A gentleman would save her from her curse. He’s no gentleman.
A Reynolds Werewolf family story. (Drigan Werewolf Cousins)
Trapped by a djinn’s curse, Ruthie has spent the last seventy-five years unaging, never changing, in a box of recipes. This Christmas is her last chance to break the curse, or remain among the dusty papers and fading ink forever.
She assumes, when Lee opens the box, he’s there to help her escape the djinn’s magic. That’s what a gentleman would do, after all. Ruthie learns quickly that Lee is no gentleman, and his wolf-side is positively beastly.
And she might even like it.
75 Years Ago
The house rang out as Evelyn Silverstein’s younger sister sang a Christmas carol. The girl’s voice was like an angel’s, filling the house with light and music.
As was tradition after church, friends and family met at the Silverstein home for snacks and carols. All gathered around the piano as Mrs. Silverstein played and everyone would join in singing the Christmas tunes.
At least, almost everyone did.
Ruthie Martin shut the attic door, obscuring the noise as Evelyn fetched the bottle, and the two sat on the floor. Ruthie smiled, admiring her friend’s lovely pin curls. As usual, Evelyn’s hair was perfect, framing her face at the right angle, looking as though she wore a crown.
Somewhat fitting, since it was always Evelyn who seemed to have the best ideas.
Most of the time, anyway.
Tonight though, Ruthie’s heart hammered as she fiddled with the buttons on her polka dot dress. She tucked her leg under her lap as the two girls huddled together.
“Are you sure it will work, Evelyn?” Ruthie fluffed her skirt over her leg, her fingers trembling with nervous energy. “Can we trust him?”
“Well, no. But what fun would it be not to try?” Evelyn sat the silly little brass bottle she’d found at the auction in between them.
Who would have suspected it held anything more than dust?
She removed the quark and a blast of cool air slammed into both girls, blowing their skirts about.
Ruthie scrambled to keep her lap covered as the blue skinned djinn appeared in the room. He stretched like he had the first time he’d popped out of the bottle, his long black hair a sharp contrast to his blue skin. The moonlight outside caught the silver bracelets on his arms as he stretched out, flashing in the night. Silver pants covered his lower extremities, but his feet remained bare.
So odd that he never wore shoes, Ruthie thought. Yet the chill had never seemed to bother him.
“Ah, ladies. How lovely to see you both.” Malik sat between them on the floor, his legs crossed and his knees brushing Ruthie.
She pushed herself away from him. Regardless of what Evelyn said, she didn’t trust the djinn. She’d heard all the stories of old about the beasts--the djinn were not to be believed, no matter the deal they promised.
And magic always had a cost. No matter what they claimed.
The djinn noticed how she slid away and he raised his eyebrows with smile, like he found her need for propriety to be quite foolish.
“Malik,” Evelyn said. “You seem to be more chipper today than you were before.”
He smiled. “I assume you have conjured me to fulfill your wishes.” His voice shifted. “Unless you have other ideas,” he said, giving Evelyn a salacious grin.
Evelyn blushed and looked away, her gaze jumping to Ruthie’s.
Ruthie shied away from the djinn. Was this a good idea? She met her friend’s gaze, but her expression must have solidified Evelyn’s resolve.
Evelyn sat up straighter and tried to stare down the creature. “Are you prepared to give us what we want?”
“Of course.” His words were slick and smooth, and they made the hairs on Ruthie’s neck stand up. Regardless of Evelyn’s beliefs, she still did not think they should do this.
Malik must have suspected her concerns. “You have nothing to fear from me,”
“I am not afraid,” Ruthie said. She held her resolve, hoping the djinn didn’t see through her.
“Neither am I,” Evelyn chimed in, taking Ruthie’s hand.
Malik smiled. “Are you prepared to pay the price?”
Malik had been very specific about how they were to pay for their wishes. He promised them anything they desired, in return, they had to do something for him.
Something that made Ruthie very nervous.
Evelyn, however, didn’t seem to mind as much. “We are.”
Ruthie bit her lip, and when Malik’s gaze turned toward her, she nodded. Her gut screamed she should run and not let Malik grant her a wish, but she didn’t dare move and leave her friend alone with the djinn.
“Then let me hear your words, ladies.”
Evelyn squeezed Ruthie’s hand, the sensation soothing Ruthie just a little bit.
Together they could handle this.
