Nightshade Page 72

I know your scent, Calla. You’d been in there. Two, maybe three days ago.

I kicked at him, scraping at him with my nails. Stop. Let me up!

Bryn and Ansel must have recognized your scent, but they claimed not to notice anything, which means they lied for you too. Are you trying to divide the pack’s loyalties? Do you really want to work against me? His teeth bit into my neck, forcing me to submit. I’d never thought I could hate Ren, but in that moment I was close. He clamped down harder, making me writhe from the pain. I kept kicking and he snarled. Don’t fight me. Just tell me the truth.

I whimpered and went limp beneath him. I’m sorry, I should have told you. I was curious, so I went in this weekend during patrol.

A low growl rumbled in Ren’s chest. Did you kill Logan’s spider?

My mind raced as I weighed the risks of lying or stretching the truth; telling the real story was out of the question.

No, I replied, choosing the lie. The cave smelled all wrong, dangerous. I didn’t stay there long.

I waited, hoping he’d believe me, wondering how closely he’d been able to track my progress through the cave.

Why didn’t you say anything? He was still growling, but his grip on my neck loosened.

I whined again but remained still. I’m sorry, Ren. I thought Logan would punish me. You know we’re not allowed to go inside.

You’re braver than I am. I’ve wanted to sneak into that cave for years. His growling stopped and he released me, nudging my head up, helping me stand. I didn’t enjoy doing that to you, Calla. I will always protect you, but you can’t keep secrets from me. And your packmates can’t either—I’ll talk to Bryn and Ansel about this later.

I’m sorry. I couldn’t meet his eyes.

He pressed his nose into my shoulder. I need your trust. Do you understand?

Yes. My limbs were shaking. What do you think killed the spider?

The only other scent was the lone wolf, Ren replied. I’m guessing it’s the same one your group and Dax’s tracked on the slope. It’s hard to believe it could have taken Logan’s pet out by itself—that wolf must be some fighter.

I thought of Shay wielding the ice axes, about how much I’d admired his courage, his skill as a warrior.

I’m only trying to keep you safe, Calla. Ren licked my muzzle. Don’t take unnecessary risks. You’re too important for that. I need you by my side. I’m sorry if I hurt you.

You didn’t. I let him nuzzle me despite my humiliation, relieved that he didn’t press the issue further.

Without another word he darted into the forest, leaving me alone in the meadow. When I closed my eyes, I saw Shay, felt his lips on my arm, those first sparks of desire when he touched me. I raised my muzzle, wanting to howl my frustration, hating the silence forced upon me. The Keepers would be hunting for Haldis’s thieves soon. What would they do then?


I MADE IT HALFWAY TO THE STONE STEPS OF Rowan Estate before terror locked me in place. Shay had to drag me the rest of the way.

“I’ve changed my mind.” My feet skidded along the paving stones.

“Too late.” He gritted his teeth and kept pulling.

“I never should have turned you,” I said. “You wouldn’t be able to drag me anywhere.”

“You’re not exactly making it easy.” He strained to get me another foot forward. “You owe me, remember? You abandoned me at the bar last week. I think Ren spent the rest of the night planning the order in which he was going to break every bone in my body.”

“He probably was.”

“Exactly. You’re lucky I’m even here to give you a tour of the place.”

“You have my eternal gratitude for the offer. I’m sure it’s a lovely house.” I squirmed in his arms. “Now let go of me.”

“Come on, Cal, go up the steps. You agreed to this. Are you really going to make me carry you inside?”

I gazed at the solid ebony double doors. “Maybe.”

“If you do, I’ll fling you over my shoulder caveman style.” He grinned. “It won’t be pretty.”

My eyes narrowed. “You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you?”

“Wanna find out?”

I twisted out of his grasp, scurrying up the stairs. Shay drew an enormous brass key from his jacket. My gaze traveled over the face of the mansion while he unlocked the door.

The imposing manor cut a stark outline against the sky, its facade the lonely color of fog. The building stretched out for an incredible length to either side of the main entrance. Tall, mullioned windows lined each of the three floors. The gables were filled with stone creatures: coiled snakes, rearing horses, shrieking griffins, and roaring chimeras. Winged gargoyles crouched along the roof, as if prepared to spring from its eaves.

“Are you coming?” Shay held the door open.

I pulled my eyes from the statues, took a deep breath, and walked into the darkness of the mansion. Once inside, I gasped. The doors opened into an enormous hall. A balcony encircled the broad space. Two marble staircases rose in opposite directions along the far wall. An elaborate crystal chandelier was suspended from the ceiling. Its prisms caught the sunlight from the windows, throwing infinite rainbows along the stone floor. Though devoid of furniture, the room was ringed with art that ranged from exquisite porcelain vases that reached to my waist to full suits of armor grasping fierce halberds and wicked maces in their gauntlets.

“Like I said.” Shay came up beside me. “Opulent.” His voice bounced off the walls.

I nodded.

“The library is through those doors straight ahead on the second level,” he continued. “The stairs lead to the east and west wings of the house. Do you want to get started on the research right away? Or do you want a tour?”

“I want to make sure it’s actually okay for us to be here,” I muttered.

“The tour, then,” he said, heading for the stairs on the right. “I live in the east wing.”

I cast glances over my shoulder as I followed him. Eerie silence shrouded the house; the strikes of our footsteps on the stone floor echoed around us.

“How do you get used to this?” I realized I was whispering.

“I haven’t really.” He shrugged. “Being alone all the time is pretty weird.”

“I can’t believe how quiet it is.”

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