“You take a lot of interest in my cooking for not wanting to try it.” I narrowed my gaze at the oven, trying to figure out how to set the timer. Too bad he wasn’t interested in tasting it—maybe if he was, I could use food to bribe him into helping me brainstorm an acceptable contract.
He reached around me to fiddle with what looked like rock, his arm almost brushing my shoulder. Silver veins swirled at his touch until they became a clock counting down from fifteen minutes. “Don’t have much else to do.” He rocked back on his heels, folding his arms behind his head. “Not that I mind. Beats the hell outta granting someone else’s wishes all day.”
“Even if my soup doesn’t entice you, aren’t you hungry? You’ve been here a week. How long can genies go without eating?” I forced my mouth closed, reminding myself my goal was to get rid of Orange, not learn about him. But I hated taking time away from homework to try to figure out a contract. I also hated trying to figure out a contract. It was stupid to have to make some big wish if I didn’t want to.
A careful look came over Orange’s face. “I have been feeding, though I wasn’t expecting to with you.”
I froze, unnerved by the careful look on his face. “What have you been feeding on?”
“Well . . .” He rose into the air, looking up at a particularly robust stalactite. “I usually feed off my masters’ greed and lust over their wishes.”
“But you said you’ve been feeding.” I furrowed my brow in confusion. I wasn’t making wishes, so how was he feeding? I gasped, blushing as I covered my mouth. “I’m greedy in other ways? That’s what you’re feeding off of?” I cast my mind over the past week, wondering what I’d been doing. Was wanting my own path in life greedy? Wanting to get top grades and escape my parents?
He chuckled, shaking his head. “No, Ali.” His look turned thoughtful. “All these centuries I thought greed and lust were our only food, but genies must feed off their masters’ reactions to their magic in general. Greed and lust are just the most common ones.”
I blinked at him, still not sure what he was saying, and he took pity at my confused expression.
“I’ve been feeding off your delight over my changes around the apartment.”
“Oh!” That was a relief. Both that Orange was able to eat and that it wasn’t because I was greedy.
He got a curious look on his face as he stared down at me, tapping his lips with a finger. “Delight tastes better than greed. Pity it doesn’t happen more often.”
I cocked my head as I gazed up at him. “Do you taste with your mouth?”
His lips curled into a seductive smile as he lowered himself toward me. His eyes sparking with an orange light, he asked, “Do you want me to taste you?”
“No,” I declared, my face flaming red. I wished I hadn’t asked. I needed to find a class on how to keep my mouth shut.
He laughed, the seductive smile dropping away as he gave me space. “Not quite. Emotions can put a taste on our tongues, but it’s more of a feeling that energizes us.”
The oven beeped with impeccable timing, giving me an excuse to turn away from Orange. I wondered if he flirted with all his masters. Or if he only did it with roommates.
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