Nightshade Page 34

My head snapped up, eyes wide. Ren was glaring at the Keeper, who gazed calmly back.

“The boy knows nothing of our world, and it stays that way,” Logan said. “The less he knows about the danger he faces from the Searchers, the safer he will be. Protect him, but do so without garnering his attention. He already knows Calla, so her interaction can be more direct.”

I inclined my head to Logan, while Ren’s face remained livid. The rest of the pack murmured acknowledgment of his orders.

“Very well, then. I believe that brings you up to date. Should any questions arise, your alphas should bring them to me. Lumine and Efron have agreed on this point.”

Logan smiled, descending from his perch. The assembled wolves began to stir from their seats, but he snapped his fingers, commanding our attention.

“There is one last matter to discuss.”

Ten pairs of eyes focused on their new master.

“Ren raised the very important question of how you will be paired in the future.”

Ice-cold fingers wrapped around my throat as I waited for Logan to speak.

“Guardian mates have always been selected by Keepers so as to ensure the most beneficial outcome for our packs,” he said. “I’m sure you can understand the utility of such a practice.”

No one spoke. Logan’s casual tone tore at me like barbed wire. “I will, as my ancestors did, seek the counsel of your alphas in such matters when the time arises. You are all very young; I don’t anticipate making such decisions for some time. However, it is clear that you’ve already begun to form strong attachments to each other.”

His slow smile revealed the gleam of perfect teeth. “This pleases me; it signals a strong pack whose loyalty will aid them in their duties. But I must remind you that the only sanctioned pairing in the Haldis pack is that between Ren and Calla, the alpha mates. Though you might be inclined to form your own matches, I hold the only authority to choose your mates. This law is one of our oldest and most important. Failure to respect it will be dealt with summarily and severely.”

I couldn’t breathe.

Logan reached into the pocket of his jeans, pulling out a pack of Djarum Blacks. He tapped the box on the back of the chair, withdrew a cigarette, and placed it between his lips.

“That will be all.”

For a moment no one moved. Silence covered the room like heavy fog. Then Ren stood, jerking his head toward the door. The other Banes slowly rose. I hoped my legs wouldn’t give out as I got to my feet. I couldn’t look at my pack; my stomach slammed around inside me like a pinball. I had taken only a few steps when Logan’s silky voice trailed after the departing wolves.

“Mason, could I have a moment?”

I froze. Mason stood just behind me, his body locked in place. I looked at Logan; his eyes gleamed in the red haze of the setting sun that filled the room. Smoke spilled from his lips and the scent of cloves wafted around us.

Mason’s eyes met mine. A thin smile appeared on his lips and he began to turn. I stepped toward him, clasping his wrist.

“No.” My whisper cut sharply between Mason and me. He tensed and gave an almost-imperceptible shake of his head, twisting out of my grasp.

“Calla!” Logan’s whip-like exclamation lashed at me. “You have been dismissed.”

An arm reached around my shoulders and I was pulled toward the door. When I’d been led well away from the commons, I wrenched free of the strong arm that held me, glaring at Ren. Dax and Fey stood nearby, faces grim. Ansel and Bryn disappeared around a corner without looking back.

“I have to go in there.” I tried to walk away, but Ren grabbed my upper arms, wheeling me around.

“You can’t.” He glanced down the hall.

I followed his gaze, watching Sabine lead Neville toward the school’s main entrance. Her arms were around his waist. I could see her lips moving rapidly as she leaned against him. Cosette trailed after them, though she kept a respectful distance.

“I will not let this happen,” I said. “He is in my pack, Ren. His welfare is my responsibility.”

“He’s in my pack now too,” Ren murmured. “I’m so sorry, Calla. I wish you didn’t have to go through this. I know how hard it is.”

Dax made a disapproving sound and Ren threw him a sharp look.

“Don’t let it eat you, Cal,” Fey said, eyes bright and hard. “You haven’t done anything wrong. This is Mason’s mess.”

“How can you say that?” I gasped.

She looked away. “Because it’s true and you have more important things to focus on.”

“She’s right,” Dax said with a rumbling growl. “We can’t be mixed up with this nonsense. Let it go.”

A stinging filled my eyes. I looked at the floor, digging my nails into my palms, reopening the wounds there. Ren watched the crimson drops hit the floor. He bared his teeth at Dax and Fey.

“Get out of here.”

Dax bristled, but he jerked his head at the school entrance. Fey took his hand and they walked away.

“Calla.” Ren’s hands slid from my upper arms to my waist and he tried to pull me toward him.

“Don’t.” I squirmed out of his grasp. “Don’t try to tell me it gets better.”

His jaw clenched, but he didn’t attempt to touch me again.

“It never gets better.” A sheen of moisture covered his dark eyes. “It gets worse.”

I wrapped my arms around my waist, not caring about the blood that stained my dress.

“Find Ansel. Please get him home. I need to stay here.”

I heard him draw a sharp breath of protest and I held up my hand. “I’ll wait for Logan to leave. I have to see Mason.”

Ren shook his head. “I’ll stay with you. We’re in this together now. You can ask Bryn to drive your brother.”

“Bryn needs to stay away from my brother! Or did you miss the lecture we just got?”

“Calm down.” His voice dropped low. “Logan hasn’t rung the death knell for relationships in the pack. He said he’d take advice from us, and we’ll give it. Your brother and Bryn just need to be careful. We can help them.”

“I can’t think about that now,” I said, staring at my hands, watching the punctured skin close up before my eyes. “Please, just go. I want to talk to Mason alone.”

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