Soul of the Bride

Elizabeth Lenhard

Published by Pocket Pulse
ISBN 10: 0743429559 / ISBN 13: 9780743429559
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Synopsis: Prue decides to use an antique camera to take a picture that may be used on the cover of 415 magazine, but when she does, the models and Phoebe's mysterious new boyfriend, Nikos, collapse, and the Charmed Ones must go to Hades to rescue them.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

"Prue? Can I see you in my office, please?" Prue Halliwell glanced up from the contact sheet she was inspecting to see her editor-in-chief, Nick Caldwell, waving at her from his office door. She gulped. As a photographer for 415 magazine, San Francisco's most stylish city mag, Prue was used to dealing with editors -- her photo editor, the fashion editor, the restaurant critic who had her do food shots. But she hardly ever spoke to Mr. Caldwell. He was the head honcho and so out of her league, she rarely had a reason to exchange more than polite hellos with him.

Prue slipped her contact sheet into a folder and nodded at her boss, who looked, as usual, slick and polished with his graying temples and designer suit.

"Sure, Mr. Caldwell," she called. She made her way across 415's loft, a totally hip, urban space with exposed duct work and red cement floors. Prue loved the magazine's gritty offices. And she loved her job as a 415 staff photographer -- it was the most satisfying and exciting work she'd ever done. And now the big cheese was calling her into his office. Was she about to be pink-slipped?

Prue shook the horrible thought away and ran her fingers through her glossy black hair. As she approached his office door, she gave Mr. Caldwell a bright, false smile.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Caldwell?" she asked nervously.

"Come in, Prue," her editor said, taking a seat behind his desk. "And shut the door, if you don't mind."

Uh-oh, Prue thought. This does not look good.

"Prue," Mr. Caldwell began. "I have to tell you..."

Oh, Prue moaned inwardly, what good is being a witch if I can't use my powers to worm my way out of moments like this one?

"...I love your work."

"What?" Prue blurted, her blue eyes widening.

She was so ready for a layoff, she couldn't quite believe her ears.

"Your photographs are really vibrant," Mr. Caldwell said. "You clearly have a lot of talent, even if it is still a little raw."

"Thank you!" Prue replied. She could feel herself flushing with happiness. Who needs magic, she thought giddily, when I have...talent!

"Here's the deal," Mr. Caldwell said. "We have nothing planned for the August cover. I want to give you a chance. If, and only if, you shoot a picture that knocks my socks off, the cover's yours."

"A -- and...the topic?" Prue stuttered.

"That's up to you, Prue," Mr. Caldwell responded with a sly smile. "Could be a big break for you. But know that other photographers are going to be trying for the cover, too. You've got some healthy competition, so do your best."

"Of course," Prue said, standing up.

Clearly, Mr. Caldwell didn't know her too well.

Were they here, her younger sisters, Piper and Phoebe, would have been happy to tell him, Prue Halliwell always does her best. She was a perfectionist with a capital P -- a classic eldest child. "Thank you for the opportunity, sir. I promise to knock your socks off."

With a grin, Prue turned and headed out of the office. In fact, she headed straight out of 415. She was too exhilarated to pore over contact sheets. She had to come up with a killer cover idea. She needed to go home, where she could think and maybe bounce some ideas off her sisters.

Ever since Prue, Piper, and Phoebe had moved into their grandmother's big San Francisco mansion, they'd relied on one another for just about everything -- professional and romantic advice, party clothes, and oh yeah, their magical powers.

They had discovered that they were witches -- the Charmed Ones -- when Phoebe found The Book of Shadows in the attic. The enormous, ancient tome was filled with incantations, potions, and information passed down by generations of Halliwell witches, including their grandmother and mother. Mom and Grams were both gone now, leaving only Prue and her sisters to carry on their Charmed legacy.

The freakiest thing was, they were the most powerful witches of all. Individually, each sister packed a wallop. But when they worked together, they had the Power of Three. It made them almost unbeatable.Not that a host of demons and evil warlocks didn't routinely try to conquer them, anyway.

Yup, Prue thought sarcastically as she unlocked the door of her BMW, good things always happen in threes, don't they?

The thing about their new lives as witches was, sometimes their gifts could be a big pain in the butt.

"I mean," Prue muttered as she steered her Beamer toward home, "how do I explain to a date that I can telekinetically toss things out the window with a flick of my finger? Or that Piper can freeze time and Phoebe has premonitions about the future, plus she can fly." Phoebe's ability to go airborne was a recent development, and it was a power she totally hadn't mastered yet.

I can just see it now, Prue imagined with a dry laugh. My date's giving me a good-night kiss on the front porch and I have to say, Oh, that witch flying by on the vacuum cleaner? Don't mind her. She's just my little sister.

