Our inaugural story, The Wizard, by Helen Chapman, was chosen as our launch story for many reasons. An historical setting is both pleasantly complimented by its delectable fantasy, and brightened with its quick wit and dialogue. With a satisfying finish, this short story takes every reader on a journey toward finding her own hero, with a lesson taken from every romantic story ever written. What better story to start with than one that speaks to all.
Welcome. And, enjoy!
by Helen Chapman
“Okay, call me.”
Keryn locked the front door before her most recent date could get his hands on her again. Three dates this month, and each worse than the last. The first was a religious fanatic, who prayed before he kissed her goodnight. She drove away before he got to the Amen. Then there was the Mama’s Boy who phoned home every few minutes. Keryn excused herself to go to the ladies’ room, and never went back. She could only imagine the phone call if she had wanted to take him to bed.
Tonight had been the absolute worst date of her life. This one seemed respectable, being an attorney, so Keryn had let him pick her up at her house. That was her first mistake. As soon as he got inside the door, he wanted to drag her upstairs. She managed to turn his attention to actually going out by insisting that her mother would be over with her kids any second. The next three hours were a nightmare of groping and sloppy wet kisses. Finally, she told him she needed to get home to the kids, and managed to get him to leave her on the porch. She’d be changing her telephone number Monday.
Where were all the heroes from the romance novels? She didn’t want much in life. She had her two kids from her first marriage, little girls three and four years old, and she loved them to pieces. But sometimes, a woman needed male companionship. Not necessarily for sex. She wanted a man to talk to, someone to take her out occasionally, and to reach the stuff on the top shelf. Instead, she got preachers, future serial killers and octopi with law degrees.
She showered quickly, put on her comfy flannel nightgown, and grabbed a book. Keryn looked longingly at the cover art: a woman in a torn gown being held by a man in half armor, his leather britches tight enough to see every luscious ripple in his legs. His hair was long and flowing, tossed by the ever-present breeze.
Damn that man was hot! And the way he held the heroine just looked so gentle, yet firm and secure. Why couldn’t Keryn find a man like that? She switched on the TV for some background noise to drown out the storm that was building outside, opened the book to chapter five and was quickly engrossed in the story.
“Keryn. Attend me.”
Keryn heard the booming voice and jumped off the sofa with a start. She must have dozed off around chapter seven. Now she was hearing things.
“I said. ‘Attend me,’ woman.”
She looked up. A man was leaning against the wall, dressed in long blue robes with runic markings. The sleeves were long and bell-shaped, the hood pulled up, hiding his face. “What are you doing in my house? Who are you?” Keryn was scrambling back against the sofa, pulling her feet up under her and trying to make herself very small.
The figure pushed the hood from his head, revealing long dark red hair and flowing beard, but the face behind the beard was stern. “I am Taliesin, the Druid. I’m here because you conjured me, woman. You and your moaning about wanting a real man. I will take you to meet a hero of your fantasy world.”
Keryn put her feet on the floor and gathered the afghan around her like a shawl as she stood. “You mean like the Dickens story?”
“Dickens?” The wizard roared his disbelief. “Speak not to me of those puling literary ghosts. Any shade can transport a human back half a generation. ‘Tis mere child’s play. I will take you back hundreds, nay, a thousand years. The Spanish Main, the West. Choose the era, and we shall fly.”
This piqued Keryn’s interest. “Really?” She took a small step around the coffee table, wanting to hug her wizard, but still fearful. “You can do that? You can take me back to…” She picked up the book. “This time? With knights and ladies?”
The wizard sighed deeply. “Aye. Now, be quick about it. Take hold of my hem and do not let go, lest you be lost somewhere even I cannot find you.”
Keryn dropped the afghan and bent to take the blue satin in both hands. The silk felt alive.
The wizard waived his arm; the room began to fade. Smoke obscured her vision. Keryn felt herself lifted off the ground as she followed the wizard into the night.
Keryn couldn’t judge the time. As suddenly as she had floated off, she landed with a thump in the middle of a muddy field. The wizard loomed over her.
“Where are we? What is this place?”
