"If Wishes Were Fishes..." by Grace N. CLICK HERE TO EMAIL HER

There's no such thing as Genies .... right?

The Bottle

Her first hint was having everything shaken up again. With all the handling Her home had gotten lately, you'd think someone would have rubbed it the right way, but She had had no such luck.

She tightened the shields, securing the furniture from toppling, and muttered to Herself, "Ma was right - I shoulda gotten earthquake insurance!"

When She didn't feel her home being set down again, curiosity got the best of Her and She loosened the shields enough to be able to Listen.

"What have you got there, sweetheart?" a woman's voice asked, sounding loving and amused.

"Isn't it pretty?" a little girl's voice answered her. "Can I have it, Mom? Please?"

"A kid?!" She squeaked in protest. "Oh gods above and below, please don't let it be a kid!"

The last time that happened, She had gotten a spoiled Egyptian princess who had to be tricked into making her last wish, else She would have been stuck there forever playing guessing games! That had been Her cousin's doing; a practical joke She had gotten Him back for but good a few centuries later.

The voices Outside continued.

"But where are you going to put it, sweetheart?"

"I don't know," the child admitted. But before She could get Her hopes up, the girl said, "Maybe in the window in my room. It would be so pretty with the sun coming through it ... or maybe I could put some flowers in it."

"Flowers?! Do you have any idea how hard it is to dry everything off in here?!" She shook Her head vehemently. "I don't think so! Nuh-uh! No flowers! Come on, 'Mom', tell her!"

'Mom' didn't tell her, but she did sound cautious. "Okay," the adult voice agreed. "But you have to be very careful with it – it looks really old."

Her jaw dropped and She scowled fiercely in the direction of the voice. "HEY! Watch who you're callin' old!!"

"I will!" the little girl's voice exclaimed, sounding overjoyed. "Thank you!"

She sighed and dropped limply onto one of the beanbag chairs. "Wonderful," She muttered. "If this kid is anything like that Seneph-whatever-her-name-was, I am officially in Djinni Hell."

Rachel Corrigan looked at the object in her daughter's hands with a mixture of amusement and wariness. The last time she had gotten Kat something from an antique store, all Hell had nearly broken loose – literally. But when she saw the hopeful look in the nine-year-old's eyes, she found she couldn't say no.

Besides, what possible harm could there be in such a small, if lovely, bottle?

* * *

The first day was uneventful, almost to the point of Her wishing the girl would just rub the bottle and get it over with.

Restless, She wandered over to the mirror that gave Her a view of the Outside and peered out of it. She knocked on the "window" and called out, "Hellooo out theeeere!!" But the bedroom remained empty, as it had been for hours, the open door showing an equally empty corridor. "Come on," She wailed. "I'm dyin' of anticipation here!"

Downstairs, She knew, the child and her mother were having breakfast. So maybe I'll get lucky and it'll be the mother who frees me. She rolled Her eyes and threw Herself onto the chaise lounge, producing a piña colada to sip at as She muttered, "Or maybe I'll just sit here gathering dust for another century."

Finally, just when She was about to give up hope, the girl came bouncing back into the room. It didn't look like she was going to stay long, though. She grabbed her book-bag and was headed out the door when She gave a loud wail of protest. The girl paused, frowning, and turned to look around her room; She raised an eyebrow. "Oh my," She breathed. "A little one with Talent!"

She concentrated and said, "Come on, just come over here ... come over here and clean the nice bottle ..."

She was at first astonished and then overjoyed when the little girl came to the dresser where she had put the bottle. "Come on, kid," She murmured. "Just one good rub ..."

"Katherine!! Come on, we're going to be late!"

The little girl paused, her hand outstretched. The child gave a heartfelt sigh and said to herself, "I wish I didn't have to go to school."

She rolled her eyes, exasperated, but still amused. "You're supposed to rub the bottle and then make the wish, kid," She informed her.

To Her immense surprise and joy, the little girl seemed to Hear her in some way. Rather than heading straight downstairs, she picked up the bottle and placed it carefully inside her book-bag. As the zipper was secured, Her sight of the Outside vanished, but sound, though muffled, still remained. "Mom, I'm going to take the bottle with me to show Lisanne and Marie."

"Are you sure, sweetheart? You don't want it to get broken..."

She nodded in vigorous agreement to that. "Absolutely not!" She said. "I like this place – and do you know how hard bottle-hunting is?!"

"I'll be careful," she heard the little girl promise, then the sound of a door closing.

"Well, all right," the mother answered. She heard what She recognized as the sound of a car starting, then there was a tiny jolt of motion. "I'll be at the island for most of today, in case you need to reach me."

"Okay," the child said. "Can we go there after school? I want to show Alex the bottle too."

"We'll see. It depends on what we're going to be doing."

"Okay," the girl said agreeably, and launched into a description of what she expected to be doing at school.

Despite Herself, She found Herself growing to like the little one the more She listened. Katherine seemed nice enough, with the ring of innocence in her voice. "Okay," She said, looking (approximately) Havenward. "I admit it. You do know what You're doing."

As was the wont of things, better known as Murphy's Law, it was precisely when Kat was about to rub the bottle that trouble showed up. The day had gone by peacefully, and at recess, Kat took the bottle out to show Lisanne and Marie. Wanting to show it off in the best light, she had taken her sweater and was preparing to clean the bottle when a voice sounded.

Kat froze in place.

"What have you got there, Kitty-Kat?"

She looked up, not really wanting to see who was accosting her. She already knew who it would be. She was right. Two girls, much larger than the nine-year-old, stood before her, arms akimbo and threat radiating from them almost visibly. Jennifer Bradley and Susanne Hoffs, the terrors of grade school.

"Well, Kitty-Kat?" Bradley said. "I asked you a question."

Kat stood slowly, hoping to be able to run if necessary. She reached behind her protectively for the bottle, and held it tightly, her hands working at the decorated glass nervously.

And in exactly the right way.

Once Kat had reached the school, the appropriate books were taken from the bag and the bottle was left alone. Extra-strength shielding had taken care of movement during the car-ride and rummaging. After an hour of anticipatory silence, She started looking for things to do. Unfortunately, any books or magazines were ones She had read before, and She had Seen all the newest movies while stuck in the antique store. There wasn't even anything worth watching on TV.

She was, in short, bored our of Her mind.

Finally, She decided that the best way to make time go by quickly was to a) work on Her tan, and b) take a nap. And since She didn't have to worry about sunburn, She could do both at the same time. A practiced snap of Her fingers changed a corner of Her home into a miniature desert and She settled Herself onto the chaise-lounge, attired in a pin-striped neon bikini and Wayfarer sunglasses.

