Centuries ago in plague-struck Italy, Julian DiConti cast a powerful spell in desperation to have the magical power to be able to help his people who were dying in horrific conditions. The spell goes spectacularly awry, leaving Julian enslaved to a Djinn bottle, bound to grant three wishes to each Master of the bottle until the spell can be broken. More than anything, Julian longs for a normal life – for a home, and a family. After six hundred years, however, he has begun to despair of ever being freed from the spell.
Enter Alessandra Taylor, a young woman who has followed her calling to help others, in the face of vociferous disapproval from her family, particularly her controlling father. Working at a shelter for battered women, she's thrilled to meet the reclusive Julian DiConti, whose collection of garments from third world countries has provided funding for shelters across the country. When Julian turns out to be a Djinn from the old bottle she found in her attic, she hears his story and empathizes with his despair. Although she's willing to free him, he can't tell her how. As time goes by, their initial attraction blossoms into a love that both realize is doomed. Once she has made her third wish, the magic of the bottle will whisk Julian away and out of her life forever... unless she can somehow figure out how to free him. But one by one, she's forced to use the precious wishes to help others.
Wishes in a Bottle by Allie McCormack
©2019 by Allie McCormack
After watching Alessandra back the bright yellow bug out of the driveway, Julian turned back into the house, taking this opportunity to explore her home more.
It was a comfortable home, bright and cheerful. The wood floors were bare, the maple finish polished to a high sheen, while the walls were painted in a soft, pale yellow. Ceiling fans whirled lazily overhead in each room. A comfortable-looking old-fashioned sofa draped with crocheted throws was placed against the front window, while open shelves containing a television, stereo system and books as well as various knick-knacks, stood on the wall opposite. Two wooden rocking chairs flanked the fireplace at the far end, with cushioned seats covered with embroidery and a hook rug lay before the hearth. Various stands of wood and brass in different sizes and shapes were scattered about the room, bearing pots of blooming flowers, as well as hanging pots with trailing vines.
The overall effect was open airy and cheerful. To the left of the front door, the living room opened into a dining area, and the kitchen beyond that. Down the hall leading off to the back of the house was the doorway to Alessandra’s bedroom, and another hall to the left leading to the bathroom and another bedroom. The kitchen was bright, done in shades of yellow and white, and the back door opened onto the back porch.
Heading back to the living room, he settled on the sofa, reaching for the television remote. It seemed a good time to catch up on any news he’d missed these past few days.
The sound of tires crunching on gravel caught his attention. He got up and went to the front window, peering out. Alessandra had left not long ago; certainly she would not be back already, and besides, he would have heard the putt-putt of the ancient VW’s engine. Instead of the cheerful little bug, a dark high-end sedan nosed its way up the drive. Frowning, Julian watched as a tall, stocky man got out of the car. Stepping to one side so he could not be easily seen, he watched from behind the curtains.
The unknown visitor seemed to be looking about him in a surreptitious way that had the hairs on the back of Julian’s neck raising. Apparently coming to a decision the man stepped away from the car to stride, not to the front porch, but toward the back of the house. He came more fully into view as he passed the kitchen window, and Julian recognized Laura’s husband, Robert.
Unsure of what to do, he moved further into the living room where he could not be seen from the kitchen or the back door. He could go out to challenge the man, but it seemed to him that the main question was what did Robert want here, with Alessandra clearly gone? It was soon enough after her departure that he suspected Robert had been waiting nearby, watching to see Alessandra leave. He had a strong suspicion also that the man had come looking for his wife. Julian debated whether or not to show himself. Robert had, after all, seen him at the cemetery with the women. On the other hand, something about the man’s sneaking manner gave him pause.
Julian hesitated, then dissolved into mist, streaking into his Djinn bottle where it stood on Alessandra’s dresser. From there he used the Djinn magic, commanding the vessel to show him the visitor’s actions. Since the Djinn magic was freely available to him at all times to protect the home and property of his Sahib, he could use it without fear of repercussions. The silvery walls of the bottle flickered, and the outside of Alessandra’s house appeared. Robert had made his way to the back of the house and was peering in through the glass above the kitchen sink. Dodging the rose bushes and their thorns, he looked into the guest bedroom, then Alessandra’s bedroom. Whether he was looking for his wife or casing the house to make sure no one was there, was unclear. But Julian knew that Laura’s address in Washington as well as the direct phone number to the gallery were in Alessandra’s day planner, which sat out in plain view on Alessandra’s desk in one corner of the dining room.
Julian’s chest tightened as anger grew. This man had no business sneaking around Alessandra’s home, no business hunting down the wife who had chosen to leave him. But what to do?
Apparently finished casing the house, Robert was making his way to the kitchen door in the back of the house. Alessandra had told him that her parents had never been to her home before, so he was sure that Robert didn’t have a key to the house from her parents. At the same time, he didn’t put it past Robert to find some way to jimmy the lock.
