“I’m sorry, puppy. Emme called Taran and me at the store to tell us Celia was in trouble.”
There was a pause. “Did she hurt herself again?”
I caught traces of movement in the background. Wherever Koda was, he wasn’t alone. I swore under my breath, hating that everyone believed I’d fallen over the edge into masochistic territory.
Shayna dug a wood chip from her hair and continued unaffected. “Oh, no, nothing like that. She and Misha were attacked by shape-shifters.”
“Now, puppy, calm down. I hit the one with your ride twice when she was a T. rex and Taran set her on fire. I have to tell you, dinosaurs are hardy things. Each time I stabbed it—”
“You fought a shape-shifter?”
Shayna sighed. “No, honey. I fought two. The problem was, we couldn’t bring the other one down once it became a pterodactyl.”
“Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
She grinned into the phone. “Now, puppy, you know perfectly well that weres don’t get heart attacks.”
“You know what I mean! What were you thinking, taking on something so powerful?”
Koda’s growls thundered through the line, but Shayna remained calm and spoke to him like they were discussing a TV show, not my eff’d-up life. “Well, I couldn’t exactly let her eat Celia. Anyway, we’re safe now. Emme cracked the shifter’s head with a rock and Celia squashed the brain. The problem is, the other one flew away with Misha, and now the vampires have adopted Celia as, like, their mom.”
More growls rumbled from Koda and the other wolves with him. Aric’s voice boomed over the snarls. “Find out exactly where they are and tell Shayna we’re on our way.”
I gritted my teeth. For his safety, he couldn’t come down here. “No. The matter has already been taken care of. There’s no need to come.”
The ferocity in Aric’s voice made Emme step back from the phone. “This isn’t your decision, Celia. A shape-shifter has attacked in our territory. As guardians of the earth we’re required to investigate the matter.”
I stormed to where Shayna held out the phone. “The destruction has been blamed on an earthquake. We’re safe. The only crisis at hand is that Misha has been taken.”
“I’m only coming to ensure no human has or will be harmed. Don’t fool yourself into thinking I care about you or your damn fiancé!”
Aric’s hostile tone and words were a punch to my gut that robbed me of my breath. I paused and stared stupidly at the touch screen. “Don’t worry, Aric,” I told him quietly. “I realize my safety is no longer your concern.”
Emme reached out to me. I stepped away and started rounding up the vampires. If I stood there I would cry, from frustration, hurt, fear, and anger—mostly anger. I was trying, damnit. And nothing was working in my favor.
Taran yanked the cellphone from Shayna’s grasp. “You’re an asshole, Aric. Don’t you ever talk to my sister like that again!”
Aric growled. “Wake up, Taran. She’s not your sister anymore. She’s turned into some goddamn vampiress.”
Shayna’s head whipped back and forth between me and the phone. “Dude, cut it out. She can hear you!”
“Do you think I care? Do yourself a favor, forget the Mistress of the Night and tell me where you are!”
I tried to ignore the arguments that ensued, an impossible task since it involved me. Taran and Koda were both upset at Aric for yelling at Shayna. Koda made it clear, Leader or not, that Shayna was his mate and he would defend her. Taran swore at him for snapping at Shayna and ripped him a new one for the way he’d treated me.
Hank’s approach gave me an excuse to focus elsewhere. “The vehicles have been removed, Celia. All of the witnesses have been located and their memories altered. Are you ready to return to the manor?”
“I’d like a group of vampires to stay here and guard my sisters. Tell them to return to the house as soon as the weres arrive. I don’t want any problems between them.”
“Very well.” Hank led me to a town car and opened the door before walking back to give the vamps their orders and returning with Emme. She slipped into the front with him. Maria and Agnes placed themselves on either side of me, assuming their role as my bodyguards.
I took in Maria’s and Edith’s tense stances. “How many vampires did we lose?”
Hank huffed. “Including the master? Seventeen.”
Emme gasped. “Sixteen vampires lost—and we only stopped one shape-shifter?”
I leaned my head back and tried not to beg God to kill me. “Agnes, how many shape-shifters are there?”
Agnes adjusted her librarian glasses, falling into academic mode. “Seven known by name. But it’s rumored there are as many as twenty.”
My voice squeaked. “Do they often fight together?”
“Only if they share a common goal.”
I looked at her then. “Like killing me?”
Agnes stared straight ahead, refusing to meet my gaze. So, not a good sign. “For the most part they rule their territories independently of each other.”
Emme swiveled to face me. “They came for you. Didn’t they, Celia?”
“I guess, but I’m not sure why.”
Hank watched me through the rearview mirror. “It seems they want a blood sacrifice for one or more of their deities.”
There was no masking the terror in Emme’s face. “Why Celia?”
Maria grew impatient with Emme’s naïveté. “Isn’t it obvious? Celia is strong. In killing her de shape-shifter will leech her power. Since de shape-shifter failed to take her, he’ll sacrifice our master instead.”
“But they’ll continue to hunt Celia, won’t they?”
Hank nodded. “Especially now that they’ve seen the depths of her strength.”
A few tears rolled down Emme’s cheeks. She wiped them with her hand and then turned back toward the front. It must have really sucked having me for a sister.
I rubbed my arms, feeling cold. “Misha is still alive.” I don’t know how I knew, I just did.
Agnes lowered her head. “Yes. We still feel him, too.”
Hank tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “Can you sense where he is?” I shook my head. “Celia, use the call he gave you to find him. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.”