Twisted Fate

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Chapter 42

If you didn't get the memo last week, I've changed the ending to the last chapter. All you need to know is Astrid is still unaware of who the demon prince really is. She will be finding out soon though.


-Astrid-

Ms. Hattie slaps Nicolas on the back of the head and makes him clean out the extremely disorganized storage closet as punishment for “inviting that evil shit” into her shop. I’m wondering if I should tell her to find more chores for him because he’ll be breaking her rules again. But the way she shakes her head, watching him as he sweeps the floor, I think she’s well aware of his mischievous ways.

I hang out at the shop for most of the day, keeping Blair company as she does her work. Creating potions with ingredients that are difficult to find is a way of income in the witch world. Who knew she could make a living by mixing frog legs and rotting plants in a pot all day. Other covens pay high-dollar for her abundant supplies of weirdness.

She’s too drowned out in her work to speak, and I’m out of paper to doodle on. I contemplate asking Nicole to take a walk downtown with me, but she’s giggling like a little schoolgirl in the next room with the phone in her ear. I know that look well enough, not wanting to interrupt a dirty conversation between her and Michael.

I sigh and put my pen down, spending the next few hours reading spell books and helping Ms. Hattie with the guests. It’s interesting to see the different faces who visit the gift shop. Some come for the thrill of getting lucky enough to see a ghost, and others visit because they’re paying customers who need to find the right spell to make their crush fall in love with them. Ms. Hattie’s voodoo tactics are endless and 100% effective.

“Keep looking. It’s gotta be here somewhere.” A group of teenage girls are whispering and hiding behind the back bookshelves, hoping no one can see them. But I noticed the minute they snuck inside. They smell of cotton candy perfume and mischief. Their eyes dart from every corner as they search for something off-limits to the guests. Call it an alpha’s intuition.

“We’re going to get in so much trouble.”

“Shhh, lower your voice. We won’t get in trouble as long as we don’t get caught.”

Ha! Too late for that.

“We should split up. Look everywhere and don’t stop until you find the door. It’s red, and the owner keeps it locked. The first person to find it should send a text in the group chat.” This gets me interested in their plan.

The girls do as their leader says and search in all the wrong places. I know that room is across the hall from the study because I saw it earlier. I was equally curious to open it, but now that I think about it, it’s probably just some old closet Ms. Hattie keeps locked up for safety reasons. I’m more interested to know what a group of teenagers could want to steal from that particular room. Perhaps another mind-control object.

I softly knock twice on the open door behind the counter. “Hey, Ms. Hattie?”

She drops the papers in her hand on the desk, peering from her shoulder. “Yes, darling?”

I nudge my head out towards the bookshelves. “Short girl with pink highlights looks a little out of place. She’s trying to get into the room that’s locked in the back.”

Ms. Hattie stares at me as if I’ve grown a second head. She turns around slowly in her chair to face me. “Pardon?”

“The one with the red door across the hall from the study room,” I clarify. Her eyes widen, and she stands to her feet faster than I can blink.

She steps closer, never breaking fierce eye contact. “You saw it?” Her voice below a whisper. The tension from her posture prickles my skin, and I shuffle on my feet nervously.

“Um yeah…”

Ms. Hattie and I have officially started a staring contest. It’s gotten so intense that we don’t hear a guest ringing the counter bell until they peek their head into the office. I step back, losing the contest.

“Top shelf on the right,” Ms. Hattie hollers before she turns her attention back to me, gripping my shoulders. “Astrid…no matter what you see or hear, you are never to step foot inside that room. Don’t even look in its direction.”

“What’s wrong with that room?

“There is very dangerous witchcraft kept inside, and you must listen to my demands. Please do not go near it. Do you understand me?” Her hold on my shoulders become firmer, and I know she means business. I nod, and thankfully she releases, leaving me to attend to the guests.

Okay, weird.

Ms. Hattie spots the girls and shows them out of the gift shop. Apparently, this isn’t their first time trying to sneak in and steal things. I’m warned that they will eventually be back again. I take a mental picture of their faces and get back to work.

The shop stays busy most of the day. By the time I sit down again, it’s dark outside. Carson looks up from his phone and instantly picks up on my boredom. He gets up from the couch and waltzes over to me. “I’m starving; wanna go get some pizza?” He says this while tossing out his snack wrappers in the trash.

Starving? Your mouth never stops working.” I get up from my seat because I am hungry, and pizza sounds fantastic right now.

Blair denies the invitation to tag along and tosses her car keys at Carson. He takes the driver’s seat and manages to annoy me the entire drive. I’m convinced he’s made it his mission to get under my skin every chance he gets. Fifteen minutes later, he pulls into the pizza parlor.

The restaurant is pretty empty when we walk inside. Besides the workers, there are only two people playing pool and drinking beer. I follow Carson past the first row of booths and slide into the one in the very back next to the window.

A waitress comes to take our order, and of course, we don’t agree on toppings. The middle-aged woman looks at us in annoyance as we have a quick argument before deciding on ordering separate pizzas. Within minutes she is back, and Carson’s mouth works double-time. This kid can eat, and eat, and eat.

“You’re not human,” Carson talks with a mouthful, frowning at my plate in disgust. “Pineapples don’t belong on pizza.”

