A Cursed Embrace Page 21

My eyes scanned the area. “Should we search for it, just in case it’s still here?” Although I asked, meeting a demon was high on my list of things I never wanted to do. Their offspring had been kicks and giggles enough.

“No. There’s no trace of him left. I’m certain he’s back in hell where he belongs.”

I wrapped my arms around myself. “Glad to hear it.”

Aric’s eyes shimmered with ferocity when he drew me to him. “I swear to God, I won’t let anything hurt you, Celia.”

In his arms, with that heat, I believed him. He led me back to the car, holding me close. I didn’t like being coddled. I was tough, strong, and capable of protecting myself and those I loved. But something about Aric made it okay for me not to be the hero for once.

Aric’s constant touch on our drive back to the house dissolved the unease the demon had created. He kept rubbing my knee and reaching across the seat to stroke my cheek. The scuffle and momentary threat of danger had excited his wolf. I could taste his longing against my tongue and looked forward to exciting him more. But when we entered the house, my confidence took a nosedive.

Emme and Shayna, both wearing bathrobes, slouched on the couch while their wolves tended to them. Misery and humiliation shimmied like well-endowed burlesque dancers across their faces.

“Bend over a little more, angel.” Liam tucked the fan knotted into Emme’s hair beneath his arm. His right hand manipulated the scissors, cutting Emme’s hair free in large, uneven chunks. “Why did you shake your head so close to the fan, sweet girl?”

Emme’s bottom lip pouted down to her toes. “I was flipping my hair, Liam.” Her blush could have set off a sprinkler. “Oh, never mind. . . .”

Poor Emme. And Shayna? Good grief. Koda held an ice pack to her neck. He tilted her chin as he examined her head carefully. “I still don’t understand why you were lying on top of your dresser like that, baby. You could’ve gotten hurt a lot worse by the way you fell.”

“I’ll explain after Emme heals me, puppy,” she grumbled.

The wolves seemed so distracted by my sisters’ injuries, they’d missed the point entirely. I tugged at my skirt. My tigress made me more graceful and coordinated than my sisters, yet their sexual expertise far exceeded mine. I second-, third-, and fourth-guessed my posing abilities. “Um. Are you guys all right?” Shayna nodded. Emme tried, but the fan impeded her movements. “Ah. Okay. Where’s Taran?”

Shayna jerked a rather irate thumb in the direction of Taran’s bedroom. “She called Gemini to her room and asked him if he’d like to deflower her. He slammed the door shut behind him. We heard a lot of grunting and screaming, and they haven’t come out since.” Shayna thought about it. “I think they broke her dresser.”

“Oh.” Something told me no falls or fan fiascos lay behind Taran’s closed door. I hoped none would transpire in my room and made a mental note to avoid the window and anything pointy. I slapped my hands against my sides. “Well, I guess we should head up ourselves.”

Emme clasped her hands over her lap. “Yes, good luck with that.” Liam had finally set her free. And not to judge, but I think a two-year-old sugared up on Pixy Stix could have done a better job on her hair. For her sake, I prayed her hair would grow back fast.

Aric covered his hand with mine and led me upstairs to my room. He sat on the bed and pulled me onto his lap. “What the hell was up with that?”

“Oh, you know girls.” I stood and patted his back like an idiot. “Why don’t you get comfy? It’s been a long night.”

Aric angled his head, scenting my nervousness. Thankfully he didn’t push and began to remove his shoes. I gathered my courage and moved to the dresser, watching as he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. I sighed. The disheveled look totally worked for that wolf.

“Aric, could you help me unzip my dress?”

A hint of want sparkled behind his grin. “Yeah, I can do that for you, baby.”

The way he gradually pulled down my zipper told me he was ready to make love. I stepped away from him before he could take off my dress. Damn it, I’d worked hard on my ridiculous posing all afternoon. I couldn’t spoil the big reveal now. “Thanks, Aric. I’ll get the rest.”

“All right. . . .”

I turned my back and waited by the mirror as he returned to the bed and removed his clothing. When he was down to his briefs, I let my dress drop to the floor as loudly as possible. I tried not to glance at him for fear I’d be too embarrassed to continue, but I felt his eyes lock on to my body.

