Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


I took off my coat and draped it over the banister, then wandered after him into the kitchen, where he was opening a can of food for Loony as she practically danced in anticipation. “If you actually fed her every day, she wouldn’t be quite that desperate,” I remarked.

He looked up at me with a grin after he put the dish in front of her. “Yeah, you can tell she’s deprived. You should have seen the poor, orphaned kitty look she gave me when I got home on Christmas. If I hadn’t seen the empty cans, I might have thought Rod forgot to feed her. Now for us. You mentioned burgers. Does that sound good to you? Ever since the other night, that’s what I’ve been hungry for—but the real thing, this time.”

“That sounds wonderful.”

He searched the take-out menus hung on the refrigerator by magnets, then took one and handed it to me. “Their burgers are pretty good. Let me know what you want.” When I’d made my selection, he called the order in and we retreated to the living room, leaving Loony alone with her dinner. As we entered the room, he waved a hand at the fireplace and a fire sprang to life. “I refuse to feel guilty about that particular shortcut now that I know Gloria has a brownie,” he said, settling down on the sofa. “Besides, I tend to burn myself when doing that the hard way.”

I joined him on the sofa, trying to fight off the surge of self-consciousness I suddenly felt. He was acting far more relaxed than usual, and I was determined not to let this devolve into awkwardness. We really did need to get over the mutual bashfulness that tended to strike us in the rare situations when we weren’t in danger or we’d never get beyond kissing. I tended to move slowly on the physical side of relationships, but one would hope sex would be on the menu eventually. Like, while we were still young enough to enjoy it and have any kind of stamina. “I won’t tell on you,” I said. “If I could light a fire by waving a hand, I totally would. It seems a waste to have that kind of power and not use it at all.”

“I think she was mostly teaching me not to become so dependent on magic that I never learned how to do things the normal way. She also didn’t want me to get in the habit of taking shortcuts or the easy way out, in general.”

“She and my dad would really get along. He’s all about learning big life lessons.”

He slid out of his suit coat and threw it over the arm of the sofa, then took off his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. “I hope this establishment doesn’t require neckties,” he said, quirking an eyebrow at me.

“I’ll make an exception in this case.” I kept seeing him in situations where I thought he’d never looked better, and then he managed to top himself. At the moment, he probably looked sexier than I’d ever seen him, with his hair tousled, the slightest hint of five-o’clock shadow on his jaw, and his white dress shirt unbuttoned at the neck.

“Remind me to tip you extra.” He picked up a remote control and turned on the television. “I guess we ought to start watching TV so we can make it worth your while to go through the immunity loss. Let’s hope he’s got an ad on tonight.”

While we watched the first commercial break, Loony came in from the kitchen to join us, jumping up between us on the sofa. I scratched the back of her neck while Owen changed channels. “It was on one of the local channels, if that helps narrow it down,” I said. There weren’t any Spellworks ads during the next commercial break we found, either. “Maybe he’s only advertising during prime time. That would mean we wouldn’t see anything until eight.”

“Let’s hope there’s something on that isn’t too painful to watch—none of those reality TV dating shows or movie stars trying to dance, or anything like that.”

I felt a surge of warmth at the realization we had that much in common. “I hate those kinds of shows, too.” It was funny, I thought I knew him fairly well by now, but there was so much I didn’t know about him, like what he watched on TV.

The buzzer sounded from downstairs, and he jumped up. “There’s dinner, and fortunately, it didn’t come during the commercials.” He paused before leaving the living room. “I never thought I’d say that.”

While he was gone, I kicked off my shoes and tucked my feet under me, grateful that I’d worn a fuller skirt that made it easy to sit comfortably. Loony rolled over onto her back and waved a paw at me in a fairly obvious command to rub her belly, so I obliged. “How do you think it’s going so far?” I asked her in a whisper.

Owen returned with a couple of paper bags that had translucent grease spots forming on the sides—a sure sign our burgers hadn’t been magically transformed into more highbrow food worthy of a romantic date. “Any commercials?” he asked.