Jan 01

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 11

Happy New Year! May your year ahead be filled with magic.

Stay the Night

It was going to be weird. Amethyst hadn’t thought about that part when she suggested that Jas stay with her. But she thought about it now, remembering how strange it had felt when he’d opened her coat closet for her coat.

He’d gone home to change and pack a few things. She’d gone to Scarpa’s for dinner, where she picked up a primavera pizza, spinach salad and an apple tart for dessert.

Amethyst pulled up Flint. The modest little houses looked cozy, windows glowing with warm light, winter-bare landscaping sketched in charcoal lines in the orangey light of streetlights. One house still stubbornly sported Christmas lights. She crested the little hill where she could see her house ahead on the right.

Jas’ Range Rover Evoque was already parked in the driveway. Her stomach did a funny little flip, not sure whether to be relieved or nervous. Although the nervousness might be from wondering where Balgaire could be.

She sent a flick of magic ahead to open the garage door and disarm her wards. The Range Rover’s lights came on and it pulled into her garage, a tight fit in the single-car space. Amethyst pulled her Outback onto the driveway behind it, gathered up the pizza box and the bags containing the rest of the food and opened the rear door with another magical nudge. Caramela bounded out and trotted into the garage.

Jas was pulling an oversized duffle from the backseat. This time Caramela gave him a sniff and a cautious wag. Jas patted her, slung the bag over his shoulder and slammed the door.

He raised a brow. “I assume you knew it was me.”

“It’s your—” She stopped. “Oh. The car might’ve been under illusion.” She turned to close the garage door to cover her embarrassment. It went down with considerably less rattling than her old one had. “Well, I’d sense an illusion, anyway,” she grumbled.

“If you’re looking for one, yes.”

This time he raised both brows, maybe waiting for her to tell him she had been looking. She only met his gaze, daring him to ask. He didn’t.

“If you don’t already have a ward in place against illusion, I’d recommend you add one.” He took the pizza box from her. “I certainly have.”

She grinned. “I bet. How far down the street does it extend?”

“That,” he said, “is privileged information.”

To torment him, she’d created the illusion of a loud party at his house a couple of months ago. The neighbors had called the Party Patrol and everything. His retaliation was telling Mama that they were getting married.

“You don’t trust me,” she said. “I’m hurt.” She flipped on an outside light and opened the side door to the garage. “But since you mention it…”

She stepped outside. Jas set the pizza box on top of his car (coincidentally out of Caramela’s reach), followed her through the side gate and down to the sidewalk. She stood thinking a moment, riffling through the second-hand spells in her mind, then found one that would work.

Amethyst knelt by the curb. With her finger, she drew a rune, a straight line with three lines branching off of it. It glowed an eerie purple for a moment, almost beyond the range of vision, then seemed to sink into the surface of the concrete.

Jas watched her. “That,” he said, “is an old, old spell.”

“I’m supposed to use a rowan wand to draw the runes, since rowan is a protection against enchantment. But I figured out that most stuff like that is just symbolism. All I really need is the right intent to set the magic.” She stood, moved to the opposite corner of her property and marked the same lines. “And my intent here is to see the truth.”

“You seem to favor old spells, from some of the magic I’ve seen you work.”

Setting another rune into her driveway, she shrugged. “It seems a lot of wizards don’t recognize the old magic, so it’s harder to counterspell.”

She moved to the opposite side of the driveway, then to her front walk, Jas drifting behind. Finishing one last rune, she stood and dusted off her hands. “I’m hungry now. Let’s eat.”

It was back into the garage then to collect the food and Jas’ bag.

He put the pizza box on the dining room table and his duffle on a chair. Unzipping it, he extracted a bottle of wine and set it next to the pizza.

“I thought this might go well with dinner.” He zipped up the bag again and picked it up. “Where shall I put this?”

“Oh. Yeah.”

Leaving the plates and bowls she’d taken down, she led the way into the living room and down the hall. The nervousness was back.

Oh, come on, she told herself. This was your idea.

Besides, the thought of Jas in her guest bedroom was a lot more appealing than lying awake with wizard’s senses strained for someone using magic.

She turned on the light in the bedroom across from hers. “Here it is.” Continue reading

Dec 27

Women, Know Your Limits!

