Afterlife Page 36

“Sounds good.” Lucas grinned, and in that moment, it felt like we were on some great adventure together, like it had been back when we first 10o sneaked around to see each other. Apparently burglary could be very romantic under the right circumstances.

Nobody else seemed to be around on the school grounds; Lucas was currently cutting class. (Plenty of the vampire students did this — they were here less to learn the subjects than to learn how to fit in, which the teachers tacitly recognized — but when they skipped class. they usually did it for something more fun than lounging around outside.) At his nod, I darted forward to circle Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house. I peered through each window, slightly frosting a couple of the panes. She wasn’t inside. “The coast is clear.”

“Okay. Keep an eye out.”

Lucas went to one of the side windows. I watched as he worked at one of the small metal frames around a pane, wiggling it back and forth until the top strip slid free into his hand. The other three strips of metal around the windowpane came out easily then, as did the rectangle of glass. Apparently Mrs. Bethany hadn’t replaced the windows recently. Lucas put everything out of the way, then reached through the open pane to turn the lock, quickly setting aside the small row of potted African violets kept there. Then he put his hands on the sill and neatly flipped over and through, into Mrs. Bethany’s house.

That was a lot faster and neater than I’d been able to do it. I consoled myself a little by thinking that he had his full vampire powers to work with. Maybe I’d tease him later about having more natural criminal instincts.

Through the window, I could see Lucas walking through the house toward her desk, where any materials about her hunt for the wraiths would most likely be kept. I shifted around the edges of the walls. eager to keep an eye on him, as well as a lookout for Mrs. Bethany. But as I did so, I felt it again. The pull.

A trap! Before I could panic, I realized that it wasn’t the same as in the library — or, while it was the same kind of trap. there was a barrier bet\veen us that could keep me from falling in — the wraithproof roof or walls, perhaps. Apparently she put the traps together in her home before 101 installing them within Evernight Academy.

Though it didn’t capture me, the trap’s power was overwhelming. I could feel that strange pull all through me, and I was suddenly slow, sluggish, and inattentive. It was like running a high fever, when nothing quite made sense, and movement was possible but seemed to take too much effort.

As I came close to losing the ability to focus, I saw Lucas brush his hand against something sitting on her desk — another seashell — shaped box, just like the one he’d found in the library. Maybe it was the same one; he’d reported that the library wall had been immediately fixed, no questions asked. Quickly he shut the box, and the dizzying pull of the trap vanished. However, I still felt terrible; just being near an active trap was enough to seriously drain me.

For a moment, I was tempted to fade out — to rest, just for a little while — but I realized it might be a long time before I woke again. I gathered together my will and tugged myself free of it, returning to the here and now of Lucas’s search — just in time to see Mrs. Bethany walking to the door of the carriage house.

I threw myself against Mrs. Bethany’s window so hard it rattled. Lucas looked up from her desk, instantly alert, but too late. Mrs. Bethany walked into the carriage house and entered her study before Lucas could do more than stand.

She paused in the doorway. For a moment, they simply stared at each other across the room. Horror chilled me so deeply that it was like I’d become pure frost. Lucas looked seasick.

She’s going to attack him, or at feast throw him out of Evernight Academy. I shoufdn’t have asked him to do this. I shoufdn ‘t have let him do this.

I was just about to fly to the school in an attempt to get help when Mrs. Bethany said, evenly, “Mr. Ross, it would be more efficient if you simply asked me whatever it is you need to know.”

He didn’t relax, didn’t move. His eyes remained locked on hers, ready to defend or to attack. “Doubt you’d tell me.”

“Doubt.” Mrs. Bethany laid aside her things and sat in one of the wooden chairs on the far side of the wall. Another, empty chair sat next to her, a wordless invitation to Lucas. “Black Cross teaches its hunters to doubt everything new to them, and to believe only their own decrees about duty. 102 Or sacrifice. Or who is and is not a monster.”

Lucas’s jaw tightened, and I knew he was remembering Kate’s attack.

“They asked so much of you, and what do you have in return? Nothing except a few bad habits, such as your penchant for breaking and entering.”

Quietly Lucas said, “Don’t make me leave school.” The words seemed to choke him. He hated to beg.

“The sanctuary of Evernight protects you,” Mrs. Bethany said. Her voice sounded so weird; I couldn’t place the difference at first, until I realized that she actually sounded — warm. “I don’t intend to punish you for behaving in the only way you’ve ever known. Black Cross has encouraged you to be underhanded. There is a better way to conduct matters. Here, I hope, you can learn it.”

Yeah, Evernight Academy was the home of honesty, what with lying to the human students about most of their new friends being vampires. As I scoffed, though, I could see Lucas’s expression changing, becoming less wary. Mrs. Bethany was saying exactly what he wanted to hear.

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