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Touch of enchantment, p.1
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       Touch of Enchantment, p.1

           Teresa Medeiros
 
Touch of Enchantment


  Touch of Enchantment

  By

  Teresa Medeiros

  * * *

  A LOVELY SCIENTIST WITH NO TASTE FOR MAGIC

  Heiress Tabitha Lennox considered her paranormal talents more a curse than a gift. So she dedicated her life to the cold, rational world of science. Until the day she examined the mysterious amulet her mother had left her and found herself catapulted seven centuries into the past – directly into the path of a rearing black charger ridden by a chain-mailed warrior.

  A FEARLESS KNIGHT WITH NO TIME FOR LOVE

  Sir Colin of Ravenshaw had returned from the Crusades to find his castle in ruins, his enemy poised to overrun the land where generations of Ravenshaws had ruled. The last thing he expected was to half trample a damsel with odd garb and even odder manners. But it is her strange talent that will create trouble beyond Colin's wildest imaginings. For everyone knows that a witch must be burned… but it is Colin's heart that is aflame, over an enchanting woman he must not love, yet cannot live without.

  * * *

  TOUCH OF ENCHANTMENT A Bantam Book/July 1997

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 1997 by Teresa Medeiros

  Cover art copyright © 1997 by Alan Ayers

  Cover insert copyright © 1997 by Pino Dangelico

  Book design by Laurie Jewell

  ISBN 0-553-57.500-7

  Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada

  Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New-York, New York 10.036.

  * * *

  To the memory of Suzanne Wages, a shining star who blazed brightly, but all too briefly, through our lives. See you on the other side, sweetheart.

  To Jack and Berta Pitzer and Patricia Ramsden, who shone the light so brightly I could not help but follow.

  To Wendy McCurdy, who was generous enough to give me the keys to the kingdom without even realizing it.

  And to Michael, whose steadfast love makes every home we live in a castle of dreams.

  * * *

  Prologue

  Tabitha Lennox hated being a witch. The only thing she hated more than being a witch was being a rich witch. But she had little or no say in the matter, having been born the sole heir of both her father's multibillion-dollar empire and her mother's rather unpredictable paranormal talents.

  Her mama had named her Tabitha, pronouncing it a good solid Puritan name. Her daddy had smoothly agreed, but the reason for his wry chuckle had not become readily apparent until a Bewitched marathon on Nick at Nite had choked a scandalized gasp from her mother.

  "Did you know that cheeky little brat was named Tabitha?" she asked, referring to Darrin and Samantha Stevenses' precocious progeny.

  Her daddy lowered his Wall Street Journal and blinked behind his reading glasses, his gray eyes disarmingly innocent. "Sorry, darling. It must have slipped my mind."

  But a hint of a smirk betrayed him. Tabitha's mama launched herself across the cozy great room, pummeling him with one of the fluffy couch pillows until they both collapsed over the ottoman in a giggling heap.

  "You really can't blame me," her daddy gasped, tickling her mama into submission. "Your second choice was Chastity I"

  As their playful tussle dissolved into a tender kiss, seven-year-old Tabitha had rolled her eyes at the plump black cat lazing on the hearth and returned her attention to her laptop computer, wondering why her parents couldn't communicate through E-mail or their lawyers like the parents of all the other children in her Montessori school.

  From an early age, Tabitha had craved the soothing boredom of routine the way other children craved toys and candy. Although her parents made a convincing show of normalcy with their Victorian house nestled in the Connecticut countryside, far more than her father's wealth set her apart from her playmates.

  Several of her peers rode to school behind the smoked-glass windows of stretch limousines or hosted birthday parties at The Four Seasons, but none of them ever came home from school to find the family cat quoting Shakespeare to a shelf of engrossed plants or a trio of elves peering at them from beneath the shrubbery. Tabitha's mama didn't just bake cookies. She baked dancing cookies that had the unnerving habit of popping themselves into Tabitha's mouth every time she opened it to complain. Tabitha would proudly display her completed homework only to have it vanish into thin air the night before it was due.