She was in the middle of a very pleasant dream about a very nice, handsome set of Arab twins named Jamal and Lamil whom She had met on Her very first outing, when She felt It. She sat up quickly, nearly spilling the margarita She had set on the arm of the chaise, and gave a squeal. "She did it!! She rubbed the bottle!!"

She leaped out of the chaise, crying thanks to every Djinni deity She could think of, and suddenly stopped. "Oh gods!" She gasped in shock. "What am I going to wear?!"

"It's nothing," Kat said quickly. "I have to go..."

"We haven't said you could," Hoffs said, stepping forward to push the smaller girl.

"Yeah," Bradley agreed. "Now let's see it, brat."

She reached behind Kat and grabbed at the bottle while Hoffs held the younger girl in place. Helpless, Kat watched as Bradley held the bottle up to the light and sneered at it. "Oooh, look. It's a pretty little bottle. My mom would really like this."

"It's mine! Give it back!" Kat surged forward, trying to grab it back, and was pushed roughly back by Hoffs.

"Come and take it, if you can!" Bradley sneered, and took off down the hall, Hoffs beside her.

Kat staggered to her feet from where Hoffs' push had landed her on the floor, and gave chase. She knew she had no real hope of catching them, but she was determined to try.

A pile of clothing, from Victorian era to Armani, scattered on the various pieces of furniture around Her, but She finally stood before a full-length mirror. The choice was an outfit made up of ivy-colored lycra pants with matching suspenders, and a white silk shirt with billowing sleeves, clasped at her wrists with ivy-leaf shaped buttons. A pair of three-inch black platform-style boots with green piping, and large sparkling earrings, also shaped like ivy leaves, completed the ensemble.

"Well?" She asked Her reflection. "What do you think?"

Her Reflection rolled Its eyes and said, "You look gorgeous. You always look gorgeous. Now for Haven's sake, go grant those wishes!"

She stuck Her tongue out at the image in the mirror. Checking Her outfit one last time, She took a deep breath and cast the Entrance Spell.

The Djinni

Kat rounded the corner of the hall and realized her mistake. The corridor was empty at this time of day; she was completely at the older girl's mercy. Her fear was confirmed as she saw the two girls leaning against the lockers, arms crossed as they smirked maliciously.

"Well, Kitty-Kat," Bradley challenged, and swung the bottle back and forth. "Come and get it." Kat didn't think she meant the bottle.

But it was the bottle that caught the nine-year-old's attention. Was it her imagination, or was it glowing?!

"Well, come on, bra-" Bradley's voice cut off abruptly as a column of white smoke suddenly appeared in the hallway between the three girls. It grew in volume, glowing from within with sparks of emerald and sapphire light, until it reached the ceiling. Kat found herself vaguely hoping that the smoke alarm above it wouldn't go off.

It didn't, but none of the girls would have noticed if it had – all their attention was fixed on the shape that seemed to materialize in the center of the smoke. It was tall, and female, if the shape and the long curly black hair were anything to go by. The figure raised its arms imperiously ... and waved them at the smoke, letting out a not-quite-ladylike series of coughs.

"Oh, ack!" the figure exclaimed, coughing and waving until the smoke finally vanished with a final, fitful spin of colored light. She (for it was definitely a woman) gave one last cough and muttered, "Oy – I really gotta work on that..."

The two older girls were staring with terrified fascination at the woman; Kat, who was a bit more used to people appearing out of nowhere, only widened her eyes in surprise. Especially as the woman looked from one girl to the other and raised an eyebrow, apparently confused. "Oh, you have company," she said, apparently to Kat. She approached the older girls and said, "Umm ... you're dreaming all this. I'm not real. Now, ah, go ... go wake up."

The two girls exchanged a look, then looked back at the woman. She rolled her eyes and made a shooing motion at them. "Go on," she urged. The girls still didn't move, and the woman sighed loudly. In the blink of an eye, the voluptuous figure transformed into a very large, fiercely scowling dragon. "See?" it said, smoke trickling from its nostrils. "It's a dream. Now go!"

Bradley and Hoffs went, screaming as they ran down the hall. Bradley dropped the bottle in her fear and, with a minor sound of alarm, the dragon reached out and snatched it before it could shatter on the ground. Then, with a satisfied nod, the dragon turned back into a woman. She frowned, twitched her nose, then breathed out through it hard. Twin plumes of smoke appeared and faded into the air, and she shook her head as if to clear it. Turning to Kat, she said, "I forgot how much that itches! But does it clear the sinuses!"

Kat stared at her, her mouth hanging open. She had seen ghosts, demons, mummies ... but she had never encountered anything like this! The woman regarded her, slender ebony brows lifted, a smile on her full, glossed lips. "So," she said. "You ready to make that first wish?"

Kat remained silent, in a state of shock. Finally, she managed to squeak, "Wish?"

The woman nodded, then suddenly groaned and smacked her forehead lightly. "Oh, fudge! Sorry, I forgot! Got distracted with the whole dragon deal... Here, hold this." She handed the bottle to Kat, who took it numbly. Then she stepped back and, with a dramatic lift of her hands, her voice echoing in the halls and sparks of light swirling around her, proclaimed, "I am The Djinni of the Bottle! And ye, having released me, are now my Master! Three wishes shall ye be granted and only three ... but be warned, O Master, there are rules by which you must wish!"

She vanished and reappeared standing beside Kat. "Did you see Aladdin, hon?" Kat nodded and she said, "Well, they pretty much got it." She counted off the items on her fingers as she said, "No making people fall in love, no killing someone, no bringing back the dead, and – as Robin Williams put it – ix-nay on the wishing for more wishes. And it was amazing how much that man sounded like my uncle Fred..."

She shook her head while Kat giggled, then said, "Anyway! Also, try to stay away from the big stuff like World Peace – I'm a Djinni, not a Goddess. Though," she added, her eyes sparkling, "there was this one Sultan who always called me his little..." She stopped, looking at Kat and seeming to remember she was just a child. "Uh, never mind. The point is, I'm at your service, kiddo – so what'll it be?"

Kat was still giggling, genuinely amused by the woman's diatribe. "You're a genie? Really?"

The woman smiled and nodded. "Actually, it's Djinni, not Genie, but ... what the hey! It's been so long since I've been Out, you can call me whatever you want. So, whaddaya want, kid? A horse, a camel ... a car?"

Kat giggled again, then remembered they were standing in the middle of the hall. "Um, I don't know, but ... maybe we shouldn't talk here..."

The Djinni frowned, then nodded. "Good idea," she said finally. Kat suddenly found herself on a sunny beach, dressed in a bathing suit, wide-rimmed hat and sunglasses. "Better?" the Djinni asked, similarly outfitted.

Kat laughed and then shook her head regretfully. "No," she said. "I have to stay at school – and besides, I'm supposed to meet Lisanne and Marie to show them the bottle. Um, if that's okay?"