“Says who?”

“It’s the common rule for anyone with a brain. Who in their right mind thought marinara and fruit was a good combination?”

“Pineapples belong on pizza, and you have sauce all over your chin,” I say, throwing a napkin down at his side. He puts down his slice of cheese pizza, licking his fingers clean and wiping his chin with the edge of his thumb. I grimace, totally judging him for his uncouth table manners.

“Did you draw that on yourself?” Carson asks randomly. He reaches across the table, pulling my sleeve further down to expose the tattoo on my wrist. It’s of two small butterflies flying together with tiny stars around them.

I look down at my wrist. The memory makes me smile. God, I miss home. “No, a friend did this for me. But my sister Khloe has the same one, and I did draw it on her. I thought she was going to bail, but she took it like a champ.”

“You’re a pretty good artist. I’ve seen some of your work online.” He admits, taking another bite. “You think you can paint me naked? I want to hang it in the living room to give people something good to look forward to when they visit a house full of demons.”

“Ughh, In your dreams, Blackburn.”

We both laugh at his stupid joke, and then he lifts his shirt to reveal the side of his ribcage. “The three of us got this about a year ago. It was my first and also my idea.”

I lean over the table to get a better look. Along his skin are three triangles in a straight line, intertwining with the other. The triangle at the top is shaded while the remaining are clear, representing an unbreakable bond. “Brave spot for a first tattoo. Let me guess. You hurt the most?”

“Fuck no! Kane tapped out first, said he needed a break.”

“Mhhm, I’m sure he did,” I mumble, unconvinced.

We finish our meal over an exchange of banter, watching the pedestrians pass by the parlor window. Families stroll with a hot beverage in their hands, holding their loved ones to shield themselves from the cold night. The weather witch mostly keeps Salem cold because she prefers it that way. I hear she can be a real bitch, so it makes sense.

I take a drink of my water and see a woman with her children passing by. Her two sons hug their mothers’ legs as she tries to walk. Instead of getting frustrated with them, she throws her head back and laughs. She bends down to kiss them on the head and walks down the street, a true mother-bonding moment. I smile, but Carson turns away, sullen.

He doesn’t bother looking out of the window again. The smile has vanished from his face. This is the most serious I’ve seen him since we’ve met.

“You, okay?” I ask, placing my hand over his folded ones. He seems a bit taken back by my kindness since he’s only ever seen me annoyed with him. But he looks up at me and nods, not moving his hands away.

“It’ll be eight years next week since she’s been gone.”

I look down at the table, at a loss for words. I’ve always hated this part of myself. When people are sad, I want to comfort them, but I don’t know how. The right words never come to mind, and I resemble a statue, silent and frozen. Somehow, I manage to say the truth instead of some sympathetic rambling, “I’m sorry about your mother, Carson. I truly am.

He shrugs lightly and pulls away from my hold to take a sip of his water. He takes a few minutes to contemplate his following words, “You know that saying time heals all wounds? That is complete bullshit if I’ve ever heard it. Time just buries the pain. I’ll never be fully healed. None of us will.”

“I’ve never looked at it that way,” I mutter, not knowing what else to say. And then I realize this is the most I’ve heard any of the brothers talk about Loretta. “Your brother doesn’t talk much about his feelings.”

Carson sighs, rotating his cup in circular motions. “Arlo may look like he has it all together, but he struggles on the inside.” -He presses a hand to his chest- “Kane and I have been through a lot as well, but we didn’t nearly face as much suffering like him. Arlo always took our beatings. For the four of us. And every day, he lives with guilt because he feels like it was never enough. He couldn’t save our mother.”

“He shouldn’t blame himself for her death. It’s not like he’s the one who...” I can’t bring myself to say the words, but Carson understands.

Carson falls uncomfortably silent as he stares at me. For a moment, I see a fearful expression cross his face, but he shrugs it off quicker than it appeared. “Yeah,” Is all he manages to say after that. And then more silence.

My phone vibrates in my jacket pocket, and I reach inside to grab it. “Speaking of the demon,” I slide across the green button and press the speaker. “Hey, how is everything.”

“Uh, everything’s fine,” Arlo’s voice comes through the speaker. The doubt in his tone is anything but convincing. “but we kinda ran into a situation. These witches are smarter than they seem but don’t worry. Louisa and I are working on it, and we’ll be back in Salem by tomorrow.”

Tomorrow? Arlo, what’s going on?”

“Well, from the looks of their borders, they found out we were coming. They’ve got the place surrounded. The good news is they don’t know we’re here yet. I’m waiting for the right moment to make a move.”

Carson throws some cash on the table and follows me as I stand and begin to walk towards the exit. “Send me your location. I’m coming,” I say categorically.

“No, you’re not!” Carson and Arlo say in unison. Carson snatches the phone out of my hands and takes it off speaker, pressing it to his ear. “I’ve got my eyes glued to the princess. She’s not going anywhere, so do your thing and get the heaven out of there.” He ends the call and slides into the driver’s seat.

“Give me back my phone and stop calling me princess!”

Carson hands it over when I get in the car. He smiles slyly. “Technically, you are the princess because you’re Arlo’s mate.” I glance at him dubiously, and he chuckles to himself. Weirdo.

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