Djinn and Tonic

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Djinn and Tonic

An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication www.ellorascave.com ISBN 9781419921049 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Copyright © 2009 As

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An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication

www.ellorascave.com

Djinn and Tonic ISBN 9781419921049 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Djinn and Tonic Copyright © 2009 Ashlyn Chase Edited by Helen Woodall Cover art by Syneca Electronic book Publication April 2009 The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502. Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

DJINN AND TONIC

Ashlyn Chase

Dedication Dedicated to Steve for being my everything

Trademarks Acknowledgement The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Dockers: Levi Strauss & Co. Harvey’s Bristol Cream: John Harvey & Sons Limited Styrofoam: Dow Chemical Co.

Djinn and Tonic

Chapter One “I can’t believe we got fired.” Misty’s shoulders slumped as she swigged her third umbrella drink at their favorite Chinese restaurant. “Those idiots have no idea how to run a TV station. That’s all there is to it.” Justin pointed to her nearly empty glass with his beer bottle. “Hey, how many of those have you had?” She shrugged. “Does it matter?” “Only if I have to carry you home.” Her spine stiffened. “I’ll have you know I can drink you under the table! And for your information, I’m perfectly capable of walking home on my own foo teet!” Justin blinked. “Did you just say ‘foo teet’?” Misty’s fair complexion reddened. She hid her mouth behind her hands and giggled. “Okay, Misty, dear. I’m shutting you off.” “Hey! Who do you think you are, buster? I just lost my job producing one of the highest-rated cooking shows on television. And I was told I’d never work in the industry again.” She hurled the little umbrella at him and tossed back the rest of her Mai Tai. Justin removed the umbrella from his lap and chucked it onto her napkin. “That’s ridiculous. We can work anywhere we damn please.” “Yeah, like Big Mart.” She slammed her glass on the table. “Waiter…” she yelled. “I’ll have another.” “Don’t do this. You’ll wish you’d listened to me when you wake up with a nasty hangover tomorrow morning.”

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“Who says I’ll wake up tomorrow morning? I have nothing to get out of bed for.” “Misty, for God’s sake. Just because the execs fired us doesn’t mean life as we know it is over. We could start our own goddamn TV program if we wanted to. We don’t have to stay in New York, either. They can’t ban us from the whole world.” She leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms and smirked. “Oh yeah? Our own show? What kind of show would it be?” “I don’t know. Whatever you want it to be. Isn’t there anything you’d rather produce than a cooking show?” “Yeah, I’d like to produce another Mai Tai. Waiter! Waitress! Anybody?” Justin threw his hands in the air. “Fine, enjoy your pounding headache.” “I never get headaches.” “Never?” Justin reflected on all the times his ex-wife claimed to have headaches as she crawled into bed. “Nope. I mean, yup, never.” Justin barely heard her continue their conversation as he imagined her being up for a romp any time he initiated one. Maybe she’d be the initiator. Oh… Wouldn’t that be a nice change? He pulled himself back to the moment and listened to her say, “You know what? I could produce a show like a cooking show, only with drinks. Not the same old stuff. We’d invent new ones. It could be a nighttime show, set up like a party. You could be the on-air bartender. Wouldn’t that be fun instead of always being behind the camera?” “And how would I know what to mix together?” “I could invent and teach you the new stuff since I’m a conifer… I mean a conish… Oh hell, call me a lush if you want to—but I’m not.” “Of course not. I know tonight you’re upset. It’s different from going out after work on Friday night for a celebratory Mai Tai.” “You can say that again.” 6

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He placed his hand over hers. “Listen, Misty. I don’t want to worry about you. Please let me walk you home.” Having always had a secret crush on Misty, a pleasant vision popped into Justin’s head. Her long brunette hair splayed out on a pillow. Her sparkling blue eyes staring up into his. Her naked body undulating beneath him. He had to tamp down the image before he stood and walked her home, that was for sure. “Fine. I gotta pay my tab.” She started to get up, swayed and plopped back down, hard. Oh boy. “I’ll get it on the way out. Just let me finish this beer.” “Okay.” “What if you can’t get backing for the drink show, what else would you like to make a TV show about? Do you have any hobbies? A secret passion?” She gave him a sly smile, as if she knew something he didn’t. “Secret passion, huh?” Whoa. She couldn’t feel the same way about him, could she? “Ah… Yeah. Why not?” Justin asked, hopefully. “There must be something you’ve always wanted to do. Now’s your chance.” She tilted her head and gave him a look that dared him to go for it. “Hmm… Maybe we can go back to my place and discuss it over a nightcap?” Justin chuckled. Making his earlier vision come true might be easier than he thought. But she was under the influence of alcohol and he didn’t want her to wake up with regrets, as well as a hangover. “I’ll come over if you’ll make coffee.” “Wimp.” She grinned. Okay, she was definitely flirting with him. What an opportunity! He couldn’t take advantage of her, though. A five-year friendship was too special to throw away for one night of sexual pleasure brought on by artificially lowered inhibitions. But maybe, just maybe, their friendship would survive. Now that they no longer worked at WLXA,

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there was always the possibility of taking it to the next level. Nothing good comes without risk. Justin stood and held a hand out to her. “Ready to go?” She nodded and gripped his hand as she got up, wobbly legged. “I am if you are, big guy.” She delivered the same come hither look and his cock grew. Quickly, he grabbed his trench coat off the wall hook and shrugged into it, grateful to hide the effect she had on him. He tried to help her with her leather coat but she missed the sleeve twice. “Fuck it. I’m warm enough,” she said. Justin shook his head. “It’s getting cold out there. Come on, one more try.” She squinted at the ceiling and inhaled a long breath. Then she struggled into her coat and said, “Thank you but I can take care of myself, you know.” Justin didn’t know…and he was determined not to let her self-destruct over an unfair firing. And all he did was defend her. Who knew the executives were so easily ruffled? She staggered up the concrete steps to the icy sidewalk, gripping his arm. “We can do this, Misty. Call me an optimist but this change might be the best thing that ever happened to us.” “‘Nother words, you wanna make medicine outta poison ivy,” she slurred. “Something like that.” Taking a chance, he added, “And we could do it together.” She chuckled. “You said we could do it together. Sorry. I’m fuckin’ horny for some reason.” Justin focused his gaze skyward and prayed to the stars for strength. If he didn’t push her into her apartment, tear off her clothes and have his way with her on the nearest level surface, it would be a miracle.

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They passed a bum who huddled against a brick building, shivering. “Can you spare some change, good people?” For some reason Justin couldn’t explain, he stopped. Apparently, Misty took it as a cue to dig into her pocketbook for her wallet. Justin clamped his hand over her arm. “No. Don’t give him money. He’s only going to spend it on booze.” “Like I wasn’t?” She licked her lips and said, “Yum, rum.” Oh man. He had better uses for that tongue. And even though that wasn’t the most sensitive thing she could have said, it didn’t dampen his libido any. Justin removed his trench coat with the warm, quilted lining and handed it to the stranger. “Here. You look cold.” The man’s eyes opened wide as he accepted the gift. “Thank you, sir. You’re a kind and generous person. I wish I could do something for you to show my appreciation.” Misty swayed and grabbed Justin’s shirtsleeve to steady herself. Then she focused on the unfortunate street person. “You’re very well spoken for a man of your, um… You know. Your obvious, um…” “Station in life, ma’am?” He bailed her out and Misty nodded silently. “I lived a very different life once. I’m afraid I made some foolish decisions and invested everything I had in a get-rich-quick scam. My wife kicked me out, divorced me and now the only comfort I can find is at the bottom of a wine bottle.” “I’m sorry,” she said, barely above a whisper. Her mood had certainly sobered even though her blood alcohol level couldn’t have dropped much in the last few seconds. The gentleman brightened. “But maybe my luck is changing. You bring me hope that there are still good people in the world. You two are a lovely couple. Perhaps I’ll meet a good woman and settle down again someday. If only…”

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Justin smiled and pressed his hand against the small of Misty’s back to signal it was time to leave. They had only walked a couple of steps when the man said, “Wait.” He pulled a bottle from the sidewalk behind him and held it out to Justin. “I do have something I can give you for your compassion. Here. Take it.” It didn’t look like any wine bottle he’d ever seen before but Justin realized what the man was trying to do and it moved him. He was giving up the only crutch he had left. Perhaps he was ready to make a new life for himself. Much like he and Misty needed to do now. The gentleman slipped into Justin’s warm coat and winked. “If you need me, I’ll be at the state-sponsored shelter and detox. The name’s Starr. Faustus Starr.” The man shook their hands and ambled off in the opposite direction. Was it just his hopeful imagination or had they changed this man’s life in the last five minutes? Misty stared up at him, her eyes shimmering. “I think I love you, Justin Hayes.” The impact one person can have on another suddenly struck Justin in his gut—or was it his heart?

