Paisley stood with her back plastered against the wall leading into the kitchen, her eyes fixed on the scene in front of her. She blinked a few times to make sure she wasn’t having a stroke, but every time she opened her eyes, nothing had changed. One minute, she was sitting on the couch with her cat Jynx watching a Golden Girls marathon, and the next she found herself in her current predicament. If she was asked, she would deny it, but the moment she appeared in her living room, she peed herself a little. Anyone in her situation would have. Anyone.
The woman in front of her was floating a few inches above the floor, with her arms crossed across her chest. It was the craziest thing she had ever seen, and she had seen some crazy stuff in her thirty-two years. The woman looked like she had just stepped off the cover of a romance novel, and even though she was freaking out on the inside, Paisley couldn’t help but be in awe of her sudden appearance.
The stranger was staring at her with an expression crossed between annoyance and amusement written across the sharp plains of her chiseled face. Long legs were encased in black leather pants and a pair of well-worn brown leather boots adorned her feet. A simple, long-sleeved gray tunic lay beneath a sleeveless red jerkin that was unbuttoned. A symbol she didn’t recognize was stitched onto the right shoulder of the woman’s shirt.
Brown leather cuffs wrapped each of her wrists, and a silver chain hung around her neck that disappeared inside her shirt. Paisley finally raised her head enough to lock eyes with the woman and gasped at the intensity with which the other woman was looking at her. It scared her and she tried to take a step back, realizing too late that she couldn’t go back any farther.
Paisley gulped and took in the woman’s short, shaggy black hair and brown eyes. Out of habit, she reached up and fiddled with her glasses. It was a nervous tick that she had tried for years to ignore, but after a while she’d decided to just roll with it. She was who she was, and saw no reason to apologize for that.
As the woman lowered herself to the floor, Paisley’s eyes surveyed the room, looking for an escape route. If the woman could appear on a whim, Paisley’s escape seemed slim. The stranger was the most beautiful and frightening woman she had ever seen. She counted to ten, then had to remind herself to breathe. I can do this. Whatever this was.
As taken with her as she was, she couldn’t get over the fact that the woman had started to glow. Light literally was pouring from her slim frame. Paisley squinted as the light continued to seep out of her, and for some reason she couldn’t look away from it. If she hadn’t been so tired from work, she probably would have questioned everything that was happening. She wasn’t exactly book smart, however she had common sense, and things weren’t adding up.
As the woman’s eyes continued to assess Paisley’s body, she shivered and was starting to feel a bit self-conscious from her attention. The woman’s gaze never wavered from its appraisal of her, and Paisley tensed when the woman’s eyes locked with hers. She decided that enough was enough. Who the hell did she think she was, breaking into her home—because that was essentially what she had done—and ogling her? She could only take so much. “What do you want and why are you here?” When she didn’t answer, only smirked at her, Paisley started to lose what sanity she had left. “Look—” Her words were cut off when her cell phone started ringing. She wished now she would have assigned distinct ringtones for different people. She was just moving to grab it when the woman reached toward the coffee table, picked it up, and answered it.
“Hello.” Paisley bit her lip and backed up against the wall once more. The woman’s voice, she knew, could melt butter. It was smooth, smoky, and sexy. Her knees wobbled a bit when the woman looked her way with a knowing smirk on her face. Paisley frowned and mentally gave herself a pep talk to stand her ground. When she held the phone out to her, Paisley did debate whether or not to take it, but the woman spoke again and waved the phone in the air. “Paisley, it’s for you.”
Considering it was her phone, she’d figured as much. She pushed away from the wall on shaky legs, stepped as close as she dared to the stranger, snatched the phone from her hands, and hightailed it back to her wall. “Hello.”
“P.J., honey,” her mom said. “Stay calm, and don’t run. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Her mom hung up before she could answer. Knowing that her mom, and probably her grams, was on the way gave Paisley’s confidence a boost. “That was my mom. She’s on her way, so if anything happens to me, she knows you’re here.” The woman didn’t acknowledge her words, only continued to smile at her. It was at that moment Paisley realized she had stopped glowing.
“What’s that supposed to be?” She pointed to a small table that sat across from the couch with just a hint of amusement in her voice.
Paisley narrowed her eyes at the question. A bit curious, she glanced to where she was pointing. “What’s what?” Even though the woman seemed to be able to perform magic, which should be impossible, she still hoped she wasn’t dealing with a weirdo. They came in all kinds of packages, even ones wrapped in form-fitting leather. “That’s a table.”
The woman rolled her eyes and sat down on the tan couch that took up most of the small living room, and continued to point at the table. “What’s that underneath?”