After all, how much trouble could they get into with their wishes? They weren’t asking for fame or fortune.
Ruthie had told Evelyn all about the stories she’d always heard about djinn magic, and that it never was what one thought it would be, so they should be prepared for the worst, and consider that as they determined what they would wish for.
They’d talked for several days about what to ask for, trying to think of all the possible ways it could go wrong. They were pretty sure they’d worked out all the likely avenues of consequences.
They felt confident they knew what they were doing.
And now it was time.
So why did Ruthie suddenly want to stop?
Evelyn squeezed her fingers.
No chance now, she thought.
Ruthie turned to look the djinn square in the eye.
“We wish you free, Malik,” both girls said in unison.
The metal bracelets fell away from his wrists, disappearing in a spark of silver, and then a strange glow infused him--like a beacon in their room, but only for a moment. The room’s bright lights made Ruthie wince and she had to turn away.
When she glanced back at Malik, he seemed to be bigger, growing before them into an even larger man, levitating in the air.
Would he burst through the ceiling?
He tipped his head back and cackled, zipping around the room on a plume of magic that sent sand-like glowing sparkles everywhere.
And he suddenly stopped right near the small window.
Oh no, Ruthie thought. That cackle made her stomach roil. What have we done? She just knew he would escape while he could.
Joyous Christmas carols from downstairs crept into the room, the families below oblivious to the magic occurring in the attic.
She held Evelyn’s hand, terrified of what they had just released on the world.
With a thump, Malik hit the ground and strolled back over to where they were sitting.
Ruthie glanced at the bottle he’d come from.
Could she put him back inside? What if she changed her wish? She glanced at Evelyn. “We shouldn’t do this,” she whispered, her hand over her friend’s ear so he wouldn’t hear.
Evelyn rolled her eyes.
Malik must have recognized the dissention. His eyes sparkled with malevolence. “Now ladies, you had wishes, I believe.”
Ruthie shook her head.
Evelyn squeezed her hand. “See, it will be fine Ruthie. He didn’t run away.”
Which had been one of Ruthie’s fears--if they released him first as he demanded, he would disappear and be gone forever, unleashed on the world.
“I must fulfill my end of the bargain,” Malik said, raising his eyebrow to Ruthie. “What are your wishes?”
Evelyn gestured to the two of them. “We want to open a restaurant together.”
Malik raised his eyebrow. “You do not need me for that, miss.”
“But with your magic, our restaurant will be irresistible,” Evelyn said. “I wish for the ability to always know the way to make my business a success, regardless of the circumstances.” She sat taller as she spoke.
Her family owned a hardware store, and while it was doing well, her parents fretted over every little thing, terrified they’d make a mistake and end up having to sell their store.
Evelyn didn’t want that worry.
Malik raised his black eyebrow and then turned his gaze to Ruthie. “And you?”
Ruthie had thought long and hard, and after watching her grandmother’s mind slip away over the years, unable to remember how to make traditional family favorites such as their stollen bread, Ruthie knew what she had to ask for.
“Well, a restaurant is as only as good as its food. I know how to cook, so I only wish I never forget how to make the recipes.”
Malik nodded, and his gaze darted from one to another. “I see you ladies have put a great deal of thought into this. I admire that, not picking out of greed, but out of necessity.”
The girls glanced at each other, and Evelyn smiled at Ruthie.
Maybe this would work out okay, after all, Ruthie thought. Maybe all djinn weren’t monsters, like her grandmother had always told her.
Could it work out? A deal with a djinn?
Then Malik’s face transformed, revealing a sly, evil grin.
Ruthie’s hands started to shake.
“Too bad you did not think about all the possibilities.” He started waving his hands in the air.
Chills ran over Ruthie.
“What do you mean? We thought of everything,” Evelyn said. “We did as you asked, we freed you. Now you have to grant our wishes.”
“And I will. I most certainly will. You will be an incredibly talented business woman, Evelyn. None will be your equal. But it is lonely, being the best.”
Evelyn blinked. “Wait, what do you mean?”
Malik continued like he didn’t hear her, his gaze landing squarely on Ruthie. “And Ruthie, I promise, you will never forget a recipe.” Fog danced around the bottle Malik had been in.
Steps on the stairs made the girls turn toward the door.
“Ruthie!” Evelyn cried.
The last thing Ruthie remembered was seeing her mother open the attic door, just as the magic sucked her into a small metal recipe box.
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