Cursed By Destiny Page 31

He didn’t look up from the chessboard. “Considering beings spawned from hell itself wish to annihilate you, I believe magical reinforcements are in order.” He lifted a knight. “Especially given that your beast grows restless if restricted and you find my bodyguards . . .”

“Annoying? Obnoxious? Rude?” I offered.

The edges of Misha’s mouth lifted, but he ignored my jabs at Hank and Tim. “The shields will help block any magical attacks while you’re off premises and keep you secure until help arrives.”

Misha placed the knight in front of one of my pawns. I knew the little guy was screwed, but not sure why. I couldn’t play chess; I barely managed checkers. Misha considered it an important skill, so I let him try to teach me. “I don’t get why you want me to learn this stuff.”

That earned me a full smile. “This stuff has helped leaders like Napoléon conquer Europe.”

“I just feel bad for the little guy.”

“Napoléon?”

“No, the pawn.”

“Kitten, the pawns are necessary sacrifices to win the game.”

“It’s just so unfair. Why doesn’t the knight or the king ever try to protect them?”

“They are more important and need to be spared. Do you not consider the president worth protecting, say, over a vagrant?”

“A vagrant would feel just as much pain if he were shot.”

Misha scrutinized me carefully. His hair cascaded over a silver-colored sweater that accentuated his powerful gray eyes and swathed his strong physique. He hadn’t said much since he’d left the guesthouse earlier. When he asked me to join him for a round of chess after dinner, I thought it was to finally iron out our differences. He’d spoken only a few words. I tilted my head, trying to figure him out.

Misha could be so very hard, like his body. I sometimes wished his master status would allow the gentleness of his soul to rise to the surface. But that wasn’t possible. Any sign of weakness invited an attack from another master. That meant bloodshed until only one master stood victorious.

I watched him take my pawn following my oh-so-strategic move and tucked my legs beneath me. “What’s up with the queen?”

“She is the most versatile.”

“She also seems to be the one in charge, even more so than the king.”

“A strong woman is capable of bringing even the most powerful male to his knees.”

I blinked back at him. “Are we still talking about chess?”

Misha ignored my question and instead he brushed his hair away from his face. “Tell me about your parents,” he said.

My legs slipped back to the floor. “What do you want to know?”

“How they came to be as one.”

I gripped the chair arms and forced myself to relax when I felt my claws protrude and dig into the heavy mahogany. “My mother was born in El Salvador. She was the youngest of seven children and moved to the States when she was about four.”

“An immigrant?”

I nodded.

“Like me?”

I smiled without humor. “No. Not like you. Being the youngest, and educated here, she became the most Americanized. She embraced the culture, fell in love with the music, and lost her accent completely. Her skin and eyes were lighter than the rest of her family and she was often mistaken for a Caucasian American. She was kind and funny.” A hint of anger found its way into my husky voice. “But her family didn’t like her much. I think they were jealous she managed to fit in so well while they continued to struggle.”

Misha abandoned the game and leaned back in his chair. “Success often breeds envy.”

“So it seems.” The subject of my parents was a touchy one at best. I forced myself to continue, reasoning that it was okay to tell Misha. He was a friend, right? “My mother met my father at Rutgers University their freshman year. My father was prelaw and my mother was a criminal justice major. They started talking and realized they had a lot in common. It wasn’t long before they began dating.”

“How did the families react to their union?”

“Not well. My father was of German descent and grew up in a small town near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His family didn’t know what to think of my mother. They were all light skinned and fair haired like Emme. My mother had wavy brown hair, olive skin, and green eyes.”

Misha smiled. “Like you.”

I bowed my head. “Yes. Taran remembers us looking a lot alike. But despite how my father’s family reacted, my mother’s was much worse.”

“In what manner?”

I didn’t answer. My nails had slowly punctured through the wooden chair. I splintered the wood trying to extract them. “God, I’m sorry. I’ll pay for it—”

Misha’s tone softened. “Do not worry about something so expendable. Please, finish your story.”

Tears burned across my irises despite my feeble attempts to halt them. “Th-they thought she had betrayed her race and disowned her. Shortly after my parents graduated, they married. My mother became pregnant with me right away. When my mother’s family found out, one of her crazy aunts showed up at her door and cursed my parents with short lives.” I stared at the pawns that were cast aside. “They died when I was nine.” I wanted to stop talking then, but I just couldn’t. Everything spilled from my lips in one breath. “She also hexed all of my mother’s unborn children. But the curse somehow backfired and . . . and made us what we are.”

Misha studied me closely. “Do you know the words your aunt used when she cast the spell?”

I considered his question. No one had ever asked me that before. “My mother said it was something like ‘Your children will devour blades and weep like weak and sickly runts. Animals will hunt them and pierce their flesh with fang and claw. They will burn with fire and hide from shame for nowhere will they find strength or love or kindness.’ There was more—” I brushed away my last tear. “But I forgot the rest.”

Misha frowned. “I’m surprised your mother shared the severity of the words with you.”

My head snapped up. “She wanted us to know. She felt we should always believe in ourselves regardless of what others might say or do.” I stood abruptly. “I’m glad she instilled that hope in us. It got us through the cruelty we were showered with all through school and helped us survive after they died.” I didn’t like how Misha regarded me with pity, and my harshening tone made it clear. “Don’t look at me like that, Misha—none of it matters now.” Still, the recollection had burned a hole through my chest.

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