Magical Gains

Magical Gains, published by Eternal Press, March 2011

Chapter One

In a parallel world, not many dimensions from here, it was okay to be a fairy—as long as you were registered. In fact, it was okay to be an elf, dragon, griffin, or cockatrice, as long as you were registered with the government. In this dimension, like many dimensions, governments liked to “manage” minorities to ensure assimilation and equal rights. The Department of Magical Beings (DMB), and its affiliates, had been created for this purpose. It was quite effective, for the most part, so long as the magical being in question was a clear-cut case. There were a few problem areas. The most pertinent to this tale were the Genies.

So when Imran, a Genie, finally revealed himself to his new mistress, it wasn’t to the gasp of pleasure he had first expected. Instead, the rather fetching Primrose Brasco turned a decidedly unfetching puce and clutched at her throat. Her first strangled words to the Genie were not “Oh, my God!” or “Hooray! Three wishes for me!” but the rather uninspiring “Are you registered?”

Imran, despite having a rich knowledge of all things magical and political, was not registered. In fact, he had made it his life objective not to be.

“No” was his first word to her and it dripped from his mouth, heavy with irritation.

Primrose’s puce complexion deepened into an undeniably ugly crimson.

“Then you’ve got to go!” she exclaimed.

“I can’t do that,” Imran replied, his white wolfish teeth glistening in his tanned face. “I’m your Genie,” he said. “I can’t go until you’ve had your three wishes.” He spoke softly and his voice had an indefinable accent, though he spoke in perfect English.

“It’s illegal! The granting of wishes has been banned in Australia for three years! I could be put into a detention center or worse. Try and pay Magical Gains tax! No one can afford Magical Gains taxes!”

Imran sank down onto the squeaking leather sofa, apparently disappointed by Primrose’s unfriendly response. He ran a hand through his short spiky hair and the gesture was ripe with masculine sexuality. Primrose quite involuntarily felt something flip in her stomach.

“Just make three little wishes. No one will know,” Imran urged smoothly. “Just little things, you know, a new pair of shoes, maybe a necklace, and a puppy.” He grinned.

Primrose looked aghast.

“A Magical Investigations Team would be out here in a second!” she snapped.

“That’s not really a problem since I’m not registered,” he drawled. “Correct me if I am wrong, but it is only registered magical beings whose magic is traceable.” Imran’s black eyes flashed with amusement.

Primrose Brasco, apart from being incurably prudish, was a lovely-looking creature. Small and curvaceous, with long, cascading chocolate brown hair and honey brown eyes, she was every male Genie’s dream mistress.

Primrose sighed. “You may be unregistered, but the government can still detect your magic, even if they don’t know who or what you are…” She paused, taking yet another gulp of air. “I really don’t want to risk it. I’m sorry. I think I’ll have to turn you in myself.”

A flash of anxiety flickered in Imran’s dark eyes but was gone in an instant.

“I don’t think you should do that,” he replied very casually, as his eyes became unreadable.

“Really? Why?”

“Because…” He paused for subtle effect. “I will do everything in my quite substantial power to make your life a misery.” He smiled again with wicked white teeth.

Primrose stiffened. “Then I suppose we have a problem,” she whispered.

* * * *

 In mythology, which in this particular dimension was often common history, a Genie could only reveal himself to the person who rubbed his lamp. Although this tactile myth resulted in the frantic rubbing of many an old-looking lamp, the truth was no amount of lamp rubbing could entice a Genie to reveal himself unless he truly wished to do so. It was true, however, that a Genie could not find a master as long as his lamp was in another’s possession nor could he leave his master until three wishes had been granted. With all this considered, most Genies revealed themselves eventually, with or without any lamp rubbing. Such revelations, though, were usually made out of sheer boredom.

