Elayne turned and saw that Scott Marsters had been the one to follow her and Ronnie into the kitchen and he was now watching her very closely.
“Just herbs that I’ve grown in my garden,” she replied with a smile. Scott was the bands keyboard player and Elayne couldn’t help but think how handsome he was even though she knew that he was scrutinizing her and her motives closely. “Don’t worry, Scott. It’s nothing that could hurt him.”
Scott tucked a lock of his long dark hair behind his ear as he moved forward and picked up one of the packets that Elayne had opened in preparation of adding to the water when the time came. He lifted it to his nose and smelled its contents, never taking his crystal green eyes off Elayne while he did so. Apparently he didn’t have a problem with what he had smelled, because he soon lowered the package again and turned his gaze to Ronnie.
“If you think it will help,” he said with a shrug to neither one of them in particular. He took a step back, but made no other move to leave the room and Elayne sensed that he wasn’t going anywhere until he was sure she meant his friend no harm.
Scott was the oldest member of the band and the media had pegged him as the father figure of the group, the one that the others deferred to and the one who set the example for the group. Like many celebrities, the Middlemen had found themselves involved in a few scandals from time to time and Elayne had often been impressed by the way that Scott had always handled himself.
Thinking about scandals reminded Elayne that only a few months ago Scott had gone through a highly publicized divorce and in the reports she had watched he had been the picture of composure. Scott had been very quiet since entering the house and Elayne wondered if he was normally so closed off.
The water had begun to boil, drawing her attention back to Ronnie and what she was doing. Elayne felt Scott’s eyes on her as she adjusted the burner setting to low before expertly pouring the correct amount of dried herbs from the packages into the pot. She then visualized the healing steam entering Ronnie’s lungs and his eyes loosing the redness that now rimmed them.
She then took a wooden spoon from a crock on the back of the stove and stirred the mixture as Ronnie took a step closer to inspect the contents of the pot. The burner would keep the concoction warm long enough to do Ronnie some good without the steam scalding his face.
Finally, in a low voice, she murmured the words that would finish the healing spell she had put together and ignite the herbs to do their work. Then she turned to Ronnie, deliberately not looking in Scott’s direction because his presence was beginning to distract her.
“What were you saying?” Ronnie asked, an odd look on his face.
“Just a little thank you to Gram for teaching this to me,” she told him with a small smile.
It was only a small lie. Elayne had learned many things from her grandmother about the raising and harvesting of herbs for home remedies, but the spellwork and the knowledge of how it worked was hers alone. She grabbed the towel from around Ronnie’s neck that he had used to dry his hair and pulled it over his head. “Ready?” she asked.
Ronnie nodded, then bent over the pot, bracing himself by putting one hand on the stove where it was cool and the other on the counter next to it. Elayne adjusted the towel so that it wouldn’t catch on fire from the burner and so that none of the precious vapors would escape.
“Close your eyes and breathe deeply,” she instructed as she put her hand on Ronnie’s back reassuringly. She then looked up to see that Scott was still watching her intently.
“He should feel better in a little while,” she informed the dark haired watchdog with what she hoped was a comforting smile.
Scott simply nodded and continued to regard her silently for a moment. He had taken the time to watch her while she had fussed with the water and he had to admit that he liked what he saw. Elayne Daniels was tall for a woman, about 5’10” if he had to venture a guess. Still short compared to his six foot, two inches, but if they stood side by side he figured that her head would come past his shoulders. Her hair was long and brown, like sable and she wore it loose so that it hung mid-way down her back.
He scrutinized the long, loose clothing that she wore and silently wished that her skirt was a little shorter and that the sweater she had on didn’t hang past her waist so that he could see more of her shape. Not that she looked like a slouch, but Scott was a leg man and he was intrigued to see what hers looked like.
Marsters, what the hell are you doing, he berated himself as he watched Elayne turn to him and smile. The last thing he needed to be doing was checking about some woman’s legs that he didn’t even know. Get a grip, he told himself.
