CW: Swearing, Alcohol, & Drug Use

Name: Ryan

Day/Time: Monday, 2:46 a.m.

Current state of mind: Ask me later

What are you wearing? Tan shorts & a white button down 

What are you listening to? Stressed Out by Twenty-One Pilots

What are you drinking? Summer Shandy

Where are you? My balcony

It was a good day. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, the birds were chirping away, and I had Ash all to myself. After a week of drama, debauchery, and sleep deprivation, we’d earned the time off. Everyone was out doing their own thing. And Ash and I were taking full advantage of the peace and privacy. Until my younger siblings showed up.

“He’s possessed—”

“I’m not fucking possessed, you paranoid Fruit Loop.”

My gaze bounced between Ella and Matt as they hurled verbal potshots at each other. The two of them had popped into my backyard without warning, arguing from the second they arrived. Talk about your surprises. I hadn’t been expecting them, least of all Matt, since he lived in Italy—or at least that’s what I’d last heard. Over a year ago. It was like the asshat had never heard of text or email.

And now here he was, on my patio and apparently possessed. But that was impossible. Spirits, demons, and any other unwanted inhabitants couldn’t possess our kind. They’d never survive. I didn’t know what the fuck Ella was rambling on about.

“Who wants booze?” Ash emerged from the pool house carrying a tray of frosty beers.

I tuned out all the bickering, my gaze landing on the hot little firecracker strolling towards me.

Fuck. Ash was gorgeous. The short sundress she wore flaunted every single curve, accentuating her lightly bronzed skin, which glowed under the rays of the late afternoon sun. Her silky blonde hair spilled past her shoulders in loose waves, making her look like the goddess she was.

My brain short-circuited as desire coursed through my veins. I wanted to take her in my arms, wanted her long legs wrapped around my waist as I kissed the fuck out of her. I wanted to taste every inch of her smooth skin while bathing in her sweet scent as she screamed my name over and over again. But I needed to put my fantasies on hold. 

I glared at my brother—not that he could see my glower courtesy of the dark shades covering my eyes—but it was the effort that mattered. “What shit show are you starring in now?”

“It’s nothing—”

“It’s not nothing,” Ella snapped, cutting Matt off before he could lie through his pearly whites. She heaved out a heavy sigh. “Our idiot brother is possessed—well, not possessed in the typical sense—but I’m pretty sure that someone, aka Twila Fucking Twatwaffle, slipped him a love potion.”

My brows shot up. “What makes you think that?”

“He’s talking about putting a ring on her finger,” Ella replied.

“Wait.” Ash shook her head as she distributed the beers around the table. “Twila? You mean the red-headed psycho stalker who threatened to kill me just for hugging you?” She gaped at my brother as she plopped down onto the padded chair next to me.

“Yup.” Ella grabbed her beer. “The same bitch who accused me of being in love with my own brother, all because I gave him a bottle of whiskey for his fucking birthday.”

“She’s different now!” Matt threw his hands up. “People change.”

“Bullshit!” Ella retorted as the fighting started up again.

I couldn’t hear myself think over the verbal sparring and I needed to make sense of this fucked up situation. And fast. I placed two fingers between my lips and whistled, silencing all the shouting. I turned my attention to Matt. “How long have you two lovebirds been together?”

“Since last week.” Ella folded her arms across her chest.

“Last week?” I tipped my beer back, chugging the citrusy brew. “Last fucking week.” I scoffed, shaking my head. Un-fucking-real.

My brother had been drugged—or he’d lost his last fucking marble, because there wasn’t a chance in hell that Matt would ever get back with Twila. Not of his own volition. Not after she lied about being pregnant. Not after she slashed the tires of his new sports car. Not after she trashed his beach house because he took too long getting carryout. And most definitely not after all the hell she’d put Ella through.

But Matt was as stubborn as he was prideful. He would never admit he’d been roofied. Not in front of an audience. I needed answers, needed confirmation that he’d been drugged, and then I needed to reverse the damage before it became permanent.

This called for some good, old-fashioned brotherly bonding.

“I need a stiff drink.” I shot to my feet, rounding the table over to Matt. “You want a drink? Sure, you do.” I grinned, yanking him up by the arm.

I hauled my brother up the stone steps and into the main house. We were greeted by a blast of cold air as we stepped inside. A vacuum whirred off in the distance while the scent of freshly baked bread wafted through the air.

We strolled down the maze of halls, our flip-flops smacking off the dove gray marble. “How did Twila find you?” I asked.

“At a bar in Naples. She was on vacation with her sister.”

“And she just happened to be vacationing where you’re living? She just stumbled upon the very bar you were chilling at? ”

“It was a coincidence.” Matt shrugged. “They happen.”

“Or she tracked you down.”

“For the last time, I’m not drugged.” Matt stopped in his tracks. “Love spells don’t work on us, you know that.”

“But potions do.”

“That shit would have to be potent as all fuck to have any effect on me.”

“High-octane potions exist. The black-market fucking exists—”

“Twila doesn’t have that kind of money—”

“If she had the means to vacation in Italy, then she probably had the funds to buy the potion—or hell, she could’ve made it herself.”

