Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


“So they’re possibly not quite on the verge of taking over the world,” Merlin surmised with a wry twinkle in his eyes.

“Katie also had an idea for a way to deal with Idris,” Owen said.

I swallowed and hoped this sounded as good now as it had when I’d first brought it up. “We’ve noticed that Idris is a bit distractible. That seems to have been the main thing holding him back. Before he can bring any of his evil schemes to fruition, he’s become bored and moved on to something else. For instance, he never really took advantage of all the turmoil he caused when we thought we had a mole in the company. I think he became so fascinated by watching us run around in a tizzy that he forgot to actually do anything with that opportunity.”

“That also fits the way he used to work,” Owen added. “He seldom finished projects. He’d dabble in one thing after another instead of sticking to a particular line of thought or research.”

“But now that he’s apparently got someone interested enough in what he’s doing to bankroll him, he may not be able to get away with that,” I continued. “His boss must have something planned, and he’s not going to want to just move on to the next great idea. So if we could come up with a way to really distract Idris, it might mess him up with his boss or force the boss to show himself.”

Merlin stroked his beard and nodded. “Yes, I could see how that might be effective. It might not stop the plan entirely, but it could buy us time. We’d still need to find a way to discover who is behind him and what he’s trying to accomplish, but this could make that task somewhat easier. Very good thinking, Miss Chandler. It’s almost a pity you’re not magical, for I’d be interested in seeing how you might innovate in that respect.”

“I guess we’ll never know. And maybe I have to think outside the box because I don’t have access to any powers. If I had magical powers, I might be a really boring wizard.” I hesitated, then asked a question that weighed heavily on my mind. “How are things going up here? Is there anything you need me to take care of?”

“No, Kim is quite effective. A trifle overeager, perhaps, but she is getting her work done. You can focus on this project in good conscience.”

“Good, good.” I hoped my smile didn’t look too obviously fake. I tried to remind myself that Kim getting my work done didn’t mean I was out of a job. It only meant I could concentrate on stopping Idris, which meant far more to the company than typing memos and making sure no one pulled a fast one in meetings.

She was still there, sitting smugly at Trix’s desk as we left Merlin’s office, which undermined my mental pep talk. There are some people who just bug you, and Kim seemed to be my person of the moment. There was nothing she could do that wouldn’t get under my skin.

“Next time, it would help if you’d schedule an appointment in advance,” she said.

And a lot of the things she did seemed designed specifically to push my buttons. Fortunately, Owen had my back and I didn’t have to stoop to her level to respond. “Mr. Mervyn seldom needs anyone to schedule appointments. He’ll know before anything important happens,” he said. “You may notice that there’s never a conflict, even when something comes up unexpectedly.”

“That does take some getting used to when you’re managing his schedule,” I added, trying very hard to avoid sounding patronizing. The stunned expression on her face was more gratifying than any gift I’d received for Christmas, and I hurried to get out of the office suite before she thought of a clever comeback that would diminish my triumph.

By the time we got back to Owen’s lab, the short preholiday workday was almost over. “I’ll see you home,” he said. “I feel like I ought to do at least that much with your immunity gone.”

I was starting to regret having made plans with my roommates. Going home with him would have been really nice. “I’m meeting Marcia down here to go to lunch. She works in the financial district. And then we’re going uptown to meet Gemma for some shopping.” I took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “But I do appreciate the offer. Normally, I’m all in favor of having you keep an eye on me.”

He squeezed my hand in response, but his expression remained serious. “I don’t like the idea of you being unprotected, especially after what happened this morning. They know we’re onto them.”

“Have you met Marcia? I’d like to see the magical creature that could take her on. And aren’t there my usual bodyguards? I’ll be fine. But I’d better get going. She’s the punctual type, and I’m more afraid of her than of monsters if I’m ever late meeting her.”