The Muse's Touch

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A Rude Surprise

“Bossman!” Calvin waved with a cheerful grin from behind the counter as they entered the bookstore. Another head poked out from above between two shelves.

“Oh, thank god.” Kathryn stepped down from the ladder and made her way over.

“Hey, guys. Kathryn, I thought today was your day off.” Davin kept the door open until Paige entered. Inside, he revelled at the way her eyes widened and her lips parted in wonder. Ah, they were very kissable lips, even more so in reality. His incubus stirred but made no demands, still sated from yesterday.

Neither of them answered. Instead, they both turned towards Paige behind him, who, oblivious to the staring, began to wander, fingers trailing along the shelves. Davin understood. He had never brought anyone to his shop before and his staff were all convinced he was a confirmed bachelor.

And then recognition lit up Kathryn’s eyes. “Oh my god. Are you Paige Summers?”

Paige meeped and blushed. “Um...yes?”

It was an adorable meep and Davin had to hold back a grin. Seeing that Paige didn’t need introducing, he took a step back, grateful that Paige’s status as author trumped any need for him to explain why she was his guest.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe it. I am such a fan of your work.” By now, Kathryn had made her way over. “I watched your interview just this morning.”

“Oh.” Paige’s cheeks remained pink and Davin had to turn towards Calvin to hide the grin he could no longer hold back.

“Pass me the logbook.” Davin opened the sales log and pretended to study it while monitoring the exchange from the corner of his eye.

“I’m glad you enjoyed the books,” Paige managed a reply beyond one-word exclamations at last.

“So I’ve been dying to know, were you really joking about the muse thing? Or is there someone…?”

Okay, that was enough. “Kathryn, how was yesterday?”

“Hmm? Oh, yesterday? It was fine.”

It was a very distracted answer and Davin, withholding a sigh, tried again. “Any customers looking for me?”

“What? Er...no boss.”

In the background, Calvin smirked and shook his head while Paige turned her head this way and that, looking for a way out.

Davin watched his little author and chuckled. He found it interesting how take charge Paige could be one minute then mild and meek the next, depending on the situation.

“Oh my god.” Kathryn gasped and her hands flew over her mouth. “Tobias does look like the boss.”

Calvin broke into a full cackle.

Okay, that was definitely enough. Davin moved behind Paige and placed a hand on the small of her back. “I’ll be gone for a couple of days. If anyone asks for me, text my cell. Otherwise, you guys have the shift schedule. Anything else comes up, text. Kathryn, go home. I’m not paying you extra.”

Without waiting for a reply, Davin ushered them out of the store, only slumping in relief once they got back into his car.

“Maybe I should give Tobias a haircut, and a dye job,” she muttered under her breath.

“What? No, don’t you dare!” Davin turned to face Paige.

At his horrified expression, Paige began to giggle and soon, they were both laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Her laughter, like warm sunshine, washed over him and eased his remaining tension. She was still here. She hadn’t run for the hills. And she was laughing.

It was almost cliche as their eyes met. Somewhere in between the life and death situations they had been in the past forty-eight hours and the small moments of intimacy, something shifted. He was the first to lean across, a hand tucking a stray strand of hair that had fallen to cover her deep autumn orbs. When she leaned into his touch, he switched to cupping her face.

This was not good for either of them.

He stopped caring as he tilted his head towards her and delighted when Paige closed the distance. The moment their lips met, every voice of caution or reason silenced. There was only her, her fragrance, the softness of her lips, the small intakes of breath.

When they parted, Davin moved his thumb along her pouty lips, tracing the memory of them. The possibility of never tasting them again scared him. And that fear unnerved him even more. “Paige.”

His phone rang.

Cursing the damn timing, he parted from her to dig for his phone. The name on the caller id drew a groan from him as Paige peered at his screen with curiosity. Filled with both reluctance and wariness, he hit the button and held the phone to his ear.

“If you’re going to come over, then get a move on it. You’re going to be late.” The deep voice over the phone held a peevish tone. Without waiting for Davin’s answer, the caller hung up.

“Oracles.” Davin heaved a sigh. They needed to talk but now was not a good time. “We better get going. Never good to keep them waiting.”

Paige laughed and patted his arm. The sound soothed his nerves, and he wondered how he ever thought he could live without hearing it again.

Well crap. He’s got it bad.

“Tell me about this oracle?” Paige asked as he drove them out towards the suburbs. “Wait, let me guess. An older woman, silver-haired, hippie dress. Oh and...big gemstone jewellery.”

Davin smirked. “Are you sure you’re not describing Lilian?”

“Well.” Paige’s mouth opened then closed again. “Not intentionally. I guess I was playing more into the typical stereotypes.”

“You’re going to be in for a rude surprise then.”

“What do you mean?”

He shook his head and for the rest of the trip, remained tight-lipped. When Paige tried to tempt him into a game of twenty questions, he only laughed as her guesses became wilder and wilder.

The one-storied house they pulled up to was like any other on the street. Davin smiled at the dubious expression on Paige’s face, held out his hand for her as they approached and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

The door opened before they had a chance to knock and a woman very fitting of Paige’s description open the door. About to point out she was right in the first place, the woman interrupted Paige by calling out over her shoulder. “Seth, your customers are here.”

