Sealed with a Curse Page 20

Taran didn’t say anything, stunned into fuming silence.

Shayna slung an arm around her. “Look at it this way: Maybe we’ve been given our abilities for a greater purpose. Maybe this is what we’ve always been meant to do.”

Taran shrugged Shayna off. “March into impending doom? I don’t think so. Quit fooling yourself into thinking we’re something special. We’re not. We’re just a bunch of freaks.”

Shayna smiled patiently. “Taran, you know that’s not what I’m saying.”

Emme squeezed my hand again. “What are you thinking, Celia?”

I sighed. “I think we were better off when no one knew about us. That said, we can’t pretend to be blind.” My face met Taran’s. “Nor can we run away.” Shayna started to say something, but I cut her off. “I’m going to do this. I’m going to help Misha. But I don’t…I can’t let you come with me.”

Taran threw her hands in the air. “What the hell? Do you really think we’ll let you do this on your own? It’s all of us or none of us.”

I cursed under my breath, certain we were signing our death warrants, but knowing we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we ran.

Taran fixed her glare on Emme and Shayna. “You two better know damn well what you’re signing up for. Celia and I know what we’re capable of. The blood from our first kills still stains our hands.” She closed her eyes tight and shuddered. “That shit stays with you forever—no matter if the kill was righteous or not. If you can’t deal with it—don’t. We’ll leave now and drag Celia’s ass with us.”

Shayna exchanged glances with Emme before stepping forward. “These aren’t people we’re going after. They’re monsters.” She shrugged. “Monsters have no place in a world I want to belong to.”

Emme nodded despite the tears moistening her soft and trusting green eyes. “I never wanted to know what it’s like to take a life. But if it’s between our lives and theirs, I’ll do what it takes to make sure we live through it.”

The breeze from the lake brushed against my back like a gentle encouraging nudge forward from a friend. I clenched and unclenched my fists, terrified and yet raring for a fight. “Fine. I’ll call Misha.”

CHAPTER 13

The vampires greeted us on the steps of the mansion, standing at parade rest. Black cargo pants covered their muscular legs. Fine-gauge sweaters of black silk tightened over their powerful biceps, triceps, and abdominals. Combat boots sheathed their feet. These vicious creatures of the night looked dressed to maim, maul, murder.

We looked ready to crash at the nearest homeless shelter.

My sisters and I had decided on old jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers after Taran said, “I’m not getting that nasty bloodlust shit on my nice clothes.”

I zipped the front of my sweatshirt to conceal the spaghetti stain on my tank. Nothing like feeling like a complete jackass before charging into battle.

The vamps parted smoothly to allow their master through. Misha bowed his head. “Ladies, you have my deepest gratitude. If you will, please join me for an early breakfast. We shall leave within the hour.”

“Early” seemed the appropriate term. Sunrise still remained hours away.

I shoved my hands into the pockets of my old sweatshirt as the breeze from the lake intensified, turning the air dense and crisp. A dangerous storm brewed in the distance, threatening to fall upon us like the mighty fist of Thor. I glanced over my shoulder before following Misha inside. I’d hoped the break of dawn would bring strong light to aid my sisters in battle. Without the night vision the vampires and I possessed, the tremendous drawbacks they faced continued to escalate.

And so did my trepidation for their safety.

The vampires’ steps echoed through the vast foyer, distinguishable from ours as they marched as one solid entity. “We will invade by boat and land on the eastern shore,” Misha said as he walked. “As bloodlust worsens, the muscles of infected vampires grow too dense, impeding their ability to swim.”

Shayna hurried to Misha’s right side. “So if we have to, say, um, run for our lives, the water is the best place to be?”

Misha nodded slowly at Shayna. “Provided the depth of the water and our speed are sufficient. The thirst of bloodlust further amplifies a vampire’s strength and velocity.”

Oh. Goody.

Taran swore behind me. Bloodlust just kept sounding better and better.

“The boats are almost ready. We will divide into three separate teams.”

“Excuse me, Misha,” Emme said quietly. “But shouldn’t we use two boats, or one big boat? With only seventeen of us, it might be better to stay in larger groups.”

Emme’s blush deepened as Misha regarded her. “Once we are on land, it will be to our advantage to stay as a group. However, smaller boats will dock closer to shore and will be faster should we need to flee.”

My fingertips swept over Emme’s tense muscles as I caressed her back. “And the more boats, the more options we have for escape, honey.”

