a cursed bloodline-Page 44

“What if he doesn’t want them, Ceel?” I could hear Taran pace. “Hell, he has his own family to care for and he’s never struck me as the daddy type. Didn’t he stop turning vamps years ago because they got on his nerves?”

“He may not love them. But he loves Misha. He knows he’d hurt Misha by turning his back on them.”

“I think you should ask Aric for help,” Emme said quietly. “He would protect you against the other masters if he knew your life was at stake.”

Aric by my side wasn’t an option…no matter how badly I wanted it to be. “Aric wants nothing to do with me.”

Taran swore a few times. “Ceel, he’s being an ass. But he still loves you—despite what he claims.”

I turned away from the phone, feeling more hurt. Several weeks had passed since Aric and I had spoken, but his words still stung. Danny lifted the phone from the bed. “It’s better if we don’t involve Aric.”

Liz marched in then with a garment bag. “The grandmaster’s plane has landed in Tahoe. He’ll be here shortly.”

“I’ll see you guys soon.” I disconnected the call and addressed Liz. “What’s in the bag?”

“It’s your attire for the evening. The grandmaster wants us all to dress alike to signify a cohesive group.”

Emme unzipped the bag, revealing a sexy black business suit—short skirt, and a jacket with plunging neckline, designed to be worn without a blouse. Four-inch black heels were tucked at the bottom. I rose and walked to the giant closet, where I selected a soft silver cashmere sweater and a long, flowing white skirt. I slipped into them and a pair of silver ballet flats. My ensemble was casual, comfortable, but most important, me. I wasn’t a vamp or a were. And despite my faults, and how tumultuous my life had become, I still maintained my sense of worth. I needed to hang on to what I was…weird as I might be.

Emme and Danny smiled when I returned to the bedroom. “You look pretty,” Danny said.

The vampires didn’t agree and neither did Uri. “Did you not approve of the garment I ordered?” he asked when he arrived.

“It’s important that others see me as a leader, not a follower. Choosing to dress as I please demonstrates strength, don’t you think?”

Uri surprised me by nodding, seemingly won over by my reasoning. I had to watch it though; my bullshit meter had maxed out its limit.

Emme and Danny rode with me in the limo, along with Uri and his guards. Emme didn’t want to return to the Den, having been humiliated. I didn’t want to return because of my fear of torture and dying.

Uri patted my knee. “I won’t allow the mongrels to harm you.”

Would you prefer to do it yourself? “Thank you, Uri,” I said cautiously.

We didn’t speak much on the way to Squaw Valley. Uri was angry at Anara’s dismissive behavior toward Emme and took it as a personal insult given she’d been acting on the vampires’ behalf. My tigress paced restlessly within me. She sensed there would be bloodshed tonight and so did I. We just didn’t know whose it would be.

My pulse was racing by the time we passed through the front gate. I willed myself to relax. If it came down to fighting for my life, I needed to remain calm. Two weres greeted us when we arrived at the monstrous château that served as the main building—Liam, and a coyote I didn’t know. She was slender and small boned, and just about my height. Deep scars marred her face. Like many of the weres who fought in Chaitén, she’d suffered irreparable damage from the demon’s fire. Two flaps of dry leather sealed her eyes shut and her auburn hair was missing along her crown. But she smiled, and that made her pretty. Liam beamed as he led her down the steps.

“Celia, it’s me, Li-am.” He spoke to me like I was two years old.

“I know who you are, Liam.”

“Oh good, she’s still with us,” Liam explained to the were like we weren’t even standing there. He then turned back to us. “I’d like to introduce you to Allie, my mate.”

My hand gripped Emme’s when she tensed. Allie sniffed the air. “Hello, Celia. It’s nice to meet you.” Her head angled toward Emme and she smiled gently. “Hello again, Emme.”

I was supposed to hate her. That’s just what sisters do for each other. It’s written in stone somewhere that we have to hate our sisters’ ex-boyfriends’ new girlfriends. But I couldn’t. She seemed sweet and unthreatening. And leave it to Liam’s huge heart to fall for someone who was disfigured. “Hi, Allie,” we both said, and smiled politely.

Liam lit up. “Hey. I’ve got a great idea! How would you two like to be bridesmaids?”

Everyone, including Allie, stopped smiling then. “Liam, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.

“I know it’s short notice—”

Uri’s guard interrupted. “If you don’t mind, we’re here to see your Elders.”

Liam seemed unaffected by the guard’s tone. He punched me affectionately in the arm. “We’ll discuss the wedding later,” he said.

We swept past him and into the foyer. Aric’s aroma of water crashing over stones overpowered the large space, hitting my nose like a reprimanding swat. He was angry. I could feel it. My God, I could feel him. My tigress bashed against my rib cage, ready to seek out his wolf. I barely managed to rein her in and keep from changing. Her impulsiveness worsened my nerves and exacerbated my need to find Aric. My body trembled violently. I couldn’t keep it together. I was falling apart.

Tim nudged me hard. “Get ahold of yourself,” he muttered.

Uri peered down his nose at me. “Is something the matter?”

Danny shoved me down the long wooden corridor. “Go to the bathroom,” he urged. “I’ll wait for you here.”

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I repeated numbly and sprinted down the hall. Emme and the Catholic schoolgirls raced after me. I fell against the emerald green granite counter. My claws shot out, scratching the surface. It hurt to withdraw them.

Emme gaped at the deep scrapes and the tinges of blood I’d left behind. She blotted my fingers with a paper towel and quickly tended to my damaged nails with her magic. “Celia, what’s wrong?”

“Aric’s scent is everywhere—I can’t think straight.” My chest tightened. “Shit. I can’t even breathe.”