Cursed By Destiny Page 17

I’d taken the day off to spend with my family. The giant maggot fiasco and my sisters’ prompt escort to the Den made sure that wasn’t possible. My tigress was restless and feeling claustrophobic. I needed to get off the premises before I killed someone—starting with Hank—and to avoid any of Misha’s magic “lessons.” Of course, Hank caught me. And of course, he told Misha.

“Master,” he called over his shoulder. “Celia is trying to leave.”

Misha stepped out onto the terrace that ran the length of his suite, with the half-naked Virginia fastened to his neck. The sexcapades just never ended in the land of the undead. “Do you feel that’s wise, my darling?”

Virginia’s hands slipped from Misha. If scathing looks could strip, I’d have been standing there in my thong. I ignored her and spoke to Misha. “Ying-Ying is checking for any magical murdering devices. Aren’t you, Ying-Ying?”

Ying-Ying levitated in a lotus pose over and around the silver Lexus LFA Misha had assigned to me, yodeling in Mandarin. My sadistic yoga instructor specialized in extreme contortion and torture devices she claimed would help my flexibility. Mostly they just scared me. Her body circled around the car twice more before she glided down the hood and onto her feet. She said something in Mandarin before laughing psychotically and patting my back, something she often did during our sessions.

Misha nodded. “Very well. Your vehicle appears to be secured and the wards have just been reinforced against any magical assaults. You may leave.”

I gave Hank a little pinkie wave before sashaying toward the Lexus, only to have Hank and Tim block my way. “Of course,” Misha continued. “Not without escorts.”

Misha insisted I take Hank and Tim with me. I insisted that I not. We argued for a bit and I ended up winning—sort of. Having picked up some of Shayna’s driving techniques, I took off on my own and lost his vampires when they tried to follow.

On my way to Incline Village, I called Taran to tell her where I was headed in the hopes she and our sisters would join me. I left a message on her voice mail when she didn’t answer.

I pulled into the trendy town of young hip professionals just to have lunch, only to be greeted by outdoor tents set up by vendors. Ski season remained in full swing and business owners were taking advantage of the tourist rush. I found one of the last spots on the street and slipped out of the supercar. Couples meandered on the streets in thick sweaters and with steaming lattes in their hands. Across the street a Japanese chef handed out kabobs of sizzling steak, chicken, and vegetables with a happy grin. He could so teach Misha’s chef a thing or two.

My tigress craved sushi. I obliged her and crossed the street. After lunch, I strolled along the rows of tents and checked out the merchandise. Most consisted of touristy type T-shirts and apparel I didn’t care for. I did find a stand that sold jewelry, and picked up a few earrings for my sisters. As the sidewalks grew more crowded, I decided it was time to head back to the land of the living dead and horny.

I took a shortcut through the rows and discovered a merchant selling large bouquets of flowers. When we lived together, Aric bought me fresh flowers every week. I thought of him as I selected the perfect arrangement of white lilies and orange roses. I’d just paid for them when I scented a werewolf standing next to me.

She was a few inches taller and wore a dark red sweater and tan slacks. Her skin was fair and her pure white hair cut into a stylish bob. I thought she was pretty and carried a certain elegance. There was also something familiar about her eyes, but I couldn’t determine what without staring. I assumed she caught my scent, because she turned to me.

She smiled kindly. “Good afternoon, dear.”

Wow. Talk about polite. Usually, I received challenging or strange looks from weres when they caught my scent. I smiled. “Good afternoon.”

“Those are pretty flowers you have there.”

“Thank you. I like the orange—” I stopped speaking when the strong clean scent of water crashing over stones cut through the aroma of ferns and exotic arrangements. As Aric approached, I realized why the other wolf’s eyes had looked so familiar. They were the same eyes she’d passed on to her son.

His expression softened when he saw me. I hadn’t expected to see him again so soon, and despite the problems between us, an overwhelming sense of joy stirred inside me. Aric’s steps slowed as he neared and as he took me in from the top of my loose flowing locks to my chocolate boots. A warm smile spread across his face, minimizing the signs of his sleeplessness. “Hello, Celia,” he said.

At the sound of my name, the other werewolf’s eyes widened. My heart drummed frantically against my chest and my tigress leapt to attention. “Hi, Aric.”

Aric’s long hair slightly darkened his beautiful light brown eyes, and his ever present five o’clock shadow was thicker; he’d probably skipped a day without shaving. But despite the small traces of fatigue that lingered, his facial features remained just as strong, just as handsome, just as sexy. I cocked my head to the side. The tension and the circumstances from the other night hadn’t allowed me the luxury of admiring my wolf. But I did then, and drank every inch of him in. Aric in turn stepped closer, staring at me in the way that made my toes curl.

If the other wolf hadn’t elbowed Aric subtly, I’m certain we would have stood there much longer. He cleared his throat. “Celia, this is my mother, Eliza Connor.”

All of a sudden, I was eight again. My cheeks blushed feverishly while I shuffled my feet. “Hi, Mrs. Connor,” I mumbled.

When they both grinned at me, I realized Aric had also inherited her smile. Eliza placed her hand on my shoulder and gave me a gentle squeeze. “It’s so nice to finally meet you, Celia.”

We’d spoken a few times on the phone, but I hadn’t recognized her voice. I should have. It was just as kind and lovely as it had always been. “It’s nice to meet you, too. Will you be in Tahoe long?”

The cheer faded from their faces. “No,” Eliza said quietly. “I don’t plan to stay more than a few days.”

A horrible emptiness threatened to tear my chest wide open. I realized why she was there. “You’re here for the wedding.”

A sense of foreboding swept around us, reminding Aric of the albatross that awaited him and robbing him of the pleasure that had so briefly enlivened his striking face. Eliza watched him, her expression void of the happiness she’d initially demonstrated. She reached out to touch his arm and glanced back at me.

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