In seconds, I crystallized. My bare feet hit carpet that was streaked with dim moonlight. Dusty grey curtains swelled with warm breeze. The place smelled of blood, sticky and salt-drenched. I couldn't see anyone.
My skin prickled. I'd expected bright lights, laughter, gloating, that kind of thing. Usually people giggle and caper about like fools when I appear, before they find out about the moon and the french fries.
But this time I'd appeared in dim silence, alone.
My eyes adjusted, and the shadow of a bed emerged. I wasn't alone after all. A man, naked, fit and golden-skinned. His dark hair was a tangled mess. Curling thorns were inked up his arm and over his shoulder. He stirred, lifting his face from the pillow, fighting long black strands away before he even opened his eyes.
Recognition speared under my skin like a needle, and I groaned, disbelief mingling with irony. They had to be kidding me. Owned by a crazy vengeance-obsessed corpse?
My thoughts twirled in crazy circles. How did he get my lamp? And how did he know my name? They needed my name to own me. I hadn't told him. Hadn't said a word . . .
Except in my dream.
But that was crazy. How the hell could a dead guy eavesdrop on my dreams?
Someone had cornered him since we'd met at the club, by the looks of the spidery red bruise across his kidneys and the dark blood leaking from his nose onto the sheet. Still, he looked great naked. Lean tight legs, smooth back, cute butt. Not that I noticed.
Inwardly, I sighed. This is what happens, see. They claim me, the magic switches on, and poof! I'm all romantic and girly for a while.
I'd get over it.
I kicked the bed frame to rattle it. "Wake up, genius. Where's my lamp?"
He jerked fully awake, scrambling to turn over and crawl away from me at the same time. His dark eyes fixed on me, and widened. "Jesus, you're really . . . what the fuck are you doing here?"
Okay. Yeah. He looked even better from the front. That soaping I imagined before? All done, his skin clean and glistening with just a hint of mysterious darkness to keep you interested. He had a nasty gash on one hip, but who cares? I couldn't help letting my gaze slip a bit lower. Very nice.
He didn't seem to mind being naked in front of a suddenly-appearing woman, either. Maybe he liked guys. Damn. I wouldn't even be able to seduce him into letting me go. What I'd give for a glimmer of persuasion right now. I couldn't, not of my own accord. My power wasn't mine to play with anymore.
I tried it, just in case. Reached for my magic, a shimmer of seduction or a trick. Nothing.
Damn it. I scowled, in case he saw me staring. "Don't play dumb. You called my name, remember?"
He halted, leaning back on his elbows, staring at me with a crease in his forehead like I had three noses or something. "What are you on about, lady?"
I rolled my eyes. "Come on, already. Brass lamp, long neck, about this big?" I held up my hands a foot apart. "Sound familiar?"
He stared, and swallowed, his throat jerking. "You're kidding."
"You're telling me. Look, just hand it over, release me and I'm gone, okay? No harm done."
He sat up, dragging that gorgeous black hair into a twist and draping it over his shoulder out of the way. "Look, lady—"
"It's Jewel. You know that. Enough with the ladies, it doesn't fool me." I wanted to look at him, to watch him move, and it made me mad. He was trouble, pure and painful, I didn't care how bad and dangerous and downright tasty he was.
"Jewel, then. Whatever. I don't believe you, all right? Kane sent you to screw with my mind. Or you're just some crazy woman stalking me, or something. Either way, you can get out of my house right now."
Nah, nah. He didn't say the magic words. If they don't say my name, I don't have to. "I can't do that. Not without my lamp."
He lifted his hands, a mocking shrug. "Fine. Stay here. Just shut up and let me sleep." And he grabbed the sheet and made to roll himself back into it.
I tugged it away. "Ask me for french fries."
He laughed. "What?"
"Ask me. Say, 'Jewel, go get me some french fries'."
He shook his head, a tolerant smile. "If I say it, will you get the hell out of my bedroom?"
"Sure will." I just hoped something was still open around here. I couldn't charm french fries from the air any more than I could charm anything else. Sure, I can turn iron into gold or make things disappear, but that's not the same as creating something out of nothing. That can't be done, at least not by me. The only way I can get something new is to take it away from someone else. Like I said, I'm a collector, a fetcher of baubles. I swap things. That's all.
"Great. Now we're getting somewhere." He jammed the pillow against his curled arm and flopped down onto it. "Jewel, darling, if you're not busy and it isn't too much of a hassle, can you please leave me the hell alone for a few seconds and go find us some french fries?"
God, what a sweetie. I only wished I could stay to watch his face when he saw what happened next.