"THE POWER OF ONE"
Following her failure to kill Wyatt Halliwell and maintain possession of his powers, Daley Bakker and her surviving followers had made their way south to Los Angeles. There, they tended their wounds - and egos - at a house located in Brentwood, an exclusive suburb, just west of the metropolis. The sorceress had purchased the house as a sanctuary from the law, four years ago.
Someone knocked on the study's door. Daley looked up from the club soda she was nursing, as Marc entered. "You have a guest. It's Mr. Dagnabi."
Daley immediately placed her drink on the desk and stood up. She recognized the name of William Dagnabi, the Nigerian-born bokor, who led the Anansi Order. "Send him in."
Seconds later, Marc ushered in a tall, lanky African male in his early 50s, with thin, graying hair, hawk-like features and a pair of dark-brown eyes. "Miss Bakker," he said in a soft, West African accent. "It is good to see you looking well."
"Thank you, Mr. Dagnabi." Daley bowed to her leader. "What brings you here to California?"
Mr. Dagnabi sat down in one of the chairs that faced Daley's desk. "To see you, of course. I heard about your recent profits. Sixty-three million U.S. dollars. Very impressive."
Daley smiled graciously. "Thank you, sir. Um, would you like a drink? I'm having club soda."
The bokor shook his head. "Thank you, but no. I just ate dinner. I . . ." He began to pick imaginary lint from his hand-tailored jacket. "I also learned about your experience with a certain group of witches in San Francisco. Along with a mambo, a houngan and a half-daemon."
Panic mingled with surprise with Daley. "Uh . . . how did you . . .?"
"Visions, Miss Bakker," Dagnabi coolly replied. "The water element can be very useful in viewing the future." He paused. "And the past. I used the chalise from my own altar."
Daley struggled to remain calm. "Mr. Dagnabi, I can assure you that I had no intention of using the boy's powers against the Order. Or you."
"Really?" Dagnabi looked slightly disappointed. "I would have tried." What Daley would describe as a crocodile smile curved the bokor's lips. "Perhaps I'm just a little more ruthless than you."
The sorceress smiled nervously and murmured, "Perhaps."
Dagnabi continued, "The reason I came to see you is I believe that you are the right person for my new project."
"What new project?"
The bokor paused. "Have you ever heard of an old, legendary bokor named . . . Dako?" Dagnabi then revealed to Daley about his attempt to revive the spirit of an eighteenth-century sorcerer named Dako. After raising said spirit and placing it inside an old urn, Mr. Dagnabi had shipped the urn to a warlock in San Francisco named Edward Crozat. "My friend, Edward, wanted to use Dako's spirit to get revenge against the witches and daemon who had wiped out his kinsmen. The very group of people with whom you had recent troubles. Alas," Dagnabi sighed, "they not only killed Edward and his remaining cousins, the mambo you had faced also vanquished Dako's spirit back to the Underworld, as well."
Daley demanded, "And you need me to do . . . what?"
Wearing a cryptic smile, the bokor leaned back against his chair. "Well, Miss Bakker, I plan to resurrect Dako."
"You mean his spirit?" Daley said with a frown.
Dagnabi's eyes glittered. "I mean . . . Dako. In the flesh. And after his resurrection, he will unleash his power upon the magical world, making the Anansi Order more powerful than ever."
Daley shook his head. "But what does this have to do with me?"
"Let's just say that my plan will give both you and Dako a chance for revenge against your former acquaintances in San Francisco." The bokor leaned forward. "Are you interested?"
Still smarting from the magical disaster in San Francisco, Daley contemplated William Dagnabi's plan to resurrect a powerful, 200 year-old bokor. It seemed like the perfect way to get back at those who had thwarted her own plans. Was she interested? She smiled at her guest. "Yes sir. I definitely am."
The four people returned to the apartment building on Fillmore, following the end of the McNeill dinner party. The moment they materialized in front of Olivia's apartment, Cecile and Andre exchanged a brief, uneasy look. One that Cole had noticed. "Something wrong?" he asked.