The Djinni stared at her for a second, then smiled slowly. "Yeah, that's fine." They were suddenly back in the school hallway, in their normal clothes. Or at least Kat was; she wasn't sure what a genie considered normal, but the woman was back in the sparkly green and white outfit. "So," the Djinni asked. "Where to?"

Kat thought, then said, "The swing-sets? That's where I told Lisanne and Marie I'd meet them."

"Okay," the Djinni exclaimed and started to snap her fingers when Kat suddenly said, "Why don't we walk?"

The Djinni looked at her as if the thought had never occurred to her, which it probably hadn't, and shrugged. "Whatever you say, Master."

Kat giggled and shook her head as they walked. "My name's Kat, with a K."

The Djinni smiled at her. "Yeah, I know – I've been around since yesterday, remember?"

Kat's eyes widened. "You can see and hear outside the bottle?"

The magickal woman laughed. "Honey, I've even got cable in my bottle!"

* * *

"So what's your name?" Kat asked as they walked to the playground.

The Djinni looked at her and slowly smiled. "You know you're the first Master I've had in 200 years who's ever asked me that?"

Kat frowned. "Why?

The Djinni shook her head. "Well, some people just don't ..." She paused and then said, "My name's pretty long, though."

"That's okay," Kat said. "My full name is actually Katherine Anne."

The Djinni chuckled. "Well, mine's a little longer than even that, hon." Kat looked at her expectantly and she said, "Okay, you asked for it. Ama-na'lisa-ter'ist'ianea-lona Gibra'itiphana-la'linit-kepal." At Kat's wide-eyed stare, she shrugged and said, "You should hear what my uncle Fred's full name is."

Kat giggled. "So what do your friends call you?"

The Djinni frowned, looking at first distant and then sad. "Truth is, I haven't really had any friends in a long time..."

Kat frowned as well, and slid her hand into the Djinni's comfortingly. "It's okay," she said. "It's hard making new friends." Then she cocked her head and asked, "Can I be your friend?"

The Djinni nearly tripped, staring at Kat in complete astonishment. Finally, she smiled softly and touched the child's hair fondly. "Sure, kid. I'd like that," she said quietly. Tears glimmered in her eyes and she cleared her throat. "So – what do you want to call me?"

Kat shrugged, glad to see some of the sadness leave the Djinni's eyes. "I don't know. What about ... um ... Ama?"

The Djinni smiled down at her and nodded. "I like the sound of that. Okay, Ama it is."

Kat smiled happily at the newly-named Djinni as they neared the swing-sets. "Can I introduce you to my friends?"

Ama looked uncertain. "Well, it's been my experience that the fewer people who know, the better. You can consider it a special secret, how about that?"

Kat frowned a bit and sighed, acknowledging the wisdom of it even though she didn't like keeping secrets. "Okay," she agreed after a moment. "So what will you do?"

Ama grinned at her. "Watch."

To Kat's surprise and delight, what she could watch, no one else could. Ama was invisible to anyone but her new Master. While the other girls ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the ornate bottle, Kat had a difficult time restraining her giggles at the sight of Ama preening visibly while she perched on top of the swing-set. Apparently, the Djinni was more than a bit proud of her selection in bottles.

When recess ended, however, she seemed to disappear, and Kat frowned until she realized that the woman was floating a few feet above the air. The Djinni was lounging on a blue and green carpet piled high with pillows, idly flipping through a copy of Vogue magazine as she accompanied the children back into the school. Kat automatically started to issue a warning as the Djinni approached the building's outer wall, only to see carpet and woman float right through the bricks.

That sight nearly made the nine-year-old gasp in surprise; though she managed to stop herself, her teacher noticed the slightly goggle-eyed stare she was giving a seemingly empty space of air.

"Is everything okay, Katherine?" the young woman asked, and Kat nodded, then hurried to her locker. The teacher frowned after her, then shook her head, chuckling at the unpredictable ways of third-graders.

Ama, having seen Kat's sudden mad dash, frowned as well, then promptly vanished and reappeared standing next to Kat at her locker. "Everything okay, kiddo?"

Kat started, then gave a heartfelt sigh. "You scared me!" she whispered fiercely.

Ama's eyes widened and she said contritely, "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to. Tell you what – you go to class, maybe work on a list of possible wishes, and I'll wander around and see the sites. If you need me, all you have to do is rub the bottle ... 'course some warning would be nice. I had this one master who had the worst habit of catching me in the middle of a shower."

Kat laughed, obviously over her startlement, and nodded. "Okay," she said. "Class is over at 2 o'clock. How about you just come back then?"

Ama smiled brightly and extended her hand to show a sparkling green and white watch suddenly appear on her wrist. "You got it, kiddo!"

Kat giggled again and headed for her classroom. As she left, Ama regarded her with a small smile. Finally, the Djinni looked Havenward and murmured, "You really do know what You're doing."

* * *

Randolph Hitchcock looked over the plans he had drawn up and smiled slowly. He wanted everyone in one place when he destroyed Derek, so that the other man would be forced to watch everything he held dear be torn to pieces. As Alicia had been.

He shut his eyes briefly at that thought, flashing back to that horrible day. Grief turned to ecstasy as he imagined the look that would be on Derek's face when his world came tumbling down. Literally. The first part of the plan was already in motion, and soon after, all the other pieces would fall into place.

In two days, Derek Rayne and his wretched Legacy House would be no more.


Ama lowered Her sunglasses an inch, smiling as She looked at the floor-length sapphire gown in the window. A minute later and She was inside the store, the dress catching the light becomingly as She turned in front of the store's mirror. It accentuated Her generous curves without being too clingy, and She sighed happily.

"That looks absolutely lovely on you, miss," the sales-person said, with a perkiness that would have been irritating if Ama hadn't been stuck in a bottle for the last century.

Given Her isolation, however, the Djinni's smile was equally bright as She answered, "Isn't it? I just love this – do you have it in any other colors?"

The young woman smiled sadly. "I'm afraid not."

Ama frowned delicately, then regarded Her reflection and said, "What do you think? Maybe emerald green? Or that really deep ruby red, like the one in Persia?"

The sales-girl frowned and started to repeat that they only had it in blue when the dress suddenly changed color at each suggestion, to the exact hue described. Unnoticed by the Djinni, the woman's jaw dropped open in shock. It dropped even further when the Djinni's reflection replied, "Why not purple? Like the outfit you wore in Bangor?" Seeing the sales-girl's reaction, It added dryly, "You know, you might want to warn them next time you ask my opinion – you know how mortals can be."

The girl was looking from the reflection to the now purple-gowned woman, her eyes wide. The Djinni frowned, chastising Herself – again – and said, "Ah, you know, sweetie, it's kind of hot in here ... you don't look so good. Why don't you just go sit down? I can take care of myself."

