Can You Trust a Djinn?

Sage's first run-in with a Djinn.
Agents of ASSET #2

A dark figure lurked under the stairs leading to a second-story apartment. His face half concealed all Sage could make out were a pair of silver eyes, glowing like a beacon. Enchanting, as if possessing their own light, his eyes instantly gave away his magical nature.
“I’ve never seen such a pout before. Someone run over your favorite pet or something?” The man flicked at the cigarette in his hand, emitting a miniature explosion of hot ash that faded before it hit the ground.
“Long night. I’m fine.” Her oh-shit-there’s-a-dude-lurking-in-the-shadows-in-the-middle-of-the-night senses were tingling. She casually reached her hand down to the knife she kept folded in her pocket. Just in case.
“Didn’t mean to surprise you.” He stepped out from under the stairs into the porch-light of the lower level apartment. Holding his hands out in plain sight, as if to show her he wasn’t a creeper, he made all the right motions to appear non-threatening. “We’re having a party upstairs. Kind of a housewarming. Haven’t met too many of my new neighbors.”
His gesture wasn’t lost on her, though she kept her hand firmly grasping the knife. Under the path lighting, he appeared to be about her age. If she had to guess, maybe early twenties, but the shaggy beginnings of a beard masked his features enough to make accuracy impossible.
“How do you know I’m a neighbor?” Sage asked, with a little more attitude than she’d intended. Definitely not a local. New to the apartment complex. She held on to the Cliff’s Notes of the conversation so far to recall later.
“Lucky guess. I mean, most people here have to have a key after hours, right?”
His smile didn’t look forced. No twitching muscles or clenched jaw.
“Right. Smart.” Sage hated small talk; her mind was too busy with the mystery of his magical type to move the conversation forward. She inspected him slowly, starting at his face. His teeth were normal, though not well taken care of. After her first failed encounter with vampire Zack, Sage remembered to always check for the teeth. This guy checked out – definitely not a vampire. But the silver eyes clearly placed him in the magical creature category. “You can never be too sure about people you meet after hours.”
“Sorry. That was a bit forward of me. Let’s start over.” He flicked away his cigarette and extended his hand as he walked over. “My name’s Luke.”
She couldn’t detect a specific accent to give him away, but his attitude had the casual easygoing feel of someone from the south, though the chin patch of a beard attached to a thin mustache gave him a distinctly Hollywood trendiness that suggested otherwise.
No ring on the finger. Not married, but he did say “we’re having a party.” Probably not single. So there could be more people like him in the apartment.
Dark as night, his hair fell around his head in long layers, creating a stunning contrast with his silver eyes. She’d seen that color before. It took her brain a few moments to run through all the faces she’d seen recently. Then it struck her – Devon had a similar color.
But this Luke… his eyes reflected the light like a demonic cat. Definitely magical.
Ogre? No. Devon’s muscles had muscles, and this guy looked more like a skinny hipster in comparison. Troll? No. She’d see through their glamour. Though both of his ears were pierced and enlarged with hoops big enough to see through, they were still normal ears. And even in the light, she could see his skin wasn’t green.
Sage realized she’d been standing silent too long to avoid awkwardness. “Sage.” She finally man-aged to coordinate her voice and thoughts.
Being a teensy bit more knowledgeable of the magical world would have come in handy at that point. Should she take the hand or not? So far, most of the creatures she’d met had been okay, but there were few that she wouldn’t want to touch any part of her, magical immunity or not. But short of being rude, Sage decided to reach out and meet Luke’s outstretched hand.
His eyes instantly sank below her neckline. Knowing where they were headed, Sage held her breath for the reaction. Her mark was proudly on display, like a neon sign for those with magic. Everyone knew what a Terra was.
And as expected, the recognition was there in his eyes as his hand met hers. She let her eyes drop as well, taking a peek at his arms for marking that might clue her into his type.
He had an impressive sleeve of tribal flame tattoos reaching from his wrist all the way to his elbow. But where her birthmark was static, his tattoos were alive. In constant motion, they burned silently, the flames gently licking at his elbows. She fought the urge to pull back in shock and reveal her ignorance. Marks like his had to be as notorious in the magical community as her own.
He gave her hand a quick business-like pump and let go. “Nice to know ASSET is in the neighborhood. Always makes you feel safe.”
She took the opportunity to play off his admitted newness to the area. “When did you move in?”
“Today, actually.” Luke had the type of smile that appeared without effort, like resting bitch face in reverse. She wondered if he had to work at pouting or looking angry.
Shadowrunner? Couldn’t be. He’d remained fully formed the entire time she’d watched him. She’d figure him out eventually, without asking.
His tattoos demanded admiration. Sage could hardly stop herself from looking at them. Gorgeous! She searched for something else to say to move the conversation along and came up short. “Just popped right in, I imagine.”
“More like commanded to move here by my ma…er…mate.” He chuckled nervously. “But I couldn’t have wished for an easier move.” His words sounded as if they carried a double meaning, but the joke flew right over her head.
She was right about one thing: he wasn’t single. Damn. He was cute, whatever he was. Sage grinned stupidly, not sure if she should laugh at his attempted joke. Silence never failed to create awkwardness.
Luke waggled his fingers like a magician. “You know, because I’m a djinn.”
“Right.” She nodded casually, hoping to hide her ignorance. He might as well as called himself a Martian. Djinn conjured up about the same image in her mind. She’d make damn sure to look him up when she made it back to her apartment, though. “Well, welcome to the neighborhood.”
“You sure you don’t want to come in and have a beer or something? We’ve got pizza too.”
The offer sounded sincere enough, no denying that, but embarrassment trumped spending more time with the guy who caused it.
“Raincheck?” Sage masked her unease with a neutral tone. “Got an early day at the office tomorrow.”
“Right. You guys are always busy.” His expression faded. “Keep protecting and serving.”
“You know it.” Sage snapped her fingers and pointed at Luke as if firing a pair of six-shooters at him. Instantly, she regretted the move. Embarrassment, party of one, your table is ready. All she needed were the pew pew sounds to really drive home her social awkwardness. Might as well put a bag over her face to complete the look.
Luke laughed, but she couldn’t tell if it had been directed at her or with her. Gods, she needed to get home and quick before she fell too far down the rabbit hole of awkwardness.
“See you around.”
“Yes you will,” Luke replied.

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About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.