Here’s a new chapter of Book 5 in The Land of Enchantment series. Click here to read Chapter 1.
Amethyst’s relationship was Jas wasn’t, as she’d told Mama, strictly a professional one. But it sure wasn’t a romantic one, either. She was morbidly curious to find out what a real, live, official date with him would be like after…whatever it was they had.
She stood in front of her closet, flipping through hangers. Jas had said they were going to Santa Fe for the day, which left a lot of room for clothing options. The disgusting thing was that she was actually agonizing over what to wear.
“What do you think, Caramela?” She glanced over her shoulder at her caramel-colored pit bull, who lay on the bed in the middle of a scattering of skirts and slacks, shells and camisoles and cardigans.
“Do I go with don’t-give-a-damn jeans and a sweatshirt?”
Caramela just looked up from where her chin rested on her paws and whapped her tail on the comforter.
“You’re right,” Amethyst said. “Since I’m agonizing, I must give a damn.”
She picked up a silk cami top she’d found on Etsy dyed in garnet and gold and indigo, something that actually looked good on her—well, the polite term would be slim or lean—but in plainer words, her flat-chested figure. Or lack of figure, as she tended to think of it.
“On the other hand,” she said to Caramela, “I don’t want to make it look like I’m trying to impress him. That would send exactly the wrong message.”
She stroked the camisole’s cool, vivid silk with the backs of her fingers. It wasn’t the kind of thing she got to wear very often.
“Oh, hell,” she said and snagged a pair of nice jeans from the mess on the bed.
Jeans would dress the cami down. A black cardigan and boots, and she’d look like she only gave half a damn.
She wasn’t much into makeup and hair anyway, so she just put on a little mascara and some tinted lip gloss, caught her dark hair back in a beaded barrette she’d found at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and called it good.
She was dithering over whether or not she should wear something else after all when the doorbell rang. Caramela launched herself off the bed and thundered down the hall with her smoker’s-voice barks. Amethyst took one last, doubtful look at herself in her closet mirror, sighed and followed Caramela to the front door.
Jas waited outside. His usual charming smile faded. He blinked, looked her up and down and said, “Good morning, Amethyst.”
He didn’t say it caressingly. Not quite.
“Um, hi,” she said. “Come on in. I’ll get my coat and Caramela settled for the day.”
Caramela gave Jas a thorough sniffing-over. The stiff wag of her tail said, Okay, Mom’s talking to you, but I still don’t trust you. And she was keeping Jas’ attention on her instead of Amethyst. Good dog.
That helpful little diversion fell apart when Jas took Amethyst’s coat and held it for her.
Damn. Suggestive Jas she could handle. Gentleman Jas was harder to resist. She avoided his eye as she slipped into the coat, then made a business of giving Caramela a goodbye kiss on top of the head and locking the door, even though technically, she really didn’t need to lock it. The wards on her house did a much better job of protection than any lock.
Jas’ emerald green Infiniti IPL looked as incongruous parked on her cracked driveway as a coach-and-four. At least she’d been able to replace the old garage door and the single-paned windows with insulated vinyl ones, as well as put in some nice xeric landscaping recently. Now her house looked cute, not just old. Jas circled around to the passenger side and opened the car door.
“Thanks,” she muttered, ignoring the fluttering taking place in her middle.
She’d known the man for, what, something like two years now? Subtracting the year or so she’d spent pretending he didn’t exist. You’d think she’d be past falling for his gentlemanly wiles. Apparently not.
He twisted the key and the Infiniti purred like a waking tiger. Turning and hooking an arm around the back of her seat, he backed down the driveway and swung into the street. At the bottom of the hill, he slid the car into a break in traffic on Eubank.
“Not fair,” he said. “Wearing something that begs to be touched, when anywhere I touch it will get me in trouble.”
She tugged her cardigan closed, trying—and failing—not to think of him stroking the silk of her cami. This was not a good beginning.
“I knew I should’ve worn a sweatshirt.”
He laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ll be good.”
Although that sidelong, crinkle-eyed smile said exactly the opposite. Or maybe not. It depended on what he meant by ‘good.’
Driving along I-40, the silence was positively painful. They passed Uptown, the Magus Building reflecting the mall, the freeway, the surrounding buildings in its 25 stories of green glass.
“So,” she said. “Any new magical incursions on the business?”
“No, we are not talking shop today. This is our chance to get to know one another better.”
“We do know each other better,” she muttered.
“In certain contexts.”
He grinned. “You can always pretend this is one.”
That got her to laugh. “Okay, how’s this? This is exactly why I hate dating.” She waved her hands. “Doing this getting-to-know-you thing without coming across like a complete dweeb.”
“There’s a way around that. You could marry me.”
She folded her arms and glared at him.
“What?” he said, all innocence.
“You know what.”
“It wasn’t a proposal. Only an observation.”
“Of course it was.”
He gave an enigmatic smile. She would not ask what that was all about.
The usual string of slowpokes was absent, so he was able to take the flyover between I-40 and northbound I-25 with enough speed to induce G-forces. Amethyst hung on and enjoyed it.
“Hey,” she said. “If you really want to win my heart, you could let me drive this someday.”
He threaded through traffic and punched it. The Infiniti gave a muted howl and zipped past the surrounding cars.
“There, you see?” he said. “I’ve just learned you love fine cars. Was that so bad?”
“Huh. Most guys would consider that an example of dweebishness.”
“I’m not ‘most guys,’ and I don’t.”
She glanced at him, surprised. It was ridiculous how such a simple statement could spark such a warm, friendly glow.
“Oh,” she said. “That’s…good.”
“I’m encouraged,” he said. “You do care what I think of you. I’ll press my advantage, then. As soon as we’re out of town, I’ll pull over and let you drive the rest of the way to Santa Fe.”
Daring her to say no, damn him. “Okay. But you’d better know I was exaggerating when I said you’d win my heart.”
He slid her another smile. “I have other plans for that.”