Nightshade Page 69

I returned Ren’s hard grip but only so I wouldn’t shudder. I had to be one of the wolves that searched the cave. In fact, I had to be the only wolf. Otherwise . . . I couldn’t think about otherwise.

“And you want us to go tomorrow?” I asked, making sure to keep my voice steady.

“Yes,” Logan said. “We must act now. If the Searchers have broken through our defenses, we need to make changes immediately.”

“I’ll call the pack when I get home,” Ren said, looking at me. “Okay, Calla?”

Before I could answer, Emile scowled. “You don’t need her permission, boy.”

“There’s nothing wrong with manners, Emile,” Lumine chided. “Calla has been a fine leader of the young Nightshades. Ren is wise to ask her opinion.”

Emile muttered something into his glass and Efron snickered.

“It’s fine,” I said. “Call them.” I’d figure out how to get myself on the cave patrol tomorrow.

“We’ll meet at first light, then?” he asked, squeezing my hand. “At the base trail?”

I nodded.

Lumine rose, smoothing her skirt. “Excellent. Your first trial. Don’t disappoint us.”

“Never,” Ren murmured.

“Very good.” Efron smiled. “We’ll bid you good night, then.”

“Thank you for the tea, Naomi,” Lumine said. “Your hostessing never fails to impress.”

“Mistress.” My mother gave a little curtsy.

Logan paused in front of us on his way to the door. “Good hunting.”

The wraiths floated soundlessly after them. The front door banged shut and Ren stood up, but Emile poured himself another drink. He extended the bottle to my mother.

“For old times’ sake?”

“No, thank you,” she said.

“Are we staying?” Ren frowned, looking from his father to my mother.

“It hardly seems polite to leave two lovely ladies on their own, seeing how Stephen can’t be here to watch over them.” Emile wandered to my mother’s side, letting his fingers slide through her hair. She paled but didn’t move.

“We can take care of ourselves,” I snapped.

“Not like a man could,” he said, fingers moving from my mother’s hair to trace her jawline. “Naomi, what nonsense have you been filling that girl’s head with? She’s not about to give my boy trouble, now, is she?”

“She will be a fine mate,” she said. “Deserving of your son.”

I stared at her, not understanding why she didn’t shove him away. I knew how strong my mother was; she might not be able to take Emile in a fight, but she could certainly fend him off.

“Fine indeed. Just like her mother, I suppose. You’re a good girl, Naomi. You know your place. I’ve always thought it a shame we weren’t better friends.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, but I could see her hands trembling.

“The night is young,” Emile continued, leaning down so his lips touched her ear. “And full of possibility. We could make up for lost time.”

“How dare you!” I was on my feet. “Get away from her!”

Emile whirled on me, snarling. “Renier, take your little bitch upstairs!”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Only Ren’s grip on my shoulders kept me from flying at Emile.

“Father, we should go; it’s late and we’re overstaying our welcome,” Ren said quietly. “Stephen will be coming off patrol soon.”

“I suppose he will, won’t he?” Emile’s smile was like the light of an oncoming train. “I really should pay my respects.”

“I have a lot of homework to get done and I still have to call the pack about tomorrow’s run to Haldis,” Ren added. “I’d prefer to go now. Please.”

“I don’t know where you get your work ethic, boy.” Emile finished his drink, slamming the glass down on the arm of my mother’s chair. “It’s been a pleasure, Naomi.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Ren didn’t look at me when he spoke, following his father out the front door.

I watched as my mother stood up, straightening her blouse.

“Well, we’d better get this cleaned up.” She began collecting glasses, placing them on the tea tray.

“Mom,” I said. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“Whatever do you mean, dear?”

“Why did you let Emile do that to you?”

“He’s an alpha male, Calla.” She didn’t meet my eyes as she continued to tidy the living room. “It’s simply their way.”

“Dad isn’t like that!”

“No,” she replied, lifting the tray. I followed her into the kitchen. “But Efron and Lumine prefer different characteristics in their leaders. Lumine encourages a stoic approach and of course—”

“Finesse,” I finished. “How could I forget?”

She offered me a flat smile. “Efron thinks it’s better to have alphas who use . . . a firmer hand.”

“Is that what you call it?” I snarled. “Because I’d say Efron and Emile are both leches!”

“Don’t be vile, Calla,” she snapped. “It’s unbecoming.”

“Are you going to tell Dad?” I asked.

She piled dishes into the sink. “Of course not. He hates Emile enough, and you heard our masters say that cooperation is of vital importance right now. We can’t have the men tearing at each other while we’re trying to set up new defenses. They’re so silly that way.”

“Silly?! No one besides Dad is allowed to touch you!”

“No inferior man can touch me. This was about rival alphas. Something you’ll hopefully never have to live with. Emile will take any chance he has to challenge your father. He’s always wanted to prove he’s the dominant alpha of the two packs. It’s only gotten worse since Corinne was killed.”


She turned on me, holding up her hand. “Leave it, Calla. It’s over.”

“So this is what finesse is?” I couldn’t hold back my outrage. “Acting like a whore for any man who visits your parlor?”

I was on the floor before I realized she’d hit me. My cheek throbbed from the blow.

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