A Cursed Bloodline - Chapter One
I continued to stare at the tiny heartbeat on the screen. “How did this happen?” I asked stupidly. “Have you been sexually active, Celia?”
Dr. Belman’s voice was soft and surprisingly patient. I thought about all the times Aric and I had been intimate in the last few weeks. “Um. Yes.”
“Did you use birth control?”
“Yes.” He raised his eyebrows. “It’s true,” I insisted.
I had started back on the Pill when Aric and I resumed our relationship. Dr. Belman pointed to the monitor. “Every time, Celia?”
“Well, no. But it was only one night.” That was the truth—sort of. Granted that one night we’d made love four times, but that didn’t matter, right? I looked back at the little beating heart. I guess it does . . . matter.
Tears streamed down my face. Although I completely freaked, I couldn’t help smiling.
Aric and I are having a baby.
Dr. Belman removed the internal monitor, the same monitor I insisted he use to disprove the pregnancy test results. I thought he was just in obstetrician mode when I explained my symptoms and he had me give a urine sample. Extreme fatigue and nausea could have been related to anything I might have contracted on my recent international trips.
“Are you all right, Celia?”
I sat up and wiped my trickling tears. “Yes. No. I’m not sure, but I will be.” “Do you feel the young man responsible will be supportive?”
Don’t you mean the young werewolf? “In time. Aric is just going through a lot at the moment.” You see, Dr. Belman, he was severely burned and disfigured three days ago, in Chaitén, Chile, trying to save the world from a seven-headed fire-breathing demon.
“Regardless of what challenges he’s facing, if he’s worth keeping, he’ll make you and his child a priority.” He sighed and placed his hand on my shoulder. “I apologize, Celia. I know it’s not my place to speak to you like this, but you are a nice young lady and deserve a good man.”
“I appreciate your concern, Dr. Belman, but Aric is a good man.” He’s just hurting.
Dr. Belman tapped my arm and regarded me thoughtfully. “If you say so, I believe you.” He helped me off the exam table. “So, miss, the plan is you will stop taking birth control at once and you will see me in four weeks. Here is a prescription for some prenatal vitamins.”
I pushed my long wavy hair from my face and stared at the script. Somehow the piece of paper officially announced I was becoming a mommy. Another tear escaped my eye. “Thank you, Dr. Belman.”
On the way home, different scenarios of Aric’s reaction played in my head, and I wondered how to tell him. He hadn’t called, though he’d said he would. It was rare for him not to stay true to his word, and even more rare for him not to check on me.
My head spun with worry. The demon hadn’t just marred Aric physically, he’d brutalized his self-esteem. I drummed my fingers against the steering wheel and entertained my options. I couldn’t call his Warriors. If Aric’s Pack Elders found out, his friends would surely be punished and so would Aric. I also couldn’t involve my sisters. They would suspect something, and in this case, Aric should know my news first.
Will you be happy for us, Aric?
Four days ago, I wouldn’t have asked myself that question. I would have known based on the depths of our feelings, and from the intimate moments in our past. I remembered one day in particular when we first began living together. We lay in bed facing each other. Aric traced my jawline with his finger as he spoke. It tickled and made me smile. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“What is it, love?”
He’d returned my smile. It made him happy whenever I used that term of endearment. “I’ve noticed you haven’t had your cycle. Do you think you could be pregnant?”
My fingertips playfully danced against his muscular chest while I tried in vain to suppress my blush. “My periods are irregular. They only come about every nine weeks. Don’t worry, I should be getting another one soon.”
“I wasn’t worried,” he’d replied. At the time, I could have sworn he seemed disappointed.
Another time I recalled, Aric and I had run into a family whose baby I’d delivered when I was still a nurse. We each took turns holding the baby and had exchanged heartfelt glances. Although neither of us had articulated our feelings, I knew we’d wondered about our own family one day.
Well, it looks like the day has come a little sooner than expected.
I was stopped at a light when my phone buzzed. My heart clenched when I read the incoming text.
I’m sorry. I need some time alone. Aric
The obnoxious car horn behind me snapped me from my stupor and made me drop the phone. It was just as well, I probably would have thrown it with how frustrated I felt. Damnit, Aric. Don’t do this . . . not today.
I drove to my house in Dollar Point to gather some personal items following my doctor’s appointment. I was about to take a walk along Lake Tahoe to clear my head, when someone knocked on my door. Anara waited on my doorstep, holding a charm similar to the one Genevieve had given me to pass through the wards. My hackles instinctively rose. “What are you doing here, Anara?”
A long, vicious growl rumbled through his chest. “I’m here to tell you that if you ever see Aric again I’ll—”
“You’ll what? Kill me?” I was livid. How dare he come to my home and threaten me! Anara just laughed. “No, you stupid woman. I’ll kill him.”
His response incensed me. I crouched and readied myself to attack. “Not if you’re already dead.”
Anara threw out his hand as if batting a fly, sending me slamming into the portrait-filled wall. Glass from the frames cut into my skin, stinging and piercing my flesh like the jagged teeth of a shark. Warm blood trickled down my back and soaked through my thick cotton sweater. He held me a few feet off the floor with just his will. I jerked my shoulders, trying to move, to kick—anything to break from his hold. My limbs failed me. I reached into my tigress for strength, but Anara’s power caged her within me.
He walked inside, slamming the door behind him. Invisible fists struck my face with each step he took. He broke my nose and bloodied my face without ever lifting a finger. My ears rang from the jolts and from the eerie call of howling wolves.
“Do you think me merely a vampire or a Tribemaster you can so easily defeat?” he spat. “I am an Elder. I can summon the power of the Pack and use it to my liking. I can kill Aric and anyone I wish from miles away. No one can stop me—and no one can help you!”
He lifted his palm and squeezed his fingers, choking me slowly from where he stood. Spots speckled my vision. I thought he would kill me until he dropped his hand and released the pressure burning my throat. He paced in front of me, rubbing his jaw, seemingly pleased with the amount of magic at his fingertips. I spat out blood and tried to speak. “Why Aric?” I croaked.
His hot breath stirred against my face. “I will not allow you to taint his bloodline. He is a king among wolves and you are nothing but a whore. I’d rather see him dead than with an abomination like you!” His stare traveled the length of my body with the deepest of loathing. He lifted the edge of my sweater, before yanking it down with disgust. “I never understood what he saw in you,” he scoffed.
Anara’s hold continued as he stalked away. “My followers are everywhere, Celia. I can manipulate them to do my will, just as I did Virginia. I will know if you see him, I will know if you speak to him.”
The realization of his words struck me like a thunderbolt and washed my bleeding form with cold dread. He was the one who believed me the key to his destruction . . . and to all he led.
Anara stopped at the door, the muscles of his back tightening until they bulged against his red shirt. “If you dare tell anyone about this, your sisters will share Aric’s fate.”
As a testament of his power Anara didn’t release me until about an hour after he left. I crashed to the floor, coughing and shaking. The only thought racing through my head was the need to protect Aric, my sisters, and the baby growing inside me.
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