You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging after the last sneak peek into Bewitching Fire, did you? Here’s Krystal and Devin’s first date in Chapter 3. Enjoy!
On principle, Krystal generally refused to wear black clothes. There was too much hype around witches and the color black, but when Sierra walked into her bedroom with stunning, midnight black dress from her own closet, Krystal could hardly turn her down. She had been going out of her mind trying to find the perfect outfit ever since she came home around four o’clock.
Her own closet was filled with long skirts, loose blouses, and warm sweaters of earth tone shades that were far too casual for a date like this. It was just Mama Pazzini’s, a place she had been going to with her family since she was little, but she wasn’t looking to impress Mr. and Mrs. Pazzini. It was Devin she needed to impress. Though, she had probably done that already.
She stood in front of the full-length mirror and twirled a bit before fingering the lacey, scalloped neckline that came off the shoulders. The long sleeves would ensure she wouldn’t get too cold, but she worried about her legs that were exposed from the knees down. She normally never wore anything with a hem that high.
“Don’t even worry about your knobby knees,” Sierra slated from her open doorway. “It looks great on you.”
After a few magical alterations to the bust and waistline, yes, it did look great. Krystal would have to let it out again when she took it off at the end of the evening. She looked to her older sister who was a hair taller than herself and wondered how this dress was supposed to look on her.
“It’s not too suggestive, is it?” Krystal winced, pinching at the hemline.
“Honey, even if it is, would that be such a bad thing?”
Krystal let out a nervous laugh. “I don’t even know.”
Sierra flipped her wavy, chestnut brown hair over her shoulder and leaned against the doorframe. “You said this guy was hot, so what’s the problem?”
“Sierra,” Krystal said, walking barefoot across the hardwood floor. “I know plenty about magic and making coffee, but I don’t know the first thing about men. I haven’t gone on a date in like, four years and mom set me up for that one.”
Her older sister grimaced. “Yeah, but that warlock wasn’t exactly a good match for you. It sounds like you and Devin have some real chemistry.”
Krystal retreated to her closet to try and find a suitable pair of shoes to wear with the dress. There was no way she was going to walk all the way to Mama Pazzini’s in high heels like Sierra had suggested earlier. “Well, maybe,” she said as she knelt down to pull out several shoeboxes. “But, I don’t know a whole lot about him. What if he got fired from his job in Boston because he did something really bad, like killed a guy that didn’t need to be killed or something?”
Sierra entered the bedroom and sat down heavily on the four-poster bed, making the old plush mattress bob under her weight. “If he did something like that, Chief Nickels would have never hired him.”
She cracked open the lid of a big shoebox to check the contents, then shoved it aside. “What if he’s got some weird fetishes or dark secret that’s a total turnoff?”
“Like being magic folk?”
Krystal shot her sister an annoyed look and continued searching. “Well, I know he’s not a warlock, that’s for sure.”
She snorted. “No.”
“What about a golem?” Sierra questioned.
“Nope.” Krystal peeked into the last box and found the black felt boots she had been looking for.
“Then, seriously, what kind of dark secret could he possibly have? We’ve ruled out the worst scenarios.”
Krystal shrugged, and she could feel the lacey fabric scratch her skin. “I don’t know. Maybe he’s just got hobbies or interests that just don’t appeal to me? What if we have nothing in common?”
Sierra let out a dramatic sigh and rolled her dark eyes heavenward. “You’re doing it again.”
“Doing what?” she asked as she rolled up her socks and slipped on the boots.
“You’re looking for an excuse to get out of this date so you can stay miserable and alone.”
“But, I’m not miserable and alone,” Krystal argued as she stood and checked out the combination in the mirror. “Do you think these fabrics clash?”
Sierra didn’t even bother looking. “Yes, they do. And you are miserable and alone. All you ever do is work and get up at an ungodly hour in the morning so you can work even more.”
