“What did I tell you about bringing your cat into the bar?”
Lexie cracked a peanut shell and shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Luna’s back home curled up on her favorite cushion.”
Pinning his ocean blue eyes on her, Jonathan O’Connor gave the counter a brisk wipe.
Luna screeched, took a leap and crashed against Lexie, knocking the wind out of her. Even in her invisible form and despite her dainty appearance, Luna weighed a ton.
Jonathan lifted an eyebrow. “You were saying?”
Lexie shrugged. “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jonathan leaned across the counter. His sparkly eyes held her mesmerized. As her guardian, he didn’t have any special… magical powers, none that she knew of, but the man could wield his own brand of magic.
Distracted by his dazzling gaze, Lexie didn’t notice him reaching across the counter, but she did catch his frown when he grabbed a handful of her sweater instead of Luna, who’d evaded him by clambering up to her shoulders and wrapping her tail around her neck.
Jonathan’s gaze danced around her face. “I know she’s here. I can hear her purring.” He released her sweater but didn’t step back. That meant he stood close enough for her to inhale the fresh scent of his aftershave lotion. Or maybe it was the fresh out of the shower scent because he still sported a light couldn’t-be-bothered-shaving stubble.
Lexie pushed out a sigh. “I can’t leave her at home.”
“Have you tried?”
Had she ever…
After their recent experience, Luna refused to leave her side. Wherever she went, Luna insisted on being right there with her. Lexie leaned in and lowered her voice. “She’s been whining about separation anxiety. What do you want me to do? The poor scamp is still having nightmares about being kidnapped and used as a weapon against me,” her voice hitched. “She might need therapy.”
Jonathan shook his head. “Just keep her away from my counter.”
She gave him her most brilliant smile and, lifting her empty cup of coffee, asked for a refill. “Make it an Irish coffee, please. Hold the cream.”
She’d woken up with a smile on her face. Happy to be home, safe and sound. When she’d opened her eyes, she’d averted her gaze from the striped wallpaper her mother had chosen for her bedroom and had sought out Luna who’d been curled up at the foot of her bed, her little nose twitching as she stirred awake. Then her quiet contentment had been shattered.
“The troublesome duo paid me a visit this morning.”
Lexie gave a stiff nod.
“I thought you liked Catherine.”
“I do.” Her down under cousin had a sparkly attitude to everything but now Lexie had to wonder if it actually hid a more serious side.
Catherine had burst into her bedroom that morning in a shower of sparkles to announce their British cousin’s imminent arrival with a tone that had brooked no argument. She’d given Lexie five minutes to make herself presentable or suffer the consequences.
Mirabelle Louisa Mackenzie, the High Chair of the British Isles and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven didn’t suffer fools and preferred getting right down to business, something Lexie enjoyed playing around with. What was the point of life if one couldn’t find something to smile or laugh about? Besides, Mirabelle’s stuffiness made her an easy target…
“How much power do you think they have over me?” she asked, “I mean, what could they actually do if I don’t fall in step with their demands?”
Jonathan shrugged. “Turn you into a monkey.”
“Yeah, right. As if…”
“You want to test them, go ahead.”
“Hypothetically, if they did happen to cast some sort of warped, teach-me-a-lesson retribution type of spell on me, what would you do?”
He brushed his hand across his day old stubble. “I’d have a good laugh about it.”
“Be serious. You’re supposed to be my guardian.”
“You’re right.” He cleared his throat. “Okay, after I’ve had a good laugh about it, I’d follow procedures.”
“And I’d lodge a complaint with the Council of High Chairs, but I should warn you I’m not on good terms with them. Not since they conspired to wrench me out of my quiet, uneventful life of blissful exile.”
“You’d lodge a complaint? By the time anyone did anything about it, I might be rattling a tin can in a street corner.”
“You’d be turned back. Eventually. On second thought, it would be a quirky draw card for the pub. You could parade around in a little sandwich board and I could have a special costume designed for you to wear on St Patrick’s Day…”
She drew her eyebrows down. “Should I be seeking advice from higher up?”
Smiling, Jonathan leaned on the counter. “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
“What are you afraid they’ll do?”
“Turn me into a monkey.”
Luna flicked her tail against Lexie’s nose.
“That reminds me. Are you ever going to tell me what went on between you and my mom?” Jonathan had been tight lipped about it. But when he’d recently encountered Morgana, presumably for the first time, it had been clear they’d known each other… from way back. It didn’t help that the current High Chair of the American Continent and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven had forced… beguiled Jonathan into servitude. Hence the new striped wallpaper in her bedroom.
That had resulted in two weeks of grumbling from Jonathan. Lexie didn’t blame him. They’d both tried to distance themselves from the coven and they’d both been hauled back into the fold.
Lexie shrugged. “You really need to get over it. You don’t hear me complaining… much.”
“Was that the tail end of a conversation you were having in your head?” he asked.
You know he can’t hear your thoughts.
Lexie brushed back Luna’s tail. “Where do you know Morgana from?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Lexie twirled her finger at him. “Sure you do and you want to tell me all about it.”
He laughed. “Nice try beguiling me but you’re still wearing your training wheels.”
And, so far, no one had rushed to give her clear instructions. Shouldn’t there be some sort of reference book? An Idiot’s Guide to Casting Spells…
The good witch’s guide.
“I thought I only needed to say something for it to happen.” Clear intention, that’s what her cousin Mirabelle had said she needed to employ when she wanted something.
