CW: Adult Content, Violence, Graphic Language, and Drug Use
Day/Time: Sunday, 5:32 p.m.
Current state of mind: Not drunk enough
What are you wearing? Black leggings and red sweater
What are you listening to? Dance With The Devil by Rachel Taylor
What are you drinking? Bourbon—lots of fucking bourbon
Where are you? Living room
Yule had come early. I raised my arms above my head, swaying to the thrumming beat as my ex snaked his way through the sea of drunks. Talk about the perfect gift. Tall, powerful, and seductive as sin, Silas looked like the beautiful predator he was. The multi-colored lights pulsed, reflecting off his dark brown hair as he strode past the small seating area. His sharp, smokey eyes scanned the crowd, undoubtedly looking for his next mark when his stare shifted, landing on me.
Hello. I’d been waiting ten years for this moment—had spent ten long fucking years scouring the realms for that duplicitous asshole. And my persistence had finally paid off.
I shot him a suggestive smile, moving my body to the hypnotic rhythm as I slowly ran my hands over my curves. It was an invitation—one that he couldn’t refuse. But the pompous prick stayed put, resting his forearms on the railing. His lips curved up in a devious smirk as he watched me, his gaze drinking me in as I danced to the pulsing music.
Asshole. Silas and his fucking games. He just loved toying with me—loved seeing how far he could push me before I broke—before I ran into his arms. But I wasn’t the breaking type. Not anymore. I wasn’t the same girl from ten years ago. But then, he’d always underestimated me, classifying me with the rest of the brainless twits he’d dated. He should’ve known better. His overinflated ego would be the death of him.
Time for Plan B.
With a quick flip of my hair, I veered up the stairs and right past Silas. His stare drilled into my back, but I kept walking, taking pleasure in his mini gawk-a-thon as I strutted on by. But Silas wasn’t the only one with an ogling problem. All sorts of heads turned as I made my way up to the bar. The little red number I’d picked out hugged my curves in all the right places. I looked stunning. And he knew it.
I plopped down onto one of the velvet stools in front of the long bar, my eyes landing on my favorite brand of bourbon. Gods, I would kill for a taste of that smoky sweetness, but I needed to be careful. I was in Silas’s territory. I didn’t know anyone there, and according to the witchy gossip mill, the staff liked to enhance their booze with mystical herbs. I couldn’t afford to go on some magical acid trip. I needed to keep my wits about me—especially, if I wanted to take Silas out.
“Hello, gorgeous.” Silas’s low, gravelly tone rumbled against my ear. His warm breath brushed over my skin, sending fiery chills racing down my spine. A familiar flame ignited within me—one that’d been doused a decade ago. I couldn’t help myself as I brushed up against his rock-hard frame. The scent of spiced brandy and fresh citrus enveloped me, clouding my senses as my desires threatened to override any ounce of self-preservation.
Old feelings of lust and love loomed behind a locked door in my mind, but I wasn’t about to release them. No. Love had fucked me over. Love had sent me down this twisted path of hate and vengeance. Love was nothing but a weakness to be exploited—and that’s exactly what Silas had done to me. He’d used me—manipulated me into thinking he’d loved me too, but it had all been a game. I hadn’t realized it until he’d left me bleeding out on the kitchen floor. I hated him. My hatred would be my ammo.
“Silas,” I purred, turning in my seat. Gods he was fucking hot—chiseled cheeks, strong, shaded jaw, and a delectable mouth made just for kissing. Lots of kissing. And that tongue—oh, that talented tongue of his… Shame, it would have to go to waste.
He leaned up against the bar. “Please, don’t tell me you came all this way for some petty revenge fantasy,” Silas drawled, raking his gaze over my body, like he was assessing its value. But he wasn’t just interested in my body. No. There was something he wanted more. My soul. He tried stealing it ten years ago—and I had no doubt he’d try again. Too bad he wasn’t gonna get the chance.
“It’s not fantasy, if it comes to fruition,” I replied, trailing my fingers over his abs, feeling the muscled ridges under the expensive cotton of his shirt.
He smiled, a dimple flashing in his stubbled cheek. “You won’t kill me.”
“Maybe not.” I pulled a tube of lip gloss from my clutch. “But I’d have fun stringing you up by your balls and using your head as a punching bag.” I coated my lips in the burgundy stain, smacking them together with a soft pop.
“Ambitious and creative. I like it.” Silas grinned, slapping his palm against the granite bar top. “Bourbon?”
“Nope.” I stood, pressing up against him. “I’ve gotta use the little girl’s room.” I spun away, veering off towards the restrooms in the back, knowing he’d follow.
