Seconds after leaving the McNeill house, Leo orbed before the Elders' Council. Judging by their expressions, none of the Elders seemed pleased. "Well?" one of them demanded. It was Sylvester, one of the Council's veteran members. His dark eyes bored into Leo's. "Does the McNeill witch have a fire power or not?"
Leo nodded. "Uh yes. Yes, she does." Anxious voices filled the chamber. "But none of the McNeills seem concerned. According to Olivia's father, she's not the first in her family to receive pyrokinesis."
"We are well aware of that fact," another Elder replied tartly. It was MacKenzie. The white-haired, thin man also happened to be a veteran council member. "Which is one of the reasons why we have been leery of the McNeill family for centuries. Along with their . . . unconventional approach to the Craft, pyrokinesis has always been rather . . . strong in their line. And we're not thrilled that this particular McNeill happens to be very close to that . . . to Belthazor."
Discomfort surged through Leo. He shifted from one foot to another. "Uh, speaking of Bel . . . um, Cole, Olivia's parents have suggested that he help her control her new power."
Again, anxious voices filled the chamber. Only they seemed to rumble louder. Sylvester cried out, "Have that demon teach your witch to control her fire power? Are you insane?"
Leo found the Elders' reaction toward Olivia and Cole baffling. Granted, he was never particularly thrilled about their relationship. But the Elders had never said a word about Phoebe and Cole. Why were they so antagonistic toward this new relationship? He finally expressed his confusion. "Olivia is no longer my charge. She hasn't been my charge in over twelve years. I don't understand. You were never this concerned about Cole and Phoebe."
A pale, dark-haired woman in her late thirties spoke up. "That is due to the fact that as Belthazor, and later as the Source, he could be stopped by the Charmed Ones. In case he became a threat." Elder Mathilda Wells had been an Elder for over 300 years. "We knew that Belthazor would play a part in the Charmed Ones' destiny to destroy the Source. But now," she gave her head a sad shake, "his new powers make him an undetermined threat."
"Belthazor's relationship with the McNeill witch might prove to be an even bigger threat," MacKenzie added. "Now that she has this new power."
Leo could not believe his ears. The Elders actually considered Olivia and Cole a threat! Why? "I . . ." he began.
"We have no say about the witch's new power," Sylvester said, interrupting Leo. He leaned forward, his dark eyes glittering in a manner that made the whitelighter nervous. "But her relationship with Belthazor is another matter. Nip it in the bud, Leo. Now! I realize that she is no longer your charge. But she is still a friend of yours, I believe. Use your influence and do something about her relationship with Belthazor. Before we all find ourselves in serious danger!"
* * * *
"I just spoke with Margot," Barbara's voice announced over the telephone. "I told her about your new power and she has agreed to help you learn to control it."
Olivia heaved a sigh of relief. "Thanks Barb. You've been a real help."
Her future sister-in-law added, "Of course, I still don't understand why you won't ask Cole to help you. He is your best cha . . ."
"Barbara?" Olivia's voice came out sharper than she had intended. "I've made my decision about Cole. Okay?"
But the other woman refused to dismiss the subject. "If you say so. But if you think I don't know why you're avoiding him, you're mistaken. After all, I was also at that party. And so was Bruce."
Silence fell between the two friends. Olivia's first instinct was to lambaste her friend. But realizing that the ugly truth might rear its head, she decided to ignore the topic of one Cole Turner. "So, when will Margot be available?"
Barbara sighed. "Tomorrow, on Tuesday. She has a doctor's appointment, today. Margot said to expect her around eleven in the morning."
"Great. I'll be expecting her." The two friends exchanged a few more words before finally hanging up. Seconds later, Olivia dialed another number.
The telephone rang several times before a voice on the other end of the line answered. "San Francisco PD. Homicide. Inspector Morris speaking."
"Hi Darryl, this is Olivia. I'm calling in sick, today. In fact, I might be out of the office, all week. Could you transfer me to the Captain?"
A pause followed before Darryl answered, "McPherson's not in, right now. He's at a Division meeting. Uh, are you okay? You have a cold or something?"
"It's a lot worse than a cold," Olivia answered ominously. "Let's just say that it's something I don't want to be exposed at the office."
"Oh. I see." Darryl hesitated. "Well, uh I hope you get . . . you get better. See you in a week?"
Olivia sighed. "Hopefully. Catch you later, Darryl. Bye."
"Take care, partner." The line went dead.
Another sigh left Olivia's mouth, as she disconnected her telephone. Then she took a deep breath and sat down in the middle of the floor. Meditation, Mom and Dad had said. Meditation and practice of her new power. Her new power, which consisted of fire. Deep down, Olivia knew who was the best person to help her. But she was damned if she would beg to Cole Turner for help. Not after he had humiliated her at Warren Mitchell's New Year's party.