Andre coughed slightly. "No. It's nothing. Well . . ." Again, he and Cecile exchanged a look. Then, "Would you two mind if Cecile and I were alone, tonight? We, uh . . ."
". . . want to celebrate," Cecile finished. She looked a lot less embarrassed than her fiancé. "Our engagement. Alone."
Cole got the message. Apparently, so did Olivia. She smiled at the couple and said, "I don't mind staying with Cole, tonight." She shot a blank glance at the half-daemon. "If he doesn't mind."
"I don't," Cole quietly added.
Olivia nodded. "Okay. Then all I need are my PJs and clothes for tomorrow." She smiled at the engaged couple. "And then Cole and I will leave you two lovebirds, alone."
Twenty minutes later, Cole ushered the redhead inside his penthouse. She carried a tote bag that included everything she needed for tonight and tomorrow. "I have two guest rooms," Cole said, as he escorted Olivia to one of them. "Since Andre has been staying in the other room, I thought you might prefer this one." He had led her to a neat, sparsely furnished room with a large, Queen-size bed.
The red-haired witch gave him a long stare. "Why would I mind using Andre's room?"
"Because he's not the neatest person in the world," Cole coolly explained. "And unless you're prepared to clean up his mess just to get a night's sleep . . ."
Sighing, Olivia replied, "I get the message. I guess I'll be sleeping in here, tonight." She dumped her tote bag on the bed. "Well . . . good-night."
Cole, however, remained rooted where he stood. "Uh, would you like a late-night drink? Or a snack?" he asked.
The half-daemon closed his eyes and heaved a silent sigh. Apparently, Olivia had decided to be difficult. "I don't know, Olivia. Fillet Mignon? A shot of vodka? Do you want something before going to bed, or not?"
Coolly, Olivia pointed out that they had just eaten a large meal at her parents' home. "Now, why would I want or need a snack?"
Unable to hold his temper any longer, Cole snapped. "Because it would give us a chance to talk, goddamnit! There! I said it! I . . . want . . . to . . . talk!"
"Talk about what?"
It seemed a miracle to Cole that he has managed to refrain from incinerating his girlfriend. Instead, he hissed through clenched teeth, "Listen, I realize that I have somehow managed to piss you off. But could you please tell me how and stop playing these damn games?"
Without a hesitation, Olivia retorted, "I'm playing games? You can't even be honest about how you feel and you accuse me of playing games!"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about!" Olivia glared at Cole. "You had criticized Andre's decision to propose to Cecile . . . all because of your own fears about getting married! Look, if you no longer like the idea of marriage, Cole . . . that's fine! But the next time, try not to project your fears upon someone else's plans!"
Cole shouted back, "I wasn't . . ." He took a deep breath, he added less heatedly, "All right! I'll be honest. I am afraid of marriage. There! Okay? I'm . . . I'm afraid of repeating the same kind of marriage I had with Phoebe."
"Wha . . .?" Olivia shook her head and sighed. "Tell me Cole . . . what marriage?"
The half-daemon frowned at her. "What the hell are you talking about? My marriage! To Phoebe!"
Olivia continued, "You had spent most of your entire marriage being possessed by the Source! And your last months in matrimony were either spent in the Wasteland, or legally separated from Phoebe. Like I said - what marriage?"
His girlfriend's words dampened Cole's emotional state. It had never occurred to him that he and Phoebe had never really shared a marriage together. Frowning, he continued, "But the wedding ceremony had been in our . . ."
"In your names?" Olivia finished. "Well, of course! After all, the Source had control of your body. Had stolen your identity. What did you expect?" Before Cole could respond, Olivia added, "Let's face it. You two really didn't have much of a marriage. And if you're worried that history will repeat itself . . . well, too bad. Because I can't guarantee that you'll never live happily ever after with some woman. Life is too uncertain to be certain about such a thing. But, if you still believe that marriage isn't for you . . ." She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. "Well, I guess I can live with that."
A long pause followed before Cole murmured, "I never said that marriage wasn't for me."
