A Cursed Embrace Page 1

Author: Cecy Robson

Series: Weird Girls #2

Genres: Fantasy


A dead wereraccoon on your doorstep is no way to start the morning.

“I’m bored.”

Neither is a whiney vampire dressed like a naughty Catholic schoolgirl.

I raised my brows at her. “Edith Anne, I’m sorry you didn’t get to kill anything. If you’re this bored, why don’t you go home or find someone to snack on?”

Edith Anne’s blue-black hair shone like satin in Tahoe’s early-morning sun. She swung her knee-high red leather boots over the railing where she sat and—good Lord, I don’t think she was wearing panties beneath her tiny plaid skirt—stomped across the wooden floorboards, careful to avoid the blood and pus pooling around the body. “Oh, Celia.” She said my name as if she’d caught me eating her shoes. “The master says you and your”—Edith Anne scowled and motioned to my three sisters behind me—“weird-ass family are now under his protection. I can’t leave until he knows you’re safe.” She protruded her fangs, picked something off one with her perfectly manicured nails, and flicked it to the side. “Besides, I ate before I got here.”

If I didn’t know vampires needed only small amounts of blood to survive and were forbidden from killing humans, I would have staked her. “Did Misha say you had to do anything to keep me safe?”

Edith Anne rose to her full height, which meant her chest was right in my face. Oh, goody.

She pursed her bright red lips. “Why?”

My grin widened. “I’ll take that as a yes. Why don’t you start patrolling the perimeter of the house—you know, in case the bad guys try to sneak up on us?”

Edith frowned. “Your grass is muddy from the rain and I’m wearing four-inch heels.”

I glanced down. “Yes, you are. They’ll make a perfect weapon should some scary monster show up. Be sure to aim for the heart.”

Edith blinked her large brown eyes at me. “But what if he comes while I’m out back?”

“I promise to yell really loudly.”

“But what if—?”

“Get moving, freak,” Taran snapped, coming to stand next to me, arms crossed, attitude at the ready. As the second oldest, I could always count on her to have my back.

Edith Anne stuck out her bottom lip before turning on her four-inch heels and storming down the wooden steps. “You guys suck.”

She adjusted her bosom beneath her lacy red bra as she sloshed through the mud and disappeared around the house. Edith Anne was all about class.

“Son of a bitch, Ceel.” Taran stared at the dead were. The wounds gurgled pus like a fountain, deep from where the cursed gold bullets had lodged.

But the pus, and the blood, and the death were not what made Taran clutch herself protectively. I moved a little closer and whispered so our other sisters, Shayna and Emme, couldn’t hear. “Did you dream again, about those . . . creatures?”

I didn’t want to say “demons.” And neither did Taran. Yet the dread surrounding her nightmares over the past few weeks and the way she described those things—reptilian bodies, leather wings, and strangely humanoid faces—left us few choices from which to select. Gargoyles didn’t exist. Neither did any type of Fae. But demons? If a good, loving God existed, and darkness still reigned in our world, something not so good, not so loving, had also found its place among us.

Taran’s petrified blue eyes peered out to the horizon where Tahoe’s gentle waves sparkled beneath the warming April sun. The magic within her stirred, causing wavy strands of her jet-black hair to flutter around her stunning Latin features. Either the divination of the lake had stimulated her gift or she’d attempted to lure it to do so. She knew that Tahoe both settled and enlivened my beast—the literal tigress within me, who emerged when the superscaries came out to play. And while she didn’t understand how to draw its magic, something happened. A trickle of rising power brushed past me from the direction of the lake and into Taran. Whatever she gathered, though, didn’t seem to be enough. She shook her head, disappointment crinkling her neatly shaped brows. “It was the same dream, Ceel, the one where I see them sweeping down on us like locusts. They cover my body and claw at me and . . .” She shuddered. “Shayna’s cries are the last sound I hear before I wake up screaming.”

She jumped when I placed my hand on her shoulder and scowled hard enough to set me on fire with her power. “Damn it, Ceel. Don’t touch me when I’m—” She shut her lids tight and shook it off, swearing a mantra beneath her breath. When she opened her eyes, her scowl deepened, erasing any remaining susceptibility. Taran didn’t allow herself to express vulnerability very often. Attitude, yes. Bitchiness, daily. But that’s what kept her safe. And in the supernatural world we lived in, a little bit of boldness kept you very much alive.

