Being Jinn is Azra's new reality. As she grants wishes under the watchful eye of the Afrit council, she remains torn between her two worldshuman and Jinn. Soon secrets spill, and rumors of an uprising become real as the Afrit's reach extends beyond the underground world of Janna.
Straddling the line becomes impossible. Aware of her unique abilities, Azra must not just face but embrace her destiny. But when the role she must play and those she must protect expand to include a circle of Jinn greater than her own, Azra will be forced to risk everything. A risk that means there's everything to lose, and at the same time, everything to gainfor herself and her entire Jinn race.
In this dramatic sequel to Lori Goldstein's Becoming Jinn, Azra's story comes to a heartfelt and thrilling conclusion.
About the Author
A former journalist, Lori Goldstein currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband.
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Circle of Jinn
By Lori Goldstein
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2016 Lori Goldstein
All rights reserved.
I'm sixteen years old, and I live with my boyfriend.
At least I think I do. I mean, I know where I live. I know I'm living with Nathan Reese. What I don't know is if Nathan Reese is my boyfriend.
Or if I want him to be.
Who said wishes don't come with tricks?
Oh, right, that was me. But what do I know? I've been a genie for less than two months. I've granted the sum total of six wishes, two of which I botched, one of which I would have botched had my mother not been there, and the last of which I'm currently in the process of botching. Not to mention I'm fresh off probation.
If one could be fired from becoming Jinn, I'd be rocking a pink slip right about now instead of this silver bangle. This intricately carved silver bangle doled out by the Afrit, the council — I mean family — that rules over our Jinn world. The family that I've just learned is my father's family. Which means it's my family.
The all-powerful, arguably sadistic Jinn who govern with not just a stick but a two-by-four are my "peeps."
A chunk of my long, dark hair falls across my eyes as a late-summer breeze wafts through the kitchen window. It's not even September and the hints of fall are already trespassing, igniting a row of goose bumps across my bare shoulders.
I gather my hair into a loose bun, using a strand to keep it in place. Of all the things I learned from my mother, this has turned out to be the simplest.
A stronger gust rattles the wood blinds inside and creaks the thick metal chains hanging from the swing set outside. The green plastic seat sways, and I'm back there, sitting on it, the day Nate said good-bye to his father and hello to a new life, a life he never wished for. At least, what with me being a genie and all, the life he did wish for — the one where he can take care of his little sister — I was able to give him. More or less.
I trace circles along the granite countertop as I stare out the window that frames the backyard swing set like a canvas painting. Except the picture I see, the one I see whether my eyes are open or closed, is from the day of Nate's father's funeral, almost two weeks ago.
Me on one seat and him on the other. Him planting his feet on the ground, seizing the chains above my head with one hand, spinning me, turning my body to face him, drawing me closer. His knees bumping against mine, his finger drying the wet tears on my cheeks, his breath warming my neck, his lips brushing my forehead, and then, before I could stop him, before I could think what it meant, what it might mean, his lips pressing on my lips.
Soft and then hard. Like the beating of my heart. Then and now.
"Something's burning," Goldie says, rounding the corner into the kitchen.
Something's burning all right.
"Oh, the cookies," I say. "Damn." I look at Megan. "I mean, darn. I mean, oops."
Megan pauses the hunt for split ends in her shoulder- length dark hair. "I'm twelve, not two. I've heard worse. Hell, I've said worse."
"Not in this house, Meg," Goldie says.
My gaze returns to the groaning swings as the harbingers of autumn make my sun-darkened olive skin shiver again. Right, Azra, it's the wind. And what are you going to blame when the windows are sealed up tight?
A chocolate chip ricochets off my ear.
"Earth to Azra," Megan says, popping a semisweet morsel into her mouth. "Did you even set a timer?" The perfect roll of her eyes that answers my head shake makes me think she's spent all twelve years of her life perfecting the move. "The batch in the oven's going to burn."
