CW: Swearing, Adult Situations, Medical Trauma, Mentions of Violence, and Death
Day/Time: Sunday, 4:21 a.m.
Current state of mind: Buzzed and bored
What are you wearing? Black jeans & red sweater
What are you listening to? Conscious by BROODS
What are you drinking? Bourbon
Where are you? My bedroom
Cold rain battered my head as Death stalked me, lurking in the shadows behind the thicket of trees surrounding the empty lot. And he could keep his ass over there because I wasn’t gonna die. Not tonight. Not anytime soon—or ever, if I could help it. So, unless Thanatos planned on killing me himself—which was likely given his contempt—then, he was gonna have to wait. For a long, long time.
I flipped Than off, blowing him a little kiss.
“Cute.” He chuckled, sounding like he was sitting next to me and not looming over me from a distance. “But I’ve got all night, you don’t.” The humor faded from his resonant timbre. “Time’s running out, Raich. Make your peace.”
“Pass. I’m not into necrophilia.”
“I’m not dead.”
“Yet,” He deadpanned.
I scowled in his direction. “I am not dying.”
“All that blood you’ve lost says otherwise.”
I glanced down at my shredded abdomen, which was still leaking blood, the viscous plasma coating my hands and clothes in dark crimson. The bleeding wasn’t slowing. My body’s natural healing abilities appeared to be shot to shit.
Fucking great. Just fucking perfect.
Stupid deluded little demon. That imbecile had made the fatal mistake of attacking me, believing she could fight me and win. Obviously, she underestimated me. I kicked her ass to kingdom come, and I had a blast doing so—until she stabbed me with her venomous claws. I should’ve sensed the poison right then, but I’d been too busy ripping her heart out.
Gods. If I could bring that demonic witch-bitch back to life and kill her all over again, I would. Not only did she poison me, but she ruined my favorite outfit and plans for the night. And thanks to my shit-fuck luck, my phone was dead, so it wasn’t like I could text Casey and let him know I was running late.
But I could still save myself and salvage this night. The antidote was in my shop, along with a bunch of medical supplies. All I had to do was get inside, take the potion, and my regenerative abilities would kick in, healing my injuries. Easy fucking peasy.
The backdoor was only a few feet away. I could make it. The stairs might be a little tricky to navigate once I got inside, but I’d manage. I’d been through worse, survived worse. Much worse. I could and would survive this.
Bracing my palms against the slick pavement, I pushed myself up, gritting my teeth as a searing pain ripped through my midsection. Beads of sweat dotted my forehead as I shoved off the cold, rain-drenched ground, urging my broken body to obey my commands. But my efforts were useless. My ass remained glued to the concrete.
But I wasn’t a quitter, never had been, and I wasn’t gonna give up now. I blew out a shaky breath, and with a little heave and some ho, gave the vertical routine another try. Tears pricked my eyes as my insides felt like they were being ripped apart all over again. Waves of nausea crashed over me as I tried shoving myself upwards and onwards, but my body was deadweight.
I gasped for breath, leaning my head against the cold brick exterior. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t know what to do. I’d never been the type to ask for help—I didn’t need it—not usually, but desperate times and all that blah-blah bullshit.
I glanced over at the thick trees, sensing Than’s presence. “Care to help a girl out?”
“You know I can’t interfere.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
Shocker. Guess I was on my own. I still had some magical juice left. Maybe I could mentally reach out to Casey. Just as I was about to use my powers, a pair of headlights cut through the darkness, zeroing in on me like a spotlight. I flipped my palm up, shielding my eyes from the blinding beams coming from the black SUV.
Either my salvation had arrived or my doom. Knowing my luck, it was probably the latter. The driver’s side door popped open. “Raichel?” Casey’s deep shout cut through the wind and rain.
Thank the gods. Maybe one of them liked me after all. Yeah, fucking right. Guess all that blood loss had finally caught up to me, making me delirious. Obviously.
“What the fuck are you doing out here?” Casey squatted down in front of me, his handsome face coming into my line of sight.
“Having a picnic. Care to join me?”
“What happened?” He demanded, his gaze landing on my bloody abdomen.
“Demon. She was a venomous little bitch.”
“Let me take a look.” Casey lifted my shirt, his expression grim as he studied my wound. “We need to get you to the hospital.”
“No.” I shook my head. “The antidote is inside. All I need is an IV and a couple of stitches.”
“A couple of stitches?” Casey’s dark brows shot up. “You’re hemorrhaging, honey. You’re gonna need more than a few sutures.”
