Nightshade Page 51

I squeezed my eyelids shut and gingerly slid off the sink. Somehow I managed to support my own weight. I’d been certain I would just puddle on the floor. In the darkness of my mind’s eye I could still feel Ren’s embrace, but then the image blurred and instead of the alpha, Shay smiled back at me. I can’t live like this.

Rippling, musical laughter brought me back to the bathroom. Nurse Flynn walked toward me, letting the door swing shut behind her.

“Poor, poor dear. Waiting must be so hard for you. I’ve heard Renier is an exquisite lover. All the Keepers gossip about him—the young Guardian who haunts their dreams.”

The smile on her glossy red lips was teasing and cruel. “But rules are rules. He’s an alpha male, so his . . . eagerness can be excused. Yours, however, is a disappointment.”

I grabbed the sink when my stomach lurched.

“Careful now, little girl. Or I’ll tell Logan how your union is progressing a little too well. You’d be wise to keep him happy. Those lovely legs of yours should be closed until Samhain.” With slender, chalk white fingers she reached up and stroked my cheek. “I’ll excuse your behavior this time. Don’t stray from your path.”

Her nails dug into my face, forceful enough to make me draw a sharp breath but not enough to break my skin. In a mockery of Ren’s tenderness, she leaned in, pressing her lips against my forehead.

Lana Flynn’s laugh became more of a cackle as she walked back out the door. I stared after her. When she’d turned away from me, I thought I’d seen the hump on her back twitch.


SHAY SLAMMED THE LIBRARY BOOK SHUT, giving it an abrupt shove. It sailed over the edge of the table, hitting the floor with a dull thud. It was the fifth time he’d done that since I’d taken a seat next to him at four o’clock.

“Do you want to have a fight now or are you just trying see how many book bindings you can break before we get kicked out of the library?”

His only response was a ferocious clicking on the keyboard of his laptop.

“Come on, Shay. Knock it off.”

He leaned back in his chair. “Are you honestly all right with being treated that way?”

“What way?” I asked.

“Like a piece of property.” The veins in his neck throbbed.

“That’s not how it is.” I got up and began restacking books on our table. “You just don’t understand the way we interact. We’re both alphas; we’re always challenging each other.”

“Of course,” he said. I put my hand on top of the book closest to him so he couldn’t throw it off the table too. “And how exactly do you challenge him?”

“That isn’t any of your business.” I pulled the book out of his reach. “Besides, none of that would have happened if you hadn’t provoked him by insisting on sitting with us today. Ren only responded to your encroachment on his territory. What were you thinking?”

“See, you admit it!” he said. “You just referred to yourself as his ‘territory.’”

“It’s an expression, Shay,” I countered. “And you have no business acting like the wronged party here. You’re not innocent; you were challenging Ren about me and you know it.”

He scowled, giving his full attention to his computer.

“Look.” I buried my hands in my hair. “I’ve explained to you how things are. You can’t change it.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” he snapped. “On two counts. First—I don’t know how things actually are—just how you say they have to be because of your Keepers’ orders. I have no idea what you really feel about your little arranged marriage deal because you won’t tell me.”

I almost knocked the books back off the table.

“Second—I think it can change.” The determination in his eyes terrified me.

“You’re wrong and you need to stop pushing this issue. The kisses, then the lunch table. You don’t know how dangerous what you’re doing is. Ren is already jealous—”

“You asked for the first kiss and obviously wanted the second.” He rocked back in his seat. “If he’s jealous, that’s fantastic. He should be.”

I grabbed a book, retreating to my chair. “That is not a good thing. He’s an alpha. You’re acting like an interloper—a lone wolf. If he thinks you’re interfering with his pack, his instinct would be to kill you.”

A haughty smile slid across his mouth. “I’d like to see him try.”

I was instantly at his side, leaning over him, my fingers digging into his shoulders. “Have you completely lost your mind? Ren is a Guardian; you could never fight him.”

“Lost my mind?” he murmured. “Yes, sometimes I think so.”

He lifted his hand and touched my face tentatively. His fingers trailed along my cheekbone and then gently moved over my lips.

“I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.”

I haven’t either. My lips parted under his touch. I didn’t know I could feel this way.

When Ren touched me, it was like being swept up in a tornado of sensations, tossing my body into a wild abandon with no sense of control. Shay’s gentle caress was different and somehow more addictive. The way his fingers lingered at my mouth seemed to ignite a flame that burned slowly, building heat, spreading through my cheeks, down my neck, finally consuming every inch of my skin with a fire so intense I didn’t think it could ever be quenched. I knew if I stayed a moment longer, I’d let him kiss me again. Or I’d kiss him. I darted back to my seat, drew my knees against my chest, and hoped he wouldn’t see that I was trembling.

“I’ve asked you not to do that,” I said. “I don’t want to be buried alive. And I don’t think a public flogging is what you’re after either.”

He opened his mouth as if to protest, but then he shrugged.

“Fine. But if you could at all tolerate my presence, then I’d like to keep sitting with you at lunch. I actually had a really good time after you and Ren took off. I like your friends—your pack—Ansel and Bryn are great. And Mason, well, I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s fantastic.”

I didn’t speak, but I nodded.

“Neville doesn’t say much, but whenever he does, it’s brilliant. The big guy, Dax, and the two mean girls, Sabine and Fey, they’re a little scary, but still interesting,” he mused.

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