Bonded by Death
Bonded by Death
Bonded by Death
Bonded by Death
Bonded by Death

Bonded by Death

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SERIES: Magic Wars - Her Immortal Monsters

BOOK: 2 of 3
TROPES: Why choose, fated/chosen mates, one bed, forced proximity, outcast heroine, possessive love interests (don't worry, she holds her own!). found family, second chance, positive female friendships

I’m torn between three men that I swore I wouldn’t get involved with. I know it’s wrong, but part of me loves it. Craves it.

Everyone thinks I’m the good girl, but what they don’t see is that my carefully crafted persona is crumbling around me.

My ex taught me that love isn’t sweet, patient, or kind. It’s cruel and it hurts. He’ll do anything for a second chance, but I can’t forget the flames that burned me from the inside out three years ago.

My liar is forbidden, but I’m haunted by his slate blue eyes and wicked mouth. He’s gotten under my skin, and I don’t know how to remove him without tearing my heart apart in the process.

My devil may be bad, but he makes promises that sound so good. I wish I could say he tricked me with honeyed words, but really, I did it to myself. Bonding to him was a mistake, but bargaining with him? It might be my undoing.

My mask is cracked. I’m hanging on by a thread.

We all have weaknesses.
Mine just make me a glutton for punishment.

__ 

This is a devil(ish) paranormal romance with three possessive love interests that fall first for one strong, independent witch. All relationships are completely consensual. This is the second series in the Magic Wars Universe. You do not need to have read Demons of New Chicago to proceed, but there will be spoilers.

My heart was battered. Bruised.

Not broken, thankfully. In some ways, Lucifer saved me from that. While he was a jealous and possessive stalker, him waking me that day at August’s apartment so I could hear Sasha say they were mates . . . it was a cruel kindness.

One I was pissed at him for, because I didn’t know how to be grateful yet.

In time, I would.

Probably.

“Get some sleep, Nathalie,” Señora Rosara said quietly. She wasn’t exactly a kind woman, but she had a soft spot for certain people. I was one of those people, and she knew what this would cost me. Something I hadn’t even let myself consider. It was different when the choice was taken away, though. I may be pissed at August and not have wanted to hurt Sasha—but there was still a choice involved for everyone. I was choosing not to finish the bond, rather than watching him move on with the woman he swore to hate.

Fuck. The idea of him going through with it made me angry, but the idea of him not . . .

I didn’t usually feel guilt. It wasn’t a useless emotion, contrary to what Lucifer thought. I just made the right decisions. I didn’t have a reason to feel guilt most of the time, but if August refused to help us find Sasha simply because I was in the picture . . .

Looking down at the glass bottle Señora had given me, my fingers gripped it tight enough my knuckles turned white.

“I’m not sure if I can.” The words slipped out without meaning to. I grimaced. Señora cast me a sympathetic smile.

“There’s nothing more you can do for your friend. That’s my job now. Take the pendejo with you.”

She motioned to Marcel, who glowered at being referred to as a dumbass.

I mean, if it quacks like a duck . . .

“Let me know if you need anything.” There was no point arguing with her. Not when she was right. I may be stubborn, but it wasn’t for the sake of being difficult. I recognized defeat when I saw it.

She gave me a tight nod before motioning with a thrust of her chin that it was time for me to go. I walked out of her back room and into the shop with Marcel on my heels without needing to be told.

The trek to the elevator was a blur. I was so stuck in my head and the decision I’d made that I didn’t realize the predicament I was in until the elevator doors opened on my floor and Marcel stepped out with me.

“Shit,” I cursed under my breath.

I never, ever brought anyone home.

Did I say never? Because I meant it.

Really. It was true. I could count on two hands the number of people I’d let enter this apartment. Over half of them were life-and-death circumstances.

My pendejo ex certainly didn’t count as that.

I scratched the back of my head, stalling, when he spoke up. “Please don’t tell me you’re considering making me sleep in the hall.”

I wasn’t, but now that he’d said it, the option was appealing. I wanted to be alone.

“It’s not just me I need to consider. I have a teenage girl who lives with me now.”

“What the fuck, Nat?” Marcel squinted at me. “First, I’m not a pedophile. I take offense that you think I’d try to seduce a child.”

I groaned. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Second,” he continued. “I’m only interested in you. If you truly don’t trust me, we can share your bed. That way you can keep an eye on me—”

I laughed. It was a little forced, but his bullshit made for a good distraction. “Hilarious, and also no. That’s never going to happen.”

Marcel shrugged. “Just proposing options.”