The sisters' mandate, that they protect the innocent, could be inconvenient, too, Prue thought irritably. Saving the world was always getting in the way of her work.

"But not this time," she murmured with determination. "Nothing's going to come between me and this cover. Nothing!"

Nothing makes me happier than being in an art class, Phoebe Halliwell thought as she strode to the sink to rinse out her paintbrushes. She looked over her shoulder at the classroom. It was milling with other art students who were wrapping up their projects as well. Phoebe's work in progress was over by the window -- right next to the diminutive, flame-haired Professor Winters.

In fact, Phoebe realized with a gulp, the professor -- her art adviser and her harshest critic -- was scrutinizing Phoebe's canvas at that very moment. Ho boy, Phoebe thought. She put down her brushes and hurried over. "I was trying for a little O'Keeffe and a little van Gogh," Phoebe announced as she stole up behind the professor.

"Yes, I see," Professor Winters said, eyeing Phoebe's abstract irises. "A bit derivative, Halliwell. Good form, but you could try to come up with something more original."

With that, the professor stalked away. Opened-mouthed, Phoebe stared after her.

Derivative! she thought with a disappointed frown. I thought I was inspired. I thought I was giving O'Keeffe's influence a crazy, new twist. But obviously, I thought wrong.

"Rack up another academic failure for Phoebe," she grumbled to herself, sighing deeply. School had never been her strong point, but since returning to college recently she'd been trying not to be the old, flaky, satisfied-with-a-C Phoebe. Clearly, I haven't been trying hard enough, she thought. She was working herself into a major funk when a low, sexy voice drifted into her ear.

"Don't listen to her. Your work's amazing." Phoebe spun around and literally had to stop herself from gasping. Standing before her was a black-haired, paint-smeared hottie in tattered Levi's and a rainbow-daubed denim shirt. Where had he come from? Phoebe wondered.

As if he'd read her mind, the guy stuck out his hand. "It's my first day in class," he said, smiling handsomely. "I'm Nikos. And you are clearly the star student in Painting 201. Your irises are incredible, Miss...."

"Phoebe," Phoebe blurted, staring at Nikos's beautiful blue eyes. "I mean, um, Halliwell. I mean Phoebe Halliwell. But you can just call me -- "

"Phoebe?" Nikos said with a teasing smile. Phoebe would have slapped her forehead, but she had purple paint all over her palm. Instead, she merely cringed. All it takes is one gorgeous guy to reduce me to an inarticulate dork, she thought. Must deflect...

"So," she said, "Nikos. What kind of name is that?"

"Greek," Nikos said with a rakish grin. "I come from a huge Greek family. We go waaay back."

Opa! Phoebe thought to herself with a mischievous smile. Then she nodded at the paintbrush in the hottie's hand.

"And what are you working on...Nikos?"

She sidled up to Nikos's canvas and had to restrain another gasp. This may be this guy's first day in class, she thought, but he's no beginner.

"It's...it's hypnotizing," she whispered, gazing at the swirls of gray and brown in the damp, swampy forest scene Nikos had painted. When she squinted she could see a ghostly mansion through the trees. Wispy wraiths lurked in the shadows.

Phoebe couldn't stop staring at the painting. It seemed to go on and on, pulling her in.

"It's so dark," she breathed. Then she caught herself and glanced at Nikos.

"In a good way, I mean," she said quickly.

"Don't worry," he said with a wink. "All my deep, dark stuff is in my paintings. In real life I'm an utter optimist."

"Oh, really?" Phoebe flirted.

"Let me prove it," Nikos said. "Coffee?"

"I just happen to have the next hour free," Phoebe replied. Her heart was zinging with excitement. Now there's really nothing that makes me happier than being in art class, she thought. Then she shot Nikos her most sparkling smile.

"Let me just wash this purple off my hands," she said with a laugh, "and we can get outta here."


Piper was sitting at the kitchen table, one of her favorite spots in the rambling, knickknack-filled Halliwell Manor. But the sunny space was no comfort to her this afternoon, because she was doing her most dreaded task -- the monthly accounting for her nightclub, P3.

She punched listlessly at her calculator. Then she turned to stare out the stained-glass window. With a sigh, she realized she was totally bored. All she did was work.

By night she played mom and manager to P3's employees. By day all her free time seemed to be spent saving innocents and fending off the constant stream of warlocks and demons intent on stealing the Halliwells' powers.

You know, Piper realized suddenly, even my power is kinda boring. Naturally I can freeze time. After all, I'm totally stagnating! Here Prue has a new, exciting career as a photographer, and Phoebe is psyched to be a college student again. Plus, my sisters are both major man magnets.

