A Cursed Embrace Page 20

Emme walked to my side and squeezed my hand. “Give him time to know you more, Celia. And then he’ll have no choice but to fall in love with you.”

Emme’s soft, encouraging words of hope usually made me smile at her sweetness or gape at her naiveté. This time, they made me a little sad. “I hope so,” I said quietly.

I led her and Shayna to the table where our celebratory Koda-loves-Shayna feast awaited. Taran quietly buttered the zucchini bread Emme had baked. The lack of sarcasm and noise revealed she wasn’t the only Wird sister feeling insecure. Luckily, I had just the ammo to blast her buns back to the planet Bitch-Assness.

I sat next to her and reached for a blueberry muffin. “Any word from Gemini?”

She stopped midbutter spread and clenched the knife in her hand. “No.”

“Really? He hasn’t called?” I took a bite of my muffin.

Taran slowly lowered her bread onto her plate while static shocks of blue and white snapped, crackled, sizzled, and popped above her head. “No. No calls. No texts. And in case you’re wondering, no Pony Express packages, either.”

I nodded. “Mmm. That’s so strange.”

Emme’s mouth popped open. My little sister was evidently shocked by my sudden and very suicidal verbiage. Provoking Taran was like ripping a rabbit out of a dingo’s mouth. Shayna shook her head, fast. When I grinned and winked, she waved her hands like she was landing a lunar jet in our family room.

I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms. “So, any head pats lately?”

I just narrowly missed the bolt of lightning she flung my way. It split the wooden chair down the center and buckled the legs. I landed in a crouch on the table. Taran stood hard enough to tip her seat back, the length of her fingernails streaming with fire. She circled the table, her irises clear as glass from her rising power and the wide-awake, pissed-as-hell, premenstrual Latina within. “Just because you finally got laid doesn’t make it okay to make fun of the head pat. Gemini—”

“Thinks you’re a virgin,” I finished for her.

It was as if we were all in stereo and someone pulled the plug on the surround sound. Emme’s pleas to Taran not to barbecue me and Shayna’s panicked pulls to my arm ceased. Silence, followed more silence, until a nervous “Heh . . . heh-heh-heh” escaped Shayna’s lips.

I leapt off the table and met Taran face-to-face. Her scowl, in addition to her heavy breathing, just sent me into a fit of giggles. You’d have thought I made fun of her footwear. Taran jutted out her chin. “What. The hell. Did you. Just say?” I laughed harder. “Celia. In exactly three seconds I’m going to scorch the living shit out of you. Do you want your ass to burn? Well, do you?”

This was harder than I had thought. I threw my hands in the air. “Taran, Gemini thinks you are, and I quote, ‘untouched.’”

“Untouched where?”

Emme clasped her hands over her mouth to suppress a gasp. Shayna didn’t. Her “heh-hehs” turned into full-out guffaws. She fell to the floor holding her sides, snorting uncontrollably.

Taran paced the room. Her four-inch sandals dug into the hard wood as she marched. “Why the hell would Gemini think I’m a virgin?”

“Because you haven’t responded to his advances.”

Taran rounded on me. “What advances? Oh, I get it. Was it all those brotherly hugs? Oh no, let me guess, it was the head pats because we all damn well know that’s sexy.”

Emme smoothed the skirt of her floral dress. “Goodness, Taran,” she said meekly. “I’m actually surprised you haven’t tried to, you know, entice him.”

Taran turned her glare on Emme. “I’m not used to the shy types, Emme. I’ve only held back because I’m afraid I’ll scare him shitless.” By this point, my eyes watered. “Damn it, Celia, stop laughing. While you’ve been getting it on with Aric, I’ve been taking cold showers.” Bits of flame shot out of her hands like confetti. She gritted her teeth, stopping only to glower at me. “You have no idea how bad I want him.”

“Aric says all the attention Gem’s shown you is a lot for someone as reserved as he is.” I grabbed her shoulders. “He likes you, Taran. Aric flat-out told me. It’s up to you to show him you like him, too.”

I could see the hope and excitement building as Taran withdrew her flame. Her wicked smile easily returned and so did that sultry gleam to her stare. “He likes me.”