  Her father would frantically help her duplicate her fractions while her mother conjugated French verbs and apologized profusely for her lack of control over her magic. Although her dismay at causing her daughter distress was genuine, her mama could never quite hide the pride she took in her unusual gift.

  Tabitha didn't consider it a gift. She considered it a curse. Which explained why on her thirteenth birthday, when her casual wish for purple icing on her birthday cake sent sugary globs of it coursing over her stunned head, she experienced no wonder, but only frigid horror.

  Trailing purple goo, she fled up the stairs and threw herself on her ruffled bed, weeping as if her little heart would break.

  Her parents followed, sinking down on each side of her to exchange a helpless glance over her sobbing form. Her daddy patted her heaving shoulder while her mama stroked her sticky hair.

  "Don't cry, ma petite" her mama murmured. "You must think of your talents as a gift from God. You'll soon get used to the idea of being special."

  Struggling to catch her breath, Tabitha blurted out, "You don't understand! I don't want to be special! I want to be normal." She snuffled into the Snow White comforter she had always detested. "I want you two to yell at each other instead of kissing all the time. I want my toys to stop talking and the dishes to stop running away with all the spoons. I want to live in a trailer park and wear clothes off the rack and," her voice broke before rising to a wail, "eat my birthday dinner at Mc

  This startling declaration provoked an even more puzzled glance and a shudder of distaste from her father.

  Despite her frequent and often disastrous brushes with the supernatural since that day, Tabitha continued to turn up her rather plain little nose at Disney movies with their talking teapots and singing mice, much preferring the stolid gloom of Ingmar Bergman festivals to those silly princesses always yearning for Prince Charming to swoop down off his stallion and carry them away.

  Tabitha Lennox had no choice but to believe in magic.

  But she didn't believe in fairy tales. Or happy endings. Or Prince Charming. Yet.

  PART ONE

  Beguiled

  'Tis the strumpet's plague to beguile many and be beguil'd by one.

  – William Shakespeare

  Yet she wish'd that heaven had made her such a man.

  – William Shakespeare

  Chapter 1

  New York City

  It was at moments like this that Michael Copperfield keenly missed his ponytail. Since he could no longer tug on it when faced with an insurmountable frustration, he was forced to snap a pencil in two to relieve his tension. "You don't seem to understand the gravity of the situation. Your parents have vanished."

  The young woman slumped in the leather chair opposite his desk didn't even bother to look up from the reports she was studying. "That's hardly an unusual occurrence, Uncle Cop. My parents vanish all the time. At parties. From taxicabs. During stockholder meetings. They once disappeared into thin air for the entire second act of my senior play." She spared him a brief, mocking glance before flipping a page of the report. "You should try explaining that to y
our high school drama teacher."

  Her lackadaisical acceptance of his news only increased Copperfield's sense of urgency. He rose and came around the desk, forcing her to shift her attention from the software configurations to his troubled face. "It's different this time, Tabitha. They didn't just wink out of focus for a few minutes or wish themselves to Paris for lunch. This time their entire plane disappeared. Over the Bermuda Triangle."

  Tabitha blinked owlishly at him from behind her glasses.

  Copperfield pressed his advantage. "The company jet vanished over sixteen hours ago without so much as a blip on the radar. The Navy's sent out search planes and ships to comb the site, but they haven't found even a trace of wreckage. Of course, that's not unusual in that area. I'm trying to hold the media at bay for a few days, at least until the Navy's completed their search. But I can assure you the disappearance of one of the richest men in the world isn't going to go unnoticed for long."

  Tabitha's skeptical chuckle sounded forced. "So what's your theory, Uncle Cop? Have they been seized by a foreign government? Kidnapped by a terrorist organization?" She whistled a few notes of the theme from The X-Files. "Abducted by aliens?"

  He retreated to his chair, feeling far older than his fifty-five years. "I'm afraid their plane may have gone down."