Goldie sniffs the air. "Again," she says, sidling up next to me. "The batch in the oven's going to burn again." She moistens her thumb with her tongue and wipes a stripe of war paint made of flour off my cheek.
I do my best imitation of Megan's eye roll, and Goldie winks at me. The warmth in more than the crinkles around her eyes screams "Grandma," the name she refuses to be called.
I'm sixteen years old, and I live with my boyfriend. And his sister. And his grandmother.
A deep voice floats in through the screen door. "I'd take a gander at those puppies if I were you."
And his grandfather. I live with the entire Reese family.
It's the first time I've ever had to share a bathroom.
For the past sixteen years, my mother's had hers and I've had mine. Though we may live in the human world, the Jinn world — my world — is mothers and daughters. Not that there aren't brothers, fathers, and grandfathers, there just aren't brothers, fathers, and grandfathers here.
All male Jinn live in the Afrit's underground world of Janna. Including Xavier Afrit. My father.
We've never met.
Because my job, my sole purpose for living here — for living period — is to grant wishes for the humans assigned to me by the Afrit council, a group unseen but plenty heard. Giving and taking away our magic, our freedom, our loved ones for infringements against their dictatorship-like rules. Rules I've just learned my father's been covertly working to change.
My mother's job is to teach me to use and control my powers, the magic that lives inside me, passed down from the generations of Jinn who've come before us. Her gold bangle symbolizes her retirement, allowing her to practice all magic save for the granting of wishes.
Granting wishes is for the young. For those of us with silver bangles. Bangles spelled to release our powers. Spelled so the Afrit can monitor us. Spelled so only the Afrit can remove them.
The upside is that I can conjure mint chocolate chip ice cream, levitate my sugary iced coffee from table to lips, and travel via Jinn teleportation, apporting myself from blizzard to beach in an instant.
The downside? It's not exactly a shackle or handcuff, though it might as well be. We grant wishes, nature allows us to keep our magic. We grant the wishes the Afrit order us to grant, we keep our lives. As fishy as it smells, the wishes the Afrit have ordered me to grant include ones for Nate and now Megan, my current assignment.
Though it feels like a long summer of learning to use my powers, of learning to grant wishes, my bangle's a relatively new accessory. Two months ago, the day of my birthday, the bangle silently locked around my wrist. I was sixteen. I was a genie. I was no longer free.
Or so I thought. I thought so much then. That like all other Jinn I needed this silver bangle in order to do magic. That the circle of Jinn daughters I was to be bonded with in the tradition of the Zar would never live up to the name we give one another — sister. That the Afrit's harsh punishments for refusing to grant wishes, for screwing up, for exposing our Jinn world to humans weren't real. That my mother never loved my father. That I'd never fall in love. That I'd never again have a best friend. That I'd never want to become Jinn.
I was wrong.
I half smile, half wince as I slip the red oven mitt embroidered with the words "Hot Mama" on one hand and open the oven door with the other. I also thought human families were more stable than Jinn ones.
Again, I was wrong.
The car accident that tore Nate's family apart has proven that. With Nate's father gone and his mother still in the hospital, I live with what now constitutes the entire Reese family.
I set the metal tray on the cooling rack. This is the third batch of cookies that's come out of the oven like charcoal briquettes. If only I could use my magic, I could fix them. But I can't use my magic in front of humans. And lately, here, in the Reese home, I'm always with humans, one human in particular: Megan.
"Let me guess," Megan says, hopping off the center island and scraping the top of a blackened cookie with a fingernail I helped to paint blue. "You work the register, not the fryer at the snack bar at the beach."
Her voice chokes on the final ch sound. Immediately, Goldie spreads her arms wide, and the fabric hanging from her dolman-sleeved sweater shrouds Megan. She closes her own eyes against the tears forming.
Megan may have lost her father in the car crash on the road to the beach, but Goldie lost her son-in-law, almost lost her daughter.
I hang back, trying not to make a sound, but it's not easy for me to swallow past the golf ball wedged in my throat. Once again, I'm intruding on a private family moment. By now, it should feel less awkward.
