Sealed with a Curse Page 13

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I nibbled on my bottom lip again, but it still tasted nasty. I so needed a shower. “I’ll be fine, Aric. I know another healer. She’ll take care of me.”

Aric tapped his palm against the steering wheel, his face shadowed with concern. “The head witch is the only healing witch within two states. I don’t think you should trust just anyone to touch you.”

“She’s not a witch. She’s my sister.” I smiled softly. “And I trust her with my life.”

Aric’s brows softened with understanding. “Okay, but don’t get out of the car without my help.”

Aric opened my door in the time it took me to adjust my hips. I thought he would just hold my arm and assist me with my balance. I didn’t expect him to sweep me into his arms, carry me up the drive, and place me on the ground. It happened so fast I barely blinked, yet his divine heat lingered even after my feet touched the cold, soft lawn.

My toes squirmed against the grass. “Uh, thanks for the ride and everything.”

“You’re welcome.” Aric crossed his arms and circled me to examine my shoulder. “I can pop your arm back into place. It will hurt, but at least it will help your sister in healing you.”

Emme could realign bones, but I wasn’t sure she was strong enough to shove my upper arm back into the socket. And I sure didn’t want Taran experimenting. “Have you done this before?”

Aric nodded. “Fairly frequently. Our young wolves like to roughhouse. Learning to realign bones prevents them from mending incorrectly, since our healing ability is so fast.” He shrugged. “Otherwise we’d have to rebreak their bones every time they got hurt.”

I didn’t know Aric. Not really. But for some odd reason, I trusted him. “Okay. Whenever you’re ready.”

And that’s when Aric took off his shirt.

The soft fabric skimmed over perfectly golden skin and rock-hard abdominals tight enough to launch a brick into orbit. A whisper of hair traveled the length of his belly button to where his jeans hung low on his hips.

Holy…

Aric stopped removing his shirt when he pulled it just above his small, erect ni**les. This wasn’t real. This was some kind of Hollywood hottie video shoot on TV and all I wanted to do was hit pause.

“What’s wrong, Celia?” he asked.

I whipped around to face Mrs. Mancuso’s house, mortified to be actually gawking and possibly drooling.

I focused hard on Mancuso’s lawn jockey. It was forty freaking degrees and the breeze from the lake had picked up. I should have been cold, but Aric and his eight-pack warmed my core just fine and dandy. “Wha-what are you doing?” I managed to stammer, whereas my tigress insisted I should shut the hell up, turn back around, and enjoy the show.

Aric edged his way around to face me, removing and twisting his shirt around his neck with each step before fully slipping it on backwards to the clean side. “I have to hold you against me in order to adjust your shoulder. There’s blood all over the front of my shirt. I didn’t want to get any on you,” he explained.

“Thanks,” I said a little too high-pitched for my normally husky voice. “I appreciate that.”

Aric quirked a brow, but when he inhaled my scent his eyes widened with surprise. He was silent for several seconds before gesturing to my arm. “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

There were many, many things I wanted Aric to do, and none of them pertained to my busted shoulder. Yowza. I needed to take a cold shower, and possibly invest in electronic devices.

“Celia?”

Right. I focused on the pain and hoped I wouldn’t go down like a wimp. I nodded and closed my eyes. “Go ahead.”

Aric’s strong arms wrapped me in a bear hug, his contact hard and gentle all at once. For the second time that night, his body heat encased me. My face fell against his muscular chest. My God, the aromatic blend of his scent mixed with musk from battle drove my tigress insane. Don’t purr. Don’t purr. Oh, Jesus, please don’t let me purr.

Aric’s voice tightened. “Your heart’s racing….”

“S’okay.”

“Brace yourself. This is going to hurt like a mother.”

Aric didn’t lie. There was a brief crunching sound when he rammed my limb back in place. I thought he’d snapped my spine. A thousand blades stabbed at every nerve in my neck, arm, and shoulder. My head flew back and my back arched. I didn’t cry or whimper, but damn, did I want to. Aric held me tight.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “That was a bad idea.”

I pumped the fingers of my right hand. It remained sore, but I could manipulate it. “No. This is better,” I said between breaths.

Aric released me and stepped back, his jaw clenched tight enough to shatter Mrs. Mancuso’s lawn gnome.

“I’m fine,” I insisted. “I’m tougher than I look.”