Imran, however, had seen and studied his mistress while confined to the antique shop in which his lamp resided. Upon seeing Primrose, who looked curiously sexual but restrained in her formal work clothes, Imran knew he must have her. Being well versed in all things tantalizing, it hadn’t taken Imran much to pique her curiosity and tweak circumstances to help her buy his lamp. A sultry song playing through the loudspeaker, the exotic scent of spice in the air—it was so easy. Like a fly into a web, Primrose dazedly stumbled into the antique shop and bought his lamp. Imran thought since his last master—the antique shop owner, who was making remarkably good business these days—had been a boring sort, Primrose might prove to be some fun or, at the very least, a brief amorous liaison.

Primrose Brasco bought Imran’s lamp, a faded art deco electric contraption, from a fashionable antique dealer in Leederville, without really knowing why.

As an educated member of society, she ought to have known that a sound awareness of the magical world was always a necessity when buying a second-hand lamp.

At the time of her purchase, Primrose briefly studied the lamp and quickly decided not to question the antique dealer about it. After all, he looked stressed, and she doubted he could tell her the location of his toes, let alone where he sourced the lamp. Aside from that, she knew Genies were not indigenous to Australia and were quite rare. According to the ABMS (Australian Bureau of Magical Statistics) there were only three registered Genies in Western Australia. Statistically, it was highly unlikely that a magical being would be lurking in the lamp she was buying. Had Primrose made the effort and asked the antique dealer about the lamp, he would have been compelled to answer honestly. The antique dealer in question, however, had been much relieved when she did not inquire, as then many questions would have been asked about his extraordinarily successful antiques business and the Department of Magical Gains would investigate.

Genies were a troublesome bunch all round.

* * * *

Unsure what to do with this sudden and unwanted disruption to her rather pedestrian existence, Primrose stared blankly at the lounging Genie for a moment. He was tall and his long legs were draped in expensive-looking pants. Unable to help herself, Primrose’s gaze followed up his legs, resting for just the briefest of moments on the junction of his thighs. There was no denying this man was comfortably endowed. At that thought, blazing heat suddenly rushed through Primrose’s cheeks and down her neck, leaving her décolletage that unflattering baking red. She averted her gaze and it finally returned to settle on Imran’s face, which was irrefutably handsome. His mouth curled in a smile as he endured her examination with the sly self-assurance that only the truly good-looking possess. Primrose’s eyes hovered over his lips a second longer. They were lush and sexy. Watching for her response, Imran bit his pouting lower lip and released it suggestively. Primrose felt a pulling tightness respond deep in her abdomen. She inhaled deeply and battled with suddenly explicit thoughts.

 Her telephone rang, a hollow echo, from the depths of her handbag. She ignored it, but its incessant chime dragged her back to sensibility.

“Well…what is your name?” she finally asked, knowing with sudden certainty this problem was not going away any time soon.

“Imran,” he replied, his dark eyes watching her, guarded.

“It doesn’t suit you,” she quipped, attempting cool detachment.

“What is yours?” Imran ignored her rudeness.

“I should imagine you are already aware of that, seeing as you’ve been stalking me,” she retorted dryly.

If Imran was shocked by her suspicions, he didn’t allow it to show.

“Please, Mistress—your name?”

“Primrose Brasco, as you no doubt are already aware.”

“It suits you, Mistress,” he countered with a seductive smile she did not return.

“Please don’t call me Mistress. It isn’t appropriate.” She paused. “You can’t stay here, you know.”

“I can’t?” Imran replied, seemingly shocked. “Where else would I be but by my mistress’s side?”

Primrose rolled her eyes.

“You can just quit the act, Genie. I work in the Department of Magical Culture, and I know all about your kind! You’re a criminal magician, punished God-knows-when and you’ve chosen me as your mistress, effectively trapping me. I can’t turn you in, and if I’m caught with a Genie, I’ll…at the very least, lose my job.

“Human employees in the DMC must be impartial to magic, and are frequently given Random Magical Ion Tests to ensure there are no illegal financial advancements made through magical means,” she quoted breathlessly.

“Well, no need for me to read that brochure, now is there?” Imran retorted dryly as Primrose continued to glare at him with frustration. “Honestly…” he paused. “I didn’t know you worked for the DMC, but there is nothing I can do about it now.”

“Well, I can tell you this, Genie. I cannot afford to lose my job!”

