Sealed with a Curse Page 27

Aric spoke to the werebear next to him while his eyes stayed locked on mine. “Take two teams and check it out. If you pick up the trail of any vampires, find them. If they’re infected—kill them. Anything else needs to be brought to The Den for questioning.”

The werebear whipped out a phone as he and the other nonwolves jumped into the Highlander and Escape. “I need my clan and Aric’s assembled in South Tahoe now. Zhahara’s compound. Don’t act alone. We’re on our way.”

“Shayna!” Koda ran to her when she scuttled out, but stopped short, dropping his head as if embarrassed by his actions.

“Hey…dude.” She punched him affectionately on the arm, but drew back when she realized she’d left a brownish stain on his shirt. “Um. Sorry…”

I walked toward the house as Koda asked her about being hurt. Liam yelled, “Oh, shit!” when he caught a gander at Emme.

Gemini stepped in front of me. “Where’s Taran?”

“Um. She’ll be out in a minute.” Maybe.

His dark almond eyes shadowed with worry. “Is she harmed?”

No, just covered in slop and possibly vomit. I sidestepped him and hurried toward our slanted driveway. “Ah, no, she’s just, um—”

I never knew Taran could move so fast. She raced past us, covering her face as flaps of tangled and infection-smeared hair bounced behind her. She struggled to unlock the dead bolt, swearing in a way that made Emme blush, until she finally pushed open the door. Within seconds I heard the shower turn on in her room.

“Would you boys like to come in for a bite? It will only take a minute for us to freshen up.”

Emme took positive thinking to a whole new level. I didn’t think anything but a bleach bath and an Ajax scrub would get the crud off my body. And of course, things just continued to get better and better.

A 1971 blue Ford Mustang roared into our neighborhood like a pride of angry lions. Strips of rubber burned into the asphalt as the car slid to an abrupt halt.

Lo and behold, a rabid werewolf stormed out. “Are you crazy?” Bren growled. He stormed toward me, more pissed than I’d ever seen him. Danny leaped out of the passenger seat, tripping in his haste to chase after Bren.

Aric stepped in front of me, blocking my body with his. “Stay away from her.”

Bren snarled. “Fuck. Off.”

I forced my way between them when Aric growled in challenge, locking onto Bren’s wrists and shoving him away with my back. “Aric. Don’t. These are our friends.” The other wolves spread out, circling the three of us plus Danny, who twitched like a cornered squirrel. Shayna and Emme ran to his side, pleading with the wolves not to hurt him.

Aric wouldn’t peel his eyes off Bren. “You’re friends with a lone.”

My spine straightened. “He’s not a lone. He has us. We’re his pack.” I faced Bren when Aric relaxed his attack stance. “What are you doing here?”

Bren’s glare softened slightly when he regarded me. “I’ve been trying to find you since getting Shayna’s e-mail.”

I groaned and whipped my head toward my blabbermouth sister. She scraped her nasty sneaker against the asphalt. “I didn’t give him the deets. I just told him we were helping Misha…and warned him that if we didn’t come back he and Danny needed to flee Tahoe.”

I threw my hands up in the air. “Oh. Is that all?”

“You should have texted me, Shayna. You know I rarely check my e-mail.”

Shayna continued to play with the pebble at her feet. “That’s sort of why I e-mailed you, dude. I knew you’d come after us if you knew right away—”

“And you still did it anyway.” Bren shook his head, his frustration practically burning a hole into the asphalt.

“And we’d do it again,” Shayna countered.

She and Emme rushed ahead of us, their wolves trailing them. Bren watched them disappear into the house before meeting my stare like I knew he would. “I told you to stay out of this vampire shit, Celia. Not only did you not listen to me; you dragged your sisters into it.”

“I didn’t drag them.” I rammed my finger into his chest. “You know I wouldn’t do that.”

Bren gnawed on his teeth. “They’d follow you to hell and back, and you damn well know it.”

If he intended to make me feel guilty, it worked. I hugged my body and turned away, walking toward the house. Aric followed, keeping his eyes on Bren. Bren caught up and reached for my hand. “Don’t hurt her,” Aric warned.

The deep creases of Bren’s frown softened as he watched Aric. Whatever he saw in Aric’s expression lightened Bren’s eyes with mischief. “I don’t hurt those I love,” he answered with a smirk.

Aric leaned back on his heels, crossing his arms. I glanced at both of them. “How did you know we were home?” I asked when I couldn’t determine what had transpired between them.

Bren put his arm around me and pulled me close. “Cut it out, Bren,” Danny muttered behind me.

