Don't Hex with Texas
As I hung up, I remembered that my brother was still under my desk, tinkering with modems, servers, and whatever else he had rigged together to create a computer network for the store. I didn’t think I’d said anything that gave away my magical connections from my side of the conversation, and besides, Teddy was probably the best brother to talk around. If he was focused on solving a problem, World War III could have broken out in the office without him paying much attention.
Even if Marcia was right about wizards being trouble, she could walk away from all things magical if she wanted to. I wasn’t sure I could. She wasn’t magical, one way or another, while I was in the special class of people who are immune to magic. The fact that magic has no effect on me under most circumstances made me a valuable player in the magical world. I’d been recruited by a company called Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., to help them detect magical trickery in their business dealings, which ended up putting me in the middle of the ongoing fight against a rogue wizard and his mysterious supporters. I wouldn’t claim to have actually saved the world, but I had helped prevent some pretty bad stuff from happening.
But if I was so valuable, what was I doing running the office in a small-town farm-and-ranch supply store? This town was so utterly nonmagical that I hadn’t learned about my magical immunity until I’d moved to New York City. There had to be a way I could help the cause beyond simply staying out of Owen’s way. I couldn’t imagine sitting on the sidelines with a magical war on the horizon.
A bell sounding from the front counter interrupted my brooding. Sherri should have been back from her break, but this was Sherri I was dealing with. I pasted a smile on my face and went out to ring up the customer. Then another customer needed help making a decision about the right soil additives for her rosebushes. It wasn’t my area of expertise, but I’d absorbed enough over the years that I probably had fertilizer in my veins.
I returned to the front counter to find Dean toying with the cash register. “I think it’s broken,” he said.
“Why, what’s wrong with it?”
“The drawer won’t open.” He tugged at the cash drawer to demonstrate.
“That’s because it doesn’t open unless you’ve made a transaction.”
A flicker of irritation crossed his green eyes. “Oh. That would explain it.”
“Was there something you needed?”
“Nah. I guess I should get the money out of petty cash, anyway.” In other words, Mom’s purse, since I wasn’t letting him near the store’s petty cash, and he knew it. Still, that didn’t stop him from trying.
He gave me his most charming smile. “You could spot me a twenty, couldn’t you?”
“Sorry, Deano, but I’m immune to your charms.” When you’ve spent enough time around a wizard like Rod, who used every trick in the book to charm people, normal smooth-talking loses any impact it might have had.
He shrugged. “Hey, it was worth a shot. You seen Sherri?”
“She’s been taking a break for half an hour. If you see her, maybe you could tell her she needs to get back to work.”
I barely made it into the office before the phone rang again. This time I answered it on the first ring.
“Hey, girl, can you get away for lunch?” the voice at the other end of the line asked. It was Nita Patel, my best friend from high school.
“You’re working days again?” She worked in the motel her family ran, and she was even more trapped by the family business than I was. At least I’d made an escape, no matter how temporary, to New York.
“Yeah, something happened last night that really spooked my brother, so they freaked out and put me on days. Now I’m stuck here at the front desk all day. It’s not like anyone’s going to check in anytime soon. But it would really brighten my day if you could pick up some lunch on your way over and join me.”
A glance at the front counter assured me that Sherri had finally returned. “That sounds like a great idea. What are you in the mood for?”
“My dad’s gone for the day. What do you think?”
“Okay, Dairy Queen it is. Double cheeseburger, no onions?”
“You read my mind.” Needless to say, Nita wasn’t a very good Hindu. Since moving to Texas, she’d developed a taste for hamburgers that she had to indulge behind her more traditional father’s back.
“I’ll be right over.” After I hung up, I nudged Teddy’s jeans-clad leg where it stuck out from under my desk. “I’m going out to lunch. Back in about an hour.”