  Silence permeated the office for an entire sweep of the second hand on the brass desk clock before Tabitha burst out laughing. "Don't be ridiculous! This is just another one of Mama's little paranormal hiccups. The jet will probably reappear exactly where it vanished or pop into the landing pattern at La Guardia just in time to give one of their air traffic controllers another nervous breakdown." As if to escape his pitying scrutiny, Tabitha rose and went to the window, shoving a listless strand of blond hair out of her eyes. "You forget that Tristan and Arian Lennox have an uncanny way of wiggling out of trouble. Remember when the Lamborghini crashed? They walked away without a scratch. And wasn't it you who told me how they once traveled back in time to 1689 to defeat my evil grandfather, proving once again that true love conquers all?"

  The note of cynicism in her voice disturbed him. "A theory you don't concur with?"

  "It's a charming hypothesis, Uncle Cop, but you have to remember that this is the twenty-first century. True love is no longer in vogue. Romance has been replaced by cybersex with nameless, faceless strangers or holograms of your favorite video stars."

  Cop snorted quizzically. "And you find that preferable?"

  Tabitha shrugged. "The advantages are obvious." The window reflected her pensive expression, making her appear less convinced than she sounded. "No connection, no commitment… no risk."

  Copperfield shuddered, but reminded himself that his rebuttal would have to wait. He had more pressing business at hand. "Your parents may have been lucky enough to find true love, sweetheart," he said gently. "But that doesn't make them immortal."

  Tabitha swung around to face him, thrusting her hands in the pockets of her baggy tweed trousers. "Have you forgotten that my mother was born in 1669? She may not be immortal, but she looks damn good for a woman approaching her three hundred and fifty-first birthday."

  Copperfield sighed, having learned from long and bitter experience that the only thing you got out of arguing with a Lennox was a pounding headache.

  Recognizing that more drastic measures would be necessary, he withdrew a manila envelope from his desk drawer and held it out to her. "Your mother asked me to give this to you in the event of her…" His fingers tightened on the envelope. It was almost as if handing it over would make it true.

  Tabitha stared at the envelope for a long moment before blithely snatching it from his hand. "You're going to be embarrassed by your melodramatics when my parents come popping out of a heating duct at the next Lennox Enterprises board meeting." She started to flip open the metal clasp, but Copperfield closed his hand over hers.

  "Arian said you might want to wait until you were alone to open it."

  Tabitha frowned down at the envelope. Although she kept her voice light, her bravado appeared to be wearing thin. "What is it? My adoption records? I always told Mama and Daddy that I was too imagination-impaired to possibly be their natural child."

  Copperfield cupped Tabitha's chin in his hand and gently drew off her glasses. Her somber gray eyes surveyed him uncertainly. Her thick mop of blond hair had been cut in an efficient shoulder-length bob, but her feathery bangs persisted in drifting over her eyes whenever she relaxed her guard. At twenty-three, Tabitha was nearly as tall as he was and twice as awkward, her gracelessness oddly endearing. Her even features revealed the keen intelligence that had allowed her to enter M.I.T. at the tender age of fifteen, earn her doctorate in Virtual Technology before she turned twenty, and achieve the status of department head in the Lennox Enterprises Virtual Reality Division in less than three years. But beneath the cool competence lurked a disarming hint of wistfulness, of dreams unfulfilled and wishes unvoiced.

  As Copperfield studied the face of the child he loved nearly as well as his own daughters, he was seized by a pang of nostalgia. Tristan Lennox had become far more than just his blood brother when, as two lonely little boys, they had exchanged a solemn oath in that Boston orphanage all those years ago. He had become his friend.

  "Oh, you're your parents' child all right," he murmured. "Have I ever told you how very much you remind me of your father?"

