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Authors: Juli Alexander

The Karma Beat

BOOK: The Karma Beat
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THE KARMA BEAT

By

Juli Alexander

 

 

 

Kindle Edition

Copyright © 2012 Juli Alexander

 

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in encouraging piracy of copyrighted materials in violation with the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

 

DEDICATION

 

 

TO MY WONDERFUL EDITORIAL DREAM TEAM, ELI HEATON, CAROLYNN CAREY, JAN HAYNES, LEANNE TYLER, JILL HAYNES, AND KATE MCKEEVER.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

If I had to live in a bottle like my ancestors, I’d go totally nuts. Being trapped in American government for fifty-five minutes on Wednesday afternoon was hard enough.

When the bell finally rang to release us, my best friend Alex jumped up and grabbed her books. “I’ve got to get to trig early. I’ll see you at the game.”

“See you there,” I answered, hoping I could keep my promise. There had been so much genie activity in the past few months in Atlanta that here it was, mid-February, and I had missed every one of her basketball games.

I’m a genie. Yeah, I know, but it’s the truth. There are two types of genies in the world. The djinn from the Arab legends, and the people like me, descended from Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Great Britain. There are similarities but all references to genies like me have been successfully deleted from the oral and written traditions.

When someone racks up enough Karma points, the U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. sends a genie like me to grant three wishes. At seventeen, I’ve been activated earlier than most because of the high wish volume in Atlanta. And because of my mother’s connections. She isn’t a genie, but she does work for the U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. in an administrative capacity.

I glanced at my purple cell phone from Genie Communications. One more class to get through. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask.

Apparently it was. Just as the last bell of the day rang, my cell vibrated. Terrific. I couldn’t refuse a summons. Goodbye basketball game. The plan had been for me to fetch my little brother from home and take him to the game with me. Mom would know to have my older brother, Ian, cover for me. As my mentor, Mom got updates on everything I did.

I picked up my stack of books from the desk and headed for the nearest restroom. I had less than five minutes to respond before I’d be zapped to the client. I pushed my way into a graffiti-covered stall and pulled my cell out of my pocket. The screen read, Mrs. Monroe. After a deep breath, I hit accept and closed my eyes.

When I opened them, I stood in a living room crammed full of knickknacks. An elderly African-American woman was napping on the worn sofa under a colorful crocheted afghan. The scent of Ben Gay or Vick’s VapoRub filled the air. Arthritis, or a chest cold?

The woman hadn’t taken off her thick, oversized glasses before falling asleep. She snored softly, and I smiled. I liked her. Even if she’d finally accrued enough karma points for three wishes at a very inconvenient time. I didn’t know what she’d done to earn the points. The U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. kept all those details secret. They didn’t even let their employees know how many points each type of good deed earned.

Mrs. Monroe’s wrinkles and white hair made me think she was in her seventies or eighties. Most of my clients were. Although, occasionally they were much younger.

I conjured up a little fog with a wave of my hand. When she woke from her nap, Mrs. Monroe would believe she’d dreamed my visit. Over the years, the U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. had discovered that adding some fog or altering the background could help. I didn’t much like the feeling of floating up in the clouds, so I generally did the fog thing.

“Mrs. Monroe,” I said in a soft voice. I’d never quite gotten the hang of waking people up. I cleared my throat and added in a louder voice, “Ma’am. I need you to listen to me.”

The elderly woman opened her eyes, her gaze dreamy. My appearance didn’t alarm her. What did she have to fear from a freckle-faced teen in a retro U2 t-shirt? It wasn’t like I was intimidating. Other genies had to change their appearance. A big burly male genie might really scare somebody.

“You’re a redhead,” she said.

“Yes.” My fiery hair usually stood out. “Mrs. Monroe,” I said moving into the center of the room. “I need to talk to you about your life. Can you tell me about yourself?” I had to be sure she was alert and not still dreaming or I wouldn’t get her true wishes.

She nodded slowly. In a sleepy voice, she said, “Yes, dear. I’m Mrs. Wilbur Monroe, mother of four, grandmother of four. I have two great-grandbabies, and I sing in the church choir. I make the best macaroni and cheese in the state, and I’ve crocheted blankets for over two hundred babies.” She smiled, still sleepy.

“If I could grant you three wishes,” I asked slowly, “what would they be?”

“Three wishes,” she murmured. “I’m an old woman. My needs are simple.” She thought for a few moments. “I suppose I’d want my great grandbabies to go to college.”

I nodded, granting the wish.

“I’d wish for my daughter-in-law to get better. She’s got breast cancer.”

I nodded again. Another woman had just beat breast cancer.

“And I’d ask to stay in my house until it’s my time to pass on. I don’t want to live in a nursing home.”

With a final nod, I said, “Thank you, Mrs. Monroe. Enjoy your nap.”

She closed her eyes. When she woke, her daughter-in-law’s cancer would be in remission. Someone at the U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. would keep an eye on her bank account and make sure she could pay for any necessary at-home healthcare. She’d probably never see the great grandchildren graduate from college, but that would happen too. Mrs. Monroe would never know I was real. I’d always be a dream to her.

I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my home number. Then I hit the enter button twice and took a step into the large kitchen pantry in my house. I hated that I always entered through here. Half the time, I couldn’t resist grabbing the bag of Doritos before leaving the kitchen. Today I steeled myself to walk past a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

Pushing open the bi-fold doors, I stepped into the kitchen and looked at the clock. I never could believe how long those genie visits took. After five! I’d missed Alex’s game. She was going to kill me.

I dialed Alex’s cell.

She didn’t say hello. Instead she snapped, “Where are you?”

“Sorry, Alex. I’m really, really sorry.”

