Afterlife Page 11

“I can’t,” I whispered. Maxie’s face fell, but she didn’t argue.

I pulled away from the room, away from her, and vanished again into the bluish fog that was my mind’s way of making sense of pure nothingness. Lucas filled my thoughts, and I willed myself back to his side.

When I reappeared in the wine cellar, I immediately got the sense that more time had passed for Balthazar than it had for me; he’d finished his glass of wine and was across the room, lying on our bed.

Lucas lay exactly as he had fallen. The sight of him as a corpse hit me anew, and it took my whole strength not to fade out again so I Wouldn’t have to bear the loss for a while. He deserved better than that. No matter how difficult it was to endure, I would remain by his side.

Balthazar realized I was there with a start, but he said nothing.

I didn’t want to argue with him anymore; I was too sad for that, too tired. Instead I asked, “Isn ‘t there anything we can do for him?”

“No.” Balthazar sat up. His curly hair was mussed, and I realized he’d been asleep. No doubt he was exhausted; it hadn’t exactly been an awesome couple of days for him, either. “The urge to kill — it’s powerful, Bianca. It can be overwhelming. The vampires You’ve known have nearly all been the ones who mastered that urge, but they’re a minority.”

“You mean, most of them end up like — like Charity.”

He closed his eyes briefly at the mention of his younger sister’s name. “No. Charity and her kind are special cases. Individuals with the strength to keep going, but who have lost touch with what it meant to be human. They’re the most dangerous. And, fortunately, the most rare.”

“Then what happens to the others?”

Balthazar rubbed his temple. If vampires could get headaches, I’d think he had one. “They self — destruct,” he said quietly. “They get taken out by Black Cross, or by humans who’ve seen just enough horror movies to get the idea. Or they end themselves. Set a fire and walk into it. They’d rather burn than endure the killing rage any longer.”

I wanted to say that there was no way Lucas would ever do that, but I couldn ‘t. No, Black Cross wouldn ‘ t be able to take him down easily. But hating his vampire nature as he did, already burdened with the fact that he’d tried to kill both his mother and one of his best friends — it was entirely possible that Lucas could end his existence. He’d see it as the right thing to do, the only way to keep people safe.

“The hunger is stronger for some of us than it is for others,” Balthazar continued. “As badly as I crave blood sometimes .. . it’s nothing compared to what some other vampires endure. The ones who self — destruct are always the ones with the greatest hunger. It makes them crazy, turns their minds inside out.”

Our eyes met, as if he was asking me whether he had to go on. But I knew I needed him to say what came next. Balthazar, understanding, said, “It looks like Lucas is one of the hungry ones.”

“Isn’t there anything we can do for him?” I said. “Any way to make this easier?”

Slowly Balthazar rose from the bed and walked toward me, his expression uncertain. “I don’t think we can make it easier, exactly, but there’s a place where we can keep him away from most humans, and from Black Cross, too. Where Lucas might be able to learn how to handle what he’s become.”

I brightened until I realized what Balthazar meant. Or did I? Surely he couldn’t be thinking about that. “Where?” Balthazar confirmed my worst suspicions by saying, “We have to take Lucas back to Evernight.”

Chapter Four

“TAKE LUCAS TO EVERNIGHT ACADEMY?” I repeated. “Have you gone insane? Balthazar, think about it! Lucas was Black Cross. He spied on Evernight for them. Mrs. Bethany hates him — everybody there hates him. They’ll kill him on sight.”

“They won’t. They can’t,” Balthazar insisted. “Any vampire can come to Evernight at any time and ask for sanctuary. No matter who it is or what they’ve done, Mrs. Bethany has to take them in.”

“But that’s Mrs. Bethany’s rule, isn’t it? She can break it any time she wants.”

Balthazar’s mouth twisted, the closest he could come to a smile on a day as dark as this one. “Mrs. Bethany doesn’t break rules. You should know that. Remember, she let Charity in.”

True, and Mrs. Bethany and Charity hated each other fervently. I Wasn’t convinced, though. Lucas had been a vampire hunter; surely that was worse than being any kind of vampire, no matter how dangerous.

Some of my reluctance was more selfish. Going back to Evernight Academy would mean returning to my parents. On one hand, I wanted to see them again so badly it hurt; on the other, I knew that they’d always feared and rejected wraiths. If they rejected me — as Kate had Lucas — I didn’t think I could bear it.

I heard footsteps on the concrete steps outside and went to the door to let in Vic and Ranulf, who had a large sack full of what I suspected were pints of cow’s blood. Vic did come in this time, but he didn’t move more than a couple steps past the door. When he caught me looking, Vic handed over the bag, then fished out a single bottle of Mountain Dew. “I figure I should probably hang in the backyard for a while,” he said, his eyes focused nervously on the floor where Lucas lay. “Until you guys chill Lucas out.”

“Good idea.” I took the shopping bag to the folding table. “Thanks again, Vic.”

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel