Nightshade Page 16

“It’s true. But the decision didn’t rest with us.” Lumine leaned over Efron, lighting his cigar with a flame that jumped from the tip of her fingernail. “It came from—”

Her words cut off and her eyes flew to the office door, which had abruptly swung open.

A tall, elegantly dressed man swept into the room. He had his arm around the shoulders of a weary-looking teenage boy. I almost fell off the couch. I must be dreaming; this cannot be happening.

My nails dug into Ren’s thigh.

“What?” He kept his voice low, turning toward the door. “Ugh, not this kid again.”

Shay Doran appeared as shocked as we were. He halted, staring at us until the tall stranger guided him forward and gestured to one of the leather chairs opposite the couch.

“Have a seat.”

Efron rose and Lumine bowed to the newly arrived man.

“May I get you anything?” She smiled sweetly.

He looked at Efron’s glass. “A brandy would be fine. Thank you, Lumine.”

The man unbuttoned his suit jacket, settling into the leather chair. When I met his eyes, they were an inhuman shade of silver that pierced my body like a sword. My hands began to shake.

“Thank you for inviting them to join us, Efron,” he said.

“Of course.” Efron bobbed his head.

Lumine returned with a crystal snifter of brandy.

“Ah, good.” He took a long whiff of the liquor. “Fine indeed.”

The two Keepers hovered near the man, watching his every gesture intently. I followed their movements with increasing alarm.

The stranger leaned forward, smiling. “Renier, Calla, my name is Bosque Mar. Your families and mine have a long history, though I’ve been away for some years now. I asked my dear friends to bring you here this evening so I could introduce you to my nephew.”

He gestured to Shay, who still stared at us in mute bewilderment.

Our families?

Bosque Mar had aquiline features, olive skin, and deep brown hair that was slicked back helmet-like against his head. Like Efron’s, his eyes danced as though alive with flames. My gaze moved to Shay. The boy’s golden brown hair and tawny skin bore no resemblance to the man who claimed to be his uncle.

Why would the Keepers have a human child living among them?

Shay looked from his “uncle” to the other Keepers, then he glanced at me. He met my befuddled gaze, offering an uneasy smile.

“Perhaps you’ve already seen each other at school?” Lumine watched me expectantly, her tongue running over her ruby-painted lips.

“Yeah. We have a couple of classes together.” I spoke carefully as I kept my eyes on my new classmate. I could barely hear myself over my shrieking nerves. “Hello, Shay. I hope you’ve had a good first week at school. Sorry we haven’t had the chance to be properly introduced until now. I’m Calla Tor.”

I could see a question forming on Shay’s lips. I glared at him and his mouth snapped shut.

My mistress smiled, exposing her bright white teeth. “Excellent. We wouldn’t want poor Shay to be isolated, now, would we? Life can be so hard for transfer students.”

I stared at Lumine. What?

“The Mountain School is a tightly knit community.” Efron leaned casually against the mantel, cigar smoke curling around him. “We just want to be sure that you know Shay is part of our family. You should keep an eye out for him, the way you would your own.”

Ren watched his master, though he spoke to Shay. “Of course. You can let us know if you need anything.”

A dry laugh escaped Shay’s throat. “Thanks.”

“If you’ll excuse our brevity, I have more friends at the party I’d like my nephew to meet.” Bosque took another sip of his brandy and then handed the glass back to Lumine.

“Shay.” He rose, gesturing for the boy to follow. Shay glanced at me once more before trailing after his uncle. I watched them go, wishing I could follow and puzzle out Shay’s place in my world. Who are you?

An imposing ebony grandfather clock in a corner of the room began to chime. Midnight. Efron’s lips hooked upward.

“Ah, the witching hour. Best time for dancing. Go enjoy yourselves. I’m sorry I can’t join you.” He winked at me and my blood went cold. “Lumine and I have some business to discuss.”

Ren grasped my arm, drawing me from the couch. I fought the urge to run from Efron’s office. When the massive oak door had closed behind us, I convulsed with the shudder I’d been holding back.

Ren glanced at me. “Are you all right?”

I rubbed my arms, trying to shake the creeping discomfort from my skin. “I think so.”

He placed his hands on my shoulders, turning me toward him. “I’m sorry about Efron. I didn’t think he’d be that way with you—since you’re a Nightshade.”

“I’d heard about his habits but never took the rumors seriously,” I said. “I can’t believe Sabine encourages him.”

“You shouldn’t judge Sabine.” Ren’s hands dropped. He started to walk away.

“Why not?” I called, chasing after him through the tangle of bodies on the main dance floor. “Ren, wait!”

He finally paused at the bottom of the staircase, but he didn’t look at me. “Sabine keeps Efron entertained so he won’t go after Cosette. Cosette is young and terrified of our master. Sabine is very protective of her, and she’s sacrificed a lot to keep Cosette out of Efron’s sights—so she’s jaded. I’d say it’s understandable.”

His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides. “She can help Cosette . . . in a way I can’t.”

“Oh God.” My stomach rolled over. “I’m sorry, Ren. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly. “You couldn’t have known.”

He started up the staircase. “I’m just glad you’ve been under Lumine all this time.”

When we reached the second floor, Bryn darted from the crowd. “Calla!”

Ansel followed just behind her; he was beaming.

“Where have you been?” She wrapped her arms around my waist. “You’re missing such a great party.”

She caught the expression on my face. “What’s wrong?”

I can’t seem to keep Ren at bay even though I have to, I’m terrified of Efron Bane, and I can’t stop thinking about a boy who’s even more of a mystery now than before I knew his name. I plastered on a smile. “Nothing. We’ll talk later.”

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