To view earlier pieces of the round robin, here's the link: http://herebemagic.blogspot.com/p/round-robin-story.html
PART THIRTY TWO
By Shawna Thomas, http://www.shawnathomas.com
Delphie stared at the tome of instructions. A thought struck her. Wasn’t it odd that Me had shown up, pretty damn randomly, in the top-secret djinn dimension, yet Stride hadn’t complained about intruders?
Before Me had come to the door, she’d wished she had reliable fairy dust. And poof, here was a manual to teach her how to use the fairy dust. She’d been hungry and boom, one of her favorite snacks. It was like she thought of something and it appeared.
Come to think of it, she’d wished for a lot of things in the past several hours. She’d wished for the curse to be lifted, she’d wished to be pretty again, she’d wished for a way out of the frat house… And while she hadn’t wished for a hot, half-naked hunk to give her a full body massage, Stride was distracting her from what promised to be a Huge Revelation.
Delphie glanced from the book to Stride and back again. No, it was coincidence. Had to be. Then again, this was the genie, er, djinn dimension. Maybe there was something to the three wishes thing? But which wishes counted and which ones didn’t? What was she missing?
She’d never figure it out with Stride feeling her up…and melting her down. Delphi extricated herself from his embrace. It would take every bit of pixie speed and agility she possessed to avoid his advances. Especially when part of her really didn’t want to. But she couldn’t think when his lips...
Nope, better not think about it.
“I know you’re interested,” Stride said. “You kissed me back, remember? Kissing will keep you from talking, and we have unfinished business.”
“Have you considered that the barghests might have unfinished business too?” she argued, glancing at the hole in the roof. It so wasn’t the time for a romantic interlude. One of the beasts might be a kitten now, but they weren’t all kittens.
First things first. She’d stop the advances of Mr. Djinn Octopus, try to keep more of the turbo beasts out of the cabin, get Dash to a healer and then get home. Home!
“We’ll deal with that when it happens,” Stride said, stalking her across the cabin. “Your eyes are beautiful. Like crystalline gemstones. And your lips…”
She smiled despite herself. Her eyes were one of her best features. And her lips…
Stride reached for her and almost caught her.
It wasn’t easy to figure out the next phase of her Huge Revelation while Stride chased her around the cabin. She fended him off yet again and wondered if she should go out the door, where Me was.
How had Me gotten to the djinn dimension? Was the customer service homing beacon that powerful, or had she wished Me here? Was that why Stride hadn’t been that upset? She didn’t know how djinn wishes worked, but magic took a logical path if at all possible. Either way, Me might know a way home. And if he did, he could take her with him.
Provided he didn’t get eaten by a barghest first. She sprinted toward the door.
“You want to be chased?” Stride asked, blocking her path.
“Chaste. Like you djinn are supposed to be.” She feinted one direction and dodged around him.
He laughed. “I’ve tired of chaste, and I’ve proven good at chasing. I caught Dash, didn’t I? Catching you will be much more fulfilling than what Dash has in store.”
Dash. Dammit. Guilt slammed into her and she stopped. She couldn’t leave this dimension without getting her first djinn to a healer. To find a healer she needed Stride.
Who promptly embraced her from behind. His scent enveloped her. For a moment she was tempted to lean back into his strong arms, enjoy the hardness of his...sculpted frame.
Though what good was getting Dash healed if he was to be executed? There had to be another healer, another monastery somewhere. What she really needed wasn’t Stride but a map.
“You know, you’re making it hard to think,” she said.
“Then don’t think. Feel,” Stride purred. “Kiss me, beautiful. We’ve no need for words.”
“Maybe you don’t, but I sure wish…”
Stride hissed. Blue flashed around them, and Delphie felt a clue stick grab her on the ass. No, wait, that was Stride’s hand.
“I wish I had a map!”
She dropped, twisted and backed away from him until she hit something solid. The bookcase. A piece of paper wafted onto the floor from a higher shelf. A map.
Wouldn’t you know?
Did this confirm djinn wishes or didn’t it? She kicked the map against the wall where it wouldn’t be trampled by Stride’s rather large feet.