He answered her questions exactly as she asked. “We are in England, Windsor to be exact, in the jousting lists. And you, my girl, are sitting in a fine pile of horse shit.”
“Wha..! How…? Oh!” Keryn jumped up and twisted around to look at her bedraggled gown. She was covered not just in mud, but in equine effluent. She started to swipe at her hair, until she looked at her palm. Mud and manure were everywhere.
“I wanted to meet a hero. Instead I’m covered in crap!” Yelling wasn’t the brightest move, but she didn’t care. She was filthy, and her backside ached from being dropped from a thousand years away.
The wizard laughed at her. “I only did what you wanted. You wanted to meet a knight in shining armor. Knights joust in tournaments. Horses churn the dirt with their hooves. Horses don’t have a garderobe. They do their business as they stand. I couldn’t very well drop you down amongst the pavilions, could I? This isn’t a park, woman, you’re in the lists.”
Before Keryn could take him to task again, the wizard grabbed her arm and began to drag her from the field. She jerked her arm away, plopping her manure-coated hands on her hips.
“Just wait a doggoned minute, Mr. Wizard. First you tell me this is the place to meet my knight then you drag me off. Make up your mind, would you?”
“Do you really want to meet your knight covered in horse dung?”
Keryn looked down at herself again. She was a pitiful sight. “I suppose you will you transport me to some convenient bathtub?” She reached out as if to grasp his robe.
The Druid recoiled. “I really would prefer you not touch me in that state. And as to a ‘convenient’ tub, there happens to be a bathing place right beyond yon grove of beech trees.”
“There’s nothing here but a stream!”
“And just where do you think people bathed in 1100?”
She glared at him. “I thought there’d at least be a tub in the castle.”
“Castle?” the Druid snorted. “You don’t really expect to be taken for a lady coated in offal, do you? You wouldn’t even pass for a milkmaid. Now, start washing, whilst I find you something to wear.”
Keryn watched in disbelief as Taliesin made a great sweep with his arm and disappeared in a puff of smoke. Well, there was nothing for it but to wash as best she could. But she was not getting undressed.
She was stepping from the creek, utterly regretting her decision to try to bathe in her nightgown, when the Druid reappeared in another puff. She looked daggers at him when he began to laugh.
The Druid looked her up and down. “At least you and your nightgown are reasonably clean.” He held out a worn cotton shift and surplice. “It’s not much, but it will suffice. I had hoped you would use the cleaner part of that nightshift on your hair. Now you’ll have to sit until you’re dry.”
Keryn glared even harder. “You could have at least brought me a towel.”
“This is thirty odd years after the Battle of Hastings. I cannot just walk down to the local mall and pick up linens and notions. You take what I can get. This dress was purchased from the housekeeper of the local manor house. It will have to suffice.”
The shift Keryn held was worn to the point of being threadbare. There were drawstrings where she thought elastic belonged, and it was too long for her. The surcoat was fairly nice though: long in the back, with a small amount of tape embroidery at the waist and tied in the front.
Keryn stepped back into the grove of trees and pulled on the shift. She looked down and was shocked to see the way the cotton clung without undergarments.
The surcoat fit well, and the tie in the front helped shorten the shift so she didn’t trip over it as she walked. That still didn’t solve the problem of shoes. She supposed she could deal with that later.
She emerged from the trees wearing her new clothes and flopped down on a flat rock. She finger-combed her hair and turned her back towards the sun.
“You may as well sit down, Druid. This will take a while.”
The sun was beginning to touch the horizon when Keryn announced that her hair was dry enough. She shivered when Taliesin ran a hand through her hair and judged her passable.
“It’s a bit short for a woman your age. Then again, it’s rare that a woman your age would still be unmarried.”
Keryn started to sputter. She was only twenty-six, after all. She was hardly an old maid.
“We’ll have to concoct a story. You were betrothed to a fighting man, a knight from a far off keep. He went on campaign against the Border lords, and never returned. You waited until you had word from his overlord of his untimely demise then made your way to your own home. Yes, that is quite plausible, and would account for you being single at such an advanced age.”