Aric swallowed audibly when I thrust out my bottom in the exaggerated way Taran had taught me. He growled when I bent over to pick up my dress and tossed it aside. I rose and flipped my hair back, causing his sound effects to intensify. Then, slowly, I ran my hands down my body.

Aric stood before me at once, his voice several octaves lower. “What are you trying to do to me?” His hands gripped my hips, his breath hot and ragged teasing my flesh. I groaned from the evidence of his growing need pressing against my body. “Celia, what are you trying to do?”

My hands slid up his chest as I forced my eyes to reflect an innocence his body had vanquished from its first touch. I licked my lips. “Seduce you,” I whispered.

Aric’s passion ignited mine. What happened next was a frenzied exploration involving lips, tongues, teeth, and hands. Our cries echoed loud enough to bash down the door, our movements forceful enough to collide the dresser into the wall.

When foreplay wasn’t enough, Aric carried me to the bed. He lay on top of me, our sizzling skin sliding against each other, our kisses wild and deep.

I clasped his wrist when he reached for the box of condoms on the nightstand. “You won’t need those anymore.”

The already burning fire in Aric’s eyes intensified into an inferno. He threw the condoms across the room. His head fell against my shoulder and he seized me tight, struggling to stay controlled. With a hard yank he pulled off my tattered thong. He entered me and began to move.

“Do you want me?” he asked between grunts.

“Yes,” I whimpered.

“Can I have you?”


“Then you’re mine.”

• • •

Aric’s cell phone alarm woke me from the best sleep of my life. He didn’t make a move to turn it off. Instead he continued to lie where he’d fallen asleep, with his face buried between my br**sts. I maneuvered enough to shut it off, but even my movements failed to wake him. He looked so peaceful and content. I hated to disturb him, except I knew he couldn’t be late for work.

I stroked his long dark hair off his forehead. “Baby,” I whispered. “It’s time to wake up, love.” He still didn’t move. I glided my hands around his hard shoulders, but instead of his eyes opening, something else perked in attention.

Part of me was scared what we had wasn’t real and that it would end too soon. It was that same side of me that wanted as much of Aric as possible while I still had him. So I continued to caress him, triggering my excitement in the process.

My breath came out in quick bursts. Aric stirred. His nostrils flared once before he opened his eyes. My touch hadn’t succeeded in wakening him, but it seemed the scent of my arousal had.

He repositioned himself on top of me and kissed my neck. “Good morning, sweetness,” he murmured.

My back arched with pleasure. “Good morning.” There was no foreplay this time, but it wasn’t necessary. Aric hooked my leg over his shoulder, and we began our day.


Emme’s pale yellow light receded. “Did I get all of them, Celia?”

I examined my neck in the foyer mirror, trying my best to avoid facing Emme. She knew Aric and I regularly engaged in sexual intimacy. Still, I had to work up my courage to ask her to erase the evidence of his exploration. June in Tahoe didn’t allow for scarves or turtlenecks, and my scrubs hid very little. “Yeah. I think so. Thanks, Emme.”

Shayna fell into the sofa. Her droopy ponytail matched her mood. She wasn’t herself when Koda had to leave her to hunt. “Can I drive us to work today?”

“No,” the rest of answered.

I didn’t care at that moment how depressed she appeared. Shayna wasn’t allowed to drive us anywhere. Ever. If we had somehow slipped into comas and a tribe of cannibalistic pigmies were about to sacrifice us to their volcanic god, and Shayna behind the wheel was our only escape? I’d take my chances with the lava.

Shayna blew out a breath hard enough to flutter her bangs. “Did Aric give you any indication how long he and the wolves would be gone?”

I sat next to her. “No. I just know things aren’t going well. Every scent they pick up leads to a dead end.”

“Or a dead body.” Taran scrolled through her iPad as she paced. “Three more women missing. This time near Carson City.”

Shayna lifted her head. “Do you think they were with those three men Koda and the others found near Lake Tahoe State Park?”

“It’s possible. Considering the vamps, or whatever, continue to target couples on dates.” I rounded up my thick hair and attempted to tie it into a twist. It took a few tries since my hands couldn’t seem to work right. “And women out on their own.”