***** Misty unlocked the door to her apartment and held it open so Justin could come in. “I can’t stop thinking about that man.” “Faustus Starr?” She nodded. Something about the gentleman just didn’t seem right and she couldn’t put her finger on it. It wasn’t just his polite manner and educated speech. “That’s a strange name, isn’t it?” Justin shrugged as he followed her inside. “A strange name for a strange man.” “He struck you as odd too, then?”

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Misty hung her coat in the front closet and reached for Justin’s before she remembered he had given it away. “Oh, you must be cold. Want to make a fire in the fireplace?” “You mean it works?” “Well, the damper’s closed but if you can open it, smoke won’t pour into the living room.” Justin kneeled in front of the hearth and pulled on the handle that sometimes stuck. This time it didn’t, much to Misty’s delight. A nice, romantic fire and maybe a salvaged evening would improve her mood. “Do you have any newspaper and kindling?” “Newspaper I have, but no kindling.” She scurried to the kitchen to retrieve the old newspapers she kept next to her recycling bin. On her way back, she detected some splintering noises and noticed Justin whacking away at a log with a pocketknife, making his own kindling. What a resourceful guy. He might just be able to make a TV program from nothing after all. Misty had never had him over when he was married. Even though they were friends, she was well aware of their mutual attraction. She had avoided poaching on another woman’s territory all these years and had no intention of doing so, even for someone as wonderful as Justin. Now that he was free with no help from her, hunting season was officially open. She left the newspapers beside him and went to open a bottle of wine. Wait. He had said yes to coffee. Could she conveniently forget that? Would he think she was addicted to alcohol, like Faustus? Her only recourse was to offer and see what he’d say. “Can I warm you up on the inside with a glass of wine?” “Not from that thing, I hope.” He nodded toward the dirty bottle he had set on the coffee table.

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She grinned, “I wouldn’t do that to you. I have some sherry…” She tipped her head innocently, despite knowing sherry contained a higher alcohol content than other wines. “Okay, then. I’ll have a glass.” In her kitchen, she poured a wineglassful even though she had small sherry glasses in one of her cabinets. Available men didn’t last long in this town. If all went well, she’d seduce Justin Hayes with a little help from some Harvey’s Bristol Cream—tonight. When she returned with two wineglasses in hand, the scene that greeted her warmed her inside—and it wasn’t from the fire. Justin lay in front of the crackling fire, mesmerized, leaning on his elbow. His tight butt faced her. Mmm… He must not have realized she was there, so she looked her fill before interrupting his thoughts. Finally he twisted around and smiled at her. “Here. I think you’ll like this,” she said, strolling over to him. He lifted his muscular torso and settled on the rug, cross-legged. Misty lowered herself to her knees and handed him a glass. Settling in next to him, she watched as he took his first sip. “This is good,” he said, sounding surprised. “Yeah. Sherry makes a good nightcap.” “Isn’t sherry a little old lady’s drink?” Misty figured those little old ladies knew how to get the best buzz for their buck but simply said in her sexiest voice, “Do I look like a little old lady?” Justin’s eyes traversed her body in overt appreciation as he swallowed a mouthful. “No, you certainly don’t.” He reached out to brush the stray bangs that always fell into her eyes and swept them out of her way. “I know long bangs are sexy and everything but I want to see you.” She smiled and closed her eyes enjoying his touch. “Uh…Misty?”

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“Yes?” she answered, hopefully. He hesitated a moment, as if making an important decision. “I’ve never told you this but I think you’re one of the most beautiful women I know. Both inside and out.” Her heart leapt at the compliment. If only he knew what was going on inside her at that moment. She couldn’t help the grin that spread slowly across her face. “I’ve always thought you were pretty special inside too. And gorgeous on the outside.” He laughed. “Gorgeous? That’s the alcohol talking.” “Maybe you’d rather I say you’re hot?” He shrugged. “No. Either one is great. I just never thought of myself as anything more than average or a little above.” “Oh, don’t be modest. You’re incredible.” She took a chance and ran her hand over his biceps. “You’ve kept yourself in good shape. And I like how your hair curls at the ends and looks a little wind-tossed.” “Yeah? I didn’t realize you noticed things like that,” he said. “Your face is what I’d call chiseled. Very masculine. And your eyes…” She inhaled a deep breath and let it out on a sigh. “Cut it out.” He grinned and tipped his head slightly. “What about my eyes?” “Well, your lashes are so dark it almost looks like you’re wearing eye makeup, and I can’t even describe the color. Light amber brown with dark brown circles?” “My mother called them caramel on the inside and chocolate on the outside.” He chuckled. “She must have been hungry at the time.” “They’re probably your best feature. Other than your tight butt, that is.” She let him see her wicked smile so as not to be confused with his mother—at all. Thankfully, he laughed. Then he reached over and stroked her knee. “You’re good for my ego. It was a little bruised earlier today but I know we’ll be all right.”

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She sensed an internal pull toward him and followed her instinct. Closing the space between them, she hoped he felt it too. Luckily, he slipped his arm around her and let her lean her head on his shoulder. Both of them stared at the fire in silence until Justin made the first move. He tipped Misty’s chin up, gazed into her eyes for a moment and leaned down to kiss her. The kiss was perfect. Not too demanding, but sure. He captured her upper and lower lips between his a few times before slanting his jaw over her mouth. They opened to each other at the same time without any prodding. His hold on her tightened as their tongues explored. Misty’s desire exploded. She pushed her full breasts against him and the resulting tingle in her nipples triggered a flood of moisture between her thighs. He lowered her to the rug without breaking contact. Their kiss escalated to a feverish quality she hadn’t felt since adolescence. Hands got involved, stroking and squeezing. Eventually he pulled away only far enough to whisper, “I want you,” and then he shifted his lips to nibble her ear and neck. Her breaths came faster and her pulse pounded. She wanted nothing more in her life than she wanted Justin sucking her nipples, stroking her pussy and eventually burying his cock inside her. “I want you too, Justin.” He slid his hand over her breast and kneaded. “Are you sure? I don’t want you to wake up tomorrow with regrets.” “I won’t, I promise.” She opened the buttons of her silky white blouse and reached behind her to pop open her bra. He helped her shed her clothing and his eyes beheld her, almost reverently. “You’re more beautiful than I imagined you’d be.” “Really?” Where were the clever lines when she needed one? She couldn’t think of anything more cogent and it was time to stop talking anyway. He leaned in to kiss her again. She tugged his shirt and he explored the entire top half of her body with his

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nimble fingers and tongue. At last he helped her with his buttons, pulled his shirt free and tossed it aside. Before he could get back to what he was doing, Misty scooted down and zeroed in on his sensitive nipples, laving them with her tongue. He moaned as she dragged her tongue around each one a few times. At last he rolled to his side and cupped her head, kissing her mouth once more. She took the opportunity to cup and squeeze his erection through his pants, causing him to moan into her mouth. Before either of them had a chance to change their minds, they quickly shed the rest of their clothes and collapsed into another frantic embrace. They greedily kissed, nipped and sucked every reachable part of each other’s bodies. When Justin laved her ear and blew into it, a shiver of excitement shot through her. The fire popped and they didn’t even pause to see if an ember had landed on the floor. Misty wrapped her fingers in Justin’s hair and tugged as he licked her pussy. When he finally tickled her clit with his tongue, then sucked on it, she burst. Waves of heat and ecstasy crashed over her as if hurricane-force winds drove the sea over a storm wall. Frantically thrashing and screaming, Misty hit something with her foot and heard a loud crack. She hardly cared. Her intense orgasm stunned her with its amazing ferocity. Fireworks dwarfed the glow in the room. The climax seemed to continue forever with Justin somehow staying latched onto her nub. At last, she quivered, whimpered and stilled—and smelled smoke! “Jesus,” Jason muttered. Why had smoke filled the room so thickly she could barely see Justin wiping her juices from his face? Had fireworks actually exploded in her apartment? Of course not. She didn’t own any and nothing went boom except her body. “What’s happening? Did the rug catch fire?” “No.” Justin squinted, peering at the coffee table. “The bottle you knocked over must have been a smoke bomb. It’s coming from there.” “Are you sure?” 15

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“For lack of a better explanation.” The smoke began to dissipate and he glanced all around the apartment. “I don’t see any fire.” Suddenly a booming male voice said, “I certainly do! The two of you would have set the sheets ablaze had you made it to the bed.” Misty nearly jumped out of her skin and grabbed Justin’s arm. “Did you hear that?” He tensed. “I’d have to be deaf not to.” The disembodied voice laughed loudly, as if right next to them. Justin gathered a shaking Misty in his arms. “Do you have a visitor?” “No!” “Oh yes you do…” sang the voice. Justin stood, grabbed his pants and tossed Misty’s clothes to her. As soon as they had scrambled into them, he yelled, “Who and where the hell are you?” An evil-sounding laugh filled the room. “That’s for you to figure out—if you can.” Justin folded his arms across his chest. “Show yourself, coward!” A shadowy but brightly colored figure began to appear in the air as if ripples in a puddle. “You should not insult me, mortal!” boomed the larger-than-life stranger. Misty fainted.

