Crystal Genie: Chapter One
It had been calling to her all day.
Celeste carefully unwrapped the tissue, revealing the clear quartz crystal she'd bought that afternoon at Crystal Dreams. Reverently, she picked it up and stared into its liquid depths. She felt as if she'd found a long-lost treasure. More than that, she had the profound feeling that this stone had the power to change her life.
A beautiful imperfection inside obscured the clarity, but as she held the crystal up to the light, a rainbow of iridescent flecks glittered in its depths.
A powerful feeling unsettled her. As she cradled the crystal in her hand, warmth emanated from it and it seemed to pulse with life. She stared deeper into the crystal, mesmerized.
The sound of the telephone snapped her back to reality. She snatched the phone from the end table beside her. "Hello?"
"Celeste, you're single and home on a Friday night? Pretty lame, Sis."
Celeste slumped back on the couch and drummed her fingers on the table. "What happened to 'Hi, Celeste. How's it going?'" she asked.
"It's obvious how it's going. You know, with your looks you could get any guy you want, yet here you are on a Friday night with no date." Concern laced her sister Helen's words, softening Celeste's building irritation. "You have a great body and a lovely face, but you insist on wearing your hair pink and spiky."
"It's not pink. It's violet with magenta streaks."
"You know, if you'd let your hair go back to its natural blond and grow it long, you'd have to beat them off with a stick."
Celeste shrugged. "If a guy doesn't accept me for what I am--"
Helen snorted. "Yeah, right. If Mr. Perfect walked into your life right now, you wouldn't even give him a chance."
Celeste glared at the phone, annoyance sparking inside her. "Well, that'll never happen, Helen, because Mr. Perfect doesn't exist." She gulped a sip of her root beer. "Look, is there a reason you called, other than to badger me about not having a man?"
At the silence on the other end of the phone, Celeste felt her insides tighten.
"Well, I called to tell you... I've left George."
Celeste's heart compressed. Again. She couldn't bring herself to say she was sorry to hear it. Her sister had left her husband twice before, and Celeste hoped it was for good this time.
"I'll be staying at Mum's for a while. I'll be going to the lake with her and Graham this weekend to help them open the cottage. I'll talk to you next week."
"Okay. Take care."
Celeste hit the 'End' button and placed the phone on the table, then slumped back on the couch. Helen deserved better than that bum George. As far as Celeste knew, he'd never hit her sister, but his verbal abuse made Celeste sick.
Ain't love grand.
Of course, Helen chose to stay with Mum rather than Celeste because Mum would talk her into going back. Apparently, it didn't matter how bad the guy was or how unhappy he made you, if you loved him you couldn't leave. Or so their mother claimed.
Celeste, on the other hand, would help Helen see reason. Which, of course, is why she doesn't come here.
She reached for her crystal again and held it up to the light, staring at the subtle, glittering rainbow inside. Fingerprints marred the view, so she rubbed the crystal on the soft wool of her sweater to polish the surface.
Again, the crystal seemed to pulse in her hand. The air felt thicker around it, like a fuzzy, charged force-field. A quiver trembled up her arm and through her body. She plunked the crystal onto the coffee table, eyeing it uncertainly. A rumble, like thunder in the distance, accompanied a crackling sound. The air seemed electrified and a slight smell of ozone tickled her nose. Corners of papers on her light-maple side table stirred, then fluttered as air swirled through the room. Growing uneasiness quivered through her.
What in heaven's name was going on?
The rumbling increased and a sharp clap accompanied by a brilliant flash sent her heart rate accelerating as she shielded her eyes with her hand. Good heavens, had lightning struck?
Slowly, she lowered her hand to peer at the crystal. It sat quietly on the table amidst the papers still fluttering in the inexplicable breeze.
"I am Zurvan, genie of the crystal."
The deep, baritone voice ripped her gaze three feet to the right, to rest on a tall man wearing emerald green. A shirt in a satiny fabric under a vest intricately embroidered with gold thread and tiny beads, and long, flowing pants billowing in the gusty air. Her eyes widened, and she tried to calm her quivering nerves with a long, deep breath.
He stood before her, arms crossed over his chest, looking like some ancient god. Long hair, glossy black, swirled around him. His face was like handsomely sculpted granite, strong and hard, but starkly sensual. Full lips blended into a strong chin.
She blinked, but the apparition remained. Genie of the crystal? The guy looked like something straight out of the Arabian Nights. Like a very sexy version of Aladdin's genie. And he seemed vaguely familiar, like a hazy image from a dream. Her gaze shifted back to his lips. Sexy. Inviting. Lips she'd love to kiss.
His dark green eyes, the color of moss in the shadowed depths of a forest, locked onto her. His eyebrows lowered like dark storm clouds. "A woman!" His enraged voice rumbled through the room.
Suddenly he started growing, his height increasing several inches per second. She felt faint as her head tilted back, watching him rise above her. Ten feet. Twenty. Thirty. Somehow, her ceiling expanded upward to follow him. He glared down at her, green eyes blazing.
His huge hand swept toward her, and his fingers wrapped snugly around her from her waist to mid-thigh with his thumb under her breasts. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest as he swept her into the air.
"What are you doing? Let me go!" She struggled, then clung to his thumb as disorientation skewed her sense of balance.
Her breath caught and her heartbeat accelerated. This had suddenly gotten very scary. She felt as though she were falling and everything went black, though she remained conscious. Light reappeared, but she was no longer in her living room. She tried to catch her breath. It was difficult to focus on her surroundings, but she got the impression of elegant draperies, rich carpets, and plush cushions in satins and velvet, all in bright jewel tones.
The giant set her down on her feet. When he let go, she started to topple over, but a strong, firm arm grasped her waist.
Her half-closed lids jolted open. The giant now stood beside her, down to normal size again, if six-and-a-half feet counted as normal. It was his arm steadying her. She jerked away from him, sucked in a breath, and thrust back her shoulders. "Who are you and why are you here?" she demanded.
He stepped away from her, giving her room to breathe. "I am a genie. I am here to grant you three wishes."
Oh, God. She started to sway.
He cursed in some foreign language before guiding her to a soft-looking couch a few feet away. She sank onto the cushions.
He surveyed her critically, then lifted a lock of her hair between two fingers to examine it. "Your hair is a strange color."
He fluttered his fingers and Celeste jumped as she felt hair slither down her cheeks and neck. She glanced down to see long, blonde waves hanging to her waist.
"And your clothes."
"What's the matter with my--Yikes." Goosebumps quivered along the naked flesh of her arms, chest and midriff as her comfortable and warm sweatshirt disappeared, replaced by some silky little bit of nothing. "Hey, where are my clothes?"
She glanced down at herself, examining the slinky little harem number she now wore. Her breasts, pushed together and up, spilled out over the snug, brief, purple velvet bejewelled bra that had appeared out of nowhere. A matching scrap of velvet hugged her hips. Silky, sheer, iridescent fabric swirled around her legs.
Anger welled within her. No one--thirty-foot bully or otherwise--got away with redefining her looks. She glanced up and found herself unnerved by his steady gaze. Smoldering embers of passion singed her nerve-endings as they forged a path the length of her. Yet something about that erotic gaze tickled her memory.
Her face felt hot and she knew her cheeks must be flushed. She pulled back her shoulders and straightened her spine, chasing away the lingering cinders of doubt. I will not be manipulated.