New York City
According to the calendar, thirty years should have been long enough to get over a heartache. I assumed the adage about time healing all wounds to be in play. But the circumstances were different. They didn’t even compare for me. The passage of time was normal for everyone else, but for those of us involved in Ashmedai’s Do-Over for Sybil Nakamura, the event was still too fresh. We were the only ones who couldn’t go by the date posted. After all, it had only been two months. Besides, how could I forget the self-righteous incubus who’d entered my life?
Funny how memories lingered.
Sadly, I remembered every single detail about Khan. The way he walked, how meticulously he dressed, and even how he preferred his coffee. The mundane and the extraordinary morphed together and became as essential as the air I breathed. I remembered how he kissed me—tenderly and reverently—and even how he fucked me until my legs had turned gelatinous.
Truth be told, Khan Najex wasn’t the easiest male to love, but I fell for him. I still loved him, but the choices I made that night were necessary. When he blasted Torin Murphy—Sybil’s new husband—in front of the Nakamura clan, I knew it was hopeless. Just like every female—human or supernatural—I thought I could change the incubus. While others placed bets on Khan losing the Do-Over, I betted he’d win. I assumed his stubbornness would enable him to maintain all that he had even if it meant he’d stay married to Sybil. That was, before I gave him my heart.
The biggest mistake of my life.
Every supernatural in New York City wasted no time flaunting how they’d won the wager and I’d lost. I didn’t want to hear it, but the noise followed me everywhere. On the way to work, I listened to Dark Ones—who knew about the event since they were from Hell and the realm was buzzing with the news—telling the tale of how the Najex of Falls Creek fell hard. They mentioned his marriage crumbling, his empire folding, and his brother taking over. When I entered my grandfather’s diner, I overheard the witches on staff laughing about how I toppled right along with Khan.
When it all became too much, I quit my job and stopped going to the diner, determined to turn into a damn recluse because of my heart. I couldn’t even step on the subway without being bombarded by knowing glances, so I went home to Mykonos. The visit was overdue. It had been a long time since I’d seen my family. Mama talked some sense into me.
“I have never known you to let a male bring you down. What gives, Callie?”
I drew in a breath as I reached for more laundry to fold. On an exhale, I said, “I fell in love, Mama.”
“Rumors about your affair with the married male spread here, too.”
Shaking my head, I said, “I can never go back there. I’m the laughingstock of New York.”
“No. You are a Leonides. We do not hide. If you stay in Mykonos, do it because you want to be home. Do not come here looking for a rock to crawl under.” Mama took the towel from me. “I raised you to be stronger than that. And when you’re ready to go back, take Dhimitrios with you. He needs to see the world.”
That was two weeks ago, but I didn’t return to the bar. Instead, I returned to the diner and fired the gossipy witches. Dhimitrios told me I deserved better than working at the restaurant, but somebody—family—needed to run the place. Eventually, I stopped looking for Khan to walk through the door, and the part of me that I gave to the incubus scabbed over. I made my peace with my destiny—to be alone forever.
So, why am I sitting here feeling sorry for myself?
A few days ago I found his tie clip. I’d tucked it beneath a stack of sweaters, unable to throw the damn thing away. Then I cleaned out my closets and dressers and donated items to charity. Khan had been on my mind ever since I found the expensive accessory.
“Callie, want to go out tonight?” My brother shuffled into the kitchen. He took one look at me, and his shoulders slumped. This was becoming a routine between us. “What happened now?”
Holding up the gold piece of jewelry, I said, “I forgot that I still had this.”
Dhimitrios pulled out a chair, flipped it around, and straddled it. “Word of advice?”
“What? You think I should throw it out?”
“Not just that.” My brother took the black band off his wrist, gathered up his unruly curly hair, and put it up in a messy man bun. He scratched beneath his beard before saying, “Why not find this incubus? I don’t think they’d miss you at the diner if you took some time off.”
“Not true.” Since Pops died, the family relied on me to run the diner. The Do-Over gave me another chance to see my grandfather. Without me, the diner would go out of business.
Keep telling yourself that.
“They’d be lost without me,” I whined.
“Call one of our aunts or uncles. They can handle things while you’re away.” Dhimitrios smiled. “If you want to find this incubus, I’ll go with you. Be the buffer between you.”
“I don’t know,” I said cautiously.
Stop lying to yourself.
“Callie, you either move forward or find him. It’s been thirty years. That’s too long to be in love with someone who doesn’t return your feelings.”
In this version of history people knew that I was one of Khan’s lovers, nothing more.
My brother stood. “Unless you’re not up for the challenge.”
When we met, I told Khan he was the challenge. Maybe it was time to end this once and for all. Find out if he’d even thought of me once since we parted. It wasn’t like he’d forget me in such a short time.
“Okay, Dhimi, but you’re driving.”
He rubbed his hands together. “Sweet. I’ve been dying to get out of New York.”
“And go to a small town?”
My little brother gave me a boyish wink. “Who knows what trouble I can get into.”
Plenty. He was a triton.
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