Large…feet. Gorgeous body.
She slid along the wall while Stride mirrored her, poised to pounce. Wishes, wishes. If she’d had three wishes, she’d used them already…or had she? The Nutella. No, that wasn’t one. Was it? Had anyone been ticked off when she’d found it? Had there been blue air? Was it connected?
The fairy dust. Okay, that was definitely a wish. The map. Yup. So was that two or three? And what about all her wishes before she’d entered this dimension? Was this why Dash had said those odd things about whether she wished they’d all three been in his bedroom?
Someone really should have told her about wishing so she could have kept track. Argh, it was enough to make her wish she’d stayed in bed that morning.
Oops. She clamped her hand over her mouth.
“Allow me to silence you with my lips,” Stride offered seductively.
Damn it. It seemed she’d used the wishes all up. What else did she have at her disposal?
The map. And the instruction booklet. She took a deep breath and rushed to the front door to toe open the fairy dust manual, Stride right behind her. She felt his warmth a moment before he touched her.
He trailed kisses down her neck. Oh no. She melted against him. How did he know that was her second-favorite spot to be kissed? His hand caressed her cheek, her hair, her lips. She shivered and tried to concentrate on the writing on the page.
What she saw was… “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“What?” Stride backed up a step.
“It’s not you. I mean, it is you, but...” Delphie stamped her foot against the floor and glanced down.
The bag of fairy dust lay crumpled a few feet away. Stride followed her glance.
“Oh no, you don’t!”
She stepped closer to him and trailed a finger across his lips. “What’s wrong, big boy? You know what happens when you chase something long enough?” She moved her fingers down to his neck and then slowly brought her lips to his ear. “You eventually catch it.”
She licked his lobe. The djinn groaned and closed his eyes. Dephie dove for the bag, pinched a small amount of the dust between her fingers and threw it at Stride while yelling a word of command.
The fairy dust sparkled around him. Stride blinked and shook his head.
So White Sands’ fairy dust was different. It required words of command. How archaic. Delphie waited. Would it work?
By Cindy Spencer Pape, www.cindyspencerpape.com
“What the hell have you done to me, pixie?” Stride’s voice was much higher-pitched when it came out of a foot-tall djinn. Roughly the size of a Ken Doll, he stuck his hands on his hips. “Fix it. Now.”
Delphie shook her head. “Nope. Not until you shake the lust out of your system and help me figure out how to save your brother. Keep it up and I’ll shrink you down further and put you in an infinity bottle just like his.”
Stride muttered a long string of what had to be curses. That tone and inflection was the same in any language. Probably pretty creative ones, too, based on the length and vehemence of his diatribe. When he finally came up for air, he glared up at Delphie. “Why do you care about the traitor anyway? His fate has already been decided.”
“I care because you’re right. I got him into this mess.” Delphie heard the tremor in her own voice and winced. She hated being weepy, but damn it, she did care about Dash, for whatever stupid reason. “There has to be some way around your king’s stupid rules.”
“Very well.” Stride bowed his small, gorgeous head. “There is a way, but I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
“I don’t have to like it, but I’ll do it.” Delphie straightened her spine and stared down at the mini-Stride. “I may have a habit of getting into messes, but I make a point of always cleaning them up. Tell me how to save him.”
“First, erase inconvenient lust and return me to my full size. Then wish us to the monastery.” Stride sighed. “Once the monks have healed him, the abbot can perform the ceremony.”
“Wishes are real. I knew it,” she exclaimed. “That’s the blue glow, isn’t it?”
“Wishes are main reason the djinn dimension is secret and djinn do not leave it,” he said. “But we’ll discuss this later. I thought you were worried about Dash?”
“I think I used up all my wishes.” Delphie nibbled on her lower lip. “My last one didn’t work.”
“You’ve one more, at the least.” Stride tapped his tiny foot. “You pulled two wishes from me. I felt them. Any others you made would have been granted by my brother, whom you so thoughtfully stuck into an infinity bottle where magics and wishes cannot affect him.”