Bren’s grin widened. “We went down to that bitch Zhahara’s. The place reeks of infection, and there’s a goddamn bus in her living room. When we couldn’t find you, we headed back to that a**hole Misha’s place for some answers. On the way there, I got the call you were back.”

Okay, that didn’t make sense. None of us had contacted Bren. “Who called you?”

Bren motioned toward Mrs. Mancuso’s house. He’d given the old biddy his number in an effort to watch over us. I hadn’t liked the idea then and I absolutely resented it now. The old bat stood behind her floral window drapes, watching the drama. Good Lord, if her hair curlers were any tighter her scalp would bleed. She raised her window, giving Aric, Bren, and Danny the once-over before scowling at me like she could will my death. “Celia Wird, have you no shame? Standing out there half-naked, flashing those young boys like some kind of streetwalker!”

Aric’s dark brows shot up to his crown. “What the fu—”

“Mind your own business, you goddamn raisin with legs!” Taran screamed from inside the house.

Mrs. Mancuso flipped me off, of course. Bren flashed her a panty-dropping grin. “It’s okay, Mrs. M. I’ll be sure to take Celia to confession later so Father O’Callaghan can slap the sin out of her.”

“Be sure that you do.” Mrs. Mancuso gave Bren an approving nod, and me another stiff one. Aric remained fixed to my front walkway. He may have been a guardian of the earth, but I doubted he’d ever encountered evil the likes of Mrs. Mancuso.

Emme called from the upstairs bathroom. I didn’t need to see her to know her cheeks shone like ripe strawberries. “May-maybe everyone should just head in. I’ll be down in a minute to fix dinner.”

Before I could follow Emme’s lead, Bren turned me around so my back was to him. “Ceel…are you going commando?”

Aric growled, low and deep. I smacked Bren’s hands and shoved him up the front steps. “Just get inside!”

The sound of his laughter told me his temper had begun to cool—at my expense, like always. I tried to follow, but stopped when I realized Aric continued to watch Danny.

“Why are you armed?” Aric asked him.

I inhaled deeply. Aric was right: Danny was packing heat, full of gold bullets. Not a comforting thought, considering he couldn’t shoot a wereelephant at close range.

Danny adjusted his Coke-bottle glasses nervously, smashing his mop of black curls between his forehead and the thick, dark frames. Aric’s daunting presence rattled Danny’s lanky frame and made his voice tremble. “We weren’t sure what we’d find. My buddy Bren didn’t want me unarmed.”

“Danny’s human,” I explained to Aric.

“I could tell by his scent,” Aric said. “So how does he know about us?”

I idled toward Aric. “We’ve known each other since we were teens.” I couldn’t stop my smile when I looked over my shoulder at Danny. “I trust him with all of my secrets.” Danny grinned, but then stopped short and stepped back at Aric’s scowl. “Be nice, Aric. He’s my friend, and you’re scaring him.”

Aric pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb before extending his hand to Danny. “I apologize. Aric Connor.”

Danny shook his hand. “Dan Matagrano. Nice to meet you…sir.”

I couldn’t blame Danny for greeting Aric formally. He gave off a certain aura of stature. Aric, however, didn’t appear comfortable with the title. “Just call me Aric, Dan.”

“Okay.” Danny headed toward the door, but Aric stopped him.

“Look, Dan, I know this isn’t my home, but I need to ensure my safety and that of my wolves at all costs. Could you leave the gun in the car?”

“Oh, yeah. Sure, sure. I didn’t mean to insult anyone.” Danny jogged to Bren’s car, popped the trunk, and deposited the gun, then raced just as swiftly into the house.

It was just me and Aric, him in a dark red sweatshirt that complemented those sizzling baby browns and faded jeans that hugged his strong legs, and me…in all my nasty glory.

“You should’ve called me, Celia.” Aric’s voice dropped lower. “I would have handled the situation. There was no need for you to get involved.”

“I didn’t have your phone number,” I answered like a dumb ass.

Aric walked ahead of me. He picked up and handed me a simple blue gift bag tucked behind the wooden railing. “Look inside,” he urged when I just stared at it.

I pulled out the latest and greatest iPhone, complete with some Bluetooth thingamajiggy, a high-tech earpiece, and a sleek lavender case with little white birds on it.

Aric cleared his throat as I examined the case. “I had a female sales associate pick it out. If you don’t like it, you can exchange it for something else.”

“I like it. It’s sweet.” I smiled. “You went overboard, though. This stuff is nicer than what I had.”

Prev Next