Olivia felt the surging anger within her, as she recalled the kiss she and Cole had exchanged. A sensuous kiss, soft and light, yet filled with passion. For a few brief moments, Olivia believed that Cole harbored more than friendship toward her. Until . . . until he ended the kiss. Pushed her away with such abruptness. Was the idea of kissing her so repugnant to him?
Her anger continued to build. The more she brooded on the half-demon, the more difficult it became for Olivia to keep her emotions in check. 'Calm down' she told herself. 'Relax. Or else you'll end up torching the entire building.' Olivia took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
"O eternal Goddess, Maiden, Mother and Crone, I am made from your flesh and you know me better than I know myself."
Images of the New Year's ball popped into Olivia's mind. Images of guests glancing at the clock on the far wall, while seconds ticked toward midnight.
"You understand depression, frustration, and anxiety. Please help me to control these emotions, and help me to convert these powerful feelings into love. O eternal God, King of infinite wisdom and goodness, I am created from your essence, and I thank you for the gift of life."
Olivia tried to suppress further memories of the New Year, but they continued to flood her mind. She saw the second's hand reach the number twelve. Heard everyone cry out, "Happy New Year!" And the band began to play "Auld Lang Syne".
"Please teach me to be patient and humble, tolerant and gentle, especially when life's problems become heavy and difficult to bear. So Mote It Be."
More images flashed in her thoughts. Olivia saw couples kissing. She saw her and Cole face each other with eyes filled with doubt, confusion and longing. She felt Cole's warm lips press against hers and relived the memory of the heat and desire that radiated from those lips. Most of all, recalled the rough manner in which he had pushed her away . . . and the horrified expression stamped on his face.
Anger and embarrassment resurged within Olivia within a blink of an eye. And she quickly forgot about her attempts at meditation. Blue lights materialized in the air and converged into the form of one Paige Matthews.
"Hey Olivia! How's the . . .?" The Charmed One broke off as a stream of fire rushed toward her head. Paige orbed away from the line of fire and reappeared behind the older witch. "What the hell?"
Olivia lowered her hand and heaved a huge sigh. "Dammit Paige!" she cried. "Haven't you heard of knocking? I could have killed you!"
"Sorry," the younger woman replied. "Bad habit."
"Really? Then why don't you try learning how to break it?"
Paige stared at Olivia through narrowed eyes. "My, we're in a real snit, this morning. I guess your meditation isn't helping after all."
Another sigh left Olivia's mouth. "No, I . . . I'm sorry. I guess I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever have control of this damn power." She rose from the floor and stalked toward the kitchen. "You want something to drink? I've got lemonade."
"Yeah. Sure." Paige followed the older woman. "Hey, if you're having so much trouble, maybe it's due to some . . ." She sat down on one of the kitchen chairs. "Are you going through some emotional problems, now? Phoebe was having trouble with her powers, last fall. While she was dealing with Cole's . . . uh, you know, return."
Olivia removed a pitcher of lemonade from the fridge. "Are you saying that I'm now going through the same problems?" She retrieved two glasses from the cabinet and filled them with lemonade, before handing one to Paige.
Paige took a deep breath. "Maybe you are. I mean I haven't seen you and Cole together for two weeks. And you can barely meditate, let alone control your new power." Her eyes fell upon the glass in her hand. "Maybe you and Cole should um, . . . you know, deal with whatever is driving you two apart."
Silence filled the air. Olivia took a sip of lemonade. So did Paige. The older woman hated to admit that perhaps the latter was right. Not because the younger woman's wisdom seemed so obvious. Olivia simply hated the idea of reliving that humiliating moment from two weeks ago.
"But if you don't want to talk about any problems you might have," Paige began.
Olivia finished the rest of her drink in several gulps. She sighed. "No, you're right. The only way to deal with this new power is to deal with whatever is bothering me."
The older witch gave her younger guest a shrewd glance. "Gee, how did you guess?"
Paige shrugged. "Like I said, I haven't seen you and Cole together in quite a while. And you seemed to get this look on your face, whenever someone mentions his name."
"Okay, I get the picture," Olivia snapped, as she poured herself another glass of lemonade. "In regard to Cole . . . it's not what you might think. He hasn't done anything one would consider . . . demonic. Or evil."
Nodding, Paige replied, "Yeah, I kind of figured that. Or else Leo would have told us. Or we would all be dead."
Olivia shot Paige a dark look. "My, that Halliwell wit is in top form, today. Isn't it?"
"I wasn't being witty," Paige protested.
