Nightshade Page 44

A shudder passed through his body. I relaxed my hold on him, giving his tense muscles a gentle squeeze.

“Calla,” he whispered. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah.” I crouched beside his chair. “I have a hard time believing that you’ve never seen the back of your own neck.”

His forehead wrinkled. “I must have at some point. And I don’t remember ever seeing a tattoo. Is that where it is?”

He shivered as my fingers traced the lines of the cross on his neck.

“Yes, right here.”

“Give me your compact; I’ll go check it in the bathroom mirror.” He jumped up from his seat and then looked at me, waiting.

“I don’t have a compact.”

“You don’t?” Shay frowned. “I’ll figure something out.” He dashed away and I lowered myself into his chair, returning to the book I’d been reading.

A few minutes later, I looked up from the page to find Shay glaring at me, wary and nervous. “So are you pulling my leg or what?”

“You found a hand mirror?”

“I borrowed one from the librarian at the circulation desk,” he said. “I told her I was having a problem with my contact and the bathroom mirror didn’t magnify enough.”

“You wear contacts?”

“No.” He pulled up another chair. “You haven’t answered my question.”

I squared my shoulders. “I have no reason to lie to you, Shay. Are you saying you looked at your neck and saw nothing there?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I saw my neck, the bare skin of my neck. No tattoo. And definitely not a weird cross tattoo.”

“I’m sorry. The cross is tattooed on your neck,” I said. “I don’t know much about the Keepers’ magic, so I can only guess. But they must have cast something on your sight so you can’t see it.”

I looked at the image once again, my fingers tracing over the page. “They’ve instructed the Guardians to keep our world hidden from you, even though we’ve been asked to protect you. For some reason they don’t want you to know anything about this.”

His face went white. “You’re saying my uncle put a spell on me so I wouldn’t know about the tattoo?”

“He’s not your uncle.” I tried to make the reminder gentle but firm. “And yes, I think he must have.”

Shay put his elbows on his knees, hiding his face in his hands. I hesitantly rose from my chair. My limbs quivered as I stretched my arms around his shaking body, drawing him against me. My heart was racing. As much as I knew I should maintain some physical distance from Shay, seeing him like this and not doing anything was too cruel.

His hands dropped from his face, encircling my waist. Warmth seemed to slide from his fingertips over the length of my body. He leaned into me, resting his cheek in the hollow between my neck and shoulder, sending electric tendrils like vines over my skin. I gently brushed his messy golden brown hair, biting my lip so I wouldn’t kiss his forehead.

“Thanks.” His quiet murmur was strained. He cleared his throat. “It’s a little hard to cope with the growing realization that I have no idea who I really am.”

I laughed quietly.

Shay tensed. “Is that funny?”

I twisted my fingers through his hair. “No. It’s just that to me, it sounds a little interesting. I’ve always known exactly who I am and what I would be.”

He straightened and I released him from my arms though I remained crouched next to his chair.

“Do you wish you were something other than what you are?”

“No,” I said quickly. “We are who we are. I have no desire to be something else. But right now I’m afraid of what it means for those who I care about.”

Shay looked at me, slowly lifted his hand, and caressed my cheek. Looking into his eyes felt like stumbling upon a hidden garden.

I quickly returned to my own seat, short of breath, my heart pounding.

I could feel his eyes on me as I scratched shapes on my notebook page. “I wanted to learn what was in the book because I needed to know more about the Keepers and Guardians.”

I turned to face him. Shay watched me curiously. I was relieved to see that he didn’t appear offended by my abrupt retreat.

“But it’s clear that everything that’s happening here is about you, Shay. We need to find out who you are.”

He didn’t speak, but nodded once.

I pointed at the leather-bound tome. “So we know that cross is on your neck. But we don’t know what it means.”

Shay turned back to the image. “Are these triangles on my neck too?”

“No.” With some reluctance I dragged my chair close to his so I could look at the book.

“But you think they’re important?” He pointed at my notebook. I glanced down and was shocked to see that I’d drawn at least ten triangles across the white page.

“I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen them before, but I don’t know where.” I chewed on my lip for a moment, letting my mind wander.


I rummaged through my bag and pulled out my Organic Chemistry lab workbook.

“Are you having trouble in chem?” Shay frowned as he watched me flip through the pages.

I shook my head and kept turning through the book until I found the introductory notes from Monday’s experiment.

“Look. I knew I’d seen this. It’s in the historical introduction to the alchemy lab.” I pointed at the triangles. “These are alchemical symbols.”

Shay rose and came to peer over my shoulder. “It’s a good thing you read the introduction. I just skipped right to the experiment.”

I smiled and continued to read. “These four triangles represent the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.”

I looked at the image in the Keeper’s text and then back at the workbook.

“But I have no idea what that has to do with a cross.”

“Looks like you just found your first research question, Cal.” He tapped me on the shoulder.

“Fine. But is there anything else for me to work with besides that proverb? What is it again?”

“The cross is the anchor of life,” he intoned in mock solemnity. “That’s the last line of the book. Then the picture.”

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