Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


I made a peanut butter sandwich and got a soda from the fridge, then went back to Union Square, where I sat in the park to eat my lunch and wait on my fairy godmother. I didn’t care if it took all day, but I wasn’t going back to work until I’d taken care of this.

I didn’t have to wait long. She appeared within minutes, scaring the pigeons away when she suddenly popped into existence next to me on the park bench. Today’s outfit looked a lot like Scarlett O’Hara’s famous dress made out of the drapes, only after the drapes had been hanging for decades and a few generations of moths had made meals out of them. The hot-pink prom dress showing through the holes clashed horribly with the green of the outer dress. A strip of the tasseled border at the hem of the skirt had come undone, leaving the tassels to trail on the ground.

“Oh, I’m so glad you called me. I couldn’t wait to talk to you,” she said, her wings fluttering hopefully. “Now, you have to tell me how everything went last night.”

“So, it was you. You changed the reservations, got the limo, changed our clothes, and all that?”

“Of course! I don’t know what that boy was thinking, taking you to an ordinary place like that when he’s supposed to be courting you. He should be wining and dining you, showing you the finer things. He should be making an effort. But that’s where I step in, to correct those little mistakes. Tell me how it went! I want to hear everything.”

“It was…” I started to go by habit and say “okay,” but instead I decided to be honest. “Quite frankly, it bombed.”

Her wings wilted. “No romance?”

“No romance. I guess it was fun, in a way, but it wasn’t the least bit romantic.”

“But it was supposed to be romantic—the limousine, the champagne, the rose, the nice restaurant. That’s what young ladies these days want.”

I got the sinking feeling that she’d studied up on non-dragon-slaying paths to romance by watching reality TV dating shows. Now that I thought about it, the whole date sounded like the kind of thing you’d see on The Bachelor. It was a fake, made-for-TV date.

“Romance isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing,” I tried to explain, realizing the irony of me trying to explain romance to the fairy godmother responsible for hooking up Cinderella with her handsome prince. “I’m sure there are some people who would have found all that very romantic, but not Owen and me. Things were actually going pretty well for us that night. He held my hand on the way to the restaurant, and he never seems to think of doing stuff like that. I liked the restaurant he chose. It was comfortable and cozy, and we’d probably have had a good meal we could have lingered over. He was finally letting his guard down, and we might have really talked. It wasn’t all your fault that things didn’t work out. It just so happened that one of our enemies was there, too, and that created some of our problems. We were too distracted by everything that happened to even remember to kiss good night.”

She didn’t look convinced. “Have you considered that my efforts to inspire romance haven’t worked for you because you’re not suited for each other?”

I had, but only deep down inside, and I wasn’t ready to go there yet. “We haven’t even been dating for two whole weeks. Isn’t that too soon to tell?”

“Cinderella knew after three nights at a ball.”

I’d actually always wondered how she could have known so quickly that this was the guy for her, and how he could have based his choice of wife on her shoe size, but I didn’t want to get into that with Ethelinda right now. “Aren’t we supposed to be destined for each other?”

“Perhaps you were only meant to work together and it was that kind of partnership.” She drew herself up straighter. “My methods of instigating romance are time-tested and go back centuries. If I can’t get a couple together, then they have no romantic possibilities.”

“Yeah, ’cause if dragons don’t do it for you, you don’t stand a chance,” I muttered under my breath.

She reached over and gave my hand a gentle pat. “Don’t take this too hard, my dear. Do you realize how difficult a mixed marriage would be? I can’t believe I ever allowed myself to think that a wizard of his caliber was meant for an immune like yourself. You two see the world in entirely different ways. I know he tries to act normal, but do you understand what it’s like to have that kind of power? And if you don’t understand that, there’s no way you could ever really understand him.”