot better if the universe would just leave us alone for a little while. Maybe we should even give up on trying to date and just be friends until everything settled down. It certainly wouldn’t change much about our time together, only the amount of frustration I felt after we were together.

When I unlocked the front door, I realized I was still wearing that designer dress. I wondered if I’d get to keep it, or if it was like Cinderella’s ball gown, something that would vanish at midnight. But that wasn’t the real question. The real question was how I’d explain the dress to Gemma, who’d flagged it in a magazine last month, and even more, how I’d explain when it wasn’t there in the morning.