Paige beamed with joy, as she watched the newly wedded couple linked arms and march down the aisle. Along with the other attendants, Paige followed the couple to a group of small tables standing underneath a large, yellow-and-white striped canopy. Not far from the tables, stood three long ones that held the buffet-style wedding luncheon. Or what has now become the wedding supper.
Feeling famished, Paige sat at a small table and waited for her family to join her. No sooner had they done so, she, Phoebe and Jason headed straight for the buffet tables to fill their plates. "That was a nice wedding," Jason commented. "Although I have no idea what kind of ceremony we had just witnessed. Does anyone have an idea?"
The two sisters exchanged surreptious looks. "I think Barbara is into some kind of New Age religion," Phoebe explained.
"New Age, huh?" Jason nodded, as an attendant indicated a steaming chafing dish filled with poached salmon. "What kind of . . . New Age religion? What do you call it?"
Sounding nonchalant, Paige replied, "Beats me. I never bothered to ask Barbara. Besides, this is San Francisco. Probably half of the city's population is into that stuff."
A fourth voice added, "That . . . stuff is called Wicca." The other three whirled around and found Olivia and Cecile standing behind them. Olivia continued, "It's a fairly new religion based on some old Pagan one. Probably Scotland or Ireland." The two Charmed Ones stared at the redhead, as if she had lost her mind.
Jason, it seemed, did not notice Paige and Phoebe's reaction. "Wicca?" He frowned at Olivia. "It must be very new."
"Not really. Wicca has been around since the early 20th century. There are plenty of books on it." She smiled at the Halliwells. "Isn't that right, ladies?"
Paige sucked in her breath, while Phoebe assumed a panic-stricken expression for a brief second. Jason turned to his girlfriend. "I thought you didn't know anything about the ceremony, Phoebe."
"Huh? I . . . uh . . ." Phoebe's mouth hung open.
Cecile came to Phoebe's rescue. "She probably knows a little. And Paige. We all do. Barbara is always talking about it."
"Always," Paige added weakly. She shot a quick glare at Olivia, whose lips formed a sardonic smile. To her relief, a guest caught Jason's attention and he excused himself. And the Halliwells turned on Olivia. "My God, Olivia . . ." Paige began.
Phoebe angrily interrupted, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
A red brow quirked upward. "Being honest with Jason," Olivia replied in a laconic voice.
"You could of . . . you could have exposed all of us!" Phoebe hissed.
Olivia pointedly replied, "Gee Phoebe, I believe you took that same chance when you brought Jason to the wedding, in the first place."
For the second time, Phoebe's mouth hung open in silence. Paige spoke up. "What do you mean? Didn't Harry invite Jason to Bruce's bachelor party?"
"To the party, yes," Olivia said. "Not the wedding. Bruce didn't think Jason would understand the ceremony."
Phoebe protested, "But not everyone here is a witch . . . or priestess or whatever. Including Cole's friend."
Olivia's eyes narrowed at the mention of Cole's date. "No Phoebe, but all of the mortals here - non-magical ones - are either into Pagan religions or know that the family is into one. From what my mother has told me, Ms. Altman was told to expect a different kind of ceremony. So was Sheila Morris. Of course, she doesn't know we're witches. Plus, I see that Paige didn't bring Nat . . ."
"Nate . . ." Paige corrected.
"I see that Paige didn't bring her boyfriend." Olivia's eyes bored into Phoebe. "Why did you bring Jason, if you weren't prepared to explain a Wiccan handfisting ceremony to him?"
Silence greeted the red-haired witch. Until Phoebe found her voice. "I guess I . . ." She sighed. "My mistake."
Olivia nodded. "It's okay. And I'm sorry for bringing up the matter like that. It was rude of me."
"Now that everything is settled . . ." Cecile began.
Piper appeared at the buffet table, looking slightly irritated. "Hey you two!" she growled at her sisters. "When are you going to finish getting your food? Leo and I would like to eat and someone has to keep an eye on Wyatt."
"Sorry," Paige murmured, as she returned her attention to the food before her.
Piper turned to Olivia and Cecile. "By the way, I'm glad that Barbara had decided to continue with the wedding, despite what happened. Sort of reminded me of my own wedding."
"It almost didn't happen," Cecile commented. "Especially since Barbara's wedding gown went up in smoke with that Della Scalla woman. But Cole managed to 'whip up' a new one for her."
A wan smile appeared on Piper's lips. "Huh. How nice. I also noticed that it didn't take you guys very long to get Barbara back. You weren't delayed by the police, because of Nick?"