Julian considered his options. What he needed was to put a scare in the man. His mind went to the movie that he had watched once on the SciFi channel, at Jacinth’s insistence, and he smiled, feeling an evil satisfaction creep over him.
Making sure that Robert was at the kitchen door and nowhere near Alessandra’s bedroom window, Julian streamed once more from the bottle and reappeared in the center of the room. Raising his arms, he murmured an incantation, casting a shifting spell. He'd never shifted form before. It was a difficult spell to do, but not impossible; not with six hundred years of magical study and practice behind him and the Djinn magic to give it a boost.
He felt a peculiar disorientation as his limbs began to reshape themselves. He had grown accustomed to dissolving into the mist for moving in and out of his Djinn vessel, and to the instantaneous appearances that had been necessary when called by his Sahib from afar, but shapeshifting was something entirely different, like being caught in a vortex and everything was pulling apart, reshaping. An odd spinning sensation had him in its grip. Then released him and he dropped to all four... paws! He’d done it!
He surveyed what had been his hands, now large, broad and covered with short, coarse black fur. He raised his head, pleased that he was tall enough to see over the top of Alessandra’s dresser. Rearing up to place his paws on top of the dresser, he saw a sleek, muscular black dog looking back at him from the mirror. The wide jaws parted in a doggie smile.
He could hear Robert at the back door now, hear the jiggling of the door knob and the muttered imprecations as the man struggled with the lock. Buried deep in the dog’s body, Julian felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle, his head lowering. A growl formed deep in his chest and rumbled through the thick neck. The animal had strong protective urges, all surging to the fore. Julian felt as if he were more along for the ride than in control, as the dog charged through the house, intent on challenging the intruder.
“Come on, come on.”
Robert cast a nervous glance about him, hoping that no neighbors could see through the overgrown jungle that his sister-in-law had allowed to take over the yard. If this were his, he’d rip out all these stupid plants and seed it with grass for a smooth lawn. And no swings or sandboxes to muck the place up, either. He wasn’t having any more children to take his wife’s attention and keep her from taking care of her husband, who should have been her main concern. No, a brick barbecue was what he’d have, maybe a nice hot tub.
He struggled to fit the slim piece of plastic through the narrow space between the door and its jam. Everyone went on and on about how door locks could be opened with credit cards, but it sure didn’t seem to be working. Still, he was confident it wouldn’t be much longer. Alessandra was such a fool, so trusting. She didn’t even have deadbolts on her doors. Didn’t she know that a simple knob lock could be easily opened?
The tongue of the latch gave, and the plastic slid forward, holding the tongue in its groove, and the handle turned under Robert’s fingers.
From the other side of the door, he heard a low rumbling. Startled, he straightened, peering through the glass window set into the door. Staring back, almost head-even with him, was the largest, blackest Great Dane he had ever seen in his life. Its great jaws were parted, the teeth frighteningly sharp and white. The snarls emerging from those open jaws were vicious.
The dog lunged, flinging its huge body against the door separating them. Robert let go of the doorknob and pushed away so hard he fell, almost cracking his skull on the cement step. He pushed the pain aside, scrambling back from the door, praying that the slender door jam would hold as the full weight of the beast hit it again, shaking the door. Robert thanked God that he hadn’t actually opened the door and that the kitchen door opened inward, not outward.
The animal ceased his lunges at the door and was standing on his hind legs, paws on the window sill, watching Robert through the glass. Slavering, menacing snarls crescendoed to loud, ferocious barking, the dog’s eyes fixed on him with murderous intent.
Robert picked himself up from the ground and ran for his car. Who would have thought that such a frivolous, irresponsible woman would keep such a dangerous animal? Robert reached his car, almost falling into the driver’s seat in his haste to reach safety, not breathing easily until the door was safely shut. His hands were shaking and he fumbled with the keys, fingers trembling as he found the right one and fit it into the ignition. He backed out of the driveway, aimed the car down the road and headed out of there in a screech of burned rubber. If he never came to this house again in his life, it would be too soon.
Back in the house, Julian dropped onto all fours and padded into the living room. Now that the intruder had been repulsed, the danger of invasion that had brought the canine’s instincts to the fore, Julian was in complete control of the animal body he had inhabited. Stopping to sniff the books on the coffee table, and drawing in Alessandra’s scent on her sofa, her easy chair, the shawl she had left draped on one corner of the bookshelf, he found he was rather enjoying the experience. It was rather cool, in fact.
He walked about the house, experiencing the long, easy strides of the Great Dane, his toenails clicking on the polished wood floors. He paused in front of the television. The morning news that had just come on when Robert had shown up was over by now, but there would be more. He curled his massive body up on the hearth rug before the fireplace, feeling a bit awkward managing the unaccustomed long limbs, but he achieved a comfortable position finally and laid his head on his outstretched paws. His doggy self heaved a sigh and prepared to snooze, even while he kept an eye on the television. This was definitely nice.
His jaws parted and his tongue lolled out as he laughed to himself, wondering what Alessandra would think if she came home to a large, black Great Dane that evening.
This page was created on 5/14/2019