Nightshade Page 46

“Stop it, Shay.” I tried to start reading again.

“I don’t see why you can’t bend the rules,” he pressed. “From what I’ve been told, Ren’s dated half of Vail.”

He looked at me as though expecting a shocked response.

“Everyone knows that. It doesn’t matter. That was his choice.” I kept my eyes on the table. “The rules are different for him.”

“So, what, boys will be boys and girls have to behave?” he scoffed.

“I’m the alpha female.” I hooked my ankles around the chair’s legs. “No one can touch me. It’s the Keepers’ Law.”

“But Ren can touch whoever he wants?” he asked. “’Cause it sounds like he does.”

“He’s an alpha male. The hunt is in his nature.” My ankle lock on the chair legs was so tight I heard the wood creak. I didn’t want Shay to ask the question I could see on his face.

He frowned. “But if you’re an alpha too, wouldn’t the hunt be part of your nature?”

I didn’t answer. My legs felt like they were on fire.

“And I touched you . . .” His fingers twitched, as if he wished he were touching me now. Does he want me as much as I want him?

“I shouldn’t have let you.” My body went limp. “Can we talk about something else, please?”

“But it’s not fair—” He reached for my hand.

I leaned away from him. “Fair has nothing to do with it. It’s about tradition. Tradition is important to the Keepers.”

“But what about . . .” His words trailed off.

“The union is too close.” I slipped my hands under the table. “I’m not free. And for your information, Ren is not dating anyone else now either.”

“Is he dating you?” Shay slammed his laptop shut.

“It’s complicated.” Actually, it’s simple. I belong to Ren, not you.

He dropped into his chair. “I can’t stand that guy. He acts like he owns you.”

“You don’t understand him.” I squirmed at the futility of the conversation. “And you will not kiss me again, Shay Doran.”

“I won’t promise that,” he said.

I turned away, hoping he wouldn’t notice the warm blush that had crept over my cheeks. I didn’t want his promise, but that choice wasn’t mine. I have to stop this, now.

“Fine.” I tried to make my voice cold. “I’m sure you’d go through life ably enough with only one hand.”

He jerked his hands from the table. “You wouldn’t.”

I laughed. “You’ll just have to decide if you’re willing to risk it.”

He shuddered, muttering something unintelligible under his breath.

“I didn’t catch that.” Frustration snaked through my belly, making it tighten. I wanted him to touch me again, and I was furious with myself for it and with him for making me feel like this.

“Just nice to know I’m falling for a vestal virgin,” he said, anger clouding his own face.

“A what?”

“Fun history trivia.” His smile was cold enough to make me bristle. “Another set of highly desirable but untouchable girls. If they broke their vow of chastity, they were buried alive.”

“Buried alive?” I shuddered. Is that what would happen to me if the Keepers found out about Shay? I knew there would be consequences if anyone but Ren touched me, but I hadn’t thought about how bad they might be.

“And the lucky guy who’d tempted a sacred virgin from her duty was flogged to death in public,” he finished.

I suddenly felt hollow inside. My own punishment might be frightening, but the thought of what could happen to Shay was much, much worse.

“I guess we should take our lessons from history, then,” I murmured, trying to hide the trembling in my voice.

“We aren’t living in ancient Rome,” Shay snapped.

“Since that subject is closed,” I said, ignoring his livid expression, “let’s please get back to what’s important.”

He stared at me.

“Please,” I murmured.

“Okay,” he said, opening his laptop again. “So if we accept the idea that I’m this Scion, what does that mean?”

Thank you.

“I’d imagine somehow it matters who you are descended from,” I mused.

He nodded and shrugged. “No one famous.”

“You don’t remember your parents?”

“No. They died in a car crash when I was two. I don’t remember them at all, not even what they looked like.” He pulled the Keeper’s text into his lap, fingers tracing an outline of the cross. “I don’t have any pictures. Uncle Bosque always said it was best to leave the past in the past.”

I frowned. “You don’t have anything of your parents? Nothing to remember them by?”

“Just a blanket my mother knitted for me.” He offered me a sheepish smile. “I carried it around when I was a kid.”

I toyed with the end of my braid, trying not to laugh. “What were their names?”

“Tristan and Sarah Doran.”

I jerked so forcefully in my chair that it almost tipped over. Oh God, those names. No, no, no.

His head snapped up. “What is it?”

“Tristan and Sarah?” I repeated, fresh horror nestling in my belly.

“Yes. Calla, what’s wrong?” he said. “More bad news?”

“I don’t know what it means. Please keep that in mind. But the night we were attacked outside Eden . . .” The face of the captive Searcher loomed large in my mind. “The Searcher who we took alive.” I wanted to erase the sickened hue of Shay’s skin. “He spoke their names, Tristan and Sarah.”

“One of the men who jumped us knew my parents?” The veins in his neck throbbed.

“I’m not sure.” I was trying to be truthful, but every word I spoke seemed like a stray thread that could unravel my life.

“What exactly did he say?” Shay leaned forward, watching me intently.

“He asked where you were . . .” I said, pausing to dig up the memory. “And then he said: ‘He doesn’t know, does he? Who he is? That you took Tristan and Sarah? What you’re going to do?’”

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