Cursed By Destiny Page 90

“We’re both filthy. Come on, hop in with me.”

Aric didn’t make an effort to remove his clothes, so I did it for him. He stilled as I yanked his shirt over his head, but when I tried to unsnap his shorts, he clasped my wrists. “Don’t, love.”

His grip was tight, but loosened when I stared up at him and tried to smile. “Why? You like being naked with me.”

Aric shook his head slowly. “Things are different now . . . My face isn’t the only part of me damaged.”

I unwittingly followed the trail of ruined tissue down his chest, past his belly button, and into his . . . Jesus.

I tried to tell him it didn’t matter, only to stumble and stutter over lies he didn’t need to hear. Of course it mattered. So instead of spewing foolish mutterings, I pulled him under the water with me. He just stood there watching me without moving, so I sat him down on the small bench.

There wasn’t a lot of room. I placed my legs between his knees and washed what remained of his hair. My br**sts hung near his face, but he kept his head turned away from me. When I was done, I kissed his lips and concentrated on the rest of his body. I tried not to react with grief as my fingers ran over the thick grooves in his skin pooling with water. “Remember the last time we showered? I do . . .”

Aric didn’t respond. His only reaction was to turn back to face me. With his healthy eye, he watched the water slide down my body before turning away once more. I didn’t like him looking away from me. Neither did my tigress. So following a little boost of her charm I gave him my back and made a show of washing my hair and curves. I continued until I felt his rising heat stroking against my back. I slipped out and teased him with the way I applied my lotion, careful not to make eye contact until I heard him step out of the shower.

Aric had tossed his shorts and covered his waist with a towel, a towel that did little to hide the growing strain of his arousal. My fingertips slipped up and down the length of the long lotion bottle and my husky voice fell into a seductive whisper. “Come with me.” I snatched the bottle from the small counter and backed into the bedroom. Aric prowled toward me and followed me onto the bed.

I warmed the lotion in my palms before sliding it along his damaged skin. He tensed beneath my touch until I began my deep massage of his shoulders. Heat spread along my palms in almost visible circles, inciting the bond between us. My hands drifted along his chest until they linked around his neck. I kissed his cheek and waited. He panted softly as if trying to hold back and stay in control, but that’s not what I wanted. My lips continued to sweep across his jawline. When I reached his lips, he pushed my wet hair away from my face and drove his tongue deep into my mouth.

Our passion escalated, urging me to roll on top of him. I cried out when his hard length struck my tender region. Maybe he was damaged, but everything seemed in optimal working condition. My hands found him, playing and exploring until his growls and grunts rang in my ears like a lustful melody. My heart thundered, yearning with the desire to have him inside me. I needed to feel close to him. And he needed me, too.

Aric reached for my br**sts. I jerked a little when the sharp edges of his damaged fingers scratched against the tips. His want distracted him, and he failed to notice. But when his hand slipped between my legs, I couldn’t mask the pain from his touch.

He pulled away from me, breathing hard. “I’m sorry,” we both said at once.

He stared at his butchered hands before his frozen expression ran the length of my body. The air left my lungs in a gasp. His caress had marked my skin with scrapes and scratches. Not enough to scar or bleed, but enough to halt our wandering hands and extinguish our fervor.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, with more regret dripping from his voice.

We watched each other for what felt like too long until my need to feel his arms around me shoved the strain of the moment aside. I lowered myself so we lay facing each other, and cuddled against him. He pulled me to him, but still I scented his apprehension and his fear.

He was afraid to hurt me.

We waited in silence, both of us searching for something to say. Yet not even our beasts could give us the knowledge to form the right words. Aric shuddered once before the aroma of his tears pricked at my nose. “Are you sure you want to stay with me?”

I kissed his chin before the start of my own sorrow. “I’ll never leave you. I swear it.”

CHAPTER 32

We both fell asleep. I awoke sometime later from the discomfort of dehydration. Aric draped his arm over his face. I imagined that without the ability to lower his lids it was the only way he could manage to rest. I decided against disturbing him and walked into the main cabin.

Everyone glanced up when they saw me. Their bleak expressions mirrored mine. My maternal instincts made me want to comfort them, but the emptiness in the pit of my stomach surpassed any emotions.

Emme squeezed my hand. “Celia, have something to eat.”

My eyes skimmed along the table filled with chicken, vegetables, and rolls. A wave of acid burned my throat and made me grimace. I cleared my throat to prevent from gagging and placed my hand over my belly. “I’m not hungry. I still feel kind of ill.”

Emme released my hand. “I’m feeling ill, too. I called Dr. Belman and set up appointments for us for tomorrow. I’m worried it’s more than just jet lag.”

Emme was right. God only knew what bizarre infections we could have picked up from all our globe-trotting. Africa alone had a growing list of frightening ailments.

Liam stood, frowning. “Why can’t you just heal yourselves?”

“I can’t cure diseases, Liam. Sometimes if it’s related to a physical injury I can fix it, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.”

Liam placed his hand on Emme’s shoulder. “But you’ll be okay, right?”

Emme slipped her hand over his. “We’ll be fine, Lee.”

I grabbed a water bottle out of the small fridge. I’m not sure why such a simple task made me so emotional, but I started to cry after chugging half the bottle. My sobs made me spit out some of the water. Koda didn’t care. He just wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into an embrace. “Stay strong, Celia. He needs you.”

• • •

Taran eventually convinced me to eat. I managed to nibble on a few pieces of bread before preparing a tray for Aric. He sat up when I placed the food in front of him. His burned flesh had tightened and shriveled the muscle, making it arduous for him to chew and swallow. I shredded the chicken for him in smaller bites and mashed the potatoes and carrots for him with a fork. “I’d like to take you to a burn center. There’s one in Santa Ana we could go to.”

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