The girl blinked and suddenly the dress was blue again, the elegant, ebony-haired woman looking at her with concerned kindness. She looked at the reflection only to see it too looked perfectly normal. Her mouth worked silently for a second more, then she said faintly, "I think ... I think I will sit down ... just for a minute ..."

The woman put a supporting hand under her elbow and guided her towards the door to the back room. "There you go," she said. "Do you want some water?"

"Ah, no, that's okay..." The girl cast one last look at the woman, and then the mirror. As she opened the door, she shook her head and murmured, "Must have been something I ate..."

Having seen to the girl, Ama went back to the mirror, where Her reflection promptly said, "Very smooth."

Ama scowled at It. "If I didn't know you were being sarcastic, I'd thank you. Now," she said. "Help me choose a color."

Five minutes later, the girl at the cashier watched the curly-headed woman waltz out of the store, shopping bags in hand, and shook her head in wonder and confusion. Turning to the girl who had assisted the customer, she commented, "Nice work, Nancy. You got one helluva commission from that one."

Nancy frowned at her, her gaze considerably less glazed than it had been a few minutes before, when she had been breathing into a paper-bag to calm down. She prided herself on having pulled herself together in so short a time. "Oh?" she asked calmly. "Did she get the dress?"

The other girl, Lisa, nodded, looking impressed. "She bought four of them," she answered. "It's funny, though – I didn't know we had that design in green, red or purple."

Nancy stared at her, then swallowed hard and silently headed back to the back room and the paper bag, leaving Lisa to frown after her in confusion.

At 2 o'clock, Kat came out of her classroom and headed straight for her locker. Bradley and Hoffs were nowhere in sight, for which she gave thanks. Still, she couldn't help a slight smirk as she remembered the looks on their faces when Ama turned into a dragon. And speaking of the Djinni, Kat wondered, where was she?

Kat waited patiently, gathering her things, and was beginning to get worried when, at 2:10, a little tingle made its way up her spine. It was, she suddenly realized, the sensation she had felt when Ama first appeared. Looking up, she found the Djinni sitting atop the lockers, smiling apologetically down at her.

"Sorry, kiddo," Ama said. "I kind of lost track of time ... there was this guy at the market who was just sooo cute! Which reminds me – kind of – you like oranges?" Kat nodded, and Ama rummaged in one of the numerous bags that had appeared beside her on the lockers. "Here," she said, drawing out a large Navel orange and tossing it to the little girl. Kat caught it deftly, smiling, and Ama continued, "So, you work on that wish-list?"

Kat nodded, peeling the orange with some difficulty. "Yeah, but I'm still not sure what to wish for."

Ama smiled and hopped down from the lockers. She floated down and took the orange from Kat, peeling it for her absently as she answered, "That's okay. Take your time. I'm actually enjoying it out here. The world has changed so much ... shopping is so much more fun now!"

Kat giggled. "You went shopping?" She had gathered as much from the bags still lining the top of the lockers, but she thought a genie could create anything she needed. She said as much and Ama grinned at her.

"Of course we can, but what's the fun in that? Fashion is an art!" Kat didn't look like she was entirely sure what the Djinni meant. The tall woman sighed and shook her head. "I forgot – you're too young to appreciate shopping. Don't worry," she assured her, leaning in conspirationally, "you will!" She held up her hand and a pair of child-sized iridescent sunglasses appeared. "Ta-da!"

Kat smiled brightly and took them from her. "Cool!" she exclaimed. She put them on and posed for her new friend.

The Djinni laughed and handed her the peeled orange, the rinds vanishing. "Here ya go," she said.

"Thank you." Kat popped a slice into her mouth and chewed happily, then looked over her shoulder to see her mother coming up the steps. 2:15. Right on time. "Can I tell my mom about you, Ama?" she asked. "She probably won't believe me, but..."

Ama smiled indulgently. "Sure, kiddo. You should never lie to your mother ... not until you have a really hot date, anyway." Kat giggled as Ama waggled her eyebrows. Then the Djinni said, "Well, I'll put these things away..."

With a snap of her fingers, the Djinni vanished, the packages along with her. Kat had an urge to peer into the bottle and see if she could spot the woman, but resisted. Ama's space was private, after all.

Turning to her mother, Kat smiled brightly. Rachel Corrigan smiled down at her daughter, giving her a hug before asking, "Great glasses – where did you get them?"

"They were a present," she answered, offering the orange to her mother. "Want a slice?"

Rachel frowned, confused, but took a slice. She had to remember to congratulate the school on giving the children such fresh fruit. "A present from whom, sweetheart?" she asked, as she helped Kat put on the backpack.

"From Ama. She's my new friend."

"Oh? Is she a new kid in class?"

"No," Kat said blithely. "She's a genie – she lives in the bottle we got at the store yesterday."

Rachel blinked in surprise, then, smiling at nine-year-old imaginations, said, "I see. Did she grant you a wish?"

Kat shook her head. "No, I haven't decided yet. She said I should make a list to help me decide."

"Ah," Rachel said wisely. "That's a very good idea."

Kat looked at her mother and sighed, then shook her head, knowing she didn't believe her. Adults could be so thick-headed sometimes.

* * *

Rachel stopped in the doorway of her house and stared in shock. The inside of her house was in shambles. Beside her, Kat held tightly to her hand and whispered, "Mommy, what happened?"

Rachel glanced down at her, then shook her head. "I don't know, sweetheart," she answered. She put Kat into the car and leaned against the door, pulling out her cell-phone and dialed 911. When the dispatcher picked up, she said grimly, "I'd like to report a break-in."

Kat peered through the window as her mother spoke on the phone. She looked down at the backpack she held and opened it. "Ama," she whispered. "Ama, can you hear me?"

"Of course I can hear you, kiddo," the Djinni's voice said from behind her. Kat turned and couldn't help a smile as her new friend looked at her from the backseat. The Djinni started to crack a joke, only to frown at the tension in the child's small frame. "Hey, what's the matter?"

Kat shook her head. "I don't know. Somebody broke into our house. Mom's calling the police ... Ama, I'm scared," she confessed in a whisper.

Ama made a sympathetic sound and was suddenly in the front seat beside her. "Awww, honey," she said, wrapping an arm about the girl's shoulders. "Don't you worry, everything's gonna be just fine! I'm sure the police will find out who did it ..."

"What if they don't?" Kat asked. "What if the people who did it come back?"

Ama smiled comfortingly. "If they come back," she said, with a comical drawl, "then I'll take care of 'em myself!" The drawl did its job and made Kat laugh, as did a sudden tickle-attack.

Outside the car, Rachel heard the giggles and leaned down to frown through the window. "Katherine?"

