“Spells, Lies and Remorse” [R] – 4/9

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“SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE”

CHAPTER FOUR

Piper glanced around the dining table with an air of satisfaction. Dinner seemed to be proceeding as planned. She had to admit that the food on the table ably displayed her culinary skills, especially Rock Cornish hen with mushroom and shallot flavored rice. Wyatt was soundly asleep in his basquinet near the table. Even better, her entire family managed to be present for tonight’s dinner. And that included Leo. Nothing, she realized, could spoil this evening.

“I had lunch with Cole today,” Phoebe announced. Piper nearly choked on her rice.

Leo held up his fork in mid-air. “You and Cole had . . .”

“. . . lunch,” Phoebe finished with a bright smile. “I told him about my vision.”

Warily, Paige asked, “How did he react?”

Phoebe shrugged her shoulders. “Surprised at first. And maybe a little resentful.”

“Resentful? What did he have to be resentful about?” Piper growled. Her mood had been spoiled, thanks to Phoebe.

The middle Charmed One admonished her older sister. “Piper!”

“What? Should I feel ashamed for us vanquishing his sorry ass, last year?” Piper shot back. “Because I don’t. He was trying to kill us. Remember?”

Paige spoke up. Naturally. “Actually Piper, he wasn’t really trying to kill us. If my memory serves me right, we were the ones who had gone after him. And we were the ones who killed him . . . after he warned us to stay away.”

“He had killed an innocent!”

“It was the Source who had killed that man!” Phoebe exclaimed. “My God, Piper! I know what I had seen in my vision! Even Paige saw it with Cecile’s help. Why can’t you just accept our word? Don’t you understand? The Source and the Seer had screwed with our lives! Including Cole’s!”

Anger surged within Piper. She was beginning to develop a deep hatred toward one Cole Turner. No . . . she already had. “You know Phoebe, it’s still his fault, no matter what you say. He didn’t have to accept the Seer’s offer to use the Hollow in the first place.”

Phoebe hung her head in what seemed to Piper, defeat. “Okay Piper, you got me. Yes, Cole shouldn’t have accepted the Seer’s offer. But only did it to help us. To make sure we would have a chance of surviving the Source’s attack.”

“Yeah, and he had paid for it too,” Paige added somberly. “Perhaps more than he should.”

Her voice quivering with emotion, Phoebe continued, “We could have saved him, Piper. Or at least tried. If we had bothered to stop and figure out what was going on, instead of jumping to conclusions . . .”

Paige finished, “. . . we could have helped Cole break free from the Source’s possession. I mean, if we had the power to vanquish that bastard, why not exorcise his spirit from Cole’s body?”

Piper desperately tried to shut out her sisters’ arguments. She did not want to hear about how “poor Cole” had been a victim of the Source. Or Phoebe and Paige’s suggestions that that they might be guilty of killing an innocent. Not after yesterday’s argument. “Phoebe, if you want to go running back to Cole, be my guest,” she retorted. “Just don’t expect me to stand on the sidelines and cheer.” She scooped up a forkful of rice and brought it to her mouth. Then she allowed the fork to hover for a few seconds, before she dumped it back on her plate. “Excuse me,” she mumbled, “I guess I’m not hungry after all.” And for the second time that week, she abandoned her family’s company.

———–

The telephone on Darryl’s desk rang. “San Francisco PD,” he answered. “Lieutenant Morris speaking.”

A familiar voice said, “Oh, uh . . . Darryl? This is Paul Margolin. I thought I had dialed Olivia’s extension.”

Darryl corrected the ADA. “Olivia’s extension is 308. I’m 307. Do you want me to transfer you to her?”

“Yes, please.”

Before transferring Margolin’s call to Olivia, Darryl informed his partner that the ADA wanted to speak to her. Much to his surprise, Olivia let out a squeak and waited for Darryl to make the transfer.

While Olivia conversed with Margolin, Darryl left his desk and headed toward the squad room’s row of gray cabinets. He reached inside one drawer and pulled out a file. Just as he was about to close the drawer, a voice behind him greeted, “Darryl! Hi! Is Livy here?”

Darryl whirled around and found himself facing his partner’s older brother. “Oh. Hey Bruce,” he said. “Yeah, she’s here.” He nodded at the redhead. “She’s on the phone. With Paul Margolin.”

Surprise illuminated Bruce’s gray-blue eyes. “Paul? Does it have something to do with the DiMatteo case? I thought it was over.”

“It is.” Darryl paused. “Except for the sentencing, next week.” He returned to his desk, with Bruce right behind him.

Both men were able to overhear the last of Olivia’s phone call. “Okay,” she was saying. “Tonight would be fine.” She paused. “I’ll see you around seven.” Then she hung up and glanced up at her brother. “Bruce! What are you doing here?”

Bruce sat in the chair next to Olivia’s desk. “I thought it would be nice to treat you to lunch. Uh . . . did I just here you make a date with Paul?”

