CW: Adult Language, Violence, and Mention of Drug Use

Name: Ryan

Day/Time: Sunday, 4:34 a.m.

Current state of mind: Chill

What are you wearing? Tan shorts and a white button-up

What are you listening to? Boys of Summer by The Ataris

What are you drinking? Summer Shandy

Where are you? My balcony

I hadn’t planned on kicking off my Friday night with murder, but the band on my patience was frayed to the point of snapping. Fucking tourists, man. Every summer they invaded our town, swarming our bars and beaches like locusts. Every single summer, one or two ended up catching a fatal case of Idiotitis. This summer was no exception. And we were about to have our first casualty of the season.

I tipped my beer back, contemplating all the creative ways I could kill the asshole who’d been ogling Ash for the past half hour. Normally, she would’ve spotted Sir Stare-A-Lot. Normally, she would’ve clawed the human’s eyes out, scarring him for life. But Ash was too busy downing shots with Kari to even notice the college-aged asshat.

You would’ve thought Prohibition was making a comeback with the way she tossed those drinks back. I didn’t know who or what was behind her trip to Inebriation Island, but it was clear she was upset. I knew it. She knew it. Hell, the entire bar knew it. But in typical Ash fashion, she was swimming in the sea of denial. Everything was “fine and dandy.” Perfectly fucking peachy.

Of course, I tried getting her to talk about it, but she shot me down. Twice. Not in the mood for another argument, I backed off. Pressing her would only cause drama. And I didn’t do drama. Ash would open up. Eventually.

“Look, if you’re gonna kill the asshat, just get it over with so we can get the fuck out of here,” Nick drawled, nodding over to Ash’s newfound stalker. “These humans are making me itch.”

I didn’t typically kill people just for staring at Ash. She was gorgeous. It was impossible not to stare. But this jackass gave off all sorts of bad vibes. There was something off about the frat boy prick. I could feel it within my gut—and I’d learned to trust my gut ages ago.

“Oh, I’m gonna kill him.” I polished off the rest of my shandy, savoring the last drops of the lemon-flavored brew. “I just can’t decide whether I want to eviscerate the dude or bleed him dry.”

“My vote’s for exsanguination, disembowelment is just nasty. You don’t want to deal with all that shit tonight,” Nick replied, propping his ass against the pool table.

“Did you just make a funny?” I quirked my brow, feigning shock.

Nick rolled his eyes. “You know a storm’s supposed to roll in. We could take him out back and fry him.” He tossed a backwards glance at the oceanfront patio, which was packed despite the threatening clouds blanketing the late evening sky. “Not like anyone hasn’t kicked it via lightning strike.”

“Quick and convenient.” I rubbed my jaw, ruminating over my options. Nick had a point. It was the easiest death to cover up. A freak accident. No muss. No fucking fuss. But the asshat didn’t seem like the type who deserved an expedient ending. No matter how convenient. I needed to get inside the asshole’s head.

“Casanova’s making his move.” Nick shoved off the pool table, nodding over to the asshat—who’d sidled up next to Ash.

My instincts kicked in, driving me forward—my feet hitting the scuffed hardwood as I made my way towards the long bar. If that fuck stick touched Ash, I was gonna rip his arms off and beat him to death with his own limbs.

“What the hell?” Ash shouted, leaping up from her barstool. “Did you seriously just try drugging my drink?” She gripped the asshole’s arm, sinking her manicured nails into his flesh. Her eyes locked with mine, flashing with indignant disbelief. “This shit stick just tried drugging me.”

“I did no such thing, you crazy bitch!” The dumbass tried yanking his arm away, but Ash just sank her nails in deeper. “Ow! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I gripped the asshole by the back of his neck, slamming his head down against the bar top. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you any manners?” I demanded, smashing his face against the polished wood. “Now, she asked you a question, and I suggest you answer it—that is, if you want to leave here in one piece.”

As the human struggled against my hold, Nick’s magic tinged the air. It didn’t take a genius to know that he was casting an illusion spell. The familiar glamor settled around us, and the onlookers who’d been getting their stare on, got back to their regularly scheduled programing. And man, I couldn’t help but smile. This was gonna be fun.