"Oh we didn't hang around for the police," Cecile stated.
Olivia added, "After Darryl had killed Nick, Cole . . . brought back Claudia's body. Actually both her corpse and one of her . . ."
"Huh?" Paige stared at her friend in disgust.
Piper wrinkled her nose. "Eww! What is this? Tales of the Macabre?"
Olivia continued. "Well, we needed two more corpses. Don't forget that Nick didn't get out of jail on his own. With the other two bodies, the San Mateo Police might realize that Claudia and one of her minions were responsible for his jailbreak . . . which they were. And neither Darryl or I was about to endure another investigation that left no explanations."
"Cole knows how to bring back the body of a magical being from the netherworld?" Paige asked in disbelief.
Cecile added, "He learned it from Andre. Who, by the way, is also a talented necromancer."
Olivia said, "After finding the three bodies, hopefully the San Mateo Police might come to the conclusion that they had shot and killed each other after a quarrel. Darryl and I should be getting the news on Monday. Anyway, after Cole brought back her dead body, we all got the hell out of there before the police could arrive. With the Soma plant."
Paige asked, "Where's the plant?"
"Back in the greenhouse," Cecile replied. "I think that Livy's parents created some kind of mystical barrier around it." She glanced at the buffet table, and a hungry look appeared on her face. "Listen, I'm really hungry right now. And that Chicken Florentine really looks good. I'll catch up with you guys, later." She walked away from the others.
Piper and Phoebe, who also expressed their own hunger, joined Cecile. Which left Paige alone with Olivia. The latter commented, "So, Nate couldn't make it, huh? Why is he always unavailable on weekends?"
"What do you you mean?" Paige demanded.
"I mean, I never see you two together, on weekends," Olivia continued. "Only on weekdays, and not very often."
Feeling a need to defend her boyfriend, Paige retorted, "Nate can't help it if he has to work on weekends. Besides," she nodded at Paul Margolin sitting at one of the dining tables and poking his food in a dejected manner, "why aren't you with your little hunny bunny?"
Olivia glared at the younger woman. "Paul is not my 'hunny bunny'. And I doubt very much that he wants my company, right now."
The two friends continued filling their plates. "Because," Olivia said with a sigh, "I had turned down his offer for a weekend in Monterey."
Astonished by the news, Paige stared at Olivia. And withdrew her plate the moment one of the attendants was about to place a stuffed turkey roll on it. "What?" she cried. "You're kidding! He's pissed over that?"
Olivia plucked the turkey roll from the table and placed it on Paige's plate. "Actually, Paul is pissed, because I had made it clear that I wasn't interested in any kind of romance with him."
The news struck Paige like a bombshell. "Are you serious? Oh my God!" She glanced around and spotted Cecile with Andre and her sisters. "Oh my God! Wait until Cecile hears about this!"
"Hears about what?" Olivia frowned. "What does Cecile have to do with all of this?"
Paige opened her mouth. A long pause followed before she finally said, "Uh, I think you should talk to Cecile about that. Both you and Cole." On that mysterious note, she returned her attention to filling her plate.
Paige's words preyed on Olivia's mind during the next hour or two. She tried to convince the Charmed One to explain, but the wedding reception made it impossible. Olivia had to endure the wedding supper, a witty speech by the best man, and the dancing that followed. Unfortunately, both Cecile and Paige never seemed to be at a loss for dancing partners.
The opportunity to talk with both of her friends finally arrived three hours later. She had just finishing dancing with Mr. Bowen, when the two women appeared with Cole and asked her to join them for a talk. Minutes later, the four stood inside the drawing-room that overlooked the garden. After Cecile and Paige revealed their news, a deep silence filled the room, despite the music blasting from the hired band, outside.
The confusion in Cole's eyes reflected Olivia's own feelings. "Say that again?" he demanded. "Olivia's going to what?"
Cecile sighed, as Paige spoke up. "Olivia is going to kill you. I mean, Cecile had a premonition of her killing you."
Olivia's eyes remained fixed upon her two friends. Then she stared at Cole, who still looked confused. Finding the revelation absurd, Olivia broke into laughter. "What's so funny?" Cecile demanded in an outraged voice.
"I . . ." Olivia's laughter continued for another minute or two. Once it abated, she took a deep breath. "I'm sorry honey, but . . . I mean, c'mon Cecile! This is just so hard to believe. I'm going to kill Cole? Why? How? Are you trying to tell me that I'm going to strip him of his powers, before killing him?"