He spoke louder. "I never said that marriage wasn't for me. I only . . . agreed that I was afraid of repeating what happened between Phoebe and me. I mean . . . if I had really wanted to avoid another marriage, would I have bothered to buy an engagement ring?"
Olivia frowned. "What ring?"
Cole realized that he had revealed more than he had intended. "Uh . . . I had bought an engagement ring." He paused. "About two months ago."
Green eyes widened in shock. Then a pillow from the bed flew into one of Olivia's hands. A moment later, the redhead battered him with said pillow, until he found himself being knocked onto the bed. "What the hell?" the half-daemon exclaimed.
"You are such an asshole!" Olivia cried angrily. She continued to rain more blows upon Cole's face with the pillow. "When exactly were you going to tell me about that damn ring?"
"I was going to tell you!" Cole protested. Then he ripped the pillow from Olivia's grasp and flung it on the floor. "Eventually. When the time was right."
Olivia seared him with a contemptuous glare. "The time? You . . . It's all about timing with you, isn't it? No wonder you're such a goddamn control freak!"
Cole sprung up from the bed to face Olivia. "What the hell are you talking about?" he retorted. "Since when have I ever tried to control you?"
Her face now inches from Cole, Olivia shot back, "Not me! The situation. You have this . . . You know, this reminds me of what Leo once told me . . . about your last encounter with the Thorn Brotherhood. After you had helped the Halliwells stop them from taking over this company, you decided to stick around your old comrades, instead of using common sense and returning to Phoebe and the others. I mean . . . why, Cole? Why would you do something so monumentally stupid?"
"Look, I was trying to ensure . . ." Cole began. Then he realized that he could not find an explanation that would sound sensible.
Olivia immediately caught on his confusion. "Ensure what? That the Brotherhood and the Source would no longer send zoltars after you? What on earth made you think you could control that situation?"
"I don't know!" Cole growled. And to his embarrassment, he really did not know.
"And now," Olivia continued, "I find out that you had bought an engagement ring - TWO MONTHS AGO! What were you waiting for? The right moment to propose? Or did fear allow you to use that excuse? If you wanted to marry me so damn badly, Cole Turner, why don't you just ASK?"
Cole leaned forward, and retorted through clenched teeth, "Fine! I'll ask! Will you marry me?"
The moment Olivia spoke, her reply echoed within the room. The heat between the couple suddenly subsided. They stared at each other with stunned eyes. Cole finally rediscovered his voice. "Did you just . . . uh . . . did you just say yes?"
Olivia quietly murmured, "I guess so."
She guessed so? Cole shook the confusion from his head. Perhaps he had imagined things. "You . . . uh, you do realize that . . . I had just asked you to marry me. Right? I mean, if you want me to take it back . . ."
"No! I mean . . ." Olivia sighed. "I don't want you to take it back. Her face turned pink with embarrassment. "Unless you didn't mean it. Did you?"
Cole stared deeply into a pair of beautiful green eyes that regarded him with a mixture of anxiety, hope and longing. Eyes that perfectly expressed his current emotions. "Why would you think that? Of course I meant it. I'm in love with you." Then he gently lowered his mouth upon Olivia's and kissed her. Deeply. Her arms slid around his neck. He grabbed hold of her waist and drew her body closer to his. God, how he loved this woman so much! This crazy, exasperating and very fascinating woman. How could he have doubted her feelings for him?
As their kiss grew more intense, the couple began to explore each other's mouths with lips and tongues. "Cole," Olivia managed to gasp between kisses. "Cole, don't you . . . oh! Don't you think . . .?"
"Think what?" Cole murmured, before his mouth began to assault the tender curve of Olivia's neck.
The redhead moaned, "Oh God! Don't you think . . .?" More kisses followed. Finally, their mouths parted, much to Cole's dismay. In a breathless voice, Olivia said, "Don't you think . . . you should give me the ring? Before we celebrate any further?"
Cole considered his new fiancée's suggestion for a brief moment. Then, "I think the ring can wait."
"Co . . .!" Before Olivia could protest any further, Cole lowered his mouth upon hers, before they fell upon the bed. And continued their celebration.