Authors: Maggie Shayne
Tags: #romance, #witch, #time travel, #novella, #private investigator, #short romance, #musketeer, #mob boss, #maggie shayne
“So, now you will tell me the secret of the
little box with the tiny Musketeers trapped inside,
She closed her eyes and prayed for patience.
“There are no tiny people inside it, Al. It’s just pretend.” He
cocked one eyebrow at her. “Make-believe,” she said. He still
frowned. “It’s just moving pictures of people in costumes. Like a
The frown vanished. Wonder replaced it, and
he stared again at the set. “But the players...they are so
“That’s only a picture of the players. They
aren’t really there. See...” She sought an explanation he could
understand, but found none. Then she glanced up when her aunt came
in from another room, carrying her old Polaroid with her.
She handed it to M. C. “I can’t find the
digital, but maybe this will help.”
“Perfect. Sit still, Al.” She pointed the
camera at him and pressed the button. He jumped to his feet when
the flash went off, then rubbed his eyes. “Sorry about that,” she
said. She took the photo the camera spit into her hand and watched
it, waiting. In a few moments the image came clear. Al, looking
like some lonely woman’s fantasy come to life. Every inch the
modern-day hunk. He didn’t look a thing like a Musketeer now in his
jeans and T-shirt. He could fool anyone—until he opened his
But what an attractive mouth it was.
She lifted her gaze from the photo, only to
encounter the real thing, staring at her curiously. “Here,” she
said. “See? This is called a camera, and it takes pictures of
He took the photo from her hand, then
blinked down at it. “This...this amazes me.”
“It’s a photograph,” she told him. “A
similar kind of machine takes moving pictures of actors, and then
the pictures are sent into the television set for our
Again he looked at the screen. Finally, he
nodded, still staring. “And what sort of play is this?” he asked,
M. C. took the photo from him, tucked it
into her back pocket, and then glanced toward the TV. “Oh, that’s
just a game. Two teams competing to see which wins. It’s called
football. Waste of time, really.” The camera cut to a group of
cheerleaders. Al gaped and nearly fell on the floor. M. C. snatched
up the remote and changed the station. “Here’s a movie. A story,
you see? If we watch together, I can explain things to you as we go
along, and maybe you’ll understand the modern world better.”
“What...what sort of...story?” he asked, his
gaze riveted to the screen as the opening credits of
M. C. sighed as she always did when Bogie
“A love story. Sit down, Al. Relax. This is
a terrific movie.”
movie,” Aunt Kate
said, shaking her head. “Surely you don’t expect him to learn about
the modern world by watching this?”
“Sssh! It’s starting.” M. C. sat down again,
thumbing the volume up a few notches.
Kate rolled her eyes. “He should be getting
some rest. It’s late and—”
“Aunt Kate, go on up to bed. Al and I will
Kate eyed her.
on channel 12.” She said it without much hope in her voice. M. C.
is on 26...or maybe the late
news would be—”
M. C. sent her aunt a quelling glare.
“I found the...er...ball of foot game to be
interesting,” Al suggested.
M. C. looked at him with raised brows, then
turned to her aunt. “He’s becoming a modern guy already.” She got
to her feet, pointing at Al with a decisive forefinger. “You are
going to sit here and watch
And you,” she said,
turning to Aunt Kate, “are going up to bed before you fall asleep
on your feet.”
Kate put her hands on her hips. “And what
are you going to do, young lady?”
M. C. smiled. “Make popcorn. What else?”
She sauntered into the kitchen to do just
that, and when she returned, Al was alone, riveted to the TV
screen, Aunt Kate having finally surrendered and gone to bed.
Al dug into the popcorn with delight, and M.
C. explained the film as it went along. The cars, the guns, the
airplanes, the war. But when it ended, Al turned to her in
“He let her go,” he said, shaking his
M. C. sniffed and rubbed at her eyes. “I
know. It’s a beautiful story, isn’t it?”
“Beautiful?” He searched her face. “But you
are crying! I thought you said this was not real! Make-believe,
“Of course it’s make-believe.” She averted
her face, rubbing the tears from her lashes briskly.
“Then...why do you cry?”
“Because it’s so sad!”
“And yet you love it all the same? Though it
makes you cry to see it?”
She nodded. Al frowned. “You are a foolish
woman, Mary Catherine. And that...that story is foolish as well. He
should not have let her go.”
M. C. tilted her head and studied Al’s face.
“Well, I’ll be... You were as moved by the film as I was, weren’t
he said. “I told you, it was
foolish. He loved her. He should have taken her away with him and
let the war be damned.”
He said it with such passion that she found
herself staring at him in surprise. “You feel pretty strongly about
Al nodded hard, then met her eyes. “Nothing
is more important than love, lady. Not war, nor peace, nor
Lowering her gaze, she said, “You sound as
if you’ve been in love yourself.”
Al shook his head slowly, but his gaze
remained riveted to her face. “I have known many women,
but I have not loved. Some of them...claimed to love me,
but it was my position, my sword, not me. The romantic image of the
Musketeer. One day, I will find a woman who will love the man,
rather than the colors he wears and the rapier he wields.”
“I’ll bet you will,” she said softly.
He nodded, more gently this time. “And when
I will not let her go the way your foolish
Rick of the magic box did. I will fight for her. I will die for
her. I will even...even surrender my sword for her.”
She blinked, amazed at the way her heart
tripped at his words.
“You think I am foolish,” he said, lowering
“I think,” she said, “that this woman...will
thank her lucky stars.”
He smiled, and handed her the remote.
“Another play,” he said.
“Aren’t you tired?”
