I’m so excited to bring you the second part of my Halloween-inspired romance novella, The Problem with Love Potions!
Don’t miss Part One!
I have to admit it: Potion-brewing is not my strong suit. When Aiden and I were in potion-brewing together at age twelve (at Summer Magic school—long story—), we tried to brew a potion that would give us the power of flight for ten minutes. Aiden drank his and floated right up the ceiling with a stupid smirk on his stupid face.
Me? I took a sip and projectile vomited all over the classroom. Not my finest moment. But as I pull four perfect red velvet cupcakes out of the oven and give them a sniff, I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed it.
Zoey skips into the kitchen, wearing black leggings, a black hoodie and a pair of fuzzy black cat ears. “Happy Halloween!”
“Thanks,” I laugh as she crosses the room and plops a pair of sparkly red devil horns over my curls. “You get us that party invite yet?”
“Sure did. House party over on Maine.” Zoey adjusts a piece of my hair and leans in to sniff the cupcakes. “Those look like they came out great!”
“Hope so,” I say. I perform a quick cooling spell on the cupcakes so I can frost them right away and top each one with a healthy amount of cream-cheese frosting. Finally, I take them out of the baking dish and put them in a fancy little box that I picked up this morning. “How could he resist these?” I ask, sticking my tongue out at Zoey.
“He couldn’t,” she affirms. “Go on, give them to him so you can get ready for the party!”
I make sure no one’s passing by the open kitchen door and perform a quick cleaning spell on the dishes. I take them back to our dorm room, and then set off to find Aiden. It doesn’t take long; he’s almost always in the rec room playing billiards with his friends. That’s where I find him now, spinning a pool cue and laughing. Three of his friends are there, too, lounging on the beat-up armchairs.
“Uh, hi, Aiden,” I say, offering a tentative smile. “Hi, guys.” Aiden’s friends offer somewhat confused smiles, but Aiden’s smile fades when he sees me.
“What’s up, Ella?”
“Look, I felt bad about snapping at you last night, so I brought you these.” I hold out the cupcakes. “Is red velvet still your favorite?”
Aiden looks down at the cupcakes and then up, right into my eyes. His eyes are endless. Full of life and fire. Even though we’re four feet apart and there are three other people in the room, the moment feels strangely intimate.
“I can’t believe you remember that,” Aiden says. He reaches out and takes the box from me, slowly.
“Well, it wasn’t that hard, I’ve been coming to your birthday parties since you were like, zero,” I say. It’s true—before I had real friends, before I even knew who or what I was, I was friends with Aiden. The thought makes me sad.
“Well, thanks,” Aiden says.
No one says anything for a moment. The awkward silence stretches around us.
“Well, I should probably,” I start.
“Do you want to play a round?” Aiden blurts out. “I mean, you’re probably busy, but…”
“Sure,” I say. One of his friends hands me a pool cue as they leave, and we rack a new game.
“Winner gets the first cupcake,” one of the girls, Julie, says as she rubs chalk on the tip of her pool cue.
Shit. Those are for Aiden, but I can’t tell his friends not to eat them without looking like a total dick, or worse, making him suspect that I messed with them somehow.
“Well, we’d better win, then, as they’re my cupcakes,” Aiden jokes. “I’m kidding, but not really.” Aiden moves to the front of the table and studies the table. His biceps strain as he pulls his cue back and breaks. There’s a series of sharp snaps as all of the balls connect, spinning every which way over the table.
Aiden moves away and stands behind me, close enough that I can feel his energy over my shoulder. “I should tell you that I’m not very good at pool,” I say.
“Don’t sweat it. This is just for fun,” Aiden says. We watch Taylor take their turn. When they finally miss a shot, Aiden presses a hand to the small of my back and nudges me towards the table. “You’ve got this.” He smiles, and it’s almost like we’re back in our hometown, friends again. Sparks jump through me.
I take a deep breath and lean over the table. I line up my shot—four ball, corner pocket. I hit the cue ball…and it sails into a pocket.
“Scratch,” Taylor says gleefully. They high-five their teammate, Rob, and he clears almost the entire table.
“Sorry,” I mutter to Aiden.
“It’s all good. You’re not nearly as bad at this as you are at basketball.”
“That was one time!” I wince, remembering the time I tried to pass the ball to Sally K. in gym class and just chucked the ball directly at her head by accident. It nearly broke her nose.
Aiden laughs and takes his turn. “You know what, I forgot how not half-bad you are.” He looks up at me with a smile that can only be described as flirty. My stomach swoops. Is Aiden flirting with me?
My eyes fall on the cupcakes. Shit. Spiking them with potion was probably a huge mistake. But how can I get them back without causing a total scene?
“Eight ball, side pocket,” Taylor says. My heart sinks when Taylor makes a perfect shot, defeating Aiden and me. “Cupcake, please!”
Taylor and Rob walk over to the box and I wince. It’s not like the potion will do anything bad—it just makes people nicer. But Aiden and I are getting along for the first time in years. I just hope this doesn’t spoil that.
“You want one?” Aiden asks, nudging my shoulder.
I laugh nervously. “Are you kidding? I ate like seven while I was baking them. You should have one, though.” I say.
“I’ll save them for my shift tonight,” Aiden says as Taylor and Rob dig in. “Thank you. Really.”
“Don’t mention it,” I say. I smile at Aiden, and he smiles back. “Listen, I—”
“Ella, I need to tell you something.” Rob all but shouts from the other end of the room.
My heart spikes. “Uh, what?” I say, casting a terrified glance at Aiden.
Rob crosses the room. He takes my hands and looks into my eyes. “I think I’m like, totally in love with you.”
“No!” Taylor shouts. Before I know it, they’re in front of me, too, grasping at my hands. “I love her. I love her more than anything. Ella, I love you,” Taylor repeats.
I stumble backwards. What the hell is going on!?
“Ella?” Aiden says, through gritted teeth. “Just wondering, but what the fuck did you do?”