She shrugged. “Hang on.” She popped out, only to pop back in a second later. “Heads up.” She tossed him a set of keys on a telephone cord bracelet.
He snatched them out of the air. “Keys for the cases?”
“Yep. You want to work? Knock yourself out.”
He gave Jasper a little shake. “Sorry, furry dude, your mother’s putting me to work.”
Willa rolled her eyes. “You asked if you could.”
Jasper stretched, climbed onto the desk and curled up on a stack of papers. Nick stood and grinned. He enjoyed teasing Willa way more than he should. “How much are you paying me?”
She snorted. “You haven’t sold anything yet.”
“I’m going to sell more than you today, you’ll see.” He came to stand beside her behind the front counter. Customers milled about, but no one seemed to be in need of immediate attention.
“Sure you are,” she said quietly.
“Care to make it interesting?”
She glanced up at him. “What did you have in mind?”
He was struck for a moment by how gorgeous she was, but also by how stressed she looked. She could use some fun. “Winner gets a picnic tomorrow night to watch the fireworks. Loser does all the work.”
“At the fairgrounds?”
“Isn’t that the best place to see the fireworks?”
She nodded, her face brightening. “It is. But that would mean you’d have to get there early to reserve a good spot. How are you going to do that if you’re supposed to be my shadow?”
He frowned. “You’re right. I guess the bet’s off. I can’t believe I forgot about that.”
“Oh, no you don’t. You’re not getting out of it that easily. I’m calling Sheriff Merrow and telling him I need a deputy here during the day tomorrow to relieve you. Because you’re going to lose this bet and you’ll need to be planning and packing a picnic.”
“Willa, I can’t leave you alone like that.”
“I won’t be alone. I’ll have Ramona here and one of the deputies and besides, I’ve got the panic button if anything goes wrong.”
“I don’t know.” It felt like going against his basest instincts, but he wasn’t the only one capable of protecting her.
She smiled. “It will be fine. I won’t be alone at any point during the day.”
He didn’t say anything.
She batted her lashes at him. “I really want this picnic.”
He sighed. “All right. But only if the sheriff can spare a deputy.” He snorted. “I love how you’re assuming I’m going to lose.”
She walked away from him. “Sorry, couldn’t hear you, on my way to sell something.”
Before he could respond, she was deep in conversation with a young couple looking at engagement rings.
Damn, she was going to outsell him so hard. But he was also completely okay with losing. He made a quick call to Merrow to secure the deputy for tomorrow himself, then headed to the other side of the store and went to work.
Halfway through the day, she was smoking him exactly as he’d predicted. He’d made a few sales, but it wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. Ramona came in for her afternoon shift, giving Willa and Nick a chance to eat the lunch one of the busboys from Howler’s had just delivered.
They sat side by side at the desk, after they’d moved Jasper, and opened up the takeout containers. Club sandwiches and fries, the special of the day.
They were halfway through lunch when Ramona came in. “Pandora Williams is here to see you, Willa.”
“Send her back.”
Pandora came in, wearing her usual Realtor uniform, slim pantsuit, bright top, bold jewelry. She was the most unwitchy witch Willa knew, and in this town, there were plenty to know. “Sorry to interrupt your lunch. Hi, Nick. How’s the house?”
“House is great, thanks.”
“You ever want to trade up, get something bigger, you let me know.”
Pandora looked at Willa. “I see you two patched things up.”
Willa nodded. “We did.”
“Okay to talk here then?”
Willa got up and shut the office door, giving them privacy. “It is now.”
“Great. I went to my mother’s library and did some research. I didn’t find much, but I talked to her—in very vague terms—about how to break a spell like the one you did. I hope that was okay.”
“Of course. I’m sure she’s not going to blab. Besides, if she’s still dating Hugh Ellingham’s butler, I’m sure she’ll hear about this sooner or later. Was she able to shed any light on what to do?”
“A little.” Pandora crossed her arms. “She said the only way to break the spell that she knew for sure would work is to destroy the ring, but he’s got to give you the ring of his own free will.”
“How the hell is that going to happen?” Nick asked. “The guy’s stalking her.”
Pandora nodded. “I asked my mom that. She said if you can learn the troll’s real name, you can ask him for the ring and he’ll give it to you.”
Willa sighed. “Any thoughts on how I might do that?”
Nick grunted. “You could agree to meet him and maybe talk him into it. If he’s really that gone over you, he might not think twice about telling you.”
Willa raised her brows. “That sounds safe. Meeting with the troll who’s obsessed with me. I’m sure he won’t try to haul me back to his lair or anything.”