Kat blinked up at her and hastily stopped laughing. "Yes, Mom?"

Rachel tried to think of a suitable way of asking what had gotten into her daughter, then shook her head and made her second phone call.

Twenty minutes later, Nick Boyle's red Mustang was pulling up to the house. Kat ran to the young man happily as he got out, and he swung her up into his arms. "Hey, sweets," Nick said cheerfully, trying to keep the worry from his voice.

Rachel smiled at the young man as he approached her, Kat's arms securely about his neck. "Thanks for coming," she said.

"No problem," the ex-SEAL answered. "What do the police say?"

Rachel glanced at Kat and, with a roll of her eyes, the little girl slipped out of Nick's arms and went to sit in her mother's car. The two adults watched her with amused smiles. After a moment, Rachel said, "It looks like a robbery, but ... I don't know ..."

Nick frowned. "Well, you know you can stay at the House tonight," he offered. "And after, until you figure out what bothers you about it."

Rachel smiled. "Thanks. Could you do me a favor?"

"Name it."

"Could you go ahead and take Kat? It's going to be hours before the police are finished here, and I don't want her waiting in the car."

Nick nodded. "Of course," he answered. "You want me to come back here and stay with you til it's over?"

Rachel smiled, but shook her head. "No, I'll be okay. I'm more worried about Kat; something like this is traumatic enough for an adult ..."

Nick looked at Rachel's car, where the girl seemed to be chatting with someone. Probably an imaginary friend, he thought; just hope this one isn't going to turn out to be a ghost. "She seems to be taking it okay," he observed.

Rachel smiled indulgently. "She has a new imaginary friend," she told him, confirming his guess. "Apparently, this one is a genie."

Nick's brows rose. "A genie, huh?" he said. "This should be interesting."

Rachel chuckled. "Oooh, yeah."

"Oh, I love men in uniforms," Ama said, materializing beside Kat after the little girl signaled to her, still looking at the police officers gathered outside. "Ever since I saw my first palace guard – there's just something about them... So, what's up?"

"Nick just arrived," Kat said. "I think we're going to be going to the castle tonight."

Ama raised a slender ebony eyebrow. "The castle," she repeated slowly. "I thought I was the one who lived around magick."

Kat shook her head, grinning. "It's not that kind of castle," she informed the Djinni. "But it's really neat. And Alex and Nick and Philip and Derek are all really nice. You'll like them. They know all kinds of stuff, so homework will be much easier."

Ama smiled, as indulgently as Rachel had. "That's nice. So, what's your homework on?"

"Africa," Kat answered. "We're learning about all the different animals."

"Oh?" Ama snapped her fingers suddenly. "Hey! Whaddaya say, once you get settled in, we see those animals up close?" The white and green outfit turned into a old-style safari suit, complete with shaded hat with a white scarf wrapped about it; the only exception to the authenticity of the outfit were the stylish Ray-Ban sunglasses. "Ya ever been to Africa?"

Kat stared and shook her head. "Do you mean it?" she asked finally.

Ama grinned at her and suddenly Kat heard an elephant trumpeting. She giggled as Ama said, "See, they're looking forward to it."

Kat smiled, then frowned. "I don't want my mom to worry ..."

Ama made a dismissive gesture. "I'll have you back before dinner, she'll never know you're gone," she assured her Master.

Kat smiled widely, but cut off her answer as the car door opened and Nick peered in at her. "Hey, Kit-Kat," he said, while Ama's jaw dropped open.

"Well, hello," the Djinni drawled, which brought a confused look from Kat.

Nick noticed and frowned. "You okay, sweetie?"

Kat looked back at him and nodded. "Yeah. Are we going to the island?"

Nick smiled. "Yup," he said. "Your mom's gonna stay here for a bit, so I'm going to drive you over."

Kat smiled back happily. "Is everyone there?" she asked, already grabbing her backpack and sliding out of the car.

Nick nodded. "Derek's coming in tonight," he answered, "so, yeah, we'll all be there together."

"Cool," Kat said.

Nick laughed. "Cool," he echoed.

Ama appeared right beside him, still in safari-clothes. Appropriate, given the near purr in her voice as she lowered her sunglasses and smiled happily. "Oh yeah," she agreed. "Very cool." Looking Havenward, she added, "You very definitely know what You're doing."

The Castle

The place was huge. Ama gave the lavishly appointed foyer an appreciative once-over as she followed Kat inside, and gave the girl a thumbs up sign. "Not bad, kid," she said, looking around as she perched on the railing of the stairs' first landing. The place wasn't as big as some palaces she had been in, obviously, but after a century in a bottle, not too mention the current standards of living ... it was nothing to sneeze at.

As Kat was greeted downstairs by an attractive woman with black hair and café-au-lait skin, Ama let the castle's energy sink in. It was amazingly full of magickal residues, which served to give her quite a buzz.

"So," Alex said to Kat. "How was school?"

Kat's eyes brightened. "It was cool," she answered. "We're learning about Africa ..." She was listing the things they had learned about when Philip came out of the library. Kat ran to him eagerly, and he swept her up into a hug.

"An' how was your day?" he asked. Kat, not noticing the amused warning glances Nick and Alex gave the priest, happily answered him.

Ama appeared beside them, giving Philip a long, admiring look. "Girl," she said to Kat, "you have got really good taste for someone so young."

Kat giggled, and Philip gave her a curious look. Kat shook her head. "It's just something Ama said," she told them.

Philip frowned. "Ama?"

Kat nodded. "She's my new friend – you can't see her."

Philip nodded in understanding and set the little girl down. "Ah," he said. "She's not another Egyptian princess, is she?"

He sounded almost comically cautious, and Kat shook her head, not noticing Ama's curious look. "No," she answered. As always, she felt comfortable telling her friends in the Legacy, even if she couldn't tell anyone else. "She's a genie."

Philip exchanged a look with the others and then smiled. "Now that must be interestin'."

"Yup," Kat said, glancing at the Djinni, who was regarding her with an amused smile. "She likes you – and Nick too."

Ama's eyes widened and she gasped, "Kat!! You weren't supposed to tell them that!"

Kat giggled, catching the amusement in Ama's indignation. The three Legacy members exchanged a look and Nick said, "Does she, now?"

Alex chuckled. "And what about me?"

"Not going there," the Djinni muttered.

Kat looked at Ama with a confused frown, then turned to Alex and said wisely, "It's not that kind of 'like'."

Alex's eyebrows shot up, then she turned an amused glance at Philip. "Oh really?" she teased, and chuckled as Philip blushed.

Ama looked at Alex and grinned. "Oh, you are bad! ... I like this girl!" She grinned down at Kat and said, "That kind of 'like'."