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Chapter Two Justin lounged beside Misty on the bed. Not exactly the way he’d hoped to this evening but the start of their physical relationship was memorable—if he hadn’t hallucinated the whole thing. At last Misty opened her eyes and blinked. “What just happened?” “You passed out.” He tried to smile to reassure her but the effort failed. As she raised herself up on her elbows, her wild eyes darted around the room. “Holy crap. I must have had more to drink than I realized. I thought I… Never mind.” “What do you remember?” She gave him a wary look. “I was in the living room. How did I get here?” “I carried you.” He took a deep breath and asked, “Do you remember anything about a big, scary dude dressed like a genie?” She nodded. As much as he was glad he wasn’t the only one seeing things, Justin’s dread quickly overshadowed his relief. He hadn’t made this up. “I knocked the bottle off the coffee table, it broke and I think that’s when the genie showed up. Am I right?” “Yes.” She glanced around the room. “He sounded so evil. So, where’s the meanie genie now?” She slapped a hand over her mouth and trembled. “I forgot. We’re not supposed to insult him.” The imposing figure, now corporal and dressed in character with a white robe adorned by a purple and red sash trimmed in gold and a matching turban, appeared in the doorway. “That’s correct, Misty. Or should I call you Foggy?”

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“Hey, don’t insult her if you don’t want her to insult you.” The figure nodded. “Fair enough. But I would have expected you to remember your handsome lover giving you a mind-blowing orgasm first before you remembered little ol’ me.” She gasped. Justin leaned over Misty, attempting to shield her. “Exactly who are you and why are you here?” The genie bowed. “I am Abu of the Jinn. I am here to help you.” Misty peered around Justin and asked, “How? And why us? Why didn’t you help Faustus? He needed your help more than we do.” “Ah, yes. The previous owner of the bottle. He was greedy and whined a lot. He got what he deserved.” Misty frowned. “How can you say that? He was homeless.” “He wanted riches. When I explained that I could not simply produce money and mentioned that the United States Treasury frowned on that, he said he wanted the means to earn riches, effortlessly. Inevitably, he decided he wanted to own a winery. So—poof! I gave him a lovely spot on a grassy hillside with just the right amount of rain and sunshine where grapes would grow, and built him a winery. Then he began to complain that he needed grapes, barrels, a mansion, a staff, a bottling plant… The list went on and on until at last I told him he only had one wish left.” Justin interjected, “So the bit about three wishes is true?” Abu laughed. “No. I lied. Because of his ingratitude and the way he ordered me around like a slave, I had to get out of my obligation somehow.” Misty scrutinized him. “So genies can lie? I had heard they could play tricks. But outright lie?” “When necessary. He bought my bottle believing that all he had to do was ask and he’d have gold, women, luxurious vacation homes, yachts and an unlimited supply of

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wine. What would have become of his wife? His children? He didn’t seem to care about them.” Justin wrapped an arm around Misty and held her tight. “That’s not right.” He hoped she’d realize he’d never do that to her. “Quite so.” Misty slipped her arm around Justin’s waist and her other hand over his heart. “So what did he do when you told him that?” “He became angry and said he could do it all himself, then ordered me back into the bottle and corked it. Whatever he did after that is his own fault.” Without stopping for breath, Abu continued speaking. “You two entertained me. Not only that, but your man showed courage.” “But I didn’t. I fainted,” she murmured. “You need not worry about that. You’re only a female.” “Hey!” Justin clamped his hand over Misty’s mouth quickly and talked over her muffled indignation. “I don’t know when you last materialized but I should let you know that the world has changed in recent years. Women are considered equals and are quite brave now.” Misty bit Justin’s hand. “Owww! What was that for?” She tipped her nose in the air. “I can speak for myself, thank you.” Justin watched her from the corner of his eye and whispered, “Tactfully?” Abu shook his turbaned head. “Even if men and women are equals, they’re nothing alike.” Misty’s full lips scrunched into a thin line but she didn’t respond—thank goodness. “So, Abu, when was the last time you were out of the bottle?” He shrugged. “Not very long ago but time moves differently for me than it does for mortals.” “Who held the post of United States President at the time?” 19

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“Someone named Jimmy.” Justin raised his eyebrows and Misty’s mouth formed a perfect O. “That was back in the seventies!” Justin cried. “Yes, I believe so. How long has it been since then?” “About thirty years.” “No wonder I have a crick in my back. Although it’s not as bad as the two hundred years I waited while bobbing around in the ocean.” “How old are you?” Justin asked. “What year is this?” “Two thousand and nine.” Abu whistled. “Well, we must celebrate. I am one thousand and one years old.” “A thousand!” Misty cried. “And one,” he added, nonchalantly. Misty caught her breath. “How does one celebrate a birthday in your, um, culture?” “We don’t. I prefer how your culture celebrates the passing of years survived. With a cake and candles and presents.” Justin chuckled. “You want a birthday party?” “Of course, but I’ll settle for the cake and candles. I don’t really think you’d know what to buy for a millennia-old genie anyway.” “You’ve got that right. Besides, you could probably conjure up anything you really wanted.” Misty sounded pensive. “I can bake a cake if I go to the store first. I’m not a great cook but I could manage to make one from a mix.” “No need for that. There’s a cake for me in your other room now.”

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Justin and Misty stared at each other, wide-eyed, then bolted out of the bedroom, probably thinking the same thing. How long before a thousand and one candles burn the place to the ground?

***** When they had finished searching the small apartment and found no cake and nothing ablaze, Abu’s booming laugh reverberated around them. “Ha, ha. I like you two. So entertaining. Yes, I can see myself helping you out of your predicament.” Misty had just about had it with this imposing stranger and planted her hands on her hips. “Now wait a minute. You said you lie when necessary. What was necessary about that?” “I needed a good laugh. You would too if you were cooped up in a bottle for thirty or forty years.” Justin crossed his arms. “How exactly can you help us with our predicament?” “Almost any way at all, other than printing counterfeit money, as I mentioned before.” Misty began to hope he really could and would help them. She knew life could be so much more fun. And if Justin were there by her side… “So, Abu, if we wished to create our own TV show, could you find us all the particulars we’d need to do that and keep us healthy and happy until it takes off?” “Yes. I would be delighted to do so. But I must know what kind of TV show you want to create so I can search the world for the ideal circumstances.” She fixed her gaze on Justin, hopefully. “Don’t wish for anything yet, Misty,” he cautioned. “What do you want in return if you help us, Abu?” “As you pointed out before, there is nothing material you can give me. Your appreciation is enough.” 21

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“What does that mean? Are you talking about a mere thank you?” “That is all I ask,” Abu said and he bowed. “Justin? Can I speak to you in private?” Misty asked. “I shall leave you two alone for a few minutes,” Abu said and vaporized. Justin shook his head. “Misty, you can’t possibly be considering this.” “I am. Haven’t you ever heard of Karma? Our firing was unfair but suddenly we have a chance to do anything we want. We can use our talent and experience but for something more fun!” “I suppose we could. But do you trust Abu?” “I trusted our network and look where that got us? Look, if it doesn’t work out, we can always ask him to bring us back to square one. If all he wants is a little courtesy and appreciation, I can certainly handle that.” Justin eyed her warily. “Are you sure? Remember what finally tipped the scales at work and got you fired?” “So I uttered one little four-letter word. They never listened to anything I said. I hate having a good idea and being ignored like that.” “You dropped the F-bomb, Misty.” She shrugged. “If we run our own TV show, or maybe our own station, we can say whatever we want and no one can fire us.” “Let’s start small, luv. Better not bite off more than we can chew.” She threw her arms around his neck. “Then you agree! We can try my idea of a new beverage-mixing show!” She hugged him so hard he said, “Oomph.” Gazing up at the ceiling, he shook his head. “I may regret this but… Abu, you can come back now.” In a moment he reappeared with a poof, surrounded by a cloud of smoke. “What do you need?”

