"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"
The waiter handed Cole and Phoebe, each a menu. "Here you go," he said. "Would you like to order now?"
Cole glanced at Phoebe, who shook her head. He said to the waiter. "Give us a few minutes." The other man nodded, and walked away. A giggle escaped from Phoebe's mouth. Cole stared at her. "What is it?"
"Nothing." Phoebe paused. "Well, this. This is nice. I mean, when was the last time we were here, at the Crab House?"
Cole sighed and allowed the memories to return. "Two years, five months and two weeks ago. Well, to be exact, one week. Right after Piper and Leo's wedding."
Phoebe smiled. "I remember. That was the night we had those pictures taken in a photo booth, here at the Pier."
"Hmmm." Cole took a sip of his water.
Voices from other diners inside the Crab House filled the silence that developed between the couple. Cole took a few more sips of water and averted his gaze to the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, beyond the window. Phoebe finally broke the silence. "It's funny," she said. "I had pasted one of those pictures in the Book of Shadows." Cole glanced at his former wife. "To describe your human half. I had added it after . . ." She paused. "I mean, just before . . . you know, before I became a banshee."
Cole blinked. He knew what Phoebe had meant to say. She had added information about his human side just after Raynor had forced him to kill that witch. "Oh. Is it still there? The picture?" When Phoebe hesitated, Cole quickly guessed the answer to his question. "Well, I hope that you've managed to save the other pictures," he added with a mirthless chuckle. "I'd hate to think that my four dollar investment had turned out to be a waste."
"I'm sorry Cole." Phoebe's head hung low.
A slight frown creased Cole's forehead. "Sorry about what?"
Phoebe sighed. "Everything. For over a year, we had wasted a second chance to be together, because I had allowed my fears to come between us."
"Phoebe . . ."
The middle Charmed One shook her head. "No! Cole . . . don't. I'm tired of running away from the truth. I was so afraid of being evil that I . . . well, I guess I had projected my fears upon you."
"I guess those classes in Psychology have finally paid off," Cole said with another chuckle.
"Cole . . ."
"Look Phoebe, there's an old saying that Elise McNeill once told me. It takes two to break up a marriage. Maybe you and your sisters could have given me the benefit of the doubt. But I should have never made that deal with the Seer. I had suspected that she would trying something . . ." He broke off and stared at the Bridge for the second time. A sigh left his mouth. "I guess that I was afraid of losing you . . . to the Source. Especially after he had used the Hollow to steal Piper and Paige's powers. And when I came back from the Wasteland, I shouldn't have tried so hard to win you back. Perhaps give you some room to breath."
Phoebe absent-mindedly began to play with the sugar bowl. "I guess we both had screwed up."
"Yeah," Cole murmured. "But at least we're friends again." He paused, as if he had received an epiphany. "Or perhaps that was our real problem."
"What do you mean?"
Cole sighed. "Were we ever friends? Even when we loved each other?"
Phoebe opened her mouth to speak. No sound came from her mouth. Instead, she shook her head in a helpless manner.
"I mean, think about it," Cole continued. "The first two months we were together, both of us were lying to each other. We barely knew each other before we first had sex. And after we had started over again before Piper's wedding, we simply jumped back into the romance. We were always doing that."
"People have been known to begin successful relationships without knowing each other very long," Phoebe shot back. Almost resentfully.
Nodding, Cole said, "Perhaps. But did you ever stop to think that . . . well that neither of us were mature or experienced enough to deal with falling in love so fast?"
A pause followed before Phoebe added, "Well, we're friends now."
Cole stared into her dark eyes. Eyes that radiated hope and desire. "Oh."
"Maybe you're right about us moving too fast in our relationship," Phoebe continued. "But . . ." She hesitated. "But can't we start all over again? Just take it a little slow, this time?"
Nine, perhaps ten months ago, Cole would have jumped at Phoebe's offer. But now, he had someone else to consider. Olivia.
Phoebe added, "I realize that you might not want to hear this, Cole. But it seems to me that it's over between you and Olivia. She doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with you. I'm not . . ." Despite the restaurant's low lighting, Cole could see red spots on Phoebe's cheeks. She took a deep breath. "I'm not asking you to jump right into bed with me. But could you think about it? About us being together, again?"
Cole responded in the only manner he could - with a wide-eyed stare.
