"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"
Around six in the evening, the McNeills, sans Olivia and Harry, gathered inside the family's dining room for supper. It was at this time when Bruce told the others what he had witnessed between Olivia and Cole.
Jack McNeill stared at his son in disbelief. "That doesn't sound like Olivia," he declared. "Had Cole done something to piss her off?"
"That's what I had wondered. But when I asked Livy, she . . ." Bruce paused, recalling his reaction to Olivia's answer. "Well, she said no. And later, during lunch, she seemed unable to give me an answer. Like she really didn't have one. Instead, she kept telling me how she was tired of Cole being a part of her life. Weird."
Shaking his head, Jack added, "Maybe your sister is having some kind of psychotic episode."
"Jack!" Gweneth McNeill chided. "This is your daughter we're talking about."
"I don't know, Mom," Bruce said. "I'm inclined to believe Dad. Just before Cole showed up, she was on the phone with Paul Margolin. And they have a date for tonight."
Elise McNeill's voice rang with disbelief. "Olivia? And Paul Margolin? But she . . . she's always found him so boring!"
Bruce shrugged. "Not anymore."
"I guess none of you know." Barbara reached for her glass of wine. "Paige told me that while searching for something in her closet, Phoebe had come across one of Cole's old sweaters. She ended up with a vision of what he had went through with the old Source."
The news took the McNeills by surprise. "No wonder," Jack exclaimed. "After Phoebe had discovered the truth, she must have reconciled with Cole."
"Possibly," Barbara said with a shrug. "And you know how Olivia feels about Phoebe. She's always feared that Cole and Phoebe would reconcile." She paused. "Maybe they have."
Bruce protested, "But they haven't!" The others stared at him. "I mean . . . maybe they've made their peace, but as far as Cole is concerned, he's still with Olivia. At least that was the impression I got, earlier today."
The family fell silent and continued eating. Then Gweneth suggested, "Perhaps there's a chance that Olivia is under some kind of spell. I mean, bloody hell! Paul Margolin?"
"You have got to be kidding!" Jack shot back. "Are you suggesting that Margolin would put Livy under a spell? The Poster Boy of Witchcraft? Hell Gwen, he would rather tear off his right arm than pull a stunt like that! Unless he had a good reason."
Gweneth glared at her husband. "Has it ever occurred to you, John Collins McNeill, that even 'Poster Boys' aren't above pulling a stunt like that? And besides, Paul has had a motive ever since Olivia and Cole started dating last spring."
Her mother-in-law shook her head. "No, I believe that Barbara might be right. I believe that Cole's reconciliation with Phoebe may have frightened her. And now, she's giving in to her fear."
Sighing, Gweneth added, "Well, if you are right, someone needs to have a serious talk with that girl." Bruce heartily agreed.
At the same time, Cole finally arrived at the Halliwell manor and experienced a sense of déjà vu. It suddenly occurred to him that a long time had passed since he had last paid a visit to this house. Alone. He took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
"Just a minute!" a voice answered. Seconds later, the door opened and in the doorway stood Piper, looking shocked by his appearance. "Cole! What the . . . what are you doing here?"
"I'm taking Phoebe to dinner," he quietly replied. Cole noticed the stunned expression on his former sister-in-law's face. "Didn't Phoebe tell you?"
Piper's expression hardened. "No, she didn't. Phoebe!" Her voice rang in Cole's ears, causing him to wince.
Footsteps on the staircase followed. Seconds later, Paige appeared in the doorway. She wore a deep yellow dress with spaghetti straps and a matching jacket with flowing sleeves. "Cole?" A frown appeared on her face.
"Hey! Nice outfit, Paige," Cole responded with deep admiration. "You have a date?"
"Yeah." Paige gave her head a slight shake. "What are you doing here?"
Cole smiled. "I have a date. With Phoebe." He realized that Piper had not allowed him inside the house. "Uh, mind if I come inside?"
Before Piper could answer, Paige said, "Yeah. Sure." She stepped aside and jerked Piper out of the way, allowing Cole to enter.
Piper's brows rose questioningly. "I'll tell Phoebe that you're here. Excuse me." She shot Cole one last glance, heaved a long-suffering sigh and headed upstairs.
Once Piper had disappeared, Paige led Cole to the living room. "What the hell are you doing here?" she exclaimed, once they were seated. "A date with Phoebe?"
"She asked me out," Cole explained in a calm voice. "And considering the recently non-hostile nature of our relationship, I thought it was a good opportunity to catch up on old times."
"What about Olivia?"
Cole hesitated. "We're . . . on a break."
"What?" Paige nearly shouted. "Cole, this is a bad idea. Phoebe had told us that you and Olivia were having problems, but using her as rebound . . ." She shook her head. "This is not good. Trust me, I know. This family has redefined the phrase 'rebound date' and it usually doesn't end well."