As Paisley glanced once more at the table, she noticed a black and white tail sticking out from under it. Paisley shook her head and walked to the table, knelt, and scooped Jynx into her arms. She had wondered where the little coward had run off to. If she knew she could have squeezed under there, she would have joined Jynx. “You must be stupid if you don’t know what a cat is.”
Before she even had a chance to turn around, the woman had taken Jynx from her arms and left one of her leather bracelets around Paisley’s wrist. “What… How did you do that?” It was like she had super speed. She tugged on the bracelet but it didn’t budge. It had somehow molded to her skin. Paisley tamped down the nausea that rose and took several deep breaths to calm her racing heart. “What did you put on my wrist?”
“You must be stupid if you don’t know what a bracelet is.”
Paisley squirmed at her voice. “Touché.” She walked slowly toward and around the couch, still messing with the cuff, then sat down on the edge of the matching recliner. Jynx was curled up in the she-devil’s lap, fast asleep. “Traitor,” she mumbled and fiddled with her glasses. Where was her mother?
“You’re not exactly what I was expecting.”
Her tone wasn’t one of disappointment, just resignation. Well, screw her. No one asked her for her opinion anyway, and she was the one who came in uninvited. Paisley knew she wasn’t up to supermodel standards, but none of her previous girlfriends had ever complained. Her complexion was a bit pale, but it paired nicely with her shoulder-length chestnut hair and her green eyes, which she inherited from her grams. Her glasses were also almost a genetic trait, but there was no way she would ever be able to wear contacts, and over the years, her glasses had become a part of her. “Sorry you’re disappointed. I didn’t invite you here.” She waved her hand in the air. “You may leave any time you want to.”
The woman leaned back on the couch and looked up at the ceiling. Paisley could swear she heard her count backward from ten. After a few moments, she sat up. “I can’t leave whenever I want, and if I did, you would be coming with me.”
She had some nerve. “I don’t know who the hell you think—” Paisley whipped her head around when she heard tires screech outside her house. Not a minute later her mother and grandmother burst through the front door. They looked at the scene before them, then at each other. It would have been comical, except for the expression on their faces.
“Well,” Grams said. “This isn’t exactly what I was expecting.”
“I would say not,” her mother said, pointing to the couch. “For one thing, that’s a woman.”
Paisley looked between them, then finally found her voice, breaking the silence that had descended on them. “So. Could someone please explain to me what’s going on here?” She hoped her voice sounded as calm as she tried to project it, but when her mother walked across the room, sat down on the arm of the chair, and wrapped her arm around her shoulders, she figured she had failed. She watched, her unease growing, when Grams sat down on the couch.
“So,” Grams said. “What’s your name and what are you doing in my granddaughter’s house?” You could always count on Grams to get straight to the point.
The woman turned to her. “My name is Lana.” Grams gasped, stood up from the couch, and started pacing. From the way her mother was gripping her shoulder, Paisley deduced this couldn’t be good news.
“Mom, my shoulder.”
“Sorry, dear.” She jumped up from the chair and grabbed Paisley’s wrist, disbelief written across her face.
“What?” Paisley forced down the panic that started to rise in her chest.
“P.J., what have you done?” Grams accused, her voice rising.
If they were freaked out maybe she should be, too. Play it cool. Play it cool. It was the mantra that was playing on a loop in her mind. “It’s just a cuff. Although, it is a bit suspicious that I can’t get it off.” Play it cool.
“Honey,” her mom said. “You won’t be able to get it off.”
Without warning the entire exchange hit Paisley the wrong way and she glared at Lana. “It’s all her fault!” She would take the blame for most of this. “One minute she’s floating, looking all evil, and the next thing I know, she grabs Jynx from my arms and leaves this cuff in her place.” She shoved the cuff toward her mom’s face, then pointed at Lana. “You don’t look so scary without your light show and all the theatrics.” Lana sat there, unmoving, with that damned sexy smile on her face.
“Kate,” Grams said, addressing her daughter. “This is out of our hands. All we can do now is explain everything to P.J., since Lana couldn’t, or wouldn’t, take the time to.”
Lana fidgeted on the couch, and it was the first time since she had appeared that she looked uncomfortable. “Well. I think I should be going. Ladies, I will leave you three to talk. Paisley.” She stood up, sat Jynx on the couch, lifted Paisley’s hand, and placed a tender kiss on the palm. “I’ll see you later.” She winked, then disappeared. Disappeared. Paisley clutched her offending hand to her chest and took several breaths to calm her racing heart. After her heart rate returned to normal, she looked at her mom and grandma, who didn’t look fazed in the least about what had just happened. What the hell? She stood up, then quickly sat back down.
“Paisley,” her mom said. “We need to talk.”