Nightshade Page 42

“I guess.” I felt a spike of resentment. With Ren as my partner, I could no longer claim final authority for my packmates. Alpha males had more clout than females. Ren ruled the pack. It was my job to support him and keep the others in line.

“It’s not about you, Cal,” he said. “It’s just the rules.”

I nodded, opening the bedroom door. “Oh no.” It was much worse than I’d imagined.

He whistled. “If you hate clothes so much, why do you have so many? I can’t see the floor.”

“Give me a sec.” I gathered clothes in my arms, throwing them at my closet.

“Don’t trouble yourself on my account.” When I’d cleared the bed, Ren stretched out on it, pulling over a couple of pillows so he was propped up.

He crooked his finger at me. “Come here.”

My heart stuck in my throat.

“I won’t bite, Lily.” He flashed his teeth. No sharp canines in sight.

I walked slowly to the bed, pausing at its side. “Ren, did you know about Mason and Nev?”

He nodded.

“How long?”

“About six months, I guess.” He shrugged.

“Is the rest of your pack okay with it?”

“More or less.” He sounded uneasy.

“What does that mean?”

He sighed. “Sabine has no problem with it. She loves Nev, always has. And Cosette pretty much lets Sabine think for her, so she’s fine too.”

“So it’s Dax,” I said.

Ren didn’t reply, but he rolled onto his side, reaching out to grab my wrists.

“Dax isn’t okay,” I pressed, even as he pulled me onto the bed next to him. My pulse went wild.

“Dax thinks it’s too much of a risk to let Nev and Mason be together,” he said as he tucked my body next to his. “He sees it as a weakness. A threat to the pack.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, marveling at the steadiness of Ren’s voice. How can he be so calm?

My stomach twisted. That’s right, he does this all the time.

“It doesn’t matter.” I felt the muscles of his chest tighten. “Dax knows I’m the alpha, and I gave Nev the okay. He and Mason should be together if it’s what they want.”

“You and I are on the same page, then,” I said, hiding my doubts. I had the feeling that Dax hadn’t swallowed Ren’s order happily.

“We are.” His face hardened into sharp angles. “It won’t be a problem.”

“Good.” I was pressed so tightly against him, I wondered if I’d ever be able to relax. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”

“I need to know that you’re okay.” His eyes softened and his voice became incredibly quiet. “So much has happened lately, it’s been hard on all of us.”

He paused, lowering his voice even further. “But it’s different for alphas.”

“It is.” I held my breath when his fingers traced the shape of my collarbone.

Ren pushed his fingers through the waves of hair that spilled over my shoulder. “I can be here for you, if you let me.”

He bent his face toward mine.

“What are you doing?” I tried to pull away, but his hand slipped from my hair to cup the nape of my neck.

When he whispered, his warm breath brushed over my lips. “Just let me kiss you, Calla. You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to. No one has to know.”

My lips parted as I drew a sudden, startled breath and in that instant his mouth was on mine, soft as velvet. I closed my eyes against the rush of a hundred wings that suddenly beat in my chest and soared through my body. His scent was all around me. Leather, sandalwood, bonfires in autumn. He pulled back, but only for the sake of moving his lips to trail over my neck.

My blood was on fire and I was shaking. Is this really happening?

I couldn’t stop thinking about Shay in the clearing. About asking him to kiss me. The electric touch of his lips on mine.

But this is where I belong. I tried to push the memories back.

Ren stroked my knee, his fingers wandering up my thigh, sliding beneath the hem of my dress.

I grabbed his wrist. “Wait.”

He didn’t free his arm from my grasp but continued kissing my collar bone.

“Let’s skip the waiting part,” he murmured into my skin.

“Please, Ren.” The frenzied beating of my heart was overwhelming. “It’s too fast. We’re supposed to wait for the union.”

He rolled onto his side with a low growl. “I think you’ll discover that delayed gratification is overrated.”

“I’m sorry.” I took his hand. “It’s not that I don’t want . . .”

I lost the words, realizing I didn’t actually know what I wanted.

“I can help you with that.” He reached for me and I jumped off the bed.

“I’m serious, Ren.”

“Right.” He slowly stood up. “This is new territory for you. Stupid sequestering, the Keepers better not have turned you into a nun or something.”

I snatched a book off my nightstand and threw it at him. “Get out of my room!”

He caught the book in midair and laid it on the bed. “Easy, Lily. That was a bad joke. I didn’t mean any offense.”

I shook with humiliation. “You don’t know what it’s been like.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.” He came to my side and cupped my face. “I’m sure it hasn’t been fun. You deserve better.”

I nodded. He lowered his head, softly brushing his lips over mine. “I’ll show you how much fun it can be. You need to trust me.”

“I’m sorry I got angry,” I murmured.

“It’s okay. You’re the boss,” he said. “No pressure.”

“I promise I’m not still mad, but I’m really tired.” I sat down on the bed. “It was a hard day.”

“It was.”

“Can we just leave this for tonight? We’ve already . . .”

“Like I said.” His smile was tight. “You’re the boss. Until you’re ready, I’ll leave you alone. See you tomorrow.”

He kissed my forehead and left the room. I fell back against the pillow, not feeling in control of anything, much less like anyone’s boss. My lips still tingled from Ren’s kiss, but when I closed my eyes, only Shay’s face was there.

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