Aliah, p.5
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       Aliah, p.5

           RoxAnne Fox
 
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  Chapter 04

  Nico

  Setting the stupid bottle down, I ignored the humming noise it made against the ground as I sat in some plush chair in gold with red fabric so soft it was like nothing I had felt before. Laughing to myself, I figured it would be a nice place to die since that was assuredly what was going to happen. If I didn’t die from starvation, I would die when the king came to enjoy his hidden wealth.

  Sighing, I looked up at the door then had an idea. Pulling out the map, I walked up to it and repeated the words. Nothing happened. Feeling a build of frustration, I said the words again and again, until I was finally yelling them.

  “That’s not going to work, you already have me.”

  The scream that left me was eaten up by the cavernous treasure room as I turned to see who had spoken behind me. As my eyes fell on the man, his dark, bronzed chest bare of any shirt or hair, eyes smiling, perfect white teeth smiling as well, my heart sank. His ebony hair fell in a sexy way, almost over one eye, but was cut short on the sides, and for the first time in my life, I wanted to run my hands through a man’s locks as I nibbled at the dimples in his cheeks. Oh, those dimples…

  Trying to snap myself to reality and away from the loose-pant, and nothing else, wearing stranger, I took a step back. “Where did you come from?”

  He let out a laugh that had my heart doing a flip in my chest. Stupid heart, what do you know?

  “I came from the lamp. You called me.”

  Looking to the lamp at his feet, I couldn’t believe he was serious. “That’s not possible.”

  His brow pursed and he crossed his muscled arms over his chest, which I was still wanting to rub on … wow, I never knew being attracted to a man was so distracting.

  “I take it you do not know what I am. So, who sent you?” His lips pulled across his beautiful smile, bringing out his dimples once more. “Have I awoken in a new era when women are more respected? Being sent on a task such as this for a woman must mean times have changed?”

  There was no stopping the laugh that came out of me. “No. Women are not respected. I pretended to be a boy so I can be free and was sent here to get that lamp in exchange for my freedom as a woman.”

  “Who rules the lands where I am held captive?”

  His words stuck a cord with me, I hadn’t known he was held against his will, though it was still hard for me to believe he came from a bottle, which I could carry in the bag on the camel I would never see again. Pushing away my confusing and depressing thoughts, I looked to his breathtaking features.

  “Yazdegerd III of the Persian Empire rules these lands, though the Arabians are taking over his territories if word on the street is true.”

  He nodded and appeared sad. “I had hoped more time had passed. The fact you are a female and on such a dangerous task made me think it was a better time, one with more understanding people.”

  Laughing a little again, I shook my head. “The man who sent me, Tryphon, is not understanding. In fact, I was worried he may try something when I had returned with the lamp, but there is always a backup plan.” Not thinking on how Tryphon’s obvious interest worried me, I glanced around the massive space. “Not like it matters here, I’m—or should I say, we’re—stuck. So…”

  One dark brow rose over a thick-lashed eye and I swallowed down my pulse.

  “You still haven’t told me where you came from, and who are you by the way?”

  “I’m Nicodromos Maichiou, but my siblings called me Nico and I already told you, I came from the lamp. How is it you were sent here but know nothing of who and what I am? You haven’t told me who you are either, by the way.”

  My cheeks warmed in spite of myself. “My name is Aliah, I was not given a surname so that is my only name.”

  “With a name that lovely, you would need only one.”

  The mild blush felt a million times hotter as it crawled up my neck to join my cheeks but I focused on the truth and not my first time attraction. “I was sent here to gather that lamp and told nothing else, except to not touch anything but the lamp.”

  His face became somber and he nodded. “The person who sent you feared you would not bring the lamp back if you knew of me.”

  “And why is that?” He still hadn’t shown me any proof he came from the lamp, other than having appeared from nowhere.

  “I am what people call a djinni.” The word he spoke was one I had said when I opened the door but I didn’t know what it meant. By his laugh, he must have guessed I was clueless. “A djinni is like a mage, but different and stronger.”

  “What is a mage?”

  He sighed. “It’s so hard to deal with humans who don’t know anything.”

  That got my back up. “Hey, all I know is I was supposed to get that lamp and nothing else. It is not my fault I wasn’t informed of more. When I tried to clean the smudges off the lamp the thing started acting crazy and I when I tripped on my own feet I touched some stuff which shut the door. So, if you did come from that lamp then it is your fault I am going to die in here.”

  “You don’t have to die here. There is a reason this Tryphon person did not tell you about me.”

  “What do you mean?” All I wanted to do was be mad at this man who, if he had come from the lamp, was the reason I was trapped, but my traitorous body felt drawn to him and made it hard to keep my resolve.

