Nightshade Page 19

He nodded with a little too much enthusiasm and I wondered if I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life.

“Let’s get to the café and I’ll start explaining after you buy me an espresso.”

I was about to return his smile when I saw them. Two men across the street, a few yards behind us. They leaned against a building taking nervous, short drags off their cigarettes. I frowned. Though the pair chatted casually, I was certain that a moment ago, they’d been watching us.

“Come on.”

I crossed the street onto the next block. Shay fell in step, oblivious to my sudden wariness. I glanced over my shoulder. The men trailed behind us. I sniffed the air, but the pair of strangers walked downwind of me, making it impossible for me to know if they were human . . . or something else. I flexed my fingers as I worked through a map of the area around Eden in my mind’s eye.

I tilted my head and listened; it was easy to pick up their gruff whispers.

“We can’t be sure without getting a look at his neck.”

“You gonna ask him to roll back his collar to give you a peek?” the second man said. “He fits the description and he just came out of the warlock’s club. Let’s grab him and ask questions later.”

“He’s not alone.”

“Are you afraid of a girl? Probably some tart our golden boy pulled off the dance floor. Just knock her down, snatch the kid, and we’re out of here.”

With a languid stretch I draped my arm around Shay and curled him toward me. A curious, flirtatious smile appeared on his lips. He glanced at my bursting cleavage again. A sudden low ache made me stumble, sending hot blood up my neck to scorch my cheeks. Then one of the men uttered a low, lewd sound, bringing me back to the street. I shook my head and dug warning nails into Shay’s shoulder, trying as much to focus myself as distract him.

“There’s trouble. Those guys are following us.”

I took care not to say “you.” It was still unclear to me what this boy did and did not know about his connection to our world.

“What?” Shay pulled his eyes off my curves and began to turn his head.

“No!” I hissed. “Keep walking. Look straight ahead.”

When I pulled him tight against my body, his heart fluttered. So did mine; my eyes found his lips, tracing their shape.

Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. My blood was boiling.

I murmured in his ear: “When we get to the end of the block, I want you to run. Get back to the club. Tell the bouncer there’s a problem out here. He’ll send help.”

“I’m not leaving you alone,” he protested.

“Yes, you are.” I smiled at him, letting my sharp canines catch the glow of the streetlamp. “I can handle myself but not if I’m watching out for you at the same time.”

“I have a cell; shouldn’t I call 911?” he asked.

“Absolutely not,” I said.

“I won’t leave unless you promise me something,” he said. It took all my will not to nip his shoulder like I would a misbehaving pup. Why isn’t he afraid of me?

“What?” My heart was pounding, both from the heat of his closeness and the possibility of an attack.

“Meet me tomorrow morning,” he said. “On the mountain. You know where.”

“That’s not a good—”

“Meet me.” He cut me off. “Promise or I stay.”

We were almost to the corner. “Not tomorrow! Sunday morning. I’ll be there.”

“Sunday?” He clasped my fingers.

“Promise,” I whispered, squeezing his hand briefly, and then I shoved him forward. “Get out of here. Now!”

He grinned before dashing around the corner. The rush of footsteps came from behind me. I whirled and spread my arms wide, obstructing their path.

“Out of the way,” the first man said gruffly.

He raised a hand to shove me aside. I whipped my fist low, catching him with a sharp jab in the stomach. The air whooshed from his lungs and he doubled over in pain. Now that he was close, I caught his scent: not human. Searchers.

All the heat in my body gave way to an icy flood. I couldn’t believe I’d let them get so close. My distraction could have cost me my life. Shay was even more dangerous than I’d imagined.

The second man lunged at me. I dived for the sidewalk, rolling out of his reach, and shifted into wolf form. A string of oaths rippled off his tongue.

“They’ve got Guardians watching the kid, Stu.”

The first man recovered from my blow; his hand dipped into his long leather coat, and he moved into a crouch. His lips curled in disgust. “Let’s see what you’ve got, fleabag.”

Something glinted in his hand. I caught the twitch in his wrist just in time to dodge, and the dagger clanged along the sidewalk. I bared my teeth and leapt on him. His scream cut off as my jaws closed, crushing his windpipe. His blood poured into my mouth, molten copper. When I felt his heart stop beating, I raised my muzzle.

The other Searcher stared at me, his face contorted in horror. I dropped my nose low and stalked toward him. He made the mistake of turning to run. I hunched and then rocketed from the pavement. My teeth tore into his hamstring. He fell to the ground, shrieking, before he rolled over and brought his hand up. I yelped as brass knuckles drove into my shoulder. The blow was enough to bruise and enrage me but not to cripple. I barreled into him, pinning him against the sidewalk, eyes fixed upon the throbbing pulse at his throat.


I froze at the sharp voice in my mind. Two Bane elders loped up beside me.

Efron wants him alive, if that’s still possible.

It is. I shifted forms, catching the startled Searcher in the jaw with a heavy blow. His head dropped to the sidewalk; his eyes lolled back unseeing.

The Banes shifted back into their imposing human shapes. I recognized one as the bouncer from Eden.

“Impressive,” he murmured.

I shrugged, wincing at the throb of pain in my shoulder. The bouncer took a step toward me.


“It’s nothing,” I replied, though the lingering pain from my opponent’s blow was more intense than I’d expected.

The Bane frowned. “Did he hit you with his flesh or a weapon?”

“Weapon.” My eyes darted to the unconscious Searcher’s hand. “Blunt, not sharp.”

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