The Fourth Wish (The Art of Wishing)

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9780147510037: The Fourth Wish (The Art of Wishing)

“Ribar has delivered fans a fun romantic read with some deliciously exciting paranormal elements (shape shifting, anyone?) while casually tackling bisexuality, consent, and the importance of balancing power with humanity.”—School Library Journal

Here's what Margo McKenna knows about genies: She's seen Aladdin more times than she can count; she's found a magic genie ring and made her three allotted wishes; she's even fallen head over heels in love with Oliver, the cute genie whose life she saved by fighting off another genie. But none of this prepared her for the shock of becoming a genie herself. Everything Margo's taken for granted—graduating high school, going to college, even being a girl—is in question. But Margo is also coming into a power she never imagined she'd have. How will she reconcile the two? And where will she and Oliver stand when she's done?

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About the Author:

Lindsay Ribar (www.lindsayribar.com) is a literary agent by day and a concert fanatic by night. A graduate of NYU, she currently shares her apartment with several roommates (two human, one feline) and way too many CDs. She is the author of The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish. Follow her on Twitter at @LindsayRibar.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter ONE

There was only pain, at first—the pain of my magic breaking me into a collection of atoms, getting ready to make me into something new. It was painful, but I knew it was necessary.

I just wished I could make it happen faster.

With that thought, the magic inside me sped up and exploded outward like a supernova—and the pain vanished, leaving relief in its wake, coupled with a strangely soothing sensation, like minty feathers on my skin.

I opened my eyes.

Just seconds ago I’d been standing with Oliver on the stage of the empty Jackson High auditorium. Now there were people everywhere. Girls with wobbling heels and smoky eye makeup, boys with baggy pants and gelled hair, all walking around with plastic cups in their hands and shouting at each other over the too-loud music.

None of them was Oliver.

One of the girls bumped into me, sending me stumbling. I felt my ankle turn a little, and I realized I was in heels, just like she was. Why was I wearing heels? The last time I’d done that was in Guys and Dolls back in sophomore year. The girl turned and raised an eyebrow at me, like she was waiting for me to apologize. When I didn’t, she gave a dismissive shrug and turned away again, back toward the crowd.

“Fine, be that way,” I muttered—and immediately snapped my mouth closed. The voice I’d just heard wasn’t mine. It was higher, and softer. More ingénue than leading lady.

I looked down at my hands. My fingers had become longer and thinner. The Big Dipper–shaped constellation of freckles on my left arm was gone. There was pale pink polish on my nails, instead of my usual bold greens and reds and purples.

I had to find a mirror, stat.

Around the corner was a door marked with a taped-up paper sign that said BATHROOM!!! in orange marker, but there were three people already lined up to get in. So I pushed open the next door, and found myself in a very adult-looking bedroom, with a mountain of coats on the bed and a full-length mirror in the far corner. Pausing just long enough to turn the light on, I made a beeline for the mirror.

My breath caught. The girl staring back at me was beautiful.

My magic had created a new body for me, exactly as Oliver had told me it would. Gone was the real Margo McKenna—short and flat-chested, not beautiful by any means, but firmly on the prettier side of average—and in her place was someone new. Long blond hair that framed high, sharp cheekbones. Milk-pale skin marred only by a tiny mole just above red-painted lips. Big brown eyes accented by dark, sexy makeup . . . and a tall, thin body wrapped in a short black dress.

It was like the weirdest fitting-room experience ever. And it would only get weirder from here. There was a reason I was in this place, wherever it was, and a reason that I looked the way I did. All of this was happening because someone had called me here.

I was a genie.

Which meant I owed that someone three wishes.

As if on cue, there came a tug just behind my rib cage—not quite painful, but very persistent. I knew instinctively that this was a call, and that I was supposed to follow my magic to its source. But then what?

I’d had nightmares like this, over and over throughout most of junior high, before I’d conquered my stage fright: It’s the opening night of a musical, and I’m supposed to play the lead . . . only there haven’t been any rehearsals, and I don’t know my lines.

And just like in the dreams, there was only one thing I could do.

Wing it.

I shimmied through the crowd, across the living room, up a flight of stairs, and into a bedroom at the end of the hall.

I peeked in. Three girls and one guy were in the middle of playing “Carry On Wayward Son” on Rock Band. The walls were covered with posters of Tenacious D, this supposedly hilarious band whose jokes I’d never found particularly funny. Another girl sat on the bed, chatting with two guys.

But the one who’d called me was the boy lingering a few feet behind the Rock Band players, playing air-guitar along with the song, rocking out like he was imagining himself on stage at Madison Square Garden or something. The door creaked as I pushed it farther open, and the boy turned around to face me.

Ryan Weiss.

