Sealed with a Curse Page 28

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Aric didn’t blink. “I told you my students would replace your things.” He held his hand out. “May I?”

I handed him the phone, thankful the smooth surface would help me wipe the putrid prints off easily. He punched in a few numbers and handed it back to me. “That’s my number. You ever need me, you call. If the vampires give you any shit, you call. If there’s a mansion full of infected vampires, you call. You don’t go looking for trouble.” He let out a long breath. “You can’t heal, Celia. The right strike by the wrong foe could kill you. I don’t want that to happen.”

Aric Connor cared what happened to me. Whoa. He’d given me his digits…and a whole lot of attitude. “So did you come to my house just to give me the phone or is the reprimand an added bonus?”

Like Misha, Mr. King of Wolves probably wasn’t used to getting any lip. His voice dropped another octave. “Celia.”

I held up my hand, trying to squelch my grin. Knowing he’d come to see me made me giddy. “We’ll talk as soon as I get a shower. I promise,” I insisted when he tried to argue.

“We’d better,” he answered.

I held the edges of Misha’s sweater down as I climbed the steps…and then took the fastest shower in history.

CHAPTER 19

Everyone sat at the kitchen table except for Emme and Shayna, who busied themselves heating the food. The wolves leaned back in our chairs, arms crossed, eyes fixed on me. Aric wasn’t a happy wolf. His ungodly pissed-off expression worsened as we spilled more details about our seventy-five near-death experiences.

Bren sat next to me, draping an arm around my shoulders. “And you didn’t take me along because…?”

Aric leaned forward, taking in Bren’s close proximity to me. Normally Bren’s affections didn’t bother me, but they made me uncomfortable in Aric’s presence. I kept my voice casual as I inched away from his hold. “Because you wouldn’t have stopped with just the infected vampires, and I couldn’t risk your going after Misha’s family.”

Gemini rubbed his goatee and regarded me carefully. It was the first time he’d pried his eyes off Taran, who sat in a slinky black dress on the other side of Danny. “Tell me more about the vampires you encountered. It seems odd they would remain at the compound. Their hunger should have compelled them to constantly hunt for food.”

I shuddered, thinking back to the brawl at the field. But Gem was right: Why would they hang out somewhere as isolated as Zhahara’s property? “Is it possible something prevented them from leaving the premises?”

“A binding spell might be able to,” Danny offered.

The scowls from the other wolves made him shrink back into his seat. Aric watched him carefully. “A spell like that wouldn’t be strong enough against a bloodluster’s thirst.”

Koda knitted his brows—not typically a scary expression for most. For Koda it bordered on a mug shot for America’s Most Wanted. “For a human, you seem to know too much about things that go bump in the night.”

Taran rolled her eyes. “What do you expect? He’s a research hound who lives with a werewolf.” She patted Danny’s back until she caught Gemini’s disapproving glance.

Danny coughed into his fist. “I’m actually fascinated by anything supernatural. I’ve studied magic dating back to—”

Liam growled. “No one cares, squirt.”

Bren growled. Danny was his best friend. The only one who could mess with him was Bren. I placed my hand over Bren’s chest. “We care,” I told Liam flatly.

Emme dropped what she was doing and rushed to Danny’s side. “Don’t be mean, Liam.”

Danny stood. “I don’t want to cause any problems.”

I kept my hand on Bren, but spoke over my shoulder. “You’re not, Danny. Please don’t go.”

“Liam. You owe Dan an apology.”

My head jerked in Aric’s direction. His tone, while casual, meant business.

Liam gawked at him in disbelief. “What? Why?”

Aric smiled in my direction. “Dan is a friend of theirs. And you’ve insulted him in their home.”

“Sorry, human,” Liam muttered, but then caught Emme’s attempt at a scowl. “I mean, sorry, Dan.”

Dan sat slowly. “Ah, sure. No problem.”

I released Bren when his muscles relaxed beneath my hold. He’d still change in a blink and tear out throats if he interpreted a threat against us or Danny. But for the moment, he seemed satisfied with the apology.

Aric met my appreciative smile with a wink and a grin that transformed me into the goofy vulture from the Bugs Bunny cartoon. My face reddened, and it became harder to continue staring at him.

Bren pulled me close and chuckled in my ear. “Damn, kid. Are you in trouble.” That was bad enough. His next comment was worse. “Don’t worry, Aric. Celia and I don’t have sex as much as we used to.”

