Don't Hex with Texas
I t 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 seem 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.