Instead of responding, she hung up.

“Alex?” I said just to be sure.

Nothing.

She’d never actually hung up on me before. My best friend was PO’d. Punching the off button, I resisted the urge to fling my cell across the kitchen. She’d forgiven me about a thousand times for bailing on her, but I was pretty sure I’d almost burned up all of her patience.

Of course it wasn’t my fault. Genies had serious obligations. When I got the word, I had to get moving.

“Alex,” I should just say. “I’m a genie. At the whim of the U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E., I rush off to wherever someone has racked up enough karma points to get three wishes.”

I’m pretty sure her reaction would be to flip me off and never speak to me again.

It was a moot point anyway since I was magically restrained from telling. So I’d have to make up another pathetic, half-baked excuse and hope for the best. Maybe by tomorrow she’d be ready to listen.

In the meantime, I’d made it just in time for band practice, and I needed to focus. My brother’s drummer had finally quit, and I had practiced for years for this chance. Ian and his friends, two of them certified hotties, had formed the band as freshmen. Now they were seniors, and they actually had a chance at some gigs this year. I was a year younger, but no one would be able to beat me out for the drummer job.

I rocked. Seriously.

I’d been practicing since I was seven. Just after Ian picked up his bass, I’d asked Santa for a set of drums. Luckily, the Dad half of the Santa forgot to ask the Mom half if it was okay. My mother has issues with loud noises.

She assumed I’d get bored and move on to something more suitable, like piano lessons or ballet. Yeah, right. When she finally realized I was in for the long haul, she soundproofed the walls to her office and bedroom. Dad balked at the expense, but Mom told him Santa would want her to have some peace and quiet.

Now I had killer arms that my friend Alex envied, and I could out-rock Stewart Copeland.

(Yes, the old guy from The Police. He’s a legend.)

Ian had bet me he’d find somebody by yesterday to play drums. He hadn’t. So he had to give me a chance.

I set my books on the kitchen counter and headed into the garage. My brother sat in my dad’s old brown recliner tuning his Gibson guitar. He wore his ratty navy blue “rock n’ roll” hoodie that my mother keeps threatening to throw out. My first instinct was to locate Derek so I could do a little private drooling. What was it about lead singers that made them so irresistible?

Derek, wearing his usual Braves cap, was over between the freezer and the oil stains from back when my parents actually parked in the garage. Dylan and Austin, the guitarists, stood next to him. And some other guy.

One guy too many.

Who the heck was that tall, muscular guy with the leather jacket, CAT boots, and dark ponytail? I had to admit he was yummy, but he didn’t look like a tambourine player and he had way too much testosterone to be one of their groupies. I felt my blood pressure jump as I clenched my fists.

Ian had found someone else to play drums.

How could he!

I deserved that spot.

Ian saw me and tensed. He was so lucky I couldn’t use my powers on him. But he knew I could and would use any mortal means to make his life a living hell.

He stood, his chin jutting out in that defiant gesture I recognized from our preschool days. Yeah, well he’d broken more than the cookie jar this time, and I had no maternal feelings to cool my wrath.

I marched right up to him and poked him in his chest with my finger. Looking up the three inches into his eyes, I snarled, “You promised me!”

“No,” Ian said, holding up one hand and tucking his guitar under the other arm to protect it. “I didn’t promise you the spot. I just said that we probably wouldn’t find anyone else.”

I finally understood the appeal of guitar smashing. “You said I could jam with you guys today!”

“Listen, Jen.” He kept his hand up in what was supposed to be a calming gesture. “I talked it over with the other guys, and they think having a chick in our band will ruin our image. The Armpit Hostages is all about guys.”

I rolled my eyes. He’d been enamored with that crappy name since the beginning. “Armpits aren’t hot.” You idiot! I’d truly hit rock bottom begging for a spot in a band with such a repugnant name. “They’re stinky and smelly. And Mom warned you about calling girls chicks.”

“Not to mention the fact that you’d be totally unreliable, Jen.” He used the rational voice I hated. “We can’t have our drummer popping off in the middle of a show.”

How dare he! “It’s not fair to use that against me, Ian. You know it’s not my fault. And yesterday, you were prepared to take that chance.” I could fake nausea and run from the stage. I wouldn’t actually just disappear.

He shrugged. “That was before we found Leo.”

“Leo?” I’d never met anybody named Leo before. It wasn’t something your mother chose, unless she was in love with Leo Dicaprio. Leo was a name you chose to call yourself if you wanted to be cool. He was probably Leonard. Leonard was not cool.

“Dylan found him. He’s great.”

I crossed my arms over my chest as I looked over at the guy. Dylan and Derek were obviously distracting him so Ian could run interference with me. Leo had a broader, more mature frame than the other guys. From the back, I’d have guessed he was older. He turned as if feeling my gaze.

Oh, yeah. He looked good from the front too. Masculine was the word that came to mind. Dangerous. The slight shadow on his jaw indicated that unlike my brother, Leo had to shave every day. He wasn’t high school hot. He was college hot. My pulse jumped despite my dislike for the guy.

I took a step in his direction, determined to get to the bottom of this. How had he shown up out of the blue at just the right time to steal my drummer gig?

His eyes met mine and I froze in mid step. His blue eyes held a flash of green glow in their depths. Just like the glow in my green eyes.

Leo wasn’t just another drummer. He was another genie.

My first thought was to tell my brother and have him toss Leo out on his rear end. Ian couldn’t see the telltale glow in Leo’s eyes because Ian wasn’t a genie. Despite being a jerk about the Armpit Hostages, Ian would do anything to protect me. But before I could make a move, Leo walked over to me. He held out his hand to shake mine as if being all polite.

BOOK: The Karma Beat
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