WARNING: This chapter contains strong language and some disturbing content.
He’s called three times, but I’m too cowardly to answer the phone. I don’t know how I could explain to him the reason I left him with a severe case of blue balls.
I couldn’t grab my clothes fast enough to get the hell out of there. What was I thinking?! I can’t do this. I literally, emotionally, physically, can’t!
It’s not that I don’t want to. If anything, it’s the biggest desire I’ve felt in a long time. But if I give in, I’ll lose Ebony forever.
It’s not my choice. It’s not my fault. But it’s my burden.
Actually, it’s not really my burden. It’s a burden all witches must endure.
It started centuries ago. Witchcraft has been around since the existence of time. Back then, some witches fell in love with mortals, or became trusting enough of their mortal friends to confide in them. It was blissful at first, but soon those who the witches trusted the most betrayed them, even inadvertently. Witches were burned at the stake for witchcraft, stoned to death, hanged, and underwent all other repugnant methods of torture.
After extended periods of this, one coven of witches banded together to form a spell as a means of protection for their kind. Should a mortal discover a witch’s secret, whether she told them or not, she would be required to relinquish her powers to avoid the cruel fates that befell her ancestors. After all, without her powers, a witch is no longer a witch, so any accusations would be rendered false.
Or, if she didn’t renounce her powers before the next new moon, those that knew the truth would be cursed to death on that night (I have no idea why so many of our spells require a damn moon). And a curse of death is irreversible; only a natural death has the possibility of restoration.
And, of course, the majority of these victims were lovers. Witches fell in love with mortals who found out their secret, and they had to choose between the two things most dear to them – their magic or their (supposed) soul mate.
This was the fate that awaited my parents. My mother never gave my father a chance to discover her secret, though. She sacrificed her powers the minute she realized she was in love with him so that there was never any risk of exposure.
Too bad that didn’t last, what with Mom turning into an alcoholic stripper and Dad discovering that he was actually gay. So she basically sacrificed her powers for nothing.
I curl up on the floor, forlorn. Because of this spell that was cast centuries before I was born, a spell that was meant to protect witches, I can’t be with Dominic. If I fall for him any farther, he’ll either end up dead or I’ll lose my powers. And I need them to bring Ebony back. I care for him as a friend, so I don’t want him to die from a curse, but I can’t risk losing my magic.
My mother’s witch genes were still a part of her, even though she could no longer cast spells. That’s why Ebony and I were born as witches, though our grandmother is the one who taught us everything. Our mother wanted nothing more to do with witchcraft once she met our father. Our grandmother told us all about this curse; she’d lived through it with our grandfather. Our mother was an only child, because our grandfather was a victim of the curse.
This horrific story, plus the fact that I’ve been hurt and used so many times (even though I did get revenge with my very handy magic), is enough to make me realize how irrational I was acting earlier with Dominic.
Besides, I don’t believe in true love. Not anymore. I’ve been hurt too many times by too many jerks. Why would one guy, even from an exotic foreign country, be any different from them?
I sit up, suddenly irked with myself. I shouldn’t even care about Dominic. I should be focusing on resurrecting my sister, not fucking some Aussie I barely know! I can’t believe how close I came to becoming one of the very things I loathe – a whore.
I don’t care how good he made me feel. I don’t care how much I enjoyed it. And I don’t care how little I’d object if the situation came up again. I have to focus on what’s really important. I have to focus on my sister.
The waning crescent moon is in a week, and three weeks after that is the full moon. There’s no time to be fucking around.
Two days later, I can hear Dominic making the final preparations for his departure. He gave up contacting me yesterday. He must have realized I have no intention of returning his calls or answering his messages. I feel guilty about it, but it’s for the greater good.
I’ve been focusing all my time and energy on this spell, preparing myself for next week’s waning crescent moon. Unfortunately, I can’t give that as much attention as I’d like to. Abel is on my ass again about rent, since the end of the month has passed since he had me on my back on my kitchen table. He’s already hinting around at doing it again, but this time I won’t be so frail and pathetic.
Still, it’s unnerving when I’m trying to concentrate and I hear someone knocking on my door.
“Ugh, what now?” I groan in disdain. I make my way to the door and stupidly open it without looking through the peephole.
I should have known that would be a mistake, because I see Abel’s snide face staring back at me.
“What do you want?” I demand.
“Time’s up,” he replies with a smirk. “I need your rent, babe.”
“You told me I had an extra month.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Oh, well I don’t remember that. Did you get it in writing?”
“Abel, leave me alone. You know damn well what you said. Now fuck off.”
“I don’t think so, babe. Now listen, I let you scrape by last month for free, but my old man’s gonna notice sooner or later.”
“You told me he never sees the books.”
“Well, he may take a big interest in them eventually and wonder why there’s less money in his account than it says on the ledger.”
“Abel, I’m tired of this. What happened before was a mistake, and I hate myself for letting it happen. Now get out of here before I throw you out.”