My elbow to his ribs had him doubling over. Aric raised his chin in the way most males did before brawls involving bashed heads and bail money. “You two are together?”

Bren coughed out a yes, at the same time I said no. Shayna, of course, just had to come to my rescue. “No way, dude. Celia is totally single. She hasn’t had a date in what, two years?”

I buried my molten-lava face in my hands. Oh…God.

“Do you kill all the infected vampires you find?” Dan asked quietly.

Aric tore his attention away from me for the first time since I’d come downstairs. I welcomed the distraction like an all-you-can-eat buffet. “What else would we do with them?” he asked Danny. “They’re too dangerous to keep.”

Danny rubbed his thighs hard, careful not to make direct eye contact with Aric. I could see the wheels turning in that brilliant mind of his, but his insecurities and shyness held him back. “What are you thinking, Danny?”

Danny rubbed his thighs again. And that’s when I knew for sure he was onto something. “Danny?”

Danny tried to smooth back his hair, but as usual his fingers tangled into his thick, messy curls. He shuffled his seat closer and whispered, knowing the wolves could hear, yet feeling more confident if he pretended I alone listened. “I’d like to examine the infected blood—you know, test it to see if I can find anything.”

Aric and Gemini exchanged glances. “Examine it for what exactly?” Gemini asked.

“Danny’s a biochemist. He’s done a lot of research with blood-borne infections,” Emme explained from near the stove.

Aric rested his arms against the table. “What good will that do? Are you trying to find a cure?”

“Oh, no. A cure, if possible, would take decades to develop—especially if magic is the underlying component. I’m thinking if I could get a sample of infected blood and compare it to the blood of a healthy vampire, I may be able to find a link, or at the very least something that can help.”

Aric thought about it. “Based on what Celia has said, I don’t expect the plague to end until we find the cause. All were clans have been ordered to hunt and kill all infected vampires. But…if we catch one, do you have a way to preserve the blood? I won’t keep a bloodluster alive just to use as a lab rat.”

Danny tapped his fingers on the table. “I have several blood tubes with varying preservatives. One of them should be enough to keep the blood from turning to ash—at least for a little while. Do any of you know how to draw blood from a vein?”

Koda shook his head. “No. But it’s not necessary. We could probably bite off a wrist and just pour the bloodlust into the vials.”

Liam shrugged one shoulder. “Yeah. No problem. Or sever part of his neck if the f**ker gives us any problems.” He smiled at Emme’s blanched face. “Sorry, Emme. I didn’t mean to swear.”

Gemini acted like we were playing a round of Monopoly, not discussing ways to drain a vampire of his or her nastiness. “Where will you get healthy vampire blood?”

I didn’t appreciate the attention my sisters and Bren slammed me with. “Don’t look at me that way,” I grumbled.

Taran smirked. “Ceel, you know perfectly well that rich bastard would give you his blood if you asked. God knows he’d do anything to get in your pants….” Her voice trailed off as she caught Aric’s not-so-thrilled expression.

I wished we were outdoors, so I could dig a hole and bury my burning face. Some days it didn’t pay to have chatty sisters. “I’ll see what I can do.” I shoved away from the table to get a drink, careful to hide my mortified expression from Aric.

He followed me to the refrigerator, leaning against the opposite door. “You and the vampire…”

“There is no me and Misha. There is no me and Bren. There is no one in my life, I assure you.” My eyes pleaded with him to believe me. The gleam in his irises and that irresistible grin told me that he had. Damn, that smile should have been illegal. “W-would you like something to drink?” The heat from his body stroked my skin like a physical caress. It was all I could do not to unravel.

Aric shrugged. “Sure. I’ll have what you’re having.”

I reached in the fridge for a root beer and then grabbed one for myself before sitting on a barstool next to the raised counter. Aric sat next to me. “Will you sit with me at dinner, Celia?”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

Shayna and Koda stood across the counter facing each other. Shayna had taken a large piece of salami and placed it on the cutting board in front of her. She snagged a wooden spoon out of the drawer and held it by the ladle. At once she transformed it into a long, sharp silver knife. Koda and Aric tensed watching the chopping machine with the long ponytail get to work. She flipped a slice into the air and caught it in her mouth, totally showing off. I couldn’t blame her. It was a relief not to hide what we could do.

Shayna tried to catch another piece, but Koda caught it first. While he chewed, he slipped Shayna an arrogant and kind of scary smirk. Shayna laughed. Although Koda looked like he ate toddlers for breakfast, I knew he didn’t stand a chance against my sister.

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