“Are you saying we could have healed your brother or stopped the barghest if you’d had the guts to tell me about wishing before I used the infinity bottle?”
His face grew stony. “To tell an outsider about wish granting is forbidden. If the compulsion isn’t used in a certain time frame, it fades, erasing the djinn’s entrapment.”
“In other words, you’re a selfish asshole,” Delphie concluded. “I think we’re beyond me being an outsider now. You’d better explain everything before you get someone killed.”
“There’s no need to explain. You have one remaining wish, and I’ll tell you what to wish for to best solve the quandary we find ourselves in with Dash. After that, you can leave this dimension and never return.”
“Not so fast. Do I get three wishes from any djinn I meet?” Delphie grinned. “What about that nasty queen? Do I get wishes from her?”
“No. Wishes are touch activated—by the opposite gender.” Stride’s smirk was obnoxious, even in miniature. “Since you and I have touch activation covered, I did owe you three. But there are limits, you know.”
“Of course I don’t know.” It explained why Stride had been freakish about skin contact, but Dash hadn’t seemed at all worried. He’d sought it out, in fact. Did he not care whether he granted wishes? “I’ve never met a djinn since you’re all so reclusive. How am I supposed to know the rules?”
“The rules are common sense. No wishing for more wishes. No changing the past. No global destruction or global peace. The usual.”
“Fine.” His superior attitude was getting more than a little annoying. “I wish you--”
“Stop!” He kicked her shin with his small foot. “You can’t waste the last one on whatever you were about to say. We need to transport to the monastery with it. Your dust won’t do that for us, will it?”
“I was only going to--”
He kicked her again. It felt like rubber bands pinging her skin. “Pixie, do not say another word. We truly need the last wish for transport. Djinn powers are very constrained.”
She was going to wish he wasn’t even a tiny bit attracted to her, but it could wait. She did have proper instructions for the fairy dust now, and he was right—she couldn’t transport them to the monastery if she’d never been there.
“Before we go,” he ordered, “use your cursed dust to return me to my normal size.”
“Okay.” Delphie pulled out a half pinch of fairy dust. “On one condition. You have to promise Dash won’t get executed.”
He gave a downright evil chuckle. “I promise. This is going to be even more fun than catching him in the first place.” Then he eyed the dust. “Please use that vile substance carefully. I’ve no desire to turn into a kitten.”
“I read the rules.” One page of them, anyway. She sprinkled dust on his wee head and commanded him to return to normal. As soon as he was back to his original six feet, she tapped her foot. “Now let’s go.”
“You have to wish us to the monastery if you don’t want to walk through the barghest-infested woods in the dark.” Stride eyed the fairy dust, so Delphie stuffed it down into her bra. He’d better not go after it there, or she’d use her last wish to shrivel his…ego. “I don’t have Dash’s superspeed.”
“We could fly,” she reminded him. “We do have wings.” She’d rather save that last wish. Who knew when she could wrangle any more of them if all the djinn dudes would be super-careful not to touch her?
“That takes almost as long as walking,” he responded, “and barghests aren’t the only beasts in the forest. Some have wings too.”
“You’ve got an answer for everything, don’t you?” What a jerk! He was wasting time taunting her while his brother could be dying. “Tell me what to say. I’ve already learned how annoyingly literal you can be.”
“Smart.” He tipped his chin at her. “Repeat after me. ‘I wish Stride, Dash and I were safely in the healer’s quarters at the Ainmire monastery.’ Then you might want to hold my arm. Your touch is not currently an issue for me.”
Other than the arm-holding part, that sounded harmless enough. Delphie obediently repeated the words but kept her hands to herself.
There was a flash and a pop, then Delphie felt her head wobble, like riding a merry-go-round after too much tequila. Her feet landed on a smooth stone floor, and Stride popped into sight beside her. She swayed, and he smirked when she grabbed his arm for balance.
A plump old djinn with graying dark hair and wide yellow eyes hurried over, his soft black robe swishing around bare feet and ankles. “Stride, whatever’s the matter?”