Imran stood and took a step toward her with his hands wide in supplication. His shirt open at the neck gaped a little, and Primrose caught a tantalizing glimpse of tanned, smooth flesh. She pushed a wave of lust away, and scowled at him.

“Don’t you dare contaminate me with even one of your magical ions!” Primrose ground out angrily. “God know where you’ve been. You could be riddled with magical diseases!”

Imran rolled his eyes. “I’m not contaminating you by sitting here, am I?” he asked, and returned to the couch. “As I said, I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have…”

“What? Wouldn’t have chosen me? What were you looking for anyway, some quick shag and three poxy wishes?” Primrose’s eyes flashed with every word.

Imran groaned. “Yes,” he admitted, his dark gaze locking with hers unflinchingly.

Oh. Primrose was speechless for a moment. “Well, at least you’re honest,” she eventually whispered, fighting yet another furious blush. To distract herself, she threw an exasperated glance at her watch. “God, I’m late! I’ve got to get ready! Stay here!” she squeaked without so much as glancing at him again.

Primrose stormed into the bathroom of her small brick veneer house in the outer suburbs of Fremantle. Despite being a humble little house, it was her pride and joy. She tended the garden lovingly, painted every room, and although it took years, Primrose transformed the house into her haven.

She leaned back on the bathroom door and inhaled deeply to cease the loud hammering of her heart. Her body tingled where she’d felt Imran’s cool appraising gaze linger.

I shouldn’t be feeling this, she thought, a little giddy, to herself. I’m an engaged woman! Still, the image of Imran’s long, lithe body reclined on the couch flashed in her mind. He looked as though he belonged there. A small hysterical giggle bubbled on her lips. He does belong there, he’s my Genie! Abruptly the giggle died, and reality returned like a cold smack on the cheek. The fact was she couldn’t keep a Genie. Especially not an incredibly sexy one, whose gaze alone left her weak-kneed. No, her job and her future marriage left no room for such things. The pretty smile faded, and a frown grew in its place. Sighing heavily, Primrose stripped off her clothes and entered the shower.

* * * *

Imran scratched his head absently as the sounds of showering echoed throughout the little house. The décor was really quite lovely. Old, slightly faded, silken Persian rugs were thrown on the high-gloss floorboards, and the ochre red walls reflected warmth in the cool Perth winter air. Imran glanced at his lamp. Really, it was very out of style with the house. He concentrated for a brief moment. Smooth arms of black, spicy smoke caressed the lamp and almost imperceptibly it changed. It shrunk into a smaller, ornately carved brass lamp with a wick. He smiled to himself. It looked much better.

While Primrose remained in the shower, Imran took himself on a tour about the house. The Persian theme ran throughout, and made him feel very at home.

Suddenly there was a clinking of keys in the doorway.

“Primrose!” an angry masculine voice bellowed. “Are you ready? Bloody hell! You’re still in the fucking shower!” The man’s voice was rising, bordering on irate. “Where the hell have you been? Why haven’t you been answering your phone?”

The man thundered loudly down the corridor and passed the living room where Imran stood motionless.

Imran paused a moment, wondering whether to stay visible. He quickly decided not to, and in a swathe of sinuous black smoke, disappeared from view.

The man banged on the bathroom door and barged in without further ado.

“Ian!” Primrose exclaimed and quickly turned off the shower.

“Can you never do anything on time?” he roared at her, evidently unmoved by her dripping nakedness. “I told you to be ready at six! It’s six thirty and you’re not even fucking dressed!”

Primrose shrank back a little and reached for a towel. She said nothing.

Ian, her fiancé, a tall, blond mountain of a man glared at her. “The one thing I ask you to do! Where have you been?” he yelled, his face red and bulging.

“I…I just stopped at the shops on my way home,” Primrose confessed, turning her back on him and facing the fogged mirror.

A sharp hand cuffed her hard on the back of the head, causing her to stumble forward and bang her forehead on the mirrored cupboard. With a soft cry, Primrose brought up her hand and rubbed it.

