Sealed with a Curse Page 33

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Aric studied the room while keeping his back to me. “It’s not girlie.”

I agreed. My walls were a deep cream with white trim. A few pictures of my sisters, and places we had visited, hung around the room. On either side of my king-size bed stood two dark wood end tables that matched the bed frame. Emme had placed bamboo plants on each. She had a green thumb. I didn’t. I managed to keep them alive by leaving the two silver table lamps on during the day.

My comforter was chocolate brown with a crocodile pattern. I’d splurged and bought eight-hundred-thread-count white sheets. If it were up to me, that would’ve been the extent of my color scheme. Shayna believed otherwise. She folded a copper blanket between the bedsheet and comforter, and added copper and tiger-print accent pillows to brighten the darker shades. My dresser stood on one side of the double doors leading to the bathroom, and my brown leather chair and matching ottoman were on the other. During the day, I often sat on the chair to read, using the natural light from the large picture window to help me make out the words on the page. It was a simple room, and it fit me perfectly.

“I’m not really the girlie type,” I told him.

He turned around to grin at me. “Good.”

Aric’s smile could melt the Arctic in the middle of the coldest night. So could his eyes. I swallowed hard and tugged the edge of the sheet closer to my chin. Aric quickly spun around. “Sorry,” he said. “I’ll wait for you downstairs.”

I slipped on a tank top and jeans and hurried into the kitchen.

While I was convinced the bunny fiasco would live in infamy, Aric didn’t seem the least bit shaken. He draped an arm around me several times during dinner and took me on a romantic walk following dessert.

“It’s supposed to be nice tomorrow. Would you like to go for a hike? I know a spot with a great view of the lake where we could picnic.”

The night had drawn to a close too soon. It saddened me to know he was leaving. But when he wanted to see me again, I jumped at the opportunity. “I’d love to.” His grin held me in place. God, I wanted him to kiss me. “Would you like to come in?” So we can make out on the sofa and I can finally touch you?

Something about the way I looked at him then made those steamy brown eyes shadow over with desire. He answered by closing the distance between us and wrenching the door open. “After you,” he murmured.

As soon as we stepped over the threshold, the vapors from the petting festival on the couch practically knocked me on my butt. Shayna and Koda jumped when they saw us. If we’d arrived a few minutes later I was positive their clothes would’ve been scattered all over the floor. Shayna’s cheeks were red and flushed with sweat, and her ponytail sat completely askew.

Koda panted like he’d just run down a herd of deer. He strategically placed one of our throw pillows across his lap. “Hey. What’s up?”

Like we didn’t know in more ways than one.

I fell into Aric and shoved him back onto the porch, shutting the door on my way out. I turned around, laughing. “So now what do you want to do?”

Aric’s eyes widened slightly as he glanced back at the shut door. “Ah…I thought you wanted to go inside.”

I stopped laughing. Had he thought I was inviting him to my…bed? The way his face reddened told me yes. I didn’t do one-night stands…but I’d also never shared a connection like I did with Aric. His gaze searched mine while my mind struggled with what to do. My inner beast stirred, warming me to my core. She wanted Aric’s wolf, and she rather insistently reminded me I wanted Aric.

My tigress nudged us forward. Aric’s hands slid onto my h*ps while mine slipped behind his head to stroke his thick hair. Our bodies shuddered as my br**sts grazed against the muscles of his powerful chest. He leaned down, brushing his soft lips against mine. He paused to assess my reaction before meeting my lips once more.

Oh, my God.

A barrage of heat pounded every delicate part of me. Our mouths parted.

And his phone rang.

He swore and jerked it out of his back pocket, keeping an arm fastened around my waist. “What do you need?”

“We have a situation. We just killed two more infected vampires and we’re tracking a third.”

“Where?”

“Just North of Kings Beach. This one is old, real old, Aric. She’ll be hard to kill.” The were growled on the other end. “Crazy leech already has a bitch of a scar from the last bastard who tried.”

I gripped Aric’s arm as my lungs clenched. “Where’s the scar?”

“What?”

My grip tightened. “Aric, ask him where the scar is.”

“Who the hell is that?” the were snarled on the other end.

Aric watched me carefully. “Just answer her.”

The were paused. “It runs from her jaw across the length of her throat. But what…?”

My hand fell against my side. No. Not again.

“Celia. What is it?”

I swallowed hard. “It’s Antoinette Malika. Your wolves are tracking another judge.”