“We need your help, Uncle. I finally arrested Dash, but he’s gotten himself into another fix.” Stride took the stasis bottle from Delphie’s hand. “He came up against a barghest and some foul fairy dust.”
The man stared into the bottle. “Oh, my poor boy. You say fairy dust did this?” He narrowed her eyes at Delphie. “Wielded by a pixie, perchance?”
“Not on purpose.” Delphie’s lower lip trembled ominously and she bit down on it. “Can you help him? I can free him from the stasis jar, but he’ll need to be immediately healed to withstand the shock.”
“Of course I can, child.” Uncle Djinn, or whatever his name was, studied Dash’s container again. “Although—I hate to say it—this might be kinder than bringing him back to face execution. He looks rather peaceful right now.”
“The pixie has offered to do whatever needs to be done in order to rescind the execution order, Uncle,” Stride said. “Heal him and make sure she changes him to normal size while I get the abbot.”
“Very well.” The old man actually smiled at Delphie. “That’s very kind of you, miss. I hope you two will be very happy together.”
“What do you mean?” Delphie looked back and forth between the two grinning djinn as if she were watching a tennis match. “What don’t I know? And why do you need the abbot?”
Stride chuckled low and wickedly. “To perform the ceremony, of course.”
By RL Naquin, http://www.rlnaquin.com/
Delphie blinked. What? The two men stood in silence, waiting while she processed this news. Her brain swirled around in her head like a smoothie in a blender. After considerable time spent tumbling around each other to the sound of a flushing toilet, Delphie’s thoughts coalesced into a single word: Wedding.
The snort that erupted from her was decidedly un-pixielike. “My wedding?”
Stride grinned and nodded. He was entirely too pleased about the situation. Bastard.
Delphie bit her lip and thought about it. It wasn’t like she’d never been married before. Pixie marriages sometimes lasted as long as six months, but normally, a weekend or so was all there was to it. She held up the infinity bottle to the light and squinted at Dash’s still form. He was pretty hot. Irritating and pushy at times, sure, but she could overlook that for a bit. Hells, she could probably keep him around for a good month before getting bored.
“Fine,” she said.
Stride frowned. “Fine, what?”
She shrugged. “I’ll do it. Go get the abbot guy. If it’ll save Dash’s life, I’m game.”
Uncle Djinn beamed at her. “Welcome to the family, my girl!” He threw his arms around her in an enormous bear hug that made her squeak.
Stride muttered under his breath and scowled.
“What?” Delphie asked, one eyebrow quirked.
“Nothing.” He refused to look her in the eye. “The sun is up, so it should be safe to travel. I’ll be back in an hour.” He turned on his heal and stomped out the door.
“Huh,” Delphie said. “What was that all about?”
Uncle Djinn shook his head. “There’s no telling. My sister’s boys are so volatile.” He pointed at the bottle still clutched in Delphie’s fist. “Shall we get started?”
She held out the bottle. “We’ll have to work fast. He’s in pretty bad shape.”
“You leave that to me, my girl. Pull him out and restore him to his normal, scrawny size, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Scrawny? Were they talking about the same guy? Delphie licked her lips and thought about the rippling muscles of her husband to be. The coming month had real potential. “Is there somewhere special you want me to put him, Uncle Dj…” She stopped herself. Uncle Djinn was probably rude. “What’s your name?”
“Zip. You can call me Uncle Zip.”
Zip. Dash. Stride. What on earth was wrong with the men in this family? Didn’t anybody stroll or meander? Was there a Grandpa Waddle in the family? Delphie squelched a giggle.
“Where do you want me to put him, Uncle Zip?”
He waved at a couch up against the wall. “Over there is fine.” He grabbed a handful of silver-flaked rocks from a bowl on a table and zipped over. The man could move fast, despite his bulk. It explained the name.
Delphie followed him, then produced a full pinch of dust from the bag her cleavage. She sprinkled dust over the bottle. “Restore!” she said in a strong, sure voice.
The bottle shook in her hand, and mist rose from the opening. It curled on itself, then floated over the couch, spreading and solidifying into the shape of a man.
