Cursed By Destiny Page 37

Walt loomed over me, bending his large frame to bare his fangs near my throat. “You forget yourself, Celia. You may be the master’s plaything, but I am a member of his family. He would understand if I was forced to kill you in self-defense.”

• • •

“So what was Walt trying to say before?” I asked Tim in the car.

Tim shifted nervously in his seat. “Ah, because you didn’t know what Drago was, you didn’t know enough to be afraid. He gets off on fear and pain. You failed to demonstrate either and therefore failed to excite him. And since you didn’t attack, he didn’t see you as an immediate threat.”

I sat back against the black leather seat and adjusted my legs. “Drago called me by name. How is it that shape-shifters know me, too? I’ve done some damage, but not enough to get this level of attention.”

Hank stopped trying to wipe Walt’s blood off his polyester suit. I didn’t like the grave expression that fell over his face. “For whatever reason, all the dark ones have gotten wind of you, Celia. Shit, I don’t know why.” He exchanged glances with Tim. “But someone has obviously told them about you and sent them your way.”

“Misha said I’m supposedly the key to destroying one of the dark ones. I assumed it was the Tribe, since that’s the group I’ve been training to kill. Now, after this, I’m not so certain.”

Tim shook his head. “It could still be the Tribe. They and the shape-shifters deal with hell all the time. Tribemasters because they’re fathered by demons, and shape-shifters since, well, they carry the power of hell within them.”

This was not the pep talk I needed. My fright likely played across my face like my own personal march to death row. All I needed was an impending-doom sound track.

Hank and Tim stared back at me with empathy—well, as much as they were capable of. Hank even tried to make me feel better . . . in his own Hank-ish way. “Consider it a compliment. You’re a mutant who’s kicked a lot of ass.”

I slipped out of the car the moment we pulled into Misha’s compound. The Catholic schoolgirls immediately surrounded me. Maria sucked on a lollipop suggestively. “Celia, we are going to de Naughty Time Boutique. Want to come?”

Considering the company, the destination, and the bet they’d made, I didn’t have to think twice. “No, thanks.”

Edith stepped back so one of the vampires could haul Walt out of the other car. “Oh, but, Celia, it’s such a fun place. It’s more than just lingerie. They have games and toys.”

“Uhh, it’s not really my thing.”

The trunk popped open and someone retrieved Walt’s arms.

“Here.” Tim handed Liz a few bills. “Pick up some edible underwear for me. Two of my regulars really enjoy them.”

“What flavor?”

“I think they like strawberry.”

“Crotch or no crotch?”

“I don’t care. Surprise me.”

Agnes adjusted her glasses and scowled at me. “What’s with you?”

Hank answered. “She was approached by Drago.” The girls all gasped. “And he knows her by name.”

I was bombarded with questions. The commotion ground to a halt when a certain someone spoke out in a deadly voice. “And just how did that interaction take place if she was in the company of so many escorts?” Misha asked.

It took a lot of begging and pleading, but no one was killed. Well, except for Walt, but he was annoying anyway. It helped that Misha was both distracted and disturbed by Drago’s familiarity with me. At his request, I followed him inside and into the great room. We sat beside each other, facing the fireplace. He was unusually quiet. His fingertips touched in a praying position while his elbows remained on his lap. His unease worsened mine. I was sort of counting on him to raise my spirits.

Virginia entered carrying a large tray of food. She placed it on the table beside me and knelt before Misha. She unbuttoned her blouse and exposed her neck, along with one and a half br**sts. Misha continued to stare straight ahead. “Not now, Virginia.”

She left without bothering to button her blouse, yet her lack of modesty wasn’t what needled me. Virginia knew the vampires had been ordered not to feed in front of me. The fact that she offered herself to Misha while I sat next to him was her way of telling me I didn’t matter.

“I had expected those who oppose us to become aware of you and your sisters,” Misha finally said. “And the magnitude of your collective power.”

I fought to keep my claws from protruding. “You think whoever is after me will go after my sisters?”

“Once it eliminates you, yes.” He paused and angled his head toward the large picture window. The breeze from the lake increased, hard enough to slap the branches of the closest fir against the pane. He rose from his chair and pushed open the thick lead glass. I followed him, watching as he lowered his lids and inhaled the mesmeric aroma of Tahoe’s magic. He nodded subtly, as if listening to a conversation. I mimicked his movements and strained my ears to hear . . . Nothing, just the wind, the flicker of branches, the light snow that swept up to splatter the glass.

When Misha acknowledged me, his beautiful face contorted with worry. “You remain the key to its end, Celia—not your sisters. This . . . enemy is convinced you will see to its destruction . . . and to those who follow it.”

My head spun, searching for what or who he could mean. A shape-shifter? Likely not. No one seemed to think I could kill one on my own. And how would killing one stop those that remained? A Tribemaster was more likely, but I’d have to kill a hell of a lot more to put an end to their reign. I ran a hand through my hair. Crap. This was not the uplifting talk I’d been hoping for. “How can I stop an invisible enemy? And how the hell could I possibly be the key?”

Misha took my hands and squeezed them. “I don’t know. But until we learn more of what seeks you, you are not to attend another mission.” I nodded, remaining quiet and lost in my thoughts. Misha lifted my chin to meet his face. “If it fears you, that means you can and will destroy it.”

Yeah, I thought. Unless it kills me first.

• • •

Misha let me drive to Dollar Point in the reinforced Ying-Ying mobile without escorts. It must have packed a hell of a punch if he deemed me safe to ride alone. Fear tensed my shoulders and threatened to chew on me like a bag of tortilla chips. I reached for my tigress, refusing to let it cripple me. Misha was right. If this unknown predator considered me such a menace, then maybe I could overcome it. As for the shape-shifters, I believed Tim was right. Drago and his pals likely didn’t see me as a threat . . . for now.

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