Afterlife Page 35

Their destination turned out to be the fencing room. No lessons at this hour: It was deserted, the gear neatly stowed away. A few mats remained on the floor, but otherwise everything looked bare. “Okay,” I said after the door shut behind us, as I allowed myself to take visible form. “We’re out of the crowd. Is that enough?”

“It’s enough,” Lucas said. He looked like he wanted to double over. “Just leave me alone, okay? I can — just leave me alone.”

“No can do,” Balthazar said, right before he punched Lucas in the face.

I gasped. Lucas staggered back a step, one hand to his jaw. His eyes darkened, and I could see his self — control straining, stretching, right at the point of failure.

“You need to get it out.” Balthazar said. He pulled off his sweater so that he stood there in aT — shirt. “So let’s get it out.”

“I’m not fighting.” Lucas’s voice shook.

Balthazar grinned. “Then I guess I’II just have to beat the crap out of you.”

He swung at Lucas again, but Lucas’s fighting instincts took over. He blocked the blow and shoved Balthazar halfway across the room. In an instant, Balthazar returned, smashing his fist into Lucas’s gut. Lucas hit him back harder, snapping Balthazar’s head back.

“Guys, stop this!” I shouted, but Balthazar didn’t listen, and Lucas couldn’t hear. They were two vampires — two monsters — struggling for dominance, and nothing else in the world mattered.

Fists. Blood. Sweat. They tore at each other like animals. Freaked out, I tried to think of how best to stop this and decided, Right, time to ice the room. But even as I began, I realized what was happening.

The crazed look had left Lucas’s eyes. Instead, his gaze was sharp, directed, like he was on a Black Cross mission again. Every punch was focused; every move was tactical. Fighting like this, against an opponent just as strong as he was, had given him an outlet for the desperate energy building inside him.

What BaHhazar was getting out of this, I had no idea, but even when Lucas kicked him in the jaw, sending him sprawling across the floor, he had a lunatic grin on his face.

Balthazar laughed from his place on the ground, holding two fingers to his mouth and pulling them back to see the blood. “Only some Black Cross redneck would stoop to kicking a guy in the mouth.”

“Only some half — rotten corpse would let me.” Lucas sort of blinked, hke he couldn’t believe he’d make a joke. Like that, apparently, the fight was over.

Everything was quiet for a few seconds, until!said, .. Lucas, are you all right now?”

“Yeah.” He thought that over, his attention drifting from me to Balthazar. “Yeah. Thanks, man.”

Balthazar said, “If you get wound up like that again, and you need an outlet, just find me. We can spar. Fence. Whatever it takes to get it out. It helps; You’ll see.”

Lucas didn’t look like he entirely believed that, but he nodded. He held out a hand to help Balthazar from the floor. When Balthazar’s eyes met mine, he smiled, maddeningly smug. “What, you’re not going to thank me, too? Or would that mean admitting I was right about something?”

“You enjoyed it,” I retorted.

Balthazar shrugged, unable to deny it. He grabbed his sweater from the floor. “I’m going to shower before class. See you guys later.” Once we were alone, Lucas said, “Bianca, I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“Breaking down like that, in front of you.”

“You didn’tbreak down.” I insisted. “You were able to control it.”

“Balthazar was able to control it,” Lucas corrected me.

He had a point. but I knew we needed to focus on the positive. “You’re feeling better now. I can tell.” He looked better: in fact. with sweat glistening on his skin, his hair mussed and his uniform askew, he looked pretty amazingly hot.

If only we could touch each other without him feeling the urge to bite, I thought longingly. I know better ways for him to burn off that energy.

“I feel . . . good.” Lucas stood a little straighter. “Calmer than I have in a long time. It’s like all this white noise in my head finally went quiet and I can actually think.”

I joked, “Maybe this would be a good time for you to work on your psych paper.”

“Actually, you know what?” Lucas stepped back and straightened his sweater. “This is as good a time as any to break into Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house.”

“Wait. What?”

“Mrs. Bethany’s hiding traps for wraiths around the school, right? We can’t protect you until we know more about where she’s putting them, and why.•· He grinned, and for a moment he looked like his old self, when we first met — handsome, aggressive, and quite possibly up to no good. “Feel like a little breaking and entering?”

“We should wait until she’s off the school grounds sometime. Or at least in class. I don’t think she’s teaching this period. It’s dangerous,” I said, as Lucas kept going down the stairs.

“It’s always going to be dangerous. At least right now, I can focus on what I’m doing. That’s got to help our chances.”

I wasn’t wholly convinced, but Lucas did have a point — and besides, he seemed dead set on doing it now. ‘Til be your lookout. If she comes out there, I’ll throw pebbles against the window, something like that.”

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