He grabbed her arm and strode back up the hill. She looked at him, really looked, for the first time since he returned with her dress. She realized he no longer wore his wizarding robes, but a black robe. His cowl was replaced by a woolen cap with long strings that looked like they should have been tied under his chin, but instead hung down to his shoulders. She thought he might have passed for a wealthy merchant. His beard had been trimmed and combed. His hair was still long though. All she could really see of him was red hair and beard, and eyes the color of spring leaves.
Keryn shook herself internally. No, she didn’t need to be thinking those sorts of thoughts about Taliesin. She was just tired, was all. It wasn’t every day a girl traveled six thousand miles and a thousand years.
The Druid slowed his steps when he felt Keryn stumble. He glanced over at her and smiled when he saw her staring at him. “Would you try and keep up, woman? I can’t find you another outfit right now, and we need to get into camp before night falls.”
They made their way more slowly to the knights’ encampment outside the lists, where their arrival was challenged by what Keryn supposed was a sentry.
“I am Marcel de Montfort, on a mission for my lord. This is his niece, Lady Caroline.” He increased the pressure on Keryn’s arm to prevent her objection to his introduction. “We were set upon by vagabonds. Our horses were taken, and our two men at arms gravely wounded. We left them with a farmer, and made our way here in the miller’s cart.” He gestured to a wagon leaving the area. “We were on our way to my lady’s father’s keep. We must beg shelter from your liege until we can decide what we are to do.”
The sentry nodded and gestured for the pair to proceed. Beyond the picket line was an enclave of pavilions: some small, the twelfth century version of a one-man tent; others were huge. She looked about her, fascinated by the variance of structures, and the armory arranged outside. They passed the armorer’s tent, where the smith hammered dings out of a breastplate. When they were out of earshot of any passerby, Keryn asked the question that had been plaguing her since they met the sentry.
“Why the names? I’m Keryn, not Caroline. Although I admit I don’t mind being addressed as Lady.”
Taliesin’s grip tightened and he jerked her away from another pile of horse droppings. “Would you watch your feet, woman? If you must know, I could not use your own name. Keryn is a derivative of Caroline, and your given name was unknown in 1100. People were given saints’ names. The last time I checked a hagiography, there was no Saint Keryn. You are a lady so you’re not passed around camp. It’s up to you to live up to that appellation.”
The newly dubbed Lady Caroline nodded her understanding. She was beginning to realize that just maybe the Druid was right. Maybe life in the past wasn’t quite like it was in her books. If only there weren’t so many horses leaving so many calling cards about.
The Druid stopped in front of the largest pavilion. A man at arms stood outside, leaning on his pike. He snapped to attention, well sort of, as the helmet on his head was rather askew. Keryn covered her mouth to stop her giggle. With his bowl haircut and pot-shaped pate-protector, this sentry looked more like Shemp Howard than any fighting man she’d ever pictured.
“We would have a word with your liege. Would you please announce Lady Caroline deLisle and her escort, Marcel de Montfort? We are beset by ill fortune, and seek a boon.”
The pikes-man turned to the open flap of the pavilion and spoke softly to someone standing just inside. A man dressed in much the same manner as Taliesin stepped out.
“I am David Fitz Georges, adviser to Evian St. Georges. His Lordship is indisposed, and has asked that I meet with you.”
Taliesin retold his fabricated story. “…and my lady’s one female attendant was amongst those killed on the road when their cart was overturned.”
Damn, but this man could spin a tale. Keryn caught herself wanting to weep for the mythical Lady Caroline and her uncle’s aide. Figuring she had to do something, Keryn just stared doe-eyed at Fitz Georges.
He was tall, not as tall as her Druid (where did that come from? Taliesin wasn’t her anything) and reasonably attractive. Well, except for that gawd-awful haircut. Where were all the buff men from the covers of her romance novels? Just then, the wind picked up and it was all Keryn could do not to gag. As the breeze wafted gently past her nose, the air was scented with the not-so delicate odors of horse sweat, man sweat, and old dirt. A new face appeared at the pavilion’s opening, and Keryn realized it was his odor that had preceded him.