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“We want to try this idea I had for a TV show, Abu,” Misty babbled excitedly. “We need to set it up in a large venue with a bar that can be used as a TV studio. Somewhere not too far away, so we can go there to practice before each show. We’ll need a wellstocked bar, all the equipment and supplies plus a cameraman to make a TV pilot. Oh! And a studio audience! Very important. We need enthusiastic people who have time off during the day and are willing to watch our first show. They can try the samples at a party afterward.” “We don’t really need an audience for the pilot,” Justin said. Abu smiled. “Why not? I can do this easily and they will tell their friends all about it. I understand word-of-mouth advertising is the best.” Misty’s eyes brightened. “And the applause in the background will demonstrate how popular our show will be!” Justin’s nerves prickled and he began to pace. “There’s something wrong about this. I don’t know what but it just feels like something’s off.” Misty jammed her hands on her hips. “What’s off is you if you’re hesitating to grab this golden opportunity. You’re off your rocker.” “Leave everything to me,” Abu said. “You two get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow I will meet you back here and let you know what I have arranged for you.” Gazing up at Justin, Misty asked, “Will you spend the night? I have a new toothbrush my dentist gave me still wrapped in its plastic sheath. And, um… I have other sheaths too.” Since his cock hadn’t been satisfied and the pleading on Misty’s face seemed to promise more if he merely asked, his misgivings evaporated. He smiled. “Yes. I’ll stay.”

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Chapter Three Misty grinned as she moved to the far side of the bed, letting Justin slide in next to her. He headed right for her lips and feasted on them as if dying of starvation. His rockhard erection reminded her that even though he had slaked her immediate hunger, his had waited for fulfillment. Misty reached down to her own cleft and tested her wetness. Her fingers slid in easily. She managed to draw her lips a few inches away and whispered, “You don’t need to spend a lot of time making me wet, Justin. You’ve waited long enough.” “Are you sure? Because I don’t mind…” He slid his lips down her neck to her breast, and quickly latched onto the pebbled nipple. As he applied suction, Misty arched and moaned. “Oh, you’re so good at that.” His fingers found her labia and followed them up to her apex. She instantly responded with a jolt. He rubbed her clit until her core pulsed with need. “Justin. I need you inside me now.” As he leaned over her, he stopped short. “Condom?” “In the nightstand,” she said breathily. He found the foil packet quickly, tore it open with his teeth and held it out to her. “Would you like to do the honors?” “Absolutely.” She pumped his cock a couple of unnecessary times before she placed the latex over his cock head. “You’re killing me, Misty.” She grinned wickedly and rolled it on. “Just wanted to be sure you’re as ready as I am.” 24

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He loomed over her, positioned himself between her thighs and said, “Ready or not, here I come.” He entered her with his substantial cock more carefully than she’d expected and groaned. Misty whimpered. It had been too long and he felt so right seated inside her. “Are you all right, luv?” “Oh yeah.” “You sure?” “Absolutely.” “Thank God,” he said. “You feel so good around me.” He touched her lips with his and she kissed him hungrily. Pulling and thrusting silently, he filled her core with the most marvelous sensations. An involuntary, “Oh…” escaped from her lips as she concentrated on making love with the man she had longed for. His initial gentleness gave way to a more passionate pace and he rocked his lean pelvis into her mons. His pistoning stoked her inner fire with every thrust. Burning white-hot, she didn’t know how much more she could take without melting into a quivering puddle. Suddenly, she spiked into a volcanic burst, feeling a gush of hot lava as she came with sharp, repeated screams and shudders. Justin jerked against her several times and groaned. He must have ridden his release to the last aftershock. When he collapsed beside her, he breathed heavily, sounding as thoroughly spent as she was. Then he grasped her hand and kissed the back of it. After a short recovery, she asked, “Can I talk now?” “I don’t know,” he puffed. “Can you?” She chuckled. “Barely.” 25

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“What did you want to say?” “We came together. I think that’s a first for me.” He rolled up on one elbow. “Really?” He swept her hair off her forehead and kissed her there. “Well, let’s not make it our last.”

***** The following morning, while Misty and Justin sipped coffee and exchanged knowing smiles, Abu appeared. He seemed ridiculously cheerful. Abu waggled his eyebrows and grinned. “Did you two have a good night?” Justin, suspicious that they may have been spied upon, cleared his throat and tried to keep the conversation neutral. “We slept well, Abu. And how was your night?” “Oh, I didn’t sleep at all but the time passed productively. I have everything you need. You can film today.” Misty’s eyes popped. “Today? Like as in, right this very day?” Abu laughed. “Is there another today I don’t know about?” Misty reached across the kitchen table and grabbed Justin’s wrist. “How perfect is this? They think they can kick us to the curb, make our lives miserable and in less than twenty-four hours we’re ready to show ’em what we’re made of!” “Is that why you’re doing this, Misty? We don’t have to prove anything to anyone.” “I know, I know. It’s just that I felt so terrible yesterday and I’m so damn happy today—it’s as if, with Abu on our sides, no one can ruin us.” “I’m glad you feel that way, mortals.” Justin still sensed something off-kilter. It could simply be the swiftness with which this had all happened and he prayed that it was nothing more. Misty certainly adjusted quickly. Perhaps the older one gets, the harder it is to go with the flow.

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“Now, children, I suggest you get your ideas together this morning and have something ready to film this afternoon. The camera crew will meet us at one o’clock.” Misty stiffened. “Children? I’m twenty-seven and Justin here is… Well, I don’t know exactly. He never told me.” “He’s thirty-four. Considering I’m over a thousand, you seem like children to me. But if it bothers you, I’ll continue to call you mortals.” “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Abu,” Justin interjected. “Nothing screams crazy like claiming to be immortal.” “And we’ll have to get you some normal clothes if you want to blend in here,” Misty added. “Oh, very well. I will do my own shopping though.” “All right. You should probably wear a suit. You can pretend to be our agent or manager,” Justin said. “There are some very nice shops on Fifth Avenue that can tailor suits to fit you perfectly, but how will you pay for them?” “Never mind that. I will be back by noon looking as dapper as any agent or manager in New York.” “Be sure to let the salesmen help you but don’t use the word ‘dapper’,” Misty said. “You’ll come back looking like an English butler.” “Very well. What word shall I use?” “Say you want to look professional but not stuffy.” “Fine. I’ll be back soon. Now get to work!” In a flash, nothing remained of him but a tiny puff of smoke. “I can’t wait to see what he comes back with,” Justin said and rolled his eyes.

***** The two of them worked out a basic script in the living room then Justin returned to his apartment to dress. They had already showered together and found time for a little

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oral using the built-in seat. Misty’s future hadn’t looked this bright since graduating from college. Back then she had a rock-star fiancé and her degree in communications. Funny how the idea of moving in together and confronting real life spooked her boyfriend and dashed her dreams. Now she thanked her lucky stars they hadn’t gone through with what would have been a rocky marriage. Justin seemed so stable and solid. There was a man she could depend on to be there for her. Not that she should think about marriage already. Get a grip, Misty! He deserved a successful career and personal happiness as much as she did. If they found it together, great. If not, someone else would turn up for her. She stood in front of her closet, wondering how to dress. Should she go with the staid wool suit that she hated or something more fun? Starting up her own show, she could fashion herself any way she wanted. A cocktail show deserved a cocktail party dress. Black always looked good on television, so she reached for her go-to, little black chiffon dress and found her sparkly silver and crystal hoop earrings. Perfect. In the bathroom, she admired her outfit and grinned. Starting to do her regular makeup routine, she thought back to the endless fun she’d had playing dress-up as a little girl. Her makeup had to be more dramatic. She not only wanted to knock a producer’s socks off, she wanted to knock Justin right out of his brown leather Dockers. The doorbell rang just as she slipped into her cute but comfortable black pumps with metallic heels. Who knew if they’d show up on television but the pop of silver would be a nice touch if they did. She ran on tiptoe to the door and threw it open. “Misty!” Justin said. “You look… Well, you’re… God, you’re absolutely gorgeous!” She swiveled from side to side. “You think so?” He cast his eyes from her head down to her toes and up again. “Damn, woman. I’d have to be gay not to. No, gay guys would call you gorgeous too—or fabulous.”