Cecile's mouth tightened. "I didn't say you were going to strip him of his powers before killing him. And how you manage to accomplish that is beyond me! Besides, it's only a premonition. There's a good chance it'll never happen."
"Never?" The word came from Cole's mouth.
Both Cecile and Paige exchanged uneasy glances. The latter said, "Well, now that Olivia has made it clear that she's no longer interested . . ."
Sensing what Paige was about to reveal, Olivia immediately cut in. "Could we please skip that?"
"Skip what?" Cole asked.
After a brief pause, Paige blurted out, "Livy had told Paul that she wasn't interested in spending a weekend with him in Monterey. Or in him, romantically. I don't think he took the news very well." Olivia glared at her. She shrugged. "What? Now that you and Paul won't be as close, there's a good chance you won't kill Cole. Don't forget that Cecile's vision did include Paul."
"She's got a point, Livy," Cecile added. "There's a chance he would have been the cause of what happens between you and Cole. But now that he's no . . ."
Olivia interrupted. "Have you told anyone else? About this vision of yours?"
Cecile hesitated. Glanced at Paige. Olivia began to wonder if these glances were becoming a habit between the two. Cecile finally spoke up. "I . . . uh, I first told Andre about it. On Thursday morning."
"Andre?" Cole's mouth opened wide in disbelief. "He's known all this time?"
Cecile squirmed with discomfort. "Well, yeah. Mama, Olivia's grandmother and Paige eventually found out, last night."
Olivia could not believe her ears. "My God, Cecile! When were you planning to tell me?"
"I didn't mean for Paige to find out! And I didn't know when was the right time to tell you. Or if I ever should tell you. Especially since you were so involved with Paul at the time. Look, what I'm trying to say is that I didn't want you to make a decision regarding him, based on my vision."
"Involved with . . ." Olivia heaved a large sigh. "Cecile, I was never 'involved' with Paul. We were only good friends. Nothing else."
Cecile snorted with derision. "C'mon Livy! That man wanted to be more than friends with you. And you shot him down, when he tried. How else do you explain him acting all mopey, today?"
A brief flash of satisfaction gleamed in Cole's eyes. Olivia shot him a dark look and he glanced away. Then she asked Cecile, "Does anyone else know about the vision?" When Cecile and Paige remained silent, Olivia added bluntly, "C'mon ladies! Who else knows?"
Paige said reluctantly, "Well, I may have accidentally told Phoebe."
Cole groaned aloud. "Oh no!"
Cecile added, "And she also Leo." When Olivia opened her mouth to protest, the former continued, "Hey, I realize that you're probably pissed off that we . . . I didn't tell you, sooner. But I don't regret it, Livy." The Vodoun priestess assumed a defiant stance. "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sometimes, it's best to keep certain knowledge of the future to yourself. Or at least don't say anything, until the time's right."
Olivia sighed. She knew that Cecile was right. Only the Goddess knew how she would have reacted to Paul, if she had known about that premonition before today. "Okay. Yeah, I understand."
"Good. Now I can return to the party." Cecile flashed a brief smile and returned to the garden and the party, beyond.
An uneasy smile curved Paige's mouth. "Well, I guess I might as well return, also. See ya." She quickly raced after Cecile.
To Olivia's dismay, she found herself alone. With Cole. Oh God. From the corner of her eye, Olivia noticed Cole squirming with discomfort. "What's the matter?" she asked. "Worried about being alone with your future killer?"
Cole rolled his eyes in disgust. "No, I'm not."
"Well, I don't blame you, because the idea of me being able to kill you is ridiculous," Olivia retorted.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Cole replied, "Oh, I don't know. You have the brains, the talent and the will to do it."
"Without stripping you of your powers?" Olivia shook her head. "C'mon Cole! You know I can't do that. No one can. And if I ever do strip your powers, I sure as hell don't plan to kill a defenseless mortal."
Again, silence filled the room. Feeling uncomfortable, Olivia had an urge to quickly leave. Only, Cole beat her to the punch. "Leaving?" she called after him, as he started toward the double doors. "Again?"
Cole paused and slowly turned around. His blue eyes narrowed dangerously. "What did you say?"
"Why does it seem that every time we're alone, lately, you have this urge to flee?" Olivia tartly remarked.
His eyes grew hard as polished stones. "And you don't?" Cole chuckled unpleasantly. "That's a laugh. Tell me Olivia, is this another commentary on my actions at Warren Mitchell's New Year party? Because this topic is becoming a dead horse."