I rolled my eyes, letting myself stuff down the negative things I didn’t want to feel. “It’s not you hitting on Mist that I’m worried about. She freaks out around men. She’s been through . . . a lot. She’s an abuse survivor.”

Understanding flashed through his eyes. “Oh. I, uh . . . I see.”

Tempted as I was to put him in the side room or on the couch, if she woke up in the middle of the night for any reason and found him, things would end badly. While damaged, she wasn’t helpless; Piper had saved her life by turning her into a siren, a legendary creature with the power to compel people to do anything they want.

In the interest of being able to safely house and take care of her, I was immune to her magic, along with a select few who Piper had protected from that ability of hers.

Marcel was neither a caretaker nor under protection. I also wouldn’t ask for it to be extended to him.

The girl was still wary of Anders and Ronan, and they’d both been there since the day she was rescued. Ronan was mindful where Mist was concerned, but his sole focus was always on Piper and their children. She never said it, but the way he ignored her seemed to put her at ease more than anything. She didn’t want to be seen. Anders was harder for her to accept because he actively made an effort to be quiet and respectful, but also comforting. Friendly. He didn’t ignore her existence, even if he always gave her space. She was only now coming around to speaking to him with something resembling ease. Marcel would amount to little more than a threat to be eliminated in her space.

I bit the inside of my lip. The weight of the day was bearing down on me, a burden I didn’t want to shoulder.

“You’ll sleep in my room on the floor.”

Marcel smirked, like he’d somehow won the debate.

“This is temporary,” I insisted as we approached my apartment. “Tomorrow you’ll need to go somewhere else.” I defused the bomb strapped to my door that Piper had put in back when we lived together. It flashed red as the knob read my magical signature and let me through. Marcel watched me with interest.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Probably,” I replied, opening the door and waving him through. “I’d advise against trying to break in if you like living.”

He chuckled, stepping through the door with an odd sort of respect. He took his shoes off next to it, before silently walking around my small living room and spotting the side room that held a cot. He quirked an eyebrow at me.

“Mist can’t even see you,” I explained. A flush crept up my neck even though I was telling the truth. “It won’t end well.”

He snorted like it was funny, but I didn’t miss the way his shoulders tightened. “Sneaking me in like a dirty little secret,” he mused. “I suppose I don’t deserve anything more.” He tried to be unemotional about it, but I saw the tension beneath the surface.

When we were two young, dumb kids, he was touchy and possessive when it came to me. He wanted to make it known that we weren’t just betrothed, we were together. I hadn’t been keen on that since he’d taught several classes I was in. I’d already been picked on enough. I didn’t need the added insults about whoring myself out to him for extra “help.”

That still didn’t stop him from making an example of anyone that got too close back then. The other witches and warlocks just assumed he was weird about it because we were betrothed. Half the kids in our coven were the same way. It wasn’t uncommon for our kind, so it didn’t mean much.

Marcel and I were one of the rare few that had fallen in love with their chosen match, and like all fairy tales—the real ones, not the cartoon movie versions—we ended in tragedy.

“Hardly,” I scoffed. “I just value her sense of safety and won’t sacrifice that to feel more at ease for the next six hours. Unlike her, I’m an adult who can handle being uncomfortable without spiraling.”

His dark eyebrows lifted. “There was a time when I was what made you feel secure.”

My skin prickled. “Shower is at the end of the hall. I don’t want blood on my things, so unless you’ve changed your mind and would like to sleep outside, you need to use it. Quickly. There are soundproofing enchantments, but I don’t want her seeing you.”

I turned on my heel and didn’t look back, not even when I reached my room, but left my door open. I quickly readied myself for bed, knowing I needed to be able to keep an ear out in case Mist opened her door for any reason.

I’d have showered under different circumstances, but I wasn’t willing to leave Marcel alone in my room for any length of time. Wet wipes it was.

I changed quickly into sweats and a tank top, cleaning my bits and washing the dried blood from my knees with methodical movements.

The water turned off right as I tossed a pillow and blanket on the floor, then climbed into bed.

I turned toward the window, giving him my back as he entered my room. The lock clicked shut. Despite the logical part of my brain, my heart started to hammer. Not out of fear . . . out of excitement.

When I was younger, Marcel and I had been hormonal teenagers. He came to me in the middle of the night more times than I could count, and there were times I went to him. I’d given him permission to wake me up when he needed me. Sometimes he needed comfort from the nightmares that plagued his youth, and sometimes it was for . . . other things.

It was the latter that replayed in my mind now.

He’d liked to finger me to the edge of an orgasm and then shove himself in me so that I climaxed right as he entered me. It was one hell of a way to wake up.