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“Well, I wasn’t sure what to wear but I figured since we would be holding a cocktail party afterward…” “You’re perfect but now I feel underdressed.” Justin surveyed his gray suit, white shirt, red tie and black shoes. “You’re perfect. Any more dressed up and you’d be wearing a tux.” “I feel like I need one next to you. Mmm, mmm…” She kissed his cheek. “Come on in. Abu could show up at any time.” As soon as she had closed the door behind him, Justin enveloped her in his arms and planted kisses on her neck. “You smell wonderful too. Like cinnamon. Have you been cooking?” “Me? Cooking?” She chuckled. “No, why?” He brushed her lips with his and said, “Because I want to eat you.” She tingled, from his words as well as his caress. Then he took possession of her lips in a way that changed her shivers to burning heat. His strong hands traveled over her back with just the right amount of pressure, making her wish the fabric of her dress would simply disappear. Her skin prickled with the sensation. “Ah, my young lovers are at it again. How sad that I must interrupt.” “Oh!” Misty jumped, startled out of her reverie to see only the top half of Abu’s bare body. “Abu. You should give us some kind of warning when you’re about to appear.” “Now why would I want to do that? I love watching you two grope each other. But that doesn’t belie the fact that we must leave for the set in an hour.” Justin frowned. “Why aren’t you dressed in a suit? I thought you went shopping.” “I did. The tailor is hemming the pants to the right length as we speak. I simply popped back in to check on you and give you some time parameters. Are you ready?” Justin glanced around the room. “Where’s your telephone, Misty? I’ll call a cab to meet us downstairs in an hour.” 29

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Before she could answer him, Abu stated proudly, “A limousine will transport you. I took the liberty of arranging it. You two are going to be stars. You should ride in style.” Justin crossed his arms and frowned. “We shouldn’t be racking up unnecessary expenses yet. Who knows if any of this will pan out?” “Let me handle the expenses, Mr. Worrywart. I am, after all, your manager. Now, I’ll return from the tailor in, oh, about forty-five minutes. Is that enough time to, um— get each other nice and relaxed?” He angled his head toward the bedroom and grinned at them sideways. “I doubt we’ll have time for that, Abu. But we’ll be here when you get back.” “Darn.” He snapped his fingers and disappeared. “Justin? We do have time for a quickie.” “But won’t that ruin your hair and makeup?” Misty grabbed his lapels and yanked him toward her beautiful face. “See how much I care?” She gave him a quick, crushing kiss. Justin laughed. “You really don’t mind having to redo your hair and makeup? My ex-wife would have killed me if I touched her once she got all ready to go out.” Misty licked her lips and planted a big wet kiss on his, making a point to smear her lipstick back and forth across his mouth. “Misty! Cut it out, now I look like I’m wearing lipstick.” She pulled away a few inches and grinned. “Yup and it looks like my three-year-old niece applied it.” “Great.” He shook his head but Misty’s playful side charmed him. “Well, now that we’re both good and smeared, I suppose—” He didn’t have time to finish his thought. Misty grabbed his tie and launched herself at his lips. Damn, this woman could kiss! He returned her deep, lusty kisses

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until his cock strained against his pants. Maybe Abu was right. A brisk, robust screw might relax them. He throbbed as he pictured fucking her up against the wall. Surreptitiously, he rummaged around for underwear. No waistband, so no panty hose—only a string-like V from her hips to her crack. A thong. Fuck it, he had to have her. Scooping her up beneath the buttocks, he whirled and pressed her back against the living room wall. She hiked up her dress and wrapped her legs around his waist. Justin fumbled with his belt as Misty found his zipper. Her inhalations sounded like desperate little pants. He nuzzled her neck as he shoved the fabric of his slacks and boxer briefs out of the way and at last his liberated cock bounced up in rock-hard anticipation. “I didn’t bring a condom, Misty. Do you have any?” “In my purse. It’s on the end table.” Justin shuffled her over to the table and dipped her low enough to grab the strap. She fished inside and found what she sought. Tearing open the packet, she said, “Here. Cram it on. Quick.” “I need the wall again,” he muttered. She dropped her purse and he carried her back to where they’d been, before their responsible interruption, and anchored her against the wall. “Are you still ready for me?” “Oh yeah.” He pushed aside the tiny triangle of fabric and tested her wetness. His third finger plunged easily into her hot, slick channel. “Oh God, Justin. Hurry,” she cried! Gripping one thigh harder, he managed to roll on the condom and then tried to guide his cock around her thong. In utter frustration, he ripped it and thrust into her body. She gasped, then sighed. Without further preliminaries, he rocked against her as she engulfed his shaft and moved in rhythm with him.

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He couldn’t believe how horny he’d become over the last two days. And to think, she wanted him as badly as he wanted her. As they fucked, her passageway strummed his ribbed cock like a guitar and he suddenly knew the meaning of making beautiful music together. As if by magic, a tune began to play in the background. Something that reminded him of Italian gondolas. Too caught up in their glorious lovemaking, he didn’t care if it came from a neighboring apartment or somewhere closer. Perhaps someday he’d take her to Venice…and then all thoughts left him. His cock throbbed and demanded to go faster. He drove into Misty harder and she bucked her hips to meet the increasing tempo. Before he realized it, he was pounding into her. Misty’s moans escalated in volume and frequency. Breathlessly, he asked, “Are you all right there, sweetheart?” “Oh God. I’m fucking great!” Justin chuckled, “Yes you are.” “I’m close. Can you touch my clit?” Justin bowed his back while keeping his rhythm and found enough space between them to insert his inverted hand. He probed and when he found her swollen bud, he rubbed furiously. She jolted, her eyes scrunched shut and her labored breathing came in harsh gasps. “That’s it, babe. Come for me, Misty. Come all over my hard cock.” She writhed, muttered something incoherent then spasmed and cried out. Misty bounced against the wall in frantic jolts as her orgasm exploded. A couple more thrusts and Justin’s climax hit full force. He yelled, “Oh fuck!” and convulsed as he experienced his release. His head swam in ecstasy.

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As soon as he could open his eyes, he noted Misty’s skin, glowing from the effort. Her hair stood up in back where it had rubbed against the wall and he imagined her cream rolling down her inner thighs. “Honey, you’re a mess. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rough. You look like you’ve just been tossed around in a storm.” He lowered her to the floor, gently. She stood on shaky legs. “I think I was.” Then she giggled and he knew everything was all right. They’d clean up in a couple of minutes and maybe the afterglow would help calm their nerves.

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Chapter Four “What an ideal setting, Abu! It looks like it used to be a dance club but I don’t remember one being here.” “Oh, you must have just forgotten. Lots of hotels have dance clubs on their top floors.” “And I can’t get over how good you look all decked out in a pin-striped suit. You look like a movie star.” Justin envisioned him more like a gangster but quelled the urge to mention it and let Misty lay it on thick. He strolled over the gleaming hardwood, taking in the surroundings. Fully stocked bar. Check. Audience seating. Check. Camera equipment. Check. “It seems as if everything we need is in place.” “You did get a cameraman, right, Abu?” At last, Misty showed her practical side. “Of course.” Justin shrugged. “Maybe he should have hired an actor and let me be the cameraman. I’m not used to being on the air.” “Nonsense,” Abu said. “The onscreen chemistry between you two is exactly what your show needs. Sex sells, and the physical attraction between you is palpable. Play it up.” Justin wrapped an arm around Misty’s waist and snuggled her neck, nipping her ear. “I don’t know about that. We might wind up in a late, late, late night time slot.” She captured his head and cupped his face between her hands. “That’s okay by me. Just don’t smear my lipstick all over your face.” She barely touched his lips with the lightest of kisses. “I guess that warning will make me behave myself.”

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Abu laughed. “I really enjoy helping you. Now, if you need to rehearse, go right ahead. I’ll round up the audience members when it’s time.” “We’re really doing this, Misty. There’s no time to back out once the audience gets here.” “I know. I don’t want to back out. In fact, I can’t wait to get started. What a rush this is going to be!” “What if something goes wrong?” She circled him, a puzzled expression on her face. “What could go wrong? We have Abu. And just look at this place. It’s gorgeous. We don’t even have to create a fake view behind these windows. Tonight they’ll be filled with the twinkling lights of the city.” Justin didn’t want to rain on her parade but having Abu as their only backup plan had him sweating. And the bright lights weren’t even on yet.

***** Rehearsals had gone well. If you can call Justin appearing as stiff as a board a good sign. Abu suggested that Justin test the concoctions Misty had invented until they were sure the ingredients were perfectly combined to produce the best results. Abu’s ulterior motive was, of course, to extract the broomstick from his ass. By the time Abu returned from his audience-finding mission, the cameraman had arrived, set up, and both Justin and Misty were well lit—not only by the bright lights. Good. The audience he had been able to find on short notice could be a little sketchy. Hopefully, they’d never notice. Abu threw open the studio doors to hordes of unwashed, unshaven bums reeking of cheap alcohol. At least enthusiasm bubbled out of them. “Where’s the booze?” one of them yelled. “Yeah, can we go in now or what?” “Abu raised himself up to his full, intimidating height and announced, “First, we have some ground rules to cover.” 35

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A unanimous groan emanated from the group. Apparently they didn’t care for rules but Abu had to make them understand why they were here. “You know this is not just free booze, right? You need to do something to earn it.” “Don’t tell me you want me to look at a time-share,” someone said. Another one chuckled and added, “Yeah, last time they recruited me to do that, they kicked me out before the second glass of champagne. Wimpy stuff anyway.” Amid the shifting and fidgeting, Abu laid out the expectations. “You will sit quietly until I give you the signal and then you’ll clap. Can all of you do that?” “Ish there free boosh or not?” Obviously, one red-faced, swaying figure had already had plenty. Abu weighed the pros and cons of another set of hands adding to the applause or the possibility of a troublemaker. Then he chuckled mentally. What was he worried about? He could send the man to China if he wanted. “If you follow instructions you will be allowed to stay until the end, at which point in time everyone will receive the free samples.” “Sho, all we have ta do ish shit and clap?” “Uh…” Abu’s hesitation must have pointed out exactly what the man had said since the crowd roared, laughing. The noise caught Justin and Misty’s attention and they squinted into the bright camera lights and tried to see their audience members. “Is that our audience, Abu?” Justin called out, shading his eyes. “Yes and they are already in an upbeat mood. I was just telling them what to do.” “Great! Welcome, everybody. Please have a seat.” Misty chimed in, “We’re so happy to have you. Welcome to the first ever show of…of…” She hid her mouth behind her hand and whispered frantically to Justin, “We don’t have a name for the show yet.”