“You’re a trauma doc—or you were. It’s nothing you can’t handle,” I replied, meeting his forest green eyes.
“Just because I can handle it, doesn’t mean I should.” He scooped me up in his arms, cradling me against his body. “You’re better off at the med center and you know it.”
“Maybe, but they don’t serve bourbon.” I coughed, resting my head on his hard, leather-clad shoulder. “Besides, I don’t have that kind of time and you know it.”
Casey wasted no time getting us inside and up into the attic, where my secret spell room was located. He eased me down on the bed and got to work, gathering everything he needed including the antidote. It was draining watching him bustle around, prepping this and opening that.
Exhaustion washed over me, making it a battle just to stay awake as I forced my heavy lids to stay open. I was so fucking tired. All I wanted to do was sleep. Maybe if I just took a little nap, just closed my eyes for a few tiny seconds, then I’d feel better. But I couldn’t sleep. If I passed out now, I might never wake up again—at least not in this realm. And I couldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t.
But staying awake proved to be quite the task. My lids fluttered, my vision flickering and fading as Casey talked, his deep voice sounding distant and garbled. I couldn’t make out anything he was saying, and after a short while, I stopped trying.
I dozed off, succumbing to my fatigue. Darkness enveloped me as my body went into a free float, gliding through the cool air. I was in limbo, trapped between life and death.
I wasn’t sure how long I drifted for—could’ve been minutes, hours, or even days—but I was tempted to stay. There was no pain here, and Gods knew I needed the rest. But if I hung out in this lifeless void for too long, then I wouldn’t be going back. I would die—or worse, I would remain imprisoned here for eternity. And wouldn’t that be the ultimate buzzkill?
I needed to wake up. Now.
I shot up into a sitting position, my gaze roaming around the darkened room, surveying the intimate space. I recognized my spell room instantly. Bookshelves filled with grimoires lined the freshly painted amethyst walls. Vials of potions, tubes of salves, and packs of unopened bandages took up residence on the twin mahogany tables and matching counters.
Casey was parked in the far corner, snoozing away in the wing-backed armchair. He probably got bored waiting for me to wake up.
I hopped off the mattress, my feet hitting the hardwood floor—except I didn’t feel the cool wood against my bare skin. What the fuck?
I spun, my eyes landing on the bed I’d just been on. My body was still resting there, motionless and pale.
No. I raked a hand through my tousled hair. This couldn’t be happening. This was not happening.
I whirled around at the sound of Than’s voice. He leaned against the paneled door, arms folded over his broad chest, his steely eyes meeting mine.
My breath hitched, my heart hammering against my ribcage as my pulse pounded in my ears. I wasn’t dead. The sound of my vitality might’ve been a figment of my imagination, or maybe it was my will to live. But it didn’t matter. Because I wasn’t going anywhere. Not with Thanatos.
“Sorry. I’d love to stay and chat, but I can’t. I’m running a tad late for my date. So, you’ll have to excuse me.” I flashed him a saccharine smile and waved my fingers. “Toodles.”
I recited an ancient incantation as I dove into my body, willing my soul to fuse with my flesh. But nothing happened. My spirit remained detached from my physical form.
Shit. Maybe I missed a word. I repeated the incantation, over and over, hoping like hell the archaic spell would take. But it didn’t work. Nothing worked.
Thanatos inched closer, his shadows swallowing the walls. “It’s over, Raich.”
“Like hell it is.”
I took a breath and recited the spell again, ensuring I got every single word right. My skin glowed as my spirit slowly merged with my corporeal form, the two becoming one. My heart resumed its strong beat, thumping steadily in my chest as my lungs filled with fresh oxygen.
I opened my eyes, finding Casey hovering over me. Unease flooded his beautifully chiseled features as he pressed his fingers against my carotid.
“Hey.” I reached for his hand.
“Hey, yourself.” His lips curved up in a soft smile, a dimple flashing in his heavily stubbled cheek. “Thought I lost you for a second.”
“I’m fine.” And I was fine—for the most part. Sure, I was a little sore and tired, but it was nothing a little bourbon couldn’t fix. “Now, how about a hot shower and some food… maybe a little workout, too.”
“Easy, honey.” He stroked my hair, his tender touch soothing and warm. “You were comatose for over twenty-six hours—”
“And we need to celebrate.” I sat up, meeting his gorgeous green eyes. I didn’t feel like talking about my mortality, or any of that other dire deathly shit. It was too depressing. “How about we get out of here and resume our plans?”
“Can’t. Most of the roads are still flooded from the storm.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. “We’re gonna be here for a while.”