“What’s it gonna be, hmm?” I applied pressure on the asshole’s neck, tempted to snap his vertebrae.

“I didn’t do anything,” he whined.

I rolled my eyes, bouncing his head off the bar. “Liar, liar pants on fucking fire.”

“What’s in your pockets?” Ash demanded, rifling through his cargo shorts. Not even a minute later, she pulled out a clear vial filled with white powder. “What’s this? Powdered sugar?”

Motherfucker. I hauled him up by his shirt collar. “How about some fresh air?”

I didn’t bother waiting for a reply, just marched him right out onto the patio—where humans and witches alike buzzed around like pesky flies. But no one noticed us. Not a single soul paid any bit of attention when I shoved him against the brick wall, pinning him by his throat.

Lightning flashed, turning the night into day. The explosion of thunder that followed rattled the floors and walls just as the wind gusted, knocking over glasses and chairs. Everyone scattered, darting inside for cover. But I stayed put. The storm wasn’t a threat. Not to me.

I squeezed the asshat’s trachea, cutting off his oxygen supply. As he gasped for breath, he clawed at my forearms, but he was no match against me. He was just a dumb, shitfaced human who decided to play a round of fuck around and find out. And he was about to find out what happened when you fucked with Ash.

But I got the notion she wasn’t his only victim. Curious, I plowed my way into his mind, taking a short stroll through his memory banks. I didn’t linger long. Didn’t need to. I saw everything I needed and more. My suspicions had been confirmed. Ash wasn’t the asshole’s first victim—and she wouldn’t be his last. I was doing the world a godsdamn favor by snuffing this jackass out.

“Um… Hello?” Ash tapped my shoulder, annoyance threading through her voice. “Why do you get to have all the fun?” She glared at the asshole dangling from my grip before turning her attention back to me. “He tried to roofie me, remember?”

“I’m not a mind-reader.” I reminded her, latching my gaze onto hers. “If you want a shot at him, kitten, just say so.”

“I want more than one shot.” She huffed, stomping her stiletto against the pavement. “He ruined my night, so now I want to ruin his.”

As much as I wanted to kill the shit stain—as much as I wanted him to suffer at my hands—Ash had earned the right to put his ass down. He’d gone after her—tried taking away her freewill. If she wanted payback, then it was hers.

“Fair enough.” Putting my disappointment on the back burner, I stepped aside. “He’s all yours, kitten.”

“Thanks.” She smiled and stood on her tiptoes, planting a kiss on my cheek. Just as she turned towards Stare-A-Lot, I caught her arm. “Just so you know, you weren’t his first victim.”

Her sea-blue depths lost their natural sparkle, turning downright icy. “Well, at least I’ll be his last.”  She wheeled around and unleashed all hell—her potent magic exploding out of her.

Mother Nature responded to Ash’s rage. The ocean swelled, roaring to life—its waves hammering the pillars and spilling over onto the concrete. Thunder rumbled in continuous succession as the wind howled, drowning out the asshole’s screams. He begged Ash for mercy—pleaded for his life, but she didn’t relent. She continued her attack—each magical blow more punishing than the last.

The jackass was dead within minutes, but Ash continued expelling her magic even after his remains dissipated with the wind. The clouds burst—the cold rain hammering down on my head. But Ash remained oblivious to the elements—her powers growing more volatile by the second as her rage fueled the storm. At this rate, she’d overload in no time.

Just as I reached for her, she tipped her head back, releasing an anguished cry. Her knees buckled, and I caught her before she collapsed. Scooping her up, I cradled her in my arms. “Let’s go home.”

Ash didn’t say anything—she just nodded, resting her head on my shoulder.

An hour later, I emerged from the bathroom—freshly showered and ready for some much-needed R & R. Ash leaned against the wall—dressed in nothing but one of my t-shirts, watching the storm rage outside. The rain battered the rooftops and windows—the rivulets streaming down the glass. The weather was supposed to continue into the early morning hours, which made for a perfect movie night.

