Nightshade Page 57

I’d made it two steps out of my room when my foot caught on the hem of my dress and I tumbled forward, falling flat on my face. I tried to right myself but couldn’t find my way out of the endless pink, gold, and ivory layers that cocooned me. With every movement, pinpricks stung me like a swarm of angry bees.

When Bryn finally dug me out of my silken prison, I was still screaming.


“SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING TONIGHT?” SHAY asked as we walked out of Big Ideas.

“Outlining this essay.” I tapped my notebook. “I’m starting to fall behind because of . . . everything.”

“Can I come over?” he asked, holding up his full page of notes. “We could do it together.”

“I don’t think it would be a great idea for you to be at my house.”

“Why not?” He held my books while I opened my locker.

“My mother wouldn’t like it.”

“But I’m such a nice boy.”

“That doesn’t—ouch!”

Ansel had nailed me in the back with a soccer ball. “Score!”

I grabbed a water bottle from my locker, squirting him in the face.

“Good comeback.” He grinned, wiping his face. “But you shouldn’t shoot the messenger.”

“You’re still breathing,” I said. “What’s the message?”

“Nev’s playing at the Burnout tonight. He asked us to come.”

“What’s the Burnout?” Shay asked.

“It’s a bar just west of town.” I slipped on my jacket. “More of a shack than a bar, really.”

“Come on, Cal. You love it there,” Ansel said, bouncing the soccer ball on his knees. “Don’t pretend dive bars aren’t up your alley. Besides, we haven’t done anything with both pa—, er, all of us since Eden. We need to blow off steam. Together.”

“What time?” I asked.


“I don’t know.” I glanced at Shay. Ansel followed my gaze.

“You should come too, Shay. Hang out with us tonight,” he said. “We have a good time even when we’re not eating lunch.”

“How will you guys get past the doorman?” Shay asked. “Or do you all have fake IDs I don’t know about yet?”

“Nev’s got an in with the owner,” Ansel said. “No IDs needed.”

“Sounds great.” Shay threw a wicked smile at me.

“Uh, yeah.” I swallowed a groan. “That sounds just great.”

Ansel beamed. “Mason’s gonna pick us up after nine. It’s just off Highway 24, Shay. There’s a gravel road on the right. Follow it and you’ll get to the bar.”

“I’ll be there,” Shay said.

I rummaged through my coat pocket, tossing Ansel keys. “You can drive us home, An. I’ll meet you at the car in a sec.”

“Really? Cool!” He made a dash for the parking lot before I could change my mind.

Once he was out of earshot, I glared at Shay. “Are you insane?”

“For wanting to hear Nev play?” Shay smiled placidly. “I don’t think so. I hear he’s good. Though I suppose Mason’s opinion might be biased.”

“You know what I mean.” I didn’t smile back. “Ren will be there.”

“That seems likely.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about both boys in the same dark, cramped bar. The night spelled disaster in garish neon lights.

“He’ll want . . .” I bit my lip.

“To be your boyfriend?” Shay’s eyebrow shot up. “In public?”

I dropped my gaze and nodded.

“I understand.”

“Thanks, Shay,” I said, relieved he wasn’t putting up a fight. “I do wish you could come hang out.”

“Really?” He grabbed the top of my locker door, swinging it back and forth. “And why is that?”

I frowned. “Can’t you just take it at face value?”

“I don’t think so.” His lips curved playfully. “No.”

“Why are you always so difficult?” His smile made my chest ache, reminding me of how much his mischief could make me laugh. It would be a stressful night without his company to take the edge off my anxiety.

“Just tell me.”

“I don’t know if it matters, but I’ll miss you.” I edged closer to him. “Sunday feels like a long time from now.”

The minute the words were out of my mouth, I bit my lip.

Why did I just say that? I should never say anything like that.

“That’s nice to hear.” Shay’s smile was dangerous. “But I’m still coming tonight.”

“What?” My heart skipped a beat. “But I just told you—”

“I know, Calla,” he said, squeezing my hand. “See you tonight.”

I stared at him. He just laughed and walked away.

Mason turned his Land Rover up the gravel drive. The imposing vehicle looked out of place next to the motorcycles and muscle cars that belonged to the bar’s regulars.

Bryn unbuckled her seat belt. “I don’t know why we had to come here. I’d much rather be at Eden.”

“Nev doesn’t play at Eden,” Mason said. “Besides, it’s good to be well rounded.”

“Trust me, this is better than Eden.” My gut knotted at the thought of returning to Efron’s club. Mason and I exchanged a glance. We didn’t say it, but I knew what we were both thinking. Logan would never show his face at the Burnout.

Ansel slid his arms around Bryn’s waist, pulling her from the car. “You’ll have a good time and you know it.”

She pouted until he kissed her, and then she beamed.

The Burnout had been built on the remains of a roadside café ravaged by fire a decade earlier. Rather than tear out the ruined building, the new management had simply built the bar around and over the old site. Charred, smoke-stained wood appeared throughout the small space like misplaced modern art. The hardwood slats that composed the floor had a definite upward slope, so sharp at some points that it was easy to trip over.

The only light in the bar flickered from the variety of neon beer signs that hung along the walls. A haze of smoke hung in the air like a veil, filling my nostrils, masking other scents. A collection of grizzled regulars perched on mismatched stools along the bar, and leather-clad bikers clustered at tables in the more-shadowed corners of the room. A squat platform that served as the stage faced the bar.

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