Cursed By Destiny Page 74

“Bren, do you want to accompany Celia to Africa?” Aric asked.

Bren immediately perked up. “Hell yeah! We’ll tear those Tribe bitches up.” He grabbed me in a choke hold and messed my hair.

I shoved him off me and pushed my hair out of my face. The wolves’ darkening faces focused on Bren. “Don’t be an ass**le, Bren. Aric isn’t just talking about slaughtering Tribesmen,” Liam said. He glanced at Emme. “You need to take the entire mission seriously.”

Bren got in Liam’s face. He continued to smile, but his eyes shadowed with all the seriousness of a predator. “No shit, Liam. Do you think I’d let anything happen to them? I’d die first, man.”

Taran grabbed Bren’s hand before I could and pulled him away. Bren wasn’t challenging Liam per se, but it was never a smart idea to allow two weres to make eye contact. “Damn, Bren. We love you, too. Now be a good little beast and stop talking about dying.”

Emme shuddered. None of us wanted to think about not coming back, yet it would have been foolish to think it wasn’t a possibility. I smiled a little and tried to lighten the mood. “I think you wolves forget we’re not exactly delicate little flowers.”

Gemini glanced at Aric before speaking to me. “You may not be pack, but you’re part of our family, Celia. It bothers us when we can’t protect our own.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. My sisters and I had gone most of our lives without anyone. To know we finally had family was both beautiful and frightening. I shook off my girly emotions and tried to grin. Instead my face dropped when Liam gathered Emme in his arms, allowing her to release her pent-up tears. “Just because we’re not together doesn’t mean I won’t always love you,” he told her.

Taran fell against Gemini. He smoothed her hair as her emotions unraveled. “Son of a bitch—enough with the mushy shit.”

Aric’s fists clenched as he stared intently at the building opposite. He couldn’t openly show me affection, but at the very least I wanted him to acknowledge me. Instead he gave me his back when I tried to touch his fist with my fingertips.

Taran’s and Emme’s sobs echoed around us. If it hadn’t been for Bren, I think I would’ve started crying, too. As I mentioned, Bren didn’t do well with sappy women. To distract us, he told us the most disgusting joke ever involving a weremuskox and a Chihuahua in heat. While it was a joke I’d never repeat, it did sidetrack us. Taran slapped his arm. “You’re so nasty.” She was right, yet she still cracked up and so did the other wolves.

Emme’s face scrunched. “Is that even possible?” she asked me in a low voice. Why she thought I’d know was beyond me. Everyone else roared with laughter, having caught sight of my burning cheeks.

“Anything is possible with a little imagination, a dash of determination, and a tube of petroleum jelly—”

I held out my hand. “That’s enough, Bren. No more.” There was a lot I didn’t need to know about Bren’s creative thoughts.

We continued to chat until Shayna and Koda joined us. Night overtook the mountain and darkness crawled along the sidewalks, reminding us our time was up and we had to say good-bye. We embraced and wished one another well. Aric and I were the only ones who failed to touch. He stormed away before I could tell him I loved him. My sisters watched him leave, taken aback by his rebuff. Regardless of the hurt he’d caused, I wouldn’t allow it to interfere with our farewell to Taran. I opened my arms to them and we held each other. Taran’s teeth clenched while she fought back tears. “Don’t get yourselves killed, all right?”

Shayna squeezed her tighter. “And don’t you join the Mile-High Club.”

Taran’s siren grin gleamed in the increasing gloom. She tossed Gemini a wink over her shoulder. “Too late for that, sister.”

We left, not knowing when we’d speak again. The wilds of Africa weren’t known for their terrific cell phone reception, and finding the stone could take weeks. Emme drove us in silence while I sat in the back riffling through the paperwork Aric had given me. I jumped out of my seat when I saw he’d also left me a note. “Shayna, do you know where they keep the landscaping equipment when it’s not in use?”

Shayna turned around from the front, clasping the side of her seat. “It’s outside the Den walls in an old barn. Why?”

“Take me there.”

• • •

I raced through the cold, snowy woods in the direction Shayna pointed. The barn door swung open when I was mere feet away. I leapt into Aric’s waiting arms. He kissed me wildly as he ran his fingers through my long hair, holding me tight and speaking between ragged intakes of breaths. “I’m sorry about this, Celia. I just couldn’t stand not being able to say good-bye as lovers.”

I rested my face against his chest. “When you wouldn’t look at me, I thought you were mad at me. Why did you treat me that way?”

“Sweetness, I couldn’t look at you. It’s getting damn near impossible to control my wolf around you. All that part of me wants is to be with my mate no matter what. My animal side doesn’t care about the consequences, and now I don’t know if my human side does, either. I can’t keep away from you much longer. This bullshit is driving me crazy.”

I thought about what Misha said would happen to Aric’s family if he abandoned his pack. “Aric, please don’t do anything rash. I don’t want anyone hurt because of our desire to be together.”

Aric cupped my face in his large hands and fell into a deep silence. He shook his head. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep my promise, love.”

CHAPTER 27

It was hard to say good-bye to Aric, but the thought of an indestructible seven-headed fire-breathing demon on the loose proved adequate motivation. I allowed Shayna to drive to make up for my time spent with Aric. The ride was frightening to say the least. Emme spent most of her time screaming while I dug holes into the dash with my claws. I don’t know how Shayna did it, but we managed to beat Misha back by at least fifteen minutes. If she ever tired of our “ridding the world from evil” gig, driving in the Indy was definitely in her future.

When we arrived, three small backpacks with the essentials had already been prepared for us by the schoolgirls. I was almost afraid to peek inside and hoped they’d opted to fill it with protein bars and matchsticks as opposed to edible undergarments and ball gags. We had a quick meal and then headed for the airport. Misha accompanied us to the landing strip, where a lavish private plane awaited. “Safe journey,” he told us.

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