I reached for her once more, moving slowly to avoid irritating her fragile nerves. My fingers squeezed her arm. “We have a pack of werewolves watching out for us.” I smirked when I thought of Misha. “And a guardian angel master vampire who feels indebted to us for saving his billion-dollar backside. We’re going to be okay.”

I had an inner beast. Taran, an inner bitch. They both worked well to help us through our struggles, just in different ways. She sighed. “Yeah. Maybe.” She stomped back to the body, scrutinizing our unexpected visitor from his gushing head to his seeping toes. “When the hell are the weres getting here? No offense to this poor sap, but he’s making a ridiculous mess.”

I tried not to think about the mess. Or the wereraccoon. I’d first found him riffling through our garbage a month or so back. Since then he’d periodically hid, watching us, in the tall, dense firs surrounding our house. Was it creepy? Oh yeah. Did I want him around us? No. But he’d been one of many supernaturals who had shown up since my sisters and I were “outed” to the mystical community. And unlike the other audacious idiots I pounded, this guy seemed . . . skittish.

Streaks of blood and pus ran from the thick brush behind our house and up the porch steps to the body. The were’s feet hovered over the threshold while the rest of his na**d body lay facedown across our dark chestnut wood floors. Blond curls stuck to his scalp. His head twisted in an odd angle and his eyes stared blindly beneath our couch. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, like me. Too young to die, especially like this.

Our training as nurses drove us to try to save him. But his throat had been slit where his pulse should have drummed, and the pungent scent of death told me there was nothing left to save. I didn’t have many friends. And I had the feeling the wereraccoon hadn’t had any.

Shayna played with her phone. She’d taken one look at the body and called her behemoth werewolf boyfriend right away. Since then she hadn’t stepped anywhere near the were and had kept her eyes averted. She knew as the earth’s guardians, her boyfriend and his kind would take care of it. Or maybe it was the pus. Shayna and I delivered babies for a living. While we dealt with other body fluids, pus never reared its ugly head. “Koda says they’re almost here . . . and that Aric says not to do anything stupid.”

Aric. His name filled me with heat while chills shot down my spine. I wanted to see him. I just wasn’t exactly ready. And I especially wasn’t ready for him to find me standing over a corpse. Again. “Aric’s coming?”

Shayna nodded hard enough to make her silky black ponytail bounce behind her. “He cares about you, Celia. He wants to make sure you’re safe.”

The cool April breeze swept through the opened door, sending goose bumps scurrying from my arms up to my neck. I wrapped my bare arms around my body. I usually dressed in a tank and jogging shorts when I went for my run; otherwise my inner tigress made me unbearably hot. But standing still did nothing to warm me. She flicked her tail inside me, excited to see Aric’s wolf. I only wished my human side shared her enthusiasm. “I doubt he cares as much as you think,” I muttered.

“Aric hasn’t called?” My sweet sister, Emme, curled her arms around mine. She reminded me of Natalie Portman—pretty, gentle, and soft-spoken. I almost smiled. Against my gold skin tone and lean muscles, her fair skin appeared lighter and her delicate arms more fragile.

A twinge of her pale yellow healing light that matched her hair slowly built until it completely enveloped us. I shook my head. “Don’t, Emme.” She attempted to soothe my emotions with her healing ability—the way she did my physical wounds. But disappointment was nothing to heal, rather just something to get over. “I’m not mad at Aric. You don’t have to calm me.”

Emme released me, sympathy further softening her gentle green eyes. She nodded and leaned against the back of our sofa, smoothing the skirt of her long blue dress.

Shayna frowned and stepped toward me, but apparently she was too close to the body. She backed away again and tucked her iPhone into the pocket of her jeans, fiddling with the holster of her sword as she spoke. “But you said Aric’s texted you quite a bit.”