It doesn't. Because I can't shake the suspicion that, one way or another, this is all my fault. Either the Afrit assigning Nate as my wish candidate on the night Mr. and Mrs. Reese's car went off the side of the road was a total coincidence, or I should have started the wish-granting ritual with Nate sooner. Early enough to save his father.
So what if Jinn can't heal humans? There has to be something I could have done. Because why else would I have been tapped to grant Nate a wish that day? I'm not buying the coincidence thing. Which leaves only one other alternative: that the Afrit somehow knew or maybe even caused the accident that killed Nate and Megan's father and seriously injured their mother.
I can't breathe if I think about that for too long. Because that would mean not only is this all my fault, but that I could have prevented it. It would mean that my selfish need to have Nate in my life cost someone theirs. The Afrit warn against getting too close to humans. Even with all I've recently discovered about my father's family, I still have a hard time believing something this cruel could be their punishment.
Call it a perverse loyalty to the family, to the father I used to think I'd give anything to meet.
Goldie releases Megan, whose sun-freckled nose is red and runny. I hand her a napkin, but instead of taking it, she takes me. Grabs me with the force of someone twice her size and burrows into my neck.
The pained but grateful smile on Goldie's face twists my stomach into a pretzel. How much I'm to blame for Mr. Reese's death may be a question I'll never know the answer to, but this, right here, Megan's anguish, that's something I'm 100 percent responsible for. Because that I can end.
That is something my powers can do. If only I could figure out how.CHAPTER 2
The hockey pucks land on top of the first two batches of burned cookies in the kitchen trash. I wedge the dirty cookie sheet in one side of the double sink and run the hot water until steam puffs, hoping to dislodge the charred remains.
Megan exaggerates a sigh and scoops out a handful of chocolate chips that she drops in my palm before nabbing the entire bag on her way into the living room.
"Where are you going?" Goldie and I say at the same time.
We both want to make sure she's okay, but I have another reason for asking. I need to know where Megan is going because when I don't, it hurts — a lot. It's like my internal organs are hitched to a semi barreling down the highway at top speed.
It's a curse in every sense of the word.
One that started on the day of the funeral when the Afrit left me their calling card with Megan's name on it. She was to become my next assignment. I could have — I should have — waited.
But after the funeral, I was overcome by emotion, both Megan's and mine, and rushed into conducting the wish-granting ritual for her right upstairs in Nate's bedroom. The wish she made, to no longer see the pain in Nate's eyes, is not an easy one. Short of going the literal and gruesome eye-gouging route, mind control is the only way to achieve it. Though this power is beyond the reach of most Jinn, it seems to be an inherent Afrit perk. I've used it once, though I have no idea how. Even if I did, I'd still be cautious. Because mind control is dangerous, bringing with it the very real risk of permanent brain damage.
Which is why I still haven't taken any steps to grant Megan's wish. With the twenty-four-hour grace period to get the wish-granting ball rolling long since past, I'm now bound by the circulus curse, magically compelled to stay within one hundred and fifty feet of Megan until I complete her wish. As curses go, it's not so bad. At least mine binds me to Megan. And, as a side effect, to Nate.
But, see, this is why it's tough to be on board with the coincidence theory. Megan being my wish candidate on the heels of Nate is too much coinky dink for me.
"We still on to go to Mrs. Pucher's later?" I call to Megan, who's nestled into the corner of the couch with the mermaid book I loaned her and the bag of chocolate chips. So she's on the Azra diet of mainlining sugar. At least she's eating again.
She gives a thumbs-up and pulls the afghan hanging off the back of the couch over her bare feet. The afghan knit by her mother. More evidence of what's been lost and what's been left behind. It doesn't take an experienced tracker to follow the trail of Mr. and Mrs. Reese that fills this home.
Goldie nudges me aside with her pleasantly plump hip. Her Rubenesque figure, round face, and naturally jet-black hair make her look more like a 1940s pinup girl than a grandmother. She's right to stick with "Goldie."
