"THE ENGAGEMENT NEWS"
Jason Dean closed the portfolio on the table before him and nodded. "Impressive," he commented. "Very impressive. No wonder Jack McNeill had decided to buy your new software." He glanced at his attorney. "Don't you agree, Marcia?"
The billionaire's attorney, an attractive middle-aged woman named Marcia Freeman, continued to peruse her copy of the Crescent Incorporated portfolio with appreciative eyes. "I certainly do."
"That's it then," Jason said, smiling at Cecile Dubois and Cole Turner. "We have a deal. So, uh . . . when do you want to discuss the particulars?"
Both Cecile and Turner exchanged a brief glance. The latter answered, "How about the day after tomorrow? On Friday morning? I have a meeting, tomorrow, with another client. And I need to draw up a contract."
"We . . . need to draw up the contract," Marcia firmly corrected. Turner politely acknowledged her comment with a brief smile.
Jason suggested, "How about ten o'clock, Friday morning? In this room?"
"Fine with me," Cecile complied. "Cole?" Her attorney nodded. Then she stood up and glanced at her watch. "Looks like I still have time for some shopping before I meet Andre."
The mention of the other New Orleans visitor reminded Jason of some news he had just heard. "Oh, by the way," he said, "congratulations on your engagement. Phoebe told me the good news."
A radiant smile graced Cecile's lovely face. "Thanks. As it turns out, I'm not the only one who's engaged."
The New Orleans woman nodded at her attorney. "Cole is also engaged. To Olivia."
The news shook Jason to his core. While Marcia offered her congratulations to the visitors, the newspaper publisher stared at his girlfriend's ex-husband in shock. Olivia McNeill . . . engaged? Jason had never considered the redhead as the marrying kind. When he finally recovered from his shock, he slowly offered his hand to Turner. "Congratulations," he murmured.
Turner smiled. "Thanks. Olivia and I haven't set a date, yet."
"What about your honeymoon?" Jason said. "Have you considered the Far East? Hong Kong or Singapore?"
A long-suffering expression flashed across Turner's face. "Actually, Olivia and I have already made our decision. Orlando."
"Huh?" Jason blinked. "As in Central Florida?"
Turner sighed and continued, "As in Walt Disney World."
Marcia cooed with delight. "That sounds marvelous! My younger brother and his wife had spent their honeymoon there. They stayed at the Boardwalk Resort."
"Olivia is considering the Grand Floridian Hotel."
Jason turned to Cecile. "Are you considering Walt Disney World, also?"
Cecile shook her head. "Oh no. Andre and I are going to Bermuda."
"Lucky Andre," Jason overheard Turner mumble.
While Cecile and Turner continued to discuss their separate wedding plans with Marcia, Jason's thoughts returned to his former girlfriend. During the three months they had dated, Olivia had never shown any inclination for a deeper relationship. Or any kind of emotional attachment, for that matter. Jason had always felt that she kept him at arms' length. He shot one last glance at the dark-haired attorney, and wondered what the latter had possessed to snare the extroverted, yet very elusive Olivia McNeill. One last thought came to him. He wondered if Phoebe knew about the engagement.
Sean McNeill greeted his American cousin with his usual bear hug. "Jack! Bloody hell! Look at you, man! Just as healthy as ever. How are Gwennie and the kids? And your ma?"
Jack returned his younger cousin's greeting with a smile. Sean had inherited the McNeill family's looks - dark-brown hair, blue-gray eyes and a tall figure. Only his features were not as sharp as Jack's. Also, Sean stood at least two inches shorter. "The family is doing fine," Jack replied. "We, uh . . . we're about to welcome a new member into the family, as a matter of fact."
One of Sean's brows rose questioningly. "Oh? So, Barbara and Bruce are expecting a baby, already?"
"Not quite." Jack lifted one of Sean's traveling bags with one hand and guided the other man toward the airport terminal's exit with the other. Outside, they found Davies standing by the family's limousine. After Sean's bags were loaded into the trunk, the three men climbed into the limo . . . and Davies guided it back toward the city's limits.
Jack turned to his cousin. "So, what exactly is the big news that had surprised the hell out of Belinda?"
"You first," Sean said. "Who's the new member of the family?"
"Going to be," Jack corrected. "Olivia is engaged."
Sean's brows knitted into a frown. "Engaged? To . . . To that daemon fella? Belthazor? The one I had met in Scotland, last summer?"
As he mentally prepared himself to come to Cole's defense, Jack warily replied, "That's right. Belthazor. Apparently, Cole had asked Livy to marry her, Sunday night. Now, I realize this might come as a shock to you . . ."
To Jack's surprise, Sean threw back his head and broke into laughter. "Bloody hell! I can't believe it! It's just too . . . oh, I don't know . . . ironic."
Ironic? Jack frowned. "Huh? What the hell are you getting at?"