Out of seven billion possibilities, I’d ended up bound to someone I actually knew? That couldn’t be right. But my magic surged, and I felt its approval like a cool breeze on a humid summer day. First contact has been made, it seemed to say. This is the person you’re supposed to meet.

He was holding my red guitar pick between his thumb and forefinger, which was exactly the way I’d held Oliver’s silver ring when I’d wanted to call him.

I drew in a sharp breath, remembering.

“How will I know what my spirit vessel is?” I ask.

Oliver smiles at me. “You’ll know.”

The snippet of memory flitted away as fast as it had appeared. When had that conversation happened? I needed to find Oliver. This was moving too fast, and I didn’t know what to do next, and he was the only one who could—

Before I could even finish the thought, there was another sharp tug in my chest, and my magic dropped three pieces of knowledge right into the front and center of my consciousness:

First, I was not allowed to leave until I answered Ryan’s call properly.

Second, a proper answering of the call involved telling Ryan that he’d summoned a genie and was therefore entitled to make three wishes.

Third, I’d waited long enough. It was time for me to act.

“Hey, shut the door, would you?” said the girl on the bed—which was when I realized that I knew her. Jill Spalding was one of my fellow seniors at Andrew Jackson High. She was also in the cast of Sweeney Todd with Ryan and me—our high school musical, which was due to open in just over three weeks.

“Sorry,” I said, and stepped all the way into the room. Ryan’s eyes were now fixed on me, and a predatory smile spread like syrup across his face. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought my new body was hot stuff. I could practically feel—almost hear—how much he wanted me.

This pleased my magic immensely.

It did not, however, please me.

“Hey,” he said at last.

“Hi, Ryan,” I replied.

That creepy feeling of desire spiked as I said his name—that was when I realized I was hearing his thoughts. Oliver had been able to hear my thoughts, too, back when he was my genie, bound to me. Only the thoughts about wanting, though. The thoughts that might eventually turn into wishes.

But unlike Oliver, who’d been able to pluck thoughts from my head as easily as reading a book, I wasn’t getting much of anything from Ryan. There was the insistent sense of I want you, and a distinct image of a slice of pie, accompanied by what looked like a beer can, but it was gone before I could make any sense of it.

He gestured toward the TV. “You want to play next?” he asked. I felt, very forcefully, that he wanted me to say no.

“Uh . . .” I bit my lip, trying to decide, but after a few seconds, pressure began to build behind my eyes. Answer. I had to answer truthfully. My magic demanded it.

“No, that’s okay,” I said at last. The pressure receded instantly.

Ryan’s smile broadened. “Cool.”

“Carry On Wayward Son” ended, and the four players congratulated one another and handed their instruments to Jill and her boys. But when one of the girls tried to give Ryan her plastic guitar, he just waved her away.

“But it’s your turn,” said the girl, her voice unmistakably flirtatious. “You said you wanted to play Pearl Jam next.”

Ryan barely even looked at her. “I can play later,” he said.

The girl shrugged, but slipped the guitar strap back over her head. “Two turns for me, then,” she said.

“So what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?” said Ryan, giving me an obvious once-over as the opening lines of “Bad Reputation” blared from the TV speakers. Oh god, he was actually flirting. He had lines.

“Just hanging out,” I replied, managing a smile somehow.

“Nice,” he said, grinning like I’d just delivered a great joke. “So what’s your name?”

A name. Right, I needed a new name. I couldn’t exactly call myself Margo, not looking like this. Maggie, like my parents called me when I was little? No, I needed something completely different. And there was that pressure behind my eyes again, threatening to grow into very real pain if I didn’t answer soon.

“Amber,” I said, picking something totally random. “My name’s Amber.”

The pressure receded again.

Well, that was interesting. According to Oliver, questions asked by a master required immediate and truthful answers—yet my new fake name seemed to work just fine. “Hey,” I said, “ask me where I’m from.”

“Uh, okay,” he said. “Where are you from?”

“I was born in Sweden, and I grew up in Alaska, but I moved here last year because I got tired of it being cold all the time.”

Once again, my magic seemed satisfied. Not just satisfied, actually. As I pulled Amber’s story out of thin air and told it to Ryan, I could actually feel it becoming true.

“Ask me how old I am,” I told him, bouncing on the balls of my feet.

“Uh. How old are you?”

I waited just long enough for the pressure to start building, then said, “Twenty-one.”

This time, when the pressure receded, it left a tingle of impatience in its wake. I was playing games, and my magic wanted me to tell Ryan what I was, and why I was here.

The sooner I did that, the sooner I could leave and find Oliver.

“So listen, Ryan,” I said. “I need to talk to you. In private, if that’s okay.”

His eyebrows shot up. There was that I want you feeling again. Then he cut a glance toward the people playing “Bad Reputation,” and it faded a little. Indecision played over his face.

