Celia? Aric’s voice whispered in my head.
I scrambled to my feet and stilled, my eyes scanning the room. Through our bond as mates, Aric was communicating. They were more than just words; his feelings attached themselves to his verbiage. I felt his torment, just as I knew he felt my longing and hurt. And yet unlike a phone conversation, it didn’t appear as though we could talk back and forth. It was more like our deepest emotions transferred to each other’s soul.
The phone rang before I could panic about how much he knew.
Anara snarled on the other line. “Break the bond.” My blood pounded through my veins and into my skull. I couldn’t speak. Anara, though, had plenty to say. “Aric’s yearning for you is so desperate, I can sense it as his Elder. It sickens me to feel your presence. Break the bond.”
My claws protruded. “I don’t know how.”
“You will find a way or you shall suffer. You have two days.”
My phone shattered in pieces when I threw it against the wall. “As if I’m not suffering enough, asshole!”
I unwittingly changed into my tigress form and paced for the next half hour. It helped. My inner animal dealt with stress far better than my human side.
Someone knocked on the door leading out into the garden. Within moments Shayna poked her head into my bedroom. She took in the shattered phone and her sister the golden tigress, but without missing a beat, she skipped in fearlessly.
“How’s it going, Ceel?” Shayna hugged my neck and scratched behind my ears. I purred and dropped to the floor. “Koda loves his ears scratched, too—when he’s a wolf, I mean.” She chatted about her life, the weather, and Taran’s plans to set Hank aflame if she caught him near Emme. Gruesome details aside, it was the distraction I needed. I licked her hand in appreciation. “You’re welcome, dude.”
She rolled on her back and she used my belly for a pillow. “Celia, we’re all meeting at the house tonight for dinner. I’d really love it if you’d join us. Aric won’t be there. I promise he won’t.”
Aric’s name made me cringe. Not just because of how I treated him, but also because I didn’t know how much Anara suspected. She moved when I stood and changed back. “I don’t feel much like socializing, Shayna.” I yanked on a thong and bra and pulled a stretchy T-shirt over my thick hair. I fastened my skinny jeans and paused, knowing they wouldn’t fit me in a few weeks. I was thin and muscular. My pregnancy wouldn’t be easy to hide once I began to show.
Shayna flung an arm over my neck. “Then what do you need, Ceel? Tell me. I just want to help.”
She was trying. Lord knows they were all trying to reach me. So against my better judgment, I reached back. “A milkshake would be nice.”
She smiled. “Can I drive?”
Shayna tore out of Misha’s driveway like her tiny butt was on fire. Her excited “woo-hoos” sent Emme into a tizzy. Despite Emme’s protests in the form of shrieks, Shayna refused to slow down. She took the curves along the back roads like a band of crazed knife-wielding clowns were on our tail.
Emme screamed at the top of her lungs. My baby didn’t like the ride any better. On the last turn out of Tahoe City I stuck my head out the window and threw up. So much for lunch.
Shayna pulled the car over. “Oh, Celia! I totally forgot about your concussion. I’m so sorry.”
I slumped over the door. “Maybe I should just head back to Misha’s.”
“No, we finally got you out.” She threw her palms out in surrender. “I’ll tell you what, Emme can drive.”
At that moment, Emme wasn’t driving anywhere. She crawled out of our SUV on her hands and knees and puked into some poor dwindling bush. Shayna’s driving had that effect on people. Shayna yanked old napkins out of the glove compartment and rushed to her side. I stepped out just to breathe in the cool dusky air. Ice cream with Shayna was clearly a bad idea.
Shayna handed Emme the wrinkled bunch of napkins when her Star Wars ringtone blasted from her back pocket. She reached for her cellphone. “Hello?”
“Shayna, it’s Aric.”
My head whipped in her direction. Oh, crap.
“Koda said you went to see Celia.”
Shayna glanced at me. “Yes. I’m with her now.”
My nerves were already shot from the car ride, but when Aric didn’t speak right away I knew he was going to ask for me.
“I’m not trying to put you in the middle, but I need to talk to her. Please put her on.”
Shayna walked toward me with the phone outstretched in her hand. She slowed to stop at my glare. “Celia, please talk to him,” she pleaded. “He’s already been hurt enough. Don’t add to his pain.”
Nothing she could have said would have felt more like a betrayal. I stormed down the main road leading back to Misha’s estate. Shayna bolted after me. “Celia, you don’t know what he’s going through. He and Koda are a mess—”
I whirled around and screamed at her through my protruding fangs. “Damnit, then why aren’t you with him? Go to your husband and leave me the hell alone!”
She dropped her hands to her sides. “I want to help you.”
“You can’t, Shayna. Go home. There’s nothing you can do for me.”
Shayna grabbed my arm when I turned to leave. Big mistake. I wrenched my arm and flung her across the asphalt on her back. Emme shrieked. Initially Shayna just lay there stunned. But when she stumbled to her feet, tears streamed down her pixie face. “What’s wrong with you, Celia?”
What was wrong with me? If Koda hadn’t transferred his healing abilities and some of his werewolf strength to Shayna, I could have killed her. I changed, guilt-ridden that I’d hurt my kind and perky sister. My paws dug into the ground and launched me into a rapid sprint. I ignored my sisters’ pleas to stop and raced forward, back to the land of the undead.
At the speed my tigress propelled us, it didn’t take long to return to Misha’s estate. The vamps at the gate immediately let me in. Normally I would have jumped the whole thing, but I was going too fast and lacked the focus I needed to land safely. I couldn’t risk harming my baby. I needed to keep my little one safe, no matter what.
I threw some clothes on in the guesthouse and crawled back into bed, suddenly weary with exhaustion. I awoke a while later to the aroma of one of my favorite things, Bren.