Nightshade Page 3

She continued to watch me, so I couldn’t bare my teeth at her the way I wanted to.

Finesse, my ass. I’m a warrior, not your child bride.

“I thought you might be pleased with the match, dear girl,” she said. “You’re a beautiful alpha. And there hasn’t been a Bane male the likes of Renier before. Even Emile admits that. The union bodes well for all of us. You should be grateful to have such a mate.”

My jaw clenched, but I met her eyes without blinking.

“I respect Ren. He’s a friend. We’ll be fine together.”

A friend . . . sort of. Ren watches me like I’m a cookie jar he wouldn’t mind being caught with his hand in. And he’s not the one who’d pay for that theft. Though I’d been stuck with lock and key from day one of our betrothal, I hadn’t thought playing policeman over our relationship would be that hard. But Ren didn’t like to play by the rules. He was just tempting enough to make me wonder whether giving him a taste might be worth the risk.

“Fine?” Lumine repeated. “But do you desire the boy? Emile would be furious at the idea you might scoff at his heir.” She drummed her fingers on the table.

I stared at the floor, cursing the flames that raced over my cheeks. How the hell does desire matter when I’m not allowed to do anything about it? In that moment I hated her.

My father cleared his throat. “My lady, the union has been set since the children’s birth. The Nightshade and Bane packs remain committed to it. As are my daughter and Emile’s son.”

“Like I said, we’ll be fine,” I whispered. The hint of a growl escaped with my words.

Tinkling laughter brought my eyes back to the Keeper. As she watched me squirm, Lumine’s smile was patronizing. I glared at her, no longer able to hold in my outrage.

“Indeed.” Her gaze moved to my father. “The ceremony must not be interrupted or delayed. Under any circumstances.”

She rose and extended her hand. My father briefly pressed his lips to her pale fingers. She turned to me. I reluctantly took her vellum-like skin in my own hand, trying not to think about how much I wanted to bite her.

“All worthy females have finesse, my dear.” She touched my cheek, letting her nails scrape hard enough to make me flinch.

My stomach lurched.

Her stiletto heels struck a sharp staccato on the tile as she left the kitchen. The wraiths trailed behind her, their silence more disturbing than the unnerving rhythm of her steps. I drew my knees up to my chest and rested my cheek against them. I didn’t breathe again until I heard the front door close.

“You’re awfully tense,” my father said. “Did something happen on patrol?”

I shook my head. “You know I hate wraiths.”

“We all hate wraiths.”

I shrugged. “Why was she here anyway?”

“To discuss the union.”

“You’re kidding.” I frowned. “Just me and Ren?”

My father passed a weary hand over his eyes. “Calla, it would be helpful if you wouldn’t treat the union like a hoop to jump through. Far more is at stake than ‘just you and Ren.’ The formation of a new pack hasn’t occurred for decades. The Keepers are on edge.”

“Sorry,” I said, not meaning it.

“Don’t be sorry. Be serious.”

I sat up straight.

“Emile was here earlier today.” He grimaced.

“What?!” I gasped. “Why?”

I couldn’t imagine a civil conversation between Emile Laroche and his rival alpha.

My father’s voice was cold. “The same reason as Lumine.”

I buried my face in my hands, my cheeks once again on fire.


“Sorry, Dad,” I said, swallowing my embarrassment. “It’s just that Ren and I get along fine. We’re friends, sort of. We’ve known the union was coming for a long time. I can’t see any problems with it. And if Ren does, that would be news to me. But this whole process would be much easier if everyone would just lay off. The pressure isn’t helping.”

He nodded. “Welcome to your life as an alpha. The pressure never helps. It also never goes away.”

“Great.” I sighed and rose from my chair. “I have homework.”

“Night, then,” he said quietly.


“And Calla?”

“Yeah?” I paused at the bottom of the staircase.

“Go easy on your mother.”

I frowned and continued up the stairs. When I reached my bedroom door, I shrieked. Clothes were strewn everywhere. Covering my bed, on the floor, hanging from the nightstand and lamp.

“This will never do!” My mother pointed an accusing finger at me.


One of my favorite vintage T-shirts, from a Pixies tour in the eighties, hung from her clenched fists.

“Do you own anything beautiful?” She shook the offending T-shirt at me.

“Define beautiful,” I returned.

I swallowed a groan, searching for any clothes I particularly wanted to protect, and sat on top of my Republicans for Voldemort hoodie.

“Lace? Silk? Cashmere?” Naomi asked. “Anything that isn’t denim or cotton?”

She twisted the Pixies shirt in her hands and I cringed.

“Do you know that Emile was here today?” Her eyes moved over the bed, assessing the pile of clothes.

“Dad said that,” I replied quietly, but inside I was screaming.

I stroked my fingers along the rope of hair that hung over my shoulder, lifted the end, and caught it between my teeth.

My mother pursed her lips and dropped the T-shirt so she could extract my fingers from the twisted hair. Then she sighed, took a seat on the bed just behind me, and pulled the elastic from the end of the braid.

“And this hair.” She combed out the waves with her fingers. “Why you bind it up all the time is beyond me.”

“There’s too much,” I said. “It gets in the way.”

I could hear the chime of my mother’s chandelier earrings when she shook her head. “My lovely flower. You can’t hide your assets anymore. You’re a woman now.”

With a disgusted grunt I rolled across the bed, out of her reach.

“I’m no flower.” I pushed the curtain of hair back behind my shoulders. Free of the braid, it felt cumbersome and heavy.

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