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As the audience members ambled down the center aisle, Justin whispered furiously, “Crap. I should have been thinking of things like that. I would have if I hadn’t been using my other head earlier.” Misty smiled in the direction of the audience. “We’ll be ready to go very soon. Thank you all for coming.” The group mumbled various replies. “Oh lord, it sounds like a lot of men out there.” Abu piped up. “Yes, dear Misty. I think they will applaud harder than females.” “Good thinking, Abu,” she said. He pivoted toward the audience. “Now I will stand so you can all see me. Clap when I clap and laugh when I laugh.” “How will we know if you’re laughing?” one man asked. Abu let out one of his thundering, doubled-over blasts of laughter that reverberated around the room. “Okay, I guess we’ll know,” the man said. As the taping began, relief washed over Abu and complacency soon set in. The audience seemed to understand their role and applauded in all the right places. What pleased him even more was watching the on-screen chemistry between Misty and Justin. He knew they’d be terrific together. Misty would introduce a drink and give it a provocative name. Justin would lean in and flirt with her as they sipped the concoction together. The drinks themselves seemed a little bizarre but the show was created for entertainment—and fit the bill beautifully. As they sampled each one, they became progressively looser and sillier. Misty had just combined root beer and brandy and called it a brandy ball, instead of a highball. Justin seemed to like it and made a comment under his breath that sounded like, “To Hell with Brandy, I’d rather ball Mishty any day.”

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Uh-oh. One of the hosts slurring his words couldn’t be good, and Abu wondered about damage control. How embarrassing would it be for one of them to get plastered during the taping? Abu laughed, hoping to drown out any further comments, and the rest of the audience followed suit. Misty’s skin reddened but she grinned and clinked his raised glass in a toast. The relaxed mood seemed to affect some of the audience members. One guy yelled out, “Hey, do we get any of that after the show?” Abu shushed him but another guy spoke up and said, “To hell with after the show. I want a little somethin’ somethin’ now!” Abu shot to his feet when Justin fell off his stool, laughing. The audience took advantage of the distraction and rushed the stage en mass. The last thing Abu remembered were stinky feet scuttling all over him and then the world spun into darkness.

***** Justin paced in front of the trashed bar with an icepack held to the side of his head. “Jesus, Misty. You’re lucky you weren’t trampled! I knew something would go wrong. I don’t know how I knew, I just had this ominous feeling.” “They were only interested in the booze, trust me.” “That’s the problem. I’ve been trusting you and Abu instead of trusting myself.” “I thought women were the ones with the intuition,” Abu said. “Not in this century,” Misty said. “It’s not intuition. It’s just plain common sense,” Justin roared! “You don’t get an idea one day and make it happen the next. Even with a genie. These things need to be carefully planned. What were you thinking when you recruited that audience, Abu?” He shrugged. “I thought I needed people excited about the idea of a drink-mixing show who didn’t work in the afternoon.” Justin shook his head. “Classic.” 38

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Misty planted her hands on her hips. “And you didn’t help, you know, mister. You were drunk.” “A little tipsy, not drunk.” “You fell off your chair,” Abu pointed out. “And you shouldn’t talk either.” Misty turned on him and chided, “You were supposed to take care of anything that went wrong.” “And I was about to. How could I know I’d be trampled before I could transport them all to a barge in New York Harbor for a stern talking-to?” Justin sighed. “It’s no use. I’m out.” “You can’t leave now!” Misty cried. “That’s ludicrous. One little problem and you up and quit? Don’t you know there are always bugs to be ironed out in the beginning of any new business?” “Yeah, good luck with that,” he said and strode toward the exit. “Justin, come back!” He simply kept walking and Misty felt a lump form in her throat. Then hot tears stung behind her eyes and began to brim. “Oh no.” Abu rushed to grab a cocktail napkin from the stack knocked onto the floor. “I can’t stand to see a woman cry. Now dry your eyes, quickly. We’ll get him back, don’t worry.” “How?” she sniffed as she dabbed at her eyes. “He had reservations about this idea all along. He tried to tell me and I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to hear anything but what a big, smashing, overnight success we had. I don’t blame him for being upset.” “Now, now, Misty. You are an optimist and it’s part of your charm. Don’t ever change.” “It seems that I’ll have to. Whatever I do after this, I guess it will have to be without Justin. But without him, I won’t have the energy to succeed. And I don’t mean because

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I’m a mere woman,” she said packing the words with as much sarcasm as she could. I’d simply be too depressed to do anything new and exciting.” “Poppycock,” Abu said. “I think a determined woman like you will become successful in anything she wants to do simply by the strength of her character and will.” She rested her head on Abu’s shoulder and suddenly realized how exhausted she was. “Thanks for trying, Abu. I need to go home and crawl into bed with a pint of ice cream. But I have to clean this place up first.” “Understood.” In the blink of an eye, the bar was put to rights and Misty found herself in bed with a pint of chocolate ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other.

***** Justin awoke with a fuzzy brain and cottonmouth. The spot where he hit his head on the floor during taping throbbed a little less but his heart hurt a lot more. How could I have walked out on her like that? Wasn’t the fact that she could count on him one of Misty’s reasons for caring about him? Damn. He dragged himself to the bathroom, brushed his teeth and took two painkillers. What rest he’d had the night before couldn’t really be called sleep. He had lost consciousness when his head hit the pillow and after only a few hours of sleeping like the dead, he’d awoke feeling miserable. He gazed at his bloodshot eyes in the mirror. “You know, self-pity really doesn’t become you, buddy.” “No shit.” When his reflection answered, he jumped backward, spooked. Then his face clouded and reappeared as Abu’s. “For crying out loud, Abu. Didn’t Misty ask you to make yourself known before you just pop in?” 40

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“Yes, Misty asked me to but you didn’t,” he said, still in the mirror. “Fine. I’m asking.” Abu shrugged. “Very well. I’ll offer you the same warning I’m giving Misty now.” He disappeared. A second later, Justin heard a disembodied voice croon, “Ding-dong. Abu calling.” He rolled his eyes. “Hello, Abu. How nice of you to pop in.” He reappeared with his arms folded, nose in the air. “If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t be here.” “What do you mean?” “I mean, I watched over Misty all night. I’d be with her now except that Faustus gave me to you, not Misty. I should have gone home with you but I couldn’t leave the poor girl all by herself until she cried herself to sleep.” Concern obliterated Justin’s annoyance. “She was crying?” “Sobbing. And liquor had nothing to do with it. It was all you, pal.” “Hell.” Justin raked his fingers through his hair and cringed at his reflection. “Let me shower and then I’ll get right over to her place. Can you make sure she doesn’t leave?” He stared down his nose at Justin and said in a grave voice, “Only if you’ll apologize to her.” “Well, yeah. I don’t feel good about making her cry but I don’t know exactly what I’m apologizing for.” “How about for being a putz? For abandoning her in her hour of need? And I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not but she has abandonment issues.” “Misty? Abandonment issues? What are you talking about?” “Have you ever known her to talk about her childhood?”

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He mulled it over. “Now that you mention it, no. But that doesn’t mean anything. If people want to talk about their childhoods, fine. If they don’t, that’s fine too. I don’t pry into their personal lives.” “You wouldn’t have to pry too hard with Misty. She’s open and honest and probably trusts you more than most human beings on earth—not that you deserve it.” “Okay, okay, I’m a putz. Now tell me about her childhood?” “She didn’t have a normal one. She and her younger brother were raised in an orphanage a short distance from here. That is, until a family adopted her brother. She never saw him again, poor kid.” “Crap. I do remember her quoting someone named Sister Mary something-or-other. I just figured she must be a nun friend or her sister.” “She was a surrogate parent, who passed away recently.” “Double crap.” “Yes, I’m glad you feel that way. Now hurry with your shower and get over to her apartment before you feel like triple crap.” With that, Abu went poof.

***** Misty woke from a sound sleep to someone banging on her apartment door. “Who the hell could that be?” she muttered. As she belted her blue terrycloth bathrobe over her worn, soft white nightshirt, the pounding started again, aggravating her throbbing head. She yelled, “I’m coming. Hold your horses.” Shuffling to the door in bunny slippers, Misty threw open the door. “Justin? Holy crap. If I knew you were coming—” She was about to say something about straightening up her appearance but then remembered what he did. “I’d have made you wait five more minutes.”