"Hey." Paige greeted the oldest Charmed One, as she entered the kitchen the following morning. Piper glanced over her shoulder and coolly returned the younger woman's greeting. Paige winced. She could clearly see that Piper had not forgotten their confrontation over Phoebe's vision. In an attempt to erase the hostility that hung thick inside the kitchen, Paige cheerfully added, "So, where's Wyatt?"
"Upstairs. Fast asleep. I've already fed him." Piper placed several bacon strips into the frying pan. "So is Phoebe. I think. I didn't hear her come in, last night."
Paige said, "I did. She came in about twenty minutes after I did."
"Well, that's a relief."
It did not take a genius to figure out the meaning behind Piper's words. Phoebe arriving home on time could only mean that she did not spend the night with Cole. Paige sighed and sat down in one of the kitchen chairs.
The sizzle of frying bacon filled the air. Piper opened the refrigerator and removed some eggs. "So . . . how did your date go, last night?"
"It wasn't bad . . . at the beginning," Paige replied. After Harry's attempt to read Paul Margolin's thoughts, the mood between the two young witches had sobered. Paige squirmed, while Piper stared at her. "We, uh . . . Harry and I had ran into an unpleasant surprise at the Golden Horn."
With a sneer Piper said, "One of Harry's old girlfriends? Like Dana Morton?" Paige glared at the older woman. Who looked immediately contrite. "Sorry."
"No, it wasn't an old girlfriend," Paige coldly replied. Her anger immediately vanished. "It was Olivia. And Paul Margolin."
"Oh." Piper cracked an egg into a porcelain bowl. "What's so unpleasant about that?"
Paige watched her sister crack more eggs into the bowl. "I don't know, Piper. Maybe it's the idea of Olivia dating a man whom she once described as being dull."
Piper heaved a sigh. Then she turned to face the other woman. "Paige, has it ever occurred to you that Olivia simply had enough of Cole and decided to consider greener pastures?"
"Gee Piper, if Olivia wanted greener pastures that badly, she would have accepted Paul's offer to take things seriously, last April. Don't you think?" Piper rolled her eyes, while Paige continued. "Besides, now that Olivia is giving Cole the cold shoulder, he's running back to Phoebe. Who's welcoming him with open arms."
Piper returned her attention to the eggs. "It won't last," she growled. "Phoebe will soon come to her senses."
"Really? You better hope and pray that both Olivia and Cole does, as well."
"Paige . . ."
But the youngest Charmed One was not finished. "By the way, where's Leo?"
Piper cracked another egg into the bowl. "I don't know. He had left last night to answer a summons from one of his charges. Why?"
"What's the name of this charge?"
Once more, Piper whirled around to stare at Paige. "What are you getting at?"
Paige told her about last night. "After we had spotted Olivia and Paul together, I talked Harry into reading their minds."
"Paige! Are you crazy?"
The younger woman ignored her sister. "I know it was the wrong thing to do. And Harry didn't want to do it - especially read Olivia's mind. He figured that she would detect him. But he did managed to read a little from Paul's mind."
Piper turned away. "I'm not listening to this."
Paige continued. "He heard these words in Paul's thoughts - 'I can't believe it. It really worked. Leo will be . . .' And then a waiter had interrupted." She paused. "I don't know about you, Piper, but I can't help but wonder what Leo has to do with all of this."
"And I heard this in Paul's mind," Harry said to his family. "'I can't believe it. It really worked. Leo will be . . .' And then he was interrupted." Harry paused, while the other McNeills stared at him in horror. He sighed. "Okay, I realized that you're all disappointed that I had used my telepathy on Paul. I know I am. Hell, I've been beating myself about it, all night."
Gweneth McNeill sighed. "By the way, how did your date with Paige go?"
"It was nice. At first." Harry paused. "Until we saw Olivia and Paul at the Golden Horn." He shook his head in disbelief. "I never realized that underneath all that intelligence and wit was a paranoid and obsessive woman."
A smirk curved Gwenth's mouth. "Well, you must really be attracted to her." Harry shot a dark look at his mother.
Jack McNeill frowned. "What on earth does Leo have to do with Olivia and Paul?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. But if Olivia has been acting strange lately . . ."
"You mean her sudden interest in Paul?" Bruce added.
Jack eyed his son suspiciously. "What are you saying? That magic was involved . . . on Leo's part?"
"Leo and Paul."
