Nightshade Page 85

“No eyes, no lips. Nothing.” I gestured to my floor-length gown. “This is plenty. Any more and I will spontaneously combust.”

“Fine.” She packed her beauty supplies into what resembled a large toolbox.

There was a light knock at the door. Ansel’s muffled voice sounded anxious from the other side.

“Are you guys done yet? Mason’s already called twice. The rest of the pack thought we’d gone into a ditch or something.”

I glanced at Bryn. “Do you have some sort of grand entrance planned?”

“Nah. He can come in.”

“Okay, Ansel. We’re ready,” I called.

The door swung open and Ansel stepped inside. Bryn pivoted on her sharp heels, ambushing him with a devastating smile. My brother stopped in his tracks. He paled, then flushed bright red, and then paled again. His lips parted, but only a strangled sound bubbled from his throat, and he abandoned his attempt at speech for the sake of sighing.

Bryn crossed the room and took his hands. “Thank you.”

She brushed his cheek with her lips and began to turn back to me. But Ansel grabbed her, kissing her full on the lips while she melted into his arms. I looked away, feeling foolish for the biting jealousy that struck me whenever Ansel and Bryn were together. They found each other and they’re happy. What if I’ve found happiness that I have to leave behind?

After an uncomfortable period where I stared at my shoes, Bryn murmured: “We’ll continue this conversation later.”

“I didn’t hear that, and I’m turning around now,” I said.

Ansel grinned at me, lipstick covering his mouth.

“You need to go wash your face.” I laughed.

“Oh, right. You look great by the way,” he said before he headed for the bathroom.

Bryn bounced back toward me, fishing in her handbag for lipstick, skin flushed, nearly glowing, and I wanted to hit her out of spite. I doubted I’d be glowing from happiness during the ceremony.

Ansel reappeared at the door, jangling the car keys. “Let’s get this party started.”

The three of us stood watching dancers twirl on the other side of French doors that separated the ballroom from the garden terrace. Blood Moon was hosted by Efron Bane and took place at one of his five-star hotels on the outskirts of Vail, a palatial Victorian resort that rested on the edge of a dense forest. At the far end of the ballroom a chamber orchestra sent waltzes soaring through the air. Dark satin draperies, floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows, and hundreds of candelabras made the atmosphere appropriately Halloweenish. A near-translucent paper sphere, dyed red, cocooned the ballroom’s chandelier, washing the room in ochre hues. Our very own Blood Moon.

An ornate table along one wall featured a huge cauldron, complete with dry-ice smoke spilling out and as many delectable hors d’oeuvres and desserts as one could imagine. Keepers, Guardians, and humans alike swirled to the music decked in their finest. Viewing them through the blur of the glass doors was like watching an array of brightly colored baubles float past.

“It’s no Eden, but it looks nice enough.” Bryn winked at me. “Too bad we can’t join in.”

“I said I was sorry about being late,” I muttered.

“I can’t believe you were tutoring on the night of your union,” she said with a pointed stare, pulling me away from Ansel and whispering. “You and Shay must really like your classes. Care to fill me in on that? Do you have some tips you’d like to offer me and Ansel?”

“I already told Ansel you guys had the wrong idea,” I said. “Didn’t he fill you in?”

“I thought maybe you’d have a different answer for me,” she said. “You know—girl talk. If you wanna spill before you walk down the aisle, now’s the time.”

“Drop it.” The mere mention of Shay made me want to bolt. The union meant I was losing him, and that felt like losing everything. I was in no mood for teasing.

“I’d better go see if we’re on schedule,” Ansel said, turning away from the blurred colors of the ball. “Oh hey, there’s Ren now.”

“Oh!” Bryn hurried after Ansel. “I’ll go with you, then.”

I ignored the sudden wrench of my gut, walking to meet Ren at the edge of the terrace. His tuxedo skimmed close to his lean body; the dark jacket and pants contrasted with the gray vest and tie. I smiled at the sight. Those were Ren’s colors when he was a wolf.

“That dress is a ceremony in itself, Lily. How long did it take you to get it on?”

“Too long.” I reached for my braid out of habit. When it wasn’t there, nervous energy pricked my skin. “Are you okay? I’ve been worried.”

“Yes.” He laughed, low and sharp. “As much as I will never like that kid, Dax told me what Shay did to keep Logan at bay. Classy move. I owe him; he’s more perceptive than I gave him credit for.”

I made a quiet, affirmative sound, rubbing my arms so I wouldn’t shiver.

The harvest child, the Scion. Shay’s face flashed before my eyes. It’s all about me.

Ren’s light touch on my arm pulled me out of my own thoughts. “I know it’s not your style, but you do look amazing,” he said. “As long as you can walk under all those layers.”

“Thanks.” I ran my fingers over his tie. “You do too.”

“So.” He reached into his pocket. “I have something for you.”

“What?” I was completely caught off guard. Why would he have brought me a gift? Was I supposed to have a gift for him?

The hint of a blush flitted over Ren’s cheeks. His nervousness made my heart pick up speed.

“It’s just . . .” he began, and then paused. He paced a few feet away and then returned to my side. Finally his eyes met mine, tender and vulnerable. My breath faltered at the unfamiliar mix of emotions on the alpha’s face. Ansel’s words echoed in my mind. He’s not as confident as he puts on—especially when it comes to you.

Ren drew his hand from his pocket, his fist clenched tightly around something. He took my wrist, turning it so my palm offered a flat, level surface. Something cool dropped into my hand. He snatched his fingers back, moving away as if he’d placed a ticking bomb in my grasp. I glanced down and sucked in a startled breath.

In the middle of my palm lay a delicate ring. A smooth, polished oval sapphire gleamed up at me; the stone had been set in a silver band that was exquisitely wrought in a braided pattern. I stared in silence at the ring. My hand began to shake.

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