Krystal frowned at the shoes she had on, then to the other shoes that didn’t really fit for the occasion. “Owning your own business takes work, you know that.”
Sierra wrapped her hand around one of the tall posts on the footboard. “I’m not doing a whole lot of work and I’m still making a profit.”
“That’s because you have other stylists renting out space in your salon. If I can’t find any shoes,
I’m not going.”
Sierra pointed accusingly at her. “See! You’re doing it again. Here.” She redirected her finger down to Krystal’s boots and muttered a few words in the ancient Celtic tongue. Slowly, the felt material turned hard, rigid, and shiny. “Leather goes with everything.”
She took another look in the mirror and nodded. “Much better. What time is it?”
Sierra fished out her phone from her back pocket. “A quarter until six.”
“Shit!” Krystal exclaimed before darting out of the bedroom. “I’m already late. It’s going to take me at least twenty minutes to get there.”
The flat soles of her boots made her slide across the upstairs hall as she scampered to the steps.
“So what if you’re five minutes late!” Sierra called out as she hurried to catch up. She had already dressed down into her pajamas for the evening and wore a pair of wool socks that were equally slippery across the floor. “Live recklessly!”
“I don’t want to make him think I’m careless,” Krystal complained as she bounded down the steps, nearly tripping over Artemis who looked utterly confused by the ruckus.
Sierra laughed. “No one could ever mistake you as careless.”
Krystal snorted as she grabbed her purse, which completely clashed with her outfit. Made out of patches of dark, patterned fabric scraps, it usually fit well with her somewhat earthy sense of style. With this dress, it stuck out like a sore thumb, but there was no time to switch contents from this purse to another.
“If you saw me today, you would second guess that.”
Her sister caught up with her in the foyer and held her hand to her chest, feigning shock. “You?
Careless? I don’t believe it.”
Krystal nodded and told her about how Devin pulled her over and she didn’t even have her driver’s license on her. She was usually never so forgetful. On that note, she made triple sure that her wallet and license were tucked away in her purse, just in case he actually asked for it.
“Not only that, but I kept messing up today when I was giving people their change. I even got an order wrong.”
“Gaia forbid!” Sierra exclaimed, here eyes wide.
She had been living with her sister long enough that she knew Sierra was just making a show for her. “I swear, Devin is messing me up. Badly.”
Sierra opened one of the front doors for her. “Well, maybe this is your chance to demystify him. Maybe he’ll turn out exactly as you predict, and he’s got some skeletons in his closet.”
Deep down, Krystal hoped that he didn’t. She desperately wanted him to be the real deal, someone she could really like and maybe this date would just be the first of many. Devin had been so amazing and sexy up until now and she didn’t want anything to taint that perfect image.
But, she had to know if he was too good to be true. Maybe that was why she agreed to the date in the first place. She had to know about those skeletons in his closet and if they were worth overlooking for the sake of having her first real boyfriend since high school.
“Whatever you do,” Sierra continued, “don’t tell him you’re a witch.”
Krystal gave her a look. “You seriously think you have to tell me that?”
She shrugged, the collar of her oversized shirt sliding off her shoulder. “Hey, if you say this guy is messing you up that bad, maybe you’d talk a little more than you should.”
At this point, that sounded like a complete possibility. “Do you think we need to do a secrecy charm?”
Sierra seemed to think about it for a moment. “Do you?”
The two sisters stared at one another for a long moment. Secrecy charms weren’t hard, but it also meant that it would limit Krystal’s openness during dinner. It wouldn’t just block her from talking about witches, but everything else about her that Devin didn’t already know, which was practically everything. She wouldn’t be able to talk about her family, her interests, not even Artemis.
“No,” Krystal answered with a confirming nod as she took down her long coat from the hall butler hook. “Everything will be fine… Right?”
Sierra returned the nod. “Right… One more thing.” Her sister reached behind Krystal’s head and slowly pulled out the hair tie. Her black hair tumbled down around her bare shoulders, the tips nearly disappearing against the black lace and fabric. “There. Much better.”