“Is there a problem here, Primrose?” Imran’s rich, smooth voice came from the doorway.

Primrose spun around clutching the towel, her expression one of horrified mortification.

“Who the hell are you?” Ian barked, his ruddy complexion reddening further.

“Is there a problem here, Primrose?” Imran asked again, ignoring Ian completely.

“I said, who the hell are you?” Ian barked again, confounded by Imran’s lack of response.

“I said, is there a problem, Primrose?” Imran spoke calmly, his dark gaze locked on Primrose alone.

“No,” Primrose whispered and gripped the towel around her a little tighter.

“Good,” Imran replied and stalked cat-like back into the living room.

Ian, the Assistant Manager of the Department of Cerebral Management, a man very used to being obeyed, stood with his mouth agape in silent fury.

“You’d better do some explaining, Primrose. Now.” Ian’s small, piggy blue eyes didn’t leave Imran’s back until he disappeared from view.

“Let me get dressed first,” Primrose said, and slipped past his considerable bulk and ran for the bedroom.

When in the solitude of the bedroom, Primrose stood still and stunned. She was mortified that Imran had witnessed Ian’s callous treatment of her. Ian didn’t often hit her, and when he did, it was nothing serious, Primrose reasoned. Ian Beckwith had a very demanding and stressful job. He couldn’t be blamed for lashing out sometimes, yet suddenly Primrose was glad Imran was in the house. She wasn’t exactly frightened of Ian, but she knew that with Imran here, he wouldn’t allow himself to get too angry. She stared at her reflection for a long, miserable moment, and then quickly brushed those difficult thoughts aside.

Quickly towel drying her long wavy hair, Primrose slipped into a pale pink, knit dress and pulled on sheer stockings and brown suede boots. She twisted her hair into a damp, tussled French knot and clipped it in place. She glanced in the mirror. There was the slightest hint of redness where she bumped the cupboard. With a sigh, Primrose quickly smeared on concealer to mask it, and then lacquered her lips with a light-tinted gloss and added mascara. It would have to do.

Suddenly she heard the door click open behind her. Her chest tightened with panic as the door clicked again, shutting with frightening finality. Gingerly, she turned around. Ian stood enormous and radiating anger, blocking the only exit from the room.

“Your friend in there refuses to speak to me…” Ian began angrily, casting a murderous glance over his shoulder. “What am I to think, Primrose? Who is he? I come home and there is this guy—and you in the shower? It doesn’t look good.” His questions were fired like arrows, each making Primrose jerk with nervousness.

“He is Imran, a…a...friend from university. He will be staying with us for a while, until he…sorts out alternative accommodation,” Primrose stuttered.

“What? I live here too, Primrose! You should have consulted me,” Ian yelled explosively and stepped forward using his considerable size to intimidate her.

Primrose cowered slightly from him.

“That is true,” she conceded, “but Imran is my friend, and this is still my house.” She spoke extremely softly, stepping back away from him until she collided with the bed. She stumbled in shock, nearly falling over. Ian sneered in distain.

“I knew this would be a problem!” Ian cursed. “I knew we should have moved into my apartment! Instead, I gave in to you and am stuck living in this dump with your blow-ins!”

Primrose crumpled a little under the assault. She loved her home, and agreeing to marry Ian had been on the proviso that they lived in her house. The thought of living in his sterile apartment in the city had horrified her.

“It’s not a dump and Imran isn’t a blow-in,” she said.

“I know nothing about this guy! Yet you just let him come waltzing into our lives! You really know how to piss me off, don’t you?” Ian stepped toward her again, and Primrose flinched as his hand clenched by his side. Ian hesitated a moment, his head tilted as if he heard something. With a guttural growl and surprising speed, he turned and pulled open the door. The hallway was empty. Ian stared, for a second, down the hallway toward the living room, where Imran was visible beyond the doorway. His eyes narrowed. “We’ll talk about this later!” Ian muttered before stomping loudly from the room.