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He gazed at the floor, one hand in his pocket, the other one holding a cardboard tray with two Styrofoam cups. “I don’t blame you for being upset. Can I come in and try to explain?” She sighed. “I suppose. Sit over there.” She pointed to the leather chair next to the sofa. He set one cup in front of her on the coffee table and the familiar mochaccino aroma wafted to her nostrils. He’d remembered her favorite. She removed the lid and inhaled the wonderful wake-up beverage, then took a hot sip and closed her eyes to savor it. “Mmm… Thanks for the coffee.” “You’re welcome. I’d hoped it might get me in the door instead of having it slammed in my face.” She cocked her head. “Look, I’m disappointed things didn’t go as planned too but I wouldn’t slam the door in your face. You had a valid point.” “I-I just thought with your parents abandoning you and then your little brother being adopted and then your nun friend dying and me walking out… Are…are you really okay?” Gawking at him, she asked, “What are you talking about?” “It’s okay. I know about the orphanage and how you have abandonment issues. I’m sincerely sorry if I made it worse.” “Orphanage? I grew up in the suburbs with two parents and an older sister. Don’t you remember me telling you about my three-year-old niece?” Justin slapped his forehead. “Shit. I’ve been had.” He glanced around the apartment and demanded, “Where is he?” “Where’s who?” “Abu! That lying sack of—” “Careful…” said the scoundrel’s disembodied voice.

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Misty started to chuckle then stopped abruptly. “Abu had to make up some big sob story to get you over here?” “No. He didn’t have to but he did.” Misty plunked her coffee down and stood abruptly. “He said he doesn’t lie unless he has to.” Abu appeared still tying his sash. “I can’t even take a nap without you two needing my help. I’d expected you’d be tangled in the sheets by now.” Justin crossed his arms. “Sex isn’t all we think about, Abu.” He boomed a long laugh. “You’d never know that from your behavior last night.” Justin looked sheepish but only for a moment. “Why did you lie to me? Why did you say that Misty grew up in an orphanage? You didn’t have to do that. I would have come over just knowing she was upset.” “Oh.” He shrugged. “I guess I misjudged you. I thought you were a pigheaded, stubborn ass.” Justin dropped his head in his hands. “Sometimes he can be,” Misty said. “Sometimes I can be one too. If you’re looking for two perfect people, Abu, I’m afraid you won’t find them anywhere on this planet. If you’re looking for two people who are doing their best to bounce back from a bad situation, well… Here we are.” Justin reached out to her with his eyes. “So you forgive me?” “That depends.” He hesitated but then asked, “On what?” “On your willingness to give this another try? We’ll do it your way this time.” “No.” Justin shook his head vigorously. “No, no, no, no, no. It’s a very bad idea and should go the way of all bad ideas. Into the circular file.” Incensed, Misty strode to the door and opened it. “Well, I guess you came to say what you wanted to say. Now leave.” 44

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“Wait a minute Misty…you can’t throw our friendship away over this ridiculous TV show idea.” “Oh yeah? Why not? Because I have abandonment issues? Well, guess what? Maybe I do. It pisses me off that you’re having no trouble abandoning my brilliant, not bad, idea. Now take your double espresso with two sugars and go!” Abu shook his head. “Sorry, man. I didn’t see that coming.”

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Chapter Five Abu couldn’t stand watching them suffer but he had to let them feel the consequences of their actions. A week of moping and heavy sighs followed Misty’s outburst. Justin had gone though most of the stages of grief. Denial, bargaining—in his own head—anger, depression…and that’s where he stayed. If Abu didn’t do something soon, acceptance would follow and Justin might use his annoying logic to throw away the one great love of his life. Abu had stayed away, watching from a safe hiding place as Justin tried to shake off his regrets and memories. He took long, lonely walks and cold showers. Meanwhile, Misty ate ice cream while watching daytime TV. If they stayed on this path much longer, Justin would wither away to nothing and Misty would explode out of her already tight jeans. “Time for an intervention,” Abu announced to himself. Relief flooded him right away. He didn’t care if they duked it out with fists flying, these two had to face each other. But where to deposit them where they couldn’t just storm off in a huff? “Ah ha!” He knew just the place. Isolated. Romantic. Perfect. First, he made his presence known to Misty. “Ding-dong. Abu calling.” She bolted up off the couch and glanced all around the room, desperately searching for him. “Abu? Is that you?” “Yes, but I’m not appearing until you put the ice cream down and back away from the sofa.” Misty rolled her eyes but set the nearly empty container on the coffee table, grabbed the remote and clicked off the TV. He shimmered into view. “That’s a good girl.”

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“There you go, calling me a girl—again.” “Do you think you’ve been behaving like a mature woman?” She hung her head and mumbled, “Maybe not.” “Have you perhaps been acting like a spoiled brat? Demanding to have your own way?” She crossed her arms and shifted her weight to one leg. “Are you going somewhere with this?” “Yes I am. It seems as if your need to show up your old bosses by creating something bigger and better may have been the wrong goal. Have you come up with a more fulfilling ambition?” She plopped down on the sofa, jammed her elbows on her knees and rested her chin in her hands. “No.” “No? Nothing at all?” “I wish I hadn’t chucked my relationship with Justin. We were a good team. Together we would have come up with something else. Something great. I have the enthusiasm and drive and he has the patience and wisdom.” “Excellent! I’ll be right back.” Abu transported himself from Misty’s apartment to Justin’s jogging trail, where he stepped out from behind a tree. “Hello there!” Justin flinched and stumbled. “Holy crap. I thought you weren’t going to surprise me like that anymore?” “Sorry. I imagined that you speaking to a disembodied voice in public might appear a bit crazy. You already look a lot worse for wear. Are you growing a beard?” “I don’t know. Maybe.” He wandered over to a park bench and plopped down. Abu followed him. “In other words, you’ve been too depressed to shave.” “And when I do, it’s with a safety razor.” “That bad, huh?” 47

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Justin slumped against the back of the bench. “Yeah. I really miss her,” he said, softly. “She misses you too.” Hope filled his eyes and he stared at Abu, open-mouthed. Eventually, he managed to say, “But she dumped me.” “Anyone can make a mistake.” “Oh.” “That’s it? That’s all you can say? Oh?” He chuckled. “Well, what am I supposed to say? Give me a little more information. Does she want me back? Has she given up her stupid idea yet? Can we make this or something better work?” Abu shrugged. “That depends on the two of you. But nothing can happen if you won’t communicate.” Justin jumped up. “I’ll talk to her. Where is she?” Abu grinned. At last, he had them where he wanted them—almost. “I’ll take you to her.”

***** “Where the hell are we?” Misty cried out over the pounding surf. She pulled her rain slicker tight around her shivering frame. Justin had no idea either. He pulled her into his embrace, trying to warm her. “Is this what Abu considers the ideal place to talk? On a frickin’ deserted island in the middle of a hurricane?” At that moment, Abu appeared under a giant umbrella. “Sorry about the weather. I hadn’t planned on rain today but you will thank me for bringing you here later. At least, you’d better…” He seemed to grow in size and loom over them.

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Misty trembled violently but Justin suspected it had more to do with Abu’s menacing pose than the weather. At least, under his umbrella, the rain had stopped pelting them. “Can you explain your reason for taking us here, please, Abu?” Misty asked nicely. “Certainly. Do you see that building over there? The one set back under the palm trees but with a good view of the beach?” They both squinted in the direction he pointed. “Yeah. I do now,” Justin said. “Ah. I forgot that you mortals can’t see as well as I can. Forgive me. I will take you closer.” In a flash, all three of them stood outside an abandoned-looking tiki bar. A sign proclaiming Ladies Night Every Wednesday had let go on one side and swung in the wind over the only window. The bar had probably been nice at one time. Outdoor furniture on a concrete patio and a volleyball net on the beach indicated that the place had been more than just a bar. As they walked around the structure, Justin took notice of another building that stretched farther down the beach. The wrought iron railings and long balcony with multiple doors along both the lower and upper floors gave it the unmistakable look of a motel. Everything had been built of concrete and all the windows had been boarded up. “So where is this place?” he asked. “The Bahamas,” Abu announced proudly. “Not only do they have no income, property or sales taxes here, they also have a great amount of inexpensive liquor.” “That’s perfect for us! Isn’t it, Justin?” He eyed her cautiously. “Never mind. I don’t need a TV show. We can just run a beautiful vacation spot.” He held up one hand. “Hold on. I’ve heard about the Bahamas getting slammed with hurricanes each fall.”

