Nightshade Page 55

Great. “You don’t have to watch us all through chemistry.”

“I didn’t have to be watching to notice.” He made a disgruntled noise. “He was all over you.”

I blushed. “Ms. Foris didn’t say anything, so I think you’re exaggerating.”

“Ms. Foris would never say anything. She’s terrified of both of you.”

I shrugged. He was absolutely right.

An awkward silence descended as we walked to my locker. I was relieved when Shay finally spoke.

“Do you want to go to a coffee shop or something tonight? I assume the library is out.”

“Definitely out,” I said. “But I can’t get coffee.”

“Why not?”

“My mother is having a thing,” I mumbled. “Some union stuff I have to do.”

“Oh.” He leaned against the locker next to mine while I hunted for my lunch. “What kind of stuff?”

I wanted to crawl inside my locker and hide. “Girl stuff.”

“Sounds enthralling,” I heard him say, though I’d buried my head in my jacket.

I stopped imitating a frightened ostrich and grabbed my lunch bag. “Okay. Let’s go eat.”

Shay strolled alongside me, humming “Here Comes the Bride,” until I punched him in the kidney.


“OW!” I JERKED AWAY FROM SABINE’S PINFILLED fingers. It was the third time she’d stuck me and I was convinced she was doing it on purpose.

“Sorry,” Sabine said, not sounding sorry at all.

“Calla, you must keep still,” my mother muttered. “Sabine, be more careful.”

“Yes, Naomi,” she replied, bowing her head, but I saw her smirk. If I hadn’t been weighed down by fabric, I would have kicked her.

Bryn stood in front of me, assessing the progress of the gown. “I think it needs to be gathered here.” She pointed at my left shoulder.

My mother stood up. “Good eye, Bryn. Sabine, we’ll need more pins up here.”

I grabbed Sabine’s shoulder. “If you stick me again, I’m going to make your head my personal pin cushion.”

“Calla, that is no way for a lady to address her liege,” my mother clucked. “Cosette, how is that hem coming?”

“Nearly there,” Cosette said from somewhere beneath me. I couldn’t see her for all the swells of taffeta.

“Damn it, Sabine!” I rubbed the new stinging spot at my shoulder. “If I bleed all over this gown, you’ll be sorry.”

“I’m not breaking the skin.” Sabine didn’t cover her smile.

“You’ll probably end up with blood all over it anyway,” Fey said from the corner she’d tucked herself in. She’d stayed as far from the dressmaking activity as she could, acting as though touching silk might infect her with the pretty princess virus.

My mother bared fangs at her. “Fey!”

I swayed on the pedestal that Mom had brought to my room for the dress fitting. Bryn grabbed my waist to keep me from falling.

“Ow,” I said weakly as more pins pushed into my skin.

“Sorry,” she said, loosening her grip.

“What is she talking about?” I looked at my mother, who was shaking her head.

“How do you know about the ceremony?” She glared at Fey again.

“Sorry, ma’am.” Fey stared out my bedroom window. “Dax overheard Emile talking about it with Efron.”

“Dax should learn to use more discretion,” my mother said.

Bryn stayed where she was, seeing that I was still unsteady.

“Mom, please,” I murmured. “Can’t you tell me anything?”

My mother ran her tongue over her lips, looking over the anxious girls in the room.

“I can tell you a little,” she said quietly. “And I assure you, there will be no blood on this gown.”

I started to breathe again. “Oh, good.”

“Because you’ll be a wolf when you make the kill,” she finished.

“Kill?” I caught my reflection in the tall mirror. I looked like one of Henry VIII’s wives who’d been told she’d soon be replaced.

“Come on, Cal.” Fey grabbed a tattered teddy bear from my dresser, and I worried she’d rip its head off. “The kill is probably going to be the only fun part of the night.”

“Until Ren takes her to bed,” Sabine purred.

Fey’s laugh was like a roar. Even Cosette’s muffled giggles floated up from under the layers of fabric.

“Shut up, Sabine.” Bryn kicked her and I grinned.

“Honestly, girls.” My mother put her hands on her hips. “You’re acting like barbarians.”

She reached up and held my face between her palms. “Calla, the ceremony is beautiful. We’ll wait for you in the sacred grove—except for Bryn, who will guide you to the ritual site. She’ll leave you alone. Drums will raise the forest spirits, and the warrior’s song is the last thing you’ll hear before you’re called to join us.”

“Who calls me?”

“You’ll know,” she murmured, smiling. “I don’t want to give everything away. The mystery of the ritual makes it special.”

Special? I stared into her misty eyes, not feeling special, only anxious. “What about the kill?” This is what my parents were worried about.

She took her hands from my face, folding them in front of her. “It’s a trial, a public demonstration that you and Ren have the mutual skill to lead your pack.”

“We hunt together?” I couldn’t imagine how that would work. “And the Keepers watch?”

“Your prey will be presented at the end of the ceremony,” she said, smoothing the front of my gown. I winced when another pin pricked me.

“What’s the prey?” Bryn took my hand, her own fingers shaking.

“You won’t know until that night,” my mother said. “The surprise is part of the challenge.”

“What was it when you were united to Stephen?” Sabine asked. I was startled to see her fingers laced tightly together, as if the news about a kill frightened her as much as me.

My mother walked to the dresser and picked up a brush. She was quiet as she came behind me and began pulling the bristles through my hair.

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