Elayne saw the look in his eyes and mistook his silent rebuke as if he were being cautious with her. She knew that it must be second nature for him to be suspicious of strangers, but she had always tried to be open and warm when she met new people. Years of being in the entertainment business may have been lucrative for his bank account, but it also created barriers that were hard for others to pull down, even if they only had the best of intentions.
As the silence stretched between them, Elayne found that she was amazed by how incredible his eyes were close up and how hard his features were as he regarded her. She found herself wondering what the closely trimmed mustache and goatee he wore would feel like under her fingers and she quickly tore her gaze from his before her eyes gave away her thoughts.
Knowing that what she was about to do was bordering on doing the wrong thing, but unsure of any other solution, Elayne opened her mind to Scott’s to let him know that he could trust her. Normally she didn’t use her power like this, but she didn’t mean to manipulate him, just assure him that she didn’t want to exploit him or the others in any way.
She watched as his brow softened slightly and the lines around his mouth disappeared as the frown left his features. He dropped his arms to his sides from the defensive way he had held them crossed over his chest and he regarded her now with interest.
“That’s an interesting necklace,” he pointed out after a moment of silence between them.
Elayne glanced down to her chest and smiled when she saw the silver medallion that hung from a black cord around her neck. “Thank you,” she replied quietly. “It’s a Celtic Peace Knot.”
Scott’s brows rose slightly. “Really? I’ve seen Celtic Knotwork before, but I never realized that they were named.”
Before Elayne had a chance to reply, Ronnie’s muffled voiced sounded from under the towel. “How long do I have to stay under here?”
“A year,” Scott told him sternly as his eyes moved to his friend. Elayne was the only one who saw the infectious smile that played across his features and smiled back at him in return.
“Shut up, Scott,” Ronnie said, sounding a little like a child. “Once Elayne makes me better I’m going to kick your ass.”
“You’re talking too much, Ronnie,” Elayne scolded lightly as she crossed to the opposite counter and pulled out a stainless steel tea steeper. “Relax and let the herbs have a chance to work.”
“Aallrriigghhtt,” Ronnie droned, then was quiet again. Elayne was aware of Scott’s eyes on her as she went to her basket again and began to pull out other dried herbs and put the others she had already used away.
“I’m going to make a tisane for Ronnie to drink,” she explained as she mixed the herbs in the strainer and closed the screw top. “The bay laurel will help to clear his head and the lavender will kick out the infection.”
Scott moved closer to watch and asked, “How do you know all this stuff?”
“My grandmother taught me a great deal before she died and the rest I learned from reading. I found it amazing that I could accomplish some of the same effects as pharmaceutical drugs with plants that I could grow myself,” Elayne told him as she glanced over her shoulder. “You should see the backyard in the summer. It’s virtually impossible to tell where one bed ends and the next begins.”
She laughed as she spoke of her outside sanctuary and Scott immediately understood her love for the outdoors since it was a passion that he shared. “You sound so enthusiastic about it,” Scott commented easily, smiling for the first time.
“I have a great respect for nature,” Elayne informed him as she returned to the stove and filled a cup with water from the kettle that was still warm. “There’s cocoa if you like,” she told Scott. “Or I can whip up a special brew for you.” She looked at him from the corner of her eye and knew that he saw the wicked smile that her mouth had curved into.
The mixture that she was making for Ronnie wouldn’t taste very good and she knew that he would balk at drinking it, but it would help him. She remembered from reports that she had read that Scott wasn’t a coffee drinker, which was why she had thought to include cocoa in the first place.
“Cocoa will be fine,” Scott chuckled, finding that he couldn’t help but be attracted to the woman who stood before him, and it didn’t matter that he didn’t know her. One thing that he was sure of was that he was in no shape to be thinking about a relationship right now and the fact that he hardly knew Elayne only cemented his thoughts.
But he liked her laugh and the way she had made complete strangers feel comfortable in her home. He found himself wondering if her lips were as soft as they looked and he shook his head to get rid of the thought as he brought his attention back to what she was saying.