Okay, I’ll admit right up front, the title of this post is clickbait. But it’s applicable– I promise!

In Chapter 10 of Could It Be Magic, Amethyst sarcastically apologizes to Jas for offering her opinion by telling him that in the future, she’ll only talk about fluffy little kittens. When I wrote that line, I had this clip in mind.

 

 

Dec 27

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 10

I hope you had a very merry Christmas, joyous Yule, happy Hanukkah and happy Holidays! We’re knee-deep in snow here, so it’s a good day for reading. If you’ve just dropped in, you can read the beginning of Jas and Amethyst’s romance here.

Divide and Conquer

Amethyst had brought Caramela with her to the Magus Building once or twice. She didn’t shed much, she was well-behaved, and she loved people. Well, except for stalker-y wizards, maybe. With stalker-y wizards in mind, she brought the dog with her this time.

She pushed open the tall doors of Coke-bottle-green glass and stepped into a lobby like a fairy cave. Her own stained glass flanked the door, a design of koi and lily pads in swirls of green water. The floor of water-smoothed pebbles in green and pink and beige embedded in urethane stretched away to a bank of elevators and the security desk. Dotting the space between were sculptures: a dragon made of junkyard parts, a fused glass frit panel depicting a tree-lined series of small waterfalls, a lump of polished, greenish marble carved to suggest a wolf lying with its tail curled around its paws.

The most striking of all was a fountain, a glossy black boulder ten feet tall and shot through with chips of brilliant color. Water cascaded down its face and disappeared into the pebbles surrounding its base. The murmur of water echoed through the lobby, weaving in and out of the voices of the people there. Caramela beside her, Amethyst walked toward it.

Amethyst had spent a lot of time by that fountain over the last year. Jas had obviously noticed, because sometime last winter during one of her visits, she’d found a bench made of a slab of redwood inlaid with turquoise had been installed beside it. Jas had never said a word about it, and neither did she, but gratitude for his kindness washed over her each time she sat on the bench.

As always when she entered the building, she called a little spell. People crossing the lobby, the guards at the security desk would be aware of her presence by the fountain, but have no interest in what she did there. If not for the spell, they’d think her stranger than most of the programmers.

Because as always, she stepped close to the fountain, trailed her fingers in the water purling over the stone and said, “Hi, Talys.”

Amethyst, a liquid voice replied, flowing through her mind. Silver reflected in the ripples around her fingers. You’re troubled. Why?

She sat on the bench. Caramela, putting her ears back and wagging at the fountain as if greeting a familiar friend, lay down at her feet.

Amethyst sighed. “I wish you were still my familiar. Everything would be so much easier.”

She’d first met him as the spirit inhabiting a ’69 Mustang Mach I. Then he’d taken the form of a man.

Who then would guard the magic? he said.

“I know, I know. And at least I have you…” She shrugged. “…here.”

Better than nowhere at all, she didn’t say. Although sometimes she wondered, was it really better? Each time she spoke to him now, as the guardian, it reminded her all over again: Talys, her trusted partner in magic, her friend, her lover, was gone. Forever.

She sat silent, listening to the water’s soothing voice. Talys only waited. She supposed time meant nothing to him now, being of pure magic that he was. Time, or the small distresses of one young wizard.

“If you were still with me,” she finally said, “I wouldn’t have to worry about why wizards are sniffing around.”

Certainly you have power enough to discourage them.

“Oh, sure I do. The problem is these…these stupid men, who look at me and say, ‘Pfft. Nothing to worry about there.’ And then things get ugly. People slap spellbindings on me. They hold my friends hostage and try to drain my power. Kidnap me to sell me to the government to experiment on.” She put elbows on knees and chin in hands. “Damn wizards have more respect for my dog than they do for me.”

The old Talys, her Talys, would’ve said something droll and British and made her laugh.

They will learn, he only said. You will learn.

He was like water now, reflective, impossible to grasp; like the magic itself, aware of all, a part of all.

The magic thrummed around and through her like an electric charge. This was what Talys guarded: this place, the wellspring, the source, the heart of the magic. It was soothing and vitalizing at once, driving out weariness and worry, recharging the power drained in the meeting with Balgaire. She always felt better here—sharper, stronger, more competent.