A smirk appeared on Sean's lips. "Oh, it's nothing, mate. Well . . . actually, you'll find out, tonight." The smirk remained fixed upon his lips, as the limousine continued its journey back into the city.
The bell above Ostera's front door rang, as the two Charmed Ones entered the shop. The younger sister strode toward the young woman who stood behind the front counter. "Hey Maddy," Paige greeted. "Has Barbara arrived yet?" Paige referred to the shop's owner, Barbara McNeill, who has yet to arrive for the day.
Ostera's other assistant, Madeline Oser, shook her dark head. "Nope. Not yet. And it's almost one-thirty." She glanced at the other newcomer. "Hi Piper. How's Wyatt?"
Piper Halliwell smiled at her sister's co-worker. "Fine. He's with his dad, right now. So, Barbara hasn't shown up for the day?"
"Doctor's appointment," Paige curtly explained. "She was supposed to be here over an hour ago. I guess she decided to stop for lunch."
Once more, the door's bell rang. A beautiful woman with windblown blond hair rushed into the shop. "Finally made it!" Barbara declared breathlessly. "Sorry, I'm late. I had to wait for my doctor, who ended up a half hour late." She paused. "Okay, and I did a little shopping. Have you two had lunch, yet?"
Maddy nodded, while Paige replied, "Piper and I just got back."
Barbara's blue eyes settled upon the oldest Charmed One. "Oh. Piper. I didn't realize you were here."
"I usually have that effect upon people," Piper commented sardonically. "How are you, Barbara?"
The blond witch smiled. "Just fine. Aside from a ridiculously long wait at the doctor's office. And the lunch crowd at Macy's was just horrible."
Paige walked around the front counter. "What were you doing there, anyway?" she asked her employer. "Were they having a sale?"
"Shopping for wedding presents," Barbara said.
Piper frowned. "Don't you mean a wedding present? In the singular form? Or do you and Bruce plan to buy more than one present for Cecile and Andre?"
"More than one?" Confusion whirled in Barbara's eyes. "Why would I . . . oh! That's right. You haven't heard."
"Heard what?" Maddy demanded.
Barbara continued, "Olivia and Cole. They're engaged. They became engaged on Sunday night. And they should be getting married next month."
The two Charmed Ones stared at the blond witch in silent shock. Only Maddy immediately responded. "Wow! There's sure a lot of matrimony in the air, lately."
Paige became the first to rediscover her voice. "Are you serious? Cole and Livy are engaged?"
"Oh my God," Piper murmured. "If this ever gets out . . ."
Paige retorted, "What are you talking about? Of course it's going to get out. I doubt that Livy or Cole would hide the news. I'm just wondering how the Elders will react, when they found out."
Barbara rolled her eyes in contempt. "Who the hell cares? Frankly, it's none of their concern. And what can they do?"
"Never mind the Elders," Piper said with a derisive snort. "Can you image Phoebe's reaction?"
With a frown, Barbara said, "Why would Phoebe be upset? Isn't she now dating that guy . . .?" She broke off, as both sisters regard her with slight contempt. Her eyes widened with realization. "Oh. Oh!" Then she sighed. "Huh. Poor Phoebe."
'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?'
The question reverberated inside Cole's head, over and over again. He tried to ignore Olivia's words from last night, by returning his attention to the contract before him.
'At least I know why Leo tried to coerce me into killing you. Tell me Cole, do you know why your mother had killed your dad?'
Shit! A growl escaped Cole's mouth. He slammed the pen onto the desk and leaned back in his chair, longing for peace from the thoughts in his head.
He took a deep breath and sighed. Of course he knew why his mother had killed his father. Raynor had told him, years ago. Mother wanted the Turner fortune. Pure and simple. And the only way to gain control of that fortune - at least according to Raynor - was to kill her husband, leaving Adam Turner's only male grandchild as the major beneficiary. Through Cole, she would have control of the money.
Ten decades later, Cole realized that Raynor's explanation had cracks. Although Nimue did end up taking control of the Turner family's fortune after his grandfather's death, she had relinquish that control when Cole turned twenty-one. That little action stumped him. Why had she relinquished control? Raynor explained that Nimue had no choice, since that she could no longer exercise parental control over her son. However, his mentor did warn that Nimue would find some way to influence him - and use the Turner fortune for her benefit. But the more Cole thought about Raynor's words . . . and his relationship with his mother, the more he realized that Nimue had never harbored any real interest in the Turner fortune. In fact, she rarely brought up the subject. And if he had to be perfectly honest with himself, Cole also realized that he had allowed Raynor to use his feelings surrounding Benjamin's death to manipulate both him and his relationship with Nimue. Because of this, Cole had rarely bothered to touch his grandfather's money. And if Raynor had been wrong about Mother's reasons for killing Father, why did she really do it? What were the real circumstances that led to Benjamin Turner's death?