Smiling broadly, Olivia replied, “That’s right.”

“Why?” The question came out of Darryl’s mouth, before he could stop himself. The McNeills stared at him. “I mean, I’m just . . .”

Bruce finished, “We’re just surprised that you had decided to go out on a date with Paul, of all people.”

“Well, why not? Paul’s been . . .” Olivia hesitated. “Well, I haven’t been feeling well, lately. And he’s been supportive. Checking to see if I’m feeling well. And we’ve both learned that we have something very much in common.”

“What about Cole?”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “What about him?” Her dismissive tone over her boyfriend shocked Darryl. Both he and Bruce stared at her, and then at each other. Had they heard correctly?

“Livy . . .” Bruce began. Before he could finish, Cole appeared in the squad room and strode toward Olivia’s desk.

“Hey guys,” the half-demon greeted the two men with a smile. Which became less assured, when he faced his girlfriend. “Olivia . . . uh, how are you feeling?”

Olivia regarded Cole with a cool demeanor that shocked Darryl even further. “I’m fine,” she said with a touch of asperity. “What are you doing here?”

Ouch! Darryl nearly winced at Olivia’s chilly tone. He wondered if she and Cole had recently quarreled.

Sheer embarrassment appeared on Cole’s face. “Uh . . . I’m . . . I thought perhaps . . . you would like to go out for lunch. With me.”

“Sorry. Bruce is taking me,” Olivia bluntly replied.

Cole blinked. Darryl never felt so sorry for any individual than he did for the half-demon at that moment. “Oh,” Cole merely added.

Bruce quickly added, “Hey Cole, why don’t you join us?”

Hope lit up Cole’s blue eyes. “Maybe another time,” Olivia quickly replied. The expression on her face told Darryl that his partner did not relish the idea of having lunch with her boyfriend. Or soon to be ex-boyfriend. As for Cole, the hope in his eyes immediately disappeared.

“Well . . .” Cole’s expression became devoid of any emotion. “I guess I’ll see you all later. Bruce, Darryl.” He acknowledged the two men with a nod, turned on his heels and left.

Once they were alone, Bruce rounded on his sister. “What the hell was that all about? Did you two have a fight, or something?”

“What do you mean? What fight?” Olivia shot back.

The confusion that whirled in Bruce’s eyes, matched what Darryl was feeling. “What are you . . . you mean, you two didn’t have a fight?”

“No, of course not! I wouldn’t even waste my time on a fight with Cole!”

“Then why in the hell were you treating him like a third wheel?”

Obviously annoyed by her brother’s rant, Olivia retorted, “What in the hell is with this family, when it comes to Cole? One would think he was the second coming, or something. Had it ever occurred to you that there is more to my life than Cole Turner?” She jumped out of her seat, grabbed her purse and marched toward the exit. Olivia paused near the doorway and stared at Bruce. “Well, aren’t you supposed to be taking me to lunch?”

Bruce stood up, shot Darryl perplexed glance and followed his younger sister out of the squad room. As the police lieutenant watched the two siblings leave, he shook his head in disbelief. Something did not feel right about Olivia. Even before he had witnessed that astonishing scene between her and Cole, she had seemed . . . off. Becoming friends with Paul Margolin? A guy she usually considered dull? Treating Cole like a sack of shit? And if he had heard right, the witch and the half-demon had not even quarreled. So what the hell was going on?

As for Olivia . . . Darryl shook his head for the second time. Olivia had seemed intense today. And intensity was not a trait he would usually associate with the redhead. Intelligence, perhaps. Sarcasm, perception, and also . . . manipulation. But not intense. When she had turned on Cole in such a hostile manner, she seemed like another woman.

And what in the hell were those telephone calls from Paul Margolin about? Ever since Bruce’s wedding, the two witches had not shown an inkling of interest in each other. Well, Olivia had not. Margolin simply kept his distance, after she had rejected him. This attitude had continued, even during the six weeks of the DiMatteo trial, and during yesterday’s lunch at the San Francisco Brew . . .

Darryl paused. He realized that Olivia had been feeling odd since the lunch with Margolin, yesterday. And that she had been receiving phone calls from the ADA, during the same period. Also, something had happened at their table that Darryl could not recall. Something regarding Margolin. Was there a connection between yesterday’s lunch and Olivia’s current behavior? He could not help but wondered.

———

Inside his office, Cole sat behind his desk, nursing a glass of Scotch. He had not felt this low in ages. Not since Phoebe had made it clear that she wanted nothing from him – aside from a divorce. Only this time, it was Olivia who had pushed him away. And Cole could not fathom why.

Olivia’s coldness reminded him of those two weeks after he had spurned her during that New Year’s Eve party. Those two weeks were the loneliest he had spent since meeting her and the other McNeills. Olivia had shunned him, and he stayed away from both her and her family. Cole figured that the other McNeills would follow her lead. As it had turned out, Olivia’s family never knew the true reason behind the couple’s estrangement, much to their confusion.

