Nightshade Page 49

Nev pointed his pen at Mason as if it were a knife. “If you show that to anyone, I will kill you.”

“Once you do the limerick, I’ll give it back.” Mason sat on Nev’s notebook. “I know you have it memorized.”

“I have no idea why I’m nice to you,” Nev muttered.

“My relentless charm,” Mason said.

“Your relentless something,” Nev replied.

“I’d like to hear it too,” Ren said. He began to stroke my thigh. His scent was warm and soothing, but his touch made me tremble. Please, please don’t look over here, Shay.

Nev tossed his pen down. “Fine. Here goes:Ren and Cal’s lives may be torrid

for the young ones in Vail are quite horrid

Bine and Cos aren’t too frail

Dax and Fey never pale

while Ansel and Bryn might get sordid

Bryn spit Diet Coke all over the table. Mason and Ansel clapped. I was too dumbfounded to react.

This is what quiet Nev does in his spare time?

“‘Bine’?” Sabine frowned while Cosette mopped up the soda that flowed to their end of the table. “Since when am I ‘Bine’? And we never call Cosette ‘Cos.’”

“It’s about cadence,” Nev said. “Sorry. I said it wasn’t very good.”

“Why aren’t you and Mason in it?” Ansel asked.

“Oh, he has another one about us.” Mason wiggled his eyebrows.

Nev pushed him out of his chair, and Mason hit the floor laughing.

“It was great,” Shay said with a grin. “Can you say it again and I’ll practice matching names to faces? It would help if you’d raise your hand when Nev says your name.”

Nev looked at Ren, who nodded.

With a little less reluctance, Nev recited the limerick a second time. Each of my packmates raised a hand when his or her name was sounded, except Sabine, who just sniffed, and Fey and Dax, who gave Shay the finger when their turns came.

“Thanks.” Shay inched his chair toward Bryn’s, now knowing where his likely allies were sitting. Bryn smiled at him. Ansel shoved a handful of Fritos in front of our lunch guest.

Shay returned Bryn’s smile, popping a corn chip in his mouth.

“Calla’s told me a lot about you,” he said between crunches.

“Has she?” Bryn cast an alarmed gaze at me. I gave a brief shake of my head, and she relaxed.

“It’s ’cause we’re so awesome.” Ansel gave him a thumbs-up.

“Nice, baby brother,” I muttered. “Very cool.”

He blushed and Bryn kissed his cheek. “Ignore her. We are awesome. What’s your story, Shay?”

“Not much of a story.” He glanced at me and winked. I glared at him.

If you wink at me again, I’ll be forced to pull your eyelashes out.

“I’m a senior,” he said. “I live at Rowan Estate with my uncle.”

There was a collective gasp around the table. Visions of empty halls and cobwebs filled my mind. I almost fell off of Ren’s lap, but he caught and righted me with a chuckle. I bit my lip and glanced at Shay. I’d never given any thought to where he was staying in Vail, but now I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

It must be some mistake. That’s an institution, not a home.

“Rowan Estate?” Ansel repeated. “I thought that was a museum or something. You live there?”

“Yes. My uncle owns it; he just doesn’t live there very often. His job takes him around the world. I pretty much have the run of the house,” he said. “I think he does have it open for historic tours when he’s not in residence. You’d be welcome to come visit, if you’d like to see it.” Shay flashed a bright smile at Ansel, who paled.

“That’s very kind, Shay,” I said. “But I’m sure your uncle would prefer to keep a rowdy crowd like us away from all those priceless antiques.”

I would never let my brother pass through those doors. I didn’t wish that on anyone.

“Whatever suits you.” He turned his attention to his lunch, which as far as I could tell consisted of four granola bars and a Sprite.

“So what’s it like to live there?” Bryn settled her chin on Ansel’s shoulder. I smiled as my brother’s eyes began to glow from her closeness.

Shay popped open his Sprite. “I can’t complain about being cramped. It’s gigantic, opulent. But kind of creepy, to be honest. Bosque, that’s my uncle, is gone most of the time on business, so I’m there alone a lot. There’s staff that comes in to clean a couple times a week. There are hundreds of rooms.”

I shifted uneasily in Ren’s lap, hating the thought of Shay alone in the enormous manor.

Shay lowered his voice, as if he were telling a ghost story. “It’s the sort of place where the shadows seem to follow you around.”

“Shadows?” Ansel asked.

I shook my head at Ansel, but I knew his worry was the same as mine.

Wraiths. The dark thought sent a shiver through my limbs.

Ren turned his face toward me. “You okay?”

I looked at him and my breath caught in my throat. Our faces were only inches apart; I could see each tiny silver fleck in his eyes, a swirling galaxy set against black depths. I felt myself getting lost in the velvet darkness of his irises.

“Calla, you’re trembling. Are you all right?” His worried voice shook me out of the heady trance.

“I just remembered that I didn’t finish the reading for Big Ideas today.” I slid off his lap. “I’ve gotta run.”

Without looking back at my packmates, I hurried in the direction of my locker and dove into the nearest girls’ bathroom. I wasn’t sure why my heart raced, nor why I felt so short of breath. All I knew was that I couldn’t stand another moment balanced on the tightrope between Ren and Shay at that lunch table.

I checked the stalls to make sure I was alone. They were empty. I went back to one of the sinks, turned on the cold tap, and bent down to splash water on my face.

The bathroom door creaked open.

I guess two seconds of privacy was worth something.

“Calla.” A strong hand gripped my shoulder, turning me around.

“Get out of here!” I shoved Ren back. “This is the girls’ bathroom.”

He grinned. “If anyone comes in, we’ll tell them I got lost.”

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