Sealed with a Curse Page 36

The corner of Aric’s mouth curved. “No. After you.”

I stepped between them. “How about we walk together?” Because that wasn’t masochistic or anything.

I kept my focus ahead, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t feel the heat between the ultimate preternatural stare-down taking place on either side of me. “Ah, just as a reminder, my house is neutral territory, so neither of you can, like, dismember each other and…stuff.” At least, that’s what I hoped the friggin’ treaty said. Up until the last week I hadn’t been curious enough to ask to read it. Now it seemed I should have requested a notarized copy and taken notes.

Good gravy, my words did nothing to ease the tension. If Misha could have changed, I imagined he’d take on the form of a king cobra, mostly because of the hypnotic cadence of his voice. “Only an ignorant mongrel would dare insult you in your home, my sweet kitten.”

Aric’s widening smile made me whimper. “Or a bloodsucking leech who’s too much of a pansy to fight his own battles.” His smile dropped. “And don’t call Celia your damn kitten.”

My hands clasped their arms as I encouraged them—rather forcibly—to separate further. “Let’s sit, okay?” I said, unable to suppress the growing hysteria in my voice.

Aric picked up the overturned chair for me, but Misha yanked it from his loose grasp and held it out so I could sit. Aric nudged his way through to push it in for me, giving Misha ample time to grab the other chair. “I fear you’ll have to stand for the remaining feast. Then again, perhaps you’d prefer to eat from the floor on all fours?”

Aric didn’t blink. Instead he leaped onto the porch swing, landing so his long legs stretched out toward Misha and his back lay against the armrest…side by side with me. “No worries, Meesh.” His hand rubbed my back affectionately, sending warm tingles ricocheting along my spine. “I have all I need right here.”

I adjusted my napkin over my lap as Taran stuck her head out. “Celia, did you…” Her head whipped to Aric, then Misha, before one of her siren grins crept out. “Aw, hell. It’s either feast or famine, huh, Ceel?” Taran didn’t wait for me to answer. She went inside, slamming the door shut behind her. Except it did little to muffle her uproarious laughter.

I’d like to say the salad portion of the meal was filled with quiet, polite conversation. But pissing contests seldom are, even to the beat of “Canon in D” played via orchestra.

“What troubles you, mutt? Flea prevention not up to par?”

“Don’t get testy, bat boy. It’s not my fault you’ve run out of prom queens to devirginize.”

“Wit is not your forte, dog. Stick to what you know—drooling, scratching, and licking body parts typically unreachable.”

“Damn, you are pissed. Did one of the angry villagers leave a pitchfork rammed up your ass, Drac?”

Okay, this is fun. The breeze from the lake pushed a loose curl against my chin. I unclipped my hair to straighten it. My long tresses fell around me in a big, tangled mess. I used my fingers to comb through the strands. As I twisted it back into place, I noticed silence had fallen along the porch.

Aric and Misha watched me with deep fascination. I turned around, expecting Ana Clara to be pole dancing against one of the pillars behind me. She wasn’t. She stood near the steps, adjusting the straps on her four-inch shoes and appearing bored. I turned back slowly. After years of having men ignore me or step away in fear, how the hell had I caught the interest of two very sexy males…with fangs and sharp claws?

I adjusted my position in the chair nervously, grateful when the waiter and Ana Clara appeared with plates of roasted boar piled high over garlic potatoes and vegetables.

Aric sniffed his food. “Hmm. Smells great.” He yanked Misha’s plate away and replaced it with his.

Misha quirked a brow. Ana Clara appeared and stole the plate away before Misha could take a bite. “Excuse me, Master, but I’d seasoned it more for the mongrel’s taste.” She handed it to Hank over the railing; he quickly dumped the plate and the entire contents in the trash. Arsenic, she mouthed before disappearing to get Misha more food.

I stopped with a forkful of food inches from my mouth. Aric winked. “It’s okay, Celia. Yours is fine.”

I pushed my plate away, just to be cautious. Misha scowled, blaming my sudden lack of appetite on Aric, of course. ’Cause heaven forbid he’d point his finger at “Fifi,” his arsenic-toting Catholic schoolgirl. “Celia wouldn’t have hesitated had you not interrupted our lovely dinner.”

Aric peered through the family room window. “Huh. It would have been lovelier in the house. Oh…but then I guess that’s not possible, since she didn’t invite your unholy carcass in.” He took a bite of his food. “Good. Very good. Still, not as delicious as your meatballs and sauce, Celia.”

