Magic wand ranch, p.1

Magic Wand Ranch, page 1

 

Magic Wand Ranch
 


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Magic Wand Ranch


  Magic Wand

  Ranch

  A Romantic Comedy

  Caroline Mickelson

  Magic Wand Ranch

  © 2015 Caroline Mickelson

  Published by Bon Accord Press

  Cover and formatting by Sabrina Mickelson-Begic

  All rights reserved

  For my sister Lisa

  who is too amazing for words!

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Newsletter Sign Up

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

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  Chapter One

  Fiona Cantrell twirled around in front of a full length mirror, admiring the red sequined gown that she'd just conjured up. She cocked her head to the side. As dazzling as it was, and as well as the color complimented her fair skin and chestnut brown hair, the sequins might be a bit much. At least for daytime wear. Packing for her new life in London was proving to be far more tricky than she'd imagined.

  She reached for her magic wand and, with a delicate flick of the wrist, sent a flutter of gold sparkles swirling around her. When they settled, she studied her reflection critically. No, a navy power suit went a tad too far in the opposite direction. She sighed. "I wish someone was here to help me decide."

  "Will I do?"

  Startled, Fiona whirled around, her eyes searching for the person who'd just spoke. "Who's there?"

  "Your boss." A male form materialized. "Sorry to startle you."

  Relieved to see a friendly face, Fiona smiled warmly. "Hello, Liam." She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Are you here as my boss or as my fairy godfather?"

  Liam Kennedy, dressed in his uniform of faded Levi's and white t-shirt, slipped his hands in his back pockets and leaned against the wall. "A bit of both, you could say."

  Fiona scooped up a pile of clothing from a chair and dropped it into the open suitcase on her bed. "Have a seat. I was just deciding what to pack."

  "So I see." Liam surveyed her room. It looked like a ladies clothing boutique ten minutes after a tornado had torn through it. "Can we take a walk? I need to talk to you."

  Fiona's eyes widened slightly. Something in his voice sounded different. Serious. "Of course, let me just change." With a quick flick of her wand, she exchanged the business suit for a gray track suit and a pair of aqua walking shoes. She led her boss through the maze of moving boxes that filled every available square inch of floor space in her condo. Once they were outside, she fell into step beside him. "What's so important that you interrupted your honeymoon to drop in on me?"

  Liam's wide grin answered her unspoken question. There wasn't trouble in paradise yet. But if Liam was so besotted with his new witch of a wife, what was he doing here with such a pensive expression on his face?

  They crossed the street and headed along the trail that led to a large duck pond. Towering trees provided ample shade, and a light breeze blew through the afternoon air. Fiona inhaled. The weather was simply gorgeous. She was going to miss the bright blue skies when she arrived in England. A vision of herself walking through London in a gray wool coat with a splashy red umbrella sent a thrill through her. Her new promotion as chief liaison to the United Paranormal Council's European division was an absolute dream come true. Simply put, she was the luckiest fairy godmother alive. Life just couldn't get any better than this.

  "Fiona, there's a problem."

  Fiona's feet quit moving and she reached out to grab a hold of Liam's arm. "What kind of problem?" She searched his eyes for an answer but couldn't read his expression. She'd known Liam for years. He not only made for a wonderful boss but, as cliché as it sounded, he was the older brother she would have loved to have had. There wasn't a single thing about him that she didn't either adore or respect, except for his new wife, Tessa. The woman was a witch. Literally. Fiona's mind raced. Did this have something to do with her new job?

  She sucked in her breath. "Tessa wants her job back, doesn't she?"

  "This isn't about my wife."

  But Fiona was in no mood to hear him sing Tessa's praises. "I knew it. I told you, didn't I, Liam? I told you that she wouldn't be happy unless she had-" but the rest of her sentence came out as a mumbled, unintelligible, and very garbled sentence. Her hands flew to her throat, her eyes widened. Oh, no, Liam did not just do that to her. She stomped her foot in silent protest.

  Liam held up his hands. "I'm sorry, Fiona. I really am. But when you get on the subject of my wife, it's hard to get you back on track. Will you hear me out?"

  Fiona narrowed her eyes. She'd love to give Liam Kennedy an earful but this wasn't the right time or right place. Begrudgingly, she nodded her agreement.

  With a quick glance around to make sure they weren't being observed, Liam tossed a pinch of gold glitter at her.

  "Don't ever do that again. Otherwise I will have to cross you off my list of very favorite people." She drew in a deep breath and then another. Once fortified with fresh air, she began to walk. It was no surprise to her when Liam fell into step beside her. She looked sideways at him. "In return, I won't say a word about your wife ever again. Deal?"

  Liam smiled gratefully. "You're a gem, Fiona. I'm going to miss you terribly when you're gone."

  That sounded hopeful. "So, you're not pulling me from the assignment?"

  Liam shook his head. "That's not why I'm here. Not exactly, anyway."

