Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)

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04.03.2019

“And then how long will it last?”

“That depends on how well it works and if we get what we want rather quickly. If we stop at three doses, which is what I think we’ll need for maximum effect, it should have completely worn off after New Year’s.”

His mention of New Year’s reminded me of the message Rod gave me back before I ran out to confront Ethelinda. “Oh, yeah, have you called Rod back yet? I ran into him and he said to remind you he’s having a big New Year’s Eve party and he wanted us there. He says it’s a costume party, so he wants me to invite my friends. They’ll never know who’s magical and who’s in costume.”

He scowled as he stirred his potion in the beaker. “Costumes? Where are we going to come up with costumes at this time of year?”

“You could always go as a wizard.”

“Very funny.”

“Oh, come on, you’d look great in one of those flowing robes and a pointy hat with stars and moons on it. Maybe a white beard.”

“Or Mickey Mouse ears,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “What flavor do you want this to be?”

“What?”

“The potion. I can flavor it to taste. Chocolate?”

I eyed the fizzing potion suspiciously. “I don’t think that looks like the right texture for chocolate. Can you make it taste like tea?”

“Tea I can do.” He waved his hand over the beaker, whispering a few words, then handed it to me. “Here you go. Bottoms up.”

I took a cautious sip. It really did taste like sweetened iced tea, so I drank the rest. He watched me the whole time, like he thought I might suddenly sprout rabbit ears. I was tempted to shake violently or fake a faint just to see how he’d react, but I suspected he wouldn’t take well to that. He looked tense enough as it was. I knew he wasn’t crazy about this plan and was only doing it under Merlin’s orders. “Not bad,” I said when I’d emptied the beaker.

“Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine. Am I supposed to feel something?”

He shook his head and brushed his hair off his forehead. “No, I guess I’m just worried. I can’t help it. If they’ve been coming after us, I’m concerned about what might happen while you’re affected.”

“How will they know? I managed to fake you out the last time. They shouldn’t know I’ve lost my immunity.” Again, I wondered if telling him about Ethelinda might make him feel better, but then decided it might make him even more paranoid. “So, about that party,” I said, changing the subject.

“Do you want to go?”

“It might be fun. If your estimate is right, I should still be slightly affected by the immunity loss, so I would see some of what my friends are seeing, which might help avoid any real weirdness.”

“I should warn you, Rod’s parties are rather notorious. They usually get a little wild for my taste, but it is certainly something you should experience at least once.”

I wondered for a second if he’d made other plans for us. A quiet evening at home with the two of us sounded more like his idea of a celebration, but I did also want to be with my friends. This party would be the best of both worlds—ringing in the New Year with him and with my friends. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go,” I said. “I haven’t ever been to a big New Year’s Eve party. I promise to keep my roommates from bothering you.”

He smiled and nodded. “Okay, then. We’ll go.” He didn’t sound too disappointed, so if he had thought about what he’d rather be doing, he didn’t seem like he’d planned in detail. If I knew Owen, he might even have forgotten that New Year’s tended to follow Christmas, he was so caught up in his work. “And if you like, we could have dinner tonight and talk about costumes. Maybe it’ll be our lucky night, and we can have a normal dinner.”

As much as I liked him, I didn’t think I could face another one of our attempted dates. I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to deal with yet another disaster without having a total meltdown. “Can I take a rain check?” I asked. “I suspect we’ll need to get together tomorrow night anyway so we can scope out Idris’s ads and you can tell me what you see so we can compare.”

“Oh, right. Good point. Tomorrow night, then?” If I hadn’t come to know him as well as I had, I wouldn’t have been able to see the disappointment in his eyes.

That night I told my roommates about the party, and they were both so enthusiastic that they spent most of the evening digging around in the closet to come up with costume ideas. “A masked ball for New Year’s is genius,” Gemma said, holding a red pashmina around her head, Little Red Riding Hood style. “You can try out being someone else as the calendar changes. There’s all kinds of symbolism there.”