Afterlife Page 16

So much for thinking death couldn’t take anything from us.

“Last chance to change your mind,” I said a few days later, as Lucas bundled up his few possessions early on the morning of the first day of school. For a moment I regretted the joke; it would be disastrous if Lucas did change his mind, because we didn’t have a Plan B.

But Lucas attempted to roll with it. “Always meant to get a diploma someday. I guess after death counts as someday, huh?” He tried to smile for me, but it didn’t go far. “Does it feel weird? Not going?”

That was the first time I realized I’d died as an eleventh — grade dropout. “Yeah, kinda.”

These days hadn’t been easy for us. We had to keep overfeeding Lucas blood, and he mostly refused to leave the room. I’d memorized the hotel maids’ schedule, so we could make sure Lucas avoided them. Lucas still thought Evernight was too much of a risk for me, and I wasn’t sure I disagreed. But what other options did we have?

The dawn light brightened the edges of the hotel window shade as Lucas shrugged on the uniform sweater — Balthazar had ordered supplies for them both online. He’d gotten a little taller and a lot more muscular since he’d been an Evernight student, so the sweater was a bit tight, but in a good way. “You look great,”I said. “Reminds me of when we met.”

“When I tried to save you from the vampires.” Lucas paused, then stepped closer to me and put his hand on my cheek. “You know the only reason I’m doing this is so I can come back to you. Be decent enough for you, know how to act. You get that, right?”

“I do.”

“And You’re going to be careful. right? You won’t take any chances at Evernight?”

Til be very careful.” I took his hand in mine and kissed his palm. Then I removed my coral and silver bracelet, going half — transparent as it dropped into Lucas’s fingers. “Take this with you. I’ll get it there.”

“You don’t want it with you? just in case? You can’t afford to lose this thing, and your brooch is already in my bag.”

“It’s not like I can take it myself, “I pointed out. “When I go incorporeal to travel, nothing physical can travel with me. Besides, it couldn’t be anywhere safer than with you.” I folded his hand around the bracelet.

He leaned forward, as though to kiss me. Now that I was incorporeal — a soft shadow of blue mist in the vague shape of my body — our lips couldn’t touch. But a little of Lucas passed through me, a faint cool tickle that made me shiver, just where our kiss would have been. just as I began to smile, though, there was a rap on the door: Balthazar. Time to go.

* * * After they’ d begun the long drive from Philadelphia, I prepared for my own journey. Maxie had told me that wraiths remained bonded to certain places and things that had been meaningful to us during our lifetimes. We could always travel to them, no matter how far away we might be. I wasn’t sure what every single one of those places was yet, though I had ideas: the old maple tree in Arrowwood where I’d liked to play as a child, the theater where Lucas and I had gone on our first date, and perhaps the wine cellar where we’d lived our final weeks. Those were just theories, though.

The only place I knew I could travel was the first place I’d gone, by accident: Evernight Academy, specifically the gargoyle that had perched outside my bedroom.

I drifted into foggy darkness, and at frrst the sensation was deliciously like sleep, so tempting. But my mind remained focused on the gargoyle.

I’d spent so much time looking at his gap — fanged grin that I could picture him perfectly: stony claws, hunched back, pointy wings. Briefly I imagined the way the stone had felt beneath my hands, cold and hard — Then I could feel it.

The world clarified around me. I perched atop the gargoyle, which would ‘ve been massively uncomfortable if I’d been alive but was fine now that I could float when I wanted. Curlicues of frost streaked across the windows, heralding the presence of a wraith.

Would my parents see it? They had the first time I’d accidentally come here. Instead of realizing it was me, though, they’d freaked out, believing the frost came from yet another of the ghosts that had invaded Evernight.

Not invaded, I reminded myself. Drawn here, because of the students. Brought here specifically by Mrs. Bethany. I had to remain on my guard.

I heard nothing from the apartment. Probably my parents were downstairs, helping Mrs. Bethany welcome the students. Looking downward, I could see that the first few people had already begun to arrive. Mostly humans at this point, too noisy and too happy — but every once in a while silent, dark — clad figures would sweep thro111gh the crowd as though they belonged here more than anyone else. They did belong here more; they were the vampires.

Quickly I shimmered along the side of the building, invisible except for the trails of frost I left behind. At first I just wanted to get a better view, but then I realized: Something felt odd about the school.

Well, big surprise. Evernight Academy was pretty much made of odd. This was different, though, something I had never sensed before — as if, in places, the school was pushing back at me, trying to keep me out. Probably it was something only the wraiths could feel. In those places, I felt as though I was being watched right through the walls. Curious, I whisked along the side of the building, leaving trails of frost on the windows in my wake. Although there were places I could get into the school, there were places that I couldn ‘t. And one place — the area at the very top of the south tower, right above my parents’ apartment — felt shut off to me completely, in a way that gave me cold shivers.

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