  "Good, because I want this job more than I've ever wanted anything in my life." How to put this into words? "I mean, London, Liam. Just think of it. Me, Fiona Cantrell, living in England." She laughed aloud. "It's a dream come true." And she owed a great deal of the credit for her promotion to Liam, and indirectly to his wife. Both Liam and Tessa had been up for the same job but they'd fallen in love, which complicated everything. For them. Not for her. They'd ended up married and she'd ended up with the opportunity of a lifetime. A win-win if ever one existed. "I can hardly wait to leave."

  "Well, you're going to have to wait."

  She stopped walking. Again. "What did you just say?"

  Liam tucked her arm in his. "Let's walk. We're not burning calories when we're standing still."

  Despite her worry at the turn in the conversation, she couldn't help but smile. Liam Kennedy was the epitome of good health, right down to his last sculpted muscle. Fiona, however, could best be described as curvaceous. She was fit though, and the fact she sounded slightly out of breath was due more to her state of confusion more than her lack of fitness. "I'll walk, you talk."

  Liam shot her an appreciative glance. "I've always thought of you as the ultimate team player. Which is why I didn't hesitate to recommend you for the job in London. We both know it's a huge career leap but I know you can handle it. But first I need your help with one more thing before you leave."

  "Is that all? Of course, I'll help you. I have three days before I'm due in London. Why the heck didn't you just ask me straight out?"

  "I'm getting to that part. What I want you to do is going to take more than three days. It's likely to take up all of the time you were going to tour B
ritain, so if you can complete this assignment, you'll be getting to London just before your new job starts."

  Fiona thought as they walked on in silence for several minutes. If anyone other than Liam were asking, the easy answer would be an emphatic 'no'. Her itinerary was set, as so was her mind. But she owed so much of her career success to him, not to mention this entire opportunity. She turned to look at him. "Do you remember what an absolute nightmare I was on my first assignment?"

  He laughed. "You mean the great glitter storm of 2008? I remember it well. But no one stayed in the hospital for more than a day or two, so all ended well."

  "Very funny. But seriously, you were a great teacher and I couldn't have had a better boss. So, whatever I can do to help you, I will." And she'd do it quickly too so she could sneak in a few extra days of sightseeing and shopping before her first day on the job. "When do I start?"

  Liam guided her toward a park bench and they sat facing each other. "I think the question you should be asking is 'where am I going?'.

  Fiona waved her hands. "Enough with the cryptic speech, Liam. I said I'd help you, so just tell me what it is that you need."

  "Do you remember meeting a woman named Bethany when we visited Tessa at the spa?"

  "I do. She was the young mother whose husband is serving in Afghanistan, right?"

  Liam nodded. "That's her. She'd doing a great job getting in shape but ideally she should really stay there for several more weeks. Tessa thinks-"

  Fiona managed to stifle a groan. She'd known all along that this would somehow lead back to Tessa, which left her unsettled, and more than a little suspicious.

  "-that Bethany might leave earlier than she should because she's concerned about her kids," Liam continued. "So we thought-"

  Translation, Tessa thought....

  "-that if there was someone to help watch the kids then-"

  "You want me to babysit?" Fiona shot to her feet. "That's the important task you want me to give up time in Europe for? Really?"

  "Please sit, Fiona." Liam patted the seat beside him. He waited until she sank back down before he spoke. "I need someone who is completely trustworthy. Someone who is endlessly good-hearted and who can think on her feet."

  "You need Mary Poppins."

  "She was busy." He grinned. "But you were my second choice."

  Fiona didn't even try to hide her smile. "Oh, for heaven's sake, I'll do it." Why not help out? She didn't have much experience with kids. Okay, none actually, but how hard could it be? Especially if she let her magic wand do the hard work? Nap time? A pinch of gold glitter worked as well as a sleeping pill. Homework she couldn't help with? Her magic wand could procure straight A's in short order. "Consider it my thank you for all the times you've been so good to me."

  Liam pulled her to her feet and gave her a quick hug. "I am deeply grateful. Bethany will be too." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "All the details are here, and if you can leave tomorrow, that would be perfect."

  "What kind of clothes will I need?"

  "We're back to that, are we? Not the red sequins, that's for sure." He pointed to the piece of paper. "Everything you need to know is in there, except for one little, tiny thing." He looked over her shoulder as if he'd just spotted a fascinating leaf on the tree just behind her. "It's hardly worth mentioning."

  She snapped her fingers to reclaim his attention. "There's a catch?"

  He shook his head. "Not exactly."

  "Spit it out, Kennedy."

  He laid a hand on her shoulder. "You can't use your magic. No wand. No glitter."

  And then he was gone. Just like that.

  Incredulous, Fiona spun around. "Liam?" But she was alone in the park with only a curious squirrel staring at her. No magic? Why on earth would Liam go to all the trouble of arranging for a fairy godmother for Bethany's kids and then tell her she couldn't use her magic? He couldn't be serious. No. That last bit had to be a joke, albeit a stupid one. Most likely it had been Tessa's idea. The woman had no sense of humor.

  Just to be sure, Fiona reached into her track suit pockets but her wand was gone. She plopped down on the bench and stared at the squirrel for a long moment. As if to offer sympathy, it scampered a bit closer to her. "Don't worry," Fiona reassured it. "I have an extra wand and a secret stash of glitter at home. I've got this covered."

