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Copyright © 2012 by Broken Foot Productions, Inc.
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Published simultaneously in Canada.
Edited by Jill Santopolo. Interior book design, including the Lupus, Crux and Orion
constellations by Amy Wu. Text set in 10.25-point Appoline Regular.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cremer, Andrea R. Bloodrose : a Nightshade novel / Andrea Cremer. p. cm.
Summary: Calla Tor, the alpha member of her shapeshifting wolf pack,
must decide if her illicit love for the human Shay is worth the ultimate sacrifice.
[1. Wolves—Fiction. 2. Love—Fiction. 3. Supernatural—Fiction.
4. Shapeshifting—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.C86385Bl 2012 [Fic]—dc22 2010052004
ISBN : 978-1-101-56035-8
For my parents
I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.
I COULD HEAR
each heavy beat of my heart. The sound seemed to ebb from my veins out of my body, traveling across the empty space between the shimmering portal and the dark house.
He was there. I had no doubt. Though I couldn’t see him or even catch the slightest hint of his warm, smoky scent, I knew he was there. Waiting for me. But why? Why would Ren come to this lonely place?
My gaze traveled over the shadows that twisted as clouds slid over the moon, reminding me too much of wraiths. I stared at the sky so I didn’t have to look at the houses, or the skeletal frames of those left unfinished. Time had been frozen here. The mountain slope, cleared of trees to make way for a cul-de-sac and ring of houses, whispered of a past unreachable. The sprawling Haldis Compound—or what would have become the Haldis Compound—lay before me, composed of luxury homes built exclusively for the pack Ren and I would have led together. Our pack’s den. Our home.
I turned to face Adne, trying to hide my shivering. “Stay out of sight. You’ll hear me if there’s a problem, and if I come running, you’d better open a door fast. No matter what, don’t come looking for me.”
“Deal,” she said, already backing toward the forest. “Thank you, Calla.”
I nodded before I shifted into wolf form. Adne melted into shadows. When I was satisfied that no one would be able to detect her, I began to stalk toward the house. Its windows were dark, the structure silent. For all appearances it looked empty, but I knew it wasn’t.
I kept my muzzle low, testing the air. We’d arrived upwind from the compound, which left me feeling vulnerable. I wouldn’t be able to pick up the scent of anyone hidden by night’s veil until I was almost on top of them. My ears flicked back and forth, alert, listening for any sign of life. There was nothing. No rabbits dashing for cover under brush, nor did nocturnal birds flit through the sky. This place wasn’t just abandoned; it felt cursed, as if nothing dared tread within the boundaries of the clearing.
I picked up my pace, covering the distance to the house, leaping over snowdrifts, my nails scraping on rivers of ice that had frozen on the pavement. When I reached the front steps, I stopped to sniff the ground. My eyes followed fresh paw prints that became boot tracks, climbing the steps. Ren’s scent was sharp, new. He’d arrived only slightly before we had. I slowly moved up to the porch, shifting forms to open the screen door. I carefully turned the doorknob. The house wasn’t locked. I let the door swing open. It made a slight creak but nothing else. I slipped inside, closing the door and turning the dead bolt. If someone did come after me, I wanted warning of their arrival.
I shifted back into wolf form, moving through the front hall, tracing Ren’s scent to the main staircase. I tried not to cringe as I passed the entrance to the dining room. A beautiful oak table, probably antique, was surrounded by chairs. Four on each side, one at the head and one at the foot. Ten. It was too easy to imagine meals there. Our pack together, laughing, teasing, belonging.
I climbed the stairs slowly, wishing my nails weren’t clicking on the hardwood. When I reached the second floor, I paused, listening. The house only answered with silence. Still trailing Ren’s path through the house, I passed three bedrooms and a bathroom, until I reached the door at the end of the hallway. My heart slammed against my rib cage as I entered the master suite.
Only a few steps in, I stopped. Wisps of moonlight curled through the room, illuminating the stately bed, piled with satin pillows, draped in jacquard linens, boasting tall ebony posts at each corner. Matching armoires sat against one wall. On the adjoining wall, a mirrored vanity and settee faced the bed.
Ren’s scent was everywhere. The smoke of aged wood lingering beneath a chilled autumn sky, the smooth burn of well-worn leather, the seductive ribbon of sandalwood. I closed my eyes, letting his scent pour over me, filling me with memories. It was a moment before I could shake my ruff, sending the past scurrying as I tried to focus on the present.
The light from outside filtered in through tall bay windows with a seat nestled beneath them. Curled beneath the windows, partly cloaked by shadow, was Ren. He was lying very still, head resting on his paws. And he was staring at me.
We stayed like that, frozen, watching each other, for what felt like an eternity. Finally I forced myself to take a step forward. His head snapped up, hackles rising. I heard his low, threatening growl. I paused, fighting off my instinct to snarl at him.
He stood up, still growling, and began to pace back and forth below the window. I took another step forward. His fangs flashed as he barked a warning. I dipped my head, not wanting to give any sign of aggression. It didn’t matter.
Ren’s muscles bunched and he lunged at me, knocking me onto my side. I yelped as we slid across the wood floor. His jaws snapped just above my shoulder as I rolled away. I scrambled to my feet, dodging when he lunged again. I felt the heat of his breath and his fangs brushing against my flank. I whirled, snarling, and faced him, bracing myself for his next attack. When he struck for the third time, but his teeth didn’t cut my flesh, I realized what was happening. Ren didn’t want to attack me. He was only trying to scare me off.
Squaring my shoulders, I barked at him.
I met his dark eyes, which were on fire.
Why won’t you fight me?
He bared his teeth.
I tracked him, turning in a slow circle as he stalked around me.
I didn’t come here to fight.
This time when he lunged, I didn’t move. His muzzle was inches from mine, and he snarled, but I didn’t flinch.
You shouldn’t be here if you aren’t ready to fight.
I’m always ready to fight.
I showed him my own teeth.
But that doesn’t mean I want to.
His rumbling growl slowly faded. He lowered his head, turning away from me and walking back to the window, where he stared up at the sky.
You shouldn’t be here.
I padded toward him.
Neither should you.
When he turned to face me, I shifted into human form.
The charcoal wolf blinked and then Ren was standing in front of me, gazing down at my face.
“Why are you here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” I said, biting my lip. The fact that he whiled away the hours in an empty house built for us was not the reason I’d come here. But it was hard to push those thoughts away. Standing in this room, on this mountain, in this house, everything felt like it was about us. I could barely remember the outside world. The Searchers. The war.
His eyes flashed, but then went hollow.
“It’s a good place to be alone.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. The words felt like ice in my throat.
“For what, exactly?” His smile was razor sharp, and I cringed.
“Everything.” I couldn’t look at him, so I walked through the room, staring at nothing in particular, moving past furniture with empty drawers. A bed no one would sleep in.
“Everything,” he repeated.
I was across the room, standing on the other side of the bed, when I turned around, staring at him.
“Ren, I came to help you. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
“You don’t have to stay here.”
“Why would I leave?” he said. “This is my home.” His fingers grazed the satin surface of the bed linens. “Our home.”
“No, it’s not.” I gripped one of the bedposts. “We didn’t choose this; it was chosen for us.”
“You didn’t choose this.” He walked to the other side of the bed. “I thought we would have had a good life here.”
“Maybe.” My nails dug into the wood varnish. “But it wasn’t really a choice. Even if it might have been good.”
“You never wanted it. Did you?” His fists were clenched at his sides.
“I don’t know,” I said. My heart was beating too fast. “I never asked myself what I wanted.”