Nightshade Page 21

She had taken a few steps forward when Logan darted toward the couch.

“May I?” he asked.

My mistress blinked at the boy but then smiled.

“Of course.” She gestured for him to approach the unconscious man.

Efron snapped his fingers. The Bane elders moved into watchful stances on each side of the Searcher.

Logan placed his hands on the sides of the man’s temples. The boy’s lips moved rapidly, murmuring an incantation that I couldn’t understand.

The Searcher’s eyes fluttered open; he drew a ragged breath and sat bolt upright. Logan smiled and backed away. The man searched the room wild-eyed.

“Where am I?”

“I think we’ll be asking the questions, friend.” Efron stepped forward.

The Searcher cringed back into the couch. The Banes snarled, and he whimpered like a caged animal. “Stay away from me.”

“Is that any way to treat your host?” Efron continued toward the trembling man at a measured pace. “After all, you are in my home. You’ve violated my territory.”

“It’s not yours, warlock.” The Searcher spat; his fear seemed to give way to outrage. “Where is the boy?”

“That is not your concern.”

“He doesn’t know, does he? Who he is? That you took Tristan and Sarah? What you’re going to do?” The man’s gaze continued to travel with desperation through the office, at last falling on me. “So it was your slave bitch who killed Stuart.”

Ren snarled and leapt forward, shifting in midair into a dark gray wolf. He crouched low and stalked toward the couch.

“No,” Efron said. Ren stilled but continued to glare at the Searcher.

Efron smiled coldly. “You’ll soon wish a Guardian had taken your life as well. But I think we can find a more interesting end for you. My apologies, Renier.” He waved the alpha off. “I’m sure you’d love a taste of our friend’s flesh. I promise you’ll have the chance to avenge your mother another day.”

Ren shifted back into his human shape and returned to my side; a haunted expression shadowed his face. Lumine crossed the room, smiling at the prisoner.

“I’m not afraid of you, witch,” the Searcher hissed, making an obscene gesture.

“So crude.” Lumine drummed her fingers on the back of the couch. “Time to teach you some manners.”

She raised her hand and drew an intricate pattern in the air. When she finished, a flaming symbol hung suspended before her. The design contracted, pulsed twice, and then exploded outward. The shadowy incarnation of a wraith hovered before Lumine.

My stomach flipped over and I shrank back, grabbing for Ren’s hand. His fingers wound through mine, gripping them tightly.

The Searcher scrambled backward from the couch onto the floor. “Oh my God.”

Lumine smiled. “He’s not taking calls right now.”

She flicked her wrist. The wraith slithered forward. Its body wrapped like bands of dark cloth around the Searcher. He shrieked, limbs convulsing as the shadow creature engulfed him.

“Now, let’s talk about your friends in Denver, shall we?”

Efron cleared his throat. “Logan, why don’t you show our faithful Guardians to the door so they can return to their friends. They’ve done more than enough for us tonight.”

He smiled slowly. “You have our thanks, young alphas.”

Ren nodded at Efron and then pulled me toward the door. Logan stepped ahead of us, unlocked the door, and swung it open.

“Enjoy the club,” he said. “We’ll have to chat about the new pack soon.”

From within the room the Searcher screamed again. If it hadn’t been for the deafening pulse of music, his cry of agony would have filled every corner of the cavernous nightclub. Logan winked before closing the door.

Without looking back at the office, we hurried to the second floor. When we reached the top of the stairs, I searched for my Nightshades and spotted them at the very center of the throng of swaying bodies. Ansel and Bryn whirled in dizzying circles, hands clasped. Neville and Mason were in the midst of a dance-off, while Cosette and Sabine cheered them on. Dax and Fey stood slightly apart, watching the others. Dax’s head was bent near Fey’s ear. Her face twisted into a smirk as he whispered. I started toward them, but Ren pulled me back.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.” I felt a light touch on my shoulder where the bruise from the Searcher’s weapon had been. Ren’s fingers caressed my skin in slow circles. The sensation of his subtle strokes moved out in ripples through my body. I closed my eyes, willing my heart to slow from its breakneck pace. Why does this happen every time he touches me?

“Are you sure, Lily?” he teased.

The hated pet name drew a rough laugh from my throat. “I’m sure. You took care of that.”

He pulled me closer. “Will you dance with me now, or are you going to run away again?”

My fighting instincts kicked in. “If you’d give me a second to breathe, maybe I wouldn’t have to run away!”

Ren’s hands dropped from my shoulders. “Why do you hate me, Calla?”

I shook my head. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve never encountered a girl so averse to my company.” He looked away from me; the muscles in his jaw tightened.

“Maybe that’s your problem.” He jerked as if I’d hit him, and I regretted losing my temper. “I don’t hate you. I’m just trying to follow the rules.”

“Look, I understand. This situation isn’t ideal,” he said. “But I thought maybe things between us . . .”

His words ebbed away like fog caught by a stiff breeze. He shifted his weight and then spoke again, forcefully.

“You’re right. I’ll back off. I still think our packs need to be together. Particularly with Logan taking over after the union. He’s unpredictable. We need to be strong. And they seem pretty okay with this new arrangement.” He gestured at the dance floor.

I nodded, not sure what else to say. His eyes met mine. I stepped back, startled by his hard glare. “I won’t bother you anymore. When it’s time for the union, we’ll figure it out.”

My gut twisted as I dropped my gaze to the floor. I didn’t want him to give up that easily. “Ren.” I lifted my eyes to meet his. But he had already turned his back on me. My hand shot out, reaching for him a moment too late as he disappeared into the crowd.

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