New Winslow S4E7
Iris wasn’t quite sure what she intended to follow that greeting with, but the woman from the other day didn’t seem to mind as she turned slowly in Iris’s direction. “Oh, hi,” she said, her voice warm and cheery.
“Hi,” Iris replied quickly. “So you said you’ve talked to Evelyn Harbinger?”
The woman shrugged. “In a manner of speaking,” she said. “I’m Vivien, by the way. Come, sit with me.”
They were in the sitting room of the Countess again. This time Vivien had gotten there first. She had a notebook in front of her and the open page was covered in notes that Iris couldn’t quite read without getting too close. She’d been planning to come back and have another look through the Harbinger, but right now, the little book was nowhere to be seen. This shouldn’t have stressed her out as badly as it did, so she swallowed down her nerves and joined Vivien at the little table.
“Don’t worry,” Vivien said. “Evelyn’s book is just on the shelf.”
Okay. Pyrokinetic, psychic, and a show-off. Iris tried to focus on Vivien for a second, tried to read anything off the other woman. Vivien just smiled as Iris’s energy bounced off a solid wall.
“It’s not you,” she said after a moment of Iris unsuccessfully focusing. “I keep myself locked up. But yes, you caught me. It’s a…gift.”
She smiled brightly, her teeth gleaming against the blood red lipstick she wore. “I’m blessed with certain abilities,” Vivien continued. “I try to use them for good, but I can’t resist playing once in a while.”
Iris wasn’t sure what to do here. She was psychic, she communicated with the dead on a regular basis and had built a career out of using her own abilities. But she wasn’t anywhere near capable of sparking fires with her mind, so how should she handle this interaction?
If Vivien noticed her internal struggle, she didn’t show it. Instead, she moved her notebook aside, then propped her chin on her hands as she leaned in closer to Iris. “So what are you working on?” she asked, eyes gleaming in the dim light. “You said you know about New Winslow. And now you’re looking into the history. Is it something to do with the town curse?”
“I’m trying to break it.”
The surprise in Vivien’s expression was deeply satisfying. “No way!” she exclaimed. “Oh, that’s so exciting. What are you trying?”
“I’m approaching it from a few angles,” Iris said, warming up to the topic. “But I think the answer is somewhere in the town’s history. So that’s what I’ve been doing here.”
Vivien nodded. “That’s so interesting,” she said. “I’m something of an expert in curses, maybe I can help you.”
There was no point in competing, Iris reminded herself. Cooperation would get things done much faster. “Maybe,” she said.
“Listen, I have to fly, but let’s meet up soon!” Vivien said.
She stood up, picked up her notebook, and walked out of the room. The deliberateness of her pace and movement showed Iris that this carelessly dramatic exit was something Vivien had been cultivating. But honestly, if this could give her any answers, she’d tolerate some showboating.
Alone in the sitting room, Iris got up and went to the shelf to track down the Harbinger among the hundreds of volumes there.
Olivia hated inventory. She’d always hated it, but at least before now Noah had been willing to take it on. But Noah was gone, apparently staying gone a little longer (two weeks, she chastised herself) and now the task fell to her. So here she was in the back storage room, counting boxes of takeout containers and absently wondering how she was going to make it another six hours here tonight.
She was bored. Olivia was used to being frustrated or overworked. And she was still frustrated and overworked. The piles of paperwork and the dinner prep checklist taunted her from the kitchen. But tonight she was listless and grumpy as she counted and recounted the stack of boxes.
There had been another ghost last night. Another old-timey woman who had stood by the bed and glared at her, clearing her throat every so often in a gauzy cough that still penetrated the blankets where she had Mia tucked tightly against herself. The entitled ghost had stayed there until she’d finally fallen asleep, the haughty coughs eventually blending into fuzzy dreams of an olive grove in the sunlight. It might have been influenced by the ghost’s presence, she honestly wasn’t sure. And it wasn’t like having her dreams invaded by ghosts made the situation any better. She couldn’t get away when she was awake, so why would she assume she could get away while she slept?
And even with the crystals and herbs Andrew had put around the house, she still wasn’t sure that the possession wouldn’t happen again. Sure, she’d invited the ghost in last time. And that had seemed like the only way that a ghost could get into you. But what if it wasn’t? What if one of these night time visitors got so fed up with being ignored that they decided to just hop aboard? Was that possible?
She needed to talk to Celine again. Or maybe tag along with Andrew and talk to Iris. She’d have some kind of talisman or something at the shop, right? Maybe something that would keep the ghosts away from her. Even if possession wasn’t a possibility, it would at least give her the chance for a decent night’s sleep without some 1800s prospector peering over the side of her bed.
She was so caught up in these thoughts that she didn’t notice the sound of whistling until it was right outside the storeroom doorway. Then Hugh appeared around the corner. “Oh, Olivia,” he said with a smile. “Hi.”
She felt herself blush. “Hi.”
“How’s inventory going?”
“Boring. Dragging. The usual.”
He laughed, the sound booming through the small room. She was suddenly very aware of how small this storeroom was, more of a closet than anything. And he was very close. So close that she could feel the heat of his body through the large t-shirt he wore.
“I’m just getting some straws,” Hugh said, reaching around her.
He paused like he was now realizing the same thing. Their bodies were almost touching in the tiny space and he was looking down at her. She looked back, the inventory forgotten as she realized exactly how hazel his eyes were. She’d spent so long trying to play it cool that she hadn’t even noticed the color.
And then they were kissing. She didn’t know who moved in first or how it happened, just that she was suddenly pressed back against the boxes of takeout containers she’d been counting moments before, kissing Hugh with equal enthusiasm as her hands ran over his broad shoulders and up into his short hair, twining it around her fingers.
It couldn’t be a dream, there were no ghosts irritating her. So she really was here, making out with her employee in the storeroom of Keegan’s.
SHE WAS MAKING OUT WITH AN EMPLOYEE IN THE STORE ROOM AT KEEGAN’S.
Olivia pulled back and looked out the door. Thankfully, no one could see them from the dining room and Charlie wasn’t in yet. But they’d left the entire front of the pub empty, Bret might come in at any minute, and there was definitely some kind of employee relationship rule they were violating.
But God, it was fun. She hadn’t done anything like this in ages. And her racing heart and swimming head felt fantastic. She should tell him they made a mistake, that this could never happen again. That both of them could get fired. She should just brush it off.
Don’t brush it off, she thought to herself for the first time in ages. Don’t be afraid anymore.
Hugh was looking at her, uncertainty slowing coming into his expression. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have…”
She laughed. “No, you should have,” she said. “You really should have.”
Wait, no, she was the boss. They had to have some decorum, if just for the sake of both of their paychecks. “What I mean is,” she continued, “We can’t do that again because if anyone catches us, we’re fired. But God, I don’t regret that if you don’t.”
Hugh laughed too. “Not at all,” he said.
“So never again?”
“Never again,” he agreed with obvious reluctance.
He picked up the straws he’d been going for when he came in. “Hopefully there’s no customers out there,” he said.
Hugh was playing it cool, but Olivia could see the way his hands shook as he scooped up the straws. She wasn’t going to comment on it, but she couldn’t help the little sliver of pride that ran through her at the thought she could make him lose his cool like that. She had been with several men and women whose presence made her unable to speak, but it wasn’t often that she saw someone else get the same effect from her.
He turned and looked at her like he wanted to say something. Then, before she could move, he leaned in and kissed her again. Just a quick peck on the cheek. With a grin, he headed back out.
Leaving her a puddle as she attempted to count boxes again.