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Authors: Dara England

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The Magic Touch

BOOK: The Magic Touch
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The Magic Touch

By Dara England

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2011 Dara England

Edited by Anne Victory

Cover art by Dara England

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Excepting brief review
quotes, this book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without
the express written permission of the copyright holder. The
unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work
is illegal.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to
persons, living or dead, real events, locations, or organizations
is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

For my boys, Chris and Sampson.

Chapter One

 

 

The door opened and a bleary-eyed, unshaven
face beneath a shock of dark hair appeared. Squinting into the
brighter light of the hall, the young man looked dazed as he took
in the sight of her standing before him, but Ambrielle wasn’t fazed
by that. It was one o’clock in the morning and in her business you
didn’t exactly call ahead.

At the guy’s feet, a little red dachshund
poked its inquisitive nose out into the hall and viewed her with
the same sleepy eyes as its owner.

“Can I, uh, can I help you?” the guy
asked.

She had always liked his voice. It was blunt
and honest, just like the man to whom it belonged. Even groggy,
half asleep, and reeking with the sour odor of old beer, or maybe
because
of all these things, he was very readable. She could
have traced the worries written across his face like lines on a
page, even if she hadn’t watched over him all of his twenty-eight
years.

His eyes were ambient gold, not just a simple
shade of brown but the unique hue of autumn maple leaves under the
glow of an early morning sun. They could hide nothing, those eyes.
The contours of his face were lean, but attractively so, his high
cheekbones contrasting with a wide jaw and a long, tapering nose
with a slight hump in the middle where he had busted it falling off
a slide as a kid. He bore a matching scar from the same accident
across his left eyebrow. Both dark brows were drawn together now in
a puzzled expression.

He was still waiting for her to answer.
Ambrielle smiled. “No, Danny, I don’t need any help. As a matter of
fact, I’m here to help you.”

He didn’t open the door any further but
suddenly looked alert. “I don’t understand. Have we met?”

She tilted her head. “Let’s just say I’ve
watched you, but you haven’t seen me.”

“Okaaay…” He looked uneasy and she felt his
tawny gaze sweeping her up and down, from the tips of her pink
painted toenails to the top of her dark head of curls. She was well
aware her figure showed nicely under her fitted blouse and short,
white skirt. She had wanted to make a good impression for this
first meeting and had dressed with more care than usual.

Oddly, he didn’t seem impressed. “Uh, thanks
anyway,” he said, backing away, “But I don’t need help with
anything. I’m doing just fine.”

As simply as that, he would have shut the
door in her face, had Ambrielle not been quick thinking enough to
stick one high-heeled shoe in the door. “Now you know that’s just
not true, Danny. How can you be fine when you’ve just broken up
with Charlotte? Again.”

The look he turned on her was a mixture of
surprise and annoyance. “Listen, I don’t know how you know my name
or about me breaking up with my girlfriend, but it’s none of your
business. I don’t even know who you are.”

She wasn’t to be deterred that easily. “My
name’s Ambrielle,” she introduced herself.

When he simply stared at the carefully
manicured hand she offered, she shrugged. She hadn’t expected this
to be easy.

Luckily, she still had her high heel wedged
in the door and she used that leverage now to squeeze her petite
frame through the doorway, careful not to step on the curious
little dachshund sniffing around her feet.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Despite his
protests, he had no alternative but to give ground. It was either
that or stand toe-to-toe with her, allowing her to thrust her face
within inches of his. It was clear he wasn’t eager to be that close
to her. But that didn’t mean he was giving up.

“Listen,” he said as she shouldered her way
into the apartment, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do but you
can’t just force your way in here. I’ll call the landlord, don’t
think I won’t. If you’re a tenant here, I can get you evicted.”

Ambrielle ignored his threats, surveying her
surroundings under the dim lighting of several glowing lamps
scattered throughout the space. Her nose wrinkled with distaste.
“What is that smell?”

No answer was necessary. A quick scan of the
living area and the open kitchenette told her the moldy odor could
have originated any one of a dozen places. The kitchen sink
overflowed with filthy dishes, the garbage was spilling refuse out
onto the hardwood floor. The black linoleum countertop dividing the
kitchenette from the living room was smeared with what may or may
not have been peanut butter. And that was just the start.

As she strolled further into the room, she
took in the wreckage that was the living room. The furnishings were
tasteful, she noted with approval. The brown leather sofas and
armchairs fit well with the dark oak floors and the warmer color
scheme of the walls and trim. But what would have been a cozy
effect was spoiled by the way every available surface was cluttered
with magazines, dirty clothes, used dishes, and odd bits of
litter.

Danny broke into her observations. “I’m
warning you one last time, you’d better get out.” He moved to the
coffee table and snatched up a cell phone resting amid a scattering
of old newspapers. “Last chance,” he said. “I’m going to make that
call.”

Ambrielle sighed. “Put the phone down, Danny.
I know as well as you that you’re bluffing.”

“You’ve got to stop talking like you know
me.” But he set the phone down, as she’d known he would.

“I see I’ve come none too soon,” she
remarked, more to herself than to him, as she removed a pair of
tennis shoes from an armchair and dusted off the seat. “Your
housekeeping skills are deteriorating as fast as your relationship
with Charlotte.”

As soon as she sat down, the little
dachshund, now wide awake, sprang into her lap, tail wagging
furiously, eyes begging for attention.

“Brutus, get down,” Danny ordered absently,
but clearly his mind wasn’t on the dog. He appeared disturbed by
Ambrielle’s actions, no doubt because they signaled her intent to
stay awhile.