Though she really didn’t have time, Krystal hurried toward the hall mirror and primped her hair a little before rushing out the door. “Don’t wait up for me.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t.”
Devin checked his phone one more time. He shouldn’t have been so jumpy. It was only a couple of minutes past six. The moment he and Aaron drove away from Krystal’s car, he knew he had made a grave mistake. Not in asking her out on a date, but in the way he did it. Going over the conversation in his head later, it nearly sounded like blackmail or bribery.
He didn’t tell Aaron about that part, though. He only said he made the date and let her go with a warning. Devin had taken a stab at power flirting a little too eagerly and with Krystal being late, he wondered if he might have scared her off.
Heaven knows he’d deserve it.
He wondered how many people inside the tiny restaurant could see him standing on the sidewalk, a single rose in his hand, watching the darkened streets for any sign of his date. He didn’t know if she drove a car, or if she’d come walking in from one of the residential streets that came to Johnson Avenue. The thought occurred to him that he should have offered to pick her up.
Why was he so damn nervous? This wasn’t his first date and Krystal wasn’t the first girl he had ever asked out. He had plenty of dates before, and a girlfriend here and there when he lived in Boston.
None of them were serious relationships, though. And none of them were like Krystal.
He didn’t even know that much about her, but she had already made such an impression on him that it was borderline enchantment. Krystal was insightful, real, beautiful, and any woman who had the guts to start a business and keep it so successful had to be determined and strongminded. She was nothing like the flitty airheads in Boston that just wanted to date a cop. Most couldn’t handle being tethered to his kind of work anyway, but maybe Krystal could.
He spotted her coming from Kellie Drive, her long coat wrapped around her thin frame and purse slapping against her hip as she hustled down the sidewalk. Devin caught himself smiling at the way she looked both ways down the practically lifeless avenue and then hurried toward him. He saw the way her long black hair bounced and swayed around her shoulders, the light of the streetlamps gleaming against it to reflect that healthy shine.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said breathlessly as she came bounding down the sidewalk. “I was having the hardest time finding shoes that would match and – “
Her gaze trailed down to the rose in his hand and he realized he had been staring. Again. Devin offered it to her. “This is for you,” he said, feeling slightly awkward about it. Not even on the second date, did he give a girl flowers. He usually reserved those for gift giving holidays like birthdays or Valentine’s Day. It was an easy go-to gift, but Devin knew he couldn’t be generic with Krystal. Nothing about her was generic. Even a bouquet of roses might have been more appropriate, but she seemed like a minimalist, so he decided to get one instead.
Why the hell would he try to be so thoughtful? Why was he trying so damn hard?
Krystal didn’t smile, nor did she accept it right away. Her hand reached out and pinched the stem. “Can I be completely honest with you?”
Devin’s heart sank into his shoes. What did he do wrong? “Please,” he replied with a ghost of a laugh.
“I’m not really one for flowers,” she said. “I mean, I like them and all, but I hate cutting them. I’d much prefer them to stay alive and cutting them just expedites death, you know?” Regardless, she took the rose and smelled the petals. “It is a lovely rose, though. Thank you.”
Devin let out a slow breath. “If we can both be candid, what should I get you next time?”
A soft smile graced her lips. “If there is a next time, you can just get me chocolates, or maybe seeds.”
“Like sunflower seeds?”
She shook her head. “No, sunflowers are so hard to grow.”
It then occurred to him that she meant seeds that she could plant, not eat. “So, you like to garden?”
A tiny sparkle of enthusiasm came to her warm brown eyes and Devin heart might have skipped a beat. “Absolutely. My sister and I have a big garden in our backyard. We grow all sorts of vegetables and flowers.”
“But, you never cut them. The flowers, I mean.”
Krystal glanced down to the rose in her hand. “Right. We eat the vegetables, obviously, but we prefer to just admire the flowers.”
