Wyatt Calder is trapped -- in a rundown neighborhood, in a dead-end job, by the endless string of trouble his brother drags to their door -- and it seems he’s destined to slowly fade away within the aging walls of Picket House, longing for his best friend's cousin. That is until his upstairs neighbor Abel Walters dies on the staircase just outside Wyatt’s door.
Saalik has spent most of his existence asleep and waiting for the next person to discover his bottle and claim their wishes. And the last four years playing prized possession to Abel Walters and spying on the downstairs neighbors. But he has a plan. And, like every plan worth planning, it has taken patience. But if life as a Jinn has taught Saalik nothing else, it’s taught him that.
When a break-in sends Wyatt out his second-story bedroom window and into his dead upstairs neighbor’s apartment, he finds more than a place to hide. He discovers a magical solution to all his troubles.
Or does he? Because really, when is life ever that simple?
Wyatt searched through the disaster of his bedroom, looking for a shirt for Saal.
His mattress was slit open, his drawers pulled from the dresser, and his closet searched, but it was nothing compared to what they had done to the living room.
He lifted an arm load of clothes from the floor, dropped them on the bed and started to hunt through them. He found a lime-green T-shirt, but discarded it, sure Saal would look sickly in that color. Not that it mattered. He just needed the guy to put on a shirt. Any shirt.
He found a dark blue tee and pressed it against his nose, happy when it still smelled of detergent and softener.
He could hear Saal poking around in the living room and wondered for the millionth time why he’d insisted on coming downstairs. It was embarrassing to have someone see the place like this.READ MORE
“I suppose you’ll want me to fix everything?” Wyatt jumped, startled to find Saal in the doorway, watching him with those dark, serious eyes. “You’ll have to ask.”
“How do you do that?” Wyatt said instead, pointing to the tendril of blue smoke that curled from Saal’s nostril, slowly winding around his bare arms.
“Wha—” But he noticed the smoke before he finished the question, shook out his arm, and the mist evaporated. “Just happens. I’m out of practice being in public. Abel never let me leave the apartment.”
“Because you were his Jinn?” Wyatt would have preferred to have forgotten the guy was fucking crazy.
“Yes.” Saal walked into the room, stepping over where Wyatt’s penny jar had been smashed on the floor. “Is that shirt for me?”
“Yeah.” Wyatt held it out, uncomfortable to let Saal step any closer. He didn’t know why. It wasn’t like he thought the guy was dangerous, just delusional.
Saal stared at him a long moment before Wyatt remembered. “I wish you to put this on, Saal.”
“You really don’t have to say wish.” But Saal yanked the shirt from his hands and pulled it over his head. When the smooth plane of his stomach disappeared under the soft fabric, Wyatt instantly relaxed.
“Did Mr. Walters have to ask you to get dressed?” Because maybe that was why Saal hadn’t been wearing clothing. Maybe the old man had grown tired of asking him to get dressed every morning, and eventually didn’t bother with it at all.
“No.” Saal turned to look in the cracked mirror that hung on the back of Wyatt’s door, admiring himself in the oversized clothes. “He told me not to. He caught me on the fire escape again and was punishing me. So, I needed you to undo his request.”
The beautiful ones are always crazy, Wyatt. Maybe Teddy had told the truth about something after all.
“Well, I wish you to wear clothes all the time, if you want. Anything you want.”
“Anything I want?” For the first time Saal gave Wyatt a smile, a subtle quirk of his mouth that made Wyatt’s stomach flutter, and he wondered if this was what it felt like to make a deal with the devil.
There was a loud pounding on the apartment door and Wyatt let out a tired sigh. For someone who’d slept for three days, he sure felt exhausted.
He slid past the preening Saal and out into the hall where he had to step over his broken and abandoned enlarger. It was all he could do not to cry.
He had hoped the sight of the main room wouldn’t be quite so shocking the second time, but it was, and when he peered through the peephole to find Mrs. Cain, his stomach sank. She’d be furious at the state of the place. Hell, he’d be lucky not to get booted out.
“Shit. Why now?” He could feel Saal right behind him, watching his world fall apart, playing out like some tragic event in one of his dramas. Maybe if they were both lucky, Wyatt could drop dead on the spot.
He didn’t answer, too busy trying to decide what to do.
“Wyatt?” This time Saal’s voice was a bark, and when he again didn’t answer, Saal touched his shoulder. The gentleness of it was a surprising contrast to the irritation in his voice, and it was a sad reminder of just how long it had been since he’d had anyone touch him. At least a touch that wasn’t Samuel’s rough examination or Teddy’s bruising grip. “Wyatt, you have to tell me to fix this. That’s how it works.”
“Please.” He was so fucking tired. “I wish you would fix it all. Every bit of it.” But there was no fixing this mess, so he took a deep breath and opened the door.
“You’re two days late on the rent.”
“The rent?” It took Wyatt a moment to realize what she was saying. “Oh. I’m…it’s been a crazy—”
“Don’t care.” She pushed inside before Wyatt thought to stop her. “I’m not running a charity.”
“Of course not—”
“What. The. Hell.”
Wyatt pushed the door closed and steeled himself to face Mrs. Cain’s wrath.
“Who gave you permission to paint?”
When Wyatt turned, instead of seeing a room of broken furniture and complete devastation, he found the place immaculate. The floors, that only moments before had been covered with papers, shattered dishes, and the splintered wood from the coffee table, were now clean, the old carpet gone and replaced with pristine hardwood. There was a charcoal gray rug and a sapphire velvet sectional where the old floral couch had been. And leaning in the doorway was Saal, looking pleased with himself in a snug fitting suit.COLLAPSE