Primrose sank down on the bed for a moment, trying to steady her rapidly beating heart. She felt foolish and embarrassed, and more than anything wanted to hide in her room until this awkward situation was over. Knowing there could be no resolution made by hiding, after a few moments of procrastination, Primrose returned to the living room. Ian was sitting stiffly, tapping and jostling his knee with agitation. Imran however, in his black suit and open shirt, was lounging on the couch looking completely relaxed. Primrose was struck by a physical yearning to touch him. She stood still and stared, battling to control her feelings.

“Primrose,” Imran interrupted, drawing Primrose’s attention back to reality. “I hope my presence here isn’t going to be a problem?” He threw a questioning glance at Ian, who tried unsuccessfully to turn his grimace into a neutral face.

“No, mate. Sorry, I’m just a bit stressed at work,” Ian replied, and although his words were conciliatory, his body language was still tense and angry.

Imran remained impassive as Ian awkwardly thrust out a big meaty hand.

“I’m Ian Beckwith,” he growled.

“Abdul Imran,” Imran replied after a moment’s pause. He eyed Ian’s large paw with distaste, but took it and shook firmly. “I see I have arrived at an inopportune time. You are obviously going out.” His eyes locked on Primrose.

“Err, yes,” Primrose said softly. “Perhaps, Ian, I might stay in tonight and get Imran settled. I didn’t know he was arriving and haven’t sorted out the spare room.” Her gaze stuck on the new brass lamp that sat on the coffee table. “Could you give my regrets to Emma and Theo?”

Ian’s face hardened again, but he gave a curt nod. Primrose knew that despite his boorish behavior, Ian was upset a stranger had witnessed him manhandle his fiancée. Primrose knew she had an irritating habit of managing to be late or out of contact when it was most inconvenient. Sometimes Ian couldn’t stop himself, she reasoned, even though he wanted to—at least some of the time.

Ian leaned over to Primrose and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Sorry. I overreacted,” he whispered and gave her backside a rub for Imran’s benefit. “I’ll make it up to you.” His voice was a gruff whisper.

“Bye,” Primrose muttered, daring a glance in Imran, whose face showed nothing but disgust as Ian clunked awkwardly from the room.

The silence between them was heavy as they listened to Ian’s car reverse away.

“Well, who was that charming piece of chewed carrion?” Imran asked, knocking Primrose from her morbid musings.

“Oh. Ian, my fiancé.” She tried to hold his dark gaze but failed.

“You deserve a prize for picking such a fine miscreant.”

“Oh, be quiet,” Primrose snapped. “You caught him on a bad day.”

Imran looked rather skeptical on that account, and remained silent.

“Look, Ian can’t find out you’re a Genie,” Primrose began. “It would ethically compromise his work…”

“Ethically compromise his work?” Imran retorted. “Ian’s entire existence is one large ethical compromise by my reckoning…”

A snort of amusement threatened to erupt into a hysterical fit, but Primrose soon had it under control.

“Please don’t be mean,” she whispered, unable to hold Imran’s unflinching gaze. “What are we going to do, then?” Primrose asked, sinking down onto the couch. “I can’t accept your three wishes. They will find out.”

“I don’t know. This has never happened before,” Imran replied, watching her curl up and drape a blanket over her knees. “When do you have an RMIT? Ah, what are they called? Magical Traces test? Perhaps if we did the wishes after you have one of those?”

“They are random tests! RMIT stands for Random Magical Ion Test so, obviously, I don’t know when I will have one,” Primrose said rather heatedly. “Look, besides that,” she added in a softer tone, “I don’t have anything I want to wish for, not really.”

Imran laughed. The sound of his voice was melodious, rich, soft, and smooth. Just like liquid chocolate. Primrose shivered despite herself.

“Don’t do that,” she gasped.

“Laugh? That is a crime now?” Imran laughed again, his eyes creasing with amusement at her evident discomfort. “Do not tell such pitiful lies to me, Primrose. Everyone has wishes. Even you, despite your churlishness, must have some.”

Primrose frowned at being called churlish, but thought for a moment.

Imran watched her.

