Nightshade Page 6

Not the only alpha now, are you?

Ren’s eyes narrowed as they focused on the Nightshade wolves behind me. An abrupt laugh escaped his throat.

“You going to call off your soldiers, Lily?”

I glanced at the Banes, who stood like sentinels around their alpha.

“As if you’re flying solo?” I leaned back against my locker.

His laugh became a low chuckle, not unlike a growl. He looked at Sabine.

“Get out of here. I need to speak to Calla. Alone.”

The inky-haired girl to his right stiffened, but she turned and walked back in the direction of the commons. The other three wolves fell in behind her, though Dax cast a glance back at his alpha before they melted into the crowd.

Ren raised an eyebrow. I nodded.

“Bryn, I’ll see you in class.”

I heard the rustle of her curls as she bobbed her head. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Mason and Fey leaning in and whispering to her as they moved off. I waited, but Ren’s eyes remained focused over my shoulder. I turned to see Ansel still standing behind me.

“You too. Now.”

My little brother ducked his head and dashed after the other Nightshades.

Ren laughed. “Protective of you, eh?”

“Whatever.” I tightened my arms over my chest. “What’s with the show, Ren? You’ve got half the student body watching us.”

He shrugged. “They always watch us. They’re afraid of us. It’s the way it should be.”

My lips thinned, but I didn’t respond.

“That’s a new look,” he said, letting his eyes move slowly over me.

Damn you, Mother.

I gave a reluctant nod and looked down. Ren’s finger caught the underside of my chin and tilted my face upward. When I raised my eyes, he was wearing his most appealing smile. I jerked away from his fingers. A soft, low growl rumbled in his chest.

“Easy, girl.”

“The look doesn’t matter.” I pressed closer to the locker. “Stop toying with me. You know who I am.”

“Of course,” he murmured. “That’s why I like you.”

My teeth clenched as I struggled against the warm, bubbling tension that the alpha boy provoked from the tips of my toes to the crown of my head.

“I’m immune to your charms,” I lied. “Cut the act, Bane. What do you want?”

He laughed. “Come on, Cal. I thought we were friends.”

“We are friends.” I let the phrase hang between us. “Until October thirty-first. Then it changes. Those are the rules. You’re the one acting like a buck in rut today. Just tell me what’s on your mind.”

I held my breath, wondering if I’d gone too far. But no angry retort came, and for a split second his expression was tender.

“The Keepers are coming down hard on us,” he said. “I, for one, am tired of being scrutinized twenty-four seven. I wondered if you were interested in doing something about that.”

I waited for the joke. None came.

“H-How?” I finally managed to stammer.

He took a hesitant step closer.

“What’s the stick up their ass?” he murmured, leaning toward me. Breathing became a challenge.

I am in control. I am in control.

“The union. The new pack,” I said. He was close enough that I could see the flecks of silver inside his dark eyes.

Ren nodded. His smile became a grin.

“And who has control over its success or failure?”

My heart hammered against my rib cage. “We do.”

“Exactly.” He straightened, and I could breathe again. “I thought we might do something about that.”

“Like what?” I watched his neck and shoulders tighten and almost shivered. He’s nervous. What has the power to make Ren nervous?

“Like spend more time together. Get the pack’s loyalty transferred to us instead of the elders,” he said. “Maybe convince our friends to stop hating each other. Could make the Keepers relax, lay off a bit.”

I pulled my lip between my teeth as I considered his words. “You want to start moving toward the union now?”

He nodded. “Ease in. It will make the adjustment easier for everyone instead of going cold turkey in October. I thought we could hang out.”

“Hang out? Together?” I bit my lip hard so I wouldn’t laugh.

“Couldn’t hurt,” he said quietly.

The laugh died in my belly when I realized how serious he was. Unless they rip each other’s throats out.

“It’s risky,” I said.

“Are you saying you can’t control your Nightshades?”

“No. Of course not.” I glared at him. “If I say so, they’ll toe the line.”

“Then it shouldn’t be a problem. Should it?”

I sighed. “The Keepers have been on you too?”

Ren pulled his gaze from mine. “Efron expressed some concerns about my . . . habits. Worried that you’d be unhappy or concerned about fidelity.” He chewed on the last word like a piece of gristle.

I doubled over laughing. For a minute he looked chagrined.

“Serves you right, Romeo.” I aimed my fingers at his chest, miming a cocked pistol. “If you weren’t Emile’s son, your pelt would already be nailed over a fireplace belonging to the father of some brokenhearted girl.”

Ren flashed a wicked smile. “You’re not wrong.” He put his hand against the locker just above my shoulder. “Efron has visited our house once a week for the last month.” His grin didn’t fade, but his eyes looked troubled.

Fear curled my fingers around his shirt, pulling him closer. “Every week?” I whispered.

He nodded, passing a hand through his espresso dark hair. “Don’t be surprised if he’s packing a shotgun at the union.”

I smiled, but my breath caught in my throat as he leaned down. His lips brushed against my ear. I pulled away. The Keepers took this purity thing seriously, even if he didn’t.

“I think they’re worried the next generation might not fall into line. But I’d never leave you at the altar, Lily.”

I punched him in the stomach and instantly regretted it. Ren’s abdomen was rock hard. I shook my aching hand as I drew it back.

He braceleted my wrist in a fierce grip. His smile didn’t fade.

“Nice hook.”

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