Emme nodded. I supposed I should have reassured her, but the reality of the situation offered very little in the inspiration department. As everyone veered into the dining room, I grasped Misha’s arm. He stopped, as I’d intended, but he wouldn’t allow me to pull him into the office across the way. His resistance didn’t surprise me. Master vampires didn’t take kindly to being led anywhere.

His spine straightened and those hard gray eyes skimmed along my arm until they fixed upon my face. “I need to see you privately, Misha.”

A brief wind swept across my cheek from the speed with which he whisked us into his study. I’d only just felt his grip against my waist when the door slammed shut behind us. My eyes widened as he slowly lowered me to the floor. He said nothing, allowing his body to speak for him. The smell of lust surfaced immediately. He was aroused. And crap, somehow I’d caused it.

Lust remained unfamiliar, at least on a personal level. And while I’d scented it in clubs where dancers ground, at restaurants where couples stumbled out clutching each other in anticipation, and on Bren when he’d spotted his conquest for the evening, never had it been directed at me. Yes, Danny and I had sex as teens. But what Danny and I’d shared lingered as a distant memory of innocence, attraction, and a wish to please.

Misha’s scent of bare skin and implied promises of bliss left no hint of innocence. What did I expect? After all, he’d had more than a century to learn the art of sex, and his growing aroma and need assured me he’d mastered his craft.

I swallowed hard. I hadn’t expected such a response. Nor did I want it. My eyes wandered down. Misha obviously possessed the defibrillator to resuscitate my sleeping girl parts. But beyond my fear of intimacy at his hands lay the realization that Misha wasn’t the male who haunted my dreams and beckoned my beast.

Misha leaned into me, his soft, perfect lips parting to reach mine. I shrank away. “I’m sorry, but this isn’t what I want from you, Misha.”

Judging by the blatant confusion hardening his features, I may very well have been the first woman in history to refuse Sir Misha Aleksandr. Several long seconds passed before he released his hold. His tight black sweater hugged every muscle on his two-hundred-pound-plus form. His mane had been swept back into a tail, revealing that angelic face with the devilish twinkle. I chuckled. Misha was without question the hottest thing with sharp incisors—the poster child for ethereal vampiric beauty. Yet whenever I closed my eyes, images of Aric inundated my thoughts: the way he held me, the way his gaze met mine…the way he smiled.

Misha crossed his arms, his Russian accent thick over his words: “Tell me then what it is you desire.”

My eyes lowered to the bluestone floor—beautiful, despite all the cracks and imperfections. “I want you to watch over Emme. Out of all of us, she deserves to live the most.” I forced the words out. “If it comes down to it, Misha, and the rest of us don’t make it, I need you to get her to safety.”

Misha raised my chin with a single finger, perhaps because he knew I couldn’t move just then. “If you consider her weak, why do you anticipate you and the others will perish before her?”

My tigress rose to the surface. “Because Taran, Shayna, and I will die before anything happens to her. Emme is…different. She still believes in the good of others, despite the darkness that surrounds us.” I shrugged. “The world needs more Emmes.”

Misha’s finger slipped from my jaw. He circled me slowly. “Is the world not as deserving of you?”

Sins have a funny way of resurfacing at inappropriate times. I smiled without humor. “Emme has enough heart for both of us. If her heart continues to beat, in a way, mine will, too.” I stopped smiling then. “Make me this promise, Misha.”

He waited briefly before whirling me around and exposing my palm. I gasped when his warm tongue slid against my skin. He licked it once before placing my hand over his heart. “I do not agree with your request, but I give you my word as a master.”

Misha didn’t release me; he kept his hand on mine as he led me into the Delaware-size dining room and to the marble table. My sisters lifted their heads from their plates. Most of their eggs Benedict and hash browns remained untouched. They didn’t want to eat, yet they knew survival depended on more than just adrenaline.

I sat next to Taran. She pretended to fuss with the strap of my tank. “Did he say yes?” she whispered. I nodded, both to her and to Shayna, who looked up. Shayna smiled with sadness and relief before returning to her meal.

CHAPTER 14

Small drops of rain hit my face as we walked along the beach toward the boathouse, gathering twigs for Shayna along the way. I added the small stick to the pile I cradled and yanked up my hood. By the time we reached the lengthy dock, the droplets had temporarily ceased. It was just as well; the skimpy hood was no match for my long waves, even in the ponytail I’d wrangled them into. And besides, the thunder in the distance promised a thorough drenching with or without proper rain gear.

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