“This is my place, Lydia. My name’s right on the ownership title with Dad’s. I call the shots here, not you.”
I cross my arms over my chest, fuming.
I’m sick of this guy walking all over me, treating me like a fucking doormat. He thinks he owns me since I was such an imbecile before. But there’s no way that will happen again.
“I’m warning you, Abel,” I tell him in a malicious voice. “I’m not taking your shit anymore. You don’t own me, and I won’t be intimidated by you.”
“Pretty big words for someone who spread her legs so easy not long ago.”
This seems to turn Abel on, because he bursts through the door and throws me to the ground, briefly winding me. I spin around onto my stomach and start to crawl away, but he catches me by the feet as the shitty door slams behind us.
“Let me go, you son of a bitch!” I shriek at the top of my lungs.
“No way, babe. You know you want it. I know you liked it.”
“If that was me liking it, I’d hate to see what faking it looks like!”
I scramble to my feet and prepare to bolt, but he catches me again around the waist, yanking me backward with surprising force.
That’s it. I don’t give a shit if I get exposed. This guy is not going to make a fool of me again.
I prepare a spell, one that will send him flying off me and straight into the wall, when somehow Abel’s weight disappears. It’s like he’s being lifted off me, but I haven’t cast anything yet. I whirl around to see what’s transpiring, and am stunned to see Dominic Taylor throwing punches in Abel’s face. I was so busy trying to scramble away that I hadn’t heard the door open and close again.
“Did you not hear her?” Dominic demands, his accent sounding menacing rather than sexy. “She said to back the fuck off, so that means you stop! Do you not know the definition of rape in this country?”
“It wasn’t rape...” Abel begins to splutter, but Dominic silences him with a knee to the stomach. Thank God, because the last thing I need is for him to hear how Abel literally screwed me over with my rent.
Plus, I’m flabbergasted about something else. After the way I treated him, Dominic is fighting for me? Defending my honor? Why?
Abel seems to be thinking the same thing, because he demands, “Why are you defending this ho anyway? She’s just a stripper who can’t pay her bills.”
Oh that’s just wonderful. I’m about to interject something to make that revelation less awful, but Dominic throws one last punch, causing Abel to land pitifully on the ground. He grabs his chest and whimpers like a sick dog. I think Dominic has hit his rib cage, or perhaps where his kidneys are. Ouch.
“You stay the fuck down!” Dominic orders when Abel attempts to stand up again. He only allows this bane of my existence to leave after making him swear on his pathetic life never to come near me again, even if I’m a tenant. Abel snivels his word and staggers out of the room, hunkered over and still clutching his chest.
“Lydia,” Dominic says as he turns to me. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Thanks. That was great timing.”
“I was heading out and I thought I heard you scream, or at least some sort of disturbance. When I heard it coming from behind your door, I just kicked the damn thing in to see what was happening.”
“Why? After the way I treated you...”
“I understand what that was all about. I’ve had some time to think about it. I came on too strong, and it scared you. You were caught up in the moment but came to your senses. I’m sorry for putting you in that, pardon the pun, position.”
I’m perplexed by this, and I never thought Dominic would ever forgive me.
But he surprises me even more when he asks, “Is it true?”
“Are you a stripper?”
My first instinct is to deny this allegation, even though, of course, it’s true. But why beat around the bush? I can’t fall for this guy any harder than I already have. It’s best to quash this now before it gets any worse. I might as well get it over with.
“Yes. The club I work at? It’s actually a strip club called the Poppin’ Cherry.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t think it was important. I guess I didn’t want you to think less of me. I was stupid.”
“Stupid? No, stupid is continuing to work at a place like that if you don’t have to. For God’s sake, Lydia, I don’t want you parading around like that. You’re better than that, and you don’t have to. Especially not to keep living in this shitty place with that pathetic excuse of a man who tried to rape you.”
“I don’t have a choice, Dominic. I don’t have anywhere else to go, and I don’t have any education to get a decent job.”
“There is one choice.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Move in with me and you’ll never have to work again.”
I literally take a step back and unconsciously shy away. Is he serious? I barely know him! All I know about him for sure is that he’s from Australia with Outback and British blood in him, he’s blatantly attracted to me, and he’s leaving this hellhole to live in a big manor left to him by his grandparents. And he expects me to just move in with him like we’re a couple? Like we’re nothing more than platonic roommates who were formerly neighbors (and almost lovers)?
I don’t think so.
“I just can’t,” I conclude. “It’s just...it’s too awkward.”
“Well, if you ever change your mind, call me.”
I nod mutely. Dominic wants to call the police, but I convince him not to. It would be Abel’s word against mine, and then I’d have to actually confess that I did let him literally screw me over on rent (but of course I don’t mention this part).
I finally give Dominic a farewell wave, afraid even to touch him after our last physical encounter, and watch as he leaves.
And then I collapse onto the couch and sob.