Much Ado About Magic

Page 3

If I'd thought the Union Square station was a maze when I didn't quite have my city bearings back, the office building was even worse. It didn't help that I was mentally, as well as physically, confused. How could I be running late to a meeting I didn't know about when I didn't even have a job and nobody was supposed to know I'd be at the office that day?
I apparently hadn't forgotten everything, since I rounded a corner and found myself at the conference room. I took a deep breath to steady myself before opening the door. This conference room was imposing on any occasion. The Knights of the Round Table would have felt right at home in it. The vaulted ceiling with banners hanging from it made the room look regal. It was not a room you wanted to walk into late for a meeting that was already in progress. Most of the seats around the table were taken, with the heads of almost every department in the company present.
Every one of those heads turned to look at me. I was painfully conscious of looking like I'd just been in a fight. That wasn't the best way to enter a meeting of department heads on my first day back at the company. I automatically searched the room for the person I most wanted to see, Owen Palmer, who usually represented the Research and Development department at meetings like this.

He was there, looking his usual ridiculously handsome self in a dark suit. Owen was one of the company's resident geniuses and overall magical whizzes. He was also my boyfriend.
Mr. Mervyn, the boss, crossed the room to greet me. "Miss Chandler, I am so pleased to have you back with us," he said, clasping his hands around my right hand. Ambrose Mervyn is his name in modern English, but he's best known as Merlin. Yes, that one, King Arthur and all. I'm not sure exactly how true any of the legends are, but I do know that Merlin is real, that he really is a wizard, and that he spent about a thousand years in a magical coma before he was brought back to run the company he started all those centuries ago.
"It's good to be back, sir," I said, glad he hadn't asked why I was such a mess. Then again, this was Merlin, so he probably already knew. I had a ton of questions, namely exactly what job he thought I was doing and what role I had in this meeting. It wasn't the sort of question I wanted to ask in front of all these people. Merlin escorted me toward a seat as I discreetly tried to tidy my hair. Once seated, I was grateful for the cover of the conference table so my ruined stockings didn't show.

Owen caught my eye, smiled, then frowned and gestured toward his neck. I unconsciously mirrored his gesture and winced when I touched the developing bruises from the subway incident. I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile and mouthed, "I'm okay." He nodded in response, but still looked worried.
Kim, the magical immune who'd taken my place as Merlin's assistant, was seated behind the boss, her steno pad and pen at the ready, so I guessed my role in this meeting wasn't to take notes and capture action items. What, then, was I supposed to do? I'd heard about expecting new employees to be able to hit the ground running, but they usually got a job description first.
The door opened, and a tall, broad-shouldered man strode in like he owned the place. Merlin rose to greet him. "Mr. Ramsay, what a surprise," he said, his tone coolly cordial.

Most of the people in the meeting looked up with welcoming smiles, like they knew and liked the new guy. He worked his way around the table, shaking hands and exuding good-hearted warmth. In a group full of unusual-looking beings, Ramsay stood out. He appeared to be in his sixties, though considering that Merlin was at least a thousand and didn't look a day over eighty, that didn't necessarily mean anything. He wore his thick white hair slicked back into a ponytail fastened at the nape of his neck, and his fingers were covered in heavy silver rings. He'd look at home in Western wear at a Santa Fe art gallery or in a slick, European-tailored suit at a sidewalk café in Milan. In generic-but expensive-American business attire, he looked a little out of place.
When he reached me in his circuit around the table, he stopped. "I don't believe we've met," he said, holding his hand out to me. "I'm Ivor Ramsay."
"Mr. Ramsay is my predecessor as chief executive," Merlin explained. "Ivor, this is Katie Chandler."
Ramsay smiled at me in a way that made me feel he knew more about me and my role in the company than I did. "Ah, the famous Miss Chandler. I've heard so much about you." He gave my hand a firm squeeze as he shook it.
"All good, I hope," I said.
"Oh, most definitely." He gave another of those knowing smiles, this one tinged with amusement, as if he was laughing at some private joke. "It sounds like you made a big impact in the time you were here, so it's good that you're back." He finished his circuit and someone quickly moved out of the way so he could sit next to Merlin.