They weren’t even seated at the dinner table yet and he was learning so much about her already. Yeah, he had screwed up and thought she would be like any conventional woman. She didn’t appreciate the flower as he had hoped, but at least she was honest and chose not to resent him for it.
What girl would have such patience with him?
“Oh, before I forget,” Krystal said as she opened up her rather large and eclectic looking purse.
She retrieved her wallet and Devin immediately waved her off.
“No, no. I was just giving you a hard time about the license. It’s all right.”
Krystal shot him a fiendish look and stuffed it back into the open compartment of her purse.
“You really freaked me out about that,” she scolded playfully. “I’ve never gotten a ticket in my life.”
“Well, I’m sorry I freaked you out. I was just messing around. At least I can make up for it with dinner, right?”
Krystal looked to Mama Pazzini’s and blinked as if she remembered they did have a dinner engagement. “Right, yeah. You ready to go in?”
In all truth, Devin was content to stand with her in the cold all night, talking about gardening and whatever other secret, eccentric hobbies she might have. But, he was hungry, and the garlic bread smelled way too good to ignore.
He led her to the front door and opened it, letting the warm, garlic-infused air out to greet them. Soft violin music played over the hidden speakers, nearly drowned out by the low roar of conversation coming from the couples and families already seated.
A young lady, probably fresh out of high school with big blue eyes and pinned up blonde hair, came to them and picked up the menus and silverware packets from the hostess desk.
“Hey, Krystal!” she greeted with a grin. “How are you?”
The hostess came forward and gave his date a quick, but sincere hug.
“I’m great, Tammi. How’s that thesis paper coming?”
The girl, Tammi, rolled her eyes. “Well, it’s coming. Just working on getting my sources right. If only the professor would allow Wikipedia as a valid reference.”
Krystal laughed. “I know, I hated that too. I’m sure you’ll get it figured out.”
“Thanks.” It was then Tammi finally acknowledged Devin. “Table for two, then?”
“Yes, please,” he replied with a nod. He already spotted a booth near the corner and hoped they would be seated there.
No such luck. Tammi led them to a little table near the middle of the dining hall. He hadn’t been in the restaurant for more than two minutes and he had already picked out the nearest exits, the hall that led to the bathroom, and the swinging doors into the kitchen.
No matter which side of the table he sat at, he couldn’t keep an eye on every door. So, he picked the lesser of two evils and tossed his jacket over the back of the chair that faced the front door. Tammi placed their menus down, informed them that their waitress would be over shortly, and left to seat another family of four that just came in.
Krystal was about to sit down, but Devin moved too quickly.
“May I?” he said, gesturing to her coat that was still concealing whatever outfit she had decided to wear for the evening. He had seen the way she appraised him after he shed his own jacket and it was unfair that he hadn’t gotten to see what was under her coat too.
She nodded, and he gently took the collar between his hands to slip the coat off. Suddenly, he felt severely underdressed. He had looked up the restaurant online and thought it was casual enough for a blue button-down shirt tucked into a pair of dark jeans.
The black dress she wore with the long, off-shoulder sleeves was far more formal, but he absolutely loved the way the fabric clung to her skin and showed off that thin, but curvy figure. One thing he did notice was the black tattoo on her shoulder. Simple enough, it looked like a crescent moon with three teardrops dripping from its bottom outer curve.
Devin hung the coat over the back of her chair and pulled it out for her to sit. “Quite the gentleman, you are,” she teased with a simpering grin.
“I try. Nice tattoo.”
As if she had forgotten it was there, she glanced over her right shoulder where it was just barely visible above the scalloped edge of the dress. “Oh, thanks. It’s a matching tattoo I got with Alexa and
Valerie as soon as we turned eighteen.”
“Does it mean anything?” he asked as he sat down next to her.
Krystal shrugged. “It’s just an inside thing between us.”
He smiled. “Like a secret handshake between friends?”
“Something like that.”