  He motioned me to sit, and grabbed a chair matching mine before setting it near me. He moved it without an issue and I had to wonder if it was lighter than it appeared, being gilded the way it was, or if he was stronger than he should have been.

  After he sat, he turned to me with a light smile playing on his lips. “The reason Tryphon wanted you to get my lamp and only my lamp is because it is the only thing you can take from this chamber. Everything here is made of stone, it is only glamoured to make it look like treasure. My lamp, with me inside is the only real thing worth value here.”

  My brow came together but he kept talking.

  “I told you I am a djinni. What I am is a magic user with great power. I can manifest things other mages cannot and my glamour is so good it almost appears as shape shifting.”

  Letting out a short laugh, I said, “If you are so powerful then why haven’t you escaped that bottle?”

  His eyes cast down and I had to wonder if I said something unkind. “My power was trapped by the one who put me in the lamp. He did the same with the other djinn, my siblings, and placed them around the world. I was found and brought here and a mage put a spell on the chamber for your king, my last master. He was determined to find a way to gain more wishes.”

  “Why would he need more wishes?” The way he spoke of wishes made it seem different than how Tryphon said he would grant a single wish.

  His smile had my heart twisting in my chest once more, and I had to laugh internally at myself over the fact the first man I was attracted to was some kind of magical being trapped in a bottle.

  “Whoever’s my master is granted three wishes, he or she cannot wish for more wishes though, and there are some other limitations, such as I will not bring back the dead.” He didn’t say could not but I didn’t ask on it as he continued to talk. “The only time I am able to access and use my own magic is when my master asks for a wish.”

  His words soaked in and I felt bad for him. To have a part of you stolen and locked away only so that you could be a tool for another’s use. “Nico, that is horrible.”

  He started laughing, doubled over, tears and all. It took him almost a minute to compose himself and I couldn’t figure out what was so funny. “Not only are you the most beautiful master I have had but the kindest as well. Never once has one said my plight was horrible.”

  What he said stunned me, the beautiful part on its own would have, but the master part was a shocker. “How am I your master?” My heart started pounding in an uncomfortable way. “I … I don’t want to be anyone’s master.”

  He reached out and grasped my shaking hands. With his warm hands on
mine, my heart became erratic for a different reason, but I didn’t pull away. Instead, I looked from my enclosed hands to his kind eyes.

  “Aliah, no one has ever said that either, but it is as the magic has forced me. You awoke me from my sleep so you are my master until the three wishes are filled. The first is obvious; you could wish to be free of here.”

  Nodding, I said, “I could do that, and I could have my freedom Tryphon might not grant me, then all the riches I need and I would be set. But, where would that leave you? Would you go back in the bottle then to Tryphon so he doesn’t kill me? Or, do I wish to go someplace far from here, but again what happens to you?”

  Nico was laughing once more. “Your concern for me is heartwarming. Who is this Tryphon who sent you? He is not the king.”

  It was my turn to laugh. “No, but I’m sure if he had you he would be. He knows what you are and he is not a good person.” Pausing, I looked away from his perfect face. “I don’t think I could give you to him now.”

  His hands squeezed mine. “Why is that? Why not get your wishes, almost anything you could want, and then turn my bottle over. You could even sell it and have more money. One master I had done exactly that.”

  To hear him talk about himself as though he was an object broke my heart. “I live life as a boy on the street so that I do not have to be someone’s property, I cannot make another person, djinni or otherwise, be property. That is not right. Maybe somehow we could be free of here and then I could free you. There would have to be a way.”

  Without warning, Nico pulled me to him and met me at the edge of my seat. His lips pressed mine and I sat shocked, unsure what to do. With a small laughed he pulled away and pressed his forehead to mine. “I apologize, I have never been so moved, and have never desired someone as I do you. You radiate kindness and I feel I need to be near you. Forgive my rash behavior, years of entrapment have made me hasty.”

  His words had me moved the way he said I moved him. Pulling away from him, my midnight gaze swam as I met his burnt honey eyes. “You have shocked me but…” Biting my lip, I glanced away. “I have never been attracted to a man before seeing you.”

  My words had my cheeks flaming and I had no idea what had come over me. Finding the lamp was my freedom but I could never sacrifice another’s freedom for my own. However, I had never guessed this magical creature would be attracted to me the way I was to him. It seemed even though we were worlds different he and I were actually quite the same.

  He put his hand to my chin and brought my eyes to his once more. “If my power was my own I would give you the world to be with you. For now, you have me until your final wish.”

  Giving a small laugh, I shook my head. “How do I know you do not say this to each woman who becomes your master?”