"I haven't spoken about it in months," Olivia retorted. "And if I have to be honest, Cole, no woman can easily forget a guy who kisses her in one minute and runs from her in the next. We have memories like elephants."
Wearing an angry expression, Cole stalked toward her in a threatening manner. Olivia maintained her stance. "Is that so? And what? I'm supposed to feel guilty? At least I didn't resort to making said guy jealous by latching on to the Wiccan Boy Scout!"
Olivia shot back, "That 'Wiccan Boy Scout' happens to be a very nice man! Nor was I . . . trying to make you jealous!"
An ugly laugh escaped from Cole's mouth. "C'mon Olivia! Who are you kidding? You mean to tell me that you were actually interested in a guy who bores you to death after ten minutes in his company? You had made that perfectly clear at Nathalie Gleason's party."
Olivia's mouth formed a tight, angry line. She hated the fact that Cole remembered everything from Nathalie's party . . . and she did not. She glanced out of the room's large bay window and saw something that brought a smile to her lips. "Speaking of dates, are my eyes deceiving me, or is that your friend, Veronica . . . flirting with some guy, outside?" She noted with pleasure the embarrassed expression on Cole's face. "And to think I actually believed you two were an item. Or am I wrong?"
Cole sighed. "Veronica . . ." he began. Then his mouth formed a tight line. "Never mind."
"Never mind . . . what?"
Cole stared at her - long and hard. It took all of Olivia's nerves to keep from crumbling under his intense scrutiny. Then again, he sighed. "What do you want from me, Olivia? What do you want me to say?"
"I couldn't give a rat's ass about anything you have to say!"
His voice dripping with derision, Cole shot back, "Do you have any idea how immature you sound, right now?"
"Immature?" Olivia scoffed. "Now, that's calling the kettle black! Especially from a man who married a woman with the romantic sensibilities of a fifteen year-old!"
Cole retorted, "I don't give a shit about Phoebe's romantic sensitivities or about Phoebe, period! I'm interested in . . ." He paused and continued in a softer tone, "I'm more interested in a cynical redhead, who can't seemed to keep her mouth shut."
Olivia stared at Cole, stunned by his words. "Wha . . . Uh, wait a minute. Are you talking . . .?"
Cole took a step forward, causing her heart to flutter. "Yeah," he replied softly. "I'm talking about you. Olivia, I'm . . ." He sighed for the third time. "I'm in love with you."
Staring deeply into those baby blue eyes, Olivia felt a rush of panic. She saw love in those eyes. And desire. But how long would it last? How many days, weeks or even months will pass before Cole finally lost interest in her? Before Phoebe becomes the object of his desire, again? Shaking her head, Olivia said in an uneasy voice, "Look . . . Cole . . . you might think you're in love with me . . ."
"For crying out loud!" an obviously exasperated Cole declared. "And I thought Phoebe was insecure! Listen to me. I'm in love with you. With you, Olivia. Not Phoebe. Yeah, I still love her, but not like I used to. I can't guarantee that my feelings for you will last forever. Anymore than you can guarantee the same for me."
Olivia began, "What makes you think . . .?"
"Because you had said so at Nathalie's party. Now shut up!" Cole spoke his last words in a gentle tone. "The reason I had kept you at arms' length for so long is . . . well, I was afraid. I was afraid of opening my heart to someone, again. And I was afraid that you would eventually leave me. Like Phoebe. I had used my divorce as an excuse to keep my distance. But not anymore, Olivia. I'm tired of being afraid. And I'm tired of being alone. Especially when I know that I don't have to be. Do you understand what I'm saying?" His blue eyes bored deeply into hers.
Speechless and stunned beyond belief, minutes passed before Olivia realized that her mouth was hanging wide open without uttering a sound. She continued to stare at Cole, while astonishment, disbelief and joy mingled within her. Then she finally discovered her voice. "I . . . uh, I don't . . . know . . . I mean . . . oh shit! Never mind! I'm in love with you, too!" And before Cole could respond, she threw her arms around his neck and captured his mouth with hers.
Strong hands gently took hold of Olivia's waist, gently forcing her body to press against Cole's hard one. She reveled in the touch of his warm mouth pressed against hers. Her knees nearly buckled under, as Cole slipped his tongue finally slipped inside her mouth.
The kiss seemed to continue forever and Olivia would not have it any other way. One of Cole's hands slowly slid up her back. As he slid one spaghetti strap from her shoulder, Olivia became vaguely aware of a figure outside, passing by the bay window. Very reluctantly, she pulled her mouth away. "What?" Cole murmured, looking slightly dazed. "What's wrong?"
