Bespelling Jane Austen

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Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and temporarily rich, with a comfortable (borrowed) apartment and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-nine years in the world with very little to distress or hex her.

“She turned me into a frog.”

I bit back the comment that he seemed to have got better.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Elton. I know it’s no excuse, but it is almost full moon, and Harriet tends to be…” I paused and added a description of my assistant that seemed lame as soon as it was out of my mouth. “Difficult.”

“Difficult!” Elton’s shout almost drowned out the sound of early morning traffic on K Street.

I winced. Harriet, heading for her werewolf time of the month, must have been an intimidating mix of horniness and ferocity.

“I’m so sorry. The agency will give you a full refund and free membership for the next year—two years. We’ll also pay for any dry cleaning costs or—”

“At least. Look at this shirt! It was blue yesterday.”

“I believe it’s residual frog. It will wear off. I’m pretty sure it’s gotten more blue since we’ve been sitting here…”

Elton was staring at a fly that had landed on the table to investigate a crumb from my croissant. His tongue flickered at the corner of his mouth. He drew back, his chair clattering on the sidewalk.

“Oh, Christ!”

“Can I get you another latte?” The waitress, who had been hanging around nearby, wandered over, gazing at Elton as though she wanted to have his pointy-eared offspring then and there. She probably did; it’s the traditional relationship between elves and humans. I generally cast a mild protective spell over myself when one-on-one with an elf.

Elton waved her away and dropped back into his chair, a horrified expression on his face. I thought he was about to burst into tears.

“Did you see that?” he whispered. “I nearly—I wanted to—”

I patted his hand, hoping the embarrassment of temporary frogness would prevent him from considering legal action.  The last thing I needed was some sleazy vamp lawyer sharpening his canines on the agency. “It will wear off, I promise you. I’m so sorry, Elton.”

“Is that all you can say?” He glared at me. “It’s your fault.”

“Of course I take responsibility for—”

He leaned forward, stabbing a finger for emphasis, the tips of his ears quivering. “I only dated Harriet because you wanted me to, Emma. I thought you were interested in me and you were so insistent that’s why I agreed.”

“But I never date clients. I–” That’s what Isabella had said. Never, never get personally involved with clients, Emma. It gets sticky. Right. They end up wearing frog-green polo shirts and nearly eating flies blocks from the White House.

“You’ll be hearing from me,” Elton said. He stood. “You’re not doing very well with the agency, are you? You should have stuck to teaching jocks History of Witchcraft 101. I’m sure Isabella would be distressed by this.”

I stood too and held out a hand which he ignored. “May I say again how very sorry I am and if the agency can make it up to you in any way—”

But he’d turned and strode away from me, while the waitress chewed her lip ring and glared at me as though I’d ruined her life too.

Bespelling Jane Austen

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