"I've got this," she says, jamming her pudgy hands into a pair of too-tight hot-pink dishwashing gloves. "You take Meg." She yanks the cuffs up to her elbows. "Although I've been trying, it's you and your magic that's finally gotten her off her tush and out of her own head. One step closer to walking through those hospital doors and visiting her mom, which they both need. You might not be able to bake 'em, but you're as smart as one, Azra Nadira."
I turn my flinching at her casual use of the word "magic" into a dismissive shrug. "Mrs. Pucher's the smart one, not me."
Goldie flings a soap bubble at my head. "Nonsense. Meg and Nate ... Oh, let's be honest, Georgie and I wouldn't have half as many reasons to smile without you. Why do you think we're having you stay here?"
Because my mom used a spell to make you think it was a brilliant idea.
Goldie pushes her pink-gloved fingers through her barrel-curled bangs. "We'd be lost without you, love."
A blustering whoosh sends prickles down my spine. Not trusting the strength in my voice, I simply nod to Goldie. I then reach around her to close the window above the sink, pausing when I notice the blinds inside are still. The swings hover outside, motionless.
But, again, a tingling like pins and needles trails across my shoulders.
I focus on the window, and though Goldie's kind words make it feel like a betrayal, I let myself revisit the scene once more. The green plastic seats, the twisting metal chains, the pair of friends, best friends, entwined in a way that best friends usually aren't.
Which is why I need to see him. Henry, my best friend, my human best friend, the only human to know I'm a Jinn.
I shut the window and close the blinds.
I know every stroke of the painting I call Henry's Kiss. A discussion with the artist is long overdue.
* * *
"Hey hey, where's the fire?"
At the top of the stairs, Nate cups my shoulders and pries me off his chest. His chest that can't be touched, seen, or thought about without the word "chiseled" coming along for the ride. All three of which I know from firsthand experience.
"Sorry," I say, unusually quick to remove my fingertips from his biceps, getting harder by the day from his amped-up lacrosse training. If Megan went inward to cope, Nate went outward, mostly to the gym. "I wasn't looking."
"Well, that's better than the alternative." Nate extends his neck toward the stairs and breathes in deeply. "I was afraid you were running from an out-of-control kitchen fire."
"Nope, perfectly contained in the oven." I start to inch toward the bedrooms. We've been avoiding each other all day. At least I assume he's been avoiding me, but since I've been avoiding him, I guess I can't be sure.
"So," he says, "no need to call the fire department, but I'm assuming this also means no cookies?"
Like me, Nate has a sweet tooth. All the Reeses do.
"Maybe I can pick some up on the way home," I say. "I mean, back." A mutual love of sugar is one of the many things making it easier and easier to think of this place as my home. "I'm taking Megan to Mrs. Pucher's again."
"Third day in a row? You're ... That's really sweet, Azra. You've been so good to her. And to me." His eyes find his feet, which are shuffling against the white carpet that blankets the second floor. "Which is exactly why I should ... What I mean is, why I need to ... About last night —"
"Don't," I say, pressing my hand against his forearm. In response to my touch, his eyes flicker to mine before lowering again, this time settling on my neck, on the A pendant I wear because I know how much he likes it.
Talking to my exposed collarbone, Nate says, "I've made things weird between us."
Things are already weird between us for so many reasons: me being Jinn, my ability to read human minds including his, the wish I granted for him to be able to take care of Megan that leaves me connected to a piece of his soul — his soul. Oh, yeah, and let's not forget my little lip-lock with Henry.
Fortunately, Nate doesn't know any of this. Unfortunately, that does little to ease my guilt.
I stroke his cheek before lifting his chin, forcing his chocolate ganache eyes to meet my gold ones. We hold each other's gaze, which, despite all that's between us, including what happened last night, turns out not to be weird at all.
Excerpted from Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein. Copyright © 2016 Lori Goldstein. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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