Kat giggled and relayed the message, which brought a laugh from all three adults. Finally, Nick managed to stop laughing long enough to suggest that Kat go change clothes and start her homework. He didn't quite understand the eagerness with which she obligingly launched herself up the stairs.

* * *

Hitchcock watched the proceedings at Rachel Corrigan's house with pleased interest. Everything was falling into place.

As he had guessed, Corrigan's first reaction had been to call her friends, and go to the castle for a few days. Now all that was left was for Rayne himself to arrive. Hitchcock would let them settle in, feel comfortable, and then ... then he would strike, and Alicia would finally rest.

* * *

Kat cradled the lion cub and smiled brightly at Ama. "He's so cute!"

Ama laughed and nodded. Both Djinni and child were dressed in the safari outfits Ama had produced earlier. Behind the Djinni, providing an unlikely cushion, sprawled the male lion. Ama had one arm stretched out across its shoulders, her hand disappearing in its thick mane. The lioness lounged at her side, its head in the Djinni's lap. A contented rumble emanated from the chests of both tawny beasts as Ama scratched behind their ears.

"Yes he is," the Djinni answered. "Now, what does your book say about them?"

Kat looked over at the large book that floated beside her and read aloud from the page it was open to. "Lions do not hunt every day," she read. "They may eat up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of meat at a time, and then go over a week before the next kill." Kat's eyes widened as she regarded the two adults cats. "Wow," she said, sounding awed.

Ama nodded, smiling mischievously. "And after that, they take a real big Tums."

Kat laughed. "They do not!"

The lion club gave a mewl of sound, declaring itself hungry, and Ama nodded at it. "Maybe not," she acceded. "But I think that little one wants some milk from his mommy." She looked up as a ding sounded. "And speaking of dinner – your mom's on her way to your room. So, say goodbye to the Lion King there," she said, disengaging herself from the adult lions with an 'umph'. "And then we will be on our way..."

She stood and gave each adult a final scratch to their chins, then watched Kat let the cub go with a kiss to its forehead. "Ready?"

Kat nodded, dusting off her trousers. "Ready," she confirmed.

"All right then." Ama snapped her fingers and instantly they were back in Kat's room at the castle, Kat dressed in the outfit she had selected before they left.

As if perfectly timed, the door opened and Rachel Corrigan gave her daughter a brilliant smile.

"Hey, honey! How's the homework coming?"

Kat grinned at her, practically bouncing as she went to give her mother a hug. "Great," she answered. "Me and Ama –"

"Ama and I," Rachel and Ama said, almost simultaneously.

Kat looked from one to the other, eyebrows raised. "Ama and I," she said slowly.

Rachel nodded in approval, not quite certain why her daughter looked both surprised and amused. "You ready for dinner?" Kat nodded, and as she followed her daughter out of the room, Rachel asked, "So what did you and Ama do?"

A few minutes later, in the middle of a description of the African savanna, Rachel wasn't quite sure she should have asked.

As they started down the stairs, Kat gave a cry of delight at the figure who appeared at the doorway of the study. "Derek!" Since he had been away on business, it had been over a week since she had seen the precept of the San Francisco House. With a child's enthusiasm and openness, Kat launched herself across the last few feet of distance and into the man's waiting arms.

She didn't even notice Ama's awed reaction of, "Ooooh my! I could definitely get to like it here."

"Hello, Katherine," Derek answered the child, sweeping her up into a hug. "How have you been?"

Kat smiled happily at him. "Fine. How was your trip?"

"It was rather calm," Derek chuckled. Usually, his trips were Legacy business, which invariably meant excitement in one form or another. "I got you something," he added.

Kat's smile grew. "Really?" she asked as he set her down. "What?"

Derek looked at Rachel, then, receiving a nod of permission, led Kat into his office and retrieved a small package from his desk. Kat unwrapped it, then opened the revealed box. Her eyes lit up even more as she regarded the small broach.

It was a pale gold lion, every detail etched carefully into the metal, including a diamond-cut mane and two round orbs of glowing amber for the eyes. It managed to be beautiful and yet perfectly suited for either a child or an adult.

Kat held it reverently, then smiled up at Derek and said sincerely, "Thank you!"

Derek smiled. "You're welcome. I know I missed your birthday, so when I saw this ... I'm glad you like it," he finished with a small shrug.

Rachel gave him a brilliant smile of thanks, and Kat turned to her mother. "Mom, look!" she exclaimed. "It looks just like Simba!"

Rachel laughed and agreed, while Derek gave them a minorly confused look. "It was a Disney movie," the psychiatrist explained. "The Lion King."

Kat nodded. "And we're learning about Africa in class now – Ama took me on a safari there."

Derek raised an eyebrow, casting a questioning look at Rachel. "Oh?" he asked. "Who is Ama?"

"My new friend," Kat explained. "She's a genie."

Derek smiled. "I see," he said as they headed for the dining room. "Did you know that the real name for them is Djinni?"

Ama's eyebrows rose as he continued with some of the history of the magickal beings. "Ohhh," she said, looking at the precept admiringly. "I like this man!"

Kat managed to stop a giggle just in time.

Dinner went smoothly, with only an occasional commentary from Ama and resulting giggle from Kat. Around the third time it happened, the members of the House stopped looking surprised. Since this imaginary friend wasn't giving anyone nightmares, or knocking them down stairs, they were perfectly content to dismiss it with a fond smile and a shrug of acceptance. After all, this was a Legacy House; strange things were supposed to happen.

"So," Alex said to Kat when the meal was over, "have you decided what you're going to wish for?"

Kat shook her head. "What would you wish for?"

"Hmm, that's a tough question to answer," the woman answered. "I suppose a good wish would be for a clean environment, or world peace..."

Kat shook her head and said, "No. She's a genie, not a goddess."

In the corner where she was floating, Ama nearly choked on one of the grapes she had produced. She stared at Kat for a second, then started laughing. "Geeze, kid," she managed to squeak. "You are just never gonna stop surprising me, are you?"

Kat smiled at her, then turned her attention back to Alex as she and the others laughed. "Okay," Alex conceded, grinning, "no big wishes. Any other rules?"

Kat nodded solemnly. "No making people fall in love –"

"Damn," Nick said. "There goes a date with Claudia Schiffer."

The other adults rolled their eyes, but Kat restrained herself and continued. "No bringing people back from the dead –"

Rachel smiled. "Good, we have enough of that happening on a regular basis anyway."

Kat gave a weary sigh and Rachel quickly bit her lip, fighting back laughter at her daughter's look. That pointedly raised eyebrow was something she had learned from Derek. The others noticed it as well and had to use an incredible strength of will not to laugh; Ama was no exception. The girl truly was just too cute!

"Sorry, sweeting," Philip said contritely for the rest of them. "Go on."

