CW: Swearing, Mild Violence, & Adult Situations

Name: Karina  

Day/Time: Monday, 3:23 a.m.

Current state of mind: Exhausted, but content

What are you wearing? Navy-blue leggings & Nick’s college sweatshirt

What are you listening to? Unsteady (Erich Lee Gravity Remix) by X Ambassadors & Erich Lee

What are you drinking? Mulled wine

Where are you? My bedroom

Jaga’s cottage

Tatry, PL

My grandmother was a liar. The woman who stood before me was unrecognizable with her detached demeanor and indifferent expression plastered over her graceful features. She wasn’t the compassionate, motherly figure I loved. No. She was cold. Callous. Indifferent. Like she didn’t have a single care in the entire world, like we all just hadn’t been attacked. Her sharp cobalt stare honed in on me, challenging me like she was waiting for me to lose my shit.

But I would not explode. I would not lose control. I was going to handle this like a calm and rational adult — “You lied!” I balled my fists, my nails biting into my skin. “Why did you lie?”

“Oh please, like you’ve never lied before.” My grandmother rolled her eyes, waving her hand dismissively. “You think I didn’t overhear you lying about your injuries earlier—”

“No.” I shook my head. “You don’t get to turn this on me. This isn’t about me, it’s about the grimoire.”

“So I lied about having it.” My grandmother shrugged. “So what?”

So what?” My voice rose several octaves. “Your lies endangered us all. Lexi could’ve been killed, and your response is, ‘so what?’ Are you fucking joking?”

“But she wasn’t hurt.” My grandmother’s eyes glittered with annoyance. “Lexi walked out of here without a scratch.”

“That doesn’t make it okay. She shouldn’t have been exposed to this kind of violence!” My magic hummed, pulsing in tune to the rage flooding my veins. A wind whipped through the shed, the breeze swirling my hair as the pendant lights flickered and swayed overhead. “She’s only fourteen, Babcia. Fourteen!”

“Easy, sweetheart.” Nick clasped my hand, his touch soothing my frayed nerves. He stroked his thumb over my skin, the gentle motion quelling my magic along with my temper.

The gusts dwindled, and the air stilled again. But the tension that had permeated the space remained, growing thicker with each ticking second. And despite the strained standoff, Nick kept his cool composure—his commanding presence radiating with unwavering confidence and lethal power.

“You compromised your granddaughters’ lives with your lies.” Nick speared my grandmother with a hard stare. “You should’ve been upfront about the grimoire from the get-go and you know it.”

“It wouldn’t have changed anything!” My grandmother threw her hands up. “I didn’t know those skurwysyny would show up. If I had, I wouldn’t have invited you over. I wouldn’t have jeopardized any of you like that.”

For the first time since the attack, my grandmother sounded sincere. Maybe there was a way to salvage this situation and free us all from this nightmare. Maybe I could reason with her—convince her to give us the book.

“Babcia.” I swallowed hard, tightening my grip on Nick’s hand. “I—we know you weren’t responsible for the attack—and we don’t blame you, but…”

My voice trailed off as I searched for the right words. Why couldn’t I ever find the right words? Why couldn’t I just be direct and tell her we needed that cursed book?

“We need your grimoire.” Nick finished my sentence like he’d read my mind, plucking the thoughts straight from my brain.

“No.” My grandmother shook her head. “Absolutely not. The book belongs with me, and it will stay with me, where it’s safe.”

“Not anymore, it’s not,” Nick replied. “The word about the grimoire is out. Everyone is gonna be coming for it, including the other gods—”

“Let them come!” My grandmother threw her arms up again, like she was challenging the gods themselves to fight her. “I cannot be killed.”

“And yet just an hour ago, you were ready to die,” I blurted, reminding my grandma of her death wish. “You were willing to trade the grimoire for your life. What changed?”

“I remembered just how much I enjoy being immortal.” Her lips curved up in an arrogant smirk. “I’m untouchable.”

“Bullshit.” Nick bit out a hard laugh, but there wasn’t an ounce of humor in that resonant rumble of his. “You think being immortal makes you indestructible? You think you’re safe because you can’t die? Newsflash, you can still be hurt. You can still feel pain. The gods know it. My father knows it. He can and he will torture you indefinitely if it suits his needs.”

