"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"
Gary Wheeler entered the elegant lobby of the exclusive condominium and made his way toward the front desk. "Good evening," he greeted the desk clerk in a polite manner.
"Good evening sir." An obsequious smile curved the clerk's lips. "May I help you?"
"Yes, is Mr. Cole Turner at home? I'm here to see him."
To Gary's surprise, the clerk immediately answered, "Yes sir. Mr. Turner and Miss McNeill had just arrived about . . . oh, twenty minutes ago."
Miss McNeill? Gary's stomach began to form knots. "Miss McNeill?"
"Yes sir, his fiancée, sir." The clerk continued, "Shall I call Mr. Turner and see if he's . . .?"
What the hell was Olivia McNeill doing back at Turner's place? Gary quickly squashed his disappointment and smiled at the clerk. "Never mind," he said in a controlled voice. "I'll call upon Mr. Turner, tomorrow."
"Yes sir." Gary barely heard the clerk, for he had turned away and walked out of the building.
Outside, Gary found Idril waiting patiently next to one of the canopy's poles. "What are you doing out here?" she demanded with a frown stamped on her face.
"He's not alone," Gary replied.
With a sigh, the warlock repeated, "Belthazor isn't alone. Apparently, Miss McNeill had decided to join him for the night."
"I thought you said . . ." Idril paused, as a couple strolled by. Once alone, she continued, "I thought you said that she would be at her parents' home!"
"What are you talking about?" Gary retorted. "You were the one who had made that assumption! You were the one who told me that the McNeill witch has been staying with her folks this past week!"
Idril growled, as she forcibly crossed her arms. "I know! Damn! This is getting out of hand!"
"Why don't you take care of the McNeill woman . . .?"
Dark eyes blazed at the warlock. "Are you serious? She's a powerful witch! From what I hear, she eats daemons like me for breakfast!" Her shoulders sagged with defeat. "Maybe you should call him in the morning. Try to convince him to see you one last time."
Gary sighed. "Okay. If you insist."
The following morning, Gary dialed the number to the Law Offices of Jackman, Carter and Kline. Seconds later, an operator directed him to the extension he had requested. "Cole Turner's office," a female voice answered. "May I help you?"
"Yes, this is Mr. Whalen. Gary Whalen," the warlock replied.
The secretary continued, "Ah yes, Mr. Whalen. I believe Mr. Turner had recommended you to his colleague, Ms. Veronica Altman. Is there a problem?"
Gary hesitated. "Ye . . . uh, no . . ." He sighed. Dramatically. "Well, yes. I'm . . . I'm afraid that I'm not very comfortable with Ms. Altman." Actually, Gary had never set eyes upon the woman.
"And you would like to become Mr. Turner's client," the secretary finished.
Relief surged in Gary's voice. "Yes! Yes, I . . . no disrespect to Ms. Altman, but I would much prefer Mr. Turner to represent me."
Silence followed. Then, "Hmmmm," the secretary finally said. "I guess I can make an appointment for you to see Mr. Turner on January 8. In 2004, of course."
The secretary added, "Mr. Whalen, may I remind you that Mr. Turner will not return to the office until after the holidays? In fact, he is supposed to be busy with wedding rehearsals, today. And tomorrow will be the actual wedding. Now, I can schedule an appointment for early January, or . . . I can recommend an attorney, other than Ms. Altman."
Gary realized that this phone call might have been a waste of time. He sighed. "All right. Schedule me with a new attorney."
For a second, Gary thought he had heard a relieved sigh from Belthazor's secretary. "Yes sir. Can you please hold for a minute? Excuse me."
Several minutes passed silently before the secretary transferred Gary to another attorney with the firm. After he had hung up, the warlock turned to Idril. "It didn't work. Belthazor 'still' won't be available until after the New Year."
One glance at the daemon's face told Gary that Idril was not pleased. "Shit!" she muttered. "I suppose we'll have to do this the hard way. Do you have any idea where Belthazor will be, today?"
Gary replied that the half-daemon will be at the McNeill home for wedding rehearsals, most of the day. "The wedding is tomorrow," he added. "Which means that his bachelor's party will probably be tonight." The warlock paused. "In case you don't know, a bachelor's party . . ."