What Primrose would have liked to wish for wasn’t something she could readily admit to. She wished Ian wasn’t so harsh and aggressive, she wished her friends hadn’t become Ian’s friends, and she wished their sex life was better. She wished her life choices had been better ones, but most of all, she wished for a happily ever after, and it wasn’t with Ian. However, admitting these things would confirm her failure—her failure to be a good partner, a successful daughter, and a strong woman. Primrose could barely admit to thinking these thoughts, let alone tell them to someone like Imran.

“No,” she replied a little sullenly. “Nothing you could help with.”

Her unspoken thoughts hung, obviously, between them.

Imran looked down and ran his hands through his hair in a gesture that this time epitomized his frustration. “You wouldn’t like to earn more money?”

Primrose felt a hot flush of attraction. Surely not all Genies were this attractive.

“Of course, but I work for the Department of Magical Culture and they have magicians to ensure no one cheats by getting pay raises through magical means.”

“How dull,” Imran replied. “Well, let me know when you’ve thought of something. I will be in the spare room...if you want me,” he added with a slight laugh before stalking out.

Primrose began to say something, but then saw black swaths of smoke billow from the spare room and she rushed in.

“Don’t use magic!” she shrieked, but her mouth fell agape as she saw the transformation of the spare room. “Oh, gosh!”

Imran was reclined on a large oriental bed. His shirt was gone, revealing a toned, tanned, and muscular body. From the ceiling hung red silk curtaining that surrounded most of the bed. The room was warm, and smelled intoxicatingly spicy. It looked like something from a Sultan’s harem.

“I gather you like it?” Imran said softly, patting the bed with a suggestive wink.

Primrose did like it, very much. It fitted in with the Persian theme of her home beautifully.

“That’s beside the point,” Primrose blustered, “if the DMC know you did this with magic!”

“How will they find out?” he interrupted. “Do you intend on telling them? They don’t test your home, do they?”

“Now there will be magical ions floating all around my house! They might contaminate me!”

“Oh, for the love of all that is sacred, you are difficult! You of all people should know you cannot ‘catch’ ions like that! You must be touching me while I am performing magic! So unless they test your home, and come into this particular room, no one will know!” Imran cried, his face taut with frustration.

Primrose shrank back, feeling stupid and inferior. She collided with the door frame, and turned, ready to leave. In an instant, Imran swept himself up off the bed and appeared before her, his gaze now full of remorse.

“My apologies, Mistress.” He inclined his head and his warm breath blew her hair lightly. “I didn’t mean to treat you with disrespect—it is not a Genie’s way.”

Primrose looked away. Her cheeks suddenly felt hot, and it had nothing to do with feeling stupid. Awkwardly, she excused herself to the kitchen.

Primrose stood in the kitchen, looking over the dark garden. She really did not know how to deal with her wildly fluctuating feelings toward this Genie. She sighed, the trees whispered in the light wintery breeze, and the moon began to shine weakly. Suddenly Primrose felt quite empty and alone. She wished she could telephone someone. However, what would she say? What could she say? None of her friends knew anything of Ian’s darker moods as Primrose never had the strength to talk about them. Besides, it wasn’t Ian she wanted to talk about anyway. It was the strange magical being in her spare room, who looked like he just stepped from the pages of a magazine. He was gorgeous and witty and had an air of confidence Primrose could only hope to possess. More than anything, she wanted to wish herself away from this mediocre existence, but that, she knew, was not an option.

Sighing and bottling her rioting emotions and hormones in the darker recesses of her mind, she busied herself making something to eat. When she had eaten and felt a glimmer of confidence begin to warm in her gut, she knocked on Imran’s door.

“There is some dinner here if you want it,” Primrose said a little more brusquely than she intended. She placed the plate on the floor near the door and walked back to the living room, without waiting for an answer. Primrose wasn’t exactly sure whether Imran would want to eat his own magically created food or her plain fare. At any rate, it seemed common politeness to offer, and despite their awkward circumstances, she certainly did not want him to think ill of her.

Suffice to say, Primrose spent the rest of the evening in front of the television watching reality TV and occasionally mopping the errant tears that kept falling from her eyes, although she didn’t quite know why.