“I’m not scared of that jebaniec. He should be scared—no, terrified—of me. They all should be.” My grandmother huffed. “Now go. I need to clean up this mess.”

“Are you serious?” I demanded, gaping at the stranger who called herself family. “That’s all you have to say?”

“Yes.” She yanked open the door, ushering in a blast of icy wind and snow. “I’m tired. Please, leave.”

“No.” I planted my feet. “Not until we get the book.”

“Well then, you’ll be waiting a long time.” She lifted her wool-clad shoulder in a nonchalant shrug. “You can always sleep out here—”

“Watch your mouth.” Nick’s command was as sharp as his gaze, daggering my grandmother into stilted silence. “You don’t speak to her like that. Karina’s your granddaughter. She’s one of the few family members you have left who gives a damn about you. And this is how you treat her?”

My grandmother lifted her chin. “I’m so—”

“Pierdol się. You can shove your empty apologies up your ass, where they belong,” I snapped, not wanting to hear anymore of her bullshit. “I’m done with your lies.”

Gods, I couldn’t even look at her—couldn’t stand to be in the same vicinity as her. I clenched my jaw, biting my lip to keep my thoughts from vomiting out of my mouth. My blood whooshed in my ears as my chest constricted, my heart hammering against my ribcage. I needed air, needed space—needed to get the hell out of there before I said or did something I could never take back.

I freed my hand from Nick’s grasp and brushed past my grandmother. Straight out the fucking door without a word or backwards glance in her direction.

The second my booted feet the snow, I ran—the ankle-deep powder magically clearing from my path. My lungs burned, the frigid air making it hard to breathe, but I didn’t care. I just needed to get away. Far, far away.

“Karina!” Nick’s powerful arms wrapped around me as he pulled me back against him.

“I hate her!” I spun, burrowing my head against his leather-clad chest. Tears pricked my eyes as a raging maelstrom of emotions consumed me. My magic burned—an inferno blazing in my veins, threatening to explode out of me. I dug my nails into his jacket. “I fucking hate her.”

“I know.” He stroked my back, his resonant timbre reverberating against my ear. “Let it out, sweetheart.”

And I did. I broke down, sobbing into the late night, releasing all the anger and anguish and frustration that had been stewing inside me. Tears streamed down my face as my magic bled out of me, kicking up a vortex of snow and howling wind. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed, shaking the earth.

Nick held me through it all, allowing me the release I so desperately needed. I didn’t deserve him. I really didn’t.

And then the supernatural snowstorm stopped, along with my weeping, like a switch had been flipped. Exhaustion crashed over me, my muscles turning into gelatin as my knees buckled.

“I’ve got you.” Nick scooped me up, cradling me against his hard body.

I dropped my head on his shoulder, succumbing to the darkness as my world went black.

One hour, one steamy shower, and a glass of wine later.

I nestled my head on Nick’s bare chest and listened to the steady thrumming of his heart. We’d just tumbled into our custom-made, king-sized bed minutes ago, both of us completely spent. He stroked my arm; his featherlight touch was a welcome comfort that should’ve lulled me into a peaceful sleep.

But my mind refused to shut down. As much as I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandmother, couldn’t stop thinking about that stupid grimoire—which we needed to get our hands on. I needed to find that cursed book.

I ran my forefinger over the peaks and valleys of Nick’s sculpted abs as I sifted through my jumbled thoughts. My grandmother wouldn’t give us the book. That was a given. But maybe we could take it… A lightbulb clicked on in my head. “Nick?”


“I think I might have a solution to our grimoire problem.”

“You need sleep, sweetheart,” Nick murmured, drowsily. “We can talk about the grimoire later.”

“I can’t sleep.” I nibbled my lower lip. “Just hear me out. Please.”

“All right.” Nick shifted, easing me off his chest and onto my back. He rolled onto his side and the bedside lamps magically came on, basking him in a warm glow. He propped himself up on his elbow. “What’s your plan?”

“My grandmother wrote the grimoire, which means she’s the one who cloaked it.” I turned, lifting my gaze to his. “My blood might be the key to pinpointing its exact location. We could use my blood in some sort of unveiling spell, right?”

“It’s definitely worth a shot.” Nick nodded. “But we’d still need to get inside her house. I doubt your grandma is gonna be inviting us over for drinks anytime soon.”