Aric shook his head. “No. You’re not. You shouldn’t have been out there tonight, Celia.”

My head snapped up.

Aric stared hard at the ground. “Look, something is coming. Something severe enough to threaten every life in the area. I’d like you to leave town for a while.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “I can’t just leave, Aric. This is my home; my life is here.”

Anger flared in Aric’s eyes. “I can’t explain what’s happening. But if you stay, you might get hurt.”

I motioned to my shoulder. “It’s too late for that, wolf.”

“Celia—”

“You don’t know me, Aric. But there’s something about me you should.” I straightened to my full height. “I don’t just run because someone tells me to.”

I stormed up my front steps and unlocked the door, not bothering to turn around.

Every part of me sensed Aric watching me. In the reflection of the glass pane on the door, I looked upon the almost full moon. Aric was wrong. I knew what was coming. I’d seen the aftermath in the alley and I could feel the darkness as it dug its way through my skin. Tahoe was in jeopardy.

Decision time had arrived.

CHAPTER 9

I finger-combed my wet curls as I walked into my kitchen to prepare some tea, lamenting how I ended things with Aric. Good Lord, what a night. I’d been waiting to see him. Dreaming of speaking to him. Wanting to spend time with him. Dead bodies and alley brawls aside, my wishes had come true. Only to leave me back where I started, wondering if I’d ever see him again.

While I hadn’t liked him ordering me around, he’d helped me and kept me safe. And yet my temper prevented me from wishing him so much as a good night. Nice, Celia.

A sound like a half knock drew me toward the door. I growled in anticipation of another paparazzo. My heart just about stopped when I opened the door and saw Aric leaving my porch. He froze at the bottom of the steps before sighing and glancing in my direction. “Hi.”

“Hi.” I looked toward the driveway, where his Escalade remained parked. “Have you been here this whole time?”

“No. I left and came back.” He motioned toward my shoulder. “I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

I adjusted the belt around my thick cotton robe. I was all about dressing to impress. “W-would you like to join me?” I pointed behind me. “Inside, I mean. I’m making tea. Hot tea.” I grimaced. Behold my magnificent sentence structure and charm. Envy me!

Aric’s smirk set my already pink cheeks on fire. He spared me by not laughing as he jogged up the steps and wiped his feet on the mat. He paused. “Maybe we should drink your tea outside. I don’t want to mess up your house.”

Most of Aric’s clothes remained splattered with blood. But I wanted him to feel welcome, especially after leaving on such a sour note. “Don’t worry about it. It’s probably dry by now.”

Aric smiled. “You sure?”

I swallowed hard. God, I loved that grin. “Yes. Please have a seat.”

Aric crossed the dark wood floors into our large open family room. Aside from my bedroom, it was my favorite room in the house. The walls were a light sage and the trim was white. Black-and-white nature photographs that Shayna had snapped hung in silver frames on one wall. The opposite wall had a brick fireplace at its center flanked by built-in cabinets that held books and our small TV.

Aric carefully lowered himself onto our cream-colored sofa as I started the gas fireplace. “This is nice.”

“Thank you.” I paused to watch him lean forward and rest his powerful arms against his legs. His long hair fell over his brows, but did nothing to shadow the intensity of his eyes. I opened my mouth, then shut it, slightly stupefied that the male who’d occupied my every waking thought sat in my home, on my couch, because he wanted to ensure I remained safe. I wanted to say something witty, smart, charming—

“Is something wrong?”

I jumped. “Nope. I’ll be right back with your…stuff.” If I thought he wouldn’t have heard me, I would have beaten my head against the nearest wall. I returned to the kitchen and tried to relax.

“Do you live here on your own?”

“Um. No. My three sisters and I bought the house together.” I placed wheat rolls Emme had made on the tray along with pieces of butter I quickly cut into flower shapes.

“There’re four of you?”

I paused in the middle of filling the second mug with tea. The way Aric emphasized the word “four” I knew he meant something more. I returned to the family room with the tray and placed it on our large wooden coffee table. I sat on the love seat angled next to the sofa. “There’s only one of me.” I lifted my mug to my lips, trying to keep my tone light. “My sisters don’t share my powers.”

Aric watched me closely, waiting, I suspected, for me to elaborate. When I didn’t, he didn’t push me. I smiled. He was kind. But I owed it to my sisters not to disclose too much. He sniffed at the mug. “What is this?”

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