So watching the silver-gilt water pour down the black, light-flecked face of the boulder, thoughts occurred that hadn’t earlier.

“The whole problem,” she said, “is that I can’t figure out what this guy Balgaire is up to. Is he after me? Jas? Is he after—” She straightened, flattening her hands on either side of her. “Talys, has he come here? Does he know what you’re guarding?”

The magic is for all.

“I know that. But would you know if he came? Would you be able to tell he’s a wizard?”

I know the ocean of existence around me. I know the pulse and flow of magic.

She tapped her fingers on the bench, trying to decipher that. “In other words, you know when a wizard uses magic, and where the magic is used, but as long as they’re not doing anything too egregious it’s barely a blip on the radar.”

Talking with Talys was often like that now. She ended up following a spiral that would bring her, if she let it, exactly where she needed to be.

She sighed and got to her feet. “Thanks, Talys. I guess I’d better go see if I can find Jas.”

Continue reading

Dec 21

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 9

Here’s the next installment of Jas and Amethyst’s romance.

Unexpected Visitor

That invitation to coffee had been a severe tactical error. After the evening they’d had at (not to mention after) the cocktail party, how else could Jas take their situation but damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead?

So here she was at Flying Star, sitting in a booth next to Jas scarcely 24 hours after the last time she’d seen him.

Amethyst thought she should be feeling trapped, desperate, panicky. At least awkward or weird. But no. She only felt weird because she was… Well, she was enjoying the time with him. What she should be doing was trying to figure out a way to slow…things…down.

“I don’t think that cake has any evil designs on you,” Jas said. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”

She found herself frowning at the slice of chocolate-orange mousse cake in front of her, her fork hovering over it. She cut a bite, not turning to look at him where he sat so close. The rich, fluffy chocolate with its orange aroma chased away much of her discomfort.

The night pressing against the restaurant’s big windows, the tiny flecks of snow drifting past the parking lot lights outside, made the restaurant with its sunken central dining area and tile-mosaic columns feel that much cozier.

“Um, no,” she said.

“Neither do I have any evil designs on you.”

“I kinda got that after you passed up multiple opportunities for villainy.”

He gave a ghost of a laugh and took a bite of his own dessert, a mixed fruit tart. “Then what? That I’ll be encouraged to ask you to marry me again?”

“Something like that,” she muttered to her cake, making designs in the mousse with her fork.

“Perhaps you’re more worried what your answer would be.”

That did get her to turn. “Try me.”

He leaned close and brushed his lips against her temple. “I’d love to.”

She ignored the tingle that went through her. “You really want to be wearing that fruit tart, don’t you?”

“I find it interesting that comestibles seem to be your weapon of choice. Last time you threatened to set my whisky on fire.”

“Minimum effort, maximum effect,” she said…

…And abruptly realized that he’d teased her right out of the fidgets.

How did that work? And dammitall, now she was feeling all warm and happy again. He couldn’t be calculating this. Jas might be shifty and cunning, but he couldn’t possibly know her that well.

Continue reading

Dec 17

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 8

Since I missed posting a chapter last week, here’s a bonus one. If you missed the beginning, you can read it here.

Damned If You Do

It was a grueling couple of hours, waiting for Jas. Amethyst touched a heat spell to her tea and made herself eat the sandwich. She tidied up (even though she’d already tidied up yesterday). She went out into the backyard for poop patrol. The warm, high-altitude winter sun didn’t do anything for the cold spot in her belly.

All the while, she rehearsed in her mind what she’d say to Jas. Something like, It’s my problem, not yours. I know you’ve done your best, but I just can’t get past what happened

She made her way back to her bedroom about 1:30 to change into cords and a soft cowl neck sweater. She started a pot of coffee and put fresh water in the kettle for tea. She cut up veggies for dipping and arranged crackers on a fused glass plate with sandstone-red shapes against a turquoise background.

She checked the clock on the stove: 1:56. He’d be here any minute.

Her mouth was dry. Her stomach was upset. She put placemats and napkins on the table, then went into the bathroom to check how she looked one more time. The clock on her nightstand read 2:07.

Jas was usually pretty punctual. If anything, she’d expect him to be early, not late. Unless he’d somehow gotten wind of what she had planned—

No, that was stupid. Of course wizards had ways of eavesdropping, but not on another wizard whose house was warded up every which way to Tuesday. Not unless he knew some kind of snooping spell she didn’t—

Knowing Jas, he just might.

