Nightshade Page 84

“I belong to Ren,” I said, hating the words, wishing Shay could kiss me and make the rest of the world disappear. “There’s nothing I can do to change that.”

“You belong to yourself,” he said quietly. “And I can wait for you to figure that out.”

Shaken by his words, I pulled out the notes he’d given me that morning, not wanting to think about how little time we had left. He bent over my shoulder.

“So what did you make of that?”

“Nothing new.” I handed him the piece of paper. “Except what you’ve already said.”

“What do you think the ‘harvest child’ means?” He frowned at his own scribblings.

“I think it means more research.” I slid back my chair.

“Hang on,” he said, pushing a book along the surface of the table into my hands. “I thought you’d want to see this for yourself.”

I opened the cover and stared at the handwritten title page. Haldis Annals. The years inscribed below were the first five of my own life.

“Ren’s mother?” I murmured.

He nodded. I fell silent as I paged through the book until I found the entry. Shay sat quietly while I read, though he stirred when I closed the text, brushing tears from my cheeks.

“My parents were there,” I said. “The Keepers sent the Nightshades after the Searchers. But the pack didn’t know . . . no one knew what had happened to Corinne. The Keepers gave her to a wraith.”

“Calla—” He reached for me, but I backed away, shaking my head.

“I’ll be fine.” I headed for the spiral staircase that led to the balcony. “We have work to do.”

About twenty minutes later I returned with an armload of texts, dropping them on the table. I picked up the largest of the books, offering Shay a thin smile, and began to read.

We sat side by side, the silence of the library broken intermittently by the scratch of a pencil or the crackle of a turning page. Shadows poured into the room while the large grandfather clock in the corner chimed the passing of another hour.

I blinked at the paragraph I’d been reading about Sabbat rituals. “Hey.” I read it again.

Shay rubbed his eyes, yawning. “Find something?”

I scanned another page of The Great Rites. “Maybe. When’s your birthday?”

He didn’t look up from his reading. “August first.”

I clapped. The noise made him jump.


I leapt to my feet, spinning in mini-celebration. “It’s you! You’re the harvest child. They’re interchangeable terms—the Scion and the harvest child are the same person.”

“What are you talking about?” he said. “My birthday is the middle of the summer; wouldn’t the harvest child have been born in autumn, when people are actually harvesting?”

“No.” My grin broadened. “This is where my research pays off. Since I was reading about Samhain, I decided to read about the other Sabbats. The first of August is the witches’ harvest in the Wheel of the Year. You are the harvest child; it has to be you. We finally found something!”

He blinked at me and then looked back at the crinkled page we’d been handing back and forth all afternoon. “So it’s all about me. This passage . . . whatever is supposed to happen at the Samhain rite.”

My smile faded at the sight of his worried face. “Yes, yes, it is.”

“Samhain,” he murmured. “That’s tonight.”

“Yes.” I chewed on my lip. “But nothing’s happening with you tonight. There’s no way. All the Keepers are focused on the union. That’s where they’ll be. It has nothing to do with the Scion—tonight’s ritual is only about the new pack.”

“Well, the prophecy just states the day, not the year,” he said. “And prophecies are about the future, right?”

“You think it’s a far-off event?”

“It must be.” He nodded, but his eyes were still troubled. “At least that’s some sort of progress,” he said, glancing at his watch. “Didn’t you say Bryn was coming over at five thirty to get you ready for your big night?”

“Yeah, why?”

“It’s six.” He turned the watch face toward me.

“She’s going to kill me.” I began stuffing my notes into my bag. “We won’t have time to hang out at Blood Moon.”

“I thought you were getting ready for the union.” He frowned.

“We are,” I said. “But the ceremony is near the site of the ball. Everyone involved gathers at Blood Moon to dance and drink for a couple of hours so they can all toast our health or something. But we’ll leave and go to the Samhain ritual while the humans are still distracted by the party.”

“I see,” Shay murmured.

I didn’t want to leave him, but there was nothing left to say. No shared laughter could dull this pain.

I pulled on my coat and he nodded. His smile couldn’t mask the sadness in his eyes. “Good luck, Calla.”


“THERE. THAT’S THE LAST ONE.” BRYN turned me around so she could make her inspection.

“Why are there so many buttons?” I asked, wondering how I would ever get the dress off again.

“They’re called embellishments, Calla. Your mother loves them.” She pointed an eye shadow brush at me. “Are you sure you don’t want makeup? I could at least do your eyes. Really make them pop.”

“No. No makeup.” I wondered why I’d want my eyes to “pop”; it sounded grotesque. “I agreed to let you do my hair. But I do not wear makeup.” I was trying hard not to be sick; if anything popped, it was going to be my stomach.

“You’re going to ruin it.” She slapped my hand away as I reached to touch the carefully pinned arrangement of curls she had expertly piled on the top of my head. “No touching. Are you sure about the eyes?”

I smiled at Bryn. She was stunning. More than stunning. Her chin-length ringlets were styled much in the usual way, but their bronze highlights shimmered in contrast to the inky shade of her silk empire-waisted gown, which skimmed her body like it had been spun from the night sky. It wasn’t fair. Bryn and the other Haldis females would go to the union in subtle beauty, like priestesses of a dark goddess. I looked like a wedding cake, and I was sure it was my mother’s fault.

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