Nightshade Page 65

“Could you please be serious?”

“I am, Calla.” His voice was firm. “You turned me. I’m happy about it. I thought I’d already convinced you that no one is going to come to the cave to smell our wolfy crimes. As far as school goes, we’ll figure out a way to hide it. Will anyone be able to tell?”

I wanted to argue but forced myself to consider his words. “As long as you don’t give it away. You’ll have to be careful.”

“What would give it away?”

“You can’t shift forms when anyone can see it.”

“That’s easy enough.”

“Not as easy as you think,” I said. “Anytime you get angry or feel threatened, the predator instinct of the wolf will push to take over your body. Don’t let your teeth sharpen. Don’t growl, and for God’s sake don’t lose your temper.”

“So avoid Ren at all costs?”

I let it pass. “You’ll have heightened senses now. Smell, hearing.”

“I noticed.” He laughed. “I thought that spider smelled bad when I was human.”

“Exactly,” I said. “You can’t react to things you notice that a human wouldn’t.”

“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m a good actor.” He stretched his arms before him, as if checking for any lingering signs of wolfishness. “So are you going to teach me how to be a wolf?”

I nodded slowly.

“Great!” He shifted forms several times in rapid succession.

“What are you doing, Shay?” I rose, brushing dirt from my jeans.

“I just can’t believe how easy it is,” he said. “To go back and forth, I mean. I’m a werewolf . . . It’s so cool!”

I couldn’t help myself, laughing until my sides hurt. Maybe it would be okay. Shay’s delight made me fearless. I knew it was dangerous, but it was also addictive. He smiled sheepishly.

“I have never, ever heard a Guardian say anything like that.” I wiped tears from my face.

“Well, I am one of a kind.” He grinned.

“You certainly are.” I shook my head but smiled. “Come on, special boy. Let’s go find out what the monster spider was protecting.”

Shay nodded, pulling his shirt back on. The wound where I’d bitten his shoulder had already closed, and we continued to pick our way through the darkness. I frowned as we made our way deeper into the tunnel. Maybe it was my eyes simply adjusting to the darkness, but the cave seemed oddly brighter. Shay reached up and switched off his headlamp. The cavern remained alight with a warm, reddish glow. He pointed ahead to where the tunnel abruptly turned right. The source of light seemed to emanate from around that corner.

We exchanged a puzzled glance and continued our cautious progress. The crimson haze intensified as we drew closer to the turn in the cavern. The air around us grew warmer, almost hot. Shay shrugged out of his jacket. I unzipped my coat, glancing around nervously as I stepped toward the curving wall. I was about to pass the threshold into the next chamber when I felt his hand grab mine. When I looked at Shay, he smiled.

“We do this together.” He drew me alongside him so we moved lockstep around the bend.

The curve of the tunnel opened into a broad space. The walls of the inner chamber undulated with waves of rust, ochre, and crimson light. As my eyes moved along the cavern walls, I realized that they were covered in crystals reflecting the infinite shades of red, which emanated from the center of the chamber.

In the middle of the spherical room was a woman. She floated rather than stood, her ghostly form shimmering with warm light. I tensed when her eyes found us. But she smiled. Her gaze focused on Shay, hands stretching toward him, beckoning. I gasped and had reached out to grab his arm when he dropped my hand and walked swiftly toward her. He was out of my reach before I could pull him back. When he reached out and took both her hands in his own, I wanted to scream a warning, but my body, tongue to toes, was suddenly paralyzed.

The light in the cavern wavered and then intensified so quickly that I covered my eyes. All at once it blinked out, plunging us into darkness. I jumped when Shay switched his headlamp back on. I rushed forward, terrified that he’d been harmed.

“What happened?” I searched his body for signs of injury. “Why did you just run up to her like that?”

He blinked at me. “Couldn’t you hear her?”

“Hear what?” I asked, unconvinced that the strange woman hadn’t hurt him.

A wondrous expression moved over his face. “It was so beautiful. She sang, and the melody was like a song I’ve always known but hadn’t heard in years.”

“What did she say?”

“May the Scion bear the cross,” he murmured. “The cross is the anchor of life. Here rests Haldis.”

“Here rests Haldis?” What he’d just said made no sense.

He glanced down and my eyes followed. The light from the headlamp shone directly on his hands. They weren’t empty. Lying on his palms was a long, narrow cylinder that curved up at the ends into slightly raised edges. In the light the object reflected the multitude of red hues that had sparkled on the walls of the cavern.

“What is it?” I frowned at the strange cylinder.

“It’s Haldis,” he replied in a hypnotic tone.

“Uh, sure,” I said. “But what is it?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not heavy, and it feels warm. Like it’s full of energy.”

“Really?” I reached out and had barely touched the object with the tip of my finger when I jerked my hand back and swore.

“Calla?” His voice was full of alarm.

“That hurt.” I stared at the cylinder, fingers still throbbing. “A lot. Like it bit me.” I turned my eyes on Shay. “I guess you’re the only one who gets to touch it.”

“Only me?” His fingers curled protectively around Haldis, turning it over in his hands, examining it. “Interesting.”

“What is it?” I leaned over his shoulder.

“It has an opening on one end. Like a slit.” He angled the cylinder to show me.

“Is there something inside it?” I peered at the narrow slash.

He shook it, holding it up to his ear. “No, and it’s not completely hollow either. I don’t know what it is.”

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