Nightshade Page 10

I grabbed my lunch and moved to the empty seat. Sabine sulked. Cosette offered a nervous smile as I sat down.

“Hello, ladies,” I said.

Sabine grunted, tightening the lock of her arms around her body.

“Hi, Calla,” Cosette murmured, toying with the meatball atop her plate of spaghetti. Her glance darted uneasily from me to Sabine.

“Interesting move, Lily.” Ren took a swig from his bottled water.

I resumed chomping on my turkey sandwich and shrugged. “I thought it might save us from random acts of violence at Eden. I’m sure Efron wouldn’t enjoy pulling rival teen wolves off each other in the middle of his party.”

Ren laughed, tilting his chair on its back legs, but Sabine glared at me.

“So you’re coming?” Her nails dug into the flesh of her arms, leaving bright red welts.

“Of course. We can’t wait,” I said. My voice dripped saccharin.

“Whatever.” She pulled out an emery board and began filing her nails.

Ren brought his chair back to the floor with an abrupt clatter. “Knock it off, Sabine. Now.”

She dropped the emery board and cast a pleading glance at Cosette. The younger Bane girl bit her lip, scooped up the board, and handed it back to Sabine.

A trill of wicked laughter came from the other table. Fey grinned as her eyes followed Dax’s wildly gesticulating hands.

“Well, that is a strange sight,” I said. “Smiling ranks at the top of her seven deadly sins.”

Ren leaned toward me. “Dax is a funny guy. Great storyteller. Your pack will like him.”

“That seems to be the case.”

Mason, Neville, and Ansel remained so engrossed in their conversation—which from snatches I caught seemed to be about whether Montreal, Austin, or Minneapolis produced the best indie bands—they didn’t even glance at the rest of the wolves. I leaned back in my chair, feeling rather pleased with myself.

This is easy.

The mouthful of turkey sandwich I’d bitten off caught in my throat when Ren rested his hand on my leg, his fingers exploring the curve of my thigh. I coughed and snatched the bottle of water from his other hand, taking several desperate swallows before swatting his fingers from my leg.

“Are you trying to kill me?” I choked the words out. “Keep your hands to yourself.”

Ren opened his mouth as if to respond, but he suddenly jerked upright, looking behind me. I turned in my seat.

Shay stood in the middle of the cafeteria, staring at our two tables, a mixture of curiosity and fear playing over his face.

“I think you’re right, Lily,” Ren said. “That boy needs directions. He looks like he wants to come over here.”

Shay took a hesitant step toward us. His eyes fixed on me, mesmerized. I shuddered and shoved the remainder of my sandwich into the brown paper bag.

Sabine snickered. “My, my, that’s a love-struck gaze if I’ve ever seen one. It looks like the newbie has a crush on Calla. Isn’t that sweet? Poor little human.”

It was becoming too familiar, this mixture of fear and pleasure whenever I thought about the new boy and wondered what he might be thinking about me.

A low rumble stirred in Ren’s chest. “Maybe I need to have a chat with him about how things stand with us . . . and where his place is at this school.”

He started to rise. I couldn’t let him get to Shay.

“No, Ren. Please. He’s just a human. He doesn’t know any better.” I grabbed his arm, pulling him back into the chair. “Give it a day; he’s bound to figure it out. They always do.”

“Is that what you want?” His voice dropped low. “For me to leave him alone?”

“We’re not supposed to mix with the humans,” I said. “It will only draw attention if you confront him.”

He pulled my hand off his forearm, threading his fingers through my own.

I tensed but didn’t attempt to free my hand from his clasp.

Okay, we can hold hands. This is okay. This will be okay.

But my heart felt like I was trying to finish a marathon. I hated that I couldn’t control myself around him—and that I had to.

The rest of the pack, attuned to the sudden bristling of their two alphas, dropped their conversations and turned to the stranger. A rippling snarl emerged from their throats and my spine prickled. Their defensive reaction was the first unified act of the young Nightshades and Banes.

We are a pack.

With ten pairs of hostile Guardian eyes fixed upon him, Shay began to quiver. His glance shot around the cafeteria, settling on his lab partners from Organic Chemistry. He hurried over to their table with a quick, regretful glance back at me.

A dark laugh rolled out of Ren’s throat. “Guess you were right, Lily. There’s the learning curve in action.”

I smiled weakly and crumpled my lunch bag, too aware of the disappointment still pinching me from the moment Shay had walked away.


LAMELY TITLED “BIG IDEAS,” MY ONLY AFTERNOON course surveyed philosophy from the classical era through the present day. Despite its vague theme, the class had become my favorite, but when I saw Shay sitting in a desk near the tall windows of the room’s outer wall, my heart tripped over itself. I headed to the back of the room, as far away as I could get. Shay’s eyes were on me as I took my seat. I pulled out the thick binder that contained our readings for the entire year and flipped to the homework from the previous night. As I tried to review my notes, the words blurred before me.

Who is he? Why is he here?

A low, husky laugh drew my attention to the door as the three Bane seniors entered the room. Sabine smiled up at Ren. My jaw clenched to see her arm threaded through his. Dax bounded in just behind the pair. Ren scanned the half-filled seats, his grin fading the second he saw our new classmate.

Ren pulled his arm free of Sabine, turned toward Dax, and jerked his chin in the stranger’s direction. The two Banes swaggered shoulder to shoulder up to Shay, whose eyes widened as the wolves approached. I gripped the sides of my chair, ready to throw myself between predators and unwitting prey if things got out of hand. Ren’s lips curled back in an expression that could hardly be called a smile. I fought back a snarl as I watched the alpha close in.

If you hurt him, I’ll kill you. I swallowed my own gasp at the unbidden thought, glad we weren’t in wolf form. Ren was the last person I could threaten. He was the pack’s future. My future.

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