Stop it, Amethyst. There’ll be plenty of time for a guilty conscience later.

She drifted into her workroom. She was in the process of pinning the pieces of the fall aspens window over the pattern in preparation for soldering. She sat down at her worktable and pinned a few more pieces. Her eyes kept drifting to the wall clock. When it finally read 2:13, she pushed away from the worktable and went to the window. If she looked through it from the far end, she could see most of her driveway.

Jas’ green Infiniti was parked there. Her heart abruptly crowded into her throat. She took three deep breaths and made herself walk slowly into the living room. The stained glass panel she’d conjured in her very first effort in handling the magic glowed gently with its own ethereal light.

No doorbell. No knock at the door. She made a not-very-successful attempt to wet her lips.

What the hell? If he was sitting in his car on the phone, she was going to open the door, rip the damn phone out of his hand and stomp on it.

She waited a minute more, chewing on the inside of her lip, then strode for the front door.

The sound of voices nearby greeted her when she opened it, a woman’s laugh and a man’s voice. Jas’ voice. Amethyst took a few steps down her front walk, past the jut of the garage, looking to see what the hell was going on.

Heather Purdy, her next door neighbor, stood on the far side of the driveway talking to Jas.

Heather had hair the color of fine whisky, blue-topaz eyes and a figure that filled out anything she put on. Today it was faded skinny jeans with an artful hole high over the thigh and a turtleneck sweater a few shades lighter than the flower girl’s hair had been.

She laughed at something Jas said and gave him a playful shove. Cold fire shot through Amethyst, rooting her to the cracked concrete of the front walk. Heather looked up and caught sight of her.

“Amethyst, honey,” Heather called. “I was just making the acquaintance of your friend Jas. I’ve been seeing his car here and have been just itching with curiosity.”

“And you finally found your chance,” Amethyst said with a grin that probably showed too many teeth.

Right at that moment, it was all she could do to keep from cursing Heather with split ends, chapped lips, pimples, toenail fungus and drooping boobs.

The reaction took her aback. Heather had been a godawful flirt from the day she moved into old Mr. Meadows’ house, but as far as Amethyst had ever seen, it was men’s attention she was after, not necessarily the men themselves. Although if a man proved interested, she was pretty sure Heather wouldn’t turn him down.

Jas circled the front of his car to slip his arm around Amethyst’s waist and give her a kiss. “How are you today?”

It was a very nice, very sweet kiss, enough to filter through her unexpected anger at Heather. She backed off to find him smiling at her, as if there was no such thing as boobilicous Heather standing eight feet away.

“Just great,” she answered him, trying to regain her footing.

Not that she had much footing today to regain to start with.

Keeping an arm around Amethyst, Jas turned. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Heather.”

“Oh, definitely,” she said, dimpling. “I hope I can get you…and Amethyst,” she said after a pause so brief Amethyst wasn’t sure it was a pause, “to come over for coffee and cookies one day. I just love showing off my new house to people.”

An arsonist had burned down Heather’s house a year or so ago. Amethyst had always had a bad feeling that it was her house that was supposed to have burned, but her wards shunted the arsonist’s attentions to the nearest substitute. Fortunately, Heather seemed pretty happy with the cute, new northern New Mexico-style one built to replace the old house. Amethyst had taken the precaution of putting wards on that one.

“Thanks, Heather,” Amethyst said, trying hard to keep both guilt and a certain lingering nastiness out of her voice. “That’s nice. We’ll keep it in mind. Right now, I already told Jas I owed him a coffee.”

She linked her arm in his, turned and marched with him back up the front walk.

Continue reading

Dec 14

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 7

Oops. I got busy writing this past week and didn’t get a new chapter posted. Sorry. I’ll post two this week to make up for it.

Fear of Falling

Amethyst woke feeling like she’d been sick with a fever—dizzy, a little fuzzy, physically lighter than she should. She opened her eyes, pulled her arms out of the warm cocoon of bedding and stretched.

Happiness flooded through her. She lay for a moment looking out over the familiar landscape of her bedroom, the rumpled sheets, the dresser mirror reflecting way more light peeking through the blinds than usual when she got up.