"I know what it is," Idril interrupted sharply. "Daemons have them, too." She paused momentarily. "Does this mean that the McNeill witch WILL be at her parents' home, tonight?"
A sigh left Gary's mouth. "The wedding is tomorrow. And if Belthazor and the witch are following mortal customs . . ." Idril rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry, both mortal and daemon pre-wedding customs, she should be at her parents' home, tonight."
Idril smiled. Slowly. "Good. That means tonight, you should have the perfect opportunity to approach Belthazor. And succeed, this time."
A heartfelt sigh left Paige's mouth. She placed her elbows on the kitchen table, allowing her hands to hold up her head. "God, I'm tired! What time did we leave that party, last night?"
Piper opened one of the kitchen cabinets above the sink. "Twelve-thirty, I think. Thank goodness I managed to get some sleep. Because, I'm going to be very busy all day, preparing P3 for Olivia's party."
"Hey, any chance of a male stripper?" Paige asked hopefully.
Piper seared her youngest sister with a contemptuous glance. "You'll have to ask Barbara or Cecile. And if there is one, let's just hope that he doesn't end up being murdered and impersonated by an incubus."
A third figure entered the kitchen. "What this about an incubus?" Victor's deep voice filled the room. He sat down in a chair, opposite Paige. "You've encountered one?"
Paige stared at the older man. "You've heard of them?" she asked.
"From your mother."
Piper related the incident regarding a demonic order led by a powerful succubus, who had been after Bruce McNeill during his wedding. "Fortunately, I don't think anyone is after Cole or Olivia. Or is trying to stop their wedding."
"Don't be too sure, Piper," Paige commented dryly. "I bet that Livy's uncle - the one from Wales - would love to stop this wedding. He doesn't seem particularly thrilled by it. And then there's Leo."
Victor nodded. "Leo, huh? You think he might try to get between Olivia and Cole, again? Like he did, last summer?"
Piper rolled her eyes. She placed a frying pan on the stove. "I don't think so, Dad. Neither Olivia or Cole have barely said a word to him in the past four months."
"What did you expect?" Paige retorted. "Leo hasn't apologized or shown any remorse for what he had done." Victor grunted in approval.
Shooting both her sister and father an annoyed glance, Piper continued, "Anyway, Chris has assured the Elders that they won't have to worry about the consequences of Olivia and Cole's marriage. Being from the future, I guess he would know."
Victor asked, "Who's Chris?"
"Our new whitelighter since Leo became an Elder," Paige replied. "He's from the future and he's got a lot of secrets. Too many, if you ask my opinion."
A bedraggled Phoebe entered the kitchen, stifling a yawn. "God, I had such a horrible night!" she declared dramatically. "I barely got any sleep."
"I'm surprised that you're even here," Piper said. She opened the refrigerator and retrieved a carton of eggs. "I thought you would be with Jason."
Phoebe groaned, as she sat down in an empty chair. "Please don't bring up Jason." She then revealed an embarrassing encounter between herself, Jason and Cole at the McNeill party, last night. "I think he's freaked out by the possibility that I might still care for Cole."
Piper placed a tub of butter on the counter. "Do you?"
"Of course not!" Phoebe protested. Perhaps too forcibly, in Paige's opinion. "I'm in love with Jason, now! But I still have . . . affection . . . for Cole."
Victor asked, "Does Jason know that you're a witch?"
All eyes, including Paige's, fell upon the middle Charmed One. Who fidgeted on her chair. "Not yet," she muttered. "I just don't think . . ."
"Phoebe!" Shocked by her sister's revelation, Paige cried out, "Are you serious? My God! You and Jason have been dating for nine months! When do you plan to tell him?"
Piper added, "She's got a point, Pheebs. Look at what happened between me and Dan."
"Yeah, and I also remember what happened when you finally told him," Phoebe shot back. "I don't want the same to happen between Jason and me."
"You know Phoebe, if Prue had only told Andy the truth a lot sooner - and without using that spell - they could have spent a lot more time, together," Piper continued. "Even though Andy didn't react well to the news at first; in the end, he couldn't stay away from her. And by then it was too late."
