Nightshade Page 32

Ren and I exchanged a puzzled glance. I couldn’t imagine what Nev was doing; I’d always thought of him as one of the shyest wolves, with the exception of Cosette, who was so quiet she barely seemed animate.

“If I were a weal . . . thy . . . man!” Neville bellowed, and then jumped down from the table, collapsed into a chair, and buried his face in his hands. Mason, grinning like the Cheshire cat, leaned over and patted him on the head.

“What gives? Did Nev finally go off the deep end?” Ren caught the chair Dax slid toward him. He flipped it around, sitting in it backward.

“He lost a bet,” Mason said. Neville raised his face and glared at him.

Mason sighed. “It’s so sad to see an indie guitarist do show tunes. What have you been reduced to?”

Neville brushed off his arms as if to sweep away unpleasant remnants of his performance. “You know it was my personal hell. That’s why you picked it.”

“A bet?” I raised my eyebrows.

Mason grinned. “We got into an intense debate on Friday night at Eden. I was right, Nev was wrong.”

“Your brother has better moves than I thought,” Neville said, tipping his cap at me.

“What’s this?” Ren popped open a Coke and looked at Neville, who jerked his head toward Ansel.

I wheeled on my brother and Bryn, who sat close together at the far end of the tables, dreamy expressions locked on their faces. Jealousy tightened my belly. Even if they were taking risks, they’d still been able to choose each other. And with Ren and me as alphas, their romance would probably be safe. Mason and Nev, Dax and Fey, they all had a chance at real love. Ren and I were the only ones who had no choice. Was that the reward for being an alpha?

Ren looked at the pair for a long moment and then a sharp laugh rolled out of his throat.

“I said to keep that quiet, you two.” My teeth flashed in warning, knowing that envy as much as irritation made my canines sharpen.

Bryn cowered, but Ansel came to her rescue. “Of course, from everyone else, but it’s not like we could hide it from our packmates.”

I sat down in the chair that Fey pushed toward me, banging my forehead on the table. “You guys are killing me. We’re at school. There are too many eyes to see you.”

I cringed as I looked at Ren. “I’m sorry. I was going to tell you later today, I swear.”

He just shrugged. “Your brother is right. You can’t hide anything from packmates.”

The Bane alpha spoke in a lower voice as he turned his eyes back on the new couple.

“Listen to Calla: keep it quiet outside our circle. Not a word to other Guardians. You don’t want to step on the wrong toes.” Then his lips split in a broad grin at Ansel. “Congrats, little man.”

My brother beamed and looked at Bryn adoringly. She sighed, twirling her fingers through her ringlets.

I quickly looked away from her and focused on peeling my orange.

“Neville, I hope you’re not thinking of leaving us to try to make it on Broadway,” a cold, silky voice murmured from behind me.

All conversation at the table ceased. Bryn and Ansel jerked away from each other as if a geyser had erupted between them.

I turned in my chair to see Logan Bane smiling at his future pack.

“You have a wondrous voice, my friend,” he continued. “My companions and I certainly admire it; you projected all the way to the other side of the cafeteria. Very impressive.”

“Thanks.” Neville threw him a nervous smile.

Logan circled the table to where Neville and Mason sat, stopping behind Mason’s chair. The Keeper rested a hand on my packmate’s shoulder. Mason tensed and glanced at Neville, whose face paled.

Ren began to rise, but Logan stilled him with a nonchalant wave of his hand. “No, please, just relax.”

The Keeper leaned forward. “As no doubt your alphas have informed you, it has been decided that I will inherit the rule of your new pack come October thirty-first.” He waited until each head bobbed in affirmation before slowly pacing back to Ren’s side. “I’d like you to gather in the commons after school today. I’ll meet you there.”

“Of course.” Ren inclined his head.

“Excellent.” The young Keeper pivoted on his heel and walked back to join his companions on the opposite side of the cafeteria.

The circle of young wolves turned back to their lunches, though the mood at the table had become anxious and sullen. Mason sat very still, staring at nothing in particular. Neville leaned toward him, stretching his fingers toward Mason’s. Mason took his hand, and they hid their clasped fingers beneath the table.


MY JAW CLAMPED SO HARD THROUGH THE philosophy seminar I wondered if its dull ache would settle there permanently. The desk next to the classroom’s tall windows sat empty. I hadn’t seen Shay in the cafeteria during lunch, and now his regular seat in our afternoon class remained vacant.

I scribbled a few more notes and tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter. My eyes traveled to the empty seat once again, my teeth grinding against each other with such force that the ache in my jaw flared into a sharp, searing pain.

I forced my gaze back onto Mr. Selby, who gesticulated wildly as he described arguments for and against the existence of God. He’d started the class out by showing us a bumper sticker that read: “God is dead—Nietzsche; Nietzsche is dead—God.”

I tried to follow our teacher’s enthusiastic lecture, but my thoughts were fractured. I glanced around the room. The rest of the class dutifully jotted notes and nodded along with Mr. Selby’s comments. My gaze traveled to Logan. As usual, the young Keeper slouched in his desk, deep in slumber, Dior sunglasses hiding his eyes.

What will he say when we meet after school?

As the bell rang, I slowly unwound my wrapped limbs, wincing at my muscles’ reluctant unclenching.

The three Bane seniors left class together. Sabine and Dax leaned close to Ren, murmuring quietly as they passed through the door. I wandered alone back to my locker, only to find my Nightshades already there. We moved down the hallway to the commons. None of us spoke. I could hear the collective rushed pace of our hearts as we waited.

Steady, sauntering footfalls along with the scent of cloves and mahogany announced Logan’s arrival. He smiled at our huddled group; his perfectly tousled hair glowed like spun gold in the low, late-afternoon sun that poured in through the room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The Keeper grabbed a chair and sat on the back, his feet grounded in its seat, so that he stared down at us.

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