Caramela’s tail whapped a good-morning greeting on the comforter and she, too, stretched, front feet paddling the air. Amethyst reached over and grabbed one. That led to a game of hide-and-seek feet, Amethyst grabbing Caramela’s toes, and Caramela opening her wide, pink mouth in play bites and snatching her feet away. Getting rowdy, the dog launched herself off the bed and ran off down the hall.

Amethyst laughed, rolled out of bed and padded to the closet to get dressed. Seeing the violet dress hanging inside, she suddenly realized why she felt happy. Just as suddenly, the happiness spluttered out as if doused with a fire hose.

She scuffed on slippers and slouched down the hall to let Caramela outside. Late morning sunlight shining through the stained glass panel hanging in the kitchen window scattered color across the countertop. She picked up her phone where it rested in a pool of garnet light.

Melodie had texted her around 9:30: call me.

Again at 10:15: U up? call me!

Then again a little after 11:00: Get up. I’m coming over.

Amethyst squinted at the clock on her phone: 11:14. She dropped the phone and hurried back to the bathroom to get ready.

The doorbell rang. She spat out a mouthful of toothpaste, wiped her face and hurried to the door.

A young woman with hot pink hair and wearing a green polo shirt embroidered with Bella’s Blooms stood outside holding a vase of flowers. Amethyst, trying not to wince at the color scheme, thanked her, took the flowers and carried them into the kitchen.

Purple roses and green hydrangeas tied with green and purple ribbons sprouted from a tourmaline vase, green glass streaked with purplish pink. The vase looked like it might have been hand-blown. Not the sort of thing found stock in a flower shop.

The symbolism was obvious: Jas’ green and her purple. Something tugged under her heart as she pulled the little card out of its envelope.

It bore only one word: Magic.

Continue reading

Nov 29

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 6

I just realized how short the last chapter was. so to make up for it, I thought I’d better post another sooner rather than later. This one should make up for the last, though, since it’s quite a bit longer.

Magic in the Air

The pep talk was well-timed, Amethyst decided. Jas turned through an open gate onto a long driveway that wound between bare trees. Cars were already parked at the circle driveway at the end: Beemers, and Jags, Audis and Mercedes. Jas slid in behind a Porche Cayenne and turned off the engine.

The house was newer, a large Mediterranean with a tile roof and stacked sandstone columns and accents. Tall windows cast golden rectangles onto the landscaping. Low-voltage lighting illuminated flagstone pathways through xeriscaping immaculately tended even in the dead of winter. The scent of pinon smoke spiced the air.

Amethyst’s heels clicked on the stone, and the night air traced a chill up her legs even under her coat. The jitters came back.

Wizard, she thought again, not putting as much of a push into it this time. Wizard with a smokin’ date looking good in a sweet purple dress.

It almost made her laugh, but it did make the jitters go away.

Jas smiled at her again and pushed the doorbell.

The woman who answered the door looked more Mexican than Spanish. It took Amethyst an instant to realize she was a maid, and not the hostess. Rich people, she supposed, didn’t get their own doors. The maid took their coats and ushered them into the most enormous great room she’d ever seen—not excepting the living room at Jas’ house, which was at least at human scale.

This room rose in two stories of glossy plaster walls to an actual groined ceiling. Furniture covered with pillows in russets and golds made artful groupings on the marble tiled floor. A fire of pinon wood blazed in a huge stone fireplace. And throughout the room, groups of people stood or sat, women in black or white or red dresses, men in slacks and coats. The buzz of conversation echoed from the high ceiling, the clink of glasses wove through a background of smooth jazz.

Jas’ hand on the small of her back urging her forward made Amethyst realize she’d stopped short. All the nervousness was back.

Think of it as an anthropological expedition, she told herself. The one percent in their natural habitat.

The thought helped.

She leaned close to Jas and whispered, “I wonder what the mortgage payment is on three million dollars?”

“Amethyst,” he said in a chiding tone, but his lips tucked in a repressed grin.

It occurred to her that he must be relatively confident that she wouldn’t embarrass him. It was more confidence than she had in herself.

A man came across the room toward them. “Jas!” he said, shaking Jas’s hand. “So glad to see you.”