Kat nodded in thanks and said, "Okay. No killing people –" She cast a wary gaze around the table, then, when the group stayed quiet, she finished, "And no wishing for more wishes."

Derek cleared his throat, his eyes shining with restrained laughter. "All right then," he said. "With those rules in mind ... any ideas?"

Grinning wickedly, Nick suggested, "How about wishing for a nice, quiet vacation?"

Philip chuckled, a mischievous look in his eyes. "Ah, but then you wouldn' have an excuse for playin' Russian Roulette with ghosts."

Nick made a face at him. "Yeah, and you wouldn't have an excuse for making up chants to banish demons."

Philip rolled his eyes as the rest of the group laughed. "You're nev'r goin' t' let me live that one down, are you?"

Nick grinned at his 'brother'. "Nope," he confirmed happily.

Ama stared from one to the other, a grape held half-way to her mouth, forgotten in her confusion. Slowly, she raised an eyebrow at Kat and said, "And I thought I had an interesting family."

Thankfully, this time Kat's giggle was perfectly in time with the laughter of her table-mates.

High Spirits

Ama frowned as everyone, minus Kat and Rachel, seemed to vanish into library. A quick location spell dropped Her amongst them in the center of an elaborate computer room, and She gave the setup an awed glance. "What, is this a secret base for NASA?" She mused aloud, looking around curiously.

Then She noticed the logo on the screen behind Alex and Her eyes widened. "Ohhhh," She breathed. "This is The Legacy!"

The last time She had encountered the group had, coincidentally enough, been when She was released by one of their members. He hadn't been a nice man, and She had gladly helped the other members of his team to put an end to his deeds. That had been nearly six hundred years ago.

The Djinni shook Her head, smiling both at the memory of the nicer members of that House and the sight of the present crew. "Boy, either this is some serious coincidence or ..." She laughed. "Well, whatever – at least this group isn't mainly women!"

No, She thought, this House had three males. Three very attractive males.

She sighed happily and watched them work on some kind of translation. Finally, Derek yawned and said, "I think that trip took more out of me than I'd realized. If you'll all excuse me ..."

The others nodded. "Sleep well," Alex said, echoed by her companions.

Derek nodded and headed for an area right behind Ama, who was busy looking at the scroll projected on a monitor. Consequently, She didn't see him coming, and he walked right through Her. Ama straightened with a cry of "Whoa!!", and Derek paused, looking around him curiously for the wash of warm air that had hit him.

Philip noticed and said, "Everything all right, Derek?"

Derek shrugged off the sensation and nodded. "Fine. Good night."

Ama put a hand to Her forehead and shook Her head to clear it. "Wow," She murmured, feeling a bit buzzed. "What an aura!"

She turned to watch Derek leave, and Her eyes widened as he walked through the holograph. "What in the Worlds is that?" She said, and went over to the transparent wall to take a closer look.

She walked through it, and found Herself in the library, looking at the map that covered part of one wall. Then She stepped back through and grinned. "Oh, how cool!" she exclaimed in delight, and experimentally passed her hand through the hologram a few times, giggling.

Nick looked up from the computer as he caught something out of the corner of his eye. The holographic wall was flickering, ever so slightly. He heaved an irritated sigh and shook his head. Great, he thought. Probably a short somewhere ... Lovely. One more thing I have to fix!

Ama didn't notice his curious look, too caught up in child-like amusement at the 'wall'. She had Watched mortals come up with all sorts of incredible advances over the past century, but this one was by far the most fun. Next thing ya know, she thought to herself, they're gonna have stuff like on that series on Showtime ... Hmm ... that would be fun ... a Stargate.

Glancing over at Nick, She smiled as he came around the computer table. With an anticipatory grin, She knocked over the pencil-holder. With a frown, Nick stopped and turned to bend over and pick up the fallen items. Ama watched with a pleased smile.

Yep, She thought. Richard Dean Anderson is lovely, but Nick has got the cutest

"Finally got a chance to gaze at men in person, I see."

Ama whirled in surprise, Her eyes widening at the sight of the petite figure regarding Her from the entrance to the control room.

"Christina!" the Djinni cried, Her voice nearly a squeal in her delight. "Babushka!! It's been ages!"

Christina grinned at her. "Ama-na'lisa-ter'ist'ianea-lona Gibra'itiphana-la'linit-kepal!" she said, returning the Djinni's hug as the magickal woman hurried over to her. "It's been much too long! Where have you been?"

Ama rolled Her eyes. "Where do you think?" She asked. "Stuck in my bottle. But I did manage to do some major redecorating. And you?"

Christina shrugged, still smiling brightly. "Oh, you know. Same old same old; hanging around, giving occasional cryptic warnings. But I must admit, I am getting tired of this dress."

Ama shook her head. "I told you to stock up," she reminded her old friend. "A girl can never have too many outfits, even when she's a spirit."

Christina sighed and gave a melodramatic roll of her eyes. "I know, I know," she answered. "But you know very well I couldn't afford to buy more."

Ama nodded sagely. "I know," she said. "What they pay spirits these days is a crime!"

Christina nodded and suddenly, by mutual silent accord, they were inside Ama's home, a drink in each's hand. "I know," the Seeress agreed. "I mean, I remember when the offerings were milk, honey, ambrosia ... and those little spiced cakes ..."

Ama groaned. "Oy! Don't remind me, please! I loved those cakes!" They both gave a sad, appreciative sigh, then Ama brightened. "So - are you still doing that rhyming thing?"

Christina grinned. "Yes – drives the mortals crazy trying to figure out what I mean. I just love it!"

Ama laughed as she took a sip of her cocktail. "You always were a tease," she said, still chuckling. "Do you still have that book to help you out?"

Christina nodded and pulled out a well-worn leather-bound book, entitled A Thousand and One Rhymes for Giving Dire but Confusing Warnings. "It's great," Christina said, passing it to Ama. "Just when I think I'll have to use one again, it gets updated. Oh!" she cried, her eyes lighting up. "Check out the one on page 352 – you'll love it! And you should have seen Derek Rayne's face when I used it!"

Ama flipped to the appropriate page and let out a snerk of laughter as she read it. "Oh, that's too much!" she said, then read further and laughed again. "'Spirit listening, hear our plea, raise your voice and speak through me. One by one, each by each, hear our prayer we do beseech'," she quoted. "'See "The Medium's Long Distance Calling Manual" for directions for Spirit to Spirit Calls'."

She tapped the book and looked up at Christina. "I thought I remembered loaning that one to you!"

Christina sighed and shook her head. "I know, I'm sorry! I kept meaning to give it back and then you up and disappeared for a century!"

Ama raised an eyebrow. "We have the Magickal Express, remember?"

Christina smiled. "Yes, but this was one more way to make sure you headed back here."

