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Authors: Judith Leger

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BOOK: Enchanted
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“It’s her. I can feel her. She and I–we don’t have much time.”

“No, she does not.” When Rhys spoke, his voice trembled.

Hearing the words from him served to emphasize Shay’s need to help her. Rhys took a deep shuddering breath and turned a cold gaze on him. “For you, though, eternity is before you. In hell, I hope. Remember–bring her home no later than two weeks from today. You should, at this time, have had some luck in releasing her from the curse. Otherwise, she will be lost.” He waved his hand in a helpless gesture.

Shay didn’t respond. He had to find a way to help Caitlyn. She was doomed if he failed. He stared at the screen, concentrating. He knew where she was and now he could focus on capturing her attention.

The low hum from the limo’s engine helped alleviate some of his tension. Pressing the Pause button on the remote, he narrowed his eyes and stared past the dark frames into Caitlyn’s. He wished he could freeze her life as easily. Pity for her ignorance concerning her fate engulfed him. He switched off the player, faced the window next to him and tried not to think about the future.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

“Hey, Reiley. Kramer wants to see ya.” The male voice came from the opening to Caitlyn Reiley’s cubicle, reaching her over the cacophony of others speaking, phones ringing and keyboards clicking in Channel 52’s newsroom. She groaned and pivoted toward the opening. By the time she turned to question the unseen messenger, he had disappeared.

She exhaled slowly, faced her desk and set her purse down. Sharp pains radiated from her tired, cramped feet and sped to her brow. She rubbed her fingertips against her throbbing temples. With a glance at her wristwatch, she frowned. She had just stepped into the newsroom from reporting on a tiny-tots pageant seminar for most of the day. The seminar had taken longer than she’d originally planned. Now, when she should have been able to sit and go over her report for the seminar coverage, she was told to see Kramer.

The station’s business manager, Mike Kramer, didn’t like to wait. First, though, the makeup had to go. She reached inside her purse for her compact. Ever since she was old enough to wear cosmetics, she’d tried but failed to grow accustomed to the pasty feel of it on her face. Added to the fact her biological mother wore heavy cosmetics, Caitlyn refused to associate anything in her life now to her turbulent childhood. An image of her mother’s face loaded with thick foundation and sky blue eye-shadow appeared in Caitlyn’s mind. She shoved the picture aside, cringing at the remembered texture of the cracked lipstick and flaking mascara.

The dull ring of the telephone set off tingling explosions in every nerve ending connected to her skin. Frowning at the compact, she shoved her purse out of the way and jerked up the receiver. With a deep breath, she answered, trying to keep her voice calm and even. “Caitlyn Reiley. May I help you?”

“Catey? What’s up, girl?” Marcy’s chirpy greeting caused Caitlyn to sag.

“Oh, not much. Just about to face Kramer in his office,” she said with a sigh.

“Huh?”

“My boss wants to see me. We’re not a major TV station locally, and the management’s making cutbacks. I think I might be one of them.” Caitlyn sat down at her desk and twisted and untwisted the telephone cord.

“Is it that bad over there?”

“Yes. When they opened this station six months ago, they hired too many people. The administration let four people go last month. They weren’t reporters, but that doesn’t mean management isn’t going to start cutting us next. Why today? This rates as one of the worst days of the year for me.”

Marcy released a short laugh. “Come on, it can’t be that bad.”

“Wanna bet? I just finished filming a piece on tiny-tots pageantry. I didn’t know there were so many little Miss America wannabes in this area. When I arrived back here, someone told me Kramer wanted to see me. He never sends for me.”

Dropping the cord, she pressed the compact latch and it opened with a snap. She glanced at her image in the small mirror and wrinkled her nose. Still the same. Nothing spectacular there. Dark hair held tight in a bun at the base of her neck, black-rimmed glasses framing dull green eyes, rouge-covered cheeks and matte lipstick. With her glasses, she didn’t need the added cover of eye shadow and liner.