“This is bullshit, dude.” Matt scoffed. “She changed. Why can’t you accept that?”

“Because it doesn’t make any sense.” I rounded on my brother, getting into his face. “She made your life a living fucking hell. She vandalized your house. Your car. She tried fucking your friends. She stalked you and harassed you relentlessly for years. She threatened Ash. She threatened our sister. Our baby sister.”

I shoved him against the wall. “You said you’d rather gouge your eyes out than ever look at her again. Now, Twila pays you one visit, and suddenly everything is rainbows and fucking roses. The only way that bitch changed is if she had a brain transplant.”

I stepped back, scrubbing a hand down my face. Man, I needed some bourbon and a cigarette. I needed something to take the edge off before I beat the living shit out of my idiot brother.

“What do you want from me?” Matt rubbed the back of his neck.

“Let me test your blood for the potion. If it’s positive, I’ll give you the antidote and then kill your ex.”

“And if it’s negative? You’ll let me go?”

“Sure.” I lied. If that test came back negative, I was gonna have Matt’s head checked. I was gonna lock his sorry ass up until I found the culprit behind his sudden personality shift. But he didn’t need to know all that.

“Fine.” Matt rolled his eyes. “Let’s get this shit over with.”

We resumed our field trip, but instead of heading towards the bar, we made our way to the spell room instead. We walked along in tense silence, nodding at the staff as they passed by. I had nothing left to say—and I was done arguing with the jackass. It was a waste of my time and sanity.

As we reached our final destination, I placed my palm on the brass handle and recited a silent incantation. The intricately carved door creaked open, allowing us inside.

Matt let out a low whistle, his gaze roaming around the expansive space. “You remodeled.”

“Yeah.” I nodded.

The spell room was one of the oldest rooms in our estate. It had undergone several renovations and expansions throughout the years as our powers evolved. The dark mahogany walls housed a variety of plants, herbs, potions, crystals, candles, grimoires—basically, everything and anything we needed for spell work. It was where most of the magic happened. Literally.

I crossed the room, spotting an embossed cigarette case on one of the shelves. Well, would you look at that? Someone had left their stash behind. I snatched a cig from the silver case, placing the filtered end between my lips and lit up.

I took a long drag, closing my eyes as the mystical tobacco flooded my system, tamping my temper along with my nerves. Fuuuuck. That was nice. Just what the doctor ordered.

Cigarette in mouth, I gathered everything I needed for the test, which included: one crystal bowl, a vial of elixir, a red rose petal, a small but sharp dagger, and a hand towel.

I deposited everything on the round mahogany table, which resided in the middle of the room. I grabbed the dagger, running my finger along the sharp blade, and turned towards my brother. “Give me your hand.”

“Do you really need to cut me?” 

“How else am I gonna get your blood into that bowl?”

“Can’t you draw it with a syringe or some shit?”

“Do I look like a nurse?”

“No.” Matt scowled. “You look like an asshole.”

I jerked him forward by his wrist and slashed his palm, flipping his bleeding hand over the bowl.

“Ow!” Matt struggled against my iron grip. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Chill, dumbass.” I puffed on my cigarette, squeezing his hand. “It’s just a little cut.”

“Little cut? I’m leaking blood!”

“That’s the point.”


“Sticks and stones.” As soon as I had enough of his blood, I snagged the towel and wrapped it around the bleeder—which had started healing. “Put pressure on that.”

“Okay, doc.”

I rolled my eyes, adding three drops of elixir and a rose petal to Matt’s blood. The dark crimson concoction bubbled, turning a brilliant shade of ruby-red as it burst into flames. “Surprise, surprise,” I muttered, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “Positive.”

“Dude!” Matt’s emerald eyes widened. “That can’t be right. I was careful.”

“Not careful enough.” I stubbed out my cigarette and wandered over to the mini fridge, swiping the antidote off the shelf. I handed my brother the vial. “Bottoms up, Casanova.”

Matt took a deep breath, pulled the cork, and choked down the potion in two quick gulps. He grimaced. “Now what?”

“Now we find your ex and kill her.”

One hour later

After navigating my SUV through downtown traffic, the four of us found ourselves in a luxe hotel suite that Matt and Twila had rented for the week. But Twila was nowhere to be found. All her stuff was gone. She’d left nothing behind, but that didn’t stop Matt from ransacking the room.

“That bitch!” Matt slammed the dresser drawer shut, rattling the paintings perched on the pale blue walls. “I can’t believe that fucking bitch just took off.” He sank down onto the loveseat, dropping his head into his hands. “Fuck my life.”

“Seriously?” Ella rolled her eyes, plopping down onto the king-sized bed. “You can’t believe that Twila the Twat bailed?”

“Not now, Ella.” Matt rubbed his temples. “I’m not in the mood.”

“Did she steal anything?” I directed my gaze over to the window. Sailboats bounced over the ocean waves as the sinking sun cast its fading rays over the Atlantic. Tourists milled about on the pier below, chatting it up and snapping pictures of the scenic views. But the red-headed bitch was not among the crowd. Pity. I was in the mood to commit murder.

