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Spellbound in Seattle Spellbound In Seattle Barnes & Noble Smashwords


The Present--but not quite here and now...

Petra W. Field needed to get the blood out of her rug.
     She’d spent the last three hours scrubbing.  Yet nothing had removed the bright red puddle from the middle of the large area rug which covered her living room floor.  At least the numerous cleaning products had accomplished one thing.  The slightly rotten smell was gone.  Although she wasn’t so sure the mixture of lemon scent, April fresh flowers and mountain pines, combined with a dash of hospital disinfectant, was much of an improvement.
     Her housewarming party was due to start in less than an hour and she had magic blood on her rug.  Only magic could explain the way that darn puddle kept reappearing.  She had no options left.  Squaring her shoulders, she picked up the phone and dialed.
     “Good evening.  You have reached the offices of Rapid Renovations. Please choose from the following menu to assure you are connected with the proper department.”
     Petra made a sound of frustration.  She hated these answering systems. Sure, the technical wizards had managed to make them slightly more intelligent, but the menus they offered never seemed to have selections even remotely close to what she needed.
     “Press 1 if you want a spell cast.  Press 19 for a love spell.
     “Press 2 if a spell has been cast on you and you need it broken.  Press 29 if it’s a love spell.
     “Press 3 if you need to hire a sword master.  Press 39 if you prefer an Amazon.
     “Press 4 if you need the services of a wizard.  If you wish to request a specific wizard, please--”
     Petra caught a flicker of black and white out of the corner of her eye.  She dropped the phone, lunged for her cat and scooped him up just before he pounced on the bloody stain.  She hated to think what might happen to Bosco if magic blood got on him.  Despite his protests, she shut him in the bathroom.
     Oh, crud!  The phone.  She got back just in time to hear, “If you wish to repeat the menu, please press 9.”
     “Drat.”  Petra jabbed the proper button.  “Yes, I want to hear it again, you stupid piece of junk."  She'd been ready to punch a number but couldn't remember which one.  "You should’ve stopped when you heard me drop the phone.”
     “Thank you for thinking of Rapid Renovations.  Please choose from the menu to ensure you reach the proper department.”
     Tuning out the first part of the message since she’d already heard it, Petra had to remind herself why she’d left Albuquerque and moved to Seattle. The first scientist-wizards had discovered how to combine the laws of physics and sorcery nearly fifty years ago.  Since then, not all cities or states had passed laws favorable to the use of magic.  However, Seattle had quickly become the West Coast center for magical activity.  The city remained on the cutting edge of incorporating wizardry into mainstream life.  Much as Starbucks Coffee had slowly infiltrated the rest of the country, the magic community hoped to do the same with their skills and talents.
     She’d wanted some excitement in her overly mundane existence.  Plus it was a good place to hide from Harold.  Knowing her opinion of wizards, he’d never expect her to willingly subject herself to living smack-dab in the middle of Magic Central.  So, here she was--in Seattle for only a week and already up to her eyeballs in magic.  Chalk it up to temporary insanity.  It served her right.  Considering her past experiences with magic, she should have expected this disaster.  Oops, she’d forgotten to listen again.
     “--if you need them tomorrow.  Press 78 if you need them immediately.”
     She pressed 78.  Whatever it was, she definitely needed it immediately.
     “Thank you for choosing Rapid Renovations for your magical needs.  Please select from the following menu to guarantee you reach the proper department.”
     “No,” Petra shouted into the phone.  “Just let me talk to a real person.”
     “Press 1--”
     She pressed 1, not up to going through the whole thing again.
     She really hated wizards, but everybody knew it took magic to remove magic.  It just had to be magic blood, didn’t it?  Too bad she didn’t have any skills, or she could do the job herself.  Now she’d run out of time.  Her guests would start arriving in less than an hour.  She had to do whatever it took to get rid of that blood.
     The phone clicked and whirred.  She actually felt a small amount of hope.  Nope, no such luck.
     “All our operators are busy at this time.  Please hold until the next available operator can take your call.”
     Trying to be patient, Petra mentally ran down her list of things-to-do.  Thank heavens she’d hired a caterer rather than try to fix the food herself.  The house was clean--except for the stupid blood.  She only needed to change clothes before her first guest arrived.  Everything was under control.  Ha!  Who was she trying to kid?
     “Listen here, you dumb hunk of junk.  I told you I needed help immediately.  That means now.  Let me talk to a real person.  Or I swear I’m going to come down there and yank all your tiny little wires out of the wall.”