A breathless Olivia murmured, "The window. Someone . . . uh, . . ." She moaned, as Cole softly kissed the side of her neck. "Oh God!"
"What about . . . someone?" Cole replied, before he planted more kisses on the other side of her neck.
"Huh? Oh, uh . . ." Olivia moaned, while Cole's mouth left her neck and traveled toward her left earlobe, which he began to nibble. "Oh yeah." Taking a deep breath, she gently pulled away from him. "Someone . . . might see us. The window."
Cole glanced at the window, before he returned his gaze to her. "Oh. Okay," he murmured. "Understand. Where can we . . .?"
"By old bedroom," Olivia whispered. "Second floor. Third from the left."
A smile touched Cole's lips. "Okay." Then he drew Olivia back into his arms. As the couple's lips met for another passionate kiss, they disappeared out of the room.
Over five hours had passed since he had proposed the Monterey trip to Olivia and Paul found himself longing for another demonic attack. Anything that would erase the bitterness and humiliation of her rejection. Not only had Olivia rejected his little proposal, she had also made it clear that she was not romantically interested in him. As far as she was concerned, he was a friend and nothing more.
Paul shook his head in attempt to get rid of the bad memories. Didn't help. He considered drinking more alcohol, but he had already consumed three glasses of champagne and one glass of bourbon. A few more drinks and he would be ready to relieve himself. Besides, he seemed to be drifting into a foggy state. What he really needed was water - to be splashed on his face.
He stood up and made his way toward the McNeills' house. Inside, he encountered their servant, a fellow with a Welsh accent, whose name had escaped Paul. The former informed him that bathrooms could be found throughout the second floor. Paul thanked the man and started the climb upstairs.
Inside one of the bathrooms, Paul washed his hands before splashing water on his face. As he glanced into the mirror above the basin, he found himself facing a stone-faced man, whose brown eyes reflected deep bitterness. The expression took him by surprise.
What in the hell was wrong with him? How could he allow himself to slide into a depression over a woman with whom he shared nothing in common? Paul's grandmother believed in the old adage about opposite attraction. But she had also believed that even opposites needed to share some kind of semblance of common interests. Looking back over his month-long relationship with Olivia, Paul realized that he and the redhead had three things in common - they were witches, both shared Leo as their whitelighter and both had studied the law.
Paul also realized that he could write a lengthy essay on the differences between him and Olivia. The most glaring difference would be their philosophy regarding witchcraft, along with good and evil. Paul followed the strict philosophy of Leo and his grandparents - good was good, evil was evil; and never the twain shall meet. Olivia did not harbor such bi-polar beliefs. She did not believe in inherent good or evil. She believed that all beings - including humans, witches, warlocks, demons, etc., had the capacity for both. And that it all depended up the choices one made in life. Too ambiguous for Paul's taste.
Heaving a sigh, Paul came to the conclusion that no matter whatever he and Olivia harbored, he was still in love with her. And no rational argument or thought could eradicate his feelings. He had a long way to go before he could finally recover from this latest heartache.
Paul dried his hands with a towel, glanced around and became aware of two doors leading out of the bathroom. Strange, he had not noticed this before. He muttered a quiet oath and opened one of the doors. The sight that greeted his eyes, left him in a frozen state of shock.
Instead of the hallway, Paul found himself facing a private bedroom. One that seemed to be occupied by two people - engaged in a passionate bout of sex. Paul's heart immediately sank, as he recognized the couple - Olivia and Belthazor.
He did not know whether to be fascinated or disgusted. Actually, he felt a little of both. On one hand, Paul could not help but admire the way their bodies melded perfectly together, as they moved in sensual rhythm. At the same time, he was disgusted by what he saw as an unholy union between a witch - a protector of the innocent - having wild and abandoned sex with a half-demon. A half-demon with a notorious history of evil.
Unable to deal with the sight before him and the moans coming from the couple, Paul immediately shut the door. He leaned against the bathroom wall and sighed. The memory of Olivia and Belthazor continued whirl in his mind. Disgusted, he realized that he could no longer stand by and allow Olivia to sink into a relationship with the half-demon. He had to stop her. Help her understand what was right and wrong. And do anything to possess her for himself.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As hinted in the story's finale, this is not the last we will hear of Cecile Dubois' premonition about Cole, Olivia and Paul. It will play an important part in a future story.