Afterlife Page 18

Could he bring himself to do it? His face betrayed his confusion and doubt, and who could blame him? To ask for the vampires’ protection — to declare himself one of them at last — was a kind of second death for him. The death of who he had been, his whole life.

But he didn’t have much other choice.

Lucas took a deep breath. “I call upon the sanctuary of Evernight.”

Chaos followed. Several of the vampire students tried to protest, either to Balthazar, who refused to be baited, or Mrs. Bethany, who ignored them as she stood entirely still amid the din. The human students, of course, had no idea what was going on or why this new guy was so despised by a lot of the student body; understandably, they were suspicious of him already.

Lucas stood his ground, though I could see how he longed to lash back, and how his dark green eyes sometimes followed one of the human students a little too long. Mrs. Bethany studied him, her eyes searching, until she gestured for him to follow her and walked toward the edge of the campus — toward the carriage house where she lived.

As Balthazar watched them go, a space widening around him as he was shunned by the other vampire students, I willed myself to his side and whispered, “How do you think she’s taking it?”

He jumped, then hissed, “You scared me.”

“From now on, take it for granted that I’m around.”

“Even when I’m in the shower?”

“You wish.”

After a glance from side to side, making certain that nobody realized he was talking to “himself,” he murmured, “I think if she were going to turn him away, she would’ve done it immediately. But she never would, Biianca. Trust me.”

Despite everything he’d done for Lucas since his turning, I Wasn’t ready to totally trust Balthazar again yet. He was the guy who’d led Lucas to his death — the person who had gotten Lucas into this situation to start with. Wasn’t he?

I couldn’t take the uncertainty between us another second. Instead I darted after Mrs. Bethany and Lucas, eager to hear what I could.

Mrs. Bethany lived in a carriage house at the edge of the school grounds, a place I knew well. But I forgot one very basic thing about it until I swept down toward the roof, ready to sink inside — and fell myself shoved back violently. Of course, I realized. The roof.

Metals and minerals found in the human body, such as copper and iron, repelled wraiths strongly. This was why Mrs. Bethany had chosen a copper roof: to keep us out. The impact reminded me of the “blocked” areas of Evernight, except that in this case, the entire place was shut off to me.

Well, if I couldn’t follow Lucas inside, I could try the same thing I’d done back when I was a student — eavesdrop.

I curled into a soft cloud at the edge of one window, where the branches of the nearest elm almost scraped the glass and would disguise me in their shadows. This gave me a view of Mrs. Bethany’s desk — so neat and tidy that everything was at right angles, with only a framed nineteenth century gentleman’s silhouette as decoration. As I watched, she strode into the room, as much in command as ever. Lucas followed her, shoulders tense and gaze wary, the look he wore when he expected a fight.

“There is one question we must address before any other, Mr. Ross,” Mrs. Bethany said as she took a seat behind her desk. “Where is Bianca Olivier?”

Startled, I jumped, and the leaves around me rustled. She glanced my way for only a second; no doubt she thought I was merely the wind.

Lucas sat heavily in the chair opposite her, gripping the armrests hard. “Bianca’s dead.”

Mrs. Bethany said nothing. Her dark eyes remained fixed on him in a silent demand for the whole truth.

He continued, “About six weeks ago, her health just . .. failed. She didn’t want food. Didn’t want blood. I tried taking her to the doctor, but she’d started to, well, to change, so they didn’t know what to make of her anymore.”

“It must have been clear to you what needed to be done.”

Slowly, Lucas nodded. “Bianca needed to turn into a vampire to stay alive. I asked her to kill me. I would’ve let her turn me into a vampire, to save herself. But she wouldn’t do it.” His voice broke on the last word, and he turned his head away from Mrs. Bethany.

My resurrection as a ghost might have lessened Lucas’s grief, but I realized in that moment that the wounds he’d suffered when he watched me die would scar him forever.

“You could not have prevented it,” Mrs. Bethany said. She didn’t sound sympathetic, exactly, but her voice was slightly softer. “If Miss Olivier didn’t transform you into a vampire, who did?”

“That would be Charity.” Lucas’s jaw tightened. A shudder of pure hate passed through me. “We had a run — in right after Bianca died, back in Philadelphia. I don’t know why she did it.”

“With Charity More, reason rarely enters into the equation.” That was as close to a joke as I’d ever heard from Mrs. Bethany.

“I didn’t know what to do at first. It’s — I guess you know how it is, when you change. Balthazar was around, trying to deal with his sister, and he helped me out. I tried to talk to my mother, but she — she’s Black Cross. “

Mrs. Bethany straightened, her eyes flashing. “You mean that she attacked you.”

“Yeah.”

“Your own mother.” To my astonishment, I realized Mrs. Bethany was feeling righteous outrage — on Lucas’s behalf. “Indecent. Shocking. Hateful. The sort of behavior I would have expected from most members of Black Cross, to be sure, but one would think that at least a mother’s love would prove more powerful than their anti — vampire dogma.”

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