Barbara shook her head in disbelief. "A whitelighter casting a spell on one of his charges?"
"Actually, Leo hasn't been Olivia's official whitelighter for years," Gweneth reminded her family. "You know how he feels about Cole. And if Paul is involved, then he would be the one to cast a spell upon Olivia."
"Paul Margolin casting a spell on a fellow witch?" The McNeills' elderly matriarch exclaimed. "The Wiccan Boy Scout?" The others stared at her. "Well, isn't that Cole's nickname for him?"
Gweneth rolled her eyes. "Please! Just because Paul believes himself to be the epitome of goodness, it doesn't mean that he is. We all know how he feels about Olivia. And Cole. If his feelings are that strong, it is possible that he would cast such a spell."
Jack asked, "But where does Leo fit into all of this?"
Good question, Harry thought. Hopefully, Paige will eventually find out.
Cole reached for the digital clock on his nightstand and stared at it. The clock read 8:27 in the morning. He sighed and realized that he had been awake for the past five hours.
After delivering Phoebe to the Prescott Street manor, Cole had stopped by Vorando's for a few drinks. He had hoped to discuss his problems with Riggerio, the daemon who owned the nightclub. But Riggerio was out of town on a business trip. And Marbus had matters to attend with the Gimle Order. After drowning his troubles with a few martinis, he went home and fell asleep for a few hours. A bad dream featuring Olivia and Phoebe had awaken him from his brief slumber.
Following his interrupted sleep, Cole spent the next five hours contemplating Phoebe's suggestion. Start over again? The two of them? Cole considered it, but he realized that his desire to win back Phoebe's hand had faded since meeting Olivia. Granted, he did not allow his life to revolve around the redhead. Olivia would not have tolerated a possessive or clinging lover. And Cole's experiences with Phoebe had ended any desire on his part to repeat his past mistakes. But Olivia had opened new horizons for him. She had allowed him . . . No. She had encouraged him to be his own man. Not the notorious demonic killer that the Source and Raynor wanted, or the perfect man/supernatural vigilante that Phoebe had tried to create. Olivia had wanted to be with Cole Turner aka Belthazor - both the good and the bad.
However, Olivia no longer seemed satisfied with him. She apparently wanted someone like the Wiccan Boy Scout. And it looked as if she finally got what she wanted. Had the last two months spent on the DiMatteo case finally led the two witches to become close, again? It was the only explanation that Cole could consider.
The half-daemon sat up and threw the sheets off him. He donned a pair of black trousers and a gray T-shirt. He decided to give Olivia one last chance to explain what had gone wrong between them. Because he sure as hell had no idea.
Seconds later, Cole beamed out of his bedroom and into the corridor, outside Olivia's apartment. After a brief hesitation, he rang the doorbell. A minute passed before a voice murmured, "Who is it?"
"It's Cole. I want to speak with you."
Two minutes passed before Cole rang the doorbell for the second time. Finally, the door opened and he found himself facing the beautiful redhead. She regarded him with baleful eyes. "What do you want, Cole?"
The half-demon's mouth hung open for a second. Then, "I, uh . . ." He took a deep breath. "Look Olivia, I just want to know . . . What have I done to piss you off?"
Green eyes expressed contempt. "You really are one arrogant bastard, aren't you?"
"What?" Now, what in the hell has he done?
Olivia continued, "You seemed to believe that this is all about you. That my life has to revolve around you. Well, it doesn't . . . Belthazor!" Contempt oozed from her voice, as she uttered his demonic name. Cole winced. "You know, there are other people in my life. People who haven't spent a least a century leaving behind dead innocents like a trail of blown roses."
Now Cole felt confused. "Since when have you ever been bothered by my past?"
"I don't know, Cole. I guess since you had failed to tell us about your uncle," Olivia shot back. "Or the fact that your mother now heads the Thorn Brotherhood."
An exasperated Cole protested, "I didn't know about my mother, until three hours before you did! As for Marbus . . ." He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. I just never got around to mentioning him."
But Olivia was not listening. Instead, she continued to rant over Cole's habit of harboring secrets. Pretty soon, her rants became accusations. "Or maybe there was another reason why you never mentioned your family." Her green eyes resembled polished stones, as she sneered at him with contempt. "After all, once a daemon, always a daemon. Right Belthazor?"
"Olivia?" Cole shook his head in disbelief. It seemed as if the ghost of Prue Halliwell had taken possession of the redhead.