     Silence greeted her threat.  With a sigh, she picked up the business card beside the phone.  “Rapid Renovations.  We fix it, quick as a wizard’s wink.  No questions.”
     Evidently wizards winked pretty darn slow here in Seattle.  On the up side, they promised to ask no questions.  She didn’t want to get involved with the police, filling out reports, going in for questioning.  Not that she had anything to hide--about this anyway--although recent portions of her past wouldn’t exactly stand up to inspection.  Unfortunately, a murder investigation would surely bring those other aspects under scrutiny.
     Why did this have to happen to her?  Other than the spot, nothing else disturbed her house.  There were no bloody footprints, no smears where someone might have walked or crawled away, or been dragged off.  Just that blasted puddle sitting there in silent accusation.  She hated to think the word “murder.”  Since she hadn’t found a body anywhere, assault maybe?
     She wished cats could talk.  Her newly adopted cat had been a perfect gentleman since he’d shown up on her porch last week.  When she’d arrived home from work, Bosco had been in the front window, napping in the sun, his black and white fur pristine.  He might not be the culprit, but he must have seen something.
     She supposed things could be worse.  If she’d had a normal childhood, instead of being raised by two wizards, she’d probably be having a nice case of hysterics right about now.  But years of coming home to Mom’s and Dad’s experiments had pretty much made her immune to screaming fits.  She couldn’t quite recall if it had been the ogre in her closet, the fire breathing dragon in the basement, or maybe the pink dancing elephants, which had given her nerves of steel.  No, she remembered now.  It had been--
     “Thank you for calling Rapid Renovations.  This is Bob.  How may I assist you?”
     “Oh.”  It took a moment to comprehend she finally had a real person and not another recording.  She blurted, “I have blood on my rug.  I came home from work, and there it was.”
     “Thank you.  We’ll have a team there as soon as possible.”
     “I need--”
     The line went dead.  Petra held out the receiver and looked at it vacantly for several seconds.  With slow careful movements she hung up the phone and struggled to control her rising panic.  “But you didn’t even get my address.”
     She hated how forlorn her voice sounded.  What the heck should she do now?  At a loss, she glanced around the room, hoping another solution would present itself.  Where was inspiration when she really needed it?  How did one get rid of a manhole-sized spot anyway?  Why couldn’t it at least be smaller, easier to hide?
     If she’d thought of it earlier, she might have rolled up the rug and stuck it in the back bedroom with the unpacked boxes.  Now there wasn’t enough time.  Besides, what if, after all that, the blood had soaked through and stained the floor underneath as well?
     Should she just rearrange the furniture to cover the spot?  No, her sofa smack in the middle of the living room would raise nearly as many uncomfortable questions as blood out there for all the world to see.  Considering she worked for an interior design company, folks would be likely to question her unusual furniture arrangement.
     There remained only one thing to do.  She would lock the doors, turn out the lights, hide her car around the corner and pretend no one was home.  When she went to work tomorrow she’d invent some emergency and lie.  Bosco’s loud complaining yowls from the bathroom should add a nice touch to her story.
     The doorbell rang and she nearly jumped out of her shoes.  She shot a glance at the clock.  It was way too early for her guests.  Nobody came to a party forty minutes early, did they?  She hoped they would all be fashionably late.  She tiptoed to the door and peeked out the peephole.  Her jaw literally fell open in amazement.  Gathering her wits, she opened the door.
     “Good evening, Miss Field.  I’m from Emerald Renaissance Garments and I’m here to clean your rug.”
     “Emerald...what?”  Petra stared at the man who stood on her front porch.  He wore a long green robe.  She had the fleeting thought that he’d escaped from a convention of Merlin-wannabes.  Even weirder, he looked exactly like the actor Val Kilmer.  “I didn’t call you.”
     “I’m aware you called our competitors, Rapid Renovations.”  He offered her a dazzling smile along with his business card.  “However, we at Emerald Renaissance Garments can deliver faster service at a more reasonable price.”
     The printing on the card had so many curlicues it was nearly impossible to read.  She managed to make out the company name and, “Think green when you go to renovate.”  This didn’t make any sense.  “”
     “Magic, Miss.  That’s our business.”
     She lost her train of thought when he smiled, his brilliant white teeth flashing in the last of the evening light.  Impressive.  She decided he must use a super strength ultra-charming spell to enhance his physical appearance.  What a great way to recruit new customers.  Especially female customers. 
Too bad he had wasted it on her.
     “How much--?”
     The squeal of tires cut off Petra’s words.  A neon orange panel truck careened to a halt in front of her house.  Three people in orange overalls piled out.  They raced up the sidewalk, tool belts jangling, buckets clanging.  It didn’t look like they meant to stop.  She stepped back, fearful of being trampled.
