"THE POWER OF ONE"
Cole appeared at Olivia's apartment, later that evening, dressed completely in blue. He wore a dark-blue suit, a light-blue shirt and a royal blue tie that matched his eyes.
"Well, you certainly look handsome, tonight!" Olivia gushed in her usual forthright manner. She gave him a warm kiss. "Almost military. New suit?"
Cole gave her another kiss. "That's right. And you look very beautiful." His eyes swept appreciatively over Olivia's outfit. The redhead wore a light-green, long-sleeved silk blouse that contrasted nicely with her forest-green skirt that reached her calf. She looked beautiful and elegant. Then Cole glanced over her shoulder. "Where's Cecile? Isn't she ready?"
"Almost. She should be ready, soon." Olivia closed the door. "Where's Andre?"
"He'll be down in a few minutes."
Olivia smiled. "Making sure that he has the uh . . . ring on hand?"
Feeling slightly uneasy, Cole tried to dismiss the topic by giving Olivia a blank look. "Huh?"
"For heaven's sake, Cole! The . . ." Olivia shot a quick glance at the door to Cecile's bedroom. ". . . engagement ring. Hel-lo? Have you forgotten?"
He wished he had. At the moment, he had no desire to think about his friend making a step that could guarantee future unhappiness. A step that reminded him of a very painful phase in his own life. But Cole dared not say so. "No, I haven't," he finally told Olivia. "I guess . . . I guess I have other things on my mind. Like Wyatt's nanny. Have you heard anything on those prints?"
Olivia shook her head. "Not yet. Forensics seemed to be taking its own sweet time. As usual." Then she gave Cole a long stare. For a moment, the half-daemon wondered if his girlfriend had read his mind. Until she reached out and took hold of his tie. "You tie is needs to be straightened." As Olivia proceeded with her task, she added, "By the way, what did you mean when you said it was just as well that Andre didn't end up marrying Cecile?"
The question took Cole completely off guard. "Huh?" His eyes blinked momentarily. "Uh . . . what . . .?"
"When I mentioned that Andre might not propose to Cecile because he found out that she planned to break up with him," Olivia continued, "you said it was just as well. Why did you say that?"
Green eyes regarded the half-daemon with an intensity that left him feeling wary. He loved Olivia with every breath in his body, but he deeply suspected that her Machiavellian mind could send the Source and the rest of the demonic realm trembling with fear. For some odd reason, Olivia's question reminded Cole of those last hours spent with Raynor. Just as he did two-and-a-half years ago, he felt as if he was walking a fine line between safety and danger.
"Cole?" Olivia added. "Did you hear me?"
The redhead's voice snapped the half-daemon out of his thoughts. "Yeah, I heard. Sorry. Um . . ."
"Um . . . what?"
Shit! "I just . . . um . . ." Cole took a deep breath. "Well, with Cecile determined to break up with him, I didn't think Andre had a chance in getting her to marry him."
Olivia said, "But the reason Cecile had planned to break up with him in the first place is because she thinks that he doesn't want to get married. But he does. So, are you saying that Andre still doesn't have a chance?"
Of course Andre had a chance in getting Cecile to marry him. Cole simply believed that their chance of a happy marriage did not seem very promising. Only he dared not say this to Olivia. Yet, one glance into her eyes and he saw a glimmer of realization in them. She knew. A sardonic smile curved her lips. "That's okay. I think I already know the answer to that question," she added.
"Olivia . . ." Cole began.
Her eyes narrowed. "What? Are you trying to say that I'm wrong? That you don't believe that Andre and Cecile don't have a chance at a happy marriage?"
Cole snapped, "I didn't say that!"
"You didn't have to," Olivia retorted coolly. "I could see it in your eyes." She gave his tie a sharp tug and turned away. "I guess I should have . . . considering the circumstances of your divorce." Her tone sent a shaft of fear into Cole's heart.
He tried to talk to Olivia - make her see that she had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Only Cole could not find the words to convince her . . . or himself.
At that moment, Cecile emerged from her bedroom. She wore a peach-colored silk sheath dress with a matching jacket. "Hey! What's going on?" she asked.
Cole opened his mouth to speak, but Olivia answered first. "Nothing," she said. "Nothing at all."
Cecile regarded the couple with suspicious eyes. "If you say so." She glanced around. "Where's Andre?"
"He'll be down in a minute," Cole murmured. "He had to . . ." The doorbell rang. "Then again, that might be him." He walked over to the door and peered through the peephole. Sure enough, Andre had arrived. Cole opened the door. "Hey buddy," he greeted. "You're just in time."
Andre strode inside the apartment. "Is everyone ready?"
The others murmured yes and proceeded toward the door. Cole donned his coat and grabbed Olivia's, as well. Before he could help her put it on, she snatched the coat from his hands and followed Cecile out of the door. Andre shot him a curious glance, as he sighed. With barely a few words, he may have seriously screwed up his future with Olivia.
