As Swendson continues her exciting Enchanted Inc. series, magic-immune Katie Chandler is back in her hometown of Cobb, Texas. Katie has left New York City and her beloved job at Magic, Spells, and Illusions Inc. to protect Owen Palmer, the handsome wizard she is crazy about. Working with her hapless siblings at her parents’ store doesn’t exactly make up for the excitement she is missing out on in New York until strange goings-on start happening in Cobb, leading Katie to wonder if the magic has followed her home. When she discovers her old nemesis, Phelan Idris, has concocted a plan to train wizards over the Internet in the hopes of building an army, Katie contacts MSI. She is surprised when Owen himself shows up, and is relieved to find the chemistry between them is hot and heavy. But when the pair learns Idris is in town and planning a deadly endgame, they fear their enemy may prevail this time around. Another page-turning installment in one of the best romantic-fantasy series being written today. --Kristine Huntley
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It had been months since I'd needed rescuing from anything--no dragons, hideous monsters from hell, evil wizards, not even a really bad blind date. That was one small benefit I'd gained in moving away from New York City. No matter what else I might say about my hometown of Cobb, Texas (population 2,500), I definitely had fewer threats to my life here than I'd faced recently in Manhattan.
On the other hand, these days I seemed to be doing a lot more of the rescuing, myself.
"Katie!" a voice screeched from the other side of the office door. I took a deep breath and counted to ten as I waited for the inevitable. As I expected, a badly bleached head appeared in my office doorway. It was my sister-in-law, Sherri, otherwise known as The Evil Bitch Queen of the Universe. (And the fact that it was my other sister-in-law, Beth, the one who loves all mankind, who dubbed her that says a lot about Sherri.)
Luckily, I'd dealt with worse than Sherri during my time in New York. When you've fended off not only harpies but also my ex-boss Mimi, Sherri is in the minor leagues of evil. "What is it, Sherri?" I asked with exaggerated patience.
"You'd better go rescue a customer from your brother. I noticed his eyes were starting to glaze."
I wasn't sure what special skill I had that enabled me to take care of this when she couldn't. Considering the way she was dressed--a blouse dipping dangerously low and a pair of jeans that would probably cut her in two if she tried to do something crazy like sit down or bend over--she was well-equipped to create a good diversion so the customer could escape. But that might almost be work, so Sherri had to delegate it to me.
With a deep sigh, I got out of my desk chair and headed out into the store. "I'll take care of it." I didn't have to ask which brother it was, even though I had three of them. Frank, the eldest, didn't usually string together words in groups larger than five, which meant he couldn't trap a customer for long, and Dean, Sherri's husband, was as allergic to work as his wife was, so him tending to customers was highly unlikely.
That left Teddy, the youngest of the boys. Teddy took the feed and seed business very, very seriously. He was always conducting experiments to determine the absolute best fertilizer for each soil type or crop or to figure out which seed got the best results in various conditions. The problem was that he loved to share his knowledge in excruciating detail with anyone who had the bad luck to ask even the slightest question.
Sure enough, he had an elderly man cornered, and the poor man was most definitely in need of rescue from a classic Teddy dissertation on plant nutrition. "Teddy!" I called out as I approached them. I smiled as I took my brother's arm. "Sorry to interrupt, but have you got the network connection up and running again?"
Teddy blinked at me. "Oh, I guess I got sidetracked." He turned back as though to excuse himself from his victim, but the customer had already grabbed some plant food and was headed to the checkout and a put-upon-looking Sherri. I had a feeling she'd soon have to take a half-hour break to recover from the strain of serving a customer.
That was the kind of rescue work I'd been doing lately. Instead of spotting magical threats so my wizard friends could deal with them, I was rescuing customers from my overeager brother, rescuing the cash drawer from my evil sister-in-law, rescuing my brothers from my mother, rescuing my mother from her mother, and generally keeping things relatively sane at home and at our family farm-and-ranch supply store. A few months back here in Texas had made me realize why I'd been so good at juggling all the magical wackiness in my old job: it was downright calm compared to what I had to deal with back home.
"I should have this connection back up and running in no time," Teddy announced as he slid under my desk.
"Great. I have to do orders this afternoon, so I'll need Internet access." That was true, but what I was really desperate for was the lifeline to the world I'd left behind. I got antsy when I had to go too long without news from my friends in New York, especially news about a certain person in New York.
