Zeb slipped both hands around her from behind and cupped her hips. His head dipped and his breath whispered against her cheek. "Now that you know the power of the ring, do you dare risk what it may offer? A night of pleasure such as you've never imagined?
Heat rode Mellika in waves, curling up from her gut and invading her whole body. The harem girl costume she'd allowed Madame to choose for her made it easy for Zeb to slip his fingers through the slits in the sides of the sheer, billowing trousers.
She'd balked a bit when she'd seen the outfit. First, there was the tiny bra top. Two small triangles joined by a white satin cord that tied around her back and another halter-style around her neck. Silver sequins and clear crystal beads covered the cups, with strands of the same dangling from the bottom. With it came a white and silver-studded G-string that fit like a second skin. The elasticized band barely covered her pubic area. Hanging from the elastic were strands of the same crystals and sequins, forming a tinkling fringe around the tops of her thighs.
Over that, she'd slipped a sky-blue pair of harem pants that rode just as low on her hips. Made of the silkiest chiffon, the pants were slit from her hipbones to her ankles and then gathered on elastic strips. Silver slave bracelets clasped her upper arms, their gilt matching the slave sandals on her feet. Madame had made her promise to leave her long, dark hair free and had loaned her a silver diamante band with a sheer blue scarf clipped on one side of it to wear on her forehead.
Taken all together it was an incredible outfit-almost too good to be a mere costume. The moment Mellika had donned it, she'd felt like a different person. Sexy. Sensual. Her movements were different, more flowing, as if in tune with the outer covering she wore.
She suddenly realized she was sinuously swaying against Zeb in time to the caress of his fingers on her upper thighs. At this rate she'd be drooling all over him in no time flat. It wouldn't do to let him know too soon that he turned her on to that degree.
Dragging in a shaky breath, she stepped away and turned to face him. Her mouth dropped open and the breath seized in her throat as fire flashed through her veins.
Zeb had dressed as a genie. Semi-transparent baggy pants in an emerald green color, caught in at the ankle. Slippers with curled up toes on his feet. The rest of him was bare, except for a tiny bolero-style vest that hung free and exposed most of his chest. His skin was bronzed, as if he'd spent too long in the sun. His chest, what she could see of it, was free of body hair. Long dark hair curled down the back of his neck and brushed his shoulders. A gold hoop earring glinted in one ear, adding to the erotic picture. His facial features had a patrician cast as did his bearing and manner, but it was his eyes that drew Mellika. A glittering green.
Uncomfortable with the fact that Zeb was looking his fill as she studied him, Mellika glanced down again to his chest. Her hands curled into fists as she fought the impulse to run her fingers over that expanse of naked flesh. Forget propriety. She wanted to throw him down on Madame's Turkish rug and screw the living daylights out of him.
She raised her gaze to his face and focused on his enigmatic smile. *Bastard! He knows exactly what I'm thinking.*
Struggling to regain her equilibrium, she waved a hand at her friend. "Ah, Tracey, I don't think you've met Zeb yet. Zeb is Madame Lila's nephew. Our new neighbor."
"Hubba hubba." Tracey fanned one hand in a cooling motion. She nudged Mellika in the ribs. "Now I know why you wanted to come to the party so much."
A flash of heat swept up Mellika's face. *Damn it, Tracey, shut up.*
"My aunt is a trifle biased. " He grinned. "So what do you think of the party? Aunt Lila has gone to a lot of trouble to make it feel authentic."
"I swear, I could be in a tent in the middle of the desert," Tracey gushed, waving her hand to encompass the costume-clad guests. "Complete with all these sexy genies. It feels just like the real thing."
"If you really want to get into the spirit of it, you need to get the terminology right. In the old world, the word is d-j-i-n-n. As in more than one genie. The singular is djinni-*jin-ne.*"
"Mellika, this guy's a keeper." Tracey nudged her in the ribs. "Talk about throwing yourself into a part. He could even be a real genie.er, *jin-ne.*"
Mellika cleared her throat, desperate to change the topic of conversation. Trust Tracey to embarrass her. "Um, so Zeb, what makes this ring special?"
He took her hand and rubbed his thumb over the green stone. "Peridot can induce a state of enchantment if not clothed in gold. But that's not all it will do." He gave her a heated smile. "It will attract lovers to the wearer, give you your heart's desire, and fulfill your wildest fantasies." He lifted her hand and dropped a feather-soft kiss above the ring. "What is your secret desire, sweet bearer of the sacred scent of jasmine?"
Tracey gave a trill of laughter. "Hey, this guy is good. Maybe I should be the one wearing the ring. I need some excitement in my life right now."
Mellika felt a renewed rush of heat. How did he know her name meant scent of jasmine? Unless he was interested enough to look it up.
"No reason we can't share." She grinned at Tracey and tried to pull the ring off her finger, but it refused to budge. It was stuck tight. "I can't get it off."
Zeb placed his hand over hers. "It belongs to you. It has called and you have responded. Until your fantasies are fulfilled, you won't be able to remove it."
Turning her hand this way and that, Mellika stared at the ring. It *was* pretty. Something about it had attracted her the moment she'd seen it. She'd planned on cannibalizing it to use in the fashion jewelry she made, but something about the ring itself had stopped her the moment she'd picked up her jeweler's pliers. *This* ring she'd wanted to keep for herself, so badly that her hands had shaken as soon as she'd approached her tools.
She often shopped for bits and pieces for her jewelry making business. She could spend hours combing through the collection of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets at Madame's shop, looking for just the right piece, but this was the first time she'd felt possessive about anything.
Zeb reached out and stroked the ring again and Mellika found her gaze caught by his glittering eyes. Eyes that seemed to glow with the same green fire as the stone in her ring.
"So, Zeb.as in Zebadiah?" Tracey broke the web of sensual awareness that held Mellika in thrall.
Zeb grinned and turned his attention on Tracey. "No, Zeb as in Zebargad, the old Arabic word for peridot." He bowed from the waist. "The spirit of the peridot at your service, my ladies. For a small price I will grant you your most secret fantasy."