The young whitelighter paused in his tracks, as he waited for the Elder to catch up with him. Keeping his emotions in check, Chris coolly demanded, "Yes, . . . Elder Wyatt? How may I help you?"
Leo frowned at the younger man's sarcasm. "I need to talk to you," he said. "Now. It's about Valhalla."
Chris immediately became alert. "Are we going to discuss this again? I believe the last time we had, you ended up accusing me of killing a Valkryie in order to send you there. And you were going to bring me before the Council. What happened?"
"I got distracted," Leo retorted, looking slightly annoyed. And embarrassed. "But if what I had claimed isn't true, why didn't you volunteer your soul to rescue me, when Phoebe and Paige needed one? You're their whitelighter."
His cheek twitching with emotion, Chris shot back, "Like you said, I'm a whitelighter. I don't fight demons. Remember?" The younger man turned his back on Leo and proceeded to walk away.
Leo's voice echoed through the Realm's hallway. "Are you in the habit of turning your back on an Elder?"
Again, Chris paused. With barely controlled anger, he replied, "No . . . Elder Wyatt. I'm not. Nor am I in the habit of killing Valkryies in order to trap you inside Valhalla. So, get that idea out of your head."
"Really? Because I don't believe you," Leo continued with an unrelenting stare.
Sneering, Chris shot back, "Really? Because I don't care. The other Elders seemed to think I'm doing a good job." He started to turn away, when Leo grabbed his arm. "Hey!"
"The other Elders might regard you as some kind of savior from the future, but I don't," Leo growled. "I think you're more of a menace. Why did you send me to Valhalla? Did you want me out of the way? Has it something to do with the Halliwells? Because if you harm them . . ."
Unable to control his temper any longer, Chris angrily wrenched his arm from Leo's grasp. "Who are you to lecture me about my relationship with them? At least I've been there when they needed me! I haven't abandoned a wife and . . . a son." Leo's eyes widened and Chris began to fear that he had said too much. "Or my charges," he quickly added.
"I haven't . . ." Leo began. He seemed less sure of himself, after Chris' outburst. "I mean . . . I had no choice! Being an Elder involves great responsibility. Maybe you'll understand, one day. Besides, I still keep an eye on Piper and Wyatt."
Chris stared back at the Elder. "Then I guess you know that Wyatt has a new nanny."
Leo's eyes expressed shock. "What? When? Who is . . .?" His expression relaxed. "Oh. The elf nanny must have returned."
"No, she didn't," Chris retorted. "Piper had hired a human. A Vodoun priestess named Donna Thompson. She was the one who helped Piper vanquish that demon, a few days ago."
Shaking his head in disbelief, Leo murmured, "I can't believe it! I can't believe that Piper would hire some stranger to take care of Wyatt without my knowledge."
Chris regarded the other whitelighter with disgust. Leo seemed so caught up in this latest news that he failed to notice that Chris had left.
The two younger Halliwells and Jason arrived at the McNeill house around seven-fifty in the evening, where they found the cocktail party in full swing. Judging from the number of people inside the large drawing-room, Phoebe surmised that she and her companions were among the last to arrive.
Harry McNeill appeared before the trio with a ready smile. "Paige! You finally arrived."
"Hey there!" Paige stepped forward, as she and Harry exchanged a brief kiss. "Actually, we almost didn't, thanks to Phoebe." She shot a dark look at the older sister.
Phoebe protested, "I can't help it if I had a hard time finding my earrings!"
Paige rolled her eyes. "C'mon Pheebs! Your earrings were inside your jewelry box. I find it hard to believe that you didn't know that." The heat of embarrassment crept up Phoebe's cheeks. Paige continued, "The truth is that she and Piper had an argument over who would take care of Wyatt, tonight. She didn't want to leave."
Jason frowned at Phoebe. "Is that why you almost broke our date for tonight? Because of Wyatt?"
"Piper's working tonight," Phoebe added. "I only wanted to make sure that Wyatt had someone to take care of him."
Sighing, Paige retorted, "Phoebe, Wyatt has Donna. His new nanny. Remmeber?"
"Yeah, but . . ."
Harry spoke up, "Listen, why don't you guys circulate around the room? Or get something to eat? In other words, start enjoying yourselves. I'm sure that you didn't show up to have a family quarrel."
Phoebe flashed Harry an embarrassed smile, linked arms with Jason and allowed him to lead her toward the refreshment table. As they began to fill their plates, Jason commented, "You know, you didn't answer my question."
"Huh?" Phoebe glanced at her boyfriend, as she dropped a canapé on the table - missing her plate completely. "What question?"
Jason placed a piece of poached salmon on his plate. "The one that involved our date and your nephew. Where you really planning to break our date in order to baby sit Wyatt?"
