"THE ENGAGEMENT NEWS"
Cole materialized in the middle of a deserted mews, unseen by others. He glanced at his watch. It read three two thirty-eight in the afternoon, San Francisco time. Even though he happened to be standing next to a Dublin townhouse, at the moment. The very townhouse owned by his uncle.
After a quick glance around, the half-daemon made his way to the townhouse's front door. He rang the doorbell. Minutes later, a plumpish, handsome-looking woman with freckled pale skin and fading red hair opened the door. She gasped. "Oh! Good heavens! Mr. Turner!"
Smiling at his uncle's housekeeper, Cole replied, "Hello Bridie. Is my uncle in?"
The housekeeper smiled back. "Yes sir. He and Miss Mauve are in the drawing-room, watching television."
"At this hour?" Cole murmured.
Bridget stepped aside, as she ushered Cole inside the house. "I'll take you to them." She then led him to an elegant drawing-room, decorated in the Empire style of the early 19th century. Inside sat Cole's demonic uncle and his aunt-by-marriage. They seemed engrossed by the television set. "Sir, Miss Mauve . . . look who's here!"
The pair glanced up and regarded their visitor with surprise. "Belthazor!" Marbus shot up from the sofa and rushed forward to greet his nephew. "Good to see you, lad! What brings you here?"
Cole greeted his beloved uncle with a bear hug. "I have some news that you will find very interesting." He turned to Marbus' wife, who planted a warm kiss on his cheek. Cole returned the gesture. "It's been a while, Aunt Mauve."
"Only six weeks," Mauve Donohue Farrell warmly replied. She was a tall, thin and elegant-looking woman with graying dark brown hair and intense hazel eyes. Unlike her husband, Aunt Mauve happened to be a wizard. And human. "How is Olivia?"
A smile touched Cole's lips. "Great. In fact . . . the news I have concerns her."
Marbus handed the younger daemon a glass of whiskey. "Oh? What news would you be talking about?"
Cole hesitated. Then, "Olivia and I are engaged." The announcement drew gasps from the older couple. "It happened. Last night."
Both Marbus and Mauve reacted with pleasure and congratulated the half-daemon. His uncle gave him a bear hug, while the female wizard congratulated him with another kiss. "I'm so happy for you!" she cried. "When is the wedding?"
"Probably the second week of December," Cole replied. "We haven't decided where we'll spend our honeymoon." Thoughts of Walt Disney World flashed in his head and he shook his head, determined not to think of Olivia's choice.
Mauve surprised him by asking, "What about Olivia's family? I wondered . . . how they would react to the news." She paused. "Have you told them, yet?"
Cole hesitated, as a flash of anxiety struck him. "Uh . . . not yet. You don't think . . . you don't think they'll approve?"
Marbus retorted, "Of course they will, lad! You're practically a member of the family, as far as they're concerned. And when you consider their own family history . . . I doubt that you'll get any resistance from them."
"Marbus is right," Mauve added. "I don't believe you will have anything to worry about."
Cole took comfort in the couple's words. So much so that Marbus' next question took him by surprise. "By the way," the older daemon began, "have you told your mother the news?"
A jolt of displeasure flared within Cole's chest, as he briefly contemplated his uncle's question. He quickly retorted, "Of course not! Nor do I plan to tell her. It's none of her business, as far as I'm concerned."
Marbus protested, "How could you keep such news from your mother? You're her only child!"
"A connection that I don't particularly relish," Cole replied in a chilly voice.
"Belthazor . . ."
Maeve interrupted, "For heaven's sake, Miles!" She used Marbus' human name. "Leave the boy be! Cole and Elizabeth haven't been close in years! Perhaps it's just as well."
Marbus glared at his wife. "Just as well, eh? Is that common sense speaking, Maeve? Or simply your dislike of my sister?"
Cole knew all about the chilly relationship between his mother and Marbus' wife. He never could fathom why the two females detested each other so much. It was possible that Nimue had disapproved of her brother's marriage to a female wizard - a non-demon. But Cole found that hard to believe, considering his mother's marriage to the very mortal Benjamin Turner. And he doubted that Maeve's dislike toward Nimue stemmed from the latter's service to evil. Maeve had never exactly been the epitome of goodness. And Cole's own role as a demonic assassin had never affected his relationship to the female wizard. Perhaps the two women simply rubbed each other the wrong way.
"This has nothing to do with my feelings toward Nimue!" Maeve retorted. "You just can't tell Cole how he should feel about his mother. Whatever is wrong between them, they will have to work it out, themselves!"
Marbus scowled, but remain silent. Meanwhile, Cole pecked his aunt's cheek. He had no argument with her advice. As far as he was concerned, the less he saw his mother . . . the better.
"Hey! Look who's here!" Harry declared, as Olivia and Cole entered the McNeill dining room. "Aren't you two a little late for dinner? We're almost finished."
Olivia gave her younger brother a tart smile. "Cole and I already had dinner, thank you very much." She and her new fiancé sat down in two of the empty chairs, around the table. Then she noticed another empty chair, next to Barbara. "Is Bruce working tonight?"
"Yes he is, pet," Gweneth McNeill commented. "Now, what brings you two here, tonight?"
