CW: Adult Content, Graphic Language, & Death

Name: Karina

Day/Time: Sunday, 9:23 P.M. 

Current state of mind: Sleepy

What are you wearing? Nick’s sweatshirt & a pair of black leggings

What are you listening to? Unsteady by X Ambassadors

What are you drinking? Raspberry ale

The word “quiet” is a curse. It’s a word that should never be spoken or even thought of, especially in times of peace and calm. It’s something that had been engrained in me from my years of working in the ER. It’s something that transferred over from my human life into my immortal one. Quiet was like a chambered bullet ready to be fired at a whispered notice. And I’d been the one to pull the trigger.

We were all at Cove Brewery when I uttered the dreaded “Q” word, eliciting a chorus of creative curses and groans. I winced, clapping my hand over my mouth before spewing out a string of apologies.

I knew it was irrational thinking that one word had the power to undo three peaceful weeks. It was an absurd belief that I’d fucked up everyone’s night with one word. One stupid, fucking word. I mean, we were at a bar for shit’s sake, where it was anything but quiet. The chances of a booze-fueled brawl breaking out were pretty dang high, given the rowdy crowd. But I wasn’t worried about some fight. Not really.

I was more concerned about what that fight would lead to. The brutality. The trauma. The possibility of death. Too much alcohol led to unchecked emotions, which led to unchecked magic, which resulted in all sorts of danger and destruction and… death. I was done with death.

There’d been too much of it these past few months. Too many families losing their loved ones to senseless violence and sacrifices.

I hated demons. I hated rogue witches even more. They were power-starved and depraved, preying on the young, the vulnerable, and the innocent. Rogues enjoyed toying with their victims—torturing them, before killing them off. It was all a part of their sick and twisted game they enjoyed playing so much. I wanted them dead. I wanted to destroy them all. Mind, body, and fucking soul.

“Karina.” Nick’s resonant timbre punched through my turbulent thoughts, snapping me back to reality. Concern flashed in his midnight blue depths, his gaze shooting upward at the flickering pendant lights.

Well, shit. 

I’d lost control of my magic. Again. I closed my eyes, heaving out a sigh, and focused on my breathing. Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Repeat.

I repeated the breathing exercises, hoping to tamp down my emotions along with my powers, but it was no use. If anything, I was growing more agitated with every stupid breath I took. I flipped my lids open, grimacing and swearing up a storm as the lights kept on with their strobing effect. It was like we were at some godsforsaken rave or something.

“Easy, sweetheart.” Nick placed his hand over mine, the weighted warmth quelling the unchecked magic surging through my veins. My powers calmed after a few beats, the lighting resuming its ambient glow.

While the rest of the witches returned to getting their drink on, our friends stared at me like I was on the verge of breaking. Like I was some fragile glass vase teetering on the edge of the table. One misstep and I’d shatter. And maybe I would. But I wasn’t in the mood to share my deepest and darkest with the rest of the class. I wanted to escape—needed to get away from the stifling crowd and curious stares. I needed to clear the jumbled mess from my head.

“How about we get some air?” Nick’s suggestion rumbled low against my ear, his hot breath coasting over my skin, igniting a fire within my veins. It was as if he’d read my mind, like he knew exactly what I needed. But then, I wasn’t hard to read. I couldn’t hide my emotions if I tried.  I have expressive eyes—or so I’ve been told.

Nick’s grip on my hand was firm, but gentle, as he led me out onto the empty patio. Sweet relief poured over me as the door closed behind us, drowning out the cacophony of voices. It was just the two of us.

I tilted my head towards the cloud-soaked midnight sky, breathing in the crisp, salty air. Nick wrapped his arms around me, the heat from his powerful body searing into me as I relaxed against him. I nestled my head against his hard chest, his leather jacket feeling soft and smooth against my cheek. His dark, woodsy scent enveloped me, stirring my senses along with my desires.

I flicked my gaze up, studying his sinfully sculpted features. Good fucking gods, he was handsome. My breath hitched; heart pounded as his heated gaze burned into mine. He dipped his head, crushing his mouth against mine in a deep, sweltering hot kiss.

I flung my arms around his neck, savoring the taste of smoky, sweet bourbon on his lips. His hand glided up my spine, fingers tangling in my hair, pulling it taut against my scalp. Rough stubble grazed my skin as he kissed his way down my neck and back up again.

I writhed beneath his electric touch, arching my body against his, molten desire coursing through me, pooling between my thighs. His ravenous kisses muffled my moans as I sank my nails into his leather-clad back. I wanted more. Craved more. I wanted to go home and forget all about my fucked-up life for the night. And Nick was so damn fucking good at making me forget.

He reared back, his midnight blues burning with lust. “Let’s get out of here, shall we?”

I nodded, ready to resume our private party for two, away from any potential prying eyes. I held onto Nick’s hand as we headed out to the parking lot.

