Nightshade Page 15

My chest tightened when Ren flinched.

“Yes, one thing.” I could barely hear his murmured response.

His retreat drew me forward. “One thing?”

When he looked at me, his troubled expression faded.

“That would be my secret. I won’t give it up without getting something in return.”

His hand slipped over my shoulder beneath the cascade of my hair, his fingers pausing to cup the nape of my neck. He pulled me close; the strength of his arms set my blood on fire.

I twisted out of his grasp. There were Keepers everywhere. “You can keep your secrets.” As much as I wanted his touch, I didn’t trust him yet. I’d heard too much about his other conquests. Besides, he knew better. The alpha female was supposed to be pure at the union. And that meant no romance before the ceremony.

As if he’d read my mind, Ren’s mouth slid in a wicked grin, eyes fixing on my curves. “Be honest. Can you breathe in that thing?”

My nails dug into the sofa cushion. Watch yourself, Ren. Two can play hardball.

“So you and Sabine?”

“Huh?” He lounged back into the cushions, drawing away from me into the shadows.

“Oh, I see. Do all the Bane girls suck on your neck as a matter of course?”

“What?” His face twisted, angry. “No. Efron has a thing for Sabine. Favors her. Something about her attitude he finds appealing. He gave her some X when we got here. She’s been rather, um . . . playful since she took it.”

“Uh, okay.”

Her attitude? You mean Efron enjoys spiteful bitchiness?

He began to slide his arm around my waist.


I locked my fingers around his wrist, stopping the progress of his hand.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” But my skin crackled at the renewed touch.

Heavy footfalls nearby announced the approach of a massive Bane elder. We jumped apart.

“Efron’s asking for you.” The guard stared at Ren. “He’s in his office.”

“Of course. I’ll be right down.” Ren glanced at me. “You want to find the others? I don’t know how long this will take.”

Efron’s guard shook his head. “He wants the Nightshade alpha too. Both of you.”

Ren wrapped both his arms around my waist and I didn’t resist.

What does Ren’s master want with me?

“All right.” Ren swallowed hard, gesturing for me to follow him. “Let’s not keep him waiting.”

The elder Guardian grunted in approval and faded into the darkness.

Ren led me along the edge of the shimmering dance floor and back to the staircase. I gripped his fingers hard until I could feel each heartbeat throb in my veins. Efron Bane. The name made my spine curl up. I was trusting Ren to keep me at a safe distance.

We snaked through the claustrophobia-inducing crowd of humans on the first floor of the club until he stopped in front of a tall wooden door. The face of the oak surface had been intricately carved. I stepped back to examine the image. It depicted the archangel Michael barring a downtrodden Adam and Eve from entering the Garden of Eden.

“That’s an interesting choice.” I jerked my chin toward the door.

“Efron has an unusual sense of humor.” He squeezed my hand and the icy chill on my skin thawed a bit.

He rapped sharply on the wooden door. A moment later it opened and I blinked in surprise.

Lumine Nightshade stepped back from the door, beckoning us to enter. “Welcome, children. So lovely to see you.”

The air smelled of cigar smoke and sherry. Wall-length murals hung throughout the room. Each painting depicted a scene from Dante’s Inferno. I quickly looked away; the images of hell were much too graphic for close scrutiny.

Lumine turned her eyes on the Bane alpha. “Renier Laroche. It is such a pleasure to meet you. I’m Lumine Nightshade. Efron has nothing but praise for you, dear boy.” Her smile was like a string of pearls.

Ren inclined his head. “Thank you, Mistress Nightshade.”

“There is someone newly arrived to Vail that Efron and I have been eager for you both to meet.” Lumine led us toward two high-back leather chairs and a couch that faced a roaring fireplace. “Efron. They’re here.”

A man sat on the couch, one arm draped along its back; his other hand clasped a snifter of brandy. He had pale skin and the same golden halo of hair that graced his son’s head.

“It’s good to see you, Renier.” Efron took a sip of brandy. “And the lovely Calla. We meet at last.”

He stretched his hand out, hooking a finger at me. I hesitated, but Lumine pushed me toward the couch. My body went cold the moment Ren’s fingers were wrenched from my own. I tried to keep from shaking when the Bane master took my hand in his, pressing my fingers to his lips. His eyes mirrored the bright amber of the flames that leapt in the nearby fireplace. My chest contracted and it took every ounce of my self-control to keep still.

“Please take a seat.” He kept my hand in his grasp and pulled me onto the couch.

I cast a desperate glance at Ren, who wore an agonized expression.

Lumine touched Ren’s shoulder. “Why don’t you join them.”

It was one of the only times I remembered feeling grateful to my mistress.

Ren came to my side, and I sidled closer to him, trying to put as much distance between myself and Efron as possible, which was difficult considering he wouldn’t let go of my hand.

“Come now, children,” Efron chided. “We’re all here to have a good time, aren’t we?” He released my hand, but only to run his fingers along my collarbone. My mind reeled.

Efron has a thing for Sabine. Favors her.

I pressed closer to Ren. He put his arm around me, glaring at Efron, who only raised an eyebrow at his alpha.

“You’d best remember your place, Renier.”

“And you should remember yours, Efron. Let her be.” Lumine’s silky voice cut toward her counterpart. “Calla belongs to me for another month. If Logan doesn’t object to your dallying with his pack, then so be it.”

“Logan?” Ren’s head whipped around to face my mistress.

She nodded curtly.

“Yes.” Efron snipped the tip of a cigar. “It has been determined that Logan should inherit the new pack. He’s just come of age. I couldn’t be more pleased; such an appropriate gift for his eighteenth birthday. My son will be your master after the Rite of Union.”

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