The man loomed over Jas by a good six inches. Jas was a little shorter than average, but he had such presence, Amethyst tended not to notice until he stood with other men.

This one positively dripped money. His brown hair, silvering at the temples, looked barbered just this morning. He wore a platinum and diamond ring that covered most of his first knuckle, a gold watch that looked like it must weigh a pound, and around his neck…was it? Yes, it was. An actual silk cravat.

Standing to one side with a polite smile on her face, she compared him to Jas: slim, not tall, in slacks and coat and one of his usual green ties, this one an awesome black and emerald green paisley.  His wore his black hair in a style that looked casually finger-combed, but probably wasn’t, and not a speck of jewelry. And damned if Jas, for all his understatement, didn’t look classier than the other guy.

Jas put his hand on the small of her back again. “This is Amethyst Rey.”

Amethyst jerked herself out her thoughts and stuck out her hand. “Hi. Pleased to meet you.”

She’d missed his name. Great start, Amethyst. She gave a firm shake when his hand engulfed hers.

His brows went up and he gave a laugh. “What a grip for such a little lady! You must spend a lot of time at the gym.”

“Um…” She resisted the impulse to look to Jas for help. “I’m a stained glass artist.” She mimed holding a glass cutter and cutting a curving line. “My hands are always getting a good workout.”

“That explains it, then.” He turned to Jas again. “Go ahead and help yourself at the bar. Hors d’oeuvres are there.” He nodded across the open-plan room toward a dining area. “Enjoy yourselves.”

He gave Jas a manly shoulder pat and wandered off to talk to another guest.

Continue reading

Nov 27

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 5

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to a long weekend of writing as I close in on the finish line with this book. I have a “sketch” of the cover done, but once I have it in final form, I’ll post it here. Then I’ll need to work up the blurb. Blurbs are one of those things I have to be in the right mindset for– very different than writing the book itself.

If you missed the beginning of Could It Be Magic, go here for the first chapter. Now on to Chapter 5 of Jas and Amethyst’s romance.

Charisma

Of course Amethyst wore the violet dress. She might not be girly 99.9% of the time, but that dress brought out the one one-hundredth of a percent.

She didn’t try anything fancy with her hair, just caught it back in a pierced silver barrette set with moonstones her grandfather had given her for her birthday one year. Melodie had lent her the white gold ankle bracelet her husband, Marl, had given her. Don’t lose it, Melodie had said in a way that Amethyst knew she meant it. Amethyst put a spell on it to make sure nothing would happen to it.

Getting ready didn’t give her time to be nervous. After she was ready was another question entirely.

The doorbell rang.

Amethyst took a long breath, picked up her clutch and coat from the chair by the front door and opened the door.

Jas, waiting outside, took one look at her and literally rocked back. Not much. It was clearly an involuntary reaction, not one for effect.

Amethyst stepped out and closed the door, torn between pleasure and self-consciousness.

He gave a slight bow, turned and offered his arm, not a trace of the smile or teasing lift of the brow she would’ve expected to accompany such a gesture. She stood, startled.

“I beg your pardon.” he said and began to lower his arm.

“No…” She slipped her arm into his, laying her hand on the sleeve of his coat. “Don’t apologize.”

He bowed his head and walked with her to the car where it waited in her driveway.

She sneaked a glance at him, caught off balance. Where was suave, insouciant Jas Harker? He seemed almost…flustered. He made only the briefest eye contact when he opened the car door and handed her into the seat.

Oh, damn.

Jas circled around to the driver’s side and got in. He sat still a moment, then turned and met her gaze at last. His eyes were intense in the dim glow of street and porch lights.

“I’m not often struck speechless,” he said. “But I was just now.”

It was the kind of thing that would normally have begged for a smart reply. Not this time.

She looked down at the clutch in her lap, suddenly shy. “Thank you, Jas.”

Continue reading

Nov 19

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 4

Do You Wanna Party

Jas was up to something.

Amethyst sat at her worktable foiling glass for a commission, an Art Deco stained glass entry door depicting aspens in full golden fall glory. Songs from one of her playlists bopped in the background. Foiling didn’t require a lot of mental horsepower, so she had plenty of opportunity to chew over events since The Kiss. Not that she hadn’t already been chewing them over…and over.