“Calm down. You’re overreacting. They’re not gonna let you go.” Her friend’s voice took on the familiar big-sister tone she used on Caitlyn when she wanted to get her point across. “You worry too much. Get your butt up and go see the man. You told me the other day the polls chose your segments above all the other stations. He might have an achievement award for you, not a pink slip.”

“I doubt that,” Caitlyn muttered. Not wanting to pass her rising depression onto her friend any longer, she tried to sound cheery. She needed the makeup off before facing Kramer. The cakey stuff made her uncomfortable and vulnerable. A minute or two wouldn’t hurt. She hoped.

“So, what’s up with you?”

“I just went shopping and bought the cutest shoes. They’re wedges, red skinny straps, very sexy. You’ll simply die to have a pair…”

Half-listening, she allowed Marcy to rattle on so she would have time to remove the makeup. She held the phone to her ear with her shoulder, tugged open a desk drawer and removed a box of damp wipes. Makeup was a necessity in front of the camera. She didn’t mind making concessions like that if it meant moving forward with her career. Since she wasn’t scheduled to film again today, a few swipes with the damp cloth and the face paint disappeared. Satisfied after another quick pass over her cheeks, she closed the compact and threw the cloth away.

“–Shay Evers–”

At the mention of the famous illusionist’s name, Caitlyn grabbed the phone in her hand and straightened. “Wait, what did you say?”

“The performance. Tonight. Front row seats. Backstage passes. Erica bugged out, going south to meet Paco.” Marcy stopped and groaned. “Let’s not go there. You’re second on my list of stand-ins. You simply have to go with me. So, be ready by six, okay? You’re gonna love Shay. He’s fabulous to look at and after tonight, I hope he’ll be all mine.”

Heart racing, Caitlyn struggled to control quickening breaths. This physical reaction had become normal for her during the last four years at the very mention of the illusionist’s name. From the moment she had turned on her television that warm summer night four years ago and caught one of his performances, she had developed a strange dislike for the handsome Welshman.

Her heartbeat would speed up, sharp twinges would shoot through her middle and heat often soared through her veins to the degree she had to sit down and fan her face. She refused to call what she experienced an infatuation, and she didn’t believe in love at first sight. She didn’t believe in that overrated emotion at all. All her life, she had seen the results of that sappy feeling. Her mother and father had cared about her so much they both lost her to the system and never came back to claim her. Honestly, she didn’t know what love comprised, but it certainly wasn’t what she experienced when seeing the illusionist.

She was tempted to take Marcy up on her offer, but she resisted. When she answered, she kept her voice even, refusing to allow her emotions to show. “I can’t believe you’ve fallen under that guy’s spell.”

“Everyone has. I thought for sure you would too, but–”

Caitlyn interrupted her. She didn’t want to open a conversation concerning Shay Evers. “Thanks for the invitation, but no. If Kramer doesn’t do what I know he will, I want to go home and relax in a hot bubble bath. Given a choice between Shay Evers and suds, I’ll take the suds.”

Without meaning to, she mentally compared her tub filled with warm water and brimming with bubbles to meeting and speaking to the superstar. An image of Evers reclining in the tub appeared in her mind, his dark hair shining in candlelight, a lean hand raised, beckoning her to join him. She straightened, fighting the sudden heat pumping through her veins. “Listen, I hate to cut you short, but Kramer doesn’t like waiting.”

“Oh, sure thing,” her friend said. “Call me in the morning so I can fill you in.”

Caitlyn agreed with a laugh and placed the receiver on its cradle. No use putting it off any longer. She needed to accept the fact that after she left Kramer’s office she would probably have to start job hunting. After a deep breath she stood, locked her purse in her desk and tugged at the hem of her business suit jacket.

With her chin up, she headed for Kramer’s office. The labyrinth of the newsroom outside her cubicle stretched in front of her. Desks and hinged partitions sectioned the area for the reporters and other employees. The huge room, flanked on one side with windows, smelled of burnt lint from the heating unit. The unit didn’t do a great job keeping the chill out, but the sheer number of the bustling news people kept the temperature bearable. When she reached the far end and came to a short hallway, she slowed. Kramer’s office was the second door to the left.