“Are you still landing in the closet?”
Lexie lifted her chin a notch. “It’s become my personal trait. A safety measure. Imagine if I transported myself into someone’s living room. I’m not going to be personally responsible for sending people into therapy. And that’s not the worst-case scenario. Anyone could start a witch-hunt. I’d be hunted down. Forced to go on the run.”
“So now you’re landing in the closet on purpose?”
“But that means I can’t tease you about it anymore.”
“And your point is?”
He grumbled under his breath. “I guess I’ll have to wait and see what you look like parading around as a monkey.”
Lexie lifted a warning finger. “Stop changing the subject and tell me what went on between you and my mom.”
“It’s all water under the bridge. Now, tell me what your cousins are up to. More to the point, what do they want you to do?”
“Any chance I might get that coffee today? And while you’re at it, you might want to finally throw in an explanation of your duties as my guardian.” Luna flicked her tail and swatted her nose again.
I want to go home.
In a minute.
I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home.
Hush. Grown-ups are talking.
“My job is to watch your back.”
“Let me guess, but you don’t have to be nice about it?”
He quirked an eyebrow at her.
“How did you even get the job of guardian?” she asked in the hope that he might inadvertently divulge something he’d been stalwartly withholding from her…
“Born into it,” he said under his breath.
And that, she knew, was as much as she would get from him. “Yes, but how does it all work. Does someone give you an assignment?”
He gave a slow shake of his head and gestured at the empty air around him. “Someone… something decides. We’re drawn like magnets. Predestined.”
That surprised her. “So I’m stuck with you?”
Bees to honey, Lexie couldn’t help thinking.
When he turned away to make her coffee, Lexie reached up and grabbed Luna.
“Hey,” Luna complained.
Lexie settled her on her lap.
“I was comfortable on your shoulder.”
“Pipe down,” Lexie whispered. “And stay away from the counter. You heard Jonathan. If he kicks you out, you’re on your own.”
Luna dug her nails into Lexie’s thighs.
“And stop that.”
“I’m trying to find a comfortable spot. I want to go home.”
Lexie gave her a scratch behind the ears. “I have some business to take care of first.”
“No. No. No. You said you wouldn’t. I was there. I heard you tell your cousins you wouldn’t. You stood your ground.”
Jonathan returned and set a mug of steaming coffee in front of her.
“So, Mr. Guardian—”
He put both hands up. “No.”
“I didn’t say anything,” she chirped.
“But you were about to and whatever it is, the answer is still no.”
“But you’re my guardian. For life. That means you have no choice.”
“But I can still say no.”
Lexie pushed out a slow breath. “You’re going to make me drag you into this?”
He crossed his arms making his broad shoulders look even broader. “And I’ll go kicking and screaming. It’s my prerogative.”
“Okay.” Lexie drummed her fingers on the counter. “Here goes. Luna and I—”
What? Me? No. I want to go home. Don’t include me. I’ve had enough adventure to last me a lifetime.
The edge of Jonathan’s lip kicked up. “That’s two against one.”
I think he heard me. That’s odd.
It was odd. It had taken Lexie a while to get used to hearing Luna in her head… and having conversations with her. The thought of someone else eavesdropping… Ugh! She’d have to monitor her thoughts.
“Sometimes I catch a stray thought,” he explained, “And the answer is still no.”
“And I still hold the upper hand. Remember, I’m the High Chair of the—”
“Incoming High Chair.”
Yes. Until her mom decided to retire, something Lexie hoped wouldn’t happen any time soon. Still, she rather enjoyed flaunting her title any and every chance she got.
A couple of months before, mention of the Mackenzie Coven would have had her running in the opposite direction. Now…
She’d had a couple of close calls, but nothing that had caused permanent damage. And she’d picked up a few tricks along the way, with many more to come, she was sure of it. So now her curiosity had been engaged, and she wouldn’t mind seeing what happened next.
Lexie lifted her chin. “Just because I share your reluctance and don’t wish to have anything to do with the coven doesn’t mean I’ll turn my back on my responsibilities.”
“Would you care to name them?”
“Is this a test?”
Jonathan smiled. “You have no idea what they are.”
No, but she had a few suspicions bubbling away. Her cousin, the High Chair of the British Isles, continued to be short on information, but everything seemed to point at some sort of covert operation dealing with…
Lexie wasn’t exactly sure what, but so far, she’d come up against a deadly Inky Black Fog and an obsessed renegade witch. While she hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with any more miscreants anytime soon… chances were she’d have to. And she’d need Jonathan’s assistance. As for her duties…
Catherine seemed to be stuck in her own part of the world, unable… unwilling to travel and Mirabelle… well, her cousin appeared to have taken up a position of authority. Lexie supposed someone had to, which left her to pick up the slack.
Catherine had warned her to pull up her socks. As the incoming High Chair, she needed to hone her abilities, sharpen her leadership skills and, if need be, lead by example. Lexie remembered she’d frowned at that one because her mind had conjured images of her plunging headlong into perilous situations in the hope others would follow.
Jonathan gave her a self-satisfied smile.
When it came to push and shove, she knew she couldn’t win the argument, so she decided on a different tactic. Mentally revving up her bulldozer, Lexie straightened and lifted her chin even higher. “The both of you need to stop grumbling right now. You,” she said pointing at Jonathan, “Hang up your apron and dust off your best suit. We’re going to the theater.”
That’s how you break it to him nice and easy?
Copyright ©2017 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved