Afterlife Page 41

“Absolutely not,” I said.

“Mind you, I’m a bit out of practice. I’ve done all the killing I ever intend to do. Drinking blood can give you skanky breath. If you ask me, Evernight Academy should add a hygiene class, because some people here? They haven’t gotten that critical message.• I wasn’t interested in gossiping about who had blood — induced halitosis. “You’ve . . . done a lot of killing?”

“Not so much,” Patrice said easily. “Just a few slave owners and redneck sheriffs, back in the day. Before the Emancipation Proclamation, if you were black in this country, there was always someone trying to take your freedom away. Literally, I mean; figuratively, it never stops. After I became a vampire, I didn’t have to put up with that anymore.”

Pretty much every vampire I’d ever known had killed sometimes — except my parents, iliough maybe they just hadn’t shared with me. Even the best of them, like Patrice and Balthazar, had drunk from, and murdered, humans. Balthazar’s kills had mostly taken place during wartime, and I couldn’t blame Patrice for striking back at anyone who wanted to enslave her. But just the same, they’d drunk human blood. Balthazar had even murdered his own sister, with consequences that continued to haunt us.

Did that mean iliere was really no choice for Lucas? That sooner or later, he would inevitably snap? Knowing him as I did, I was sure he’d never be able to forgive himself. No wonder he was desperate to find a way beyond the bloodlust. Mrs. Bethany was offering him the thing he 113 wanted most in the world.

“Can we get back to ilie lesson here?” Patrice tapped one perfect, lilac — tinted nail against the mirror. “Okay. It helps if you have some sense of a draft, or a breeze, some idea of which way ilie wraith is traveling. If iliey’re visible, easy. If not, you have to pay close attention to things like the chill in the air, any signs of frost, so on and so forili. And you want to angle the mirror perpendicular to that direction.”

“You just hold it out iliere like a catcher’s mitt, and ilie wraith flies right into it?”

“If only.” Patrice hesitated. “Essentially, you have to iliink of your own death.” Caught short, I said, “Why?”

“Not just think about. Be one with. It’s like you have to reach inside yourself and sort of .. . resonate on a dead frequency, I guess. Find the way that You’re like the wraiths. That’s what pulls them into the mirror — they’re coming close to you, because of that resonance, and then that weird mirror mojo does its own thing.”

She didn’t have to explain “weird mirror mojo” to me. One of the unsolvable puzzles of being a vampire was why mirrors stopped showing reflections when a vampire had been too long without blood; the phenomenon didn’t make any sense, and yet it was true. The simple physical property of reflection had a power to it none of us understood, but aU of us respected.

Patrice continued, “It should work better for you than for vampires, as I guess you can resonate with other wraiths pretty easily. But this trick Wouldn’t be much use to a human.”

“Okay. Sounds simple enough.”

“Sounds simple,” she scoffed. “It takes a few tries to learn, or at least it did for me.” Our eyes met, and her mask of indifference fell. I must have looked terrified.

“They frighten me,” I said. “I am one, but — I don’t know.”

“You’re strong, Bianca.” Patrice spoke in a whisper. I’d never seen her this serious before, or this sincere. “Stronger than I ever would ‘ve thought. for somebody so young. If anybody can face them down, it’s you.”

“I don’t know ifl’m scared they’ll hurt me, or .. .”

“Or what?”

“Or if they’ll take me away from here, from Lucas and the rest of you. Keep me from ever coming back.”

Patrice shook her head. The lamp behind her made her curls seem to glow. “Not you. I know You’ll always find your way home.”

I wished I could be as certain.

Seeing my reluctance, Patrice sat up and smoothed her tailored uniform back into perfect order. “What we need to do is give you more of a home to come back to.”

114 “Where are we going?” Lucas asked as I led him up the winding stairs of the guys’ tower. “Is this more fun than astronomy?”

“You always acted like you were interested in my astronomy!”

“I was. just more interested in you.”

“It’s a secret,” I said, ruffling his hair as a cool breeze. “You’ll see when we get there.”

Samuel Younger came down the stairs as we went up, and I could sense Lucas tensing as they came close to each other. Samuel said, “Talking to yourself, freak?”

“Sometimes that’s what you’ve gotta do for some intelligent conversation,” Lucas answered. Samuel flipped him off but kept going down the stairs.

Once we were truly alone again, I said, “We’ve got to watch that.”

“We do okay. Besides, it’s crazy what IJeople won’t notice.”

By this time Lucas and I were almost to the top of the tower — the old records room. “Anyway, Patrice and I were thinking that it’s not good for any of us to be alone so much.”

“I’m never alone as long as I’ve got you.”

As Lucas said this, he opened the door to reveal the group gathered within: Patrice, who was smoothing a scarf on one of the dusty tru:nks before sitting on it; Vic and Ranulf, who seemed to have brought his movie posters and an inflatable chair; and Balthazar, who was blowing smoke from his cigarette out the window. Somebody’s iPod and speaker dock had been parked in the corner, turned up about as loud as it could be without attracting attention.

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