Cole rolled his eyes. "This isn't a 'rebound' date, Paige. Phoebe and I . . . well, we just need to talk a little. Put some closure on our past problems."
"Closure, huh?" Paige regarded the half-daemon with doubtful eyes. "Whatever."
Piper returned downstairs with Phoebe in her wake. The latter wore a deep red halter-top, blue jeans, high heeled boots and a corduroy jacket. She flashed her ex-husband a brilliant smile and greeted breathlessly, "Cole! Hi!"
Cole stood up and smiled. "Phoebe. You look lovely."
"Thanks," Phoebe replied nervously. "Ready?"
Piper rolled her eyes in disgust. "Oh God! I better see to Wyatt." Before she could leave, the doorbell rang. "Now, who is it?"
"Probably my date." Paige shot up from her chair and rushed toward the door. Seconds later, she returned to the living room. With none other than Harry McNeill.
The red-haired witch greeted the others with a cheerful, "Good evening, everyone!" Then his green eyes fell upon the half-daemon with surprise. "Cole?"
The half-daemon stared back. "Harry?"
"Well," Piper said, regarding the two stunned men with muted delight, "at least this evening isn't a total waste."
Paul glanced at the menu in his hands. "Hmm. Too bad Bruce or your mother isn't working here, tonight," he commented. "I was looking forward to their specialties."
"Tonight's not a complete waste," Olivia said. "Maria Leighton is the sous chef and she's in charge, tonight. Her Pork Roast with Piquante Sauce is superb. Maybe we should try it."
Smiling, Paul placed his menu on the table. "Maybe we should. You order." When the waiter appeared, Olivia did just that. Once the waiter left, Paul continued, "You can't imagine what a relief it is to me that the DiMatteo case is over. I had the oddest feeling that my job was on the line. Especially if that bastard had been exonerated."
Olivia dismissed his 'fears' with a wave of her hand. "You have nothing to worry about. The case against DiMatteo was airtight. Trust me. You wouldn't have needed a seer to figure out that he would be found guilty."
"I guess you're right." Paul fell silent. His mind had been racking with ways to breach the subject of Belthazor without rousing any suspicions. Olivia's "seer" comment seemed like the perfect opportunity. Clearing his throat, he added, "Speaking of seers, I hate to bring this up, but . . ." He took a deep breath.
Olivia frowned. "What's wrong?"
Paul hesitated. Then, "There's this witch that Leo and I had met in San Jose. She's a seer, like Phoebe. Only her visions manifest in dreams. She, uh . . . had this vision of a powerful demon becoming the new Source."
Green eyes stared at him. "This daemon . . . was your friend able to identify him? Or her?"
Deliberately, Paul let out a sigh. "Look, I realize that you may not believe this, but it's Turner."
"What?" Olivia's eyes grew wide with shock.
Paul nodded. "Yeah, I know it's hard to believe. After all, he has been this all-powerful demon for nearly a year. But it seems, he might finally decide to become . . ."
Her eyes gleaming intensely, Olivia leaned forward. "How does this witch know that Cole is the 'all-powerful daemon' in her dream? Has she met him before?"
"No," Paul answered. "But when she described the demon, both Leo and I thought it seemed strange that he resembled Bel . . . Turner. So, Leo and I had returned to San Jose recently, and showed her a newspaper clipping of him." When Olivia failed to answer, Paul's discomfort became genuine. "I realize that you may not believe me, but if you want to know the witch's name . . ."
Olivia abruptly cut in. "No! No, I believe you." She sighed. "I knew there was a reason not to trust Cole. I've been receiving bad vibes about him, lately. Ever since we had returned from Scotland. I wonder if his little reunion with his uncle might have anything to do with him becoming the new Source?"
Paul frowned. "You believe me?"
"Why not? It all fits perfectly." Olivia told him that the San Jose witch was not the only one who had visions of Belthazor becoming the Source. "So did a whitelighter. Cole's uncle had found out and told him that the Whitelighter Council fears that Cole will be responsible for the emergence of a new Source." Olivia paused. "By the way, did you know that Cole's mother is the new leader of the Brotherhood of the Thorn?"
Actually, Paul had learned the disturbing news from Leo. But he did not reveal this to Olivia. "My God! We really are in trouble, aren't we?" He fell silent and took a sip of his wine. "It's like some demonic dynasty is taking over. I guess . . . well, I guess there's nothing we can really do, if Turner does become the Source."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, how can we stop him? He's too powerful."
Olivia snorted with derision. "No one is invincible, Paul. Not even Cole. After all, Paige had once stripped him of his powers . . . and without the benefit of the Power of Three. The Crozat warlocks nearly did the same, over a month later."
Paul deliberately opened his mouth. And closed it. He picked up his wine glass and drank from it.
"What?" Olivia demanded.
A sigh left Paul's mouth. "I don't know. I was thinking of your friend. The one from New Orleans."