Olivia's father added, "Before you answer, I have my own news." He paused, before he addressed everyone. "Cousin Sean will be in town, tomorrow. Tomorrow afternoon." Jack turned to his wife. "And Gwen, you don't mind preparing a special dinner to welcome him, do you?"
"Of course not, love," Gweneth replied. "In fact, I'll ask Bruce if he would help me."
Harry said, "Mind if I ask Paige to join us?"
"You can invite her entire family." Gweneth turned to her daughter. "And Livy, Cecile and Andre are welcomed, as well. But right now, I want to hear what news you and Cole have."
Olivia and Cole exchanged a brief glance. Then the former took a deep breath and declared, "Cole had proposed to me, last night. I said yes, and we'll be getting married, next month." She punctuated her announcement with a disarming smile.
The McNeills reacted . . . all at once.
"Bloody hell!" Gweneth cried.
Gran broke into a wide smile. "Congratulations!"
"Wow!" Barbara exclaimed. "Talk about your bombshell!"
A bewildered-looking Jack merely blinked his eyes and said, "Huh?"
Harry raised his hand and asked, "So, where do you plan to go for your honeymoon?"
Later than night, Cole and Olivia lay side-by-side on the large bed, inside the penthouse's master bedroom. "Well, that was interesting," the half-daemon commented. "Do you think that your dad has recovered from shock, yet?"
Olivia sighed. "I don't know. It had taken him at least two days, when I first became engaged to Richard. And you should have seen Mr. Bowen's reaction when Barbara and Bruce first became engaged." She shook her head and laughed. "For a minute, it seemed as if he had regarded Bruce as some kind of molester."
"I think your dad was too stunned to regard me as one," Cole murmured. "But I could see visions of a large wedding in your mother's eyes. Uh . . . you're not thinking of the same, are you?"
Another sigh - this one deliberate - escaped from Olivia's mouth. "Oh, I don't know. I think that Mom would like a big wedding, without any incubi or succubae to worry about." She placed her head on Cole's chest.
The half-daemon moaned. "Oh God, I hope not! I still have vague memories of that large wedding Phoebe had planned. And that's something I have no desire to repeat, possessed or not." He paused. "Hey, if we can forgo a big wedding, I'll consider Walt Disney World for our honeymoon."
Mission accomplished. The redhead leaned forward and gave him a brief, warm kiss on the lips. "You have a deal," she crooned. "Don't worry. I'll make sure that any grandiose plans Mom may have for our wedding will be quickly nipped in the bud. I'll suggest that we keep it . . . moderate. A few friends and family. Okay?" She kissed him, again.
Cole smiled. "Is it any wonder why I love you?" He wrapped his arms around Olivia's torso and kissed her.
"Hmmm," Olivia moaned, after their lips had parted. "Oh boy! I'm really looking forward to the honeymoon. By the way, since you've already told Marbus about our engagement, when will we tell your mother? I figured that tomorrow evening . . ."
A scowl appeared on Cole's face. He sat up, causing Olivia to roll off his body. "Has Marbus talked to you recently?" he demanded harshly.
Olivia stared at him. "Huh? What are you talking about?"
With a sigh, Cole explained that his uncle had suggested - and argued - that he announce their engagement to his mother. "Naturally, I said no. I didn't think it was any of her business. And I still don't. After all, I never told her about my marriage to Phoebe, and I don't intend to inform her about this one."
"Cole, you were possessed by the Source during your last marriage. How could you tell your mother?"
The half-daemon snapped, "I wasn't possessed when Phoebe and I first became engaged."
Olivia rolled her eyes. "For heaven's sake, Cole! Why won't you tell your mother? You're her only . . ."
"Don't! Don't tell me that I'm her only son! Or her only child! It's an association that I don't particularly relish!" Cole replied in a hard voice. "And I'm not in the habit of inviting my father's killer to something I would consider a special moment for me."
Contempt dripped from Olivia's voice. "Oh, I see. It's okay for us to forgive you for past crimes. Or, you can forgive the Halliwells for killing you when you were possessed. And I can just forget the fact that you and Dad once tried to kill each other, over twenty-five years ago. But your mother? I guess she doesn't deserve your forgiveness, huh?"
Cole shot back with equal contempt, "Speaking of forgiveness, I don't recall you extending that sentiment toward Leo for what he and Margolin had done to us, last summer."
"Leo hasn't bothered to express any remorse for his actions!"
The half-daemon retorted, "Neither has my mother!"
"At least I know why Leo tried to coerce me into killing you!" Olivia sat up and gave Cole a penetrating stare. "Tell me Cole, do you know why your mother had killed your dad?"
With a contemptuous snort, Cole replied, "Yeah! She was an evil bitch, who wanted my father out of the way."
"Cole, your mother had waited four to five years to kill your father. Now that's a hell of a long time to wait to get someone out of the way. Haven't you ever asked yourself . . . why?" With those words, Olivia turned away, her back facing Cole. A sigh rose from her throat. "But, if you don't want to tell her about us . . . fine. It's your choice."
Olivia closed her eyes. And pretended that she did not hear the oath that came from her fiancé's mouth.
End of Part Two