  Chapter Two

  Cody Proctor was a man who knew a thing or two about fear. He'd spent half of his life on the rodeo circuit, which gave him a full fourteen years of adrenaline-packed experiences to prepare him for this very moment. But fighting to stay on the back of a bucking bronco for eight full seconds suddenly seemed like a Sunday school cake walk compared to the two fierce opponents who blocked his path.

  "We had hot dogs last night." Mitchell, his six-year-old nephew, fixed his hands squarely on his hips. Clearly the boy meant business. "And the night before that too."

  Uncertain as to quite what point the boy was trying to make, Cody glanced at his other nephew. But five-year-old Brian's expression was as stoic as his brother's and held no clue as to what Cody's next move should be. It was an old-fashioned stand-off, pure and simple. "But your mom told me that you liked hot dogs."

  The boys exchanged a quick glance that Cody couldn't decipher. He took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. When he'd initially agreed to watch his sister Bethany's two sons for a few weeks so she could go off to a health spa, he'd never imagined he'd end up in so far over his head. The first thing Cody had done was outfit the boys in Wrangler jeans, Roper shirts, boots, and cowboy hats. Duly outfitted, they'd settled into life on the ranch and had happily played with the dogs, fed the chickens, and practically tied themselves up in knots trying to learn how to rope a barrel. They'd gamely eaten macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs. Over and over again. But now it was clear to see that the thrill was wearing off.

  "We used to like hot dogs," Mitchell said. "But we're over them."

  Brian crossed his arms over his chest. "Over," he echoed.

  If his sister had been on the receiving end of this conversation, Cody would have just laughed. Being an uncle was fun and games, hugs and high fives, and he loved it. But being the boys' caregiver was a whole 'nother rodeo. Between answering a quarter million questions a day, watching the piles of laundry grow, and trying to keep those little tummies filled, Cody had a new appreciation for his sister. As a military wife, Bethany kept her household running while her husband was deployed. The least he could do was keep things together until she got back. "I've got this dinner thing covered. Let's head to Maude's Diner for a burger."

  Mitchell frowned. "Is that the place with the green mashed potatoes?"

  "They're not green. The lighting is just funny in there." Cody reached out to ruffle his nephew's mop of curls. "Now go get your boots on, both of you, and meet me out by the truck."

  ***

  Cody slipped a Garth Brooks CD into the player and turned the volume up as he headed out onto the highway. He wore a smile for much of the twenty minute drive as he listened to his nephews attempt to sing along. They didn't do too poor a job considering they only knew about half the words.

  Maude's parking lot was less than half full. Cody swung the truck into an empty spot and held the door open for the boys. As they hopped out, he marveled at their resilient little spirits. Their father had been overseas for months, their mother had been gone for weeks, which, to Cody's way of thinking, gave them full whining rights. But both boys were living in the moment and making the best of things. He'd do well to remember that in the week ahead.

  "Hey, Cody," a middle-aged waitress greeted him when they entered. "I see your handsome little cowboys are still with you." She grabbed a couple of kids menus and a small bucket of crayons. "Follow me."

  Cody took off his hat and slid into the booth across from his nephews. After exchanging a bit of small talk with the waitress, he ordered three bottles of root beer. "Okay, boys, can you plea
se tell Miss Sara what you'd like to eat?"

  Mitchell ordered first. "I'd like a hot dog, please."

  Brian nodded in agreement. "Me too, and I'd like some mashed potatoes with mine."

  Cody didn't try to hide his amusement. "Funny thing is, we just had a drawn out discussion back at the house about these little guys being tired of hot dogs," he told the waitress. "I guess they're just tired of the way I make them."

  She laughed. "Sounds about right. Let me go get those root beers for y'all."

  After a spirited word search game, Cody drew out his cell phone and pulled up the calendar app. He did a quick count. If he was hitched up and got on the road to Tucson within the next couple of days, he should be fine. The annual Fiesta de los Vaqueros rodeo was the first outdoor event on the pro-rodeo calendar and one he really enjoyed. Between the Arizona sunshine and the enthusiastic crowds, it was a great way to kick off the season. There was also the not-so-little matter of prize money and a lucrative endorsement deal if he pulled off a win. He was looking forward to the challenge.

  Just as he was about to slip the phone back in his pocket, it rang. A quick glance at screen told him it was his sister. His eyebrows rose. Bethany wasn't much for talking on the phone, she usually preferred texts. "Hey sis, what's up?"

  "Hi Cody. How are the boys?"

  He glanced across the table. Mitchell and Brian were in the middle of a full out tug-of-war over an orange crayon. "They're great," he assured his sister. "Little angels." Several long seconds of silence told him that this wasn't just a call to check up on the kids. "What's wrong?"

  She sighed. "I don't know what to do."

  "Hang on a sec," he held the phone aside and snapped his fingers to get his nephews attention. "Guys, I'm going to talk to your mom for a minute. I want you to behave yourselves, got it?" He held out his hand and nodded to the orange crayon. "Fork it over."

  Brian handed him the much sought after orange crayon.

 
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