Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)

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04.03.2019

“That’s good to know. I think.” He stopped just inside the main entrance and said, “If you’ve got the necklace with you, maybe you should put it on now.” I fished it out of my purse, and he took it from me to fasten around my neck while I held my hair up out of the way. It seemed to take him forever to get it fastened, and I couldn’t tell if he was fumbling with the clasp or deliberately torturing me by touching me lightly on the back of my neck over and over again. When we left the building, he had a protective arm around my waist. I’d seen what he could do and knew without a doubt that he wouldn’t allow anything to happen to me.

We got on the subway and staked out a pole, standing face-to-face on either side of it. As the train lurched forward, he looked over the top of my head at the ads that ran the length of the car, just under the ceiling, then he bent to speak directly into my ear. “Tell me what you see.”

I looked up and straight into his eyes, close enough to see the slight color variations throughout the midnight blue. If I wasn’t mistaken, there were flecks of silver in there. But I didn’t think that was what he was talking about. “You mean the ads?” I forced myself to look away from his eyes and at the ads. “They’re just the usual ‘get your degree and have a better life’ ads in Spanish.”

“You read Spanish?”

“You’re not the only one who knows other languages. I’m from Texas. We have to learn Spanish in school.”

“And that’s all you see?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s your necklace doing?”

I’d barely noticed its steady thrum against my neck when my body was tingling so much from all the physical proximity to Owen. “It’s not going berserk, but it feels like there’s a low level of steady activity. Let me guess, this car is full of those ads.”

“Exactly. And quite frankly, I’m disappointed. I’d have hoped for more creativity in veiling them.”

“It looks like he just stuck with whatever was there before he put his ads up,” I agreed. “I hope he does better with the TV ads and doesn’t mask them with something boring like ads for a mattress store. If he’s got ads for Pepsi in Times Square, I’ll know he’s really lacking in imagination. He loses even more points if it’s the latest celebrity campaign.”

The silver flecks in his dark eyes sparkled as he grinned and asked, “What would you have had him do?”

“Hmm, I’ll have to think about that. Something ironic, maybe? All kinds of companies use magic as a description for their products—like magically clean or magically delicious. He should have used something like that, where the veiling ad talked about magic while covering a real ad about real magic.” It felt weird to talk like this on the subway, but we were close together and speaking almost directly into each other’s ears, so I doubted anyone else could overhear us even if they weren’t all plugged into iPods.

“That’s good,” he said, nodding. “You should be working in advertising.”

“What, and give up saving the world?”

We reached our station, and he kept his arm around me until we got to the exit turnstiles, then he got his arm back around me as soon as we were both clear. The attention seemed so sudden after all those times I’d hoped for the slightest bit of physical contact from him.

“You know, I don’t think anything’s lurking in the bushes to jump out and grab me,” I said.

“I’ve got you inside a protective field that shields me, too. I had this weird feeling…”

I shivered, knowing the way his weird feelings went. No wonder he was hustling me toward his house at full speed. “Does what you see always come true, or can you do something to stop it?”

“I usually just see the presence of danger, not the results. So all I know tonight is that there might be something dangerous that could affect us, not whether it will actually attack or harm us. And if you don’t mind, we can order takeout instead of stopping to pick something up. After the last time, I’m afraid to take the chance.”

“That doesn’t mean we won’t end up with oysters Rockefeller when we try to order burgers.”

“We can always feed those to Loony, if we have to,” he said with a mischievous smile.

His sense of relief once we were inside the front door of his town house was almost palpable. Whatever he’d sensed must have been a doozy. When we were inside, he turned on lights with a careless wave of his hand while picking up his loudly meowing cat. “Make yourself comfortable,” he said. “I need to feed her before she drives us insane, and then we can get something for ourselves.”