A Cursed Moon Page 18

“I bust his balls too much.”

Celia smirked. “Ballbusting is your calling card. Hell, it’s practically your middle, last, and confirmation name.” She patted my knee. “We’ll find him, Bren.”

“I just don’t want to find him in pieces.” I took another whiff. “I smelled his blood in the alley. Shit, I can smell some in the air now.”

Celia clenched her jaw. “I know. I scented it, too. I don’t smell anything now.” She sighed. “These things need him. If they wanted him dead . . . we would’ve found him already.”

She meant to say, we would’ve found his body ditched in the alley. I knew it because damn it all, I was thinking it, too.

When I met Dan, I was working at a gym in Palo Alto as a personal trainer. Cake job; I didn’t even need to work out. My beast gave the false appearance that I survived on protein shakes and spent every waking moment lifting. All I had to do was pretend like I could make some skinny ass wimp look like me by convincing him to buy the shit the gym sold to build bulk . . . along with locking him into a six month membership. The first wimp sent my way was Dan.

We tried squats first, just to loosen his spaghetti limbs. He face planted within the first four and cracked his glasses. A few of the meatheads watching laughed. I didn’t, and half-expected him to bolt from the humiliation. I would have. Instead the little turd wiped the blood from his nose and fixed his glasses. “Um. What’s next?” he asked me.

“A trip to the emergency room,” I answered him honestly.

He ignored me and moved toward the weights. I followed and maneuvered him back to the rowing machine where I’d thought he wouldn’t get hurt. Hell, the motions were too much for him. He flailed around as if drowning. Hands-down the most uncoordinated piece of work I’d ever seen. Somehow he managed to belt himself in the schnoz with his knee. I yanked him up by his now bloody shirt and tossed him a towel . . . which he of course, didn’t catch.

The others laughed. They stopped laughing at the sight of my glare. I crossed my arms and loomed over Dan. He blinked up at me with his shattered lenses. Damn. He probably saw twelve of me. “Why are you here?”

He glanced around. “To get in shape.”

I didn’t need to take a whiff to know he was lying. “Sure you are. Why are you here?” I asked again.

He lowered the towel from his battered nose. “I want to look better so I can meet women.”

I nodded. “You want to get laid.”

His face heated and he backed away, pointing to the display cabinet. “Will this, uh, help? You know, build more muscle?”

“Nope. It’ll just make you crap out your left lung.” I motioned around. “None of this shit is going to help you. You can’t squat worth a crap and anything above fifty pounds might kill you. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your cash. Get the hell out of here and find some nice librarian to bang.”

The gym fell silent. Funny thing about your first week of work, the boss was always watching. She stormed out in the middle of some pilates class and fired me on the spot. Fine by me. She was a lousy lay and her place smelled like moldy jock straps. Dan chased me to my car after I yanked off my official gym T-shirt and tossed it on the floor on my way out. “Sir, wait!”

I opened the door to my POS Camaro and slipped inside, slamming the door so the rusted lock would catch. The engine coughed, sputtered, and finally caught. I sighed when I realized Dan was lurking by my door, his glasses just barely hanging onto his face. I rolled down the window. “The name’s Bren. You call me ‘sir’ again and I’ll beat your ass.”

Dan’s shoulders slumped. “Sorry. I didn’t mean . . . you were honest in there.” He hooked a thumb behind him toward the gym as if I didn’t know where he’d meant. He lowered his head. “You also didn’t laugh when the others did. That was, you know, cool.”

Blood smudged his nose. The afro on the top of his head was more Bozo than Tito. And his thin frame was one false move away from shattering. He looked like a clown that had been run out of the circus school for embarrassing the profession.

And he was thanking me for being nice.

It wasn’t hard to tell he’d been dumped on. And hell, couldn’t I relate? I huffed. “Get in.”


I jerked my head and grinned, something telling me I was in for one hell of a time. “I said get in, Stan.”

“It’s Dan . . . Dan Matagrano.” He walked slowly around the car and climbed in. “Where are we going?”

“To get you laid,” I said before put-put-puttering out of the parking lot.

    • • •

“He just wanted to get laid,” I said out loud to Celia.

“What?” She’d been playing with her blue tooth, trying to call her sisters for help. White noise blared out of the speakers the more she fumbled with the touch screen.

“Dan. When we met. Even then he just wanted to get laid.”

Celia shook her head. “No. I just think he wanted to stop feeling so lonely. It was a hard time for him then. He was finishing up at Stanford and the competition was cutthroat.”

I laughed without humor. “So he said. Pricks. His fellow graduates were always trying to sabotage his work. At least I helped him by getting him some tail.”

“You’re wrong, Bren.” Celia smiled sadly. “You helped him by becoming his best friend. Yes, you pick on him. Yes, you give him a hard time. But you’d crush anyone to bloody rubble who tried to hurt him.” She pursed her lips. “And don’t ever think he doesn’t know that.”

I nodded hoping she was right only to abruptly straighten when we rounded the curve and the stink of Dan’s muffler disappeared. “Shit. Turn around.”

“What?” Celia slowed and glanced around. I jumped out and doubled back down the road before the car stopped. “Bren! Bren! What’s wrong?”

My heart pounded fast in my chest. I inhaled, thinking I’d lost the trail completely and raced further down the hill. I caught onto the weakening odor until it became more intense—telling my wolf I was headed in the right direction. The squealing tires and revving engine behind me told me Celia had turned the car around. I raced back, meeting her halfway. “Go back down the hill. They’ve taken Dan into the woods.”

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