“Ah, Evian. You’re here.” Fitz Georges burst her bubble. “My Lady, I would make known to you my liege lord, Baron Evian St. Georges. Evian, I’ll leave you now. Perhaps you and her Ladyship might get better acquainted while I show Montford his quarters.”
Keryn looked at Taliesin beseechingly. He walked off with Fitz Georges as if this sort of thing happened every day. She racked her brain for what to do next.
She dropped into a deep curtsey. “My Lord. I thank you for your hospitality.”
St. Georges laughed uproariously. “Please come inside, my Lady. I was just preparing for my bath. I had a hard morning in the lists, and fear I must reek of horse.”
That was an understatement. To Keryn’s modern nose, that horse had been dead a week. But this was not her century. “Certainly, my Lord. I’ll just wait here while you bathe.”
St. Georges grabbed her arm roughly. Where was the chivalrous knight? “You won’t wait anywhere, stupid woman. You will attend my bath. Quit your bellyaching and get your arse in here.”
Inside a charcoal brazier burned beside a copper tub. Burning might be the wrong word. The thing was spewing smoke in all directions, filling the interior with fumes. No wonder the flap stayed open.
She looked around. There was one room, albeit a large room. Two men at arms stood at rest along on either side of the room, guarding the front and rear entrances. The room was dark, lit by one torchier near the tub, far enough away from the vaulted ceiling that it wouldn’t set the tent alight. Keryn thought a fire wouldn’t do it any harm, from the way it smelled.
The odor that exuded from her new acquaintance was nothing compared to the stench that emanated from the sweat soaked jupon that lay on the fur covered bed. Bed? There was a bed in this room too? And she was the only woman? Keryn swallowed hard when she realized what was actually expected of her.
St. Georges grabbed her roughly again, this time by both arms, and pulled her to him. Oh, God. His breath reeked worse than his filthy clothes and his grimy body.
“My bastard brother has done well for me this time.”
The light came on in Keryn’s befuddled mind. ‘Fitz’ was the prefix used to designate someone born on the wrong side of the blanket. Apparently ‘adviser’ was the old word for pimp.
“Come, come, woman. You act as if you’ve never seen a knight prepare for his bath. Surely your father had you attend guests in his home.”
Now was the time to remember what was in all those books she read. What was it that could turn off a man in this period, bent on having his way with you. The church! Right! She scrambled to find the right words she should say. “I’m sorry, My Lord. I am late come from the convent. Raised by the nuns. I came to the home of my betrothed, anticipating to be wed, only to find him dead. I know nothing of men.” There. That should put him in his place. He wouldn’t want to rape an almost nun, would he?
The look in St. Georges’ eyes changed from interest and anticipation to blatant lust. Keryn could have sworn the man was drooling.
“A virgin? That is most interesting. Perhaps we can come to some sort of arrangement after all.” The knight used one hand to pull down his braes, still keeping his grip on Keryn’s arm with the other. He knew she would bolt given the chance. St. Georges stepped out of his britches and straightened, then stood before her in what looked to Keryn like a diaper. She did what any modern woman would when faced with a grown man wearing Birdseye cotton under drawers. She giggled.
Maybe that wasn’t the smartest move. He shook her hard enough to rattle her back teeth. “You think St. Georges is a joke, wench?” This time, rather than try to pull her towards the tub, he threw her on the bed.
“You don’t want to do this, My Lord.” That had to be the stupidest thing she’d ever said. Keryn dared a glance at the two pikes-men who stood guard at the entrances, and could have sworn that they were sniggering at her, even though their backs were turned discretely.
St. Georges fell on her, clawing at her clothes. Keryn knew there had to be a valiant knight somewhere in the encampment. She thought perhaps if she could just summon one. “Help! Please someone help me!” Her scream was cut short when St. Georges slapped her.
“Shut your face, woman. I don’t intend to share you with every man here. You’re mine.”
Now what? She wanted a gallant knight. Instead she got another octopus. What could she do? Well, a lady always left with the guy she came in with. There was only one choice left. “Help, Mr. Wizard!”
