The Professor Woos The Witch

Page 53

A strange car sat at the curb outside the fence, but Cole didn’t pay it much attention. The neighbors were always having people over.

He parked in the driveway. “I forgot to leave the outside porch lights on. Gimme a sec to get them on so you two don’t break an ankle.”

“We’ll be fine,” Kaley said.

“You haven’t seen Miss Williams’ shoes.” He turned the engine off. “But really, I just don’t want my chocolate cake to end up on the ground.”

Pandora shook her head. “It’s like you forget who you’re with.” She snapped her fingers, and the porch lights blazed to life.

“Dude,” Kaley crooned. “That is so cool.”

Cole froze. “Stay in the car. There’s someone on the bench.”

“Where?” Kaley leaned forward from the back of the crew cab.

The figure stood and stepped into the light.

Cole let out a curse just as Kaley yelled, “Mom!”

Pandora’s belly twisted into three kinds of knots. “Is that…Lila?”

“Yes,” Cole hissed.

Kaley was out of the truck like a shot and running toward the porch.

He shook his head. “I don’t know what she’s doing here, but I’ll deal with it.” He reached out and grabbed Pandora’s hand. “Please don’t leave. You have more right to be here than she does.”

Pandora nodded lamely, but that didn’t ring true to her. Lila was Kaley’s mother, custody or not. And Kaley was clearly happy to see her.

She got out slowly as Cole made his way to the porch. Lila was very pretty. Tall and slim with jet black hair as straight as a sheet and enormous blue eyes. She and Lila couldn’t look more different. And Lila’s magic probably worked the way it was supposed to, regardless of who was, or wasn’t, around.

Pandora hung by the car, listening.

Cole wasn’t happy. “Lila, what are you doing here?”

She looked up from hugging Kaley. “I came to see Kaley. After she called me and told me all about the fun she was having, I thought I should come see for myself.”

Kaley nodded, staying close to Lila. “I called her. Last night. After the coven meeting.”

Lila smiled but bitterness lit her gaze. “A coven meeting. Imagine that. My, my, Cole, you sure have changed.”

“I have Pandora to thank for that.” He looked to his side like he expected her to be there. When he didn’t see her, he glanced back at the car. As soon as he made eye contact, he gave a little jerk of his head as if to say, Come up here.

It was just enough to give her the boost of confidence she needed. Cole wanted her, not Lila. That was all that mattered. That, and she was Pandora Williams and she bought and sold this town. No slacker mother was going to intimidate her. No matter how tall or how pretty or how magically capable.

She strode to where Cole was standing, thanking the goddess she’d worn these shoes. They gave her at least four extra inches.

He slipped his arm around her waist, as much as reminding her that Lila was the interloper here, not her. It was like having steel injected into her spine. She didn’t need Cole’s reassurance to face this woman, but it was damn nice to have. It felt like the seal on the evening they’d just had.

The evening that was not yet over.

Lila smiled at Pandora, but her gaze held enough frost to kill off the last of the summer flowers. “I take it you’re Pandora?”

“Yes. And you must be Lila.”

Her smile broadened. “Cole talks about me?”

“He told me about his past. You came up.”

Kaley took her mother’s hand. “Miss Williams is the one who took me to the coven meeting.”

“I remember.” Lila answered without taking her eyes off Pandora. “I guess that makes us sisters.”

A thousand responses flew to the tip of Pandora’s tongue, but none of them was polite and none of them would do any good to have Kaley hear. “We’re all family under the goddess.”

Cole shifted his weight. “Lila, it’s late and Kaley has school tomorrow. If you want to see her after that, you can call me.”

Lila pursed her lips, but said nothing. Finally, she fabricated a smile, hugged Kaley and walked off the porch and down to her car. She glanced briefly at Pandora as she passed, shifting her gaze quickly to Cole. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, then.”

No one moved until her car was a set of taillights disappearing down the street.

Pandora was the first to speak. “I should go home.”

“Please don’t,” Cole said. “Don’t let this put a premature end to our evening. Come in and have dessert with us.”

“After that? You’re sure?”

He nodded. “She doesn’t control my life and I certainly don’t want her to affect ours.”

Pandora smiled. “Good to hear.” She lifted the bag. “Okay. Let’s eat.”

Cole ruffled Kaley’s hair as he walked up the porch steps. “Did you know she was coming, Kaley?”

“No. I didn’t even think I’d actually get to talk to her when I called last night, but she picked up right away. Wanted to know how I was doing with becoming a witch.” Kaley shrugged. “So I told her. Are you mad at me?”

He pushed the door open, then wrapped Kaley in a hug. “Sweetheart, I’m never going to be mad at you for something you have no control over. I’m not happy your mother is here, but that’s mostly because I don’t want her to upset you. But that’s for me to deal with. You don’t need to worry about that, okay?”

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