Just as I rounded the corner, a strong hand gripped my bicep and whipped me around. Silas pinned me against the wall, caging me between his arms. He leaned down, his mouth just a whisper away from mine. “You wouldn’t be trying to do anything stupid, now, would you?”
So predictable. So paranoid. I fisted the lapels of his designer blazer. “Just this.” I crushed my lips against his in a smoldering kiss.
Surprise flared in his eyes, and then he was kissing me back with an insatiable hunger. His palm skated up my thigh, slipping beneath the short hem of my dress, his fingers biting into my skin. I moaned, wrapping my arms around his neck as I rolled my hips, grinding up against him. The air heated. My heart pounded in protest as Silas groaned, thrusting his tongue inside my mouth. His kisses grew deeper and greedier, like he couldn’t get his fill—like he was a demon possessed. But I’d had enough. I wouldn’t give into his twisted desires.
I shoved him. Hard.
He staggered back, confusion sweeping over his beautiful face as he swayed on his feet. “What the—” Silas collapsed, his body thumping off the black tile.
Oops. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Maybe I’d overdone it with the gloss or something. I nudged him with my foot, but he didn’t move. “Well now, what am I supposed to do with you?”
Obviously, I hadn’t thought my plan through. I needed to get him out of there. But I couldn’t carry him—even with my magic adding to my strength—Silas was too big for my small frame.
The scent of cheap cologne drifted down the hall. Talk about perfect timing. I turned, flashing the wide-eyed frat boy a saccharine smile. “Care to help a girl out?”
Like Frat Boy had a choice. It took me a second to magically rewire his brain into believing he wanted nothing more than to help an innocent woman and her inebriated boyfriend. He tossed Silas over his broad shoulder and carried him out of the nightclub like a young, buff Santa with a sack of presents. My stilettos clacked off the icy pavement as we approached my BMW. I popped the trunk and nodded at Frat Boy. “Throw him in there.”
He laid Silas’s limp form into the empty compartment, like the good little puppet he was.
“For your troubles.” I pressed a hundred-dollar bill into his palm, erasing his memories. “Have fun, handsome.”
As soon as Frat Boy disappeared out of sight, I heaved out a sigh, hating myself for what I was about to do next. I wanted to murder Silas—wanted to torture him until he begged for his pathetic life, but I wouldn’t. Silas had other uses. He was my get-out-of-jail-free card—my ticket to avoiding uncertain death.
I pulled out my phone, my finger hovering over Nick’s number. I didn’t want to call him—didn’t want to ask for his help—but I didn’t have much of a choice. He was the only one who had the power to bail me out of the little predicament I’d gotten myself into. I swallowed my injured pride and hit send.
Nick answered after the third ring. I skipped the greeting and got right to the point. “I have a gift for you.”
“Unless it’s your head on a stick, I’m not interested.”
Asshole. “I found your soul-stealer.”
“Meet me at my office.”
“I’ll be there in an hour.” I shot one last glance at Silas and slammed the trunk shut.
I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself as the bitter cold breeze blasted me in the face. I shifted on my feet, trying to keep the blood flowing to my extremities before fucking hypothermia set in.
Nick peered into the trunk, a frown marring those handsome features of his. “What the fuck did you do to him?”
Like it wasn’t obvious? “I drugged him,” I replied, tossing the tube of hexed lip gloss over at Nick, who caught it with a quick swipe of his gloved hand.
Nick twisted the top off, studying the applicator under the glow of the streetlight. “What’s in it?”
“Oh, you know, just a bit of this and a little of that—mixed with a dash of dream root and a pinch of jimsonweed. It’s kind of like GHB, acid, and magic mushrooms all rolled into one fun little package. Makes for one hell of a trip,” I replied, taking pride in my latest concoction.
“You have issues.” Nick tucked the tube into the inside pocket of his leather jacket.
“Obviously.” I shoved my numb hands into my pockets. “But you’ve gotta admit, I am a genius.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “What do you want?”
“I’ll take one get-out-of-jail-free card, please.”
He narrowed his gaze, folding his arms over his broad chest. “What did you do?”
I opened my mouth just as the wind gusted, turning my loose curls into whips, lashing my cheeks. The finite flurries transitioned into fat flakes falling at a swift clip, quickly covering the world in a thin layer of powdery white.
Nick and I were only standing a few feet apart, but I could barely make out that signature scowl taking up residence on his face. “Do you think we can move this little shindig inside—you know, where it’s nice and toasty and not fucking snowing?” I asked, nodding up at the sky. If I was gonna share my epic fuck up, I preferred to do it somewhere that had central heating.