He watched out of his peripheral as Tammi gave the family of four the booth setup he had coveted when they walked in. It would have served as an excellent vantage point to watch the room. If only he could stop being a cop for just a few minutes, so he could enjoy this date.
A couple of seconds later, a young man, probably closer to their age compared to the waitress, came over wearing the typical uniform of the wait staff.
“Hey, Krystal!” he said, placing his hand on the back of her chair. “How are you this evening?”
Something in the way he looked at her, though friendly enough, set off red flags in Devin’s mind. Is this waiter just an old friend or something more? He mentally shook off the pang of jealousy. He had no reason to be jealous. Not yet, anyway. This was only their first date.
“I’m doing fine, Mark. How’s Kathy and the baby?”
Devin breathed a little easier as he glanced down to the back of the menu for the drink selections, knowing Mark would be asking about those soon.
“They’re doing great. The doctor had some good things to report during our last appointment, so we think we’re in the clear now.”
“I’m so glad to hear it,” Krystal said, and he could nearly taste the compassion in her words.
“What can I get you two to drink?” the waiter finally asked. “Wine, beer, soda?”
Devin looked up to Krystal and opened his mouth to ask if she’d mind sharing a bottle of wine, but she was already telling Mark that she just wanted a glass of water.
“And for you, sir?”
It was a strange feeling, to be the one that no one knew. It was as if Krystal was the rock star of the town and he was just another guy with her, no one important or worth getting a name from. For the moment, he pushed his pride aside and ordered water as well.
Mark nodded and hurried away to get their drinks.
“You seem to know a lot of people in this town,” he remarked.
Krystal nodded as she looked over the menu. “Yeah, it’s kind of hard not to get to know everyone when all of them have passed through the coffee shop at least twice. I’m sure you’ll get to know everyone too, after a while.”
He was fairly confident of that, but how long would it take before waiters and hostesses knew his name by heart? “Have you lived in Goldcrest Cove for long?”
“All my life,” she said with pride. “My ancestors were some of the founding members of the town.”
“Not many people can say that.”
She shrugged, as if it wasn’t that big of a deal. To him, it was a big deal. He wanted to know everything about her, from her childhood memories to her fears and everything in between. Why did he care so much? This went way beyond sexual attraction and skyrocketed him straight into obsession, but it just seemed so right to feel this way about her.
“What about you?” she asked, breaking through his stupor. He had been watching her for the better part of a few minutes instead of picking out what he wanted to eat for dinner. “Were you born and raised in Boston?”
Mark came to the table and dropped their drinks off before Devin could answer. As soon as they were alone again, he replied, “I was born in Worchester, but my dad moved us to Boston for his job when I was a kid.”
“And you lived there ever since?” she asked before taking a sip of her water. Devin unconsciously copied her and took a swig himself.
“Up until a couple of weeks ago when I moved here.”
“So, Boston’s been the only home you’ve ever really known.” There wasn’t necessarily a question there, but Devin felt he needed to correct her.
“I never tried to attach myself to the idea of ‘home’. Boston was great, don’t get me wrong, but it was just a place I lived for a long time.”
Krystal frowned. “Sounds like something a military kid would say, not a cop.”
Devin had to admit that it did. It sounded insanely cynical, but she didn’t know the kind of “home” he grew up in. Without understanding why, he decided to tell her. “When I was growing up, home wasn’t exactly home. It wasn’t a great place to be. My mom died when I was too young to really remember her, and my dad didn’t win any parenting awards.”
A few beats of silence passed between them and Krystal cast her gaze down to the table. “I’m sorry to hear that.” She looked back up to him. “You still turned out to be a pretty decent guy from what
I can tell. I mean, you’re a cop, so something must have gone right.”
It did. Devin’s father showed him that someone needed to defend the underdog, the powerless, the weak. He knew from a young age that he wanted to be that defender. He wanted to be there for the ones who had no voice, who might have felt that they didn’t have any choices in life. He had been there.
He knew what it was like.