Paige heaved a frustrated sigh. "Olivia! C'mon! Be serious! Why are you so reluctant to get Cole's help? What did he do to piss you off?"
After a few more sips of lemonade, Olivia revealed the events between her and Cole, at Warren Mitchell's New Year party. Surprise, shock . . . and a little pity flashed in the Charmed One's dark eyes. "Gee! No wonder you're pissed! I would be too. How humiliating!"
"No kidding," Olivia retorted. "Now, you understand why I refuse to ask for Cole's help."
Paige nodded. "Yeah, I understand. But I still think you should ask for his help, anyway."
"C'mon Livy," Paige continued, "it's like your dad said. You have pyrokinesis and it's very powerful. How many witches do you know have a fire power at that level?"
Was it really difficult to accept that a novice witch (no matter how powerful) that was six years younger could dish out such wise advice? Olivia pondered over the possibility. But only for a moment. Since Paige happened to be younger and less experienced in life . . .
"Screw Cole!" the redhead spewed. "Barbara has already found someone to help me. She's a fire witch from Sausalito named Margot Palmer and she'll be here, tomorrow morning." Olivia finished her second glass of lemonade. "So, contrary to what everyone else says, I don't need Cole's help. Nor do I need him in my life!"
Olivia glanced at Paige, who merely shook her head and sighed. "Oh well, I only hope that you don't end up incinerating this Margot person by the end of the week."
* * * *
The Golden Horn Restaurant bustled with activity during the early afternoon. Among the patrons inside the elegant restaurant, sat Cole and his latest client, one Mark Giovanni. The two men sat next to one of the large windows that overlooked the city of San Francisco and the bay.
"This Chardonnay is quite good," Giovanni commented. He was a slender, dark-haired man of medium height. Although a year short of forty and not quite handsome, Giovanni possessed a pair of dark eyes that many have found compelling. Intense. "Good, but I'm sure that my own Chardonnay could top it."
Cole nodded. "I've heard of your Chardonnay. It's world famous, isn't it?"
"Well, not quite famous," the wine grower said with a modesty that failed to reach his eyes. "I believe that the BAY-MIRROR's article may have been a bit exaggerated."
"Hmmm." From the corner of his eye, Cole spotted someone entering the restaurant. Someone with familiar red hair and green eyes.
Giovanni's eyes followed Cole's gaze. "Well! I do believe that the owner's other son has graced us with his presence. I just saw him last week, at Cordelia Morton's party. Gwen McNeill's son, isn't he?"
"He is," Cole added curtly. "Younger son. Harry."
The person in question glanced at the two men and nodded. Then he returned his attention to his beautiful companion. Cole and Giovanni continued to stare. "That's Cordelia's daughter he's with, the latter said. "What's her name? Dana. Dana Morton. Quite a looker. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that dynastic ties were being formed between the McNeills and the Mortons."
"Speaking of dynasties, Mr. Giovanni," Cole began, "let's talk about saving yours. Namely a certain piece of property, outside Oakville." A contrite Giovanni nodded and the discussion returned to business.
Twenty-five minutes later, the two men finished their meals. The wine grower excused himself and disappeared toward the men's restroom. Cole leaned back and enjoyed the last of his Chardonnay. A shadow cast over the table. Cole glanced up and frowned. "Harry?"
"Cole." The twenty-five year-old witch sat down in Giovanni's empty chair. He flashed the half-demon a wary smile. "It's been a while. Like two weeks. So, where have you been?"
A wave of embarrassment washed over Cole. "I . . . uh, I've been busy. Lately."
"Uh-huh. Including Saturdays and Sundays?"
Cole sighed. "Yeah, Harry. Even on Sundays. I've been very busy on Sundays. Taking long drives up the coast," he began sarcastically. "Sitting home and getting drunk on martinis."
The redhead's handsome face grew tight. Expressionless. "Sorry. Didn't realize that my company was getting on your last nerve."
"Harry, you didn't . . . I mean . . ." Again, Cole sighed. "Look, I'm sorry that I snapped back like that."
"It's nothing," Harry coolly replied. He shot a quick glance at his companion. "I better leave. I think Dana is getting impatient." He stood up. "Look, before I go, I thought you would like to know that Olivia had just received her second power. Yesterday."
Cole shot up in his seat, his attention focused on the younger man. "Second power? Olivia? What is it?" he demanded, frowning.
"I didn't think you would be interested."
Exasperated, Cole growled, "Harry!"
The youngest McNeill shrugged. "Okay, okay. Olivia now has a fire power. Pyrokinesis. And it's very strong."
Pyrokinesis? Speechless, Cole allowed his eyes to grow wide with shock.
END OF CHAPTER TWO