“No.” Matt clenched his jaw. “But I’m still gonna kill her.”

“You have to find her first,” I replied.

“Oh, we’ll find her.” Ash came out of the bathroom. “I’m great at finding people, even if I have nothing to work with.”

I frowned. “Nothing?”

“Nope.” Ash blew out a long-winded breath. “Twila must’ve cast one hell of a cleansing spell, because she didn’t leave a single trace of herself behind. It’s like she was never here.”

“She was always thorough.” Matt raked his hand through his light brown hair, the short strands standing up on end.

“Don’t worry.” I draped my arm over Ash’s shoulder. “We have other ways of tracking the bitch down.”

“Yeah.” Ash nodded. “I can start scouring social media sites when we get home.”

“I have all her handles.” Matt perked up. “I’ve got emails, phone numbers—anything you need, just let me know.”

“Perfect. Forward those to me, and make sure to cc Luke and Riss too,” Ash replied.

Matt whipped out his phone. “On it.”

“So.” Ella clasped her hands together, staring at Matt as he typed away on his Android. “Does that mean you’ll be sticking around for a while?”

Matt froze, panic flooding his expression.

Damn. I knew that expression all too well. My brother was gonna bail again. He was gonna make a run for it the first chance he got. Not that I was surprised. Been there. Done that. Wrote the book. And I stopped giving a flying fuck about his disappearing acts years ago.

But Ella was a different soul. She was softer. Sensitive. She loved Matt—even if the two of them constantly butted heads. She craved a connection with him, but he just kept pushing her away. And now, he was gonna break her heart again. Man, it was times like these I wished the asshat would stay away and spare her the pain.

“I don’t think so.” Matt swallowed hard. “There’s nothing here—”

“Right.” Ella jumped up. “I forgot. We only exist when you need something. Sorry, my bad.”

“Ella.” Matt winced, rising from his seat. “That’s not what I meant.”

“I know what you meant.” She brushed past him. “Safe travels, Matt.” Ella turned on her heel, tossing a glance at me. “I’m gonna hit the bar downstairs. I need a drink.”

“You know what? A drink sounds good.” Ash slipped out of my hold. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” I pressed a kiss on the top of her head, grateful that she was there to look after Ella. “I’ll be down in a few.”

The two of them walked out, the heavy door closing with a soft thump.

I leaned against the wall, folding my arms over my chest. Man, I wanted to lay into my brother, wanted to knock some sense into the asshat, but I didn’t see the point. Nothing I ever said stuck. And I was tired of repeating myself, tired of having the same conversation each time Matt visited. I was sick of the lies, done with the empty promises. It was time to cut my losses.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Matt said.

“Yeah, you did.”

“No.” Matt paced around the room. “I don’t belong here. I don’t fit in. I’m not into all the fighting and war. It’s not who I am. I’m not you.”

“I don’t need you to be me. What I need is for you to take your self-absorbed head out of your ass and act like an adult. I need you to take responsibility for your actions. That’s what I need. That’s what we all need.”

“I try—”

“Bullshit. We don’t hear from you for months—years sometimes—only for you to show up on our doorstep whenever you need something. We help you. You cut and run without a single word. Rinse and repeat. You don’t try. You never tried.”

“What do you want, man?”

“Nothing.” I shook my head. “But you owe Ella an apology. You owe her a conversation. She looks up to you. She wants to spend time with you, but you shut her out. You treat her like shit.”

“That’s not my intention. That was never my intention.”

“Then call her. Talk to her. Spend time with her. Put in some effort. Show her you actually give a damn, because if you keep pushing her away, you’re gonna lose her for good.” I shoved off the wall, ready to make my exit.

“And you?” Matt cleared his throat. “Do you want me to call you too?”

“I wouldn’t ignore you.” I paused mid-step, but didn’t look back. “We’re having a pool party next Saturday. Come by if you’re still in town.”

And on that note, I left.

One week later

I was in the zone, flipping burgers, drinking beer, and chilling with my friends. As predicted, my brother didn’t show to our shindig, but he had called before he flew back to Italy. It wasn’t much of an effort, but it was a start. We still hadn’t tracked down Twila, but I wasn’t worried. She’d pop back up on the grid. Eventually.

“Ryan!” Ash hightailed it out of the pool house. “You’ll never believe it.” She skidded to a stop in front of me, her plump lips curving up in an enthusiastic smile. “I found her. I found Twila.”


“Look.” Ash shoved her phone into my hand. “She’s in the Caribbean and going by Savannah, but it’s her. I know her hair is different, but I’d recognize that stupid smirk anywhere.”

I studied the social media pic. The woman in it was standing in front of a familiar beach bar. Her hair was lighter and shorter, but Ash was right. It was the same bitchy face.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” I grinned, planting a kiss on Ash’s forehead. “I knew you’d find her.”

Ash beamed up at me, excitement rolling off of her in waves. “We can contact the coven down there and have them bring her to us.”

“Or we can pick her up ourselves. How do you feel about taking a trip?”

“To the Caribbean? Like you have to ask.”

“Pack your bags, kitten.” I smiled. “We’re going to the islands.”

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