Staring deeply into her eyes, he said, “I am
more awake than I have ever been,
She felt her cheeks heating, so she averted
her face, focusing on the TV screen. She didn’t think she’d ever
met a more hopeless romantic in her life. Who’d have guessed the
French flirt was really such a softy? “Oh, here’s one. This time
you’ll get to see what I do for a living as well as learn about
life now a days.” He frowned as she punched the buttons and turned
to pay-per-view, and started
One For The Money
Alexandre was amazed at the strength and
independence of the woman on the screen, and slowly realized that
Mary Catherine was like her. He had no idea how to deal with such a
woman. And yet, as the film progressed he understood better the
kind of danger she must be facing.
When it ended, he turned to M. C. “Like the
woman, you feel you have no need of a man to protect you,
“Right,” she said. And she said it
“Yet, you must have been afraid. For you
sought help from the book of magic.”
She shrugged her small shoulders. “I...was
only playing around. I didn’t expect it to really work...certainly
didn’t expect a Musketeer to show up.”
She smiled, and as it had before, her smile
touched him on some very deep level. Made his stomach clench tight
like a fist.
“I think you were afraid. Are you still,
She lowered her lids to hide her eyes, and
he knew she was. But thought herself too strong to admit it.
“Tell me about this trouble you are in,” he
Nodding again, she began. And when she had
told him all of it, he found himself amazed at her cleverness in
having eluded her pursuers for as long as she had. At disguising
herself and escaping even as they watched her every move. She was
truly an unusual woman. Unlike any he’d known.
“You do not have to go back,” he suggested.
“You could go far away, leave this...this evidence behind.”
“I can’t do that,” she said. “Guido de Rocci
is a killer, Al. If I don’t put him away, he’s just going to hurt
someone else. I can’t let that happen.”
He stared at her for a very long moment.
“Finally, something about you I understand,” he said softly.
He nodded. “It is...a matter of honor, is it
She stared at him thoughtfully for a long
moment. “Yeah,” she said. “I guess it is.”
“Then I shall help you to retrieve this
She blinked as if surprised. “But how? I
told you, they’re watching the bank. Oh, they might let me get in
and grab the tape, but there’s no way I’ll get out of there once I
, they are watching. But they are
watching for you, Lady Hammer. Not me.”
Her brows bunched together, creasing her
forehead. “Not... you?”
“I shall go into this...this bank, and
retrieve the tape for you. It is simple,
Her frown eased. “It
Then she caught her lower lip in her teeth, shaking her head
slowly. “So why do I have the feeling it won’t be?”
“You worry for nothing,
am a Musketeer. This is only a small task, and barely worthy of my
She thought for a long moment, even got to
her feet and paced the floor. But finally she turned to him and
nodded. “All right, we’ll try it. But you have to understand, Al,
it’s going to be dangerous.”
“I am not unfamiliar with danger, Mary
She searched his face. But he got the
feeling she didn’t quite believe him. “You’d better get some sleep.
Tomorrow’s going to be a big day, and you’ll need to be on your
He frowned at the unusual turn of phrase. “A
wise suggestion,” he finally said.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the bedroom.” She
reached for his hand, quite without thought, he was certain. But
when his closed around hers, he felt the shudder that worked
through her. And more. The warmth of that small hand nestled within
his larger one. The pull of a longing that seemed to well from
somewhere deep inside him. The tingle of an attraction more
powerful than any he’d known. And he realized then what she
“There is one thing I must tell you, lady,
before I rest.”
She tugged her hand gently, but he only drew
it to his lips and kissed its silken flesh before finally releasing
her. “Go...go ahead,” she said, but her voice trembled just as her
hand had when his lips had caressed it.
He sighed. “I am a Musketeer, and as of this
moment, my mission is to protect you. and to see to it that your
pursuers are dealt with. This is my task, Mary Catherine, and until
it is done, it is where all my attention must lie.”
She tilted her head to one side. “I’m not
sure what you’re getting at.”
He nodded. “I am being unclear. What I am
saying is that as long as I am your protector, I cannot make love
She blinked twice, and then her eyes opened
“I am sorry,
It is a part
of my personal code of conduct, you see. I cannot be distracted,
even for a moment. Not until you are safe, and my task
She gaped for a moment. Then snapped her jaw
shut. “Of all the nerve! I swear, Al, I’ve never met a more
conceited, cocksure, arrogant—”
He surged to his feet, and in one smooth
motion swept her into his arms, dipped her backward, and bent over
her to kiss her mouth, because he knew how badly she wanted him to.
She went stiff in his arms, but as he worked her lips with his, her
body melted, and her mouth relaxed, and he made love to her with
his tongue until she trembled all over.
Then he straightened, careful not to release
her until he was sure she wouldn’t fall. Her eyes were wide and
glassy, her breaths quick and short. “Do not be angry with me,
pretty one. I, too, find it difficult to wait. But for now, you
must go to your chamber alone, and I will rest here...and dream of
the time when my job is done and I can give you what we both
Her faced flushed, still panting, she
clenched her fists and glared at him. “The only thing I
Al, is to get this tape to the police, Guido de
Rocci behind bars, and you back in your own time and out of my life
for good. Understand?”
He smiled very gently. “
She made a growling sound like that of a
lion about to spring, then whirled and stomped away from him and up
the stairs to her room. Alone, and angry at him for denying her. He
lowered his head, shaking it slowly. Poor
frustrated him as well. And for the first time, Alexandre was
tempted to forgo honor, deny his own code, and give in to the
rapture he would find in her arms.
But no. He was a Musketeer.
He laid his rapier beside the settee within
easy reach, and curled onto the cushions for a night he was certain
would provide little rest.
She didn’t sleep well. Her rest consisted of
punching her pillow, and wishing it were Al’s gorgeous face—that
and wondering why the hell she’d reacted to his kiss the way she