Two weeks, and nothing more than a couple of casual lunches like she and Jas had shared occasionally in the past. He did drop by her office once while Amethyst did her consultant gig at Magus. It wasn’t like she kept regular hours, so it meant he was keeping an eye on when she checked in and out of the building.

“So what the hell?” she asked Caramela, who lay at her feet chewing on an Extreme Kong. “First he’s all, ‘Marry me, marry me,’ now he’s like, ‘Hey, what’ve you been up to lately? Haven’t talked to you in a while.’” She finished running a piece of white glass through the foiling machine and picked up the next one. “He should make up his damned mind.”

Skronk skronk went Caramela’s Kong in counterpoint to the funk tune playing over the speakers.

Amethyst foiled a few more pieces, tapping her foot half to the music, half in irritation.

“He was probably disappointed in that kiss,” she said. “Or maybe he’s decided I’m not worth the trouble. Let me down easy, go back to the friendly professional collaboration.” She set the glass on the pile with a clink. “That’s what I wanted all along, anyway,” she muttered. “He could’ve just let things be. Everything was fine. No, he has to go and make me feel like a loser.”

I’m hot! boasted the singer in the song that was playing.

“Well, maybe you are,” she told him. “Because I’m clearly not.”

Caramela got up, shook and went to the door, asking to go out. Amethyst followed her to the back door. Wagging her tail, Caramela waited by the glass door smeared with dog nose prints, then trotted out when Amethyst slid it open. Amethyst went outside too.

It had snowed a little last night. The Sandia Mountains, looming huge over the Griegos’ rooftop on the left, were frosted white on the top, like a wedding cake. Even here in Albuquerque, a layer of snow lingered in the shadow of the concrete block wall that surrounded her backyard. She folded her arms against the chill.

Caramela made quick work of her business. Pit bulls weren’t designed to be outdoors in cold weather. Besides having short coats, their undercarriage was mostly naked. Amethyst let both of them back inside, then wandered into the kitchen for a snack.

Her phone rang—that techno beat buzzing in her pocket. Something in her middle leapt up. “Shut up,” she told it and pulled out her phone.

“Hey, Jas. Whatup?”

“’Whatup?’” he repeated.

Her lips wanted to pull up in a smile. She pursed them to keep them down. “It’s the music I’ve been listening to. Sorry. Can I help you?”

“That’s even worse,” he said.

“Since we’re back on a professional footing, it seemed appropriate.”

“We are? I’m sorry to hear that. I was planning on inviting you to a party.”

“A party.” A burst of happiness bubbled through her. She scowled at it to chase it off, but it kept bouncing around.

“At the home of a business associate,” he said. “I suppose you’d call it a cocktail party. Jacket and tie for men, dresses for women.”

The bubble popped. “I don’t know, Jas. That doesn’t sound quite like my kind of thing.”

“I understand. I can always get someone else.”

“Can I think about it?” her mouth said without her deciding to. She squeezed her eyes shut and caught her tongue between her teeth.

“Not too long,” he said. “It’s this weekend.”

“I’ll let you know by tonight. Okay?”

“I’ll look forward to hearing from you.” She could hear the smile in his voice.

She ended the call before she could say anything else stupid.

Amethyst rested her elbows on the counter, trying to catch her breath. When she was pretty sure her voice would stay even, she picked up her phone again and tapped the icon with Melodie’s picture.

“I’ve got an emergency,” she said when Melodie answered. Her voice wasn’t steady at all. “I need your help.”

“What?” Melodie said, alarmed. “What happened, Wiz?”

“I’m invited to a cocktail party, and I don’t have a clue what to wear.”

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Nov 04

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 3

I got a lot of writing done this weekend, so here’s the next chapter of the latest Land of Enchantment book. If you missed the beginning, click here to read it.

Kiss Me

“You’re pretty quiet, Wiz,” Melodie Odham said. “Something tells me things didn’t go well yesterday.”

Amethyst had known Melodie since their days in UNM’s Information Technology program. Even after leaving computers for stained glass, they remained best friends. Melodie had given Amethyst the nickname ‘Wiz’, short for ‘whiz kid.’ Neither of them knew then how appropriate it was…and not for Amethyst’s aptitude with computers.