Piper cringed and thought guiltily about Leo, her White Lighter amour. Of course she adored Leo, but, well, it wasn't exactly normal to be involved with an eighty-something heavenly being. And a really busy one at that -- Leo was never around lately. Meanwhile, real guys, mortal guys never seemed to give her a glance. She was just Piper in the middle -- invisible, boring, blah.

"Hey, you'll never guess what happened to me today," called a voice, Prue's, from the front hall.

"I rest my case," Piper muttered. But then she tried to paste on a smile. It wasn't her sisters' fault that she was feeling restless and rueful.

"What happened?" she asked as Prue strode into the kitchen, tossing her purse onto the counter. She sat down at the table next to Piper, her cheeks flushed.

"Well, I -- "

Slam.

That would be Phoebs, Piper thought.

"Anybody home?" the youngest Halliwell called from the front hall. "You'll never guess what happened to me today!"

Phoebe bounded into the kitchen and headed straight for the refrigerator.

"I got a fabulous opportunity at work!" Prue said, leaning forward excitedly.

"I met a fabulous guy at school!" Phoebe blurted, pulling a hunk of cheese and a fruit bowl out of the fridge.

Then both sisters started talking at once. Piper looked from Prue to Phoebe and back to Prue. This is like watching a Ping-Pong match, she thought with a giggle.

As she watched her sisters fight for airtime, Piper shook her head. The three of us could not be any more different if we tried, she thought. Prue was raven-haired and pale-skinned. She was also prompt, professional, and totally serious. Meanwhile Phoebe, who'd gone blond, had a perma-tan and a hippie's attitude, right down to her flighty career goals and forgetful nature. Piper, with her long brunette locks and beautiful bone structure, was somewhere in the middle -- hard-working, a bit shy, and a total softie.

When you consider all our contrasts, Piper thought, it's amazing we're so close. But ever since they'd discovered they were the Charmed Ones, Prue, Piper, and Phoebe had been as thick as, well, a coven of witches.

Speaking of which, Piper thought, better tune in. She turned her attention back to her sisters. Somehow she managed to gather some basic information from the volley of conversation: Prue was trying out for the cover of 415, and Phoebe had met a hottie in art class. They had even had Date #1 already.

"His name is Nikos..." Phoebe said.

"My deadline's in ten days..." Prue said.

"Hey," Prue and Phoebe simultaneously blurted at each other. "Have you heard a word I just said?"

Piper burst into laughter.

"Let me fill you in," she said. While Phoebe began to chow down on some cheddar, Piper told her about Prue's big chance. Then she filled Prue in about Phoebe's new sweetie.

"Good job, Prue!" Phoebe exclaimed with her mouth full. "And I have just the model for your photo -- Nikos! The guy is so hot. Slap some Calvins on him and he'll be ready to go. And, of course, you'll need an assistant, right? I volunteer! This is such a perfect way to get to know Nikos better." Grinning with satisfaction, she took an enormous bite of an apple.

"Phoebe," Prue said with a laugh, "I don't even know what I'm going to shoot yet. Don't you think asking Nikos to model is a little premature?"

But Piper could see her little sister tuning Prue out. And if Piper knew Phoebe "I always get my man" Halliwell, she was already deep into plotting Operation Snag Nikos.

Piper couldn't resist emitting a little sigh at the thought.

"What's wrong?" Phoebe asked, slicing herself another chunk of cheese and sitting down at the table. Honestly, Piper thought, I don't know where Phoebe puts it all. She eats like a horse, and she has the figure of a fashion model.

"Nothing's wrong." Piper sighed, grabbing a piece of cheese for herself and munching on it wistfully.

"Ah, ah, ah, none of that," Prue piped up, leaning forward and peering into her sister's eyes. "Out with it. What's bugging you?"

"I just feel...tired, is all," Piper complained.

"And, a bit mired, if you want to know the truth. Both of you have all this exciting new stuff happening in your lives. And I've just got my same old P3 books. Face it. All work and no play has made me a very dull girl." Prue and Phoebe burst into laughter.

"Oh, thanks," Piper said sarcastically. "I can always count on my sisters to be supportive."

"I'm sorry, sweetie," Prue gasped, "but please -- you're a witch with super powers, you're a total babe, you run the hottest club in town, and you're boring? I think not."

"I know what you need," Phoebe burst out. "A night on the town. How about we make a date. As soon as Prue meets her deadline, we are schedulin...

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Title: Soul of the Bride
Publisher: Pocket Pulse
Binding: Digital
Book Condition: VERY GOOD

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