Nightshade Page 70

“Listen very carefully, Calla.” My mother stood over me, her fist still clenched. “I said it once, and I don’t want to explain myself again. Emile is not any man. He is the Bane alpha. You cannot cross an alpha male, even when you belong to another. You risk your own life to do so. Do you understand me?”

Still dazed, I couldn’t speak.

“Do you understand me?” I’d never seen such a hard look in her eyes.

“Yes, Mother,” I whispered.

“You must be tired.” She rearranged her face into a picture of kindness. “Once I’ve finished here, I’ll make you some chamomile tea and draw you a bubble bath. You have a big day tomorrow.”

I nodded, numbly climbing the stairs. Ansel’s door was shut, music blasting from within. My mother must have sent him upstairs when the Keepers arrived. He didn’t hear any of that.

I thought about knocking but headed for my own room instead, letting my baby brother keep his dreams about romance and true love a little longer. I closed the door and started to cry, wondering how much time I had before my mother would appear with tea and when the Keepers would discover how far my betrayal had gone.


“YOU CAN’T ALL GO TO THE CAVE.” I PACED along the base of the steep slope. My packmates had pleading eyes locked on me. We were still waiting for the Banes to arrive. The bare light of dawn made the earth shimmer in rusty hues that reminded me of Haldis. I shivered, knowing that the mysterious object was the reason for this patrol and that none of my packmates shared that secret. None of them could go to the cave. They’d know I’d been there and with another wolf. I was desperate to keep them away.

“But Logan has some horrible pet in there!” Fey exclaimed. “It’s not fair if we don’t all get to see it. I’ll bet it’s monsterific!”

“Did you really just say ‘monsterific’?” Bryn asked, garnering a stony expression from Fey. They’d been bickering more and more since the night at Burnout.

“This is not about fair, it’s about our orders,” I said. Their grumbling set my teeth on edge. “Just take it up with Ren when he gets here.”

And I’ll make sure Ren sends me to the cave.

A rustling in the underbrush announced the Banes’ arrival. Five wolves emerged; seeing that we were still in human form, they shifted one by one. Ren last.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“My pack is more interested in sightseeing than doing their jobs,” I said.

“That’s not what—” Fey began.

“Shut up, Fey,” I snarled. Last night’s visit from the Keepers and Ren’s father had pushed me well past my normal line of tolerance.

Ren began to laugh, waving at the rest of his pack. “Don’t worry, Lily. The thing in the cave is all this lot will talk about too.”

“Perfect,” I muttered. “Why don’t I just go up there? The patrol route is more important anyway. We really need to know what’s been sneaking around the slope behind our backs.”

“Calla’s right.” Ren raised his voice. “The patrol is much more important than whatever is in the cave.”

A few of them grumbled, only to be silenced by Ren’s growl.

“Which is why I’ll be going to the cave myself,” he continued.

“But—” I tried to hide my panic.

“I’m not saying this more than once.” Ren ignored me. “Calla looks for evidence of the Searchers along the cavern perimeter. Bryn, Ansel, you’re with me—we’re heading to the cave. The rest of you, do what Calla tells you, and if I hear complaints, you’ll answer to me. We’ll catch up with you after we’ve checked the cave and finish the patrol together.”

No one spoke. I bit back my own startled response. Bryn and Ansel? I didn’t understand why he’d take two of my packmates and not his own. At least I’d be able to talk to them afterward.

For their own parts, Bryn and Ansel looked stunned but followed suit when Ren shifted into wolf form. I did the same and the rest of the pack focused on me, though Dax glanced at Ren once, looking forlorn.

This is how it goes. I shared my thoughts with my assigned group. Even if my fear outweighed my strength, I still had to act like an alpha. Sweeps in widening circles, starting with the inner perimeter, then moving south. Mason, Nev, Sabine, and I will take the east-west route. Dax, Fey, Cosette, you run west-east. We’ll minimize overlap while covering maximum ground. Any questions? I felt a little guilty for snapping at Fey earlier and hoped putting her with Dax would make up for it.

They lowered their muzzles in compliance. Good. Get going.

Fey took the lead with Dax and Cosette following her up the western route.

I was about to lead Mason and Nev up the slope when Ren’s voice entered my mind.


What is it? I halted, ears flicking back and forth. It was clear he was sending his voice only to me.

Sorry if I threw you off, but it’s important that they get used to new patrol patterns. I’ll take good care of Bryn and Ansel.

Of course. Thanks.

I’m sure you won’t miss anything too exciting in the cave. I’ll let you know what we find as soon as I can.

And then his voice was gone. What was he going to find in there?

No dawdling. Fear and frustration drove me to nip at Mason’s heels, but I let Nev and Sabine hear the thought too. Let’s go.

Hey! he protested. We were waiting for you.

That’s no excuse. I wagged my tail, wishing I could feel anything besides the twisting of my stomach.

I told you, man, Nev crooned. I always knew she was a tyrant.

Sabine sat quietly, waiting for her orders. I wondered what she was thinking.

Nev and Mason’s laughter filled my mind as we raced up the hill, playfully biting at each other’s flanks, flying past each other to take the lead. But the joy of running free had been sapped from my limbs.

It had only been a matter of days since Shay and I battled Logan’s spider and took Haldis from its resting place. I’d lost so much blood, it could have seeped into stone, staining the cave walls. Maybe the spider’s scent would cover mine? But what if it didn’t? What would Ren do?

I snapped at a squirrel that darted in front of me. Mason nipped at my jaw. You okay?

Headache, I responded. Let’s slow up; we should start tracking here.

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