Nightshade Page 30

“Yeah.” I looked back at Ansel.

He chewed his lip, thoughtful but still optimistic. “I had to risk it, Calla. I love her. I’ve always loved her.”

A shiver raced up my spine. “Okay, Ansel. I understand. But until there is an official order from the Keepers, you two are under the table as well. Please be careful.”

“Thanks, sis.” I could feel the flurry of his heartbeat as he nestled his head in the hollow between my shoulder and neck. I closed my eyes, knowing I’d help my brother and Bryn, but another, less-admirable emotion bit into me. As an alpha I could help my packmates get the things they wanted, but there wasn’t anyone who could do the same for me.


WHEN WE PULLED INTO THE SCHOOL PARKING lot the next morning, Ansel turned to me.

“Bryn will want to talk to you, so I’m gonna make myself scarce.”

I nodded, unfastening my seat belt.

“Please don’t yell at her,” he said. “And I really like both of her ears.”

I glared at him. He gulped and fled the car.

When I reached my locker, Bryn was already there. I could practically see her wolf form, cowering, ears flat, tail between her legs, standing in the same space as the trembling girl.

“I swear I didn’t plan for this, Cal.”

“I know.”

She danced uneasily around me as I opened my locker. “I’m so sorry. I know it’s not the way things are supposed to happen.”

I nodded, keeping my gaze on the stack of texts and folders.

“Please look at me.”

I turned to face my best friend and found her sky blue eyes wide and fearful.

A lump formed in my throat. “I can’t promise you anything.”

She grasped my shaking hand. “I know that. Come on, let’s get to first period.”

As she led me through the classroom door and toward our desks in the rear of the room, she cast a sidelong glance at me.

“So did you tell Ansel I have a thing for John Donne?”

“You have a thing for John Donne?” I snorted.

“Wow,” she murmured. “Your little brother is good.”

As I searched my bag for a pen, I heard her murmur to herself: “Whilst our infant loves did grow, disguises did and shadows flow from us and our care; but now, ’tis not so.”

I groaned. “That is so overwrought.”

But my stomach tried to relocate somewhere near my ankles.

“You just don’t have a romantic bone in your body, Cal.” Bryn swatted the back of my head with her notebook.

I shrugged without turning to look at her. Bryn wasn’t my only source of anxiety that morning. My eyes darted to the classroom door in anticipation of Shay’s arrival, guilt over my harsh words on the mountainside weakening my resolve to shun him.

But Shay was dangerous; I knew I had to fight the attraction that seemed stronger each time I saw him. The decision provoked a dull ache that settled in my shoulders. I liked this strange human boy. His shockingly reckless approach to life and his disregard for its rules were welcome changes from the crushingly close world I was in.

Then he was walking through the door. Olive green henley, jeans, messy hair that kept falling over his eyes. He strode into the class without looking at me and took his seat in the desk next to mine. I followed his stiff movements, swallowing a sigh, relieved but also sad that he’d taken my warning seriously. I didn’t just like him—I was fascinated by him. I’d never thought a human capable of capturing my interest. Shay’s manner didn’t mimic that of the boarding school sheep who scurried away when Guardians passed them in the halls. He was fearless and decisive, reminding me of a lone wolf, an alpha even, but without the bonds of a pack to root him in any one place.

I pulled out my copy of The Great Gatsby as Mr. Graham began his lecture on the politics of gender in the 1920s, and I tried to take notes, but my eyes kept flitting to Shay. His pencil scribbled furiously, and he paused occasionally to underline passages in the novel. Not once did he glance at me. I turned back to my own work, trying to convince myself that his changed behavior was a good thing.

Two down.

I’d gotten through the worrisome first encounters with Bryn and Shay. Now I only had one to go.

When I arrived in Organic Chemistry, Ren had already begun setting up our lab station for that day’s experiment. I strode toward him, pushing back the unpleasant memory of our last encounter.

“Hi.” I settled onto the stool in front of our table.

“Hey, Lily.” He pulled his books out of my way. “Nice dress.”

I bit back the knee-jerk desire to cuss him out, instead fishing my workbook from the bottom of my bag.

“What’s on tap for today?” I asked without looking at him.

A quiet laugh traveled toward me. “Alchemy.”

“What?” I asked. He can’t be serious.

He pushed a dish of pennies toward me. “I think Ms. Foris is trying to keep us interested by pretending this isn’t actually chem class. The experiment replicates the ways that classical and medieval alchemists tried to transmute metals into gold. We have to test a hypothesis about whether the process could actually be successful.”

“I see.” I began to read the instructions in the workbook and gathered several beakers that would hold the various liquids needed in the experiment.

“If it works, I’m taking the gold and running.” He brought out more implements from our cabinet.

“Sounds like a plan.” I searched for the long-stemmed butane lighter while he set up the Bunsen burner. “How was the rest of your weekend?”

Wrong question.

Ren stiffened. “Fine.” He snatched the lighter from my hand.

The class period dragged by, tense and awkward, our conversation limited to abrupt questions and one-word answers. As we mechanically worked through the experiment, a sucking, hollow vacuum took up residence in my chest.

I was examining the penny clasped between the metal tongs, searching for signs of change, when a breathy voice came from behind me.

“Hey, Ren.”

My grip on the tongs tightened as I glanced over my shoulder. Ashley Rice, leggy, brunette, and human, cocked her head at the Bane alpha. Her bubble gum pink lips parted in an inviting smile.

“Hey, Ashley.” Ren set down his pencil, leaning casually against the lab station.

I turned back to our experiment as she batted her eyelashes. Ren’s conquests fell into two categories: those girls who still pined for him and those who stuck pins into his voodoo likeness every night. Ashley ranked among the former.

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