Phoebe's mouth hung open. "Well . . . only if Piper hadn't been able to get a babysitter."
"I thought that Wyatt had a new nanny?"
"Well . . . yeah." What else could she say? That she harbored suspicions that Wyatt's nanny might be a demon who had nefarious designs upon him?
A sigh left Jason's mouth. "Phoebe . . ."
The Charmed One placed a mushroom button stuffed with ground sausage on her plate. "What? What did I say?"
Again, Jason sighed. "Nothing. Except . . . sometimes I feel as if I'm competing with your family for your affections. It's like you seem to wrap your whole life around your sisters, and now Wyatt."
"Ja . . . Where did you . . .?" A nervous laugh escaped from Phoebe's mouth, despite the shock caused by his words. A sickening feeling that Jason had guessed the truth, gripped her stomach. Then she shook her head. "Never mind."
Jason continued to stare at her. "What? You won't admit it, will you?"
Keeping her emotions in check, Phoebe replied, "Admit what? I'll admit that you're way off the mark. But that's okay." She gave her boyfriend a quick peck on the cheek. "I forgive you." To her relief, Jason dismissed the matter and continued on another topic.
As they continued to fill their plates, Phoebe noticed Olivia speaking to some guy near the fireplace. And on the opposite side of the room stood Cole, seemingly engrossed in a conversation with Andre and some other man. The couple seemed oblivious to one another, yet Phoebe could sense frustration from Olivia - and fear from Cole. Cole in a state of fear? Phoebe allowed herself another glimpse of her ex-husband and saw him shoot a lovelorn glance at the redhead. There seemed to be trouble in Paradise. Phoebe wondered what had happened between the pair.
Daley carried a blanket outside to the Halliwells' backyard and spread it over a patch of grass. She glanced up at the quarter moon and allowed herself a shiver. It felt chilly, tonight. Hopefully, the ritual would not keep her outside very long.
Then she returned inside the house to fetch her tote bag. It contained materials that she would need for the ritual. Upon reaching the living room, Daley was stopped short at the sight of blue orbs floating above the floor. Seconds later, a blond-haired man in his mid-twenties appeared before her. Familiar with the sisters' whitelighter, Daley realized that she was about to meet another. "Excuse me," the sorceress demanded. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"
Frowning, the man replied, "I'm Leo Wyatt. Wyatt's father and Piper's husband. Or soon-to-be ex-husband," he added ruefully. "Are you Wyatt's new nanny?"
Wyatt's father? Daley cursed inwardly. The last thing she needed at this moment was to deal with her charge's whitelighter father. Forcing a smile on her lips, the sorceress replied, "Yeah. I'm Donna Thompson." She held out her hand.
Mr. Wyatt shook it, as his eyes scanned the room. "Um . . . nice to meet you. I just wanted to see if Wyatt was okay. Where is he, by the way?"
"Oh he's fine," Daley answered politely. "He's in the Solarium. In his crib."
Mr. Wyatt nodded. "Should you . . . uh, be leaving him alone right now? Especially after that last attack?"
"Don't worry. Wyatt's safe." Daley sighed inwardly. "I'll show you." She led Leo to the Solarium, where they found the infant sitting in the middle of his crib and chewing on a blue rubber ball. "See? He's safe. In fact, I had placed a protection ward on his crib." She pointed to a sprig of mallow that she had tied to one of the crib's bars. "In case another daemon or someone else tries to take him."
The whitelighter's face turned red. "Oh . . . uh . . . I see. Uh, where are Piper and her sisters?"
"Piper is at the nightclub, and the other two are at some business party." Daley took advantage of his embarrassed state. "So, is there anything else you want to know?"
Mr. Wyatt's next words took her by surprise. "No, but I guess you can leave for the night."
He continued, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. It's just now that I'm here, I can take care of Wyatt, until his mother returns."
Time to get rid of this dude! As she struggled to remain calm, Daley decided to use Piper's marital status against the interloper. "Well, normally I would be happy to oblige, but I don't think that Piper would be happy if I turned Wyatt over to you, without her knowledge."
Mr. Wyatt opened his mouth, "Well, she didn't tell me . . ."
Daley continued, "And to be honest, I'm getting paid extra for tonight." She paused dramatically. "And I could really use the money."
Fortunately, Wyatt's whitelighter father crumbled under her pleas. "I . . . uh . . . I understand." He bent over the crib to plant a light kiss on Wyatt's head. "I guess you seem to be doing okay." He glanced around once more. "So, I'll leave him to you." He smiled and offered his hand to the sorceress. "Nice meeting you."
"Same here," Daley replied, as she shook his hand. Then to her utter relief, Mr. Wyatt orbed out of the room. Daley heaved a relieved sigh. Finally! She then smiled at Wyatt and returned to her task.
END OF PART XII