Nightshade Page 29

“Ansel!” It was worse than I’d imagined.

“Look, Cal. I love Bryn. Totally. Utterly. Everything that you read about in books and watch in the movies. She is all I want in this life,” he said. “I just needed to know if I had a shot. So I told her today.”

The words I knew I should say ran through my mind, but they lost in the mental wrestling match to the question I wanted to ask.

“And what did she say?”

His face lit up. “She let me kiss her. I think she liked it.”

I groaned but felt a spike of relief. Maybe this wasn’t so serious after all. “God, An, this is Bryn we’re talking about. You know she’ll try anything once.”

I gestured toward the hallway. “As soon as I got home, she couldn’t get out of here fast enough. I’m sorry, hon, but I’m guessing she’s mortified now.”

“Nope,” he said. “She’s just worried you’ll be mad. In fact, she’s afraid you’re going to bite one of her ears off.”

“Look.” I hoped he wouldn’t take the letdown too hard. “I know you’ve been crushing on Bryn since you were a puppy, but don’t get your hopes up.”

“Gimme a break, Calla,” he said. “I’m not your baby brother anymore. This is for real.”

“You’re awfully confident.” I regarded his blinding smile cautiously.

His eyelids lowered, lashes veiling his gray irises. “What if I told you she let me kiss her for four hours?”

“What?” I nearly rolled off the bed.

“And it wasn’t just kissing.” His expression was positively devilish.

“Ansel!” I gaped at him, realizing I’d completely misjudged the scenario.

He bobbed up and down on the mattress, his eyes bright with mirth.

I rolled onto my stomach, grabbed a pillow, and sank my teeth into its cotton sheath.

“Come on, Cal. Be happy for us. We’re in love.” Ansel poked me in the ribs repeatedly.

I spit out the pillow and left the bed, pivoting to face him, fists pressed against my hips.

“That isn’t how these things work for us. I don’t care what books or movies say. We do not live the way humans do!” I snapped. “Ansel, you know that.”

“I know, I know.” He avoided my glare. “But Dad said that the Keepers take suggestions for matches from the alphas. So since you know how Bryn and I feel, then you can just pass that along.”

“I can,” I said. “But I cannot guarantee anything. Mating is arranged by the Keepers. They always have the final say.”

“According to Dad, Lumine followed his suggestions to the letter.” His eyes were so hopeful my heart somersaulted.

“I know. But Lumine won’t be our mistress. Remember? I told you this morning, it’s Logan.” Knife-sharp jabs pierced my abdomen. “If he says Bryn and Mason have to pair up, there won’t be anything I can do about it.”

I expected an outraged protest from Ansel, but he burst into laughter. I frowned as he collapsed onto the bed in hysterics. “Yeah, that would be something.”

“Uh—what’s the deal, An?” I said. “I was being serious.”

“Yeah, right, Calla.”

When I remained silent, he gaped at me. “Do you really not know?”

“Not know what?” I asked, feeling like someone excluded from an inside joke.

Ansel picked up the only uninjured pillow left on the bed, squeezing it between his fists. “Mason is gay.”

“You’re not serious. Mason?” I said. “Mason is gay?”

Ansel sighed. “You know, this is the problem with you alphas, you’re so concerned about taking over the new pack that you don’t notice what’s happening right in front of your face.”

“Mason?” I repeated, embarrassed by the astonishment I heard in my own voice.

“He and Nev have been dating for the past year,” Ansel said, flipping onto his stomach.

“Nev? Who’s Nev?” I frowned.

Ansel just looked at me and waited. It only took a moment for me to understand.

“You mean Neville? Ren’s Neville?”

“No, not Ren’s Neville. Mason’s Neville.” He grinned. “And he goes by Nev.”

“For a year?”

“Yes, they met in a support group for Guardians who are ‘out.’” He hooked his fingers in air quotes around the last word. “Because you know, none of us could ever really be out in unapproved relationships. Straight or gay.”

A wry laugh burst from my throat. “So you’re telling me that Mason and Neville—er, Nev—are both in Gay Guardians Anonymous?”

He shrugged. I dropped back onto the bed.

“Wow.” It wasn’t so much of a surprise that Mason was gay as that he’d hidden it so well. Then again, it was a matter of life and death, but the thought that he didn’t trust me enough to confide something so important made my chest burn.

Ansel stretched out beside me, his head resting on his folded arms. “It’s all under the table, of course. Because of the Keepers. They aren’t exactly tolerant of alternative lifestyles.” He made a bitter sound.

I buried my hands in my hair, squeezing the sides of my head. “No, that’s true.”

Mason and Neville? It was hard to imagine. Mason was outgoing and hilarious, but Nev just seemed, well, quiet.

Ansel pulled the latest issue of Rolling Stone from his nightstand. “Which is ironic, considering Logan.”

“Logan?!” I slapped my hand down in the middle of the magazine, forcing him to look at me.

“Yeah, Logan. At least that’s what Mason says. But for him, or any Keepers for that matter, it’s not an issue like it is for us. I mean, Logan will just get a witch trophy wife to pop out some heirs along the way and have as many incubi boy toys on the side as he wants.” His eyes flashed wickedly.

“Ansel!” I shrieked. At least I won’t have to worry about Logan acting like his father.

“Oh, come on, Cal. I know I’m your little brother, but it’s not like I don’t know about this stuff.”

He threw the pillow at me. “In fact, this conversation makes it obvious that I know a lot more than you do.”

Then his tone gained an edge of idealism. “But I hope that it means good things for us. I mean, what I said about Logan. He’s still a Keeper, but maybe he’ll be different.”

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