St. Georges was gone. The pavilion, with it’s stink and furs and pikes-men were gone. Keryn looked around as the smoke cleared. She didn’t know how, but they were back in her living room, and she was sitting on the floor in a heap.
“Help, Mr. Wizard?” Taliesin wore a peculiar grin. “When did you get to be Tudor Turtle? Just don’t expect me to chant ‘drizzle drazzle druzzle drone.’ That nonsense is only in cartoons.”
She couldn’t help herself. “What do you mean, leaving me with that rapist? He could have killed me and tossed my body in a ditch, and no one would have cared.”
“My point exactly.” The Druid sat on the on the floor beside her.
“Your point? What is your point? I don’t get it.”
He grinned through his beard. “Just be patient.”
“Patient? I don’t want to be patient. You drag me thither and yon, and I come close to getting raped. Men were even worse then than they are now. And it seems everyone has one but me!” She was in tears by now, and welcomed his arms when they closed around her. She closed her eyes and buried her face in his chest.
When she composed herself and drew back, Keryn couldn’t believe it. She was still sitting in the middle of her living room. Her face was damp with tears, and she could still smell the fresh air smell of the Druid’s shirt in her nose. But she was alone. Totally, utterly alone.
There was nothing else she could do. Keryn sat in the middle of her living room floor and wept piteously into her hands.
She didn’t know when she fell asleep, but it must have been just before dawn. When she awoke, the television that had been on when she returned home was making a funny sound, like it was frying eggs, and the picture was nothing but snow. This wouldn’t do. She had little enough in her life, only thing left was the odd movie on TV and maybe cartoons with the kids. They’d be coming home from her mom’s in a few hours. Without a TV, she was afraid she’d have a mutiny on her hands.
First, she tried to reboot the cable box, and the television set, just like the instructions said. No joy. She tried rigging an old set of rabbit ears. Oh gawd, that was worse than snow. Finally, in desperation, she called the cable company. Although what sort of service she could hope to get on a Sunday morning was questionable.
Wonder of wonder, a real person answered the phone. “May I help you?” The voice sounded young, sweet and vaguely Hispanic.
“Hi, my television seems to be possessed. No picture, no sound. It doesn’t seem to be the set though, since I can get some reception with an antenna. Is there any chance you’ve got a problem in this area?”
The voice chirped right in and verified Keryn’s address. “No ma’am. No crews in the area, and no other reported outages. I’ve got a man in your area. I understand he’s a regular wizard when it comes to this sort of thing.”
Keryn was amazed, pleasantly so, that she could get a service call so soon. And on a Sunday. She figured she’d best at least get some clothes on before her TV wizard showed up.
Wizard. There it was again. She had to forget him. It wasn’t real. Like Scrooge’s Marley, Taliesin was the result of too much salsa with her chips that night, and one too many glasses of wine.
Forty-five minutes later, the doorbell rang. Keryn had just finished drying her hair after her shower. Strange, her hands smelled faintly of manure when she was in the shower. Must be her imagination.
She ran down the stairs, anxious to get the television fixed. She needed a nap, after being up all night. No, she couldn’t have been up all night. It was a dream. Then why was she so tired?
Keryn opened the door just as the repairman rang the bell a second time. She didn’t look at him at first. Just stepped aside and pointed to the TV in the corner. As an afterthought, she looked at his name tag, to make sure he really was the cable guy. Yep, there was the name of the cable company, his picture, and name: Taliesin Montford.
Taliesin? Montford? Keryn felt herself growing faint. She dropped into the recliner and just stared at him.
His hair was still red, thick and wavy and streaked with gold where the sun touched it. He couldn’t have been more than 40. He still had a moustache, only this time, it was neatly trimmed, almost like Errol Flynn or Clark Gable. And he wore skintight jeans.
She couldn’t help herself. “Taliesin? Is that your real name?”
