Nightshade Page 90

The words were as difficult for me to say as I could see they were for Ren to hear.

His eyes were sad but resigned. “And where will you go?”

I couldn’t keep the fear out of my reply. “I don’t know.”

“Please don’t do this,” he whispered. “Come back with me. We’ll talk to Logan; there has to be an explanation. The Keepers need us; we’re the alphas. We’ll figure this out. They won’t hurt you. I won’t let them.”

“It won’t matter that I’m an alpha.” I drew a sharp breath. “Ren, listen to me. This isn’t just about Shay; there’s more. You have to know the truth. It wasn’t the Searchers who killed your mother; it was the Keepers.”

He stared at me.

“We found records at Rowan Estate, the history of the Vail packs,” I continued. “Your mother allied with the Searchers and led a Guardian revolt when you were an infant. She was executed because of it.”

“That’s impossible,” he whispered.

“It’s the truth,” I said. “I read it myself. The Keepers killed your mother. I’m so sorry.”

“No. It’s not true.” He closed his eyes, shaking his head. “It can’t be.”

“Help me. Please.”

Far in the distance a howl sounded, then another. I shuddered.

“I’m out of time,” I said. “What are you going to do?”

His eyes opened slowly. He lifted his hand and touched my cheek. “I’ll do what you want.”

“I owe you my life.” I turned my face, kissing his palm. “Tell them we fought but that Shay wasn’t here. He doesn’t have a human scent now. They wouldn’t know to track him when he smells like a wolf.”

“Tell me you’ll come back for the pack. For me.” His eyes were bright with tears. “I don’t want to lose you.”

I couldn’t speak. Tears welled in my eyes and I stepped away from him. But Ren caught me in his arms.

“Do you love him?” His eyes searched mine.

“Don’t ask me that,” I said, lips still burning from my confession to Shay, now stinging with this deceit. “This isn’t about love. It’s about survival.”

“No, Calla.” His voice became hushed. “This is only about love.”

And then he was kissing me. His lips moved over mine in a slow caress, hands running over my body, every touch begging me to stay. I could tell he believed he would never kiss me again. Part of me wanted to linger, clinging to him, knowing all the ways we were meant for each other, how well we fit. But another part tugged me away, already running through the forest, chasing after a fate unknown. I choked back a sob when Ren released me and turned away.

The charcoal gray wolf paused and looked back once more before disappearing into the trees. I picked up Shay’s trail and plunged through the snow. From behind me, I heard the lone cry of a wolf. The howl echoed as it rose toward the full moon, a sound full of agony and irreparable loss.


SHAY WAS RUNNING THROUGH THE GARDENS of Rowan Estate by the time I caught him.

I nipped at his heel. You’re fast. I’m impressed.

An arc of shimmering snow crested around him when he skidded to a halt and whirled to face me. Are you all right?

I’m fine. I darted past him. Don’t stop running, we need to hurry.

What happened with Ren? He kept pace beside me.

He’s going to buy us a little more time.

We flew through the sculpted hedges and past the stillness of the marble fountains in the estate gardens.

Are you sure you can trust him? I could hear the angry edge in his question.

Yes. Don’t worry about Ren, worry about getting us out of here. We haven’t made it yet.

We both shifted into human form when we reached the manor’s steps. Shay unlocked the door and grabbed my hand, and we ran to the stairs. Our footsteps rang in the empty corridors as we dashed through the east wing toward his room. Moonlight poured through the tall windows; long, spindly shadows ebbed and flowed over the walls and pooled like ink on the pale marble floors. All my nerves were screaming, but I managed not to jump when we passed the sculpture of the incubus.

Shay flung open the door to his room. “Okay, let’s grab what we need and get out of here.”

He grabbed a hiking pack from his closet while I paced by the door. Hands still full of clothes, he stopped and looked at me.

“Do you want to borrow some jeans and a sweater? They’d be too big but probably better than your dress.” He looked me up and down. “You’re stuck with whatever shoes you’re wearing, though. Sorry.”

My cheeks burned as I glanced down at my dress, its hem soaked by melting snow and almost black from the dirt of the forest floor. “It’s okay. They’re ballet flats, so it’s not torture to walk in them. But changing into your clothes sounds good.”

He watched me for a long moment, and the heat spread from my cheeks, tiny flames stroking my skin.

Finally he cleared his throat and tossed me a pair of jeans and a black lamb’s wool sweater. “Here, these are on the smaller side. I’ll . . . uh . . . keep my back turned while you change.”

“Okay,” I murmured, trying to stretch my hands around to unbutton my dress. After three failed attempts I swore, wondering how Bryn had expected me to ever get out of the gown. Then I thought of Ren and blushed, full of guilt and conflicting desires.

“You okay back there?” Shay asked, but kept his back to me.

My heart began to pound. “I need you to unbutton my dress.”

“What?” Though I couldn’t see it, I could easily envision the thunderstruck expression on his face.

“My mom designed the dress, and Bryn helped me put it on. It has a bazillion tiny buttons and I can’t reach them. Please just do it so we can get out of here.”

“Uh. Okay.” He came to my side, but I immediately turned my back on him.

He had about half of them undone when he paused and I heard him suck in a sharp, startled breath.

“What?” I asked, turning slightly, but I couldn’t twist my neck far enough to see his face.

“You’re not wearing a bra.” His words came out with a rush of breath.

“It’s a specially tailored bodice. The bra is built in,” I said. “Come on, Shay, just get the gown off me!”

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