Cole decided that the only way he would ever learn the truth, would be to re-establish a relationship with his mother. He took a deep breath and picked up the telephone receiver. Then he dialed the number to Olivia's cell phone.
The cell phone rang. Olivia quickly picked it up and answered, "Hello?"
"Olivia? It's me . . . Cole," said the soft, masculine voice on the other end of the line. "I, uh . . . I mean . . ."
The redhead understood his hesitation. Their quarrel over Cole's mother had left relations between the newly engaged couple, slightly cool. They had barely exchanged a warm word before leaving for work, earlier this morning.
The half-daemon inhaled slightly, before he continued. "I've decided to change my mind about Mother. I'm going to tell her about us. About our engagement."
"Oh." Olivia did not know whether to be relieved . . . or apprehensive that she may have pressured him into changing his mind. "Listen Cole," she said, "you don't have to tell her on my account. If you don't really want to . . ."
Cole interrupted. "No. I do. For some bizarre reason," he hesitated, ". . . a part of me wants to tell her. And I guess I think we need . . . Never mind. Look, I don't know how she'll react when she learns that her only son is about to marry another witch, but . . . well, that's too bad for her. But I would rather tell Mother myself, than have her find out through someone else."
Olivia understood. "Do you want me to accompany you?" she asked. "We can go together, after the dinner party for Cousin Sean."
A long pause followed before Cole murmured, "Yeah, I would appreciate it."
"Good. Then . . . we'll leave dinner a little earlier than usual. I'll see you this evening. Bye."
Cole replied, "Bye," and hung up.
Slowly, Olivia disconnected her cell phone. Then she leaned back into her chair. And allowed her body to sag with relief.
Leo stared at Piper in disbelief. "Say that again?"
"Say what?" Piper replied. "That Cole and Olivia are getting married? Okay. Cole and Olivia are getting married. Next month."
Horror filled Leo's blue eyes. "Oh my God! That can't be . . . I can't believe that Jack McNeill would allow such a thing. He has to stop this!"
One of Piper's brows formed an arch. "Stop it? How? May I remind you, Leo, that Olivia is a grown woman? She doesn't need permission to get married from her parents. Or from the Elders Council, for that matter."
Leo's face tightened. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means . . ." Piper cut off, as her new whitelighter orbed into the middle of the kitchen. "Oh God! Now what?"
Chris barely acknowledged Leo's presence with a grimace, before he turned to Piper. "Say, have you or the others found out anything else about the Anansi Order?"
Piper frowned. "The what?"
"Hel-lo? The Anansi Order? The group of Voodoo witch doctors that Whatsnername . . . Daley Bakker belonged to!"
Sharply, Piper replied, "One, it's called Vodoun. Two, they're not witch doctors. And three, no I haven't! It's only been two or three days, Chris. And Andre has been to busy with Olivia's new store to tell us anything. Besides, I thought we had told you that we have no intention of going after them, unless it's necessary?"
Chris retorted, "Considering that one of their members had managed to steal Wyatt's powers temporarily, I would say that information is necessary."
"Oh for God's sake! Chris, as far my sisters and I are concerned, the Elders can hold their breaths on that information about the Anansi Order." She shot a quick glance at Leo. "No insult intended."
Leo sighed. "None taken."
Piper continued, "Besides, there's still the matter of finding out who had hired that demon, Nairn, to attack Wyatt and me. Which means there is someone else who wants Wyatt dead."
With a frown Leo said, "You mean the same person who had killed that witch in Santa Fe?"
"Yes." Piper added, "Now, if the both of you don't mind, I have some work to do. I'm sure that your fellow whitelighters must miss you, terribly."
Chris heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes. A red-faced Leo said, "They won't, after I tell them the news about Olivia and Cole. You know, Piper, I'm surprised that you're not all that upset over this engagement. Because you should."
"Olivia and Cole are engaged?" Chris asked, wide-eyed.
Piper nodded. "Yes. Are they married in your future?"
A brief pause followed before the young whitelighter replied, "Well . . . yeah. Sure." He glanced at Leo. "Is there a problem?"
"Of course there is!" Leo retorted. "A union between Olivia and Cole could prove to be a major threat to the future of magic! Can you imagine how powerful their child would be? A child that will be one-quarter demon?"
To Piper's surprise, Chris seemed unconcerned. "Trust me when I say that you won't have to worry about Olivia and Cole's . . . child becoming a major threat. In fact, someone else's . . ." He sighed. "Never mind. I've gotta go."
Wondering what Chris was about to reveal, Piper added, "Well, I guess that's it, then. No reason for us to worry about Olivia and Cole. Leo, thanks for taking care of Wyatt. Chris, thanks for the information. And good-bye . . . both of you."
The two whitelighters regarded each other sheepishly, before they orbed out of the kitchen. Piper sank into the nearest chair and sighed with relief.
End of Part Three