Seeing Bruce earlier in the day made Cole realized that the witch had seemed equally confused by Olivia’s behavior. He hoped that Bruce would learn the reason behind her hostility, because he had no idea what he had done to piss her off.

After draining the last of his Scotch, Cole stood up and walked over to the liquor cabinet and poured himself another glass. Just as he was about to return to his desk, the telephone rang. He answered it. “Yes?”

“You have a call on Line 2, Mr. Turner,” his assistant announced. “It’s . . . Miss Halliwell. Your former wife.”

Phoebe. Cole ordered Eleanor to transfer the call. Then, “Hello? Phoebe?”

“Cole?” Phoebe’s voice filled his ear. “Uh . . . hi.”

“Phoebe? Is there something wrong?”

A pause followed, before the Charmed One replied, “No. I . . . uh, are you alone?”

Cole allowed himself a sardonic chuckle. “Yes, I am.” He added bitterly, “Trust me.”

“Oh.”

Another long pause followed, before Cole quietly asked, “Phoebe, what’s wrong?”

The words tumbled into his ear, as Phoebe revealed the tension that has recently gripped the Halliwell household. Apparently, Piper and Leo had not taken the news of Phoebe’s vision very well. The whitelighter had barely said a word. Instead, he projected an air of disapproval around Phoebe. As for Piper . . .

“Don’t misunderstand me,” Phoebe continued. “I love Piper. I really do. But for the past two days . . .” She sighed. Heavily. “Now I know what Paige had went through, last December. The hostility and the catty remarks. Piper seems so . . . I don’t know, resentful. I just can’t . . . I don’t understand her, Cole. Both Paige and I know the truth. About what really happened. And we’ve accepted responsibility for our actions, just as you’ve accepted responsibility for your actions. Why can’t Piper?”

Cole wished he could answer Phoebe’s question. But he never could fathom Piper Halliwell’s mind. For an emotional woman, she possessed a talent for keeping her true feelings in check – unless the situation made it impossible. Or if she had no need to hide them.

“I don’t know, Phoebe,” he finally answered. “Only Piper can answer that question. Besides . . .” he paused, wondering if he should reveal his own troubles. If Phoebe could reveal hers, perhaps he could follow her example.

The frown in Phoebe’s voice seemed obvious. “Besides what?” she demanded.

After another pause, Cole told Phoebe about his problems with Olivia. “And the thing is,” he finished, “I don’t know what the hell I had done to piss her off.”

“Hmmm. Maybe you should talk to her.”

“If only she would let me.”

The conversation with his former wife managed to lighten Cole’s mood. Especially after today’s disaster. Perhaps Phoebe was right. Perhaps he should try to talk to Olivia.

“Cole,” Phoebe said, interrupting his thoughts. “Listen . . .” A nervous chuckle followed. “Um . . . God, I never thought I would do this. Come to think of it, I believe you were the last man I had ever asked out for dinner.”

What did she just say? Cole frowned. “Uh, Phoebe? Did you just say . . .?”

“Yeah, I’m asking you out for a date,” the Charmed One nervously added. “Just for an evening out. You know, maybe go to the Crab House at Pier 39. Talk.”

Cole remained silent. He honestly did not know what to say. He did not want to hurt Phoebe’s feelings, but he first had to know where he stood with Olivia. “That sounds nice, Phoebe,” Cole reluctantly answer. “I just . . . well, I have to find out what’s wrong with Olivia first. You understand. Right?”

“Oh. Yeah.” Phoebe paused. “I understand. But . . . could you let me know how things turn out?” Her voice glimmered with hope.

Cole bit back a sigh. “Yeah. Sure. I’ll talk to you later, Phoebe.”

“Bye.” And she hung up.

Still reeling from the shock of Phoebe’s suggestion, Cole slowly placed the receiver on the telephone. He took a deep breath, before dialing Olivia’s number at the precinct. Several rings followed before the redhead’s voice answered, “San Francisco Police. Inspector McNeill speaking.”

“Olivia? It’s me. Cole. I . . .”

“Oh God! Cole what do you want, now?”

The contempt in her voice felt like a knife into Cole’s gut. “Look, I don’t mean to bother you, but . . .”

“But what, Cole?” Olivia shot back. “It seems as if you have to find every little reason to call me, or drop by the station. Look, I’m not in the mood to talk and I’m getting tired of this. So, will you please leave me alone?” The telephone went dead, before Cole could open his mouth.

What the . . .? What the hell had just happened? It seemed to Cole that for the first time, he truly did not understand or know Olivia. A resigned sigh left his mouth. He picked up the phone one last time and dialed the number to the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR’s office. When the operator answered, he asked for Phoebe.

“Hello?” the Charmed One breathlessly answered.

Cole replied, “Phoebe? Hi. It’s me, Cole.”

It was not hard to detect the delight in her voice. “Cole! Are you . . .?”

Taking a deep breath, he said, “So, how does seven o’clock sound to you?”

END OF CHAPTER 4

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