Dash moaned. One weak hand rose up to swat at something invisible only he could see. His strength left him, and his arm dropped to his side. His breathing slowed in rattling gasps. They were losing him fast.
Uncle Zip went to work, laying the rocks in a straight line down Dash’s body. He mumbled words Delphie didn’t recognize, then bent over Dash and blew on the stones. They lit up in bright, neon colors. Uncle Zip clapped his hands together. The rocks quivered, and their lights went out.
Dash opened his eyes. “Woman, so help me, if you ever turn me into a mouse again, I will turn you over my knee and spank you until you beg for mercy.”
Delphie pushed the bag of pixie dust deeper into her cleavage and tried to decide if that might be worth trying. She felt her cheeks get warm.
“Enough of that,” Uncle Zip said. “Play whatever games you want on the honeymoon, but right now we have a wedding to get ready!” He disappeared into the next room, humming “Moonriver.”
Dash sat up and scratched his head. “Honeymoon? Wedding?”
Delphie took a step back and looked away. Telling Dash the bizarre news while standing so close to him was awkward and embarrassing. “They said it was the only way to keep you from being executed.”
He frowned. “And you agreed to this?”
She nodded. “I got you into this. It’s my responsibility.”
He was silent for a few minutes. Delphie would have given her last pinch of dust to hear what he was thinking. But she didn’t ask. She shifted her feet and tried not to fidget while she waited.
After a while, Dash cleared his throat. “Are you sure?”
She smiled. “I’m sure.”
His eyes drifted over her body, taking in every curve, then returned to her face. “Thank you,” he said. His voice was soft.
Uncle Zip barreled into the room carrying a small wreath of dried flowers looped over his arm, a filmy red curtain panel, and a small box. “Here we are!” He draped the curtain over Delphie’s head and slipped the flowers over it to hold it in place like a crown. “Now you look like a bride.”
He grinned down at her. Delphie felt ridiculous. She glanced over at Dash and found him smiling, too. She shrugged. Good enough for djinn, apparently.
The door opened and Stride walked in with a little man in a long green gown and a tall gold hat.
“There’s the happy couple!” the abbot said, gliding across the room. “I understand there’s some urgency.”
“We’re all ready for you, Your Adequacy,” Uncle Zip said.
Dash and Stride exchanged a look Delphie had trouble reading. Hostility? Dread? She sighed. Men were always taking everything so seriously.
“Lighten up, guys,” she said.
They lined up in front of the abbot, who tried hard to arrange his face into some sort of serious expression but mostly failed. He elbowed Uncle Zip. “I haven’t performed one of these in nearly a hundred years! Do you have the cord?”
Uncle Zip opened the small box he’d brought out earlier and produced a thick rope woven of golden threads. The abbot wrapped it around Dash’s left wrist and hand, then did the same to Delphie’s right with the other end of the cord.
“Do you, Delphinia Bathseba Slippery-Elm take this djinn to be your husband?”
Delphie gasped. How did he know her name? And where was the pomp and ceremony? The long-winded lead up to the vows? She shook her head. Djinn were a mystery.
The abbot frowned. “Is that a no?”
“What? No. I mean yes.” Delphie took a deep breath and pulled her head together. “I mean, I do.”
The abbot smiled and turned to Dash. “Do you, Dashiel Wilbur Fortunata al Balgamesh take this pixie to be your wife?”
Dash swallowed hard. “I do.”
“Then let it be so!” The abbot waved his hand over the cord that held their hands together. It glowed a bright blue, then sank into their skin and disappeared. “May the cord that binds your souls never chafe, and may your love burn ever bright as the seven suns of Palafinia. I now pronounce you husband and wife until the end of time.”
Delphie choked. “Until the end of time?”
The abbot smiled. “Why yes, child. Marriage is forever. Not even death can tear you apart, now.” He leaned toward Dash. “What are you waiting for, son? Kiss your bride!”
Is this the end for Delphie? Of her single and fancy-free ways, anyway. Because it might just be the start of something brand new.
Check back in two weeks when we'll have the kiss! Maybe. I never know what these authors are going to come up with...
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com