Cursed By Destiny Page 47

“Yes,” he answered in a hoarse whisper.

CHAPTER 18

I laughed a little. “You didn’t let me finish.”

“I know.”

Aric’s gaze was so intense, my mouth tried to remember how to speak. “Will you sit with me, even for a little while?”

His crooked smile held more mischief then I’d ever seen. “Oh, that. Sure, I could do that.”

Aric had expected me to ask him to do more than just sit and chat. I tugged at my bottom lip nervously with my teeth. He released the softest of groans. I staggered away before I succumbed to the urge to rip off my clothes and his. He followed close behind me, placing his hand on the small of my back when we entered the ballroom. My body stiffened with surprise. Perhaps he wanted to present me as his, but the rest of his kind clearly wasn’t ready to receive me.

Glares and whispers followed us as we made our way to where my sisters and friends waited.

“Problem?” Aric asked a werebear who shot us a particularly nasty scowl.

The bear dropped his gaze, but his bitter words cut us both. “We’re counting on you to keep our species from dying out, Aric. I haven’t turned my back on my responsibilities and neither should you.”

The she-bear next to him idly rubbed her small pregnant belly. She didn’t acknowledge us, or her partner. They were together, but not a couple—pures, I assumed, brought together by obligation, and not by love.

I hurried ahead, giving Aric ample space to change his mind and return to his pack. He paused briefly. The aroma of his rising frustration and anger reached my nose from afar. His warmth also reached my skin when he’d caught up to me. He didn’t want to abandon me. It should have thrilled me. Instead guilt warred with my happiness, making it difficult to relax once we reached my table.

Unlike the weres we passed, our loved ones greeted us with warm and pleased smiles. Gemini nodded at me, giving me the impression he sensed a different quality to Aric’s beast.

Liam pulled Emme on his lap so Aric could sit next to me. I crossed my legs and adjusted my skirt. Taran motioned to Aric when she caught him staring at my legs.

“You don’t have to be here,” I told him. “I’ll understand if you can’t stay.”

“I don’t want to leave you. We’ve been apart enough.”

I pursed my lips. “Not wanting to” and “having to” were two different things. I squirmed uncomfortably. The werebear was proof I’d been foolish to ask Aric to accompany me, especially here among the elite of his pack.

Danny arrived, interrupting Aric, who seemed to want to say more. My longtime friend shook, and breathed as if he’d been chasing cars.

“Where have you been?” I asked, worried something had happened to him.

Danny coughed into his hand. “Um. Heidi is on security detail. I, ah, just went to bring her something to eat.” It was then I noticed his wrinkled shirt and that the buttons weren’t lined up correctly. He’d hooked up with the Pamela Anderson of werewolves—again. He coughed, more and more as we all stared.

“You really like her, don’t you, Danny?” I asked.

Danny dropped his head and nodded. I was happy he’d found someone. I just hoped she wouldn’t break his heart. Heidi had a reputation for being lethal, earning her place as one of Aric’s Warriors. She also had a rep for sleeping around. And that was what worried me.

Bren leaned back in his seat, reeking of witch’s brew and slurring his words. “I can’t believe you banged someone as gorgeous as Heidi.”

Danny’s head shot up. “I’ve dated hot women before.”

“No, you haven’t, Dan. Aside from Celia, Heidi’s been your only decent lay.”

That’s when the world stopped.

Aric crushed the water goblet in his grasp like a withered twig. His Alpha glare honed in on Danny, making him jump. “You were with my Celia?”

Danny jerked toward me. “You never told him?”

Oh, no.

Aric dropped the fractured pieces of glass onto the table. They fell like broken icicles. His hand showed no signs of injury, but his face shadowed with fury and betrayal. “You went after Celia the moment my back was turned, knowing I was goddamn miserable without her.”

Danny’s voice quavered. “Aric, I didn’t. Honest I didn’t. You have to believe me.”

Bren, of course, just had to jump to our rescue. “Come on, Aric. They only slept together a few times.”

Aric rose slowly. Koda and Gem stood with him, placing themselves on either side of him.

“Aric, you need to calm down and take control of your wolf,” Gemini said.

“This isn’t the time, Aric.” Koda’s voice was just as stern as Gem’s. “Reel in your beast.”

Aric ignored them both. He trembled, and his voice was barely restrained. “This . . . happened more than once?” He wouldn’t even look at me, despite my frantic pleas to calm and Taran’s threat to jolt him with lightning. His wolf was focused on Danny—his prey.

I clutched his hand. “Aric, please—you don’t understand. This happened years ago.”

Aric left Danny to focus on me. He stopped shaking when I touched him, but his fury still heated the air around him. “When did it happen?”

“We were young, Aric. Just kids.”

“Kids?”

I held out my hand. “That’s not what I meant. It came out wrong.”

Liam closed in on Aric palms out, stepping over Bren, who’d passed out drunk on the floor. “Come on, Aric. So what if he popped Celia’s cherry?”

My sisters and I gasped. I couldn’t even believe we were having this conversation.

Koda snarled through gritted teeth, “Liam, stop trying to help!”

I blocked Aric’s way when he lunged at Danny, and grasped both of Aric’s hands in mine. Gemini and Koda backed away. They knew Aric wouldn’t risk hurting me just to pound Danny. My gaze pleaded with him. “Aric, this is a senseless discussion. It happened before I ever met you. I swear we haven’t been together since.”

Aric’s heartbroken expression wrung my insides. “Why didn’t you ever tell me? You led me to believe you were only friends.”

“We are only friends, love.”

My term of endearment tamed Aric’s beast, but only momentarily. Once more the air around him fired with his anger. “Just like you and Misha are only friends? How many friends are you getting naked with and kissing?”

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