Nightshade Page 17

She hesitated, unconvinced.

I hugged her. “Come on, Bryn. Just show me a good time! Do I have to get my brother to dance with me?”

Ansel grinned, took my hand, and dragged me to the center of the pulsating crowd. He lifted me up, whirling us in rapid circles. When my feet touched the floor again, I spun on my own, letting the frenzied pace of the music push away everything else.

Fog filled the room, swirling at our feet. It wrapped silk-like around my limbs and shimmered in a vivid kaleidoscope of colors. It smelled sweet, like honeysuckle and lilac. A pleasant melting sensation traveled through my body.

Musical laughter caught my attention, drawing my eyes to the platform dancers, who moved in rapid synchronized steps as they turned in ever-swifter circles, tilting their heads back and blowing through full bloodred lips. The mist poured from their throats and wafted toward us. I blinked at the strange sight, wondering how safe it was to inhale the breath of a succubus.

The pulse of the music slowed, became dark, throbbing. Bryn’s eyes closed; she twirled in slow circles, her arms weaving smooth, intricate patterns in the air. Ansel watched her, mesmerized.

My eyelids dropped low, lashes brushing my cheeks. I let the vibration of the floor flow up the muscles of my legs, guiding my hips in circles and dips as the liquid darkness of the music wrapped around me. I gasped when hands came from behind to encircle my waist.

“The way you move is incredible.” Ren drew me back to press against him. His fingers slid down to the curve of my hips, rocking our bodies in rhythm with the heavy bass. The sensation of being molded against the hard narrow line of his hips threatened to overwhelm me. We were hidden in the mass of people, right? The Keepers couldn’t see?

I tried to steady my breath as Ren kept us locked together in the excruciatingly slow pulse of the music. I closed my eyes and leaned back into his body; his fingers kneaded my hips, caressed my stomach. God, it felt good.

My lips parted and the misty veil slipped between them, playing along my tongue. The taste of flower buds about to burst into bloom filled my mouth. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to melt into Ren. The surge of desire terrified me. I had no idea if the compulsion to draw him more tightly around my body emerged from my own heart or from the succubi’s spellcraft. This couldn’t happen!

I started to panic when he bent his head, pressing his lips against my neck. My eyes fluttered and I struggled to focus despite the suffocating heat that pressed down all around me. His sharpened canines traced my skin, scratching but not breaking the surface. My body quaked and I pivoted in his arms, pushing against his chest, making space between us.

“I’m a fighter, not a lover,” I gasped.

“You can’t be both?” His smile made my knees buckle.

I pulled my eyes away from him, trying to focus on the lace-like patterns created by the flashing lights on the dance floor. It didn’t help. My body felt alien, hot and wild. Even if we were hidden, I didn’t want that. Not now. I would not swoon for Ren. If we were going to lead the pack together, I needed his respect.

“I am not just another one of your groupies, Hefner.” I shoved him back a foot.

Ren stalked toward me. “Of course you’re not. You never could be.” His words wrapped around me, low and soothing.

He trailed his fingertips along my cheekbone. His other hand slid around my waist, caressing my lower back where a sliver of bare skin lay exposed between the hem of the corset and my low-slung jeans. A sudden quivering filled my limbs. I hated how weak I felt.

Ren leaned forward, his thumb tracing the line of my lower lip. I was almost drowning in the heat and mist when I realized he intended to kiss me.

“No.” I darted out of his reach. My body ached for his touch, but my mind was in a frenzy. “Seriously. We can’t.”

My heart slammed against my rib cage as I pushed through the intoxicating mist and the wall of dancers to escape his advances. I glanced back once, cringing at Ren’s thunderstruck expression. I was about to turn back when I saw arms slink up his chest. Sabine curled her body around him, pulling him into the swaying crowd.

That is exactly why you can’t have me yet, Ren. I’m not going to share.

I turned away from the press of bodies, slinking back to the couches we’d occupied. I snatched my jacket and made a break for the stairs.


I COULD STILL FEEL THE BASS VIBRATIONS from the club as I stood on the sidewalk, wondering if I should just call a cab and go home.

“Um, hi. Calla?”

Shay Doran emerged from Eden’s doorway wearing a shy smile. The cold night suddenly felt balmy. I thought about bolting.

The Keepers want you to take care of him. Don’t freak.

“Hey,” I said, returning his smile. “How are you, Shay?”

“Good. I’m good.” He pulled nervously at the lapel of the slim-cut blazer that covered his white T-shirt. “Do you hang at Eden a lot?”

“Not really. My friends and I were invited tonight. I’m mostly here out of obligation.” I wished I were at home in bed, instead of standing outside with this strange human.

A relieved laugh emerged from Shay’s throat.

“Yeah, me too. This isn’t my scene. Bosque thought I’d have a good time, but I’m not really a club kid.”

“No?” I asked. “What are you?”

“Well, I think I have my uncle convinced that I’m a wannabe Greenpeace member.” He flashed a grin, then he sighed. “I’d always rather be outdoors. I hike. But I guess you know that.”

He suddenly looked fearful. I ran my tongue along my lips but didn’t reply. He hurried to speak again. “And I like to read. Lots of philosophy, history, comics.”

“Comics?” The unexpected image of Shay surrounded by volumes of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Spider-Man amused me.

“Yeah.” His eyes brightened. “Sandman has always been my favorite, but that’s really more of a series of graphic novels. I like a lot of Dark Horse stuff: Hellboy, Buffy: Season 8 . . .”

He trailed off when he caught my blank expression.

“You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

“Sorry.” I shrugged. “I read novels.”

“Works for me.” He grinned. “What’s your favorite?”

I watched a cab pass us on the street. I really should just get out of here.

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