Nick was right. My grandmother was as mistrustful as she was paranoid. There was no way in hell we were getting inside her cottage, unless… “We could force her to turn it over. I mean, I know she can’t be magically coerced, but we could use the law to our advantage.”

“We could pull rank.” Nick’s expression grew somber. “But it’s your grandmother, Kari. Are you ready to deal with the fallout if she doesn’t follow through with our order?”

He had a point. I heaved out a sigh, my shoulders deflating right along with any hope I had. “I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.”

And that was the truth. I might’ve been furious with my grandmother, but she was still my family. My blood. I still cared about her and loved her without condition, and the thought of punishing her for her actions—or lack thereof—twisted my gut into tiny knots.

“Let’s explore our other options before we go the nuclear route.” He slid down on the mattress, pulling me with him. “We’ll try the spell first and take it from there.”

“Okay.” I pillowed my head on Nick’s chest, draping my arm over his waist.

He tugged the thick comforter over us as the lights magically turned off, blanketing our bedroom in darkness. “Get some sleep, sweetheart.” He pressed a tender kiss on the top of my head.

“Good night.”

“Night.” I closed my eyes, trying to shut my mind down. But my anxiety was an asshole—the gift that I never asked for—but kept on giving. “Nick?”


“You don’t think she plans on using that book, do you?”

“For her sake, and for ours, I hope not.”


One day and several failed spells later.

I wasn’t in the mood to attend a party, was in no mood to plaster a smile on my face and pretend everything was okay. Not after failing to locate my grandmother’s grimoire. We’d spent most of last night working a variety of spells—tweaking and adjusting them as necessary—only to come up with nothing. Not that I was surprised.

My grandmother was a powerful spell caster and using my blood to reverse her cloaking spells had been a long shot at best. I knew that. But that didn’t ease the sting of defeat. I was a complete and utter failure.

“Is it too late to cancel this thing?” I twirled the eyeshadow brush between my fingers, studying the array of makeup palettes cluttering the marble counter. I couldn’t decide which shade I wanted to use on the outer corner of my lid. Smoky slate or rich mocha?

“Why?” Nick focused on his reflection as he finished styling his hair, finger-combing the short, thick black strands into place. He rinsed his hands and dried them off, hanging the hand towel back on its rung. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.” I dipped my brush into the coffee-hued shade. “It just feels weird to be celebrating our birthdays after that shitshow from hell the other night.”

“I know.” Nick came up behind me, circling his arms around my waist. “But it’s only for a few hours.” He rested his stubbled chin on top of my head, his gorgeous midnight blue depths meeting mine in the backlit mirror. “If you need a distraction, I’ll be more than happy to provide it.” His sensual lips curled up into a seductive smile.

And gods, that smile—holy fuck, that heart-stopping smile was pure magic, melting all my worries away. My anxiety dissipated. My mind quieted and my muscles relaxed, the tension seeping out of me.

All I could see was Nick, with his perfectly chiseled features, staring back at me. Gods, he was handsome, sinfully beautiful in ways that stole your breath and made you lose all your senses.

And I wanted to lose myself in him at that very moment. Wanted to lose control. I wanted to touch him, to feel his hands on my body. I wanted to kiss him. Taste him. Savor every inch of him. I craved him so badly that it hurt.

I licked my lips, pressing my back against his rock-hard frame. “You know, I could I use a little distraction right now.”

“Is that so?” He dipped his head, his warm breath caressing my skin. His intoxicating scent—spiced bergamot mixed with sandalwood and leather—surrounded me, sending me into a state of euphoric bliss.

“Mm-hmm,” I purred, grinding my hips against him. I couldn’t think straight, could barely form any words as his entire presence consumed me. He was exactly what I needed. My beautiful distraction.

His hand skated up beneath my robe, his electric touch sending my nerve endings ablaze as he slowly glided his palm up my thigh. “What do you want?” His low, husky voice sent pleasant shivers down my spine.

“You.” I breathed. “All of you.”

Nick spun me around and tore my robe open, shoving the cotton off my shoulders. He cupped the back of my head, threading his fingers through my hair as he captured my mouth with his. He deepened the tantalizing kiss with each erotic sweep of his lips.

I moaned, savoring the sweet taste of smoky vanilla and bourbon as I slipped my tongue between his lips. My pulse raced. My heart pounded and my blood burned in my veins as molten heat flooded my aching core. “Nick,” I groaned. “Please.”