“So how is it that you five are out and about without any security?” Elayne asked with a smile as she adjusted the towel around Ronnie’s head and the pot. She kept her tone even, although curiosity was eating away at her thoughts. “I was under the assumption that you guys were superstars and had an entire entourage that followed you around everywhere you went.”
“Normally we do,” Scott confessed. “There were a few last minute things that needed to be checked out at Breslin and many of the tour staff are already sick with whatever Ronnie has. Our personal bodyguards were needed to finish everything in time for the final sound checks tomorrow morning, so we were under strict instructions to go directly to the hotel and enter through the side entrance.”
Elayne nodded, thinking the plan would have kept them safe. “So did someone call when the van broke down?”
A warm smile was now plastered on Scott’s lips and Elayne was sure that this was the most relaxed she had seen him since the group had entered the house. She was glad that she had helped him to trust her and the last remnants of guilt over using her gift faded away. “I think Evan mentioned that he would try to get a hold of someone when Raoul came back with your offer to let us hang out for a while,” Scott told her. “Thank you, by the way, for opening up your home to a group of total strangers.”
“I’d hardly say you’re strangers,” Elayne confided as she gently laid a hand on Ronnie’s back. “How ya doin’ under there?”
“Okay. How long did you say I had to stay under here?” Ronnie asked again.
“A little while longer, Mr. Impatient,” Elayne giggled before turning her attention back to Scott again and realized how much different he appeared in person. Photographs and video cameras just couldn’t capture the natural glow that surrounded the man and she felt her stomach flutter as his intense gaze fell on her again.
“So what do you do for a living?” Scott asked. He had taken one of the coffee mugs that Elayne had put out earlier from the counter and had made himself a cup of cocoa while she had checked on Ronnie. Good thing I remembered that he hates coffee, Elayne thought to herself.
“My friends and I run a catering business together,” she told him. “It’s called The Grove Catering and we’ve only been open for about a year, but we’ve found that it’s a great way to do things together.”
Elayne watched as one dark eyebrow lifted with interest and a devilish grin crossed Scott’s features. “Catering, huh?” he asked with interest. “You know, if you ever need someone to try out a new recipe on-”
“That’s Scott,” Ronnie quipped from under the towel, “always trying to cop a free meal.” Without warning, Scott slugged Ronnie on the shoulder, causing the later to yelp out at the unseen strike as he straightened quickly. “Not fair,” he whined as he rubbed his upper arm where he had been hit. He looked comical as he stood there with the towel still draped over his head and shoulders, a hurt expression on his face.
“Okay,” Elayne stepped between the two men with her hands held out on either side of her. “There’ll be no fighting in my kitchen,” she scolded as she looked between them. “It gives off bad karma. By the way, have you guys eaten?”
“We were waiting until we got back to the hotel,” Ronnie confessed.
“Oh, you don’t want to eat there,” Elayne said in mock disgust as she picked up the mug of tea and handed it to Ronnie. “Drink this,” she instructed. “You can put a little honey in it if you like. It will probably taste odd to you.”
“Drink up, Ronnie,” Scott laughed before taking a sip from his own cup.
Ronnie raised the mug to his lips hesitantly and sipped. “Not bad,” he said as he nodded his head slightly. “There’s a funky aftertaste, but I can deal.”
Elayne patted his shoulder. “Good boy. Why don’t you go ask the others if they want pasta for dinner? Connie just made a batch of homemade sauce from her grandmother’s recipe that will be perfect.”
“Sounds good to me,” Ronnie said with a wide grin as he moved to the door. “I’ll go find out.”
Elayne was more than a little nervous to be left in the room alone with Scott, but she wasn’t about to let it show. There was something commanding about his mere presence in the room that demanded recognition, but there was no way she was going to be nervous in her own kitchen. The way that his green eyes took in everything about a person was more than a little disarming, even though Elayne didn’t mind the thought of being enchanted by him.
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