I knew what Aric was trying to pull. And yet my tigress went into “aw, shucks” mode.

Misha seethed before relaxing into his chair. His composed demeanor worried me more than his anger. “Ah, the mutt knows how to charm the ladies.” He chuckled as he regarded me. “Yet I am not surprised. Surely after the multitude of females he’s bedded in his young life, he’s learned many a way to entice those he wishes to conquer.”

Multitude?

Misha’s frostbite stare shifted to Aric. “And they all have been of your race—purebloods, in fact. What a pity your Elders forbid you from courting a non-were.”

“At least none of them have been young enough to be my great-great-great-great-granddaughter, you creepy bastard.”

All humor dissolved from Aric’s face as he took in the hurt causing me to recoil like a wilted rose. A frigid cold swept throughout my body, freezing my muscles against my bones. Misha had accused Aric of “bedding” a lot of females. And Aric hadn’t denied it. Knowing the mass of na**d flesh he’d touched caused my insecurities to dig a hole into my sternum until my heart threatened to pull apart like boiled meat. Worse yet, the females he’d slept with all shared common traits. They had all been of his kind. They had all been of pure blood. And none had been anything like me.

Had that been the true reason he’d failed to call me?

Aric dropped his fork with a loud clang against the table. He swung his legs onto the floor, preparing, I believed, to pounce on Misha. So his soft voice and the gentle touch of his hands on mine threw me for a loop. “Listen to me, Celia. My kind is in the best position it’s been in for centuries. The purebloods are plentiful and continue to have large families. I shouldn’t be held under the same constraint.” He narrowed his eyes at Misha. “Despite what my Elders say.”

The corners of Misha’s mouth angled into a malicious smile. “To anger your Elders is to risk tremendous repercussions, mutt.”

“My problem. Not yours, parasite.”

A white limo sped into our development, screeching to a halt behind Aric’s Escalade. Petro’s driver rushed to open the door for him. Good Lord, Petro trembled so badly he needed help rising from the car.

My gaze cut to Misha. “He’s getting worse,” he mumbled to me. Petro tried to hurry up the steps, but his shaking made his movements awkward. Still, he smiled pleasantly upon seeing me. “Good evening, Celia. Forgive me for interrupting.” His smile faltered when he addressed Misha. “My brother, our grand master is…displeased. He demands a conference call at your residence and requests that all in our family be present.”

I rose slowly. “Why your residence?”

Misha tossed his napkin onto the table and stood. “Uri will likely use the large video screen in my home to assess the condition of our keep. I fear he believes bloodlust remains present within our family.” After all Misha had endured, his master should have demonstrated a little more kindness—especially for how devoted Misha appeared to be to him. Then again, should I have expected more from a grand master? “Misha, if you need me to speak on your behalf—”

“No.” Misha’s voice deepened over Aric’s growling protests. “I would prefer my master to know as little about you and your sisters as possible.”

“Okay, Misha.” I gave him plenty of room to pass, hoping he wouldn’t try to kiss my hand, or any other body part. He smiled, but his haste to meet with his master made him behave. Well, sort of.

“Good night, my sweet kitten.” He nodded to Aric. “May mange leave you bald and infertile, mongrel.”

“Run along, blood licker; the master calls,” Aric growled.

“A word of caution, canine.” He winked my way. “She bites.”

My face burned under Aric’s scrutiny. Of course, Misha wouldn’t be Misha without one more dig. He motioned as if lifting a phone receiver. Call me, he mouthed before stepping into his limo.

I watched the limos speed away, knowing my guardian angel’s problems were far from over.

CHAPTER 24

Aric pulled into the parking lot of the research facility where Danny waited for our arrival. I pointed to the right corner. “Park on that side. It’s closest to the lab where Danny works.”

The tension between us remained. Though Aric continued to appear interested in me, knowing most of his pack didn’t approve of our interaction made me wonder if anything between us was possible. I didn’t want a mere one-night stand. Whenever I saw him, I desired so much more.

I opened my door when he parked, but he pulled it the rest of the way before I stepped out, reminding me just how fast he could move “Chivalry’s not dead, you know,” he said with a wink.

“I’ve noticed.” I slid out, working hard to appear tigress smooth, not dorky-teen awkward. “Thank you for looking out for me when Malika broke free.”

“About that…I want you to stay away from this situation. You’ve been lucky so far, but your lack of knowledge about the supernatural world could lead to your downfall.”

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