Nightshade Page 22


I BARELY SLEPT. CHAOTIC DREAMS ASSAULTED me through the night. Sometimes the visions teased me: Ren’s fingers on my bare skin, his lips moving close to mine, and this time I didn’t turn away. Shay pulling me into an alley, holding me against a building while his kiss burned through me until there was nothing left but fire. Other images lashed me with cruel force: I was pinned to the ground; Efron hovered over me. Then it was no longer Efron but a wraith. I heard the Searcher screaming and then the screams became my own.

When morning arrived, I shuddered, overwhelmed by exhaustion. I hid in my room, burying myself in all the pillows and blankets I could find. I hunkered down in my cotton fortress until there was a knock at my door. I peeked at the clock from beneath the layers of warmth; it was almost one in the afternoon.


My father entered the room, closing the door behind him. His fists were clenched at his sides.

“Haven’t seen you all day,” he murmured, looking over my pillow turrets and quilt walls.

“I’m not feeling great,” I said, and pulled a blanket up to cover my nose and mouth. Only my eyes peered out at my father. My response made him jerk awkwardly. He gripped the doorknob, twisting it back and forth in his hand.

“Ansel said you were with the Banes at Eden last night.” His wary voice made me prop up on my elbows.

I nodded.

“Did you meet Efron?” The skin around his eyes tightened.

“Yeah. I did.” I heard the revulsion in my voice.

“Are you okay?” My father suddenly couldn’t look at me.

“Yes.” I sat up with alarm as I realized what kept him hovering in the door frame. I wrapped my arms around a pillow. “Lumine was there too.”

His eyes flicked up to me. “She was?”

I nodded, sliding back down beneath the covers. “Has it always been like that?” I stared at the ceiling. “Keepers have Guardians for whatever they want? Not just as their warriors.”

“It depends on the Keeper. Efron has exotic tastes. I’m sure you saw that last night.” His answer was gruff but resigned.

“Yeah.” I closed my eyes.

“But it’s our duty to serve them. The sacred sites must not be taken by the Searchers. The world depends upon that, and the Keepers give us the power to defend the sites.” His voice was low. “We cannot question the Keepers, Calla. Even when we see sides of our masters that we may not like.”

“I know.” I turned my head toward him, wanting to voice the questions I couldn’t ask.

What if Efron were our master and not Lumine? What if it were me or Mom and not the Bane girls who he asked for? What would you do then?

Horrifying thoughts rushed up to overwhelm me, so I grasped for another subject. “There was a Searcher attack last night.”

“We received notice this morning,” he said. “Congratulations on your first kill. Your mother and I are very proud.” He smiled briefly and I shrugged.

My father looked pleased at my cool acceptance of his praise. “It’s likely that our patrols will be intensified soon. I think they’ll consider putting your new pack out even before the union is official.”

I guess everyone wants a head start on the new pack. “Logan Bane has been given control of our pack as part of his inheritance.”

He folded his hands in front of his chest. “That’s unexpected. Though I suppose Efron’s son will be of age soon.”

“Do you know who Bosque Mar is?” I frowned.

He shook his head. “Who?”

“He’s a Keeper. He was at Eden last night.” I mulled over my memory of the bizarre encounter. “I think he gave the order for Logan to take our pack. Our mistress deferred to him. I’ve never seen her do that.”

“We don’t deal with the hierarchies of the Keepers’ world,” my father snapped. “That’s their business. I answer to Lumine and no other Keeper.”

He paced in front of the door. “When your new pack forms, you’ll be accountable to Logan only. Don’t become involved with the Keepers’ affairs. You’re a warrior, Calla. Remember that and keep it close. Distractions will only hurt you.”

“Yes, of course.” I shrank further beneath my blanket defenses. I was stupid last night; my father is right. What I want doesn’t matter. I have to be strong. Nothing more.

I bit a pillow. I hate boys.

He watched my retreat, frowning. “Your mother is making lunch. Will you join us?”

“Okay.” No matter how thick my cotton fortress might be, it wouldn’t change anything. Besides, I was a warrior; it was time to act like one.

The chiming melody echoed in my ears before my eyes opened. Bell-like notes seeped in through my bedroom window, which I’d left cracked open the night before, along with a steady stream of cool, biting air. Frost. The first hard frost of the year. I glanced at the clock. Bryn would be outside in an hour for our weekly patrol.

How am I going to get rid of her? I chewed on shredded wheat and wondered if Shay would actually make the hike up the mountain this early in the morning.

“Hey, sis.” Ansel appeared at the bottom of the stairs.

“What are you doing up?” I asked, suddenly worried that I was late. But it was 6:30 a.m. Our weekend patrols began at 7:00.

“I wanted to see if I could come along today.” He tried to sound casual, but his hand trembled as he poured coffee. Black liquid splattered on the counter.

“You just patrolled with Mason yesterday.” I watched as he wiped up the coffee with a paper towel.

“I know,” he said quickly. “I just think the practice is good for me. I mean, with the attack and all.”

“Oh.” I chewed my lip. “I actually was going to give Bryn the day off. I’ll patrol alone.”

“Why?” Ansel sat at the table, fingers tapping the sides of his mug.

“I just need some time to think.” I made up an excuse on the spot. “And I think best when I run alone.”

“Are you okay, Cal?” Ansel shoveled spoonful after spoonful of sugar into his coffee.

“How can you drink that?” I shuddered.

“Just answer the question.” He raised the cup to his lips.

“I’m fine.”

“Mom said you spent half the day in bed while I was on patrol.” He picked up the sugar and added another tablespoon to his coffee.

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