CHAPTER 22

“You’re to stay behind me at all times. No leaping into danger. No taking unnecessary chances. No attacking. No changing. Unless we’re all incapacitated or dead, you are not to engage any vampires. Even then you are to flee to safety. Do you understand?”

“I understood you the first five times you told me, Aric.” He growled something under his breath, but stopped when I placed my hand on his thigh. It wasn’t like me to be so forward, but touching him felt as natural as breathing, despite the flush it sent to my cheeks. “I’ll be careful. I promise.” I sighed dramatically. “I know I’m just a poor, helpless little feline and I should leave any dismemberment to you big, ass-kicking lupines.”

Aric focused straight ahead, except he couldn’t stop his grin. “Damn straight.”

Koda chuckled behind me. His good cheer surprised me. But then again he’d spent quality time with Shayna, and now his beast was going to have fun mutilating a vampire.

Aric’s Escalade bounced along the pitch-black wooded path hard enough to make my teeth rattle. I knew then why the wolves drove SUVs. Evil knew no boundaries. All-terrain vehicles were a must.

Aric hit the Bluetooth thingy when his phone rang. “It’s Aric.”

“We snagged the leech. You want us to kill her now?”

“Not unless she starts to break from your hold. I’m bringing a witness to identify her. If she’s who we think she is, we have bigger problems on our hands.”

“Got it. You have our location?”

“Koda’s tracking you through your cell phone. Koda, what’s our ETA?”

Koda hit a few buttons on his cell. “Park here. If we cut north up the hill, we’ll be there in less than five.”

Aric veered off to the side and hit the brakes. “Stay close to me, Celia.”

We hit the ground running. Aric and Koda barely made a sound. When they saw how easily I kept up, their steps pounded faster, pushing until they reached their full human speed. My feet sped lightly over the moist soil, barely kicking so much as pebble. The brisk night whipped my hair behind me. Aric glanced over his shoulder just to wink. I smiled, but the agonized roaring ahead easily erased my grin. My tigress growled along with the wolves. Aric didn’t like that one bit. “Remember what I told you,” he said in a low voice.

We stopped in a small clearing where the wolf pack stood as humans…naked humans. Buff, strong, strapping, very na**d humans.

Holy crap.

I dropped my gaze. Except for some guy holding a cell phone and a bazooka-looking thing draped over his shoulder, we were the only ones dressed. Aric frowned. “Why aren’t you watching her?”

And why the hell are you na**d?

The guy with the phone held out his hand. “Relax. The rest of the pack is with her. It took all the senior wolves to corner her and take her down. Some vamp showed, too, insisting he see her.” He rolled his eyes. “Wait till you see this idiot. He’s as sturdy as a kangaroo with a busted leg, but he claims to be a master.”

I winced, knowing who’d made an appearance.

Aric followed the other wolf. Koda placed his hand on my shoulder blades and nudged me forward when I hesitated. My tigress didn’t like the idea of walking through a wall of wolves. And they didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms. Deep amber eyes watched me as I passed, scrutinizing my every step. My tigress perceived each small gesture—like the narrowing of eyes or the subtle raise of a hand—as a challenge.

“Don’t worry, Celia. They know better than to touch you.”

Koda’s tone told me his words were more a warning to them than words of comfort for me. He had my back. Between him and Aric, I didn’t feel alone. But that didn’t mean the situation bothered me any less.

We walked through another cluster of trees until it opened into a larger field. A fire had ravaged the area at some point, but the forest was reclaiming the land. Thick ferns grew beneath our feet, and saplings sprouted through the dense forest floor. And skipping across the field toward Aric was none other than Blondie, his date from the other night.

Her Victoria Beckham bob swayed picturesquely against her. And so did her damn boobs. She threw her arms around Aric’s neck. The same neck I’d had my arms around less than an hour ago. “Hey, baby. I knew you’d come.”

My jaw fell hard enough to splinter the twigs at my feet. My tigress wanted to rip her throat out with my human teeth. And yet my human side wanted to change and dart away. It hurt to see him with anyone.

Aric jerked his jaw to the side when she tried to kiss his lips and forcibly unclasped her hands from his neck. He stepped away. “I told you. It’s over.” He glanced over his shoulder. His hard scowl softened when he caught me watching. He held out his hand. “Come on, Celia. I want you with me.”

I walked to Aric’s side, neither too fast nor too slow, keeping my sights on the she-wolf. I tried not to react to her threatening glare—an easy task once Aric’s hand encompassed mine. He stiffened at the same time his soft warmth spread through my body. I studied our interlinked fingers. This connection between us seemed more tangible than mere body heat.

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