"Piper . . ."
This time, Victor spoke up. "I hate to say this, Phoebe, but . . ." He sighed. "Look, your mother and I had both made mistakes that led to our breakup. We were both guilty. But there was one thing I had difficulty dealing with was the fact that Patty had never bothered to tell me that she was a witch . . . until after our wedding. And for a long time, I had this feeling that I had been trapped into that marriage - for whatever reasons she had. All I'm saying is that don't make the same mistake with Jason. Especially if you're serious about him."
Silence filled the kitchen. Paige noticed that a slightly resentful expression had crept into Phoebe's eyes. And inwardly thanked the God and Goddess that she had become involved with another witch.
Phoebe finally muttered, "I guess I'll think about it." Then in a louder voice, she added, "Although if you ask me, Jason is the least of my problems, right now. Or should I say . . . 'our' problems."
"Meaning?" Piper demanded.
Phoebe paused dramatically and took a deep breath. "When I had bumped into Cole last night, I had a premonition. Of him marrying someone other than Olivia. I think she was a demon."
Paige frowned. "What makes you think so?"
"Because the priest who was marrying them, was the same demonic bastard who had married Cole and me, when he was the Source."
At that moment, the doorbell rang.
A slightly exhausted Olivia sauntered into the McNeill dining room and found Cecile and her Cousin Margaret at the dining table. They seemed to be enjoying morning coffee. "Well, look who's here!" Cecile declared. "Cole didn't come with you?"
Olivia sat down in one of the dining table's empty chairs and sighed. "Andre had cornered him, as soon as we had arrived. I think Andre wants his room back at the penthouse."
A smirk curved Cecile's lips. "Don't count on it. In fact, I think Andre's hoping that you'll stay with Cole, tonight."
"I don't think so, dear," Margaret gently chided. "Not on the night before the wedding." She faced Olivia. "By the way, have you and Cole discussed the matter regarding Cecile's vision?"
Astonishment overwhelmed Olivia, as she stared at her best friend. The latter nodded. "Andre's big mouth had let the cat out of the bag, earlier this morning. Don't worry. Your family isn't demanding that you call off the wedding. Especially since I had hinted that Cole might have been under a spell in my vision."
"Really?" Olivia responded. "Because Cole and I came to the same conclusion, last night."
"So, you did talk about my vision." Cecile's smirk returned. "About time."
Olivia glared at her friend. Cousin Margaret spoke up. "Jack did point out that Cole might be susceptible to telepathic spells. How interesting."
Someone other than her fiancé popped into Olivia's mind. Which led her to ask, "What about Brion? How did he react to the news?"
"Oh, he wasn't here, dear," Margaret replied. "I believe I saw him leave the house before I came down for breakfast." She shook her head in a bewildered manner. "Strange people, the Morgans." An apologetic expression immediately appeared on her face. "Oh dear! I didn't mean to insult . . ."
Olivia dismissed her elderly cousin's last remark with a wave of her hand. "Don't worry, Margaret. Even Mom and Nana would agree with you. Fortunately, not all of the Morgans act as if they have bugs up their . . ." She broke off, aware of the older woman's presence.
A sly smile appeared on the elderly witch's mouth. "Up their arses, you mean?" Cecile chuckled.
"Mom once told me that the Morgans are that way, because of 'you-know-who'," Olivia explained.
Cecile frowned. "You mean that ancestor of yours? The one who was a warlock on your mother's side?"
"Ah yes," Margaret added with a nod. "Briana Morgan. The woman is practically a legend amongst the British Pagans. I remember Gwen talking about her, once. Favorite of the old Source, wasn't she? Is it true that he had offered her a chance to ascend to daemonhood?"
Olivia nodded. "It's all true. I guess the sadist in her had appealed to the Source. According to Cole, he was another one. Which is why I think he was an idiot. Ever since her death, the Morgans have lived in fear that another Briana would crop up in the family bloodline. Mind you, Aunt Rhiannon came dangerously close to achieving that."
