“Trollballs. You’re just a sucker, is all,” Maizie joined in the scolding. Then she perked up. “Do you really have herbs that can cause boils to pop up all over your body?”
“Of course not. Who would buy that?”
“I totally would. There’s this stuck up bitch receptionist at the Bodyguard’s Guild who – oh, shiznit. Rosalind was right. I hate it when that little twit is right.”
Fiona swung around, alarmed. “What? Oh, my God.”
Bustling through the door, with an expression of disdain pinching her face, was the last person on earth she’d expect to see in this neighborhood – her mother, the Lady Desdemona Rosewood.
Desdemona hadn’t come alone; she’d brought a beanpole of a man, handsome except for his weak chin. He wore a black silk suit with a blue bowtie, and had wavy Byronic hair. Fiona recognized him as Aelfwerd Tremaine, a wealthy young warlock from a family of lawyers and judges.
Desdemona looked as intimidatingly lovely as she always did. She was as slender as a reed, but her slimness was hard-won. Expensive spells and charms which made her dizzy and nauseous, which doubled her over with agonizing stomach cramps for hours at a time, were the price she paid daily for fighting the body that nature gave her.
“You can leave,” Fiona said to Maizie. “I’ll deal with this while I’m locking up. I don’t want you to end up spontaneously combusting her.”
“You sure? I can be here for moral support.”
“I think you need morals for that. Just go! Be here tomorrow early, those crazy debs show up right after sunrise when it’s this close to the Crystal Ball.”
Desdemona swept into the store, holding up the hem of her fashionably long robin’s egg blue silk gown to avoid contact with the floor, and completely ignoring Maizie. Aelfwerd shot Maizie a look of mingled disgust and alarm, taking in her black leather jacket, black jeans, and spike heeled boots with a curl of his aristocratic upper lip.
Fiona breathed a sigh of relief when Maizie left the store without a backward glance, and without setting Aelfwerd’s hair on fire.
She turned to her mother and forced a smile which she hoped didn’t look too pained. “Mother, what a surprise. I was just locking up. You should have called to let me know that you were coming.”
“Nonsense. Aelfwerd insisted on coming here to meet you, and it would be terribly rude of you not to chat with him after he’s come all this way, wouldn’t it?”
Desdemona shot Renoir a look, the same look that she reserved for pockmarked beggars and unswept dragon manure. “I’m sure you were just leaving.”
“And miss the fireworks? Not a chance.” He leaned back on the counter and took another delicate little bite of cupcake. Desdemona fixed him with a steady glare; he met her gaze with a wide-eyed smile, and batted his beautiful blue eyes, which were fringed with lashes any woman would envy.
Fiona had herbs for that.
Irritated, Desdemona turned away; Fiona looked longingly at the doorway, but Desdemona was blocking her exit.
“Now,” she said beaming at Aelfwerd, “Isn’t she just as lovely as I told you? And just think – you’ve got almost three weeks to get to know each other before the Crystal Ball. I’ll leave you two to chat. My, I love what you’ve done with the place, Fiona. It’s so quaint.” And she quickly walked away, headed to the back of the shop, and pretended to root through some bins.
The true horror of the situation dawned on Fiona. Desdemona was trying to fix the two of them up – and trying to rush Aelfwerd into proposing to her at the Crystal Ball. What a nightmare THAT would be.