"You mean Cecile?"
Paul nodded. "Leo once told me that she had a premonition of you . . . well, vanquishing Cole."
Realization lit up Olivia's eyes, turning them into a deeper shade of green. "Of course! Cecile's premonition! If it does come true, it means that I will be able to stop him from becoming the Source!" She frowned. "But how?"
The New Yorker's first instinct was to remind Olivia about the theory she and Bruce had about vanquishing the Source. But he did not want to unnecessarily push the matter. Or make Olivia suspicious. Instead, he remained silent, hoping that she would remember. And she did.
"I got it!" she cried, startling a nearby diner. She glanced at the woman and murmured a quick, "Sorry."
Paul leaned forward. "Do you have something in mind?"
A calculated expression appeared on Olivia's face. It reminded Paul of her reputation for ruthlessness. "Oh yes. I was thinking of an old theory Bruce and I had. About vanquishing the Source. Perhaps I can apply it to Cole."
"Do you think it would work?" Paul tried to keep his hope in check.
Olivia smiled brightly. "Why not? According to Cecile, it will."
For once, Paul expressed genuine emotion, as he allowed a broad smile to stretch across his face.
"What are they thinking about?" Paige demanded.
Harry glanced away from the couple sitting several yards away, to stare at his dinner companion. "Huh?"
Paige heaved an impatient sigh. "Olivia and Whathisname!"
"Whatever," Paige retorted. "What are they thinking about?"
Harry continued to stare at her. "Are you suggesting that I read their minds?"
"Well . . . duh! You're a telepath!"
"Well . . . duh! I'm also not in the habit of invading another person's mind without his or her permission!" Harry snapped back. "Or didn't you learn anything from those witchcraft lessons?"
Her eyes gleaming with intensity, Paige let out a frustrated sigh. "C'mon Harry! Aren't you the least bit curious about why Olivia is having an intimate dinner with Paul Margolin?"
"Perhaps they're discussing the DiMatteo case," Harry suggested. He knew that his idea sounded lame the moment it left his mouth.
Paige rolled her eyes. "Oh please! That case is over. They only need to sentence the bastard."
"Look . . . Paige. The answer is no." Harry took a sip of his water. "I am not going to read their minds. And that's final." He took another sip. What in the hell ever happened to his plans for a romantic evening? After months of fighting his growing attraction to the youngest Charmed One, Harry had finally succumbed and asked her for a date. He had not counted on encountering Olivia with Paul Margolin dining at the same restaurant. Or Paige's obsessive suspicions.
Disappointment gleamed in her dark eyes. Paige sat back into the booth and reached for her glass of water. She took a sip. "Okay," she finally said. "I understand."
Harry noticed her disgruntled expression and sighed. "Yeah," he replied sarcastically, "I can tell by the 'compassionate' look on your face. Why are you so interested in what Olivia and Paul are thinking, anyway?"
A sneer marred Paige's beautiful face. "C'mon Harry! Don't you find it odd that Olivia is having dinner with a guy she finds boring?"
"What makes you think that Livy finds Margolin boring?" Harry challenged.
Disgust glimmered in Paige's dark eyes. "Because I could tell. And Olivia had eventually admitted it, herself."
"Okay." Shit! Now, he had run out of arguments. The look on Paige's face told Harry that she seemed well aware of his intent.
Paige continued, "Doesn't it seem strange that Olivia is having a private dinner with a guy she considers downright dull?"
Harry let out a long-suffering sigh. "I suppose this is where you tell me that there is now a good reason for me to use my telepathy."
"I didn't say that." Paige glanced away. "Besides . . . maybe you're right. About using . . ."
"Oh God! I'll do it!" Harry brusquely exclaimed. Paige regarded him with a mingle of surprise and gratitude. He sighed. "I only hope that Gran or my parents never find out."
"Thanks Harry," Paige said with a grateful smile.
The male witch took a deep breath and focused his attention to the other couple across the dining room. Harry directed his mind toward Paul Margolin's. Olivia would have detected any telepathic activity used on her. He allowed his mind to brush against Margolin's thoughts. Lightly. Then he made a second attempt, and achieved penetration.
'I can't believe it,' Margolin's mind projected. 'It really worked. Leo will be . . .' The ADA's thoughts broke off without any warning. Harry took a deep breath and blinked several times.
Paige frowned. "What's wrong?"
Harry nodded at the uniformed figure hovering next to Olivia and Paul's table. "A distraction got in the way. The waiter."
"Are you going to try, again?" Paige asked.
Shaking his head, Harry replied breathlessly, "No. I don't think so. Besides, it isn't necessary."
"What do you mean?"
Harry paused and shot a glance at the older couple. "The next time you see Leo, do me a favor. Ask him if . . . if he knows anything about Olivia and Paul." Paige's eyes grew wide with shock, as a waiter approached their table, with two menus.
END OF CHAPTER 5