Margaret sighed. "Och dearie, who hasn't? I certainly did. Once." A haunted expression flashed in her eyes for a brief second. "Besides, I wouldn't be surprised there isn't one family involved in magic that doesn't have a warlock, evil witch or whatever in the family closet."
"And bokors," Cecile added. "In both of my parents' fami . . ." She broke off, as Cole appeared in the dining room.
He said to the three women, "There you are. Gwen has been screaming for all three of you during the past five minutes. Uh, something about starting the wedding rehearsal. And she needs Margaret's help over something about the decorations."
A long suffering sigh escaped from Margaret's mouth. "Bloody hell," she muttered. "And I thought I had escaped from 'Queen Gweneth'." Olivia and Cecile exchanged knowing grins, as she stood up. "Oh well. I'll see you all later." She patted Cole's arm. "You too." And she sauntered out of the room.
Cole stared at the elderly woman's disappearing form. "What, uh . . . what were you three talking about?"
After a brief pause, Cecile answered, "My vision of you."
"Oh yeah," Cole grumbled with a shake of his head. "Andre told me that he had let the cat out of the bag." Then he sighed. "Now everyone knows. Even the Halliwells."
"What are you talking about? Paige hasn't shown up, yet."
Olivia explained, "Cole had bumped into Phoebe, last night."
"I think she might have had a premonition, last night," Cole said to Cecile. "Maybe one very similar to yours. But that Dean character had appeared before I could find out."
Cecile let out a gust of air. "Oh. Oh! I see."
Cole added sardonically, "That's right. We're talking about the Charmed Ones, here. Who knows how they'll react, once Phoebe spills the beans."
"I don't think they'll react irrationally," Olivia said. "They just might surprise you. On the other hand," she paused, "you should be thankful that Brion doesn't know."
A surprised Piper ushered a determined-looking Brion Morgan inside the house. The other family members had gathered inside the living room. "Hey guys," the oldest Charmed Ones said with a forced smile, as she led the visitor toward the others, "look who's here. Olivia and Harry's uncle."
Victor held out his hand to the visitor. "Nice to meet you, again, uh . . . Brian, isn't it?"
"Yes, Brion Morgan." The Welshman shook Victor's hand. "And you're Victor, I believe? Victor Bennett?" He nodded at Paige and Phoebe. "Ladies."
Piper continued, "So Mr. Morgan, what brings you here?"
"I'll be direct," Mr. Morgan shot back. "It's about Bel . . . uh, Cole. You see, I'm beginning to wonder if it is wise of my niece to marry him."
Paige snorted with derision. "You're beginning to wonder?" She regarded the British witch with a dubious eye. "I thought you were against the wedding from the start."
A wry smile touched Mr. Morgan's lips, as he nodded. "Yes, well . . . perhaps at first. But I did eventually resign myself to this . . . marriage. Until I had witnessed Miss Halliwell's encounter with Bel . . . Cole, last night." He directed his gaze at Phoebe.
Both Piper and Paige stared at the middle sister, as well. Victor angrily rounded on the other man. "You were eavesdropping on my daughter's private conversation?"
"It was unintentional," Mr. Morgan protested. "I assure you. However, I cannot deny that Miss Halliwell did react strangely, when she bumped . . . into Cole." He paused, before adding dramatically, "In the same manner that my cousin, David Llewellyn usually reacted whenever he received a premonition." He continued to stare at Phoebe. "You see, he is also a seer."
Paige's brusque tone interrupted the deafening silence. "Listen, I don't mean to be rude, but what exactly do you want?"
"I want to know if your sister had a vision, when she bumped into Cole," Mr. Morgan replied sharply. "And if it had anything to do with my niece. Olivia and I may not share a cordial relationship, but I do have her best interests at heart. If her fiancé proves to be a future threat . . ."
To Piper's dismay, Phoebe heaved a sigh. "All right. I understand. If you must know, I had a vision of Cole marrying someone other than Olivia. Some tall, dark-haired woman, who looked kind of skanky. And they were being married by this demonic priest." She hesitated. "The same priest who had married us, when Cole was the Source. I mean . . . possessed by the Source."
Mr. Morgan frowned. "You were married by a dark priest?"
