Cursed By Destiny Page 36

Aric and I always went to bed fully dressed, though it never lasted. Before meeting him, I used to be highly protective of my personal space. But once we were together, physical distance failed to exist between us. I always woke with his arms around me. Sometimes I faced him; other times my back was to him; there were also days when he lay on top of me—exactly where he’d fallen asleep. Regardless of the position, it always felt right. I’d only ever known true peace in his arms.

With Barbara having moved on to the next pureblood she could sink her fangs into, I’d begun to fantasize more and more about making love to Aric. When I’d last spoke to Liam, he told me my encounter with the demon had pushed Aric to his breaking point and that he’d gone berserk trying to hunt down the Tribe in order to keep me safe. My touch, my presence, my body could soothe him and humanize his wolf again. I had no doubt.

The problem remained, though: sex wouldn’t extinguish Aric’s pack obligations or make the Tribe go away. It would calm his beast temporarily, yes, but our human sides would ultimately suffer. The kiss we’d shared at Shayna and Koda’s wedding stemmed from longing and the desperation to be with each other. It hadn’t solved anything. And it hurt so much afterward when we parted. If we made love, it would only reopen those horrible wounds from our first breakup. So then what?

The fluttering of wings interrupted my thoughts. A beautiful snow white owl landed on the low limb of the nearest tree. My tigress woke up. She probably wondered why this nocturnal bird had taken to flight during the day.

It stared at me. Its head tilted at an inquisitive angle, its round yellow eyes unblinking. A breeze blew softly, allowing me to catch the owl’s aroma. It smelled of feathers, dry leaves, and pine trees. There was also the vaguest hint of something else. I took a deep breath, trying to figure it out. Hmm, is it . . . copper?

The owl flapped its broad wings and landed on a withered log next to me. The smell of copper intensified, quite subtle but unmistakable. My tigress didn’t like the bird so close and grew uneasy. I concentrated on blocking its spirit in case it continued to advance. It turned its head toward me and opened its beak.

“Celia Wird,” it said in a demonic voice.

The cocking of guns snapped me out of my shock. I dove off the side of the cliff as a stream of bullets littered the sky. I shifted to break my fall and surfaced behind a large boulder, where I poked my head around. The owl flew around at an unholy speed, dodging the spray of bullets from the snipers in the helicopter. It flew toward the horizon, continuing to chant, “Celia Wird. Celia Wird. Celia Wird,” until it disappeared into the sun.

The helicopter didn’t follow, veering back. Misha’s vampires had found me. Hank paced at the cliff’s edge swearing like a maniac. Tim also yelled, his fingers gripping his bald head. “Mother’s ass, what the hell are we going to tell the master?”

Another vamp appeared and looked out over the cliff. He shrugged. “The truth. You killed Celia.”

There was a disturbing gurgling sound as Tim grabbed the vamp by the throat. The vamp foamed at the mouth when Tim tightened his grip and shook him. “I did not! That crazy bitch jumped off the cliff.”

I stepped into view. “The crazy bitch jumped because you jackasses fired at me!”

Tim dropped the vamp down the side of the hill. He rolled with flailing limbs as more vamps rushed to the edge. They were all initially shocked to see me still alive, then relieved, and finally royally pissed off. In a flash, both Tim and Hank were in my face. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Tim hollered. “Do you have any idea what the master would have done to us if Drago killed you?”

“Drago?”

“Yes, Drago,” Hank snapped. “Taking on a shape-shifter is just plain suicide!”

I glanced back at the horizon like an idiot. “That owl was a shape-shifter?”

Hank and Tim just shook their heads at me, probably wondering how I tied my own shoes.

“Would you stop looking at me that way? I’m not stupid! I didn’t grow up in the supernatural community—there’s still a lot I don’t know.”

“No kidding,” Hank muttered.

He crumpled to the ground when I kicked him hard in the shins. “That’s for insulting me and being involved in that stupid bet.” I turned to glare at Tim. He took a step back. “Tell me about Drago.”

Tim scowled but did as I demanded. “He’s one of the oldest and deadliest of the shape-shifters. He’s rumored to have made tens of thousands of blood sacrifices in order to gain his ability. He usually takes the form of a winged creature—that’s why we think it was him.”

“He smelled like a bird.”

Tim rolled his eyes at me. “That’s because shape-shifters assume the scent of whatever they change into. Their only constant underlying aroma is copper.”

Okay, so I was right about the copper. “He watched me for a while. If he’s so deadly, why didn’t he just kill me?”

Hank staggered to his feet. Tim rolled his eyes at him this time and continued. “He’s likely heard about you, too. The only reason you’re still alive is he probably thought you weren’t worth killing.”

“Why?”

Walt, another vamp, descended the hill. “She’s not very bright, is she?” He talked about me as if I wasn’t even there. He was one of Misha’s newer vampires and spent most of his time trying to buddy up to Hank and Tim. It didn’t work, and I didn’t appreciate him trying to earn a laugh at my expense.

Tim looked from Walt to me. “I suppose he didn’t recognize you as a challenge.”

Although the Drago creep had wigged me out, I couldn’t help feeling slighted. “Why the hell not?”

Walt chuckled. “Because you’re not. Near as I can figure, you’re the master’s charity case.”

“Excuse me?” My hackles rose and a growl built deep in my core. The vampires in general weren’t exactly kind to me, but this loser had just catapulted right over the piss-me-off line.

Hank and Tim knowingly took a step back from us, then another. Walt’s smirk told me my inner beast had failed to intimidate him. He circled me, eyeing me like he wanted to take a bite. “I think for once your idiocy worked to your advantage.”

My claws protruded as I felt him stalk around me. I wasn’t scared. But he should have been. “You insult my intelligence one more time, Walt, and I swear I’ll rip your arms off.”

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