Cursed By Destiny Page 10

Taran remained on edge. Emme clasped her arm and surrounded Taran with a soft yellow light, using the power of her healing to soothe her. It worked up until Liam opened his mouth. “Sorry about the syphilis, Taran.”

Shayna threw her hands in the air. “Dude—She doesn’t have syphilis!”

I grabbed Taran’s hand and motioned to the Mustang before she could gather her magic and set both Mrs. Mancuso’s house and Liam on fire. “Check out the new wheels.”

The car was a big hit. The guys examined it inside and out, and Bren even asked me to pop the hood. Taran actually fanned herself. “Damn, Celia. That’s one hot car.”

“I’m glad you like it.” I placed the keys in her hand. “Happy birthday, Taran.”

Taran grabbed my shoulders and shook me lightly. “Are you serious? How the hell can you afford this?”

“It’s actually from Misha.”

Misha slipped his arm around my waist and smiled. “It’s from both of us.”

Taran jumped up and down screaming, pretty damn impressive in her sleek high-heeled boots.

Koda frowned at Misha. “What’s the catch?”

The tension rose like a tidal wave. I inched my way between Misha and the wolves. “There’s no catch. It’s just a gift.”

Gemini, who was ordinarily quiet and passive, slipped between me and Misha to bellow a bladder-releasing growl in Misha’s face. “Taran is my mate. And she is not for sale.”

“I am not trying to purchase her, Gemini. I gave the car to Celia. She chose to gift it to Taran.” Misha’s voice sounded calm, but it often did before he struck. Hank appeared beside his master, cracking his knuckles when he balled his hands into tight and ready fists.

I pushed myself between Misha and Gemini while Taran pulled at Gem’s arm. “Damn it, baby. Please don’t do this. It’s my birthday,” she urged.

Gemini rubbed at his goatee, clearly agitated, stopping his onslaught at the sight of Taran’s plea-riddled face. He took one of those deep, controlled breaths that helped settle a were’s beast, then another before finally speaking. “If this is what you want, Taran, I won’t deny you.”

Gem regained his calmer disposition, but being were, it wouldn’t last. I could have kicked my own ass for bringing Misha, especially knowing the wolves would be present, and especially on Taran’s birthday. I turned to him. “Maybe you should go. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” I hated asking him to leave. He hadn’t done anything wrong, but I didn’t want any more drama.

“As you wish, my darling.”

Koda and Liam growled. When I’d been with Aric, they’d always teased us when he showed me affection. They didn’t seem to appreciate Misha’s term of endearment or the peck on the cheek he gave me before climbing into the Hummer. Of course, Misha wouldn’t be Misha without leaving with a bang. He rolled down the window and flashed me a wicked grin with a little added fang. “Don’t forget to present Taran with her other gift, kitten. I’m sure she’ll enjoy it as much as her new car.”

Taran’s lids peeled back. “What other gift?” She likely wondered what could top the car.

I hurried to pop the trunk to retrieve the sticky buns. “Umm . . . we’ll talk about it inside.” Oh, geez. Between the attempt on my life and Misha’s ideas of gift giving, there were loads to talk about.

There were several containers of sticky buns. Shayna hefted the one on top into her arms, and Koda carried the remaining five. He blocked my path before I could follow Shayna. “Celia, Aric has been depressed as shit lately. He disappeared last night, furious that someone tried to kill you. When he returned he looked more beat down than ever. I’m worried about him.” He motioned to the stack in his hands. “If there’re extras, would you mind if I take them back to him? It might remind him of better times.”

They reminded me of better times, too. “You can, but I don’t want to cause problems between him and Barbara.”

Koda gave me a hard stare. “There is no him and Barbara. He’s only marrying that egotistical princess because the Elders are forcing him to. Anara especially has come down hard on him—believing another pureblood is just what Aric needs.” He lowered his head when he caught a whiff of my sadness. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have brought up the wedding.”

I looked toward the lake. “I know it’s coming. Barbara sent me an invitation to her bridal shower.” I failed to mention she’d also stuffed a photo of herself dressed in the lingerie she planned to wear on their wedding night with the caption JEALOUS? written in black marker across the bottom. The picture had made me ill. Between that and the wedding invite, I was sure the baby announcements were next. My fists clenched and unclenched. I couldn’t imagine ever being so mean to someone.

Koda lifted his chin. “She did?” I nodded. “I wouldn’t put it past her. She’s always had a vicious streak.” He watched me for several beats. “Aric can barely stomach her. He knows she only wants him for his status among our kind and that she doesn’t care that he’s miserable. If it weren’t for his pack obligations, he’d have nothing to do with her.”

The future that awaited Aric broke my heart. Whether we were together or not, I wanted him to be happy. “I wish the Elders would have chosen someone more to his liking.”

Koda huffed. “Anara didn’t choose Barbara for Aric. He chose her because she comes from a long line of fertile purebloods. Anara’s focus is to help reestablish the were race at all costs. If he or the other Elders gave a damn what Aric wanted, they’d allow him to be with you. You’re who he wants. And you’re who he needs.”

I closed my lids tight, not wanting to release more tears. My tigress rose to the surface, giving me much needed courage, despite how much she missed Aric’s wolf. “We both know that’s not going to happen.” I walked slowly around Koda and into the house. He mumbled a curse and followed me.

My sisters were taking the food out of the oven and placing it along the black and tan granite counter when we entered the kitchen. Bren and Liam met me with smirks and implicit challenges. It was a game my fellow ravenous beasts and I frequently played at chow time. I smiled despite myself. It was great to be around those I loved and who loved me back. The Catholic schoolgirls weren’t cutting it.

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