Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


“Oh, really?” Rod asked, raising an eyebrow and leaning closer to Marcia. If he’d been sitting next to me instead of across from me, I’d have kicked him in the ankle. Then I realized that I still wasn’t getting any sense of his usual attraction spell. The last time I lost my immunity, it had taken all my willpower to keep from throwing myself at him. Now I didn’t feel so much as a nudge. Had he really given that up, or was he just being a lot more focused about it now?

Marcia gave him a rueful smile. “Yeah, I guess so. Bad timing, huh? It looks like I’ll be flying solo at your party. You don’t mind me coming without a date, do you?”

“I don’t have a date, either, and it’s my party.” Rod not having a date for New Year’s Eve, when he had a date for just about every night of the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, was almost unbelievable. Then again, it probably meant he was hoping to hook up with someone there without an official date to get in the way. “You can keep me company.”

Marcia blushed and looked flustered in a way I’d never seen with her before. She had to be under a spell, but Owen’s necklace gave off only a low-level hum that was probably accounted for by Rod’s illusion and Ethelinda’s veiling. I hadn’t felt anything stronger or any surges of magic, other than when Ethelinda conjured our lunches.

The waitress, still looking confused, dropped off our check. “This one’s on me!” Ethelinda declared. Money appeared on the table. I hoped for the sake of the waitress that it was real money. “And I believe my work here is done. It was lovely meeting you. I hope things work out.”

We thanked her for the lunch, then I held my breath, hoping she’d leave the normal way via the door instead of her usual vanishing act. If she vanished, I told myself I’d let Rod explain it. Fortunately, she did use the door. Rod soon excused himself to go take care of some final party-planning details.

Marcia and I then went uptown and met Gemma as she got off work in the garment district. “There’s a huge Victoria’s Secret nearby, so we can go over there and get all the accessories we need for our costumes,” she said after greeting us.

Once we were inside the store, she headed straight for the bra section. She skimmed through the displays, then pulled one off a rack. “This should do the trick. It adds a full cup size. The red satin one would be really sexy and would work under that dress, but you’ll probably get more use out of the nude one because you could wear it under other things. What size do you wear?”

I was just about to tell her when I looked up and found myself looking straight at Mimi, my evil boss from my last job. Her smirk told me she’d heard everything Gemma had just said. She had to be feeling smugly superior, for she’d never need a padded bra. That was one of the many ways she felt she was better than me. “Why, Katie, imagine seeing you here,” she said, doing a fake air kiss that I didn’t bother returning. “I thought you were too sweet and wholesome for this kind of thing.”

“Too sweet and wholesome to wear underwear?” I asked with exaggerated innocence. I mentally high-fived myself for having a good comeback. There was something about Mimi that always made me feel about an inch tall, even if I was no longer working for her.

She laughed. “Very funny.” Suddenly, she was acting like Good Mimi. That was part of what was so evil about her. She could change personalities at the drop of a hat. She’d start the day acting like your best friend, lull you into complacency, then pounce with claws bared. “Whatever did you do with that gorgeous guy you were with the last time I saw you?” The last time I’d run into her around town, I’d had Owen with me. He’d jumped valiantly to my defense when she’d gone on the attack.

“I’m giving him a break today to rest up for New Year’s Eve,” I said, then grabbed something sheer and naughty looking from a nearby display. “And that would be why I’m here.”

She looked at what I was holding, then glanced over at the heavily padded bra Gemma still held. “Then, word of advice—you don’t want to disappoint him by starting with all that padding and then showing him the sad reality that you can’t hide in that.” She’d made a good, stinging barb and she knew it, so while I was still thinking of a better comeback than “I know you are, but what am I?” she turned and headed to another part of the store.

As soon as she was gone, Gemma and Marcia said in stunned unison, “What a bitch!” Gemma then asked, “Who was that?”

“That was the infamous Mimi.”