Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)

37,238
04.03.2019

“But we will be getting to know your boyfriend better at the party so we can be sure about him,” Marcia added.

“I can assure you he doesn’t have me under mind control, and he’s not trying to recruit me into a dangerous cult and separate me from my friends and family. Now, can I have some privacy?”

They were waiting out in the store when I returned, fully dressed and my wits more or less about me. This had been possibly the closest call I’d yet had in hiding my magical double life. Gemma had picked out a pair of flesh-toned fishnet tights. Mimi was torturing a sales clerk by making her open and search through every drawer to make sure the bra she wanted wasn’t hiding from her. I certainly felt the clerk’s pain. I was sure that as soon as the salesgirl found the bra, Mimi would change her mind and want to find a different one.

I’d just checked out and was moving toward the store exit when Owen’s necklace went nuts. It was vibrating so hard it was almost painful. That meant big magic was in use nearby. Even without the necklace I’d have felt the power flying around. Before I had a chance to react, someone grabbed me and pulled me toward the exit.

Gemma and Marcia flew into action, hitting the guy holding my arm with their shopping bags and purses. My attacker was probably my old friend, Mr. Bones. Under my roommates’ assault, he let go of me, but I wasn’t sure where to turn. I didn’t want to run out of the store because there were likely more goons out there waiting for me. I threw a few good kicks into the mix, and soon he was the one running from the store.

But that didn’t stop the chaos. When the door opened to let my would-be kidnapper out, something else seemed to come in. I still felt magic in use and wondered if my magical bodyguards had come on the scene. I hated being without my magical immunity because it meant I could only guess at what was going on. A negligee-clad mannequin toppled over, then tried to right itself before falling over on the other side, right on top of Mimi. This time, she was the one to shove the mannequin upright, but she didn’t seem to notice that she had something lacy and filmy hanging off the back of her head. That sight alone made up for the scary moments earlier.

“Let’s get out of here,” Gemma said. She and Marcia each took one of my arms and marched me out of the store. “That was bizarre. See why we’re worried about you?”

“Hey, you’re not blaming me, are you?” I asked, trying to keep up with their longer strides. “Did you think I set that up?”

“Of course not, but that guy went straight for you,” Marcia said.

“It was random. Crime often is, you know. I was the closest one, and maybe I looked distracted because my friends had just accused me of being crazy or doing drugs, so I was an easy target.”

“But then all that other stuff started happening,” Gemma said. “Things flying, mannequins falling over.”

“Okay, I admit it,” I said, pulling my arms out of their grasp and throwing my hands in the air in defeat. “I’ve got magical powers, and I used them to torment Mimi. Are you happy now?”

Gemma laughed. “Well, you might have a point there. We can’t blame you for that. It was just typical New York weirdness. But you are okay, aren’t you? You’d tell us if something was wrong?”

“I’m okay,” I insisted, skipping over the part about telling them. They didn’t seem to notice my omission as they nodded and put their arms around me. I still had a feeling they weren’t going to stop worrying about me anytime soon.

As I sat New Year’s Eve with a head full of hot rollers while Gemma painted what felt like an inch or more of makeup onto my face, I wished I’d gone for Owen’s stay-at-home idea. “Hold still and don’t blink,” she ordered, waving an eyeliner brush at me. I was almost afraid to look at myself in the mirror when she was through.

When I did get the nerve to look, I didn’t recognize myself. She’d done a cat’s-eye effect with eyeliner and eyeshadow, and she’d managed to make my lips look plump and red. “Now, go get dressed,” she said, “and then we’ll do your hair.”

By the time I got on the pneumatic bra, the fishnet tights, the red dress, and my red shoes, I felt I’d been transformed even more. With the help of the bra, I almost filled out the top of the dress so that it hugged every curve—natural and artificial. Gemma took out the hot rollers, instructed me to bend over and shake my head while running my fingers through my hair, then patted the tousled waves into place and sprayed thoroughly with hair spray before sticking on the horned headband. “There we go,” she said, admiring her creation with satisfaction. “One she-devil.”