“I became a cop because I wanted to help people,” Devin said as he lightly gripped the water glass, letting the cool condensation wet his fingertips. “I know it sounds pretty corny, but I knew I wanted to be a cop since the day the chief of police of Boston came into my third grade class to talk about his job and what the department does to keep the city safe. My life kind of revolved around that goal. I went to police academy and jumped straight onto the force when I graduated.”
Krystal leaned her elbows on the table and he watched the way the light from the votive candle centerpiece flickered across the smooth skin of her shoulders and neck. “I don’t think that’s corny at all.
It’s an admirable dream and I’d say you’ve achieved it.”
He smiled through the hurtful memories that had resurfaced and nodded. “Thank you. What about you? Did you always want to own a coffee shop?” If they could avoid talking too much about him this evening, it might actually go well.
Krystal leaned back and giggled. “No, not always.” Her eyes flitted to something behind him and he knew Mark must have been making his way back to the table.
“Have you two decided?” the waiter asked as he pulled out the notepad from his apron pocket.
Krystal’s eyes shifted between Devin and the menu, and it was clear she hadn’t been thinking about food either. “Oh, uh… Just a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce.”
Devin quickly looked down to his menu and randomly picked one. “I’ll have the lasagna.” “Excellent choices.” Mark took the menus away and they were alone again.
“The lasagna is really good,” Krystal said. “Mrs. Pazzini has this special recipe for the sauce that I can never figure out. You’ll like it.”
Devin leaned forward and crossed his arms over the table. “I’m sure I will. Now, back to my question.”
Krystal blinked. “What question?”
Was she just trying to dance around him, or did she really forget? “The coffee shop?”
“Oh, that. It was just something I thought of in high school. I told my friends about it and they were game, so we just worked hard at making it a reality.”
Devin’s eyes narrowed. “Right, but what started it? I mean, what was your motive? Do you love coffee that much?”
Krystal pursed her lips in thought. Such beautiful lips.
“We all loved coffee and we saw a need in the community. I remember there was a coffee shop near the grocery store, but it didn’t do so well and closed down when I was a freshman in high school.”
“So, you just saw a need and decided to do something about it?” he asked, taking another gulp of cool water.
She nodded. “Pretty much.”
“How did your family feel about you starting your own business like that?”
Devin could recall the very day he told his dad that he was planning on entering the police academy. He laughed and said he’d never make ends meet. Cops didn’t get paid nearly enough for the kind of hell they went through. He had been right, but Devin wasn’t about to let him win. If anything, his rebuke propelled him forward to do even better, to earn high commendations, and prove him wrong.
A sort of wistful look twinkled in Krystal’s eyes at the mention of her family. “My parents have been really supportive. They probably would have wanted me to go into the family business, but my sister followed my lead and she’s got her own salon on Johnson Avenue too. My mom says she brags about us to their friends in New York, but we don’t get to talk to dad that much. He’s always busy with his work.”
“And what’s that?”
There was a hesitance in Krystal, just like when he tried to revert the conversation back to her.
Devin smiled, and he could see the faint color rising to her cheeks. He loved it when she blushed. “What does your dad do for work?” he asked slowly.
“Oh,” she breathed. “He’s… sort of like a people manager for a big company. He took over when my grandfather passed away. That’s the family business I mentioned. It’s this nationwide conglomerate, I guess. It’s hard to explain.”
Devin stared, studying the way she anxiously fingered her drinking glass the way he had just a moment ago. There was something she wasn’t telling him, and he could feel his guts twist. It wasn’t a lie. He knew the exact moment when he was being lied to, but what she spoke were half-truths.
Maybe there was something about her father’s work that she didn’t want him to know? Krystal understood that he appreciated honesty above all else. She knew that since the moment he ordered black coffee that morning.
Instead of interrogating her like he would a suspect, he let it drop for now. “Fair enough. I hope one day, you’ll be able to tell me all about it.” Krystal nodded. “I’m sure I will.”