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He leaned forward, focused intently on her eyes, as if by looking hard enough he could fit inside her mind. Could he? Had he already? She swallowed but her throat stuck.
“I suppose it was the sight of that undiscovered treasure that did it,” he said. “I once lived in a city of gold. I built Solomon’s temple with my hands and my magic and the sheer force of my power. I once slept upon a bed of gold and silk and perfume. I love luxury, love it to the point where I’d happily let it consume me if it could.”
The look in his eyes grew distant, unfocused, as if he’d been momentarily transported elsewhere. “Splendor and riches…I breathe their heady scents, roll them on my tongue. The other night had a tremendous impact upon me.”
Faintly alarmed by his intensity, she struggled to tamp down a growing sensation low in her belly. Her body responded to his desire with one of her own and she fought to suppress it. She couldn’t help but remember the dream, the scent of his skin so real, so recent.
Abruptly she lifted her knee into the bottom of her desk, catching the sharp edge of the center drawer with precision. The pain that sparkled down her knee into her shin gave her what her dwindling self-control denied: focus. “I didn’t know that it would affect you like this.”
“You did.” His voice was little more than a growl. “You knew and you willingly participated.”
“No.” The ease with which he had slipped into this dark mood alarmed her. Her heartbeat picked up, responding to the hard heat in his eyes. “I didn’t know.”
“Then your little lap-dance—I’m sorry, treasure chest-dance—wasn’t meant to enflame me further?” Tiny blue flames appeared to dance within his pupils, swaying in time to the rise and fall of his chest.
She pushed back in her chair. “I’m sorry for teasing. I didn’t mean—”
He stood and began to pace.
“You tricked me into granting you a wish. There is something you should know about the djinni, Tamarinda.” He paused and swung a heavy-lidded look at her. “We don’t like to be manipulated.”
“Burnsie, I assure you—”
“I must say, you were quite adept at it. I didn’t think you were capable of such scheming.”
He stopped and dropped his palms flat on her desk with a slap, leaning until his face was only a few inches from hers. “I love when you call me that. Time you find out the true meaning of my name.”
That gave him pause. He straightened but his expression didn’t change. “Oh, my. The serious voice. Am I in trouble?”
She gulped against the tightness of her throat and lined her voice in steel. “You go too far.”
The warning slid right over him as if she’d never spoken. Shaking his head slowly, a terrible glee sparkling in his eyes, he swiped his tongue across the tips of his teeth. A predator. “Not as far as I could.”
Again, a flash of her dream. She had a pretty accurate idea of how far he could go because she’d already gone halfway there with him. She rubbed her wrist, feeling the phantom sensation of his grip. A dream, she reminded herself. Her dream.
His expression darkened. “I feel it only fair to warn you that a djinn under contract will often do anything to get out of it. We don’t like to feel we’re indebted to anyone. It makes us. . . rather temperamental.”
“More so than usual?”
“Oh, yes. You haven’t yet seen the smoke, much less the fire.”
She chewed her lip, wishing there was a way to rewind the whole meeting. This is not how she expected her day to start. “I don’t like this at all. You don’t like owing me a wish? You want me to end the contract? Fine. I wish you’d knock it off.”
He sat down and crossed his arms. “No.”
“No?” She scoffed. “Some genie. I make a wish and you say no.”
He narrowed his eyes and smiled a devil’s smile. “You used your wish already.”
“When did I do that?”
“When you dreamed of me.”
Her heart constricted once before jack-hammering against her ribs, and a flush scalded her throat, spreading up into her cheeks. She felt as if someone had caught her doing something wrong.
He arched a single brow and adjusted his cuffs. “I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. You are a lot more engaging in your dreams. Awake, you seem emotionless by comparison. Why do you counsel emotionally disturbed people if you—”
“Stop. Stop right there.” She was reacting—violently—and she clawed at the shreds of composure. He was only transferring. He had to be. He couldn’t really know. It was difficult to think past the heat in her cheeks. “I don’t allow this sort of—intimidation in my office.”
“Then where will you allow it?” His tones curled darkly around the cloying words. “I told you, I am enjoying these physical manifestations. I cannot stop desiring you now.”
“Admit your feelings. Admit you have them.”
She unbuttoned her collar, feeling constricted. “I’m sorry, Mr. Burns. Our time is at an end.”
“The hour has barely begun, Tamarinda.”
She summoned the last reserves of the therapist who had never before lost a power struggle. All her professional conduct, all her authority—she threw that weight behind her words. “Our contract is ended.”
“You may have used your wish but that doesn’t mean I am through with you.”
“As a client, you are. I release you from my care.” She opened his file and scrawled her name across a form stapled to the back cover. “Please leave.”
A look of incredulous outrage crossed his face. “You can’t banish me.”
She pressed the intercom button.
“Yes?” The receptionist’s bright voice responded immediately.
“I’ll go.” He spoke quietly so as not to be overheard by the receptionist. “If that is what you wish.”
She lowered her chin, unwilling to give in to his sudden show of softness. “Don’t worry about what I wish. Just go.”
He looked long and hard at her, his eyes and tight mouth struggling to convey an unspoken protest.
She looked out the window and shut him out.
Was he regretful? Was he angry? Of course he was. Knowing him, he was furious, first and foremost, even if it wasn’t the heart of what he felt. And that was it, wasn’t it? He felt with his heart, he spoke with his heart, and something inside her heard him as she could hear no other.
It didn’t matter what expression he wore. She had to let him go.
He left without another word.
She spent the rest of the hour holding her temples, berating herself and suppressing a strange stinging sensation in her eyes. Not tears, but closer than she’d ever come to them in her entire life.
Damn genies. Damn their hot tempers.
Damn herself for falling for him.
Social worker Tam Kerish can’t keep her cool professionalism when steamy client Mr. Burns kindles a desire for more than a client-therapist relationship—so she drops him. However, they discover she’s the talisman to which Burns, an immortal djinn, has been bound since the days of King Solomon…and that makes it difficult to keep away from him.
Ethical guidelines are unequivocal when it comes to personal relationships with clients. However, the djinn has a thawing effect on the usually non-emotive Tam, who begins to feel true emotion whenever he is near. Tam has to make a difficult choice: to stay on the outside, forever looking in…or to turn her back on her entire world, just for the chance to finally experience what it means to fall in love.
About the Author
Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction author from northeastern Pennsylvania. Krafton’s first novel, Bleeding Hearts was published in 2012 as part of a three-book urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press). An urban fantasy novella, Strangers at the Hell Gate, was published by Wild Rose Press in 2013. Her latest book, Words That Bind, won first place in the HeRA RWA “Show Me the Spark” 2013 competition; it is also available through Wild Rose Press as an October 2014 release.
Krafton also writes New Adult speculative fiction novels under the pen name AJ Krafton. Upcoming titles include The Heartbeat Thief, Face of the Enemy, and the award-winning Takin’ It Back. She is part of a YA/NA collective known as the Infinite Ink Authors.
In addition to novel-length fiction, Krafton enjoys writing poetry and short prose, some of which earned distinctions in various writing competitions. One of her poems was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She’s a proud member of Pennwriters, Romance Writers of America, and Pikes Peak Writers. Krafton is also a staff blogger for the Query Tracker Blog.
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