By Lauren Sweet
A nice, normal, boring life—that’s all Amber Polaski ever wanted. One where she’s not unchaining her flaky New Age mom from endangered trees, bailing her out of jail, or getting dragged to naked pagan rituals. But when Amber finds a sexy genie in her antique brass samovar, any hope of normal goes up in smoke.
It’s just one tiny little wish—to find her long-lost father. What could go wrong?
Plenty. Dad shows up, all right—with a computer drive full of stolen data and angry mobsters hot on his trail. Now Amber has Fugitive Dad holed up in her Manville, NJ duplex, fending off the Mafia on one side and the FBI on the other. And she has Jasper the genie lounging in her blue plush recliner, conjuring chocolate chip cookies and passing himself off as her boyfriend. While Jasper is trying to tempt Amber with more disastrous wishes—and his seriously hot thousand-year-old body—Amber and her mom are forced to fight off Mafia assassins with nothing but chutzpah and household appliances.
It’s time for Amber to call in the B-team: Iggy the homeless dwarf, Tim the ecoterrorist, and Wanda the Fairy Dogmother with her pack of Happy Puppies. Together, they need to save Dad before the Mob makes him disappear again—permanently!
When Amber came to, she was lying on the couch. Not tied up, not naked, not dead. All good signs. She opened one eye a tiny crack. The crazy genie man was sitting in her recliner, feet up, reading the newspaper. She closed the eye. Now what?
“I know you’re awake,” he said. The newspaper rattled.
Amber cracked her eye open again and watched his triceps ripple as he turned a page. Yowsah. Too bad the best-looking guy she’d met in, well, forever, happened to be an insane home invader. At least he hadn’t put her through the wood chipper. Yet.
“You’re faaaakinng,” the man singsonged softly.
Okay, that was creepy. And obnoxious. Amber rubbed the back of her neck, which was still tingling. “What was that?” she asked. “Taser? Vulcan death grip?”
“I told you,” he said. “I have magic powers.”
Sure you do, buddy. She started to sit up and a wave of dizziness passed over her. She lay back down.
He lowered the newspaper and gazed at her. “Can I get you something?” he asked politely. “A glass of water?”
“I think I need a beer,” she said.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“I don’t have anything stronger.”
He righted the recliner and went into the kitchen. Amber sat up—carefully—and gauged the distance to the patio door. Could she make it?
Too late. The man returned with two bottles, already open. He handed one to her, and then sat back down in the recliner, looking much more comfy than he had any right to. He took a swig of beer and made a face. “You must buy the cheapest beer in the universe.”
Ungrateful lout. “If you wanted expensive beer, you should have broken into somebody else’s house.”
“I didn’t break in, o gracious one,” he said. “You summoned me.”
“Stop calling me that,” she said. “And I certainly did not ‘summon’ you.”
“What are you, five years old?” Amber snapped.
He grinned at her, then passed his hand over his beer bottle. Amber heard it fizzing. The man-who-was-not-a-genie took another sip and looked much more satisfied.
Amber frowned. “What did you do to your beer?”
“Improved it,” he said.
Amber stalked over to him and took the bottle out of his hand. At least if she drank his, she’d know it wasn’t drugged. She took a sip and choked, almost spraying the crazy man with her mouthful of beer. She checked the bottle. The label was her brand. The beer was not. It was rich, mellow, and expensive. Imported.
“Where did you get this? Not in my fridge.”
He raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Magic powers,” he said. “Believe me now?”
“No.” She handed back her own bottle of cheap domestic and returned to the couch.
The not-genie looked affronted. “Hey! You took my beer.”
“It’s my beer,” Amber informed him. “My house, my recliner, my beer.”
Heaving an exaggerated sigh, the not-genie waved his hand over the second bottle. It fizzed. Amber got up, went over, and tasted this one. Not the cheap beer she’d handed him.
Holy cannoli. Amber checked around the chair and behind the end table, looking for the bottles he’d switched out. Nothing. She tasted the beer again, and stared at him. He smirked again. “I’m an all-powerful—”
“Genies don’t exist.”
He spread his arms wide. “And yet here I am, in all my glory.”
“You’re not glorious. You’re delusional.” Not entirely true. He was delusional, but he was also fairly glorious. In a disturbingly hot, I-could-go-postal-and-break-you-in-half-any-second kind of way.
He sighed. “It’s always so tedious getting beyond the shrieking and disbelief,” he said. “You saw me improve your beer. I’m real. Can we move on to the good part?”
Amber refused to give in. The world had rules, and they didn’t include magic. “Any stage magician can do that beer trick,” she said. “You’ll have to do better than that.”
The not-genie narrowed his eyes at her. Uh oh. She’d made him mad again. Not a good plan if he was a crazy man. For that matter, not a good plan if he was an all-powerful genie.
He picked up an ugly big-eyed ceramic cat from the end table next to him and threw it in the air. “Hey!” Amber snapped. “That’s my—”
The cat reached the apex of its flight, and the not-genie pointed his index finger at it like a gun. The cat shattered.
“—grandmother’s,” Amber finished. Ceramic shards rained down on the coffee table.
The not-genie cocked an eyebrow at her. “Oops.”
She glared at him. Jerk. Just because her ornaments were tacky didn’t mean he had the right to destroy them. She started scooping up the shattered bits.
He made a peculiar sweeping gesture. The cat pieces slowly rose in the air. They swirled over to the man’s outstretched hand, rearranged themselves, and fused back together in a perfect whole, settling gently into his palm. He held the restored cat out to her.
Amber thought she might pass out again. She sat suddenly down on the couch.
“Put your head between your knees. Breathe.” The genie hit the lever and tilted the recliner back, crossing his legs. Amber, head on her lap, twisted her neck so she could look at him. He was wearing off-brand running shoes with scuffed bottoms. Amber wondered fuzzily how he managed to wear out his shoes while riding around in a brass samovar.
At that moment, Amber realized that she’d somehow accepted the impossible. There was an honest to God genie sitting in her recliner.
Lauren Sweet was born and raised in New Jersey, spending her formative years sneaking books under her desk to read during math class. After working in business administration for way too many years, she finally escaped to Alaska and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Lauren now lives near Portland, OR, and is a freelance writer and editor. Her other esoteric skills include astrology, figure skating, and the ability to do a perfect split.
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