It had been years since he’d snuck into my room in the middle of the night, but the similarities pulled at me, creating an ache that begged to be filled.

He was right earlier. He had been my haven once upon a time. A part of me still saw him as that and longed to feel our connection once more, even though he’d done everything in his power to ruin that . . . to ruin me.

Marcel chuckled at the sparse accommodations I’d given him. All things considered, he was lucky I wasn’t insisting on the hallway. If not for the altercation between him and the señora, I might have. But she lived across the hall from me, and I wouldn’t put it past her to turn him into a cat if he couldn’t control his stupid mouth. So here I was. Twisted up inside for too many reasons, him being one of them.

Quiet footsteps and deep breaths were the only sounds in the room as he took a moment to get settled. Inexplicable sadness filled me, curtailed by annoyance at my own feelings. Several minutes passed in tense silence.

“Goodnight, sunbeam.”

There was a time that nickname filled me with peace.

Alone in my bed with only my thoughts for comfort, all I felt now . . . was lost.

If Sasha could see me, maybe she’d be comforted by that.

Dead or alive, we were both wandering, searching for something we might never find.


* * *


Hours passed.

I tossed and turned, but despite the exhaustion weighing me down, sleep never came. Not three feet from my bed, Marcel’s deep, even breaths infuriated me. Of course he had no trouble sleeping. Potentially killing a woman wasn’t strange for a black warlock, let alone something worth developing insomnia over.

I envied his ability to be at peace with his decisions.

Because the truth was, I was anything but.

Black witch or not, we’d been raised the same way. Where I'd cracked under the pressure my parents had put on us, he’d thrived. The darkness was as much home to him as it was to Lucifer.

But not for me.

My childhood home was one of all things macabre. Stone gargoyles with glowing red eyes arched over the roof’s edge—observing not just all who entered, but those who left. Skulls adorned doorways, just another measure for my mother—and hers before her—to control everyone under that roof. The skulls reported our every movement, phantom whispers in her ear. The only blessing was that Carissa wouldn’t ever be able to hear them. 

Our mother didn’t die a conventional death. There were no remains. My eldest sister was left without our mother’s skull, and that was the offering required to pass on that awful magic to the next female heir. Carissa couldn’t pay the price, so that awful incantation died when Dolores Le Fay did.

I used to have nightmares that I was being followed by skeletons. Never given a moment of peace. That began to bleed into my reality.

I dreamed of gargoyles that held me down so Katherine could cut out my heart. My blood drowned me as often as Katherine did, stuffing the organ in my mouth. Either way, I died of suffocation every night.

Leaving that place hadn’t taken those fears away, even if they weren’t exactly the most rational. It just showed me that despite how cruel the world could be, the house of horrors I was raised in was its own kind of punishment.

It showed me that despite my privilege, I’d lived through evils that few could survive without either becoming them, or breaking entirely.

Marcel became them.

Death suited him in a way it never would me.

I had escaped and never looked back.

We were both shaped by the world we lived in, he and I. The difference was that I didn’t like what that meant, so I reshaped it.

But all the good deeds and reassuring excuses couldn’t help me sleep.

I might not be that scared little girl who was thrown into the ocean and told to swim, but I was still nothing in the presence of real power. I rarely begrudged my fucked-up magic, but on days like this, it was hard not to.

If I’d been a death witch, I could have done the ritual myself.

If I’d been stronger, maybe Marcel would have let me go into the veil instead.

If I hadn’t been such a fucking coward, we may not have needed to do it at all.

That last one tormented me the most. Shame wasn’t something in which I often indulged, but it was hard to ignore when Sasha could die because of my choice.

“You need sleep, little witch.”

I stiffened beneath my duvet. I knew the saying was “speak of the devil,” but all I needed to do was think of him and it was like he could read my mind. If not for our game, I’d have wondered if he could hear my thoughts somehow.

When I didn’t respond, he appeared next to me on the mattress, sitting back against the wall my bed was pushed up against. His long legs pressed against my arms through the heavy comforter. I stiffened at his proximity.

If Marcel weren’t here, I’d have told Lucifer to leave.

I wished I actually made good on my threat of carrying around salt instead of just saying it. For once, I would have used it. I didn’t even know if it would work, but I liked the idea that it could.

“Don’t give me that look,” he sighed. “It’s almost morning and you haven’t slept a wink. Denying yourself sleep won’t help Sasha, if that’s what this is about.”

“Go away,” I whispered, not daring to speak even a single decibel louder for fear it would wake Marcel.

“No.”

We glared at one another.

Or rather, I glared, and he had an absurdly expectant look on his face, like I was the infuriating one. His audacity would never cease to amaze me.