  Dodging his affectionate caress, Tabitha retrieved her glasses and slid them on with a tight smile. "You shouldn't tease me, Uncle Cop. My mother used to say the same thing and I always thought it was a little cruel." Before he could protest, she swept her shapeless lab coat from the back of the chair. "You knew – " She faltered, betrayed by her hesitation. "You know Daddy better than anyone. He's always smiling and laughing, finding pleasure in the simplest things. He's graceful and still drop-dead gorgeous, even at fifty-six. He's loved and respected by everyone who's ever had the pleasure of working with him. He's nothing like me."

  She tucked the envelope beneath her arm and flashed him a brittle smile. Then she threw open the door, revealing the brass plaque that read michael copperfield, executive vice president. "Give Aunt Cherie my love. I'll call you if…" She shot him a defiant look. "When I hear from my parents."

  After the door had slammed in his face, Cop returned to his desk and sank into his chair, torn between laughter and tears. "You didn't let me finish, Tabitha," he muttered, rubbing his burning eyes. "You remind me of your father… before he met your mother."

  As she stepped from the shower, a dripping Tabitha Lennox groped for her glasses even before she reached for the towel. Most of her coworkers poked fun at her behind her back for clinging to the archaic devices when corneal molding had been perfected nearly a decade ago, but she preferred the cool solidity of wire frames to having her eyeballs manipulated by a stranger. Her eyesight wasn't really that bad. Sometimes she suspected she wore them more out of habit than need.

  She towel-dried her thick hair and slathered cold cream on her face, then wiggled into a pair of cotton panties and the sturdy L.L. Bean pajamas she'd draped over the towel warmer before entering the shower. The heated flannel enfolded her like an invisible hug. A contented sigh escaped her as she slid her feet into a pair of plush slippers designed to resemble giant chipmunks – her one concession to whimsy.

  She padded through the penthouse living room to the efficiency kitchen, pointedly ignoring the manila envelope she'd tossed on the couch after returning from her meeting with Uncle Cop.

  She opened the freezer. Her hand wavered between a Lean Tureen frozen dinner that promised zero calories due to the addition of Phat! – the dramatic new fat substitute – and a frosty tub of Haagen-Dazs. After several seconds of agonizing, she defiantly chose the ice cream.

  So what if she had a few extra pounds clinging to her midriff? Her baggy slacks and lab coat would hide a multitude of sins. And it certainly wasn't as if anyone was going to be seeing her without them.

  As she fished
a tablespoon from the silverware drawer, a furry head butted her in the ankle.

  "Well, hello, little Lucy," Tabitha crooned, squatting to spoon a dab of ice cream into the kitten's bowl. "Did you miss Mommy while she was at work?"

  The tiny black cat had been a twenty-third birthday gift from her parents. Fearing that Tabitha would be inconsolable after family cat Lucifer expired at the crotchety old age of twenty-two, her father had arranged for Lucifer's sperm to be frozen until it was needed. With the animal overpopulation crisis finally resolved, test tube kittens were becoming all the rage.

  Still skirting the couch, Tabitha paused at the wall keypad to choose a musical selection from the digitalized menu, finally settling on Nina Simone's "I Want a Little Sugar In My Bowl." The sultry warble coaxed a wry smile from Tabitha's lips. She already had a little sugar in her bowl.

  She savored a mouthful of ice cream as she watched the lacy snowflakes drift past the glass expanse of the north wall. How pleasant it was to be warm and cozy with a winter storm raging right outside the window! In the past few months, the penthouse had become her haven – the only place where she truly felt safe.

  She knew it had hurt her parents' feelings when she'd retreated there after her graduation from M.I.T. They had rejected the spacious suite located at the pinnacle of Lennox Tower years ago in favor of a sprawling Victorian mansion with no climate control system and windows that swung open to beckon in both sunshine and rain.

  Tabitha had always felt like an intruder there. Although her parents had made every effort to draw her into their charmed circle, she chose to remain standing outside, too shy to accept their invitation. She would never break their hearts by confessing that she felt more at home with the anonymous strangers battling their way through the snow-clogged city streets below.

 
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