"We didn't know it at the time!" Phoebe protested.
A sigh left the male witch's mouth. "I see. Well . . . you must tell Olivia about your vision. I see no other recourse."
"Me?" Reluctance filled Phoebe's dark eyes. "Are you kidding? You want me to tell my ex-husband's fiancée that he's going to marry a strange woman? Possibly another demon?"
Strange demonic woman who happened to be dark-haired and skanky? Piper exchanged a knowing look with Paige. Phoebe's description of Cole's possible bride seemed very familiar. "Uh, Pheebs," she began, "can you describe the woman a little more?"
Phoebe stared at the older sister. "I don't know. She's tall. Slightly taller than Olivia. Dark, long hair. Straight. Her eyes are light, but I don't know the color. Sorry, vision in black-and-white. And she looked a bit skanky. Like someone who belonged in that new TV series, "LAS VEGAS".
A heavy sigh escaped from Piper's mouth. She had a pretty good idea whom Phoebe had seen. "You're right about one thing, Pheebs, the woman is a demon. But she's no stranger."
Paige added, "Yeah, it seems she had popped up at Cole and Livy's engagement party, in the Melora dimension." She paused. "Her name is Idril and she's one of Cole's old girlfriends."
"What?" Phoebe's eyes widened in horror. "Why didn't you tell me about her?"
Feeling defensive, Piper shot back, "Because we had forgotten about Whatshername . . ."
"Idril," Paige interjected.
Piper rolled her eyes. "Whatever! Anyway, we had forgotten about her, after some warlock tried to kill Olivia. Besides, I don't think Cole really liked What . . . uh, Idril, very much."
"How about not at all?" Paige added sardonically. "Which is why I find it hard to believe that Cole will dump Livy for her."
Phoebe protested, "I'm not lying or anything like that! I know what I saw!"
Mr. Morgan stared at Phoebe. "Tell me, Miss Halliwell, have any of your visions ever been wrong?"
The middle Charmed One squirmed with obvious discomfort. "I don't . . . think so. Maybe I've misinterpreted one or two."
Or more, Piper added silently. But she kept the thought to herself.
Mr. Morgan added, "Then it would be suffice to say it is possible that Belthazor will reject my niece. Marry this daemon. And if he does . . . can you imagine the danger this union might represent?"
Piper sighed. "Look . . . Mr. Morgan, what exactly do you expect us to do? Vanquish Cole? We can't. He's too powerful. Even for the Power of Three. I don't have the stomach to do it, anyway. And I certainly don't want a pissed off Olivia or Cole's mother on our backs."
"Your son . . ." Mr. Morgan began.
"Forget it!" Piper snapped. "I won't allow anyone to use my son to kill Cole!"
Victor turned to Phoebe. "Sweetheart, why don't you simply tell Olivia about your vision. She's probably the best person to deal with this matter."
Mr. Morgan's green eyes brightened considerably, much to Piper's disgust. "Of course! I had heard that Olivia had nearly killed Cole, last summer. Once she realizes that both he and this daemon will pose a potential threat, she certainly won't hesitate to use that vanquishing potion that she had created."
"What?" Phoebe regarded the male witch with dismay. Paige glared at the man.
Piper rolled her eyes. She really needed to get rid of this guy. "Wait a minute! How do you know that Olivia will kill Cole, once she learns about Phoebe's premonition? We don't even know the circumstances behind the whole thing in the first place!"
The Welshman stared at the oldest Charmed One. "It's obvious, isn't it? Beltha . . . I mean Cole still have feelings for this woman."
Another derisive snort escaped from Paige's mouth. "Really? And you know this for a fact?"
"I . . ."
Phoebe calmly and coolly spoke up. "If what Piper and Paige say about Cole's feelings for this woman is true, I doubt very much that Olivia will simply use the potion on him. However . . ." She heaved a morose sigh. "I guess I better tell Olivia about the premonition."
For the first time, Piper began to wonder if her younger sister was finally growing up. She hoped so. And she hoped that Brion Morgan was wrong about Cole's feelings for this Idril. The last thing any of them needed was an all-powerful half-demon for an enemy.
END OF CHAPTER SEVEN