Shayna’s glass remained perpetually half full and often overflowed with hope. I supposed it complemented her perky cheerleading persona. Me? No one would have referred to me as perky, and let’s just say my cup didn’t runneth over. “Only to tell me he’d call soon, but we haven’t spoken since . . . you know.” I didn’t want to mention the morning I’d woken in bed with Aric’s arms holding me tight. Good grief, had that only been a little over a week ago? I was trapped inside a burning mansion with a psycho master vampire. Aric had saved me from being burned to cinders.

My fingertips swept absentmindedly over my lips. He’d kissed me long and hard that morning. And I willingly returned his affections. My heart pounded, my skin sizzled, my body begged for his . . . and then he jerked out of bed and left. Just like that. Without explanation. Without a good-bye. Just a promise to call. The wandering hands I expected never explored, the tongue I wanted to skim along my flesh never tasted past my lips, and the werewolf I expected to stay in bed with me didn’t bother. Despite the record-breaking heat between us, we hadn’t made love. Maybe it was better. I’d only had sex three times in my life, when I was seventeen. And while the experience could be described as sweet, the words “awkward” and “clumsy” also came to mind. I still remained unsure whether the first time even “counted.”

Shayna leaned on the cream-colored couch next to Emme, a safe distance away from our deceased guest. “Aric’s probably just been busy, dude,” she offered.

“Koda calls you every day, throughout the day.” And spends every night with you, I didn’t add.

Shayna’s bright smile and blue eyes lacked their famous sparkle. “Koda’s neither a pureblood nor a Leader like Aric. He doesn’t have the responsibilities Aric has.”

“Nor does he have to answer to his Elders for dating outside his race.” I knelt over the body, my anxiety over the wolves’ arrival riling my beast.

Taran tossed her midnight waves so they fell behind her shoulders. Since first realizing Shayna called Koda, she’d rushed to change out of the camisole she’d slept in and now donned a chic pale olive dress and silver gladiator sandals that added four inches to her five-foot-three frame. She’d dressed for Gemini, Aric’s Beta. Taran’s blue eyes peered beneath the shroud of thick lashes she’d inherited from our Latina mother. “It could be worse. He could pat your damn head.”

Taran’s allure crushed men like potato chips. You know those women men ignored their dates to ogle? Taran was one of those. She could have had any male she wanted. Anyone, but Gemini, it seemed.

Emme placed her hand over her mouth. “Oh my goodness. Is Gemini still petting you?”

Taran twirled her platinum and diamond bracelet—a gift from Misha. “Yup. Just last night.”

“Do you think perhaps it’s a wolf thing?” Emme offered.

Taran dropped her hands to her sides. “Does Liam pet you—on the couch, in bed, in the tub—ever?”

Emme blushed. “Um, well, no—”

Taran turned to Shayna. “How about Koda? Any head rubbing going on?”

“No, dude. But—”

“Then don’t tell me it’s a damn wolf thing. I’d give anything for that fine hunk of Japanese ass to kiss me, touch me—anything but the damn head pat!”

Emme frowned, making her appear bunny rabbit fierce. “Don’t swear in front of the dead fellow. It’s disrespectful.”

Taran’s harsh brows softened as she took in the dead were once more. “I really don’t think he gives a shit, Emme.”

In the distance, my sensitive hearing fixed on three speeding SUVs. I rose and nudged Taran. “The wolves are here.” Seconds later the vehicles screeched into our small development, Koda’s silver Yukon in the lead, followed closely by a black Escalade. Aric’s Escalade. A red four-by-four pickup pulled against the curb last, and three males I didn’t recognize stepped out. Koda and Liam raced in, leaping one by one over the body and hurrying to Shayna and Emme. Aric and Gemini jogged out of the Escalade. Gemini reached the door first. His dark almond eyes widened upon seeing Taran, but quickly regained their composure. He held out his hand. “Will you stand outside with me, in case any witnesses arrive?”

A spark of blue and white flame ignited on Taran’s fingertips. She nodded. Gem pulled her into his arms and swept her down the steps. A gallant Prince Charming move if only Prince Charming hadn’t patted a pissed-off Snow White’s head.

Aric’s pace slowed the moment he caught sight of me, his light brown eyes bright against his navy shirt and five o’clock shadow. Unlike the others, Aric didn’t fuss over me and stopped a few steps in front of the were’s feet. “You okay?”