Nightshade Page 24

“So, Bryn.” He grabbed the empty sugar bowl and went back to the pantry. I was surprised there was any sugar left considering the amount we’d swept from the floor. “If you’re not patrolling today, would you mind doing me a favor?”

Bryn took a sip of her coffee, squishing her face up. “If you can bring me sugar for this bitter stuff.” She looked at me. “I don’t know how you drink this straight. You’re badass.”

“That’s why I’m your boss.”

Ansel swept back to the table brandishing the refilled sugar bowl.

“Stop swinging that around; you’ll spill it all over again,” I muttered.

“Good man.” Bryn grabbed the bowl.

He opened a kitchen drawer and tossed her a spoon.

“Thanks.” She began to shovel granules into her mug. “What’s the favor?”

I shook my head. “If you guys were humans, you’d already be diabetic.”

Ansel laughed, but his gaze fell on Bryn. “Uh. You had Ms. Thornton for English as a sophomore, right?” He sounded nervous.

“Everyone has her.” Bryn stirred her coffee. “She’s the only English teacher for sophomores.”

“Oh yeah, right,” he mumbled. “Well, we’re at the poetry unit now, and I’m just not getting it.”

“Uh-huh.” After one taste of her coffee, she wrinkled her nose and reached for the sugar once more. After a quick glance at the clock, I got up and carried my mug to the sink.

“So I know you write poetry,” Ansel continued, his eyes fixed intently on the depths of his mug. “And I thought maybe you could help me out.”

Bryn shrugged. “Sure. Since Calla’s dumped me for her new boyfriend, I’m free.”

My mug clattered into the stainless steel basin. “He is not my boyfriend!”

She ignored me. “You know, An, if you really want help with poetry, you should talk to Neville. From what I hear, his poetry is much better than mine. He’s even had some stuff published.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ansel said quickly. “I’ll do that, but the assignment is due tomorrow and you’re here now.”

“Okay. Good point,” she said.

“I’m glad you’re doing something useful today.” I stormed from the kitchen.

I could hear their laughter trail after me as I shifted into wolf form and bolted into the woods behind our house.

I ran up the eastern slope of the mountain. The frosted earth bit into my paws. I knew where I was headed and didn’t pause until I arrived at my intended destination. When I reached the ridge, I dropped onto my haunches. He was there, quietly waiting for me, and I wasn’t as surprised as I thought I would be. I watched him from my elevated vantage point for several minutes and considered my options. Finally I rose and leapt from the ridge, landing just a few feet away from him. He yelped in surprise, scrambling to his feet.

I stared at him, silent, unmoving. He blinked at me. Then he slowly stretched out his hand, taking a few steps forward. He bent down. When I realized what he was about to do, I snarled, snapping at his fingers. He jumped back and swore. I shifted into human form.

“You’re like a dead man walking.” I pointed an accusing finger at him. “Don’t ever, ever try to pet a wolf. It’s just insulting.”

“Sorry.” He looked chagrined, then he laughed. “Good morning, Calla.”

“Good morning, Shay.”


“I’M SURPRISED YOU SHOWED UP. YOU MUST be an early riser.” I paced back and forth uneasily, scanning the edge of the forest that surrounded us. “Why did you want to meet me here?”

I was more worried about why I’d wanted him to be in the clearing.

“Not so much an early riser as a non-sleeper. I’m trying to figure out what all this crazy I’ve fallen into is,” he said. “Besides, I wanted to keep our coffee date.”

He reached down and unzipped his bag, withdrawing a slender stainless steel thermos and a small tin cup.

“Date?” I shivered, but not because of the chilly morning air.

His playful smile didn’t fade as he poured a cup of tar dark liquid from the thermos and stretched it toward me. “Espresso.”

“Thanks.” I laughed, taking the cup. “That’s some high-class hiking.”

“Only for special occasions,” he said.

I looked at his empty hands. “None for you?”

“I thought we could share,” he said. “I promise I don’t have cooties.”

I smiled, mesmerized for a moment by the way the morning sunlight pulled golden threads through Shay’s soft waves of brown hair.

“Calla?” He leaned toward me and I wished he would grab me the way he had in my dream. “You okay?”

I moved my eyes off him, taking a sip of my coffee. It was incredibly strong and absolutely delicious. “You know, most people don’t return to sites of their near-death encounters. You might even say that wiser people would avoid them.”

I stretched the tin cup toward him. His fingers brushed against mine as he lifted it from my hands and my skin crackled, warm and alive, at the contact. When his lips touched the metal, I shivered, as if he’d kissed me rather than the edge of the cup. Is that what a kiss would be like? That electricity I feel when our hands touch, but on my lips?

“I’m not most people.” He dropped into a cross-legged position.

“No, you’re not.” I sat down opposite him.

“I am wise, though.” He grinned. “I think that bear will stay away from here for a while. You’re a pretty scary wolf.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

Shay leaned back on his elbows, stretching out his legs. “If you were going to eat me, you’d have done it already.”

I shuddered. “I do not eat people.”

“I rest my case.” He lifted his face, letting sunlight wash over him.

I studied his features, wishing I could trace the shape of his mouth with my fingertips.

“Still,” I murmured. “You should be afraid of me.”

He plucked a faded wildflower from the ground. “Why?”

“Because I could kill you,” I said.

“That bear would have killed me.” He curled the flower’s stem around his fingers. “You stopped it.”

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