Jody looked up at the formidable house. It was an old Victorian, left over from many years ago, with strange side-rooms sticking out of the front and sides. It had a garage to one side, which probably held his Mercedes and anything else fancy that he had. He had hedges that went between the garage and the house, and a small space between where a wooden gate stood. He had a big lawn out front, with a cobblestone walkway from the street where she was parked.
She shut the door to her car with a firm finality. Well, here goes, she thought, and started up the cobblestone pathway.
The day was humid and hot, so by the time she got to the door, she was breathless and a bit sweaty. She saw the lion’s head knocker on the door, and assumed that was in lieu of a doorbell. She raised it and knocked.
She waited, catching her breath and fanning herself. The front door opened, sending out a blast of cool air. A tall, broad man with dark hair and glasses covering dark eyes stood at the doorway. He was dressed in a suit, complete with tie. “May I help you?”
“I’m here to talk to Mr. Vance, please.”
The man paused and said, “Do you have an appointment?”
“Er, no.” She wondered if the dumb blond look would work on a brunette.
“Allow me to check his calendar so you may make an appointment. Please come in.” He opened the door wide and let her inside. It was much cooler in here, even cooler than her own salon. The man went down the hallway, and took a left, into a room with a closed door, leaving her in the foyer. She walked around the foyer, looking at the statues and paintings there. There was a statue of Venus de Milo, the armless Venus, and a painting that was a water color of some distant shore. She looked around to see where the source of the cool air was coming from.
“He will see you now,” the man said, “Please come with me.”
The man escorted her down the hall, and she studied him. He was taller than her by at least a head and shoulders, broad in the chest with a slim, trim waist. His face looked like it had been chiseled from the same artist as Venus, but that this man could well be Mars – a strong jaw, with a bit of a shadow, but sunken cheeks and eyes that looked baby blue in this light. She wondered why a man like this would be a servant to anyone.
Maybe he’s a bodyguard, she thought. Whatever he was, she thought he was definitely worth the risk of asking him out. However, she had to concentrate on why she was here.
She was escorted into a room that was a library, with shelves of books all around, and a globe by the window. There was no one at the desk in front of her. The man stepped inside and closed the door, then walked past her, taking off his glasses. “Now, what can I do for you?”
“You?” she asked, miffed at his little game.
“Me. I’m Trevor Vance. And you are?”
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m Jody Reese. I own ‘Hairs To You’ in town.”
“Oh, yes, I’ve seen the place. It’s very busy.”
“This last month it hasn’t been.”
“It seems that everyone is going to the ‘Hot Cuts’ salon that just opened up.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a little capitalism at work, Ms. Reese.”
“People say they’re ‘drawn’ there.”
Vance leaned back against his desk. “I fail to see what this has to do with me.”
“Mr. Vance, I know that if you’re ‘drawn’ to someone or something, that there’s more than just a want to try something new.”
The man tried to stifle a smile, but said, “Elaborate on that.”
“Okay. When a new mechanic opened up shop in town, he was price gouging people. Because he was the only local mechanic, he could do this. I’ve heard people say that he moved out of town after he was given a talking-to by you.”
“I still fail to see—“
“You never went to see him.”
“I do not stick my nose into the business of businesses, Ms. Reese.”
“The owners of the place are witches.”
Now this time, he laughed. “What does that have to do with me?”
“Rumors say that you’re a warlock.”
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, and then looked down at her. “Ms. Reese, in the first place, there are no such things as warlocks.”
She decided to play a game too. “Then how do you keep this house so cool?”
“There’s a miracle of modern technology called central air-conditioning.”
She looked around quickly, laying out her cards. “I don’t see any vents.”
The smile and amusement faded. “I tell you again, there’s no such thing as warlocks.”
“Male witch, then.”
“Ah, that’s better. Yes, I am a witch. So there are two other witches in my town that want to put you out of business, is that what I’m supposed to get out of this conversation?”
Jody nodded. “Yes, that’s pretty much it.”
“Again, I don’t stick my nose into the running of businesses. Unless, of course…”
“You pay me.”
“How much?” She knew she said it too quickly.
“I don’t take money,” he said. “But I will take a favor owed.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, Ms. Reese, that I’ll help you get your patrons back, but you’ll owe me.”
“I would like to know what I owe you,” Jody said, not liking the sound of this.
He turned from her started walking toward her. Jody watched him as he did. She found herself holding her breath, even as he held her eyes. He walked up to her, paused, staring into her eyes, and then flicking around to her face, to take her all in. She felt that he was undressing her even as she stood there, and she crossed her arms. Then he looked back at her eyes, and a smile, not an unfriendly one, crossed his features. “No, I do not have X-Ray vision,” he said, and walked on past her to the door. He opened it, and with a wave of his hand, directed her to go out the door. Her eyes narrowed. “Am I being dismissed?”
“On the contrary, Ms. Reese. I was going to invite you to tea.”
“It’s too late for lunch and too early for dinner,” he said. “I’d like you to stay a while.”
“Me?” she said.
“There’s no one else in the room, Ms. Reese. Or shall I call you Jody?”
She didn’t know what to do at first. Her body did, though, and followed the Trevor’s directions out into the hall. She followed him, enjoying watching the way he moved, with an elegant grace. He turned to a set of French doors and opened them wide onto a dining room complete with a set for sixteen by her count. He cleared two of the plate settings. Then he opened a chair for her.
She sat, confused and looking up at him. “Thank you,” she said, not expecting this kind of treatment.
“Wait right here, I’ll be right back.”
She watched as he left through a side door, and she looked around the room. There was a small chandelier above her. To the side were credenzas and places for other dishes. A fireplace was at one end, and at the other end was a huge bay window, its curtains shut against the heat of the sun.
Jody heard the door open and she directed her attention there, to see Trevor come back in carrying a tray with a tea kettle on it. He set down the tray, then turned around, and pushed open the door again. He ducked inside for a moment and returned with another tray of cookies.