The Indigo Spell

Page 55

"That'll help." Amazingly, I could tell he was dead serious. "And you've gotta act confident the whole time, like it's already a done deal. Then make sure when you're actually asking for what you want that you tell him you'd be 'so, so grateful.' But don't elaborate. His imagination will do half the work for you. "

I shook my head, glad we'd almost reached our destination. I didn't know how much more I could listen to. "This is the most ridiculous advice I've ever heard. It's also kind of sexist too, but I can't decide who it offends more, men or women."

"Look, Sage. I don't know much about chemistry or computer hacking or photosynthery but this is something I've got a lot of experience with." I think he meant photosynthesis, but I didn't correct him. "Use my knowledge. Don't let it go to waste."

He seemed so earnest that I finally told him I'd consider it, though I had a hard time imagining myself wearing anything like he'd described. My answer satisfied him, and he said no more.

When we reached the bed-and-breakfast, I put on the brown wig so that we could be Taylor and Jet again. I braced myself as we approached the door.

"Who knows what we're walking into?" I murmured. I'd been very brave while speaking to Ms. Terwilliger, but the reality that I might be going right up to an evil sorceress was sinking in. I had yet to develop the ability to sense magic in others, so I could very well be taken by surprise if she had a way to hide her appearance too. All I could do was have faith that Adrian's spirit and Ms. Terwilliger's charm would mask me. If Veronica was there, we'd just seem like an ordinary couple. I hoped.

Alicia was reading another magazine when we walked in. She still sported the same hipster glasses and clutter of gaudy necklaces. Her face lit up when she saw us. "You're back."

Adrian's arm immediately went around me. "Well, when we heard Veronica was in town again, we wanted to come see her right away. Right, honeydew?"

"Right," I said. At least he was going with healthier nicknames today.

"Oh." Alicia's sunny smile dimmed a little. "She just left."

"You have got to be kidding," I said. How could our luck be this bad? "So, she checked out?"

"No, she's still renting out the Velvet Suite. I think she was just running errands. But. . . ." She turned sheepish. "I may have, uh, ruined the surprise."

"Oh?" I asked very carefully. I felt Adrian's hold on me tense, but there was nothing romantic about it.

"I couldn't resist. I told her she might have some unexpected visitors soon. Good visitors," she added. "I wanted to make sure she didn't stay out too long."

"That's very nice of you," said Adrian. His smile looked as strained as mine felt. In trying to "help" us, Alicia might very well have ruined everything.

What did we do now? I was saved from an immediate decision when a middle-aged woman walked through the door.

"Hello," she told Alicia. "I wanted to get some information about hosting a wedding here. For my niece."

"Of course," said Alicia, glancing back and forth between all of us. She looked a little flustered over who to help, and I was quick to jump in.

"Hey," I said. "Since we're here, can we look at the Bunny Suite again? We can't stop talking about it."

Alicia frowned. "I thought you were going to the coast for your anniversary?"

"We were," said Adrian, following my lead. "But then Taylor was thinking about Cottontail the other night, and we thought we should reconsider." I had to give him credit for jumping in and going along with the story I was making up on the spot. Of course, you'd think he'd remember the name of the fake rabbit he had created.

"Hopper," I corrected.

"Is the Bunny Suite still vacant?" he asked. "We can just take a quick peek in while you help her."

Alicia hesitated only a moment before handing over a key. "Sure. Let me know if you have any questions."

I took the key and headed toward the stairs with Adrian. Behind us, I could hear the woman asking if it'd be okay to set up a tent in the backyard and how many hot plates the inn could hold before it became a fire hazard. Once we were on the second floor and out of earshot, Adrian spoke. "Let me guess. You want to go prowl through the Velvet Suite."

I rewarded him with a grin, pleased that he'd guessed my plan. "Yup. Pretty good idea, huh? Hopefully Alicia will be distracted for a while."

"I could have just compelled her," he reminded me.

"You're using too much spirit already."

I found the Velvet Suite and put the key in the lock, hoping Alicia had given us the master key and not one specifically for the Bunny Suite. When she had shown us around last time, she'd only used one key. A click told me we'd lucked out and wouldn't have to use any metal-burning chemicals today.

We'd seen the Velvet Suite during our last visit, and for the most part, it looked the same. Velvet bedding, velvet-covered furniture, and even velvet-textured wallpaper. Only, this time, the room wasn't in the pristine and unoccupied state as before. Signs around the room showed recent use. The bed was unmade, and the scent of shampoo from the bathroom indicated a shower not too long ago.

"Alicia might have been wrong about Veronica checking out," said Adrian. He opened drawer after drawer and found nothing. In the closet, he discovered high-heeled shoes tucked into a corner and a belt on a hanger - things that might be easily missed with frantic packing. "Someone left here in a hurry."

My hopes plummeted. In accidentally revealing our "surprise," Alicia had apparently scared Veronica into skipping out on the room. We found no sign that Veronica would actually return, and as Adrian had said, she seemed to have taken off quickly, based on the kinds of easy-to-forget things that were left behind: a razor in the shower, a bottle of perfume on the bathroom counter, and a stack of takeout menus on the nightstand.

I sat on the bed and sifted through the menus, not really convinced they'd tell me much. Chinese, Indian, Mexican. Veronica had diverse tastes, at least. I reached the bottom of the stack and threw them on the ground.

"She left," I said. I couldn't hide from the truth any longer. "That idiot Alicia tipped her off, and now we've lost her again."

Adrian sat down beside me, his face mirroring my dismay. "We'll find her. We've slowed her down by hiding the others. Maybe it'll buy us time until the next full moon so you can scry again."

"I hope so," I said, though I wasn't optimistic.

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