I rolled over, facing the other way even though it wasn’t the side I usually slept on. Lucifer chuckled, stirring a fire in my gut.

Angry, hateful words like the ones I’d spewed earlier came to mind.

“You’re mad at me.” If he was this observant, no wonder my family could trap him. Sheesh. “What I don’t understand is why.”

Against my better judgment, I turned my cheek to glare at him over my shoulder. Lucifer stared patiently, waiting for me to explain.

A growl built in the back of my throat as I rolled onto my back and motioned to Marcel. The devil rolled his eyes and my phone floated over from my nightstand, then dropped to my stomach unceremoniously.

“Type it out.”

I dialed down the brightness with a cautious glance at the sleeping man on my floor. Even if he did wake, he’d only see me typing on my phone. While he’d ask questions, I didn’t exactly have to answer them.

I double tapped the home button and opened my notes app.

You seriously don’t understand?

“I can tell you blame me for Sasha somehow, but I fail to see what I did. Distracting you was hardly the cause of her being lost in the veil.”

You refused to help look for her. You refused to do anything.

He cocked his head. “She was already lost. There was nothing I could do.”

I grit my teeth. You really are a bastard. She was in love with you not long ago, and you can’t even be assed to help her because you’re too busy manipulating me for your own selfish ends.

The first hint of ire lit his golden irises. He dropped his hands to the bed and scooted down. I could have sworn the mattress dipped as he laid beside me, his body pressing into mine as he placed his knee between my own, bracing himself with a forearm above my head.

“Let’s be clear about this, little witch. I am a bastard where many things are concerned, but the choice to push Sasha into the veil lies with her and her alone. I did nothing because there was nothing I could do.” He leaned close, our faces only inches apart. I breathed harder, the blanket suddenly too warm. “There were no ghosts to ask. No people I could speak with. The number of individuals who can even see me is limited to one hand—and none of them would have any greater idea why that ritual went wrong than you or I.”

“You didn’t even try,” I exhaled.

“What part of nothing I could do did you not understand?”

Tears filled my eyes, as they sometimes did with strong emotion. I turned my cheek, not wanting to cry, especially not in front of him.

Lucifer wasn’t going to allow that.

He grabbed my jaw with his free hand and wrenched it back, forcing me to look at him.

“You may curse me all you want. You can call me a monster. But you won’t deny me your eyes. Ever.” His possessive tone sent a shiver down my spine despite the way I was sweating beneath the duvet. “We’re going to talk about this because whatever is going on in that fascinating mind of yours is keeping you up when you should be dreaming.”

I glared, because with his grip on my jaw, that was the best “fuck you” I could manage.

“Tell me what is bothering you.”

“No.” I mouthed the word and anger flashed in his eyes again.

He leaned closer. “I’m only going to ask one more time before I claim that kiss, and if you don’t answer, the next one won’t be on these lips.” He ran his thumb over my bottom lip, too hard to be a caress.

I gasped. “I only owe you one.”

“Two,” he said firmly.

I wanted to correct him and ask what the second was for.

I wanted to be wrong.

He asked me if I’d ever choose him. I said no. I told him he was a monster.

I’d lied.

“If you don’t answer, it’ll be three.”

“We’re not playing the game anymore, asshole,” I hissed between my teeth.

Lucifer laughed, his cool breath making my skin feel achy. Needy. He touched my ear with his lips.

“We made a bargain, little witch. I promised honesty, and you agreed to the same, or you’d forfeit a kiss.” He pulled back, a knowing smirk gracing his stupidly attractive face. Why couldn’t the devil have a unibrow and bad breath? It would be so much easier to not get distracted if he did.

“For the game,” I replied.

“I swear to tell you the truth in return for your own truth, but for every lie or non-answer, I will claim a kiss,” he repeated his vow. “Nowhere in there did we state a game.”

My lips parted. Goddamnit.

This was exactly what Sienna had warned me about, and I fell right for it.

“Why can’t you sleep?” Lucifer said, not giving me any time to process his trickery with words and my own foolish arrogance in thinking I’d somehow gotten around not giving more than I was willing to offer.

That didn’t mean I wanted to give him this truth.

I closed the gap between us, pressing my lips to his.

Might as well pay up while not answering. Lucifer growled like a feral beast, and true to the freak I was, the sound excited me.

I parted my lips to lick the seam of his mouth and he sucked my tongue between them. A groan reminiscent of a dam breaking from the pressure ran through him.

I hated how much I liked it, but armed with the knowledge that no one would know about my moment of weakness, I fell off my high horse and into the devil’s arms.

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