I’m so excited to bring you the fourth part of my Halloween-inspired romance novella, The Problem with Love Potions!
Don’t miss Part Three!
It’s 5PM. Aiden and I have less than three hours to create this antidote, and we still haven’t found a spider.
“This is ridiculous,” I huff, shining my flashlight over at Aiden. “There has to be one somewhere.”
Aiden is covered in dust and looks just as annoyed as I feel. “Coming up here wasn’t my idea.”
I scowl at him, even though I know he can’t see my face very clearly. “I’m sorry, do you know of anywhere more likely to have a spider than this place?” I’ve dragged Aiden up to the unused attic of our dorm. There are old cardboard boxes and dust bunnies galore, but no spiders. I’m about to tear my hair out.
“A basement? A pet store? Literally anywhere else?” Aiden says.
I march up to him. “If you hated my suggestion so much, you should’ve chimed in!”
“How can I, when you’re always talking!?”
I mouth at him, trying to think of a witty comeback. But as I’m covered in dirt and breathing in dust, I can’t do much more than look up at him indignantly. And as I do that, I realize I’m standing very close to him. Like, close enough to lean up and kiss him close. My heart does a funny little jump, and I angrily tell myself to shut that shit down.
“Okay,” I take a deep breath. “I will talk less. In the meantime…”
I trail off as I see movement on the top of Aiden’s head. I back up, eyes wide with horror.
“What?” Aiden asks. “Ella, what is it?”
“I found a spider,” I squeak.
“Where?” Aiden looks around and the spider teeters in his hair.
“Stop moving!” I shout. “Don’t freak out, but it’s on your head.”
I have never seen all of the color leave someone’s face faster. Aiden’s eyes go huge. “Get it off, Ella,” he says. He’s trying to sound tough, but there’s a tremble in his voice. It’s all I can do not to crack up. Smart, brave Aiden, freaked out by a spider.
“Okay, hold still.” I approach Aiden slowly, pulling the vial from my pocket. The spider is still chilling in his dark hair, unafraid. “Good spider,” I whisper as I raise my hand over Aiden’s head. His breath brushes over my face as I circle around to his side and hold the vial up to the spider. Unlike Aiden, I don’t mind the little guys. Better them than fruit flies.
Slowly, I coax the spider into the vial and step back. When I look at Aiden’s face, his eyes are squeezed shut.
“OH MY GOD, IT’S ON YOUR FACE!”
Aiden’s stone-stiff posture shatters. He yells as he scrapes his hands over his face. I double over laughing as he runs his hands back through his hair. “Did I get it? Is it gone? Is it—” He looks over at me and I hold up the vial, grinning.
“Sorry,” I choke. “I had to.”
“It’s not funny!” Aiden yells. He shoves my arm, but not hard. Playful. Now that he knows there’s no spider on his face, he seems to agree with me that that was a pretty good prank.
“Okay, one down. Two to go,” I say. “Let’s head to the botanical gardens for that wolfsbane.”
Fifteen minutes and a change of clothes later, Aiden and I are side by side in his jeep. It’s chilly out, so I grabbed a fleece-lined hoodie and a beanie. I think I look pretty cute for a girl who just spent hours in a dusty attic searching for a spider. Part of me hopes that Aiden thinks so, too.
I was a little worried about finding the wolfsbane once we arrived at the gardens, but everything is marked on the map. It’s a beautiful afternoon, so this place is full of couples wandering around and kissing under willow trees. I swear I feel Aiden looking at me while I study the map, but when I look up at him, his eyes are on the horizon.
“Just a half mile,” I say, pointing on the map. “You up for a walk, or should I sprint it?”
Aiden smiles. “Let’s walk.”
We set off down the path together, gazing at the flowers and other plants. It really is beautiful here; I should try to come by more often. We walk in silence for a bit until Aiden speaks.
“Hey, I wanted to say sorry.”
“What do you possibly have to apologize to me about?” I ask.
“I was a jerk to you last night,” he says.
I scoff. “Come on. I was a jerk to you.” I kick at a stray pine cone. “I’m kind of always a jerk to you.”
“That’s not true,” Aiden says. He touches my shoulder to stop me. “I pushed you away. How were you supposed to react?”
I shrug and keep walking. That’s the second time in as many hours that Aiden has found an excuse to touch my arm.
“Granted, I could do without the late night spell-casting,” Aiden says lightly.
“It’s not on purpose,” I say, staring at the ground.
“I do it in my sleep, okay? I can’t control it.” I can feel the red spreading through my cheeks, hot against the chilly wind. “It’s just mist, but it messes with the fire alarms.”
“Ella, I didn’t know,” Aiden says, matching my quickened pace. “Now I feel like a real jerk.”
“It’s not your fault. I didn’t want you to know.”
“Because it’s embarrassing!” I burst out, whirling to face him. “What, I’m just going to tell the most talented warlock I know that I can’t even keep my powers in check when I’m unconscious?”
Aiden just stares at me for a moment. Then grins. “Most talented warlock you know?”
I groan. “Seriously? That’s what you got out of that?”
“Come on, Ella, I really am sorry,” Aiden says, his voice soft. “Magic is hard sometimes.”
“Not for you.”
“Not for me,” he agrees. I shove his shoulder, and he laughs. “But I can give you some pointers if you want.”
“Of course,” he says. “Once we get this whole love potion thing sorted out, obviously.”
I laugh, spotting some aconite just off the path. “Obviously,” I echo as I pick a few flowers.
Two down, one to go.