Afterlife Page 37

More unbelievably, I thought she actually meant it. “Now,” she said. “Tell me what you were looking for.”

“More information about the wraiths.”

Lucas, don’t! I couldn’t believe he was going to spill our secrets to her that easily.

Instead he said, “I heard they were after Bianca last year. I don’t understand why she died. If they had something to do with it, I want to know. And I want revenge.”

Mrs. Bethany straightened, obviously pleased to have found a kindred spirit. Lucas had convinced her that he wanted the same thing she wanted: to hunt the wraiths. That was probably the single best way to get her to open up. I should’ve had more faith in him.

She gestured lu the chair uexl lu her, aud Lucas luuk a seal. “Tu the i.J.esl uf my lutuwledge, the wraiths I.Jdieved themselves lu have sume kiud of claim over Miss Olivier, “Mrs. Bethany said. “Are you aware of the circumstances surrounding Bianca’s birth?”

“You mean, the part where t\vo vampires can’t make little baby vampires without some wraith assistance? Yeah, she told me.”

“Rather like a fairy tale,” Mrs. Bethany said. Lucas shot her a puzzled look. “I suppose your warrior mother didn’t spend much time telling you stories out of Grimm. Suffice it to say that the magical godmother at the christening usually hides a curse among her gifts. And so it was with the wraiths. They drank of Celia’s blood, and gave Celia and Adrian a chance to create life, for a little while.”

Lucas considered that. His dark green eyes focused upon the window; although I knew he couldn’t actually see me, he knew exactly where I was. “So her mom and dad always knew this was going to happen.”

“To be precise, her parents thought that she would fulfill her dominant vampire heritage by taking a life and completing the transformation. They knew the only other alternative was for her to die.”

“Beingjust a regular girl — ”

“Was always impossible,” Mrs. Bethany said coolly. “Bianca was given life, but only so much.”

I sank down to the ground, mist taking form into a shadow of my body. Had anybody walked by at that moment, they probably could have seen me, but I didn’t care. I needed to feel something solid to rest on. It Wasn’t that what Mrs. Bethany had said hurt; to the contrary, it felt weirdly and yet undeniably right. My astonishment at my own reaction seemed to knock something out of me.

Mrs. Bethany’s voice gentled. “It’s hard for you to hear, isn’t it? But in time, I think, knowing this will lessen your pain. You could not have saved her, Mr. Ross. You endangered her no more than her parents did — though they will never accept that.”

“I don’t think I can either.”

“You still see death as the worst thing that can possibly happen. It isn ‘t..”

“I know there’s something worse than being dead,” Lucas said, each word grinding out. “Because we’re there.”

“You miss being alive.” I expected her to say that he was foolish to do so; nobody seemed to get more pleasure out of being a vampire than she did. But Mrs. Bethany added, very quietly, “So do I.”

Lucas said, “Never gets any better, huh?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Astonishment overcame my melancholy. I became transparent again so that I could peek once more through her window; Mrs. Bethany sat with 104 her hand on Lucas’s shoulder, her thick, grooved nails dark crimson against his black sweater. He didn’t shy away from the touch.

Is she . .. hitting on him? I rejected the idea instantly; it Wasn’t that kind of gesture. There was no denying that a bond had been formed, however — and that in some ways, right now, Mrs. Bethany could understand what was going on with Lucas better than I could.

Wordlessly, she patted his shoulder. Lucas obeyed the unspoken suggestion by rising to his feet. Mrs. Bethany walked him out of the carriage house — completely unconcerned about his having broken into it — and the entire way back to Evernight itself. They didn’t part until they were both inside the great hall; a few people studying during their free period glanced at the scene, registering to their surprise that Lucas had apparently gotten teacher’s pet status. I wondered if that would make the other vampires back off, or target him even more.

“English class calls,” she said. “Dare I hope that you’ve done the reading?”

Lucas said, “I read Catcher in the Rye on my own a couple years ago, actually.”

“Of course. You would be primarily self — taught. What did you think?”

“That Holden Caulfield is a self — pitying loser who needs more to do wirth his time.”

Mrs. Bethany smiled slightly. “Although I would phrase things more delicately, our analyses are similar in substance. Which means I will call on you. Be ready.” She checked the old — fashioned gold wristwatch she wore. “You have several minutes yet if you wished to shower,” she said, in a tone of voice indicating that he should definitely consider it.

She went on her way, and Lucas immediately started jogging upstairs to do what she’d said. He was smiling — really smiling, like it came from his heart. I felt almost jealous, more like a tagalong than his constant companion, until he whispered, “Can you believe that?”

“You did get kind of sweaty sparring with Balthazar.”

“No, I mean, can you believe she let me off?”

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