Nightshade Page 26

“That sounds very lonely.”

He shrugged. “I’ve never really made friends, at least not close ones. I think that’s why I read so much. Books have been my real companions.”

He shifted onto his side, stretching out along the ground. “It’s also why I backpack so much. I prefer isolation to crowds. The wilderness appeals to me.”

Then he shuddered. “Except when I encounter a grizzly where there aren’t supposed to be any.” His eyes fell on me, sharp and interested. “Can I ask a question now? A different one?”

I took a large, final swallow of espresso. “Sure. But I still have more.”

“That’s fine. There’s just something I really want to know.” He rolled onto the balls of his feet and straightened. The sudden movement startled me. I jumped up, dropping the cup.

I stepped back when Shay shrugged off his North Face jacket and pulled his shirt over his head.

“Look.” He swept a hand along his chest.

“Yes, very nice. You must work out,” I murmured. The warm flow of blood in my veins suddenly burned.

His teeth clenched. “Come on. You know what I mean. No scars. Not here, not on my leg. That bear tore into me. Where are the scars?”

I returned his steady gaze. “Put your clothes back on. It’s too cold for sunbathing.”

I’d always thought my body was my greatest weapon, strong and unyielding as iron. Now my limbs were melting. I couldn’t look away from the curve of his shoulders, the way his hips sharply cut into a V where his jeans rested precariously across them, and the maze of lines that carved muscles from his sternum to his abdomen.

“Are you going to answer my question?” Goose bumps popped up on his arms, but he remained stone still.

I wanted to step forward and put my hands on his skin, to feel if his pulse was rising like mine, to experience the intoxicating rush of heat his closeness provoked.

“Yes.” I pointed at his discarded jacket, too afraid to move toward him. “Please get dressed.”

“Start talking.” He turned away from me, threading his arms back through his T-shirt sleeves. When he lifted his arms to pull the shirt back over his head, my eyes fixed on the dark pattern on the back of his neck. I hadn’t thought of the tattoo since the day I’d saved Shay’s life. But there it was, sharply etched in the shape of a cross.

I frowned. We can’t be sure without getting a look at his neck.

“I’m waiting.” He picked up his jacket and slipped it back on. His words pulled my thoughts back to the present moment.

“I healed you.” I laced my fingers, hoping it would quash my desire to touch him.

“I know.”

He took a step toward me. “I could feel it happening when I—” He broke off, his wonder-filled gaze moving slowly over my face. “I drank your blood.”

My heart picked up speed and I nodded. He reached out and took my arm. My skin prickled as he pushed back the sleeve of my jacket and my sweater. His fingers ran lightly over my forearm, sending warm threads spiraling through my body.

The sensation was familiar and strange at the same time. I felt a thrill as if I were beginning a hunt. With Ren my desire came suddenly, like anger or a challenge. Shay evoked the slow burn of passion, an insistent, lingering white heat. Here there was no pack, no master or mistress. Just me and this boy, whose touch made me ache in places promised to someone else.

“Here,” he murmured as his hand traced over the spot where I’d bitten myself. “You don’t have scars either.”

He raised his eyes to mine, his fingers traveling gently over my skin. I returned his gaze for a moment, then pulled my arm away, shoving the sleeve of my sweater back down over my still-tingling skin.

You can’t do this, Calla. I dug into the dirt with my toe. You know you can’t. No matter what you feel up here, you are not free.

“I heal very quickly,” I murmured. “My blood has exceptional healing properties. All Guardian blood does.”

“It didn’t taste like blood.” His tongue moved over his lips as if he could still taste me.

I wrapped my arms around my waist. I wanted him to taste me again, but not my blood.

“No, because our blood is different. It’s one of our greatest assets. Guardians can instantly mend each other on the field of battle. It makes us close to unstoppable.”

“I believe that.”

“That’s its purpose, but as you’ve seen, we can heal anyone.” My toe found a stone and I kicked it across the clearing. “We’re just not supposed to.”

He watched the stone bounce along the ground. “Then why—”

“Shay, please listen to me.” My words spilled out, cutting him off. “Guardian healing is sacred to us. We are only meant to heal each other. What I did . . . when I saved your life, it was a violation of our laws. One that would make my life forfeit if any others in my world were to learn about it. Do you understand?”

“You risked your life to save mine?” He took a step toward me. I watched him move closer, blood roaring in my ears.

When his hands cupped my face, closing in so his lips almost touched mine, I shivered. Looking into his eyes, feeling the warmth of his breath on my skin, I knew I’d do it again, no matter the price.

“I would never want to put you in danger, Calla. Never.” He breathed the words. My hands came up to cover his.

His fingers grasped mine. “But the other wolf? Bryn. She was here. She knows.”

“She is my packmate, my second,” I said. “Her loyalty is absolute. Bryn would never betray me; she would lay down her own life first.”

“I won’t betray you either.” He smiled weakly, still shaken.

“You can’t tell anyone. Please.” I fought to keep my voice steady. “It would cost me everything.”

“I understand,” he said.

We both fell quiet. The silence of the meadow amplified our stillness. I wanted him to kiss me—wished he could smell the desire that I knew was pouring off me the way I was inhaling the heady scent of his own passion. You can’t, Calla. This boy isn’t the one for you. I closed my eyes, which made it a little easier to pull away from him.

“So since I drank your blood . . . am I going to turn into a were—, uh, Guardian?” he asked in a hesitant tone. “Is that why it was a violation of your laws?”

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