He smiled at her from behind the television. “Yes ma’am. Surely is.” Oh lord, have mercy. He had that smooth Texan accent she found so sexy. “My mama was a hippy back in the day, and was into all those Celtic legends back before they called it ‘New Age.’ I’m Taliesin, my sister is Rhiannon, and I’ve got a brother, Brian Boru.”
Keryn couldn’t take her eyes off him. Here he was, in her very own living room, just as she had seen him in her dreams. But was he real this time? “Does anyone ever call you Tally?”
His smile got wider. “Yes’um. Most everyone does, ‘cept my mama. Nobody never better call us anything but our given names in her presence, or she’ll call down the wrath of Brigid on them.”
Keryn smiled as if she knew what he was talking about. “So, what do you think is wrong with my TV?”
He stood up slowly, stretching his long legs as he straightened. “Nothing’s wrong here. I was afraid maybe a power surge had hit the box, but it looks good. Reckon I’ll be climbing the pole and checking things out topside.”
She followed him to the door and watched him walk across the street to where his truck was parked. He was wearing high-heeled cowboy boots and painted on jeans. His stroll to the ladder truck was poetry in motion, his bum working under the pockets of his Levis like two puppies under a blanket. Keryn watched unabashedly, enjoying every step he took.
Just when he reached the truck, he turned and waved to her. Oh shit! He knew she was watching. And he was enjoying it! Oh, what the hell! She smiled back and leaned against the doorjamb.
He leaned the ladder against the pole. His trip up the rungs was even more enticing than his saunter to the truck. Before Keryn could form the thought that maybe she should go inside and pretend not to watch, he was back on the ground and standing in front of her.
“Found your problem. Damned possum got into a transformer and shorted it out during the night. Fool thing blew. Surprised it didn’t wake you up. Anyway, when it went off, it disconnected your line. No big deal. It’s fixed now. Let’s go reboot your box and see what we can find.”
Keryn sat on the sofa, and was surprised when Taliesin sat next to her. He took the remote control from her hands, and turned the cable box off, then turned on the television and the box. Rather than just waiting for it to come on, as Keryn would have, he began pressing a series of numbers and codes and things she knew nothing about. By the time he was done, the picture was on and clear and the colors more vibrant than she had ever seen.
He seemed to have anticipated her questions. “Oh, t’wernt nuthin’ ma’am. I just programmed your TV to show theater grade display, and set up your digital cable. You’re paying for it, but no one ever programmed the box for you. Can I do anything else while I’m here?”
Oh, he could do something all right. Keryn figured she had three hours at least until the kids came home. That would give him enough time to throw her across his shoulder and … Where did that come from? She was right back in the same position as last night, lusting after a man who wasn’t even real.
Instead of telling him her original idea, Keryn leaned back into the arm of the sofa, almost as if to distance herself from him. “So, how long have you been doing this?”
“Five years, give or take. Started off in computer school, but so did every other college dropout in the 80s, so I learned to climb ladders and fix real wiring.” He turned and flashed that deadly smile at her again.
What was wrong with her? She had never liked working men, always picking professionals with college degrees and titles. Whiners? Mama’s boys? Gropers? With degrees in being horse’s arses? Things started to fall into place. She was always drawn to the title rather than the man who held it. Just the same as knights in armor, Keryn needed to see that men are just people. They’re not gods stepped down from Olympus, not some mythic character out of a book. And there is no sense trying to make one into something he’s not. Maybe it was time she started looking at the man, rather than the profession.
Taliesin was still talking as Keryn came out of her revery. “…and you know the money ain’t half bad. I make more than I would have fixing white shirts’ computers, between doing this and some side jobs.”
Now that got her attention. What sort of man voluntarily worked two jobs, unless he had a wife and seven kids to support? “Oh, you do side jobs too? Your family must hate not seeing you.”
He smiled that devastating smile again. “Well, my mama and sibs are all back in Texas. We talk on the phone at least once a week. My dad is running a halfway house in San Francisco. I see him two or three times a year when I can get out there. Otherwise, the cats don’t seem to mind if I’m gone most of the day.’
Ah, no wife. That was good. “Your folks are divorced?”