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“That’s why you can afford this place,” Abu said. “How do you know what we can afford?” “Please…” he said, with a condescending air. “I’ve figured your liquid assets based upon your savings, stock portfolios and salable possessions and, let me tell you, you’re worth more than you think.” “Seriously?” Misty asked. “I don’t have much of anything saved, the stock market’s been really bad and the only stuff I have worth selling are some family heirlooms—and I don’t want to part with those.” Abu snapped his fingers. Suddenly the rain stopped, the sun shone bright and everything dried in a couple of seconds. The beach of pure white sand extended to crystal clear water and they stood under the shade of tall trees. “Look around you, my friends. You’re in paradise.” The two of them drank in the picture-perfect setting, gazing with wide-eyed wonder. “The owners are sick of putting up with a lack of tourists, the yearly hurricane or two and summer heat. But I can give you central air-conditioning, a steady stream of travelers and safety from devastating weather. Or you can work around nature and close for bad weather. Your choice. You can get this place for a song.” Justin scratched the stubble on his chin. “How many notes in that song, Abu?” “Fifty thousand.” “That’s it?” “You can earn back your money and turn a profit in no time.” “I like the sound of that,” Misty said. “But we’re not Bahamians. Is that a problem?” “Not at all. You can see if you enjoy running a lucrative business while being expatriots and then become citizens later—if you want to. Or you can sell it for a ridiculous profit and retire early.” Misty and Justin looked at each other and shrugged at almost the same time.

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Justin cleared his throat. “Well, we’d need to make arrangements to buy this place, go home and pack, tell our families and friends where to find us—” “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Abu said and rolled his eyes. “Do you want it or not?” Misty stared at Justin, pleading with her eyes. He could deny her nothing when she looked at him like that. And denying how much he loved her was no longer an option. “I guess we’ve got a lot of planning and organizing to do if we’re going to make this work. So we should get started.” Misty jumped into his arms and squeezed him tight. “Thank you, Justin. I know this is going to work. I have a good feeling about this…and about us!” They shared a long, tender kiss. “So do I, sweetheart. This time, it feels right.” Abu laughed. “Good! Then it’s settled, and you’ll be glad to know there’s no need to go anywhere—except maybe to the local home improvement store.” Justin shot him a suspicious look. “What do you mean?” “I mean, dear mortals, I already purchased this place for you, emptied your bank accounts, sold your nonessential belongings, packed the rest and transported everything here. Your living quarters are above the office.” Misty gasped. “You didn’t sell my heirlooms, did you?” “Of course not. But they are in storage in New York. Just in case you won’t let me change the weather here, which I should tell you may fuck up the weather somewhere else. I figured you wouldn’t want other places ruined either. But meanwhile, I can shift the eye of a hurricane a little to the left or right without upsetting the whole balance of nature.” “But…we haven’t had a moment to think this over and make a decision,” Justin protested.

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“Take all the time you need. Meanwhile, I’ve already traveled ahead in time and know that you will decide to try it. And just look at all the time I saved you. Tonight you can make love on your own private beach in the moonlight.” Misty smiled up into his melting reserve and stroked his arms. “Please? I love you, Justin, and I’ll do anything to make this work.” Justin smiled in happy defeat. “Including making love anytime I’m in the mood?” “Of course. I’m in the mood for you all the time.” “Yup. That clinches it. I love you too, Misty. Let’s do this—but do it right.” “What do you mean?” Without letting go of her, Justin turned to Abu. “Is there a jewelry store near that hardware store, Abu?” Abu grinned. “If there isn’t, I’ll build you one.”

***** Misty had been unpacking the suitcases Abu had waiting for her when Justin rushed into their bedroom. “Hey, Misty, I have something to show you.” “What is it?” “It’s on the beach. I can’t explain it. Come with me and I’ll show you.” Misty shrugged, setting aside her second pair of flip flops. “Lead the way.” Justin took her hand and hurried her to a secluded spot in the sand. She scanned the beach for something unusual, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. “What is it?” Justin stripped, faced the ocean and spread his arms. “This! This is it!” Misty cocked her head and stared at him as if he’d gone mad. “This is what?” “Freedom. Refuge. Complete seclusion from the cold, cruel world. Just you and me. Adam and Eve. Now get naked and swim with me in the Ocean of Eden.” 52

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Misty chuckled. “How about you come over here and we make love on the beach?” “Oh, that’s an even better idea.” He charged over to her and began tearing her clothes off. Laughing, she tried to help, but he was beating her to it. As soon as they were both completely naked, he held her hands and faced her. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this, Misty.” She glanced down at his rock-hard erection and said, “Sure you have. Lots of times.” He reared back and laughed. “That’s only one of the things I love about you.” He scooped her up into his arms and gently laid her on the packed sand near the water. “Let’s recreate that scene in that Burt Lancaster movie, From Here to Eternity. You can be Deborah Carr.” “Oh, good. I wouldn’t make a very good Burt.” Justin leaned over her and kissed her with all the passion of that famous love scene and then some. Her pussy clenched and her thighs were slick with fluid, yet the surf hadn’t touched them. She broke the kiss and slid down to his cock. Then slowly, she took the plum colored tip into her mouth. “I don’t think Deborah did— Ack!” Justin sucked in a deep breath as Misty drew his long, thick penis in as far as she could and applied suction as she withdrew. “Oh, God.” She continued to go down on Justin’s cock a few more times and then nibbled the length of him. Then she adjusted her position so she could draw one testicle into her mouth and lick around it as she applied gentle pressure with her hand to the other one. Concentrating on his pleasure, she sucked his cock, licked the hot shaft and drew his balls completely into her mouth.

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Justin moaned and begged her to put him out of his agony. With a grin, she climbed on top of him and sank down on his length. A soft sigh escaped her lips. “Ah…that feels so good.” He clasped her around her waist and helped her rise and fall on his eager cock. Feeling completely uninhibited, she cupped her breasts and squeezed them while they fucked. Suddenly, she felt him. The lightest flick of his finger against her clit. Arching her hips, she gave him better access to her swollen bud. He hastened the speed of his finger massaging her nub until she vibrated with the growing need to find release. At last she lost control, bucked wildly, and shattered in a breathtaking orgasm. His climax followed, undoubtedly responding to her rapidly contracting inner muscles. He jerked upward several times. She watched his flushed face scrunch in almost pleasurepain, and then relax as their bodies melted into one another. “That was delicious,” Misty said, as she laid her head on his shoulder. Justin massaged her scalp. “Give me a few minutes and we can have seconds.”

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Epilogue “How many times did we make love today?” Misty asked. Justin strolled beside her on the beach and lifted her hand to his lips. “About a hundred and fifty.” She laughed. “It may seem like that many times, but seven or eight is probably closer to the truth.” “Mmm, you’re probably right. All I know is that I’ve never felt so sated and relaxed in my life.” She grinned. “It’s about time you relaxed, mon.” “You’re picking up the native lingo. You seem to be taking to the island life.” “I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here. But it wouldn’t be the same without you. I love you, Justin Hayes. Did I ever tell you that?” “You may have mentioned it, Mrs. Hayes, but you can always tell me again.” Abu strolled toward them, dressed as a typical tourist. “And you can always thank me again, if you’re doling out appreciation.” Justin stopped and folded his arms. “Abu, what did we say about watching us?” He heaved a sigh and reached into the pocket of his plaid shorts. “Okay, okay. No free shows.” Then he handed Justin a hundred-dollar Bahamian bill. Misty eyed him, suspiciously. “Abu?” “Okay, okay.” He peeled off seven more hundred-dollar bills and handed them to her. “Well, that answers my question,” she said. Justin cocked his head. “What question?” “It must have been eight times.” 55

About the Author Kidnapped by gypsies as an infant, Ashlyn Chase was left on the doorstep of the Massachusetts home in which she grew up—at least that’s what her older siblings told her. It seems that storytelling runs in the family. Ashlyn worked as a psychiatric nurse for several years, holds a degree in behavioral sciences and has been trained as a fine artist, registered nurse, hypnotherapist, and interior designer. Writing is one career she wasn’t formally educated in, yet by sheer determination she’s become a multi-published, award-winning author. Most writers, whether they’re aware of it or not, have a “theme”, some sort of thread that runs through all of their books, uniting the whole mishmash into an identifiable signature. Ashlyn’s identified her theme as involving characters who reinvent themselves. It’s no wonder, since she has reinvented herself numerous times. Finally content with her life, she lives in beautiful New Hampshire with her true-life hero husband and a spoiled brat cat.

Ashlyn welcomes comments from readers. You can find her website and e-mail address on her author bio page at www.ellorascave.com.

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Also by Ashlyn Chase Being Randy Death by Delilah Demolishing Mr. Perfect Quivering Thighs Vampire Vintage Wonder Witch

If you are interested in other stories by Ashlyn Chase, check out her book at Cerridwen Press (www.cerridwenpress.com).

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