Nick was on the phone with Ryan when a scream pierced the air, shattering the stillness of the night. The two of us traded glances, taking off toward the cries for help. We moved swiftly, but cautiously, through the rows of parked cars. I didn’t sense any magic, malevolent or otherwise. But that didn’t mean shit. There were plenty of non-magical dangers lurking in the shadows.

We spotted two women down on the ground near a silver Acura sedan. One appeared to be passed out cold—or worse, while the other sobbed next to her. We ran over, asking what happened. Nick questioned the conscious girl, while I sank down next to the fallen one, whose name was Lucia.

I noted no visible injuries or indication of external trauma. Lucia’s lips were blue, skin ashen, and her chest was lacking in movement along with the rest of her. I pressed my fingers against her carotid, getting zip for a pulse.

Fucking shit.

I started compressions, pouring my healing magic into her as I pumped on her chest. I needed to use my magic to assess any possible internal trauma that might’ve caused her heart to stop. But I couldn’t magically evaluate her while attempting to resuscitate her at the same time.

I called Nick over and quickly explained my dilemma. But before we could trade roles, the Coven surrounded us. Nick took charge, barking orders, and giving everyone their assignments for the rest of the night. He reached into his pocket, tossing his keys into Ryan’s palm. “Bring the car around. Now.”

Nick took over compressions while I magically scanned Lucia’s body. Twice. I had to be wrong. I hoped like hell I was wrong. My findings could’ve been completely skewed courtesy of my wonky magic and unhinged emotions.

“I think you should double-check me,” I murmured.

Nick frowned, his gaze snapping to mine. His dark brows knitted together as he studied me for a second. He nodded, and we reversed roles. He evaluated Lucia while I compressed her chest, sweat dotting my forehead. As I worked on her, I knew the odds of bringing her back were against us. If Nick confirmed my suspicions that she was a half-breed with a fatal heart condition, then we’d need to pull off a miracle. And I was short on those.

Ryan pulled up in the SUV just as Nick finished his assessment. Regret flashed in Nick’s eyes as he confirmed my findings. Lucia’s chances of survival were slim—extremely fucking slim. But slim was better than none. Nick handled Lucia’s body with care as he loaded her in the back of the Range Rover. I joined him and the two us resumed working on her while Ryan drove.

We arrived at the ER in record time, courtesy of Ryan’s lead foot. The trauma team took over at that point. I forced myself to stay on the sidelines, no matter how tempting it was to join the organized chaos. But there was nothing I could do. Lucia’s vitals were nonexistent as she continued to flatline. She wasn’t coming back from this. She’d been down too long. Three minutes later, they called it. Time of death: 1:32 a.m.

The ride home had been steeped in silence. The only sounds were my thoughts ping-ponging around in my brain. We’d lost another one of ours. But not to demons or rogues. There was no one to blame for this. No death to avenge. And it’s not that I wanted to kill someone, it’s just that…

“You want someone to blame.” Nick finished for me.

I winced. “Sorry, didn’t realize I was thinking aloud.”

“Don’t apologize,” he said, backing the Range Rover into its parking space. “You need to talk.”

Yeah. Maybe I did—or maybe I just needed a good workout or sparring session. Or maybe I needed to sleep for a fucking week. I wasn’t sure what I needed, to be honest. All I knew, was that everything had been building up inside of me for weeks.

Ryan, Nick, and I made our way into the compound, where we split up. Ryan headed towards the game room to have a couple of beers and kick Daniel’s ass in a round of pool, while Nick and I headed outside.

We stepped out onto the sprawling patio, which was still void of its usual furniture and décor. I shivered against the bitter breeze, tugging my coat closed over my chest. Nick draped his arm over my shoulder, tucking me against his side. He looked down at me and told me to release my magic.

Had he lost his mind? If I released my magic, I’d unleash my inner shit storm of emotions right along with my powers. I could devastate the entire city—or worse. I wasn’t going to be responsible for anyone else dying. I shook my head. “I can’t.”

“You need to, and you know it.”

I knew he was right, knew that I needed the release. My powers were as toxic as my emotions, but I was scared. It wasn’t just about me devastating the city, I could drain myself if I wasn’t careful. I didn’t trust myself to let loose. “I don’t know.”

Nick squeezed my shoulder. “I’ve got you.”

And that’s all it took. I knew Nick wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I knew he wouldn’t let me hurt anyone or destroy anything. I trusted him. Wholly.

So, I tipped my head back and screamed, releasing all the anguish and guilt and stress and everything else that had been eating at me. The wind whipped around us, my hair lashing my face as the thick clouds churned above. The rain poured down, battering our heads. Lightning streaked across the sky, followed by a thunderous boom. My emotions bled out of me, my magic fueling the supernatural storm.

Nick held onto me the entire time, keeping me in check while allowing me sweet relief. The storm passed, and I sagged against him. Nick scooped me up, cradling me in his arms. I don’t remember too much after that. Everything was kind of a hazy blur. But I do remember him taking care of me. I remember him tucking me in and holding me. I remember burrowing my head against his chest, his steady heartbeat a sweet lullaby against my ear. For once, quiet wasn’t a curse.

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