He hoisted me up, carrying me out of the en suite bathroom and into our bedroom. He eased me down onto the plush mattress—and I couldn’t help but stare as he stripped out of his clothes, tossing the designer sweater and dress pants onto the floor. His athletic body was a work of impeccably sculpted art—all chiseled muscle and sun-kissed skin adorned with intricate tattoos.

Nick spread my thighs apart and lowered himself down. He stole my lips with a passionate fervor, his rough stubble grazing my sensitive flesh as he seduced me with his mouth, kissing his way down my body. Volcanic heat engulfed me, and I scored my nails into his muscular back as we collided into each other.

Our limbs tangled, our bodies melding together in a slow, sensual dance as we moved together in perfect rhythm until we both came undone. Over and over and over again.

Two hours later, Nick and I finally emerged from our bedroom, ready to mingle with our guests, who would arrive within the next hour. For once, I wasn’t running late. And for once, I was genuinely happy.

As we made our way down the stairs and into the open living space, my grandmother’s accented lilt spilled out from the kitchen. Nick and I froze mid-stride, trading glances of disbelief.

My grandmother was the last person I expected to see, especially after our epic fight. We hadn’t spoken since then, and I’d assumed she was still pissed off. Hell, I was. And despite my anger, part of me was hopeful. Maybe she had a change of heart. Maybe, just maybe, I could convince her to hand over the grimoire.

Nick lowered his gaze to mine. “Come on, why don’t we see what your grandma wants.” He took my hand, his warm touch soothing my frayed nerves.

“Yeah.” I nodded. “Let’s.”

The two of us made our way into the kitchen, where my grandmother was bustling about, setting up trays of food as Ash stood by, gulping down a glass of wine.


“Drodzy!” My grandmother spun, a warm smile lighting up her graceful features. She rushed over to us. “Wszystkiego najlepszego. Życzę ci zdrowia, szczęścia i dużo miłości.” She kissed my cheeks, pecking the left, the right, and then the left again.

Then, she turned to Nick, repeating the birthday greeting, wishing him health, luck, and plenty of happiness as she kissed his cheeks.

We thanked her, and my grandmother took a step back, hefting a black leather tote over her shoulder. “Can we speak privately?”

“Yeah,” Nick and I replied, exchanging curious glances. “Follow me.” Nick placed his palm on the small of my back, guiding us past the living room and down the hall and into his office.

The lights came on, and the fireplace flared to life—the flames crackling and popping in the modern hearth as we stepped inside. The furniture was elegant and modern—all gleaming dark wood and expensive leather. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined two of the taupe walls—one which was housed behind Nick’s oversized desk. A round conference table and mini bar took up residence on the opposite end.

“Have a seat.” Nick gestured towards the sitting area, where the black leather sofa and a set of matching armchairs resided.

My grandmother plopped down in the armchair while Nick sank down next to me on the couch. She yanked out an old book from her tote. “I believe you were looking for this.” My grandma set the thick grimoire down on the mahogany coffee table.

“What made you change your mind?” My brows shot up as I traced my fingers over the weathered, brown leather cover.

“You were right.” She clasped her hands in her lap. “The book is no longer safe with me.”

“Did something happen?” Nick asked.

“No.” She shook her head. “I just prefer peace and solitude over all the fighting and trouble this book would bring. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like building another fence composed of my enemies’ skulls and bones. It’s tiresome, and no longer fits my aesthetic.”

“It was an effective deterrent.” Nick grinned, a dimple flashing in his heavily stubbled cheek.

“So were the chicken legs.” My grandmother chuckled. “I miss that old house sometimes.”

“I wish I could remember,” I murmured.

“You will.” My grandmother placed her hand over mine. “Give it time, słoneczko. You don’t want to rush the process, or you’ll end up crazy like Staś. That fool can’t tell the difference between his head and his ass these days.”

“That’s…” I bit my lip. Those words of wisdom—if that’s what you wanted to call them—weren’t exactly reassuring. “I’ll take my time.”

I leaned over, brushing my shoulder against Nick’s as he slowly thumbed through the yellowed pages filled with my grandmother’s messy scrawl. The grimoire held an assortment of curses and spells—some so powerful that they fell on the apocalyptic scale.

“We need to cloak and encrypt this. Now.” Nick snagged the grimoire off the coffee table and got to his feet.

