Afterlife Page 31

But right now, the best thing I could do to help Lucas was keep fighting. I forced myself to become a whirlwind yet again, whipping colder and colder. Within moments of my wrapping myself around the next hunter, she, too, fell prey to frostbite, or hypothermia, or whatever it was I was doing to them. So I went after another, but as I began, I heard Lucas shout out in pain.

I couldn’t focus. In terror, I looked behind me to see Lucas — fangs extended, face monstrous — on the ground as Milos raised a stake. Blood flowed freely from a cut on Lucas’s forehead. They were too far away; I couldn’t get to them in time — Then Raquel appeared, running from a nearby side street, and slammed something into the side of Milos’s head. Milos fell to his knees, stunned. As I watched in disbelief, Raquel cried out, “Lucas, get out of here! Now!”

“What the hell are you doing?” Kate shouted. But Dana had arrived, too, holding a crossbow aimed directly at Kate.

“This ends,” Dana said. She was shaking so hard that her voice trembled. “This ends now.”

From the distance, I heard sirens begin to wail; somebody in Riverton had called the police.

Lucas stumbled to his feet, obviously somewhat dazed from the blow to his head — and deep in the urge to fight, and to kill. I went swiftly to his side, unable to be anything more than a cool breeze against his cheek, but maybe that would at least remind him of who he was.

Behind me, I heard Kate’s voice trembling with rage. “You two will regret this.”

“I’ve got plenty of regrets,” Raquel said. She hadn’t budged from her place between the hunters and Lucas. “What’s one more?”

“Damn you.” Quick as a blink, Kate dodged left and shouldered her crossbow. Dana slammed into her side, sending the arrow flying askew thank God, it Wouldn’t hit Raquel or Lucas — but then I realized it was headed straight toward one of the Evernight students gaping at the fight, a human girl who would never be able to dodge in time.

Although the next moment lasted no more than a fraction of a second, it seemed to unfold before me in slow motion. The arrow, slicing lethally through the air. Lucas, leaping with his vampire strength and speed, directly at the girl in danger. Their bodies colliding, her shining dark hair trailing behind her, both of them falling to the ground — just a couple of inches short of the arrow, which thwacked into the side of the building, burying itself inches deep in the wood.

The sirens came closer, and the crowds were growing — dozens of witnesses, now, something Black Cross hated. Kate must have given some signal, because I heard the hunters take off, running or stumbling as best they could.

Dana called, “Lucas!”

From where he was sprawled on the sidewalk with the rescued girl, he looked up at her. His whole body shook, and he didn’t smile. I knew that, while Lucas might have overcome his blood hunger to protect another, he was still too close to snapping.

“Don’t approach him right now,” Patrice said. She’d seen the signs that Lucas was close to breaking. “Both of you have weapons. The police will think you were part of the group attacking us.”

“We resigned last night, when Kate said we were gonna go after Lucas,” Dana said. “Not that we exactly mentioned it to her or anything.”

Raquel said, “What was that — ice cyclone thing?”

“That was me,” I answered, still invisible. Everyone jumped. “Dana, Raquel, you guys have to listen to Patrice. You’ll get arrested if you stick around.”

“And no Black Cross to post bail this time.” Dana sighed. “Raquel, baby, time to run.”

Dana took off, but Raquel hesitated a moment, searching the air in vain for a glimpse of me. “Bianca …”

“I get it,” I said. “I understand.” Which wasn’t totally true — I didn’t know what, exactly, had brought Raquel around from the fear that had led her to betray me. But I knew that something had, and that she and Dana had risked their lives and left Black Cross in order to protect Lucas. As far as I was concerned, that mattered more than anything else.

Raquel ran after Dana, disappearing around a corner just as the pollee car pulled up. I realized that Patrice had stepped away from me and turned to see that she had put herself smoothly between Lucas and the human girl he’d saved — Skye Tierney, I recognized her now — so that Lucas couldn’t look at her. Her quick thinking might have saved him from snapping. Or, more accurately, saved Skye’s life.

As the cops got out of the car, Patrice whispered, quietly enough so that only Lucas and I could hear, “Leave the explanations to me.”

Within a couple minutes of the police officers’ arrival, I understood why Patrice had wanted to take charge of this. A century and a halfs experience of providing supposedly rational explanations for supernatural events was paying off. With expertise, Patrice played the part of a terrified young girl, sure she had seen gang members from the city, and they’d said something about an initiation, and it was just like those emails you got sometimes where you heard that gang members were going to kill some innocent person at random, wasn’t it?

The cops might not have believed that, but they believed that her fear was genuine and, more importantly, that neither she nor any of her friends had anything to do with starting the fight. The other witnesses’ testimony, including Skye’s, would back that up. By the time they got to Lucas, the only questions they asked were about his head and whether he needed to see a doctor.                           90 He was able to answer their questions calmly enough. Although I knew he was struggling, Lucas had won out over the blood hunger awakened by the fight, at least for now.

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