Afterlife Page 14

Seeing realization dawn on my face, Lucas nodded. His expression had become truly grim. “I’vealready screwed things up so badly that you died,” he said. “No way am I ever going back to the one place where that situation could get even worse.”

What else could we do, though? I forced myself to be brave. “We’ ll figure it out.”

“Don’t ask me to go there without you. I couldn’t take it.” Lucas said it simply, like it was obvious; if he was parted from me, the thin tether of will that kept him going would snap.

“You’re going to Evernight Academy, and I’m going with you.”

“Bianca, no. It’s too dangerous.”

“Lucas, yes.” He always wanted to protect me against every risk, but it was time for a reality check. “Is it more dangerous than my being a vampire in a Black Cross cell? I made it through that, and I’ll make it through this. Besides, there are wraiths who managed to be at Evernight without being destroyed by Mrs. Bethany. Maxie’s one of them. It can be done. At least I know to be careful.”

Lucas didn’t look convinced. “We could do something else. Lock me up someplace until I — “

“Until you stop wanting blood?” I kept my voice low, to soften the impact of my next words. “That’s not going to happen. And I’m not turning you into a prisoner in some basement somewhere. I’m telling you, we can do this. We can because we have to.”

“I don’t like it.”

“I don’t either, but I’ll be all right. You’ll have a structure there, a blood supply, other vampires who can help teach you how to handle this. Ranulf and Balthazar will go with you,” I promised. “And Vic’s going back, too, remember?”

His dark green eyes widened, and I knew that Vic wasn’t a source of comfort for him; he wasn’t a friend. He was prey.

Hurriedly, I added, “You’ll be able to be around Vic while others are there to help you. Eventually it’s going to seem easy.”

Lucas stared down at the floor, and I hated myself for being so glib, so casual. Maybe he would learn to bear it, but it would never be easy. It didn’t help either of us for me to pretend that it could.

I remembered what Balthazar had said, about vampires walking into a fire rather than going on. Lucas knew better than most how to destroy a vampire’s body.

“Okay. It won’t be easy,” I said. “It never has been. And that’s never kept us apart.”

He held out his arms, and I ran into them. Already his embrace had cooled, but it was still Lucas, still us. Into my hair, Lucas whispered, “Will I only see you in my dreams?”

“As long as you have my brooch, I can get to you.”

He frowned, then pulled the brooch from his back pocket. The Whitby jet flower, ornately carved, had been a gift from him to me when we were first dating. He’d taken it with him when he went into the fight, to die; that was the only thing that had allowed me to reach him. “Why the brooch?”

“Things that wraiths bonded to strongly in life, meaningful things — like this brooch, or my bracelet, or the gargoyle outside the window of my old room — well, we can use them to travel. They’re like stops on a subway line; I can travel to them, just sort of appear wherever they are. The coral bracelet and the jet brooch are especially powerful, because they’re made out of materials that were once living creatures.” I closed his hand around the brooch. “So as long as you keep this with you, I’ll always be able to find you. See, you’ll still have a way to make sure I’m safe.”

“Evernight,” he said. “Okay.” I could tell I hadn’t convinced him as much as worn him down. He remained more frightened for me than for himself. But we truly had no other place to turn.

We hugged again, more tightly this time. How badly I wanted to believe that Lucas had found a reason to hope. Even as we embraced, though, I could tell he was looking over my shoulder, staring at the blood.

Chapter Five

“REST,” I SAID AS WE STEPPED into one of the hotel rooms in downtown Philadelphia that Balthazar had paid for. It was ridiculously luxurious, with white cotton quilts on high platform beds — too clean for undead creatures smeared with dried blood. “We both need to rest.”

“Can you sleep?” Lucas asked. He’d eaten again on the way over, several pints, and now had the half — dazed look that I recognized as a result of overfeeding — like Mom and Dad on Thanksgiving. We’d had to give him as much as he could take; it was the only way to ensure he could get through the hotel lobby without snapping. Soon he’d crash.

Tm not sure ghosts need to sleep. Sometimes I need to sort of … fade out, I guess. But it’s not quite the same thing.”

“Where do you go? When you fade out.”

I shrugged. There was so much I still didn’t know about my new wraith nature. “Someplace I can get back from. That’s the only thing that matters.”

He nodded wearily. Through the thin hotel walls, I could hear Balthazar roughly throwing down his gear in the next room. We ‘d decided to spend the last days before the new semester in the hotel because Vic’s parents were due to return from Italy. He was going to be in enough trouble about the torn — up front lawn without his mom and dad discovering an infestation of vampires in the basement.

Besides, we needed to give Vic some more space. He and Lucas hadn’t come face — to — face since the attack, by their mutual agreement. It was obvious that Vic was trying hard to come to terms, but it was just as obviously going to take a while.

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