She opened the door wider and affected a pleasant smile. “Please, come in. Seth is just down in the basement. Take the stairs in the back and just knock on the door then head on in.”

Familiar with this song and dance, Davin gave a smile of greeting. “Thanks.” Leading a still-stunned Paige through the house and down the stairs, they paused at the door with a homemade keep out sign, completed with a hand-drawn skull and crossbones.

A surly man, no more than twenty years old, opened the door. With bangs dyed too black to be natural, hanging over his eyes while sporting bondage pants and a black t-shirt with an anarchist symbol on it, the emo goth stared at the two of them.

Davin wasn’t sure he liked the fact that Seth’s jaws were hanging open. If he was expecting them, why was he so surprised?

“We came for a reading,” Davin prompted.

“Fine.” Seth stepped out of the way to allow them to enter the dimly lit room that turned out to be his bedroom, crossed with his gaming room. Every console of the latest generation strung across the floor all hooked up to a giant tv screen hanging from one wall. Game discs laid in piles and they followed Seth’s lead in navigating between the stacks until they reached a table, the only space devoid of stuff.

“Sit.”

They both eased themselves into plastic folding chairs. It wasn’t much but Seth was as real as they come. And he never steered anyone wrong, for the right price.

“Not much to say about this human here if you want a reading for your pet. She’s ordinary as fuck.”

“Hey!” Paige protested, rising from her seat.

Davin placed a hand on her arm, applying just enough pressure to urge her to sit back down. He knew Seth would be rude from the one other time he had been here but this was downright belligerent, even for him. “Seth, this is Paige and someone means her harm. We need to find out who.”

“Okay, it’s your money to waste.” He sighed and rolled his eyes, then extended his hand out. Davin reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet, then placed several large bills in the Oracle’s palm. Seth pocketed the money and returned to the same motion.

“More once we have our intel.”

“Fine.” Seth rolled his eyes again. How, after living thousands of years, did an Oracle still affected such a sullen teenager attitude was beyond Davin’s imagination.

He turned to check on Paige and found her fists clenched, her jaws locked as she gritted her teeth. She was spitting mad. Davin reached under the table to give one of her knees a gentle squeeze. He felt her relax next to him.

“Give me your hands, human.”

“I have a name you know. It’s Paige and you can use it “

“Sure, whatever.” Seth motioned for her once more and she gave in with a huff, placing her hands in his.

With more care than he had shown so far, he turned her hands palm up and tilted his head back. As he cupped her hands, Seth’s eyes rolled back, his whole body trembling. Sweat beaded his brow the longer he remained in a trance until without warning, he broke contact, shrinking away as if Paige’s hands were burning his.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Seth muttered none too softly.

Davin rose from his chair and moved to stand next to Paige, wrapping an arm around her. He looked down at her then followed her gaze to stare at the visibly shaken Oracle who was busy coughing and clearing his throat.

“Well, she has a stalker.”

Yeah no shit.

“Female, can’t tell too much more. Strong you-don’t-see-me spells around her so you’re looking at a heavy-weight witch.” Seth shrugged, still rubbing his hands. “Tomorrow. Keep that sword close and stay by water.”

“Dagger,” Paige corrected.

“Whatever. Pay up, Davin.”

A chill ran down his spine but he reached for his wallet. Future telling was a tricky business, and he knew this was as good as it was going to get.

Some screeching guttural voice startled them all and Seth cursed again. It was only seconds later that Davin realized it was a mobile ringtone.

“Just leave the money on the table.” Without seeing them out, Seth disappeared into the back of the room, separated by a bead curtain.

“Okay, you’re right. That was a rude awakening.” Paige rose from her seat and turned to leave but Davin placed a finger on his lips, asking for silence.

It was hard to pick up the whispered words and Davin closed his eyes to concentrate.

“Yeah, she was here a sec ago. Got some nasty witch on her tail.”

“Hey take it easy, I only gave them what they asked for, no more.”

Another pause.

“She’s with the incubus named Davin. I think her awakening will be soon. No, neither of them have any idea yet.”

“Hey, chill. I tiptoed, okay? If she wakes up, it’s not going to me that triggered it. Free tip: if I were you, I’d get my ass in town like now.”

“I don’t know okay? Look, I’m done. Held my end of the deal, blah blah blah. I expect my money in my account.”

His first instinct was to barge in and demand answers. Davin’s fingers curled into fists but he reined his temper in. Upstairs was a damn powerful witch and to start something on her home turf was stupid. Paige could get hurt even as a bystander.

“Let’s go.” Davin grabbed Paige’s hand, face pale.

They remained quiet until they returned to the car.

“What was that?”

“I’m not sure.” Each word came out slow. “Seth was talking to someone about you and me. But I don’t think it was whoever is after us.” He slammed his hands on the steering wheel. “Damn it. I hate being so in the dark.”

“Hey, we’ll figure it out, okay?” Paige gave him a wane smile and reached out to take his hand, giving it a light squeeze.

“Yeah.” He better. Soon.

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