“Of course.” My grandmother stood. “Do you have the ingredients?”

“Yup.” He crossed the room in a couple of quick, long strides and set the grimoire down on the conference table. “I’ve got everything I need in here.”

My grandmother and I followed him. We waited quietly as Nick gathered and prepped the ingredients for both spells, which were common practice for us.

“Can I ask you something?” I cut my gaze over to my grandmother, who was drumming her nails against the polished wood.

“Of course. You can ask me anything.”

“Did you really want to die?”

My grandmother stiffened. “Sometimes.” She heaved out a long-winded sigh. “It’s been a long life. I’ve lived through wars and plagues and experienced more pain and suffering than most can imagine. I never got a break, never got a chance to be reborn.”

Her cobalt eyes flew to mine. “Immortality is tiring, and some days, I want a break from it all. I want to be reborn. I want to experience peace in the afterlife. But I’m forever cursed, frozen in time—slowly aging, but never dying.”

“Look, I can’t break your curse,” Nick said. “It wasn’t my punishment to dole out, but I can talk to my uncle. Have him pull some strings.”

“No.” She waved her hand. “Save your breath. I had no right to ask that of you. I was out of line the other night, and for that I am truly sorry. Forgive me, please.”

“We’re good,” Nick replied. “But if you change your mind—”

“You two will be the first I call.” She smiled. “Now, enough of this depressing bullshit. Let’s get this book veiled and celebrate. I want to get drunk, and I want to get laid.”


“I’m old, słoneczko. Not dead.”

And just like that, her mood shifted. Again. But I wasn’t surprised. My grandmother tended to evade the heavier topics, skating around them like avoidance was a professional sport.

Nick scrubbed a hand down his face. “Let’s get this over with.”

He pulled out a pocketknife and sliced our fingertips, using our blood as the binding agent for both spells. We recited the archaic incantations, veiling and encrypting the book. A breeze gusted through the office as the grimoire floated in the air, bursting into flames.

And then it dropped onto the table with a heavy thud. The fire burned out and the weathered book remained intact, but its tethered pages were now blank.

“I’m gonna put this away,” Nick said. “I’ll meet you both out there.” He brushed his lips against my forehead and took off.

“Well.” My grandmother smoothed her hands over platinum blonde curls. “I could use a drink—or ten.”

“I could use an entire bottle,” I muttered.

Several hours later.

I kicked my heels off and plopped down onto the sofa, curling my legs beneath me. The sweet silence that permeated the airy living space was a stark contrast to all the laughter, music, and chatter from just minutes ago. Relief washed over me the second the door had shut for the final time and the last of our guests had left. Parties drained me, and this one had been quite a family affair.

“What are you thinking about?” Nick sat down beside me, handing me a glass of wine.

“Thank you.” I smiled, resting my head on his broad shoulder. “I think it’s a miracle that no one tried to kill each other tonight.”

“Yeah.” He nodded, taking a swig of bourbon. “I thought your grandma and dad were gonna go at it for sure.”

“I thought so too. Thankfully, your uncle intervened.”

Nick rubbed the back of his neck. “Man, I can’t believe he showed.”

“That was a surprise.” I took a sip of my wine, savoring the sweet spices as they melded on my tongue. “But not as shocking as my grandmother showing up. I still can’t believe she gave us the grimoire.”

“I can.” Nick stroked my arm. “Your grandma is a stubborn hot head. And man, she can be crass and callous as all fuck, but she loves you, even if she doesn’t always show it.”

“I guess so.”

“I know so.”

“What a night.”

“What a fucking vacation.”

“We need a vacation from our vacation.”

“Mm-hmm.” Nick took the wine from my hand and placed it on the end table. He snagged the thick flannel blanket off the back of the couch, draping it over us. “Next time we’ll go somewhere warm.”

“Aruba.” I smiled. “We should go to Aruba.”

“It’s a date.” He shifted, stretching out on the couch and pulling me down on top of him as he wrapped his arms around me.

“Sounds like a plan.” I snuggled up against him, basking in Nick’s warm strength. My gaze wandered over to the fireplace, where the flames danced away in the hearth. We laid there in tranquil silence, enjoying the peace and quiet. I loved these moments, lived for these serene but fleeting moments. They were ours. And ours alone.

I never imagined this weekend from hell would end in blissful peace. But you know what they say, “All’s well that ends well.”

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