Ambrielle scratched behind the disobedient
dachshund’s ears before gently pushing it back to the floor, where
it crouched at her feet and gazed up at her with adoring eyes. At
least she had one ally here.

“Look,” Danny said, “I’m sure you’re a very
sweet person and doubtless you have your reasons for whatever it is
that you’re trying to do here. But you can’t just let yourself into
my apartment without being invited. I’m having a bad night, it’s
been a long, difficult week, and— Are you listening?”

She pulled her attention back from the series
of framed family photos lining the end table at her elbow. “Why
don’t you visit home anymore?” she asked. “You keep pictures of
your mom and dad here. Clearly you love them. Why don’t you ever go
back? I know your mom misses you.”

The remark stopped him cold. “How do you know
my family?” he asked.

“Hey, no need to get overprotective,” she
admonished. “I wouldn’t hurt any of them for the world. But I love
that you worry about them.”

“Are you somebody I used to know back home?”
he asked, suddenly studying her in a different light. “Did you go
to Longfield High?”

“Definitely not,” she laughed. “But I watched
you go there. I saw every prank you ever played on the lunch lady
and even watched you join the basketball team to impress Hottie
Haley Hart. Watched you get kicked off the team, too.” She sobered
at the memory. “That was a depressing show. Couldn’t you have at
least tried to get our team a basket once in a while? The other
fairy godmothers were laughing me off the sidelines.”

He made a strange, choking sound. “The other
what?

Chapter Two

 

 

“You heard me.” She picked up an empty mug
from the end table and examined the brownish stains ringing the
bottom. “Do you think you could wash this out and bring me some
more of whatever was in it? I’m usually snoozing at this hour, so I
could use a cup or two of coffee to pick me up.”

He didn’t seem to hear the request. “What did
you just call yourself?”

She sighed. “Honey, I hate repeating myself.
I’m only gonna give you the rundown one time and then I’ll field
questions. So keep quiet and listen and try not to say “what?” too
many times. It makes you look stupid and I know you’re not an
idiot. You’re a bright guy when you want to be.”

“Thanks,” he said sarcastically. “It’s always
nice to get a good report from my fairy-godmother. Seriously, I
think it’s time for you to go.”

“And leave all your questions unanswered and
your life in a shambles?”

“Assuming I have questions, I don’t think any
of them can be answered by a crazy lady who thinks she’s my
fairy-godmother. And my life isn’t in any “shambles”. He was
starting to look impatient.

She shook her head. “No cases are as hopeless
as the ones who don’t even know they’re lost. Listen, whether you
recognize it or not, your life has run far off the track, and if I
don’t take a hand soon it’s going to be a colossal train wreck.
That’s why I’ve come to you now. We godmothers don’t get to step in
and appear to our protégés any time we like. This is a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That’s why you and I have to make
this visit count.”

“Visit?” he looked perplexed.

“That’s right. You’re mine for the next
twenty-four hours and I’ve got just that amount of time to
straighten your affairs out. And that’s going to take some work.
Luckily, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve because, brother, I’m
going to need them all.”

He snorted. Running a long-fingered hand
through his dark curls, he looked torn between annoyed disbelief
and grudging interest.

“I suppose you’ve got a magic wand up your
sleeve, too,” he said.

She sensed now was the moment to bring out
the big guns. “Never carry wands up my sleeve; I’ve lost too many
that way. No, the proper place for a wand is stowed away somewhere
safe.”

She dragged her tiny, beaded handbag off her
elbow and reached inside.

He raised his eyebrows and she was surprised
to note the hint of a smile lurking around the edge of his lips.
“Of course. You carry your magic wand around in your purse.”

“You needn’t sound so skeptical.” She dug
around in the shallow pocket a moment before finding what she
wanted and slipping it out into the open.

Danny was unimpressed. “That’s your wand? A
tube of lipstick?”

She smiled. “Ah, Danny, always such a
doubter. Educating you is going to be more fun than I’d
expected.”

Swirling the tube of lipstick in the air
three times, she silently mouthed the spell she knew by heart and,
quick as magic, the short tube transformed into a twelve-inch rod,
light as paper and clear as glass.

Danny started at the transformation. “What—?
How—?”

She waved him to silence. “Questions later.
First, let’s get this roach den cleared out. The smell in here’s
about to make me sick.”

Remaining frozen in place, he seemed unable
to tear his gaze away from the glass wand in her hand. Softly, as
if to himself, he muttered, “I can’t believe it. Somebody tell me
I’m just having a crazy dream.”

She looked around distastefully. “I don’t
know what kind of dreams you have but if this were one of my
dreams, there wouldn’t be moldy pizza on the coffee table. But
never mind, it’s easily taken care of.”

Again muttering a low string of secret words
under her breath, she flicked the wand in the general direction of
the dirty coffee table. Instantly, paper trash, old half-eaten
food, and every other kind of clutter covering the tabletop lifted
into the air.

Mind on her task, she tuned out everything
else and was scarcely aware of Danny’s bugged-out eyes as he
watched her perform her magic. One mess after another, she waved
her wand at them and bid them all carry themselves to their proper
places. Paper plates and carryout boxes floated through the air to
drop into the full trashcan. Filthy heaps of clothes and
mud-encrusted shoes slithered or walked along the floor, propelled
by an invisible force as strong as any human hand.

As if of their own accord, the handles over
the faucet of the kitchen sink turned on and hot water began
spewing out onto the pile of dirty dishes. When it could hold no
more garbage, the bag in the trashcan tied its own mouth closed and
leapt out of the can, floating over to lean against the front door.
A kitchen drawer opened and a new bag popped out to replace the
old.

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