Cursed By Destiny Page 29

“Celia.” Liz said my name like I was some kind of simpleton. “Maria is suggesting a way to make amends with the master.”

I crossed my arms. “So an apology would just be out of the question?”

Edith Anne threw her hands in the air. “Oh, hell, Celia. Nothing says I’m sorry like a little—”

“Stop right there, Edith.”

“I’m just saying—”

“I don’t want you to finish your thought. Trust me, nothing you say will make what you’re asking of me more tempting.”

Misha hadn’t apologized for being so cold to me. Then again, I hadn’t apologized for ripping him a new one in front of everyone. I considered us even. He obviously didn’t. The underlying tension between us continued over the next week. When we’d met for breakfast, neither of us spoke or made eye contact. I couldn’t stand the awkwardness. I ate quickly and left without a word. On my way to the dojang, the Catholic schoolgirls stopped me in the garden.

“Come now, Celia. You have to do something,” Agnes Concepción demanded. “At least walk around naked for a while.”

“You really expect me to walk around naked for him?”

Agnes scowled. “Fine. You can wear shoes if you’d like.”

I rubbed my eyes and begged God for patience and guidance. In my mind, I envisioned Him dropping a stake from the sky. He had His limits, too.

Liz tugged on the sleeve of my sweatshirt. “I have a cute pair of Cinderella shoes you can borrow,” she offered.

Edith nodded with determination. “I think we should all do it. It will please the master.” She raised a fist in the air. “For the master.”

They continued to excitedly discuss the matter as I continued on the path. Misha’s estate was beautiful, elegant, and decorated with hand-carved mission furniture, expensive leathers, and magnificent sculptures and paintings. It was the vision of a gifted architect who would probably keel over if she knew it housed a bunch of horny nutcases.

I’d reached the fork in the slate walkway. The right branched out toward the guesthouse overlooking the lake. The other took me deep into Misha’s wooded property where the dojang lay hidden amid an Asian garden surrounded by dense fir trees. I’d just veered left when something shattered a third-floor window and crashed onto the snow-covered lawn near my feet.

I leapt aside with my claws out. A vampire landed and rolled like a giant baseball. I gathered Misha was the “bat” who’d swung. The vampire groaned and tipped onto his back. I tried not to react as his dangling eye slowly crept back into his skull. It didn’t work. Ew.

The vamp poked his eye a few times—I presumed to make sure it was all the way back home. “The master is not in a good mood,” he said.

“I can tell.” I tried to haul him up by his arm. It would have worked if it was still attached to his body. He scrambled upright and accepted the appendage. “Thanks.” He stepped toward the front of the house, pausing to glance over his shoulder. “Try not to piss him off, Celia.”

First the schoolgirls and their Oral Pep Talk, and now this swing and miss.

A growl rumbled deep in my chest. If Misha’s attempt was to intimidate, he picked the wrong gal. I stormed down the path and up the stairs to the dojang. I abandoned my sneakers in the foyer and slid back the woven bamboo wall. The soothing warmth of the brightly lit room greeted me like a friend. A friend who liked to nut-punch when you’d least expected. The light wood flooring and soothing aromas of the shelved orchids, jasmine, and dahlias suggested this was a place where one could find inner peace and tranquillity. I’d quickly learned it doubled as a torture facility.

When Misha first told me I would spend several hours a week doing yoga as part of my training sessions, I thought he was nuts. Martial arts I understood, cardio was a given, weight training, ditto, but yoga? I hated to admit how right he had been. My flexibility had improved and I’d become more aware of my body. Yoga had taught me and my tigress to move more like the preternatural creature we were. I could flip, land, and pounce better than ever. That being said, I hated the training. Ying-Ying, my yoga master from planet Whoop Yo Ass, often subjected me to hours of grueling stretches. Today, I managed to bypass the Gumby routine for a day of martial arts training aka a trip to the emergency room.

I bowed to Kuan Jang Nim Chang. A white gi covered his rotund figure and a wide grin took up most of his round face. The five-foot-tall barbaric bastard returned my bow, then rubbed his hands the way villains did in movies. If he had a mustache, he’d twirl that, too. Seriously, he scared the shit out of me.

He ranted about something and gestured frantically. But Chang wouldn’t let something like a little language barrier stop him from brightening my day. His specialty was tae kwon do, but he was also a hapkido and a muay thai master. He directed me to the rear of the dojang. Spurts of his mysticism flickered from the soles of his feet as he hurried to where my stoning—I mean, training exercise—awaited.

The pile of bricks in the center of the room should’ve tipped me off. The day’s fun consisted of repeatedly breaking bricks with my ridge hand and instep. It wasn’t enough to hold them in place and break them. Oh, no. He thought it would be more effective to throw them at me. The little bitch had lousy aim. I kept leaping out of the way to keep my toes from being crushed. I didn’t speak Korean and screaming at him in English didn’t get me anywhere. He just gibbered on with a big smile on his face. He could’ve been reciting the Korean version of the Sesame Street theme song for all I knew.

I’d been born “weird,” but I never thought my life would turn as whacked-out as this. “There’s something wrong with you,” I snapped.

He paused and pointed to the extra-large brick in his hand. “Tribe coming for you,” he said in broken English. He gave me a stiff nod for emphasis, then pitched the brick at my face with a jolly grin.

• • •

I had just showered and was soaking my brick-bashed hands in ice when someone knocked on my door. I was surprised to find Misha there with a little elderly woman. She was dressed from head to toe in black and carried a giant wicker basket covered in red cloth.

He smiled. “May we come in?”

Although vampires needed to ask permission before entering another person’s dwelling, technically he didn’t have to ask since the guesthouse was part of his domain. Regardless, I appreciated his attempt at being polite. Maybe he’d started to come around. “Sure. Make yourselves at home.”

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