     The man in the green robe blocked the way.  “This job’s already been taken.  Go back to your hole, fellas.”
     “Dugan, what the devil are you doing here?  This is our job.”
     “Not any more.  And the Devil had nothing to do with it.  Miss Field simply prefers to use a more efficient company.”
     Petra tried to tell them she hadn’t hired anybody yet.
     “Stop wasting my customer’s valuable time,” Dugan insisted.  “Get a faster truck if you want to stay on top.”
     Petra wasn’t surprised to see the crew in orange turn around and go back the way they came, although at a much slower pace.  Mr. Green Robe had been quite authoritative and intimidating.  She hoped he did as well with the spot.  “Thank you, Mister...?”
     “Dugan,” he told her with another of those wide smiles.
     She nearly told him not to squander a perfectly good spell.  Considering her record with wizards, she was the last woman he should waste his talents on.  To be fair though, he’d come here to do a job.  Maybe he turned on the ultra-charm in hopes that he could charge more money in an emergency situation.
     “Very well, Mr. Dugan.”
     He whipped out a piece of paper and pen from nowhere.  “Just sign on the dotted line.”
     In too much of a hurry to argue, she glanced at the contract.  The fee seemed a little high, but not outrageous.  She quickly scrawled her name and indicated she’d pay by credit card.  “Please come in.  And please, tell me you can get this stain out.”
     Tucking the paper back wherever it had come from, he followed her into the living room.  “No prob--”
     When he stopped abruptly, she got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.  “No problem?” she asked hopefully.
     Dugan knelt beside the stain and removed a device from his pocket.  It looked like a small hand-held video game.  He waved it over the blood, intently studying whatever the compact screen told him.  It didn’t take a genius to read the look on his face.  Petra knew he wouldn’t give her good news.
     “I’m afraid you’ve got a real problem here, Miss Field.”
     “Great.  Just great.  So you can’t remove it?”
     “Well, yes,” he said in a firm voice.  “But--”
     “I thought--”
     “Please don’t interrupt.  We don’t have the time.”
     Even though he’d done the same to her, Petra apologized.  As long as this guy got rid of that blood, she would do whatever she had to.  “Sorry.”
     “This can be removed, but it’s going to take longer than the thirty minutes you have until your guests arrive.”
     “How do you know--?”
     “I told you, Miss Field.  It’s my business to know.  Now, do you want to continue this unnecessary questioning?  Or do you want to hear my plan?”
     “Sorry,” she said for the second time.  His charm spell must have slipped.  Now he looked more like a young Ron Howard.  Was it too late to call back the guys in the orange overalls?  “Please, go on.”
     “As I was saying, this can’t be removed right now, but an invisibility spell can be used on it.  Since the spot has such strong magical properties, that spell will only last until midnight.  Will your party be over by then?”
     “Tell you what.  I’ll just invite everybody to stay until then so they can watch a puddle of blood magically appear in the middle of my living room.”
     “There’s no need to be sarcastic, Miss Field.  A simple yes or no would suffice.”
     “Sorry,” she told him yet again, not caring how surly she sounded.  “Trust me.  Everyone will be gone long before midnight.”
     “Very well.  We’ll return then and begin the removal spell.”  Dugan headed for the front door.
     “Where are you going?” she demanded.  “I thought--”
     “I’m going out to the truck to call my wizard on our radio.  She can be here in two minutes to cast the invisibility spell.”
     Petra let him go, not wanting another lecture about time management.  She wondered why he’d arrived at a job minus his wizard.  Surely it would be more effective to have the expert on scene right from the beginning.  On the other hand, that undoubtedly explained how he had gotten here so soon.  Interesting that Mr. Dugan wasn’t a wizard himself.  What was his position with the company?  Public relations, probably.
     When the doorbell rang twenty-five minutes later, Petra took a deep breath, hoping the extra oxygen would help clear her mind.  Pausing with her hand on the doorknob, she made one last visual sweep of the living room.  Everything was in order.  It even smelled nice, thanks to the spicy vanilla candles scattered around the room.
     A quick glance down at her dress gave her morale another much needed boost.  The short skirt and thin straps of the red silk dress made her feel slinky, sexy even.  Although, all things considered, she would prefer a color other than red.  Well, she was as ready as she’d ever be.
     Opening the door, she smiled at her boss and welcomed him.  She hoped Dugan and his wizard shut the back door tight on their way out.  And hopefully Bosco would stop meowing from the spare bedroom before too long.

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