Afterlife Page 29

It was kind of weird. More than weird. I knew I should be grateful to her — she appeared to be looking out for Lucas, in her own way — but she scared me too much for that. I didn’t want to talk about her any longer, or even think about her. Better to concentrate on better times ahead. “If it gets us back to the movies, then it’s okay by me.”

Lucas laughed, and I basked in the pleasure of being just another girl, looking forward to her weekend date.

I could’ve just ridden the bus into Riverton that weekend, hovering above Lucas, but we agreed that I might end up frosting the windows. Instead, he took the brooch with him so I could zoom to his side once he got there. Lucas took along a spare coat and a set of sweatpants in his backpack; that way, if we were the only Evernight students in the movie house, as usual, I could become solid and we could hang out like before. Maybe make out like before. I was definitely hoping for that one.

My impatience only grew in the half — hour after the bus left. It felt like eternity to wait, hanging out on the roof beside one of the gargoyles and letting the soft rain pass right through me. I knew there was no point in going to Lucas before he would for sure be in Riverton, but I was so anxious to get there. Especially to that movie house, the very first place we’d ever gone on a date. It was so precious to me that I could envision every bit of golden scrollwork on the walls, the red velv·et curtains, the posters — Wait. Was it possible that I’d loved it enough to bond with it? That it was one of the places I could instantly travel to, and “haunt,” after my death?

Worth a try, I decided. I faded out slightly, letting go of the material world around me at the school, and envisioned the movie theater in as much detail as my mind could hold. Everything about it, the woodwork, the frame of the theater itself, I willed to take shape around me.

And I was there.

Yes!I would ‘ve done a fist pump of victory if I’d been solid. The theater hadn’t changed in the slightest. There was the old — fashioned popcorn machine, a little brass cage with a red — and — white striped sign. And here was the swirly patterned carpet, so thick and soft I longed to have feet that I could sink into it. Tonight’s show, to judge by the spotlighted poster, would be “To Catch a Thief.” Cary Grant, total glamour, total romance. Could this be any better?

Well, yes, I realized. It looked like this was going to be a crowded show, so Lucas and I wouldn’t have much chance to be alone. The movie wouldn’t start for another half — hour, and already several people had taken their seats — though they kept looking restlessly toward the doorway where I had materialized, looking through me, for someone else — And then it hit me. I recognized some of them — including, down in the front row, Kate.

Black Cross. I felt terror wash through me, so hard that I thought I’d turn to ice. Tiley realized where Lucas went after being turned into a vampire, and they remembered about tile Riverton trips from when be was spying for them before. And tbis isn’t a handful of people like she brought to Philadelphia — this is a full Black Cross bunting party.

They’ve staked this place out. They’re lying in wait to kill him.

l rushed out of the lobby; I knew I must have frosted one of the glass doors, but I didn’t care. Black Cross Wasn’t looking for me. If I didn’t warn Lucas in time, they’d pounce on him as soon as he entered the theater. Even his strength and fighting skill wouldn’t save him against a dozen vampire hunters.

As I made my way down the street toward the town square, though, I realized that the party in the ilieater Wasn’t the only one. There, sitting in a booth at the diner, ignoring a plate of fries in front of her, was Eliza Pang, ilie leader of Black Cross’s New York cell. And, worst of all, lurking in one alleyway near ilie square were Raquel and Dana.

The Riverton bus pulled in, and students began to pour out. I only had eyes for Lucas and so paid no attention to the others, who were laughing and talking, walking past me with no idea I was there.

Lucas was one of the last ones off the bus. He looked badly shaken, almost weak. The running water must have affected him strongly. “You okay, buddy?” said the driver.

“Okay. I’m going to get a coffee real quick. That will help,” Lucas said. What he meant was that he could sit down in the coffeehouse without anybody bothering him for a second. He thought I would come to him in the theater and didn’t want me to see him looking so weak.

It doesn’t matter, just get someplace private, so I can warn you! I didn’t see any Black Cross hunters in the coffeehouse, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a couple I didn’t recognize. Quickly I darted after him, hoping to whisper in his ear before he could go inside anywhere.

And then I just — stopped. Went blind. Lost everything.

Within an instant, I’d become unable to move forward, back, up or down — anywhere. A trap! I thought in panic, thinking of that creepy box back at Evernight, but this was different. Instead of a steady, inexorable pull, I was simply held firmly in place. It was like the difference between sinking in quicksand and merely being stuck in an elevator. Well, an elevator with the lights out.

Had Black Cross done this? Were they after both of us? What was going on? All I knew was that this imprisonment, whatever it was, kept me from warning Lucas that he was in terrible danger.

Then I saw a single shining circle open up before me, shimmering just like a pool in the moonlight. Carefully I peered out — and saw my captor staring down at me in shock.

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