Nightshade Page 20

“You’ll want Efron to take a look at you. Searchers enchant their weapons. Could be more damage than you think.”

The other Guardian gathered the Searcher’s limp body in his arms. The bouncer nodded at him. “Let’s go. Back door. Get word to the front office: we’ll need someone to dump that other body. I’ll get the Bane heir; Efron wants him to see this too.”

I followed the hulking men through Vail’s deserted streets to an alley that ran between Efron’s nightclub and the other businesses on that block. The pulse of music and rush of heat made my shoulder throb. We moved through darkened back halls lined with storage closets but ended up outside a door I recognized from earlier in that night. Efron’s private suite.

“Wait here,” the bouncer ordered.

The door opened once again and the bouncer’s head poked through the slight opening.

“Efron wants you inside.”

He opened the door just enough for me to pass by him and stepped out, closing the door behind him.

Efron Bane stood at the center of the room talking on his cell phone. Logan hovered over the unconscious Searcher; a cruel smile floated on the young Keeper’s lips. The Bane elder who’d carried my attacker back to the club stood just to the side of the couch. Lumine sat nearby in a high-backed leather chair and sipped a glass of sherry. The oak doors opened once more and the bouncer, followed by Ren, entered the room.

“Heard you bagged a Searcher.” Ren came to my side.

I nodded, running my tongue along my teeth as a reflex. I could still taste the man’s blood.

“Sorry I missed that.” His gaze became troubled. “Are you hurt?”

“A bad bruise,” I said. “Nothing to brag about.”

“Ah, Renier. Thank you for coming so quickly.” Efron slipped his phone into his pocket. “That should do it. We can begin.”

“Where’s Shay?” I hadn’t seen the boy anywhere in Efron’s office.

“Bosque drove him home. The encounter with your assailants—um, I believe he referred to them as ‘muggers’—shook the poor child terribly. Best to get him safe in bed.”

“Of course.” I tried to keep the confusion out of my eyes. So the Keepers wanted to keep Shay ignorant. I couldn’t puzzle out what the boy’s place was in all of this. I wished I could see him to be certain he was safe.

Efron moved close to me; I fought to stay calm. “My guards say the Searcher used a weapon against you.”

I nodded.

“Where is the injury?” His eyes narrowed.

“My shoulder.”

“Take off your jacket,” he ordered.

I swallowed my fear and complied, letting the leather jacket slip from my shoulders. The movement shot pain deep within the bruised muscles and along my spine. He took my arm in a rough grasp. I gasped as the wound throbbed again. Ren stiffened next to me, a growl rippling from his chest.

Efron’s glance flickered to the alpha, a disdainful smile ghosting across his lips. He examined the dark purple splotch on my shoulder, muttered a curse, and hooked his finger at my mistress. Lumine rose from her seat and walked over. When she looked at the wound, her lips curled back. Efron nodded.

“Their enchantments are getting better. This won’t heal on its own.”

Lumine caught my chin in her slender fingers. “You need pack blood. Where is Bryn?”

Ren spoke before I could. “She can have mine.”

Lumine’s eyes widened. “Well, well. How very gallant.”

She smiled at Efron. “It seems our young alphas have already bonded, my dear. That’s encouraging.” Her eyes moved over Ren. “Though I hope you haven’t been . . . inappropriate with my girl,” she said, licking her lips.

“Of course not, mistress.” Ren’s dark eyes sparkled.

Logan abandoned his watch over the Searcher and wandered over to his father.

“What’s this?” His gaze flickered from Ren to me, and he raised an eyebrow.

“Your alpha has offered to heal Calla by gifting her his blood.” Cold amusement trickled through Efron’s voice.

“Oh, I’ve always wanted to see how this works.” Logan’s lips split in a mocking grin. “Such an unusual ability you Guardians have. I almost envy it.”

I trembled with humiliation. Ren glowered at Logan but kept silent.

“Are you sure this is necessary?” I fixed my eyes on the Persian rug beneath my feet.

Even as I asked, I knew it was. The pain had begun to make my arms quiver. I felt nauseated; it was as if the wound were full of venom that wormed from my shoulder into my stomach.

“The Searchers have obviously used their seclusion to hone their skills, which is unfortunate. Now it seems they’ve found a way to undermine our finest weapons.” Efron smiled. “That means you and your pack, Calla dear.”

Ren rolled up the sleeve of his shirt. “It’s all right, Cal.”

But I don’t want to be a spectacle for them! I racked my brain for any other solution, coming up with none.

Before I could object, he raised his bare arm to his lips. When he drew it back, crimson rivulets slid along his skin toward his wrist. Ren stretched his arm out to me. I turned my back on the three hovering Keepers. I drew a quick breath, took his arm in my hands, and covered the wound that marred his pale skin with my mouth. His blood ran over my tongue, down my throat. The liquid was hot, sweet as honey but with a smoky bite. Sparkling warmth traveled through my veins. The throbbing pain in my shoulder subsided and then disappeared.

Ren’s hand cradled my head. His touch brought me back to the room. My cheeks flamed as I turned back toward my mistress. She nodded in approval, eyes flickering over my now-unmarked shoulder.

“Lovely,” Lumine murmured. “Such a perfect match. We’ve outdone ourselves.”

Efron put his hand on Logan’s shoulder. “A fine inheritance indeed.”

The boy smiled at his father and then glanced at Ren and me, assessing us.

The bouncer appeared beside Ren and handed him a first aid kit.

“Thanks.” Ren tore open a wrapped square with his teeth and slapped a bandage over the puncture marks on his arm.

“Since that’s been taken care of.” Efron swept back through the room to where the limp form of the Searcher sprawled. “Lumine, would you like to do the honors?”

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