He was the main reason I'd come back home. Not because he'd broken my heart or jilted me or any of the other things that usually send women running for the comfort of home and hearth. No, Owen Palmer had proved his devotion to me to an extent that most men never have the chance to. He'd had to choose between stopping the bad guys and saving me, and he'd chosen me.
While I'm totally in favor of not being burned by magical flames, him choosing me was not a great move for our cause. Not only did it mean that the bad guys got away, but it also meant that they knew for sure what his greatest weakness was. Me. Being the hero's greatest weakness might sound wonderful in a romance novel, but in real life it's not nearly as much fun. For one thing, it tends to make you a target. For another, it means that you can't help but feel responsible for everything the bad guy does, since it's because of you that the bad guy is still on the loose.
So, I'd done what any noble heroine with her eyes on the big picture would do. I'd removed myself from the equation, leaving him free to fight the renegade dark wizard and his cronies without having to worry about me. As a result, I'd broken his heart by walking away. At least, I thought I might have. Not that I'd heard from him. I didn't really see him as the type to beg me to come back, and even if he was, I had a feeling he was under very strict orders from his boss not to go after me, but that didn't stop me from jumping whenever the phone rang or daydreaming about him walking into the store.
The phone rang, and as always my heart started racing, even though I knew there were thousands of other reasons for the store's phone to ring . . . and ring. Sherri had apparently taken that break I'd predicted, so I picked up the call from my desk. "Chandler Agricultural Supply," I said briskly. "How may I help you?"
"Katie, is that you?"
"Marcia!" Marcia was one of my New York roommates, and hearing her voice nearly brought tears to my eyes. Is it possible to be homesick when you're in the place where you grew up, surrounded by family? "What's going on?"
"I tried e-mailing you a couple of times this morning, but it keeps bouncing."
"Yeah, there's something wrong with our server or network, or something."
"It'll be fixed soon," came Teddy's muffled remark from under my desk.
"It should be fixed soon," I relayed to Marcia. "Is there something going on?"
"I had dinner with Rod last night, and I've got a little news." Rod Gwaltney was Owen's lifelong best friend, and he'd started dating Marcia at the start of the year. Considering that his previous relationships could be measured in hours, that meant that this was looking very serious, indeed.
"Oh, do tell. The kind of news that involves jewelry?"
"What? No! God, no. We're still not even calling each other boyfriend or girlfriend. Talking about rings would really send him running."
"Wow, you do have him figured out."
"Owen's been coaching me some."
My heart started pounding again, and I got a funny feeling in my stomach. "So you've seen him? How is he?"
"My, but someone sounds eager. I'll tell you if you stop asking questions."
"Sorry! Go on. I won't say another word."
"So, as I was saying, I had dinner with Rod last night, and I have a status report for you." I was dying to ask questions, but I bit my tongue because I knew I'd get the answers quicker if I kept my mouth shut. "There's been no news on the bad guy front, to the point that it almost looks like they've gone underground. Owen thinks something big's about to happen, and the bad guys are changing gears."
"Yeah, that's usually how it goes. Do they have any idea what might be coming?"
"Not yet, but Rod's getting worried about Owen. He's working really hard. He's not getting enough sleep, and while we're all trying to make sure he eats, I think he's losing weight, and you know he wasn't a huge guy to begin with."
That answered any question I might have had about his dedication to the cause. "Has he said anything about, well, you know, me?" I cringed inwardly at how pathetic I sounded, but I had to ask.
"Not really. Sorry. But you know, he doesn't say much about anything." I wasn't sure what I was looking for there. I knew I couldn't go back unless the bad guys were well and truly vanquished, no matter how much he begged, and I knew he wouldn't beg. That didn't mean I didn't miss him.
"Thanks for the update," I said with a sigh. "Keep up the good work and keep me posted about him . . . and about you and Rod." Marcia had only recently learned about the magical world, but she'd proven herself a gung ho sideline participant in the efforts to stop bad magic from spreading, even if her role thus far seemed to be relaying messages and making sure overworked wizards got a good meal every so often.
"Don't worry, I think you'll know if Rod makes a move toward commitment. Heaven and earth might be rent asunder. Not that I'm looking for a deep commitment at the moment. We're having fun. We have plenty of time to worry about getting serious. Besides, I'm not even sure I want to hook up with a wizard on a more permanent basis. That may just be a lot of hassle."
"Yeah, you could be right about that." I knew from personal experience that dating a wizard had its complications, especially if he was leading the fight against dark magic. "But keep me in the loop. I miss you guys."