“Yes.”

“And he wants me.”

“Apparently so.” I didn’t mention Gemini’s sexual frustration. Taran had been tortured enough.

Taran’s full lips puckered with anticipation and her aura sizzled with enough heat to scorch my sweater. “I’m gonna knock that wolf right out of his pants.”

Yup. No doubt. I played with my nails. I wanted to do the same for Aric, except I needed an expert’s help to do it. “There’s something else I have to discuss with you.”

Taran crossed her arms and leaned back, curiosity about my sudden awkwardness making her angle an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“Aric and I, um, have been having a lot of, ah, you know—we’re engaging in intimacy.”

Taran laughed. “Celia. I wouldn’t call all the gorilla sex you’ve been having with him ‘engaging in intimacy.’ Girl, you better get on the pill before he knocks you up.”

“I’m already on it. It, um, actually took full effect last night. But I, uh, took added precautions this morning just in case.” I cleared my throat for all the good it did me. “I was wondering if, uh, you’d go lingerie shopping with me today?”

A devious smile crept across her face. “Why don’t we all go? I need something to be devirginized in.”

CHAPTER 16

After breakfast, Taran drove us to a South Tahoe boutique that specialized in designer lingerie. When the salesclerks greeted her by name, I knew we’d come to the right place. After a brief consultation with the staff, Taran had us custom-fitted for bras. Turned out, I was a 34-C, not a 36-B.

Taran wandered the aisles, picking out lingerie she determined would best fit our tastes. Her view of me, however, was sexier than I believed myself to be. I’d always worn feminine undergarments, but they were cute and cotton, not lacy, silky, and enticing. After all, before Aric, there’d been no one to seduce. After a rather revealing and embarrassing hour in the dressing room, I was prepared for my night.

When we returned home, Taran laid out the plans like the diva of seduction she believed herself to be. “Okay, everyone put on your choice of underwear for the evening with the shoes you’ll be wearing. Celia, I think you should wear the pink bra and panties with the black lace. Here.” She shoved a pair of strappy sandals high enough to make my nose bleed. “No mules, UGGs, or running shoes allowed.”

I gawked at the shoes and the lingerie she handed me. The thong alone could have fit in a lipstick case. It was one of the more risqué items Taran had selected. I’d hoped to start off slow and ease my way into that little number. “But this one comes with a garter belt and thigh-high stockings.”

“No shit.” Taran glowered when I continued to gape. “Celia. You’re the one who begged for my help—”

“I didn’t beg—”

“Now run along and get dressed. Just make sure whatever outfit you wear for dinner hides the lingerie.” She hustled us out the door. “Hurry up, we’re running out of time.”

Emme and I arrived in Taran’s room wearing very casual but pretty print dresses. Shayna wore gray leggings under an off-the-shoulder white tunic. I was stunned to find Taran in nothing but red lace and four-inch heels. She threw her hands in the air like we’d committed a major slutty lingerie faux pas. “What the hell are you guys doing? I want you in only underwear and shoes. Take the rest of that shit off.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because we’re going to practice posing.”

“Huh?”

Taran tapped her heel and huffed like we’d exhausted the last of her patience. “You have to learn which pose works best to enhance your bodies in your lingerie.” My blank expression only pissed her off further. “It adds to the seduction process!”

Taran sighed when the rest of us exchanged what-the-hell glances. “Watch and learn.” She folded her arms and leaned over her dresser. Emme jumped when Taran threw out her butt like some sort of weapon. Taran continued, unaffected. She flipped her dark hair, pouted her lips, and propelled her cl**vage forward like missiles targeting terrorists. I learned two things then. One, Taran had missed her calling as a Victoria’s Secret model. And two, I must have been on crack when I asked her for help.

Taran pushed off from the dresser and placed a hand on her hip, clearly presenting herself as the ruler of the overexaggerated backsides. I thought she expected us to bow, or at the very least applaud. We did neither. Nor did we move. Except for Emme, who eyed the door like she might bolt.

Taran ignored her and held out her hands. “Are you ready to try, my young grasshoppers?”