  He sat back, giving me space I hadn’t known I didn’t want. “Why just women? Why not men too?” He let out another laugh and I had never considered men who love other men. The thought warmed my cheeks but he kept talking. “I have had masters who wished me to be physical with them but unless they would waste a wish on one sexual desire with me, I would not lay with them. My magic may be enslaved but my body is not.

  “So, you have never been with a woman, then?” The question was quiet and I had no clue why I asked it, why I was even having the conversation in the middle of a cursed temple with a djinni.

  He chuckled. “No, before being trapped along with my brother’s and sister’s, I had bedded women. However, it has been nearly a thousand years since I have been my own master and thus free to do as I wish.”

  Trying not to be shocked, I mean the man was trapped in a small glass bottle, I just nodded.

  “Do you still think my words are a ruse?”

  Bringing my eyes to his I tried to find a lie within them. “I want to say yes, because it has been so hard for me to trust, but I don’t believe they are. I feel I can trust you when I have never trusted anyone. Maybe it’s the desire to be free, to know what it’s like to be at the mercy of others. Maybe because we share this desire, I feel I can trust you.”

  “Has anyone ever hurt you?” His words were harsh and in that moment I would hate to be anyone who may have done me harm with Nico near.

  Smiling, I said, “No,” and pulled the knives from there hidden sheathes out to show him. “Some men have tried and though I don’t like spilling blood, I have had to stop them.”

  His smile was just as soft as the first time he shared it with me. You wouldn’t think he was looking at a disheveled woman in a spelled room holding two blades worn with use. “You are remarkable, Aliah. If I had met you as a free djinni, I would share my immortality with you. To see you in a time when women are praised for their strength would be a sight.”

  He spoke as though he knew there was a future such as that and the idea of me sharing it with him was a dream. Putting my blades back, I set my hands in my lap and didn’t shy away as he gathered them in his again.

  “What should I do, Nico?”

  “You could wish us to be free.”

  “But, if I wish for that then Tryphon will come for me and I will only have two wishes and … and I want more time with you.”

  One of his hands released mine and brushed the side of my face before snaking back behind my head, knotting in my thick braid. He pulled me too him and pressed his lips to mine again. “If only I could have eternity with you.”

  My cheeks warmed as he sat back and placed his hand with his other holding mine once more.

  “You could wish us to be somewhere specific, away from Tryphon.”

  Thinking of Abdul and his tavern, which could suffer if I disappeared with the lamp, I shook my head. He was someone I thought may know of my secret but was always kind and I wished to repay that with some coin before leaving Babilli. Having his life taken by a tyrannical psychopath would be far from the repayment I wished to give.

  “There is someone who may be harmed if I was to disappear with you. He was the one kind person, almost like a secret father with how he kept me fed, so I wouldn’t want him harmed.”

  His smile was even more approving, more … dare I say, loving. It was hard to tell since I had never known love. “Your thoughtlessness knows no bounds. Aliah, you are wondrous. No matter the time we have together, I am happy we will have it.”

  His surety of our limited time broke my heart but I knew wherever we were, I didn’t want it to be in that cave any longer. Only one wish to be free wouldn’t be so bad. The question was, how to ask it.

  “Nico, if I was to wish for one wish, how much can be in that single wish?”

  One brow rose along with the corners of his mouth. “You simply state, ‘I wish…’ and whatever follows is one single wish. You are very clever to think on how to ask for a wish.”

  The approval in his voice warmed me and I tried in vain not to blush once more. “One wish…” the words were said in a hushed whisper as I thought on how the wish should sound, what it could entail for not only me but Nico as well. Whatever the wish was, it had to include us out of here and safe from Tryphon.

  “Okay, I think I know what to wish for.”

  Nico’s smile was small and I wasn’t sure if it was from apprehension or something else. Even though I was drawn to him, I still knew nothing of him more than what he had told me in the short time we were together. He nodded once and gave my hands a light squeeze. Picking up the glass bottle, which Nico was tied to, I brought my eyes to him.

  “I wish for us to be free of this temple, in Babilli and that Tryphon would not harm us in any way … oh and the camel I rode on should be back with us too.” The poor animal tied near the oasis sprang to my mind at the last moment and I hoped I hadn’t messed up my wish. It might have been foolish to worry about the beast but he did a fine job of getting me where I needed to be, he didn’t need to die for it.

  Nico’s smile grew, and for some unknown reason he pressed his lips to mine once more. After a light kiss, he pulled away and said, “As you wish, master.


  Nico’s arms wrapped around my body as he brought me to him. As soon as I was within his firm hold, the room around us appeared to melt away in a swirl of wind but with no sound. Looking up at him, I saw his eyes on me. That rich gaze never left mine and his embrace remained firm as the world around us disappeared in a silent tornado of Nico’s magic.

 
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