Margaret’s focus was interrupted by the entrance of the touring group into the large kitchen. While the tour’s route was corded off by red velvet rope from the rest of the kitchen, the voice of the tour guide, Janean, retrained Margaret’s attention from the cookpot of what would be apple butter onto the new arrivals.
Without thinking, she counted the number of band aids in the group of fifteen. 1, 2, 3, 4…7 . Seven. Not too bad for the first tour of the day. She looked at the recipients of the cuts, noting sadly that one of them was a woman who looked about ready to give birth. Glancing to her sister, Gretchen, they caught each other’s bright green eyes at the same time, exchanging pitying frowns in regard to the pregnant woman.
“Hey! Are you the Dragonswans?” The voice that interrupted their moment was loud, raucous, and male.
Margaret turned to him. “Yes we are,” she signaled to one of the sous chefs to take over her pot. The kitchen was buzzing with activity getting the harvested apples preserved in one form of another. She walked toward the man who possessively held the pregnant woman’s arm in his meaty fist.
He jerked the woman roughly once Margaret was only a few feet away. “Look at this! She cut herself on your stupid knife in the orchard. You’re going to have to pay for this.”
The woman gave the man a shocked look. “It’s fine, Junior. It’s just a—”
“Shut up, Lee!” Junior growled, jerking the woman’s arm again.
Cowed, the woman hung limply from his fist and stared at the floor at Margaret’s feet, while the man gave Margaret a creepy once over. Today was the first day of the October festival and Margaret had dressed for the occasion in a bright green peasant blouse matched to pumpkin themed leggings under a bright orange tulle skirt.
Margaret was about to protest when her peripheral vision clouded with a dark mist and the tell-tale signs of a visitor popping into their kitchen. She flicked her wrist and suddenly the room became silent and still except for her sister and their visitor.
“Hey!” Gretchen protested the freezing of the room and its occupants, but quickly stopped short when she realized they had company.
Margaret looked at the new arrival and smile at him. He appeared to them as a small red-winged, fire-breathing, Chinese dragon. His claws clicked the tiles beneath him as he slid along the floor to the feet of the pregnant woman. Margaret watched him carefully when his tongue flicked out like a snakes, tasting the woman’s essence. While she had learned from a young age that this creature was indescribably unique, his behavior at that moment was completely new to her.
“What is it, Long?” she asked, examining the stilled woman more thoroughly.
The dragon lifted his head to her and winked before transforming into the archetype of Asian masculinity. “She made the sacrifice and called to me,” he explained, embracing Margaret with a chaste kiss before pulling Gretchen into a not-so-chaste embrace. “What should we do?” He asked her when she pulled away from his puckered lips, deftly avoiding a kiss she had been spurning for years, much to Margaret’s chagrin.
Unfazed by Gretchen’s snub, Long’s gaze slid toward the man with the meaty fists bruising the poor woman’s arm. Margaret followed his gaze and then looked at her sister.
Only ten minutes separated them in the age department, and while Margaret was older, Gretchen always acted as if she was. “You are absolutely not going to do anything. You are going to tell us what she requested and then you are going to let us handle this.”
The dragon gave her a whimpering frown that even Gretchen couldn’t deny was sexy as hell. “Aww, come on, darling. This could be fun. She only wants to be free of this man. Don’t you think I could free her without you?”
Gretchen’s eyes narrowed at him in the way Margaret always referred to as steel-green-death. “Your idea of freeing her will more than likely cause physical harm to this man, and while I may entertain the idea of an abuser getting his just deserves, I would much rather do this the right way and put him behind bars for assault. So, you will let us handle this.”
Long sighed and gave her a cocky half grin. “One of these days, Gretchen, you will find yourself in need of my kind of help. I look forward to that day like a virgin to her first orgasm.” He winked when she blushed and disappeared from the kitchen.
Margaret gave her sister a sly smirk. “I wonder what kind of need he’s talking about,” she teased, unashamedly taking Long’s side in this back and forth between them.
Gretchen smacked her arm and huffed. “Don’t start on that again, Margaret. What are we going to do about this woman and him?” She waved a disgusted hand in the man’s general direction.
Margaret shrugged. “I’ll get her away from him and you can get security to escort him off the premises.”
Gretchen nodded. “That will work for now, but we’ll have to come up with something better soon.” Taking her place back where she was before Margaret stilled the room, Gretchen felt the slow crawl of dread climbing up her spine.
As soon as her sister was in place, Margaret flicked her wrist again, and the room was again buzzing with activity as if time had never stopped for them. Margaret immediately caught the woman when she stumbled, and pulled her away from her abuser. “Well, now, we can’t have anything bad happen to a woman with child. I’ll just take her to my physician and see what he can do for her,” she said, leading the woman out of the kitchen and leaving the abuser flabbergasted in her wake.
Before they were out of hearing range, the man started a ruckus in the kitchen, which Margaret felt sure Gretchen would use to have him escorted away.
“My husband—” the woman began, trepidation stalling her in her steps.
Margaret hushed her, rubbing her bruised arm. “Don’t you worry, sunshine. He won’t be on the property for long. What’s your name?”
“Peggy,” she answered, glancing behind them.
Margaret chuckled softly. “What a perfect name. Let’s get you settled in the guest suite and the physician will be in soon.”
“I really don’t need a physician, Ms. Dragonswan,” Peggy protested, but Margaret noted her steps as she followed did not falter for a second.
“Oh, sweetie, call me Margaret. I am certain that a little check-up from our doctor won’t do you any harm.”
Margaret gave Peggy a kind, almost ethereal smile and brought her to an over-sized door on the second floor of the mansion. Behind the door, Peggy audibly gasped when she saw where Margaret had taken her. The guest suite began with a comfortable sitting room filled with bookshelves, comfortable furniture and a small table with a lovely tea service. Apple butter sandwiches cut in perfect squares, apple tarts, and even a small tub of apple ice cream called to Peggy from the table.
“Darling, the table has been set for you, go ahead and serve yourself, I will be back shortly with the doctor.” Before Peggy could protest, Margaret held up her hand. “Don’t. You and the baby need proper care and since you cut yourself on our athame, you are now our responsibility.”
Peggy gave Margaret a weak smile. “Thank you,” she admitted at last.
Margaret gave her a quick hug and left her to fulfill her promise.