For a moment she considered how she would respond if he laid her off. Not good. She gritted her teeth as pride forced her forward. Her knock landed harder than she intended, stinging her knuckles.

She’d worked relentlessly on her college degree in mass communications just to become a reporter. She wasn’t going to exit this job with meek submission. Her inner strength had sustained her through the time social workers removed her from her parents’ house and placed her in several foster homes. She’d been bounced around, but she’d never allowed the fear of the unknown to show.

Even at this moment, her fear remained hidden. She wasn’t about to let Kramer see any weakness in her now. She swiped her damp palms over the sides of her jacket, hoping he wanted to compliment her and not lay her off.

The low response through the door tightened her nerves. The knob twisted under her palm, and she pushed the door open. When she crossed the room, the burnt smell from the furnace heating the building sharpened in the enclosed space. Her eyes burned. Afternoon sunlight poured from the windows behind the manager’s desk and filled the office. She stared for a second at the shiny spot on top of Mike Kramer’s bald head, amazed at the slickness of the surface.

“Reiley. Take a seat.”

Caitlyn tried not to stare but after not seeing her boss for a few days, she had forgotten his size. The middle-aged manager’s abdomen ballooned from an excessive habit of fast food and more than a few beers. The buttons on his white shirt strained for freedom. With him sitting forward, his belly nearly flowed over the edge of the desk. He filled his chair like a packed sardine.

For several moments, a calculating expression covered his ruddy face. The dark moustache over his upper lip twitched as he stared at a yellow tablet centered in front of him, his right fingers sliding back and forth along the paper’s edge.

She took another deep breath, mentally preparing her rebuttal should her job be threatened. With her back straight, she moved to one of the two chairs angled in front of the desk.

After she was settled on the edge of the leather chair, she glanced up and found Kramer still sat unmoving. Silence filled the room for several minutes. The faster the seconds flew by, the tighter her insides coiled. He had asked to speak to her. Now that she was here, he sat daydreaming.

She covered her mouth and forced a little cough.

Sharp gray eyes focused on her. “Oh, Caitlyn. Sorry, I still can’t believe this,” he muttered. “The sponsors will go nuts for a time slot.”

“Believe what?” She relaxed enough to scoot back in the chair and cross her legs.

“I received a phone call.”

When he didn’t continue, she leaned forward and studied him. His coloring seemed paler than normal. Two months ago, shortly after the station opened, he’d suffered a series of light heart attacks.

“Kramer, are you okay? Do you want me to call someone?” She half rose to go to the phone, but he motioned her to sit.

“No, no, I’m fine. Do you know Lance Parker?”

“The big-name agent?” Settling once more, she frowned. Everyone in Hollywood knew the name. He represented the best performers in film, stage and music. He even represented Shay Evers.

“What about him? Did he die?” She didn’t understand what Parker had to do with Kramer wanting to see her.

“No, he called me.” His gaze dropped to the tablet in front of him. “He wants you.”

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Caitlyn stared, her mind turning and twisting the words. Every path they traveled failed to reveal a reason why Parker would want her. When she spoke, she tried to keep her tone even and under control. “Excuse me?” The high pitch in her voice as she answered clearly told her she’d failed.

Kramer’s head jerked toward her, and he frowned. “Not you, personally. Seems Shay Evers is his client. Evers saw your piece on money-saving coupons and liked it. He wants you to interview him.”

A gasp escaped her Caitlyn leaned forward, mouth open, staring hard at her boss. “He saw what?”

With a shake of his head, Kramer snorted. “You know where you interviewed…”

She waved a hand back and forth to stop him, and then grimaced. When had Evers watched that segment? The piece wasn’t a fine example of her work. Her racing thoughts came to a slow stop. Doubt raised its ugly head. Winning the lotto seemed more possible than what Kramer had just told her. Every top name reporter sought a coveted interview with the illusionist, yet none had succeeded.

BOOK: Enchanted
10.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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