Ama smiled slowly as comprehension hit. "You put a Return-to-Owner spell on the book, didn't you?"

Christina chuckled, her eyes sparkling. "Yup," she said. "And here you are!"

Ama laughed and nodded. "Yes, I am – that Katherine is the sweetest thing!"

Christina nodded. "I know! Her mother's a bit of an airhead at times, though."

Ama shrugged. "I haven't been around long enough to know, but you know mothers – they never believe their kids about invisible friends anyway. Makes our jobs much easier. Kind of. Now – tell me everything about this place – and everything you've been up to!!"

They talked for hours, going through more than a few Djinni-strength drinks. As Christina was a spirit, she only got a headache, and excused herself at that point. Ama, on the other hand, was a few turbans to the wind by the time her friend left.

Philip sighed and rubbed at a particularly sore spot on his shoulder as he headed upstairs. The translation was being stubborn, and could therefore very well wait til morning. Right now, all he wanted was to take a nice hot shower and then drop into his bed and sleep for as many hours as he could get away with.

He started stripping off his clothes as soon as he closed the door to his room, then headed for the bathroom. The warmth of the shower was exactly what his tired muscles needed, and he turned the water off almost regretfully, heaving a sigh as he wiped water out of his eyes and blindly reached for his towel.

Ama handed it to him with a broad smile, enjoying the slightly confused look on his face as he regarded the towel that had found its way to his hand so easily.

Finally, he shrugged. "Must've put it clos'r than I'd thought," he murmured to himself. Still, he could have sworn the towels the staff had put out today were blue ... this one was green, with ivy leaves etched in white. He didn't recall seeing the pattern before, but shrugged it off as a new acquisition.

Wrapping the thick towel about his waist, he quickly brushed his teeth, then headed back into the bedroom. Ama started to follow him, lowering her eyes in anticipation, but Philip, too tired to be more tidy, tossed the towel back into the bathroom as he took it off to don his customary T-shirt and boxers. The thick towel hit Ama full in the face, half-draping over her, and she let out a muffled protest. Thankfully, Philip's eyes never ventured near the bathroom or the mirror across the room that reflected the hovering, floundering towel in the doorway.

Instead, he wearily climbed into bed and pulled the covers close about his shoulders. Unexpectedly, he found an unfamiliar scent wafting softly into his nose. Who scented th' pillows an' sheets with lilacs?, he wondered. He shrugged mentally and burrowed into his pillows. The scent grew stronger, but before he could wonder about it, an equally unfamiliar – and very female – voice purred, "Comfortable, honey?"

Philip's eyes snapped open ... and focused on a pair of full, scantily covered breasts literally right in front of his nose. The young priest scrambled backwards and was standing beside the bed before the voluptuous woman lying on one elbow on his bed could do more than blink. "Boy," she said admiringly, "you move fast for a mortal!!"

Philip stared at her, his heart thundering in surprise and shock. His bed was now piled high with Eastern style pillows, and had four posters and a canopy. The canopy was of the same pale gauzy fabric that made up the woman's outfit – or what there was of it. And the woman herself ... She was beautiful, with raven's-wing curls and obsidian-dark eyes in a porcelain, expertly made-up face.

Philip felt his cheeks start burning. "Who are you?" he gasped.

The woman crawled across the bed to kneel close to the edge. "Aw, come on, Philip," she said, pouting prettily at him as Philip backed up one step for every scoot she made. Rolling her eyes, she suddenly appeared beside him.

Philip jumped and quickly backed away, crossing himself.

The woman frowned a bit and said, "Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've been with a guy as cute as you?" She paused, seeming to think for a moment, then said, "Do you know how long it's been since I've been with a guy?"

Philip stared, recognizing the slightly wild motions and speech. My God, he thought to himself, am I going crazy or am I being seduced by a ... a drunk spirit?!

The pout started to tremble, and mist appeared in the woman's obsidian dark eyes. "What?" she asked, sniffling a bit now. "Don't you like me?" Tears gathered in her eyes slowly, until a drop trickled down her cheek.

That spurred Philip into action; he never could stand to see anyone cry. "It's not tha'," he said quickly. "I mean – you're very beautiful, but ..."

A bright smile touched her lips. "You think so?"

"Yes." Philip swallowed and backed up as she took a step towards him. "Um ... yes ... an' I'm sure you're a very nice girl, but ... I'm a priest!" This last was said as he found himself backed into the bureau. He shuffled against its edge until he was free, and faced her again, this time with his back to the door.

She had a very confused look on her face. "So?" she asked.

Philip stared at her, completely flabbergasted. "So?" he repeated. "I'm a priest!" Then a possibility presented itself in his brain and he quickly amended, "A Catholic priest."

The woman blinked, frowning minutely as she searched for the correct reference. Finally, her eyes widened and her mouth formed a little 'O'. "Oh, you mean you're ... celibate?" She sounded as if she weren't sure whether to be surprised, dismayed or thoroughly confused. Apparently, the third reaction won, because she asked, "Why?"

Philip shook his head, not sure whether to laugh or sigh in relief. For a seductress, she was certainly ... different. "It's a choice ... part of our vows t' th' Church."

The woman frowned, then pouted again and said, "Well, that's silly!" She gave him a long look and approached, looking hopeful. "Are you sure?" she asked, putting an extra sway to her hips.

The material of her outfit dipped revealingly and Philip's eyes widened, his face blushing bright red. "YES!!" he assured her. Before she could get any closer, he took the safest way out. He had the door open, then closed behind him, with himself in the corridor, in record time.

He leaned against it, his chest heaving, and looked up quickly as he heard a sound. Nick was looking at him from the door of his own room, an eyebrow raised. "Everything okay?" the ex-SEAL asked.

Philip blushed again. "There was – that is, I – you see –" he stammered, then stopped and shook his head. "Ah, I had a bad dream," he said finally, trying to convince himself as well. "Yeah, that's what – it was a bad dream."

Nick's eyebrow remained raised, but the other man nodded and stepped back into his own room. "Whatever you say, brother," the security chief said.

Philip nodded, then slowly, cautiously, opened his own door. His bedroom had returned to normal. No four-poster bed, no seductive spirits. Giving Nick a wan smile, Philip quickly stepped into his room, still blushing, and closed the door.

Nick watched him go, then shook his head slowly. "I don't even want to know," he decided.

Continued on the next page...

© 1997, Grace N.

Title and border graphics by Kristin:

Disclaimer and Author's Note: All PtL characters and the concept of the Legacy are property of MGM and Showtime Entertainment. The Djinni of the Bottle however (though not that legend) is my creation. And speaking of Ama ... just think Fran Drescher, minus some of the nasality. Oh – and the spelling of "Haven" is intentional. ;-)