We both needed the respite after that shit show at the bar. I still didn’t know what was behind her magical overkill. Ash hadn’t said much—just that she didn’t want to be alone. Not like I planned on ditching her, especially after everything that had gone down.

I embraced her from behind, resting my chin on top of her silky hair. “You okay?”

“Yes. No.” She sighed, turning towards me. “I don’t know.”

I cupped her cheek, sweeping my thumb across her smooth skin. “You feel like talking about it?”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to bug you with my stupid problems.” Ash pulled away and crossed the room, flopping down onto the king-sized mattress.

“One, your problems aren’t stupid,” I replied, stretching out next to her. “Two, you’re not bugging me.” I fluffed the pillows, propping them up against the headboard. “I want to know what’s going on with you. You’ve been off all night.” I rested back against the stack of pillows, gathering Ash in my arms, hoping like all hell she’d open up to me.

“Dinner with my aunt sucked—if you can even call it that, since I never even got to finish my meal. I swear, I don’t even know why I bother trying anymore. All she does is nitpick and nag. Nothing is ever good enough,” she blurted, shaking her head. “Nothing.”

Fuck. I hated how Ash’s aunt treated her. Hated how she talked down to her. The woman always had some kind of snide remark in the chamber, like a loaded gun filled with disparaging bullets aimed directly at Ash.

I wish I could’ve been there, but the plans had been made last minute—and I wasn’t about to abandon my sister at the airport. I bit back the foul-mouthed curse tap-dancing on my tongue. “What crawled up her ass this time?” I asked, stroking Ash’s back.

“Let’s see…” Ash blew out a long breath. “My dress was too short and inappropriate for dinner.” She grabbed her wine off the nightstand. “My boobs have gotten too big, and I could stand to lose a couple of pounds—that or consider getting a breast reduction.” She tipped her glass back, swallowing its contents whole. “Oh, and I’m too pale. I need to get more sun.”

“For fuck’s sake.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. I hadn’t spent any time with the witch, and I already had a headache. “You know she’s full of shit, right?”

“I know.” She looked up at me. “I tried keeping my composure, but she wouldn’t stop badgering me. And I just fucking lost it.”

“What happened?” I asked, refilling her glass with Riesling

“Thanks,” Ash replied, taking a sip. “I might’ve mentioned that her orange dress and fake spray tan made her look like an overgrown Oompa Loompa. She didn’t take that too well.”

I tossed my head back and laughed. That was my girl—my feisty little firecracker who didn’t take shit from anyone. I loved it when she stood her ground—loved it when she didn’t let her family tread all over her. She was smart. Powerful. Beautiful. She was everything they wanted to be, but never could.

I pressed another kiss on the top of her head. “I would’ve loved to see her reaction.”

A bright smile played up on Ash’s pink lips. “It was priceless.” She stifled a yawn, intertwining her fingers with mine. “I’m just glad this day is over. All I want to do is watch movies, eat popcorn, and drink wine.”

“Are you sure you’re still up for it?” I asked, not liking how exhausted she sounded—or looked. Those circles under her eyes were growing darker by the second. She’d expelled a fuckton of power in a short amount of time. She needed sleep—and plenty of it. “We can postpone it for another time.”

“I’m fine.” Conviction threaded through her soft lilt. “I need the distraction. I need to forget this stupid day ever happened.”

I wasn’t convinced, but if Ash wanted a distraction, then that’s what she’d get. “Okay.” I snagged the remote off the nightstand. “What are we watching first?”

“Hmm… How about The Heat?”

The Heat?” I quirked my brow, surprised by Ash’s choice.

She nodded. “I just watched How to Be Single last week. I’m in the mood to change things up,” she murmured, nestling her head against my chest.

“You got it, kitten.” I hit play and killed the lights.

Ash fell asleep within the first ten minutes of the movie. Not that I was surprised. Hell, it was a miracle she’d lasted as long as she had. I pulled the comforter up over her shoulders, enveloping her in my arms. Holding her felt good—natural, like she’d been made just for me. Maybe she had. And didn’t that just make me the luckiest guy alive?

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