“Are we talking authentic Italian sauce here?” Scott asked with a great deal of interest as Elayne started putting away the herbs she had used for Ronnie’s infusion before pulling out another large stockpot she intended to cook the pasta in.
“Of course,” she replied with a quick smile, glad that Scott seemed to like her company and chose to stay in the kitchen with her while she cooked. “With a name like Bonadero what did you expect?”
“I was hoping,” he quipped as he rubbed his hands together and smiled mischievously. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Ronnie returned to report that everyone loved the idea of a real Italian meal. During the next thirty minutes or so, Connie and the others popped in every once and a while to see if there was anything they could do, but every time someone entered the kitchen Scott was quick to inform them that he and Elayne had everything under control.
They cooked as they talked, Scott was now completely at ease and shared with Elayne some of the hi-jinks that happen on the road while asking her more about her life and the catering business. Elayne quickly recognized the brotherhood that was so apparent in the five men when they were seen in the media and found the bond remarkable, considering the amount of time they spent together.
The meal was ready in no time and was quickly pronounced wonderful by the men. Ronnie was really feeling better by the time they all sat down and was able to join in the lively conversation. It took every chair in the house to accommodate the group of seven as they squeezed around the dining room table, but the dialogue was pleasant and everyone got along as if they had known each other for years.
The rain had finally quit while Elayne and Scott were in the kitchen and the chill in the air had begun to warm again slightly. During the meal there had been a knock at the door that revealed a mechanic from the rental place informing the guys that he couldn’t find anything wrong with the van and that he was having someone bring another one right away.
“That’s odd,” Connie commented with a pointed look in Elayne’s direction after the man had gone. “I can’t imagine what could have happened to make it just stop running like that.”
“It was weird,” Ollie agreed. He had been the one driving and had already told the group how there hadn’t been any indication that anything was wrong with the vehicle when it had just died.
“Sometimes things just happen,” Scott said. He had noticed the look that had been shared between the two women so he was looking Elayne’s way when he spoke.
For her part, Elayne thought that there was something more to the van breaking down than anyone realized. There was an inkling that she was feeling. It wasn’t something that she was able to put her finger on, but if she had to make a guess she was almost positive it had something to do with a dark power. In a way she wished that she had a chance to be near the guys for a little while longer in hopes of finding out what was going on. In the back of her mind she knew at least one of them, if not the entire group, was going to need help very soon because the feeling that she had when Raoul came to the door was still there in the back of her mind. It hadn’t gone away and if anything, it was getting stronger.
As if to answer her silent question Raoul spoke up. “So what are you ladies doing tomorrow night?” he asked as he finished off the last bite of his dessert. Elayne had thrown together some freshly chopped fruit and served it over angel food cake. It was the perfect finish after a heavy meal of pasta and sauce.
Connie’s eyes met Elayne’s in thought. “Nothing that I know of. There’s a small birthday party in the afternoon, but Amy and Serena are already taking care of it.”
“Who’s Amy and Serena?” Raoul asked.
“Our partners. We run a catering business together,” Elayne replied before she took a sip of her chamomile tea. Elayne and her friend, Amy Kline, had talked about the possibility of opening a business together for years. The two had met while still in college together and had formed an even deeper bond when they discovered that they both practiced Wicca, the nature based religion that worshipped both a Goddess and a God.
Many potential business ideas had been tossed around during their discussions, but it wasn’t until after meeting Serena O’Brien, one of the best cooks on the planet as well as another practicing Wiccan, that a catering business seemed like the perfect concept. Connie joined the picture, not only in the kitchen, but also in the sacred circle of the small coven the other three women had started, and the rest was, as they say, was history.
“Why don’t you let us return your hospitality then?” Evan asked as he leaned forward and propped himself on his elbows on the table. “Come to the concert tomorrow night and we’ll take you both out afterwards.”
“Aren’t you guys tired after the show?” Elayne asked in amazement. She couldn’t imagine having the energy to brush her teeth, much less go out for a night on the town after the kind of show these five put on. She had seen them the last time they had toured and had left the arena with a staggering new respect for their work ethic.
Evan shrugged his shoulders. “Not at all. We’re usually so stoked that we need something to expend our energy on.”
“Come,” Ronnie put in, his blue eyes twinkling. “You know you want to see me shake my groove thing.” Oh yeah, he’s feeling better, Elayne thought to herself as she laughed out loud.
Everyone laughed at how much of a ham Ronnie was, but Elayne was beginning to warm up to the idea. Why not? She was having so much fun talking with the five men and she had already wished for an opportunity to get to the bottom of whatever was going on with them. She was just about to agree when the phone rang and Connie jumped from her seat to grab it.
“I wonder who that could be?” she asked as she picked up the handset and looked at the caller ID. “Speak of the devil. It’s Amy. Hello,” she said into the receiver.
“We’d love to come see the show,” Elayne told them and was rewarded with a chorus of manly cheers. In just a few hours she had become very protective of the five of them, regardless of the fact of who they were. If someone had the intention of hurting any one of them they had better not do it while she was with them or they would have to deal with her.
Connie returned to the table and handed Elayne the phone. “Amy wants to talk to you.”
“Hey,” Elayne said when she put the phone to her ear, “what’s going on?”
“And when did you plan on calling me to say you were entertaining five of the hottest men in the world?” Amy scolded good-naturedly. Elayne hadn’t talked to her friend all day and was glad that she had called. They normally talked to each other at least three times daily, regardless if the subject matter had anything to do with the business or not.
