Nightshade Page 36

He crouched so he was at my level.

“What are you doing here?” I managed to ask without growling.

“A hike sounded better than class,” he said. “But I still need to grab my homework.”

“Oh, okay.” I started to rise, suddenly desperate to get out of the school, but in my haste my foot caught on my bag and I stumbled.

Shay darted forward, taking my faltering as a sign of imminent emotional breakdown. “Calla, what happened to you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, feeling my outrage boil up again.

Shay’s grip on my arms tightened. “Did someone hurt you?”

I shook my head, watching him, running my tongue over my lips. What if I didn’t get mad but got even?

Shaking away the slight pinch of guilt, I took advantage of his assumption that I was ready to cry and let him pull me into an embrace.

“Can’t you tell me anything?” he asked. “I’d like to help you.”

I rested my forehead against his neck, knowing that what I wanted from him wasn’t help. The cool scent of his skin soothed my temper, but I heard his heartbeat jump when I touched him. It only made me want him more. I let myself press into him, reveling in the way the tensing of his muscles ignited my skin.

“Want to take a walk?” he murmured into the crown of my hair. “I haven’t been through the school gardens yet.”

“Sure.” I stepped out of his arms.

We left the building, crossing the parking lot to reach the Mountain School’s collection of manicured hedges and flower beds. A few steps into the gardens, we surprised two boarders, a boy and girl, tangled up in each other’s limbs beneath a vine-covered archway. They vanished like spooked deer.

I watched their retreat, wondering what it must be like to steal moments of desire and hide them from the world.

Shay walked beside me in silence. I turned my palms over. The scabs and puncture marks had disappeared.

“I’m sorry I was rude to you at school today,” I said, reaching for his hand.

A mocking, crooked smile pulled at his lips. “You’re always nicer without your bodyguard around.”

“Who?” I frowned.

“Tall, dark, and rabid,” he muttered, twining his fingers through mine.

“You mean Ren?” I didn’t drop Shay’s hand but wondered if I should.

He didn’t answer, but his jaw twitched.

“How I acted had nothing to do with him,” I said, unable to completely curb my temper. “I was angry at you.”

“Whatever.” He shook his fingers from mine. Apparently I wasn’t the only angry one.

“Let’s go this way.” I turned down a small path. Unlike the others, this was untouched earth, not paved by round river stones like most of the garden’s walkways. The trail passed beneath towering evergreens that filtered the late-afternoon sunlight. I stopped when we reached my favorite spot in the gardens, walked to the edge of the pine-ringed clearing, and dropped down, sitting half hidden among the tall ferns.

Shay paused to take in his surroundings. “Very nice.”

“Yeah.” I stretched my arms toward the sky, letting the sun warm my skin. “I come here when I want to be alone.”

“It feels safe,” he said, crouching near me. “Private.”

The hem of my dress had inched up when I settled among the ferns and I caught Shay’s eyes tracing the line where my skin disappeared beneath the fabric. I leaned toward him.

“Kiss me.” It sounded like an order, and his shoulders tightened. “Please?”

I didn’t know it would be so hard, asking for something I wanted. I wasn’t used to making requests.

Just this once, screw the Keepers and their laws. That’s what they got for ordering me to spend time with a boy this beautiful. My first kiss should be mine.

Shay stood up. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Calla. It’s not that I don’t want to.”

“You want to?” A rush of heat chased by emptiness swept through me. But you won’t.

“Yeah, of course.” His arms were folded across his chest, making the muscles of his forearms taut. “But you’re upset and I’m not really sure why you just asked. Or whatever that was.”

I pulled the hem of my dress down. “Never mind.”

“I’ll help you with whatever’s made you so upset,” he said. “But this morning you blew me off and I’m not going to kiss you today just so you can tell me to go to hell tomorrow.”

An unsuspecting fern took the brunt of my humiliation when I pulled the plant up roots and all.

“I know, I know,” I said, tossing leaves and dirt away. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s going to be dark soon.” He stretched his hands toward me. “You might have wolf night vision, but I don’t.”

“Sometimes I forget about your flaws.” I clasped his fingers in mine.

“Flaws, huh?” When he jerked me up, I was smiling again, surprised by how Shay’s easy manner made all my irritation fade. Once I was on my feet, he kept pulling until my fingertips rested on his chest. His hands released mine and slid around my back, pressing between my shoulder blades so my body molded against his.

I could feel every contour of his chest, the press of his thighs against my hips. I lifted my chin and his lips were on mine. The light touch speared my body and exploded deep within me. I shuddered and took his lower lip between my teeth, biting gently. He groaned, digging his fingers into my back. His lips parted mine, exploring, lingering.

My eyes were still closed when he pulled away.

“I thought you weren’t going to,” I whispered.

I looked at him and he smiled shyly. “I couldn’t help myself.”

“I’m glad.” I lifted my fingers to touch the throbbing pulse at my neck. “I didn’t know it would feel like that. It was amazing.”

“Wait a sec.” He rested his index finger under my chin, turning my face up toward his. “That wasn’t your first kiss, Calla. No way.”

I retreated to the shadows of the circling pines, wanting to hide the hot flush in my cheeks.

He didn’t follow. “Come on. What’s wrong?”

“It was my first.” I brushed dirt from the back of my dress. “That’s all. Just drop it.”

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