“No. Not divorce. Since they never got married, divorce seemed sort of foolish. Told you, Mama was a hippy. Free love, if it feels good do it. All the things the right wing got after them about. She and my dad were together for around ten years, then she wanted to move back to Texas to be near her family. My grandparents are still living, and mama’s been taking care of them for the last three years. It was nice having grandparents around when I was growing up, rather than Aunt Rainbow and Uncle Phoenix at the commune, but I sure missed my dad.”
She didn’t know why he was telling her all this personal information, but Keryn had no desire to stop him. She could listen to his voice for days. Forever. “Why didn’t your dad go with you?”
He ran a tanned hand through his thick hair, hair so thick Keryn thought she could get lost in it. “The commune was already breaking up. People were getting real jobs. Dad was finished Berkley and wanted to do something meaningful. Mama just wanted to get away from the drugs. So Mama went to Texas, and Dad got a job as counselor.”
Damn. A man who could hold a conversation. And he wasn’t hard to look at either. Keryn found herself hoping there might be just a little octopus in this man.
He stood and picked up his clipboard off the top of the TV. “If I can just get your signature on this, I’ll be out of your way. I know you got better things to do on a Sunday morning than sit around and talk to the cable guy.”
There was that smile again. Dare she tell him she liked nothing better than sitting around with the cable guy? She took the clipboard and signed her name instead.
“Keryn…I can’t make out the last name here. Looks like Garrety.”
She corrected him. “No, Garret.”
“And is it Ms. or Mrs?”
“Definitely Ms. I went back to my maiden name when the divorce was final.” Let’s see what he did with that.
“Hmmm.” Just hmmm. Maybe he didn’t like her after all.
He picked up his tool kit and started for the door. He didn’t make it. “You know, for some reason I feel as if I’ve known you for a thousand years.”
The smile was gone. He wasn’t trying to be charming. She knew he was sincere. Something she never heard in a man before.
“Me too. Maybe one day I’ll fill you in on the details.” Had she really said that? She was practically inviting the man out.
“In this line of work, I have a lot of lonely women try to come on to me. You are not one of them.” He looked deeply into her eyes, as if trying to read her thoughts. “Would you like to have dinner with me? The Renaissance Faire starts Thursday. Maybe we go Saturday, then stop for dinner on the way back.”
“Renaissance Faire? You like that sort of thing?”
His smile was back full force now. “I used to do reenactments. Always wanted to ride a horse in the mock battles, but because I’m tall and used to do a bit of acting in school,” he lapsed into a very British accent that almost made Keryn swoon, “they dressed me in wizard robes and had me toss sulfur balls about.” He resumed his normal tone. “I got tired of smelling like matches and gunpowder, so I became a spectator. But it was pretty cool having the kids want me to show them tricks, like letting a dove go from inside my sleeve.”
What next? He liked the same things she did, he liked kids, and he kept cats. She’d better get him out of here before she tossed him over her shoulder and toted him to the bedroom.
She dropped into a deep curtsey. “Well then, Taliesin, I would be honored to accompany you to the Faire. I would be further honored to have supper with you.” There. Was that courtly enough?
He dropped his tool kit, threw his clipboard aside and grabbed her around the waist. With a warm and intimate Texan “Yeehaw” whispered in her ear, he pulled her close against him. Before he let her go, he kissed her soundly on the lips. Nothing lewd or groping about that kiss either. Just firm, and a promise of more to come, if she’d allow it.
“I’d best be on my way, before I get even more carried away.” He grinned happily and rested his forehead against hers. Keryn thought he could get carried away right now and she wouldn’t object. “I’ve got your phone number, right here on the work order. I’ll be in touch later on this week, and we’ll talk over our plans.”
Keryn couldn’t stop herself. She stood up on tiptoe and took his face in her hands. She pressed a kiss to his cheek, memorizing his scent and promising more, if he was interested.
“Ma’am, you are purely magic.”
“And you, sir, are a wizard.”
He picked up his tool kit again and headed to the door. “Maybe come Saturday we can start making some magic of our own.” And with a wink and a nod, he left her believing that he had already begun to cast a spell over her heart.
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