“We could always use our magic—”
“Raichel.” Casey’s voice was as sharp as his gaze. “You died once. Maybe twice. You need to rest, not expel more power.”
Shit. He was right. I hated that he was right. And I wasn’t gonna argue with him, not when he looked as tired as I felt. He must’ve expelled a fuckton of power healing me, and he did it all by himself. I owed him. Big.
“Okay.” I huffed out a sigh. “Well, how about a hot shower and some food? I’ve got leftovers in the fridge downstairs.”
“We can do that,” Casey replied. “But I want to check your wounds first.”
“Sure thing, Doc.” I leaned back against the soft mattress. “Help yourself.”
Casey rolled his eyes before getting up and scrubbing his hands over the sink. He came back a couple of minutes later and eased the blanket down over my waist. He pulled the bandages off, inspecting my injuries. After a few short beats, he looked up. “You’ve got some light scarring from the venom, but otherwise, you’re good to go.”
“Perfect.” I swung my legs over the side of bed and hopped down with Casey’s help. “Now, how about that shower?”
We made our way downstairs and into my one-bedroom apartment, which was located just above my boutique. The small space housed a kitchen and bathroom. It wasn’t much, but it had everything I needed and a little more.
“Ladies first.” Casey held the bathroom door open for me.
I frowned, tilting my head up. “There’s room for two, you know.”
“I’ll wait out here.” He nodded over to the cream-colored loveseat. “Just shout if you need me.”
“But what if I get dizzy and fall? I could crack my head wide open.” I ran my finger along his sculpted bicep, batting my lashes up at him.
His lips twitched. “We can’t have that.”
“No, we can’t.” I grabbed his hand, pulling him into the bathroom.
Casey turned the shower on, and we shed our clothes, stepping inside the steamy glass stall. He towered over me, his athletic frame brushing up against mine as he snagged the washcloth off the shelf. He dipped his head, his warm breath caressing my skin. “Let me take care of you.”
I nodded, running my hands over the ridges of his sculpted abs. His tanned, tattooed skin was smooth. Taut. Hot.
“Turn around,” He instructed.
I spun, arching my back against him. He took his sweet time running the soft terrycloth over my body, cleaning the dried blood off my flesh. His touch was tender and tantalizing at the same time. Each enticing sweep of the cloth only further sparked my desire, setting my skin ablaze.
He pinned me against the wall, brushing his lips against mine. I gripped his arms, deepening the sensual kiss. My blood burned, volcanic heat flooding my core as his tongue mingled with mine. Our bodies collided in a slow, seductive dance, moving in perfect rhythm as the hot water sluiced over us.
After our erotic tango, Casey and I ate, devouring the leftover lasagna and cheesy herb bread. We cleaned up and settled on my bed with a couple of beers.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the shower. I wasn’t used to that kind of TLC. Casey and I didn’t do the whole slow and sensual dance. We were unbridled—rough and ravenous and fiery and frenzied—and I loved that about us. We were compatible like that. But hell, I also loved how gentle he was, loved how he took his time helping me and caring for me. It felt good to be taken care of.
“You know, you can doctor me anytime you like,” I teased, flashing Casey a flirty smile.
He tossed his head back and laughed—a genuine laugh, one that was deep, rumbling, and sexy at the same time. That laugh set my blood afire, stirring a familiar warmth inside. I secretly loved that laugh.
“Come on, we both know that’s a lie.” Casey tipped his beer back, polishing off the rest of the spiced amber ale. “You make a terrible patient.”
“And you make a terrific doctor,” I replied, realizing I never thanked him—at least not officially. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
“You’re welcome.” Casey kissed my forehead.
I wrapped my arms around his bicep, resting my head on his muscled shoulder. “How did you find me?”
“Tracking spell. When you weren’t answering your phone, I figured you were drowning in a pot of shit soup.”
“You know me so well.”
“You’re lucky I do.” He stroked my hair. “You could’ve died out there.”
“But, I didn’t.” I straddled his lap. “I’m alive, thanks to you.” I nipped his ear and whispered, “We could play doctor. I’ll be a good little patient this time. Promise.”
“No.” Casey chuckled, gently flipping me onto my back. He drilled his gaze into mine. “You need sleep. Doctor’s orders.”
“That’s Doctor Buzzkill to you.” He flipped off the lights and tucked me against him, pulling the covers up to my chin.
As the rain pitter-pattered against the windows, I smiled to myself. I’d survived. Again. And hell, I was gonna enjoy every minute single of my life—right after I got my beauty sleep.
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