"I'm sorry Cole, but I don't think our relationship is going to work." Olivia's expression became distant. Cold. "It's over between us." She slammed the door in Cole's face, leaving him stunned . . . and heartbroken.
Bruce was in a fix. His watch read four thirty-seven and he was already running late. Two days ago, a local historical society had reserved one of the Golden Horn's private rooms for a dinner party. A dinner that was scheduled to begin in over six hours from now. Although he and his kitchen staff had just began to preparation of the food, Bruce discovered that one of his assistants had failed to order several cases of wine for the dinner.
"Shit!" he murmured to himself. He drove his Jaguar into the parking lot of the Wine Cellar, an exclusive liquor store in the Castro District. Since Bruce happened to be a regular customer, he decided to drop by and hope the store's owner could provide an emergency supply of the wine he needed.
After easing his car into a parking space, Bruce climbed out and entered the store. Instead of searching the shelves for the wine, he headed straight for the store's owner. "Emilio! Good afternoon!"
"Bruce!" Emilio Rinaldi, owner of the Wine Cellar, gave the chef a cheerful wave. Then he stared at Bruce with shrewd eyes. "Don't tell me. Let me guess. You have an emergency?"
Bruce hung his head in desperation. "I need a case of wine. Badly. It's for a private dinner party at the Golden Horn."
Emilio asked, "What are the main courses?"
"Beef Wellington and Eggs en Gelee. Along with Peas in Lettuce, Calliflower Polonaise and Tomato Vinaigrette."
Nodding, the storeowner said, "Hmm, this sounds like you'll need several bottles of Cabernet Saivignon."
Emilio added, "I'll check my stock. He disappeared through a door that led to the store's cellar. Meanwhile, Bruce stood before the counter. Waiting.
Several minutes passed before a new customer entered the store. Bruce glanced at the front door and was surprised to see Cole. He called out the half-daemon's name.
Cole seemed surprised . . . and a little wary at the sight of the witch. "Bruce," he greeted politely. "Doing a little shopping?"
"It's an emergency," Bruce replied. "For a private dinner I'm preparing at the restaurant." He paused and noted Cole's unhappy demeanor. "So, uh . . . how are you doing?"
A wan smile appeared on Cole's face. "Fine. I'm . . . doing okay. Excuse me." He turned away.
"Hey! Wait a minute! Cole!" The other man paused. Bruce hurried toward him. "Hey, what's going on? You look as if your favorite pet had just died."
A heavy, dry sigh escaped from Cole's mouth. "It's over between us. Olivia and me."
"Look, just because Livy has been acting odd lately . . ."
Cole interrupted. "I just got the official word from her, this morning. As far as she's concerned, we're through."
"Oh." Bruce did not know what to say. He felt tempted to convey his family's suspicions about Leo and Paul. But knowing Cole's bull-by-the-horn nature, Bruce feared that the half-daemon would go after the pair and ruin any chances of them learning the truth behind Olivia's sudden aversion to her now former boyfriend. "I . . . uh, . . . Hey man, I'm sorry to hear that." Bruce paused. "Did she explain why?"
With a shrug, Cole replied, "She had mentioned something about me not telling her about Marbus. And not trusting me." He reached for a bottle of Chardonnay, glanced at it and placed it back on the shelf. "To hell with it," he growled. "I'm not in the mood to waste fifty bucks so I can drown my sorrows in booze. I'll see you later." He turned away and walked out of the store.
Phoebe's cell phone rang. She retrieved it from her purse and answered it. "Hello?"
"Phoebe? It's Cole."
"Cole!" The witch perked up at the sound of her ex-husband's voice. "Uh, what are you . . . is there something you want?"
A silent pause followed before Cole answered, "Yeah. Are you free for dinner, tomorrow night?"
Phoebe nearly had a heart attack over Cole's question. "Did you . . .? I mean, yeah! Yes, I'd love to have dinner with you."
"Good. I'll be preparing dinner at my place," Cole continued. "You'll really love it. Can you be here around seven?"
In a voice that rang with happiness, Phoebe replied, "Yeah, sure. I'll be ready. I'll see you tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow night it is. Good-bye, Phoebe."
"Bye!" Phoebe hung up the telephone. Thrilled over Cole's invitation, she had failed to recognize the melancholy in his voice.
END OF CHAPTER 6