“Actually,” Amethyst said, “it did go well. I got to drive his car. We had lunch at The Shed. Jas took me to see his old house when he lived in Santa Fe.”

“Uh-huh,” Melodie said. “And you’re slouching along the trail with your hands in your coat pockets and your head down because you’re giddy with joy.”

She was, in fact, doing exactly that. Not even enjoying the glint of sunlight on the Rio Grande River, the huge cottonwoods of the bosque all around them, brown leaves clinging to their branches silhouetted against another perfect blue New Mexico sky. Ignoring both her best friend and poor Caramela, who’d picked up a stick and was prancing happily along with it.

“Okay,” she said. “It went well until we got back to my house.”

Melodie perked up.

“He walked me to the door. He started to kiss me.” She walked several steps, her footsteps almost silent on the soft earth of the trail. “Mel, I panicked.”

“You what? Why—? Oh. Oh.” Melodie frowned, puzzled. “Are you saying you haven’t kissed him since—then?”

Melodie knew about the binding Jas had laid on her—and exactly how he’d gone about doing it. She was the only person who did.

Amethyst nodded.

“My god, Wiz,” Melodie burst out. “He’s kissed you exactly once? And that’s it? Nothing else? The man asked you to marry him!”

She threw up the hand not holding Caramela’s leash. “I know, huh? Why do you think I told him no?”

“Because he’s Jas Harker?”

Amethyst grinned. “Besides that. Things have to be done in the proper order, I tell him. Now he leans in for a kiss and it’s all I can do to keep from throwing the whammy on him and running inside and locking myself in the house. It was the most humiliating moment of my life.”

“You’ve had several most-humiliating moments in your life. Usually to do with men.”

“Acting like a dork on a date is one thing. Turning into a quivering knot of sheer terror when your date tries to kiss you is a whole new level of humiliation.”

Melodie gave her a sharp look. “You’re not exaggerating, are you?”

“I wish.”

A flock of waterfowl on the river made faint music. Overhead, ravens croaked, dive-bombing a bald eagle on a cottonwood branch. The eagle looked pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, gazing around as if no such harassment was taking place.

“Well, what’d he do when it happened?” Melodie said.

“Promptly backed off. Then said he could wait.”

Melodie’s eyes went wide. “Whoa. That’s serious stuff. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, Mel. I can handle Jas when he’s being Mr. Pushy CEO. When he’s being considerate…” She sighed. “Not so much.”

“There’s something I’m not understanding here. I thought you wanted to put him off the whole let’s-take-this-to-the-next-level plan. What you describe would definitely qualify. So what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know!”

At the tone of her voice, Caramela dropped her stick and nosed Amethyst’s hand. She reached down and stroked the dog to soothe her.

“Okay, I lied,” Amethyst said. “I do know. The thing is, I don’t want to be one of those women twisted up in a seriously unhealthy relationship.”

“A man you can’t even bring yourself to kiss, because the last time you kissed him, he put the whammy on you.”

“That’s the part the falls under the ‘seriously unhealthy’ heading.”

“Okay, I get that. I also get why you’d react the way you did.”

Welded iron jetty jacks with rusty steel cable strung between for erosion control crossed the trail, looking like relics from some World War II battlefield. Amethyst and Caramela ducked under the cable between a tangle of dead vegetation, waited for Melodie to follow then continued on.

“Look,” Melodie resumed. “You know I’m no big fan of Jas Harker after what he did. Obviously he’s done some convincing between then and now for you to be friendly with him. I’ll respect that and not badmouth him. Anyway, it’s obvious you’re still attracted to him.”

Amethyst scowled

Melodie waved a hand. “Truth hurts, huh? Anyway, I think the problem is that the way you reacted caught you by surprise.”

“I was nervous about how I should handle the whole good-night scenario,” Amethyst said. “I sure didn’t expect to have a meltdown on the front porch.”

Melodie nodded. “Then I guess you have to decide which is stronger. The attraction? Or the fear?” She gave Amethyst a frown. “And if it turns out the fear is the attraction, I’ll tell you right now, I’m going to stage an intervention. Because even if it’s none of my damn business, I’m not about to let my BFF get tangled up in that kind of crap without trying to do something about it.”

“Trust me,” Amethyst said. “I don’t find fear the least bit attractive.”

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