I nodded slowly, surprised by how much work went into seducing a werewolf. My tigress reminded me Aric was worth it, so I stepped forward and began my crash course in posing. I don’t know if we were seductively inept or what, but we had to work on our poses all afternoon.

“Shayna, what the hell are you doing? I told you to stick out your br**sts!”

“They are out!”

“Oh yes, they are. Sorry, girl.”

“Damn it, Emme, flip the hair! More, more, more—oh, shit. Not that much!”

“Ow! Oh no, now I have to heal.”

“Dude, is this posing stuff supposed to hurt?”

“Quit whining, Shayna. You won’t be doing it for long, trust me. One of two things will happen. Either he’ll jump you right away or he’ll watch you completely entranced. If it’s the latter, try to bend over a lot. It drives men wild.” Taran turned to me and ran her fingers through my hair, making it fuller. “And for shit’s sake, don’t forget to work the mane as much as possible. Celia, you have that whole porn-star-hair thing going for you. Milk it for all it’s worth. Also, incorporate the furniture somehow. Guys like that.”

• • •

“Gimme your money and a little affection, bitch, and maybe I won’t hurt you.”

The universe hated me. I was honest-to-God convinced of that fact. Any other gal could have had a nice romantic dinner and gone home to have sex with her werewolf lover. Anyone but me.

Aric pulled me against him protectively. If the gang of delinquents facing us in the parking garage knew what was good for them, they would leave—now. Damn, I was pissed. Aric had been telling me how beautiful I was all night and barely kept his hands off me during dinner. My confidence soared, my sexuality bolstered. I was set to seduce Aric via Taran-esque posing. But if these little maggots forced me to change and rip my skimpy and expensive lingerie, I was going to beat the unholy crap out of them.

The leader meandered away from the Escalade and glared at Aric. Wrong move against an Alpha werewolf. Aric growled louder and deeper than a hound from hell. The stupid teenager had inadvertently challenged my wolf.

A kid flashed a gun. “Hey, mama. Come over here, I’ll give it to you real good.”

One by one, the rest pulled out knives. Aric stepped in front of me. His growl deepening as he headed toward the teen brandishing the gun. The others panicked as he advanced. I’d be scared, too, if some crazy guy pretending to be a dog was coming at me.

Before I could say, We need to get home so I can seduce you, all but one kid had either run off or lay unconscious. The last idiot waved a knife in my face, clearly terrified. “I’ll cut her, man,” he told Aric. “I’ll cut her if you get near me!”

I snatched the wrist holding the knife and crushed it as I yanked him to me, changing my face to that of my beast. The knife hit the concrete. I roared and snapped my fangs an inch from his nose. He didn’t take it well. The kid’s eyes rolled into the back of his head just before he crashed to the ground. I released him, trying hard not to kick his sorry ass into the wall. He and his friends could have hurt someone. I’d let him off easy with a broken wrist and a mild concussion.

Aric ushered me to the Escalade. “Come on, sweetness. I’ll call the weres on the force on the way.” He opened the car door for me, but something near the dark corner of the garage alerted my senses. I couldn’t smell it or hear it; I only felt it. And it felt cold, unearthly, wrong.

I inched away from the car. “What is that?”

He peered in the same direction. “Stay here.”

I ignored his order and followed behind him. Aric kept his arm out near me, but his focus remained ahead. We found nothing in the corner when we reached it, but the sense of wrongness continued to linger. Aric bent to take a whiff. His nose wrinkled in disgust. I inhaled as well, hoping to understand what had stalked and watched us.

An awful, sharp and sour stench burned my nose and made me want to flee from it. My inner beast cringed. Our saving grace was that whatever had lurked was gone, and that its scent faded quickly.

“Demon,” Aric said.

I hoped he was joking. “You mean demon child?”

“No. This was one of those damned to hell that can’t remain on earth.”

I straightened, my blood turning into clotting chunks of ice. “But who summoned it?”

Aric focused on the corner as he stood. “Sometimes demons appear on earth when there’s a strong collection of evil. Those damn kids probably attracted it through their shared thoughts and actions.” He shrugged. “And with all the attacks and the presence of evil lately, it was probably easier for one to present itself.”

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