Emme helped me fasten my clip. “What do you think is happening to them? We know they’re draining the men, but . . .”

Taran shut the cover closed over her iPad. She brushed her hands over her arms as if something crawled along her skin. “I’d rather not think about it, Emme.”

There was a lot I didn’t want to think about. The fate of the women. The last few breaths of the men. How I’d fallen in love with a werewolf who hunted the supernasties of the world. And how his Elders held him responsible for it all.

I grabbed my purse and huge lunch sack, pausing when I caught Taran continuing to hug herself. “Are the nightmares back?”

She stared blankly out the window. “They haven’t left, Celia. They’re just getting more vivid.”

I moved to stand next to her. “Do you talk to Gemini about them?”

“Not really. They don’t happen much when he’s around.” Taran wiped the crease of her lid, removing a bit of eye shadow that had smeared. Makeup seemed like too much work. That’s why I never bothered. She examined the charcoal color on her fingertips. “I’m not looking forward to the night without him.”

“He makes you feel safe, doesn’t he?”

Taran snatched the keys off the table. “Yeah. Even when I dream of demons raping me.”

I stepped in front of her and held out my hand, trying to ignore Emme’s and Shayna’s gasps. We’d suspected what her nightmares entailed. But Taran hadn’t confirmed our fears until now. They must have worsened in the past few weeks. “Why don’t you let me drive today?”

Her glare prepared me to argue. Instead she nodded and handed me the keys to our Tribeca. I didn’t like seeing Taran so shaken. Thank God Mrs. Mancuso was around to lift our spirits.


I leaned my head against the car. We’d almost made it safely into the cabin. Taran stepped into the car and leaned her arm against the opened window. “You got that right, Mancuso. By the way, your grandson sends his love.”

For a woman in her eighties, Mrs. Mancuso was quite agile. She chased after our car all the while flipping us off. Emme clutched the headrest of the backseat. “Oh my goodness. Celia, slow down before she breaks a hip.”

I didn’t care what Emme said. A glance at the mirror told me slowing down ranked up there with mooning a weregator. We might as well have kicked our own asses. Mrs. Mancuso was a woman possessed by fury and ill-fitting support hose.

Taran threw back her head, laughing. “That’s not funny, Taran,” Emme insisted. “I know you’d feel terrible if she did break her hip.”

No. She wouldn’t. I pulled out of the neighborhood. My last image of Mrs. Mancuso was of her standing at the top of the incline like the Statue of Liberty, minus the torch. “Crap, I hope she doesn’t detonate the house.” My eyes narrowed at Taran through the mirror. “You haven’t been leaving retirement home brochures on her doorstep again, have you?”

Taran fluffed her hair. “I only did that the one time. And she deserved it after spraying me with her damn hose.”

Shayna wiggled in her seat. She hadn’t kept still since saying good-bye to Koda. “Ceel. How do you feel about hunting demons? I mean, I know we were a little unprepared last time, but . . .”

“A little unprepared? Shayna, we took on a demon child—child. And it chomped on my foot like a taco. I get the feeling a demon lord might be a tad tougher.” She fumbled with the silver pins in her hair Misha had gifted her with. Since our showdown with the vamps and our twisted slapstick routine with the little evil bugger, Shayna was constantly armed and ready for the next brawl. I sighed. I could relate. “I want to hunt with the wolves, but Aric flat-out refuses to take me with him, especially following Misha’s possession on our front lawn.”

Her head snapped up. “I get why Aric is afraid for you. I am, too. But it doesn’t seem right for us to sit around. We’re not exactly helpless, you know.” She blew out a breath, hard enough to make her lips vibrate. “I hate Koda out there without me. I know he’s big. I know he’s tough. And I know he has more fighting experience than I do. But I want to help keep him safe. Does that sound screwy?”

“No. It’s not screwy.” Everyone grew quiet, probably thinking of their own wolves. I knew I thought about mine. “I wrestle with two sides of me. When Aric talks about tracking and what he finds, it excites my beast. Both because of her need to hunt, but also because of our need to protect. My mortal side, the one that knows I could die, is scared senseless.”

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