Nightshade Page 18

“Ah. Too personal.” He raised his eyebrows. “The relationship of a girl and her favorite novel can be complex indeed.”

The cab turned down the next block. So much for escaping. “No, it’s just strange to talk like this outside of the club.”

“Agreed.” He looked back at the massive bouncer who hovered by the door. “Wanna go get coffee?”

I wondered if I’d heard him right. A boy just asked me out; that can’t be right. No one asks me out. It’s forbidden. I felt warmth creeping up my cheeks. Then I remembered that he didn’t know any better.

He spoke again. “I’ve been making a habit of finding the best late-night reading spots in Vail. There’s a twenty-four-hour Internet café two blocks from here.”

I nodded. “I know the place.” If I’m supposed to watch out for him, then this wouldn’t really be breaking the rules, would it?

He shifted back and forth on his feet as he waited for my answer.

I considered Ren and the dance floor one last time before saying, “Watership Down.”


“My favorite novel.”

He snorted. “Isn’t that about rabbits?”

“It’s about survival,” I said. “I’ll tell you about it over coffee.”

I began to walk down the street, hearing the clatter of his shoes on the pavement as he rushed to catch up with me.

“Well, bunnies aside, at least you’re original.”

“I’m sorry?” I didn’t look at him but continued at a fast clip along the deserted block.

“Every girl I know says Pride and Prejudice. Or some other Jane Austen tale of class-obstructed love, conflict, and—insert longing sigh here—marriage.”

“I’m not the Jane Austen type.” I slowed my steps so he didn’t have to work to keep pace with me.

“No, I didn’t think so.” I heard the smile in his voice and felt a grin tug at my own mouth.

Shay kept his hands shoved in his jeans pockets as we walked.

“You know.” He cleared his throat. “Grizzlies are supposed to be extinct in Colorado.”

I kept my eyes on the sidewalk, pulling my jacket tightly around me. Nothing is the way it is supposed to be up on that mountain. The world’s natural laws don’t apply.

“I like to hike. Pretty good at it, actually,” Shay continued. “And I read about the terrain when I moved here. Mountain lions maybe, but no grizzlies.”

I shrugged. “Maybe they’re coming back. Conservation movements are making significant headway these days.”

“No, I don’t think so. Wannabe Greenpeace guy here, remember? I can tell you think I’m an idiot, but I’m not. I’m pretty competent when it comes to backpacking. There should not have been a grizzly where I was hiking.” He paused and then plunged on. “Or werewolves.”

I bit my tongue and quickly swallowed down blood. “Is that what you think I am?” He’s only interested because he thinks I’m some kind of freak. Disappointment gnawed at me.

“Let me see: super-strong girl who can turn into a wolf and hangs out with a bunch of other kids who act like a pack of animals at our school and are pretty damn scary. Do I have the definition wrong?”

“It depends on what you think werewolves are.” I glanced at him.

He ran a hand through his already-mussed hair. “I think you should tell me. The rules of the world I’m used to don’t seem to apply here. Lately it seems like I can’t be sure of anything.”

He stopped abruptly and I turned to face him. My breath caught in my throat when I saw the desperation in his face.

“Except that I should be dead.” He shivered. “But I’m not. Because of you.”

He took a step closer, his gaze moving over my face, searching. “I want to know who you are.”

I could smell his fear but was intrigued by the other, more-alluring scents beneath it. Clover, rain, sun-warmed fields. I leaned toward him, taking in the shape of his lips, the light in his pale green eyes. He wasn’t looking at me like I was a freak. His eyes were full of fear and wanting. I wondered what he could see in my eyes.

And I’m beginning to think what really matters is who you are.

Unable to resist, I reached out, curling my fingers around a tendril of hair that fell in his eyes. He took my hand, turning it over in his, tracing my palm as if I might not be real.

“You’re so much like a normal girl.” His eyes moved over my face and shoulders. He tried to hide his quick glance at my corset.

Man, this thing really does work.

I thought about new places his hands might wander but instead drew my lips back in a warning snarl, shaking free of his grasp.

He looked startled for a moment. “See, you have fangs when you’re angry. You’re a werewolf for sure.”

When he rubbed his eyes, I noticed how deeply shadowed they were. “Or else I’m going crazy.”

Sympathy tugged at my chest. I want you to know me, Shay. To really know me.

“You’re not crazy.” I kept my voice low.

“So you are a werewolf,” he whispered.

“I’m a Guardian.” I glanced around the street, worrying that we might be overheard.

“What’s a Guardian?”

I spoke in a hurried whisper. “I need to know if you’ve said anything to your uncle or any of his friends, like Efron, about what happened on the mountain.”

Shay shook his head. “Like I said, I thought I might be crazy. I didn’t want to say anything about it. Things have been too weird ever since I moved here.”

He shoved his hands back in his pockets. “And I was trespassing on that hike. I had my own reasons for being up there, and I didn’t need my uncle to know about it.”

Relief spilled through my body. “All right, Shay. I’ll make you a deal.” I hesitated another moment, knowing I shouldn’t tell him anything. That I should leave him alone on the street right now.

But I didn’t want to. I wanted something that was just mine.

A thrill coursed through me when I whispered, “If you swear that you won’t speak to Bosque or anyone else, and I mean anyone—school, home, online Dark Horse fan group, whoever—about what I tell you, I’ll let you know why things seem so weird in Vail.”

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