But I knew how to make him decide for sure. I reached out and grabbed his hand, letting him feel the magic pooled in my fingertips.

“Holy hell,” he said, jumping back a little. “What was that?”

“Magic,” I said simply, holding my hand up and waggling my fingers at him.

“Magic,” he repeated. His eyebrows knitted, and I could sense him wanting something. I just couldn’t tell what.

“Yes,” I said. “There’s . . . let’s call it a business contract I need to discuss with you, and it involves magic. Which is why I’d prefer to go somewhere private.”

“A contract.” His desire for me waned a little as he repeated the word. “Uh, if you say so. How about my parents’ room? There’s just coats in there now.”

“Perfect.”

“Hey, guys, I’ll be back in a few,” Ryan announced to the room at large. Rock Band Girl turned around to give him an exaggerated pout. He brushed past her as we left, and I was pretty sure I saw him pat her butt. Ew.

As we headed downstairs, some guy I didn’t know almost crashed into me. I pressed myself against the wall and watched him lumber upward, clutching a red cup in each hand. “Nice party,” I said dryly.

“Not bad, right?” said Ryan. “I mean, they’re usually way killer, like way more than this, but this one was last minute. The ’rents decided to skip town for the week, so I got some people to come over for drinks and some tunes, and before you know it, everyone invites everyone else, and blam! Party! Guess that’s just how it goes, huh?”

“Guess so,” I agreed, even though I’d never experienced such a thing before. Impromptu parties seemed like the kind of thing that happened in movies, not in real life.

He opened the door to the coat room, and I flipped the light on. No way was I about to let mood lighting play any part in this conversation. This was going to be strictly business.

“You don’t have a drink,” he said suddenly. “You should have a drink. We still got some mixers left, I think, if you want something girly. Or are you a beer chick?”

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Whatever,” said Ryan with a shrug, and sat on the bed. He patted the space beside him, looking far too eager. “So, what’s this about a contract?” He tried to make the word sound sexy this time, but failed miserably. Somehow I managed not to laugh at him.

I sat down, leaving plenty of space between us. “Here’s the thing.” Then I paused. This was it. I’d been cast in my role, and my magic had written the script. All I had to do was deliver my lines.

“I’m a genie, Ryan. I am here to grant you three wishes.”

He blinked, and was silent. I didn’t have to be a mind reader to know that this wasn’t what he’d been expecting. His jaw worked, and I could practically see him wondering how he was supposed to react.

So I went on: “Do you remember the red guitar pick you were holding upstairs?”

His brow creased, and he dug into his pocket and produced the pick. “This one?” he said, holding it up so I could see.

“That one,” I said. “When you picked it up, just like that, between your thumb and your first finger, it called me to you.”

“And then your hands,” he added doubtfully. “They were all weird.”

I nodded. “Yes, and then my hands were weird. What you felt was my magic. The same magic that will grant your wishes, when you make them.”

“Magic. Yeeeah.” He looked askance at me, like he was struggling to reach a decision. After a moment, his lips twisted into a smirk. “Prove it. Magic me up some more beer. There’s only like two sixers left. Simon’s usually in charge of booze, but he didn’t even show tonight, so . . .”

I tensed at the sound of Simon’s name, but was relieved that he wasn’t here. The last time I’d seen him, he’d unwittingly put Oliver and me in life-threatening danger.

“Ryan,” I said patiently, “I can’t do anything unless you wish for it. But why don’t we talk about it first, so that—”

“Oh, wait, no,” he said, his eyes lighting up as he cut me off. “I got something way better. I wish for that stage manager girl to fall, like, balls-to-the-wall, crazy-ass in love with me! You know that girl? Naomi Sloane?”

My heart leaped into my throat. Of course I knew Naomi. She was my best friend. And she liked Ryan even less than I did.

“Yes,” I said quickly. “But before you decide for sure—”

Then my magic was surging forward from wherever it had hidden itself, knocking the breath right out of me. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t made up his mind. He was touching the guitar pick, and he’d already said I wish.

I tried to clamp down on it, but it was too powerful, just like when I’d turned into Amber, and my deep breaths became gasps, and I was going to explode, I couldn’t handle it, I couldn’t control it—

Colors burst like fireworks behind my eyes. My fingertips burned hot and cold and hot and cold until they turned numb. My vision went white. I couldn’t breathe.

Then it was over. I blinked myself back to reality, taking in the room, the bed, the pile of coats—and Ryan sitting next to me, looking at me like I’d just started speaking in tongues.

Apparently my magic didn’t need my input before it granted my masters’ wishes. Good to know.

“So?” he said. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know,” I replied truthfully. Maybe she wasn’t at the party. Maybe she was so far away from the party that the wish hadn’t reached her. I was pretty sure wishes weren’t constrained by distance...

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