Elayne laughed as she rose from the table and went to the kitchen so she could talk freely. “And when was I suppose to do that?” she replied incredulously. “When I was busy making sure they were getting dry and warm or when I was making dinner?”
Amy understood all to well how thrilled Elayne would be about having this particular group of musicians in her home. She had been the one who listened to Elayne so many times as she talked about how much she liked their music and the positive message they promoted to their fans. Amy also knew that Elayne often felt silly at her fascination with the group, but it wasn’t anything too teenage angsty or out of control, so it didn’t bother her.
“You’re funny,” Amy replied lightly and she continued to chuckle at the situation. “I was just calling to check on the pastries for the party tomorrow and Connie said what was going on over there. How are you handling things?”
“Fine. They are all very nice. They invited us to go to the concert tomorrow night as a thank you for letting them hang out,” Elayne told her friend as she began to put things away in the kitchen.
“Sounds like fun. Are you gonna go?”
“I think it would be fun,” Elayne said as she glanced toward the kitchen door to make sure no one was in the room. “Something else is going on,” she added tentatively before quickly describing the impressions that she had been receiving over the course of the evening. There wasn’t much for her to tell, but Elayne couldn’t ignore the fact that whenever she felt the kind of leeriness that she had tonight something was afoot.
Unlike most Wiccan covens, all the members of Elayne’s circle had supernatural abilities that had manifested in each of the women with adulthood. It was definitely not the norm when it came to the followers of their beliefs and the women understood how lucky they were to have each other for support and acceptance.
“Your intuition is rarely wrong,” Amy pointed out when Elayne had finished her short explanation. “I think that you’re right in wanting to gather some more information. Why don’t we get together tomorrow before the birthday party and see what we can find out together?”
Elayne understood was Amy was suggesting. There was a ritual that may be able to shed more light onto the subject. It was similar to Elayne’s natural ability of premonition, but stronger, and it would take all four of the women to perform it effectively. It didn’t always give many answers, but it was a start. The mysterious way the van had just died hinted that there might be someone involved with magical abilities, like Elayne and the rest of her circle, so the ritual may prove to be more helpful than usual. Elayne hoped so.
“How does noon sound?” Elayne asked.
Amy agreed to the suggested time and promised to call Serena to inform her about what they intended to do the next day. She also warned Elayne to be watchful. “We don’t know who this is,” she cautioned.
“I know. We have to be careful.”
All too soon the evening turned to night and the guys needed to return to their hotel. Elayne prepared a large thermos of the tisane for Ronnie to take with him and she was rewarded with a massive bear hug from the younger man. The hug was so tight she was sure he had cracked a rib or two.
“Thank you so much,” Ronnie told her after he had released her.
“Just make sure not to drink too much at once,” she informed him as she poked a finger in his chest before half teasing, “If you aren’t careful you’ll be in the bathroom more than on stage tomorrow night.”
Rounds of hugs and final thank you’s were exchanged as the guys prepared to leave. Evan already had their phone number and he promised to call tomorrow with details on where they had to go once they were at the arena.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night then,” Scott said softly as he pulled Elayne to his chest for a hug that lasted a little longer than she had expected. As their bodies touched, Elayne’s sense of premonition kicked in once more and now she could say with certainty that whatever it was that she was sensing was centered on Scott, which caused her to be even more worried. She felt a special bond with him in the short amount of time they had spent together and even though she wanted all five men safe, Scott’s being in jeopardy hit her harder.
“I can’t wait,” she replied with a tentative smile that she hoped didn’t give away her uneasiness for his safety as she pulled away from him.
Scott’s smile was dazzling as he took his coat that Connie offered him and put it on before he hugged her, then turned toward the door with the others.
“Be careful,” Elayne said as she and Connie walked them out to the replacement van that had arrived twenty minutes earlier.
“See you tomorrow,” the men sing-songed as they pulled away, waving.
Elayne looked around the yard, attempting to find a source of the uneasiness that loomed over her. She could sense nothing but her housemate as Connie came to stand next to her.
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure,” Elayne replied as she continued to warily look up and down the highway where their house was located. As the two walked back toward the house, Elayne filled her friend in on what she had been feeling since their visitors had arrived and although Connie listened, she had no answers forthcoming.
“I wish I could help, but you know that’s your field,” she told Elayne quietly, trying to be supportive.
“I know,” Elayne replied with a heavy sigh. “Maybe a good night’s sleep will clear things up. Make something more concrete come to the surface.”
Neither of the women saw the black sports car that was parked down the road from their house. Inside the vehicle, the young girl seethed with anger at her lost opportunity. Daddy was going to hear about this piece of junk car that she hadn’t been able to start after she had finished her ritual. By the time she had found the stranded van that she had intended to be the one to help, the guys were gone and she pulled over to wait in case they returned.
It had taken nearly an hour before she realized that they taken shelter from the storm inside a house close by. She had been tempted to go to the door to claim what was hers, but the obvious signs of protection that surrounded the dwelling stopped her. The pile of rocks that had been stacked just so near the front of the house and the witches ball that hung in one of the windows wouldn’t have mattered to anyone else, but to a person of the Craft they were tell tale signs that witches lived there.
So she had bided her time once again. She had come this far and she was determined to have what was hers, regardless of what she had to do to get it.
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