“No. Talk. Now.” Nick glared at me, the thick snowflakes peppering his short black hair.
At least he was dressed for the blizzard-like conditions. Me? I was about a hairbreadth away from setting the surrounding trees on fire just to get a little heat. “Look—”
“Stop stalling and speak,” he snapped, clearly losing whatever patience he had left.
“Fine.” I swallowed the foul-mouthed curses that danced on my tongue. “I was out at Potent Brews, minding my business, when Thanatos plopped down next to me. He was acting like an ass, grilling me about Jared—like I knew anything about my brother’s extracurricular—”
“Will you just get to the damn point?”
I gritted my teeth, my own patience hanging on by a fraying thread. “Thanatos wouldn’t stop. I got pissed. So, I stabbed him in the hand. Okay?”
“For fuck’s sake.” Nick shook his head, scrubbing a hand down his face. “When’s your deadline?”
“Midnight.” I swallowed hard. “Tonight.”
Nick peeled the leather glove back from his wrist, checking his watch. “Time’s almost up, Cinderella.”
“No shit,” I muttered, fiddling with my ruby pendant. I’d had less than twenty minutes to spare when I’d arrived at Nick’s. Now? I was pretty sure I was minutes—if not seconds away from missing my deadline. “Can you help me or not?”
“Why not just call Than?” Nick asked, hefting Silas out of the trunk and dumping him onto the snow-laden ground like the trash he was.
“How? Dial the Underworld hotline and ask for the God of Death?”
Nick scowled. “You could’ve summoned him, smartass.”
“And risk getting murdered prematurely? No thanks, I’ll pass.” I valued my life—even though my stupid ass choices screamed otherwise.
He let out a hollow laugh. “You realize the irony in that statement, right?” Nick asked, rounding on me. “You think I won’t kill you?”
“I brought you Silas,” I hissed.
“You stabbed a fucking god!”
I threw my arms up. “I was having a bad night!”
“You were having a bad night.” Nick scoffed. “That’s your excuse.” He raked a hand through his thick, textured hair. “Un-fucking-real.”
I felt like a child, and I hated it—hated being chastised. I wanted to lash out at him—wanted to scream at him and punch him in that ridiculously attractive face, but I held back. My stupid temper had brought me enough trouble. If I’d shown some restraint with Thanatos, I wouldn’t have been trying to trade Silas for my life. No, I’d be killing the asshole myself. Hello, actions, meet consequences.
“Nick.” I licked my lips. “It’s Silas. He slaughtered nine witches for their souls. That has—”
“Twenty.” Nick’s hard, midnight blues locked onto mine. “At least, that’s how many we know of.”
I blinked, bracing myself against my car. Wow. I sure knew how to pick them, didn’t I? Maybe if I hadn’t been drowning in sorrow and self-loathing, I would’ve seen Silas’s true intentions sooner. But Silas had been a charmer, and my dumbass had fallen for him.
Good job, Raich. Way to fucking go. And my friends wondered why I didn’t do the whole commitment song and dance routine.
My heart hammered in my ears as my gaze drifted over to the three-story Victorian that housed Nick’s office. The place had been decorated for the holidays. The white lights that covered the windows, railings, and gables twinkled beneath the heavy coating of shimmery snow. Gods, that was a shit ton of snow. Probably over two inches. Maybe even more.
“You have your deal.” Nick’s deep timbre cut through my thoughts. “But it’s gonna come with some strings.”
I turned to him. “What?”
“You’re gonna use those shady connections of yours and do some recon for us,” Nick continued. “I call. You answer.”
I cocked my head, remaining skeptical. “No death sentence? No jail?”
“As long as you stick to the deal, you’re good,” Nick replied, motioning Daniel over, who’d been leaning against the stone wall like a silent sentry the entire time. Daniel slung Silas over his shoulder and walked back inside the house without uttering a word.
I blew out a breath. The agreement wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it beat the alternatives. I shot Nick a tight smile. “Thank you.”
“Yeah.” Nick nodded, turning on his heel, and tossing a glance over his shoulder. “Next time, think before you act. You got lucky tonight. But fuck up like this again? You’re on your own.” Nick crossed the lot without a second glance, disappearing inside the house and leaving me all alone.
Nick was right. I’d gotten lucky. The odds had been stacked against me from the get-go—my chances of dying had been sky high. If I’d been a betting witch, I would’ve bet against me. But somehow, I’d survived. Again. Luck had been on my side. Talk about the perfect holiday gift. Silas would be dead, while I remained alive and free. Life was good.
I slid in behind the wheel and cranked up the radio as Carol of the Bells blared through the speakers. I couldn’t wait to get home and celebrate.
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