Afterlife Page 56

There, uniform kilt practically around her waist and books scattered around, lay Skye. She scrambled into a sitting position when she saw Lucas, tucking her kilt back into place as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “You scared me! I thought I was alone,” she said. “And these stairs — they’re slippery — ”

“You don’t have to apologize for falling down,” Lucas said. “I startled you, and yeah, the steps suck. You okay, Skye?”

“Mostly just humiliated.”

“No need to be freaked out because of me. So You’re okay.” He bent over, maybe to help her up or to pick up some of her books — and froze.

I saw it only a moment later. Skye had skinned her knee when she felL Crisscrossing the pale skin of her knee were stripes of blood, beading up thicker by the moment.

Lucas’s eyes narrowed, and I could see his entire body tense as he breathed in the scent.

Skye saw it too and winced. “So, not just a bruise. Don’t guess you happen to have any Band — Aids on you?”

“No,” Lucas said slowly. His gaze — his whole being — was focused entirely on the blood. As his jaw worked, I realized his fangs were threatening to emerge.

Lucas, no. Lucas, snap out of it. Did I dare to materialize? It would scare the hell out of Skye, but if Lucas was about to bite her . . . but he wouldn’t. He couldn ‘t.

“Of course you don’t have a Band — Aid. Guys don’t carry purses,” Skye said as if she were scolding herself. She bent the leg, bringing the knee closer to her face — and his. “Maybe I’ve got a tissue in my backpack, but I think I left my ftrst — aid stuff in the stables. Let me check.”

As she unzipped her backpack, her shining brown hair fell across her face and obscured her view of Lucas. I could feel temptation radiating from him like heat. He wanted blood — her blood — this second. He wanted it worse than anything else, enough to forget that I was watching, maybe enough to forget everything but his vampire hunger.

l made up my mind to appear and was gathering myself together to do it, when I heard someone else walk onto the floor above. The click — clack 150 of footsteps made Skye look up, though Lucas never took his eyes off the bleeding wound.

“Miss Tierney.” Mrs. Bethany’s rich voice echoed slightly in the stairwell. I saw her appear first as a shadow in the darkness, as if she were made out of nothing but night. “I see You’ve had an accident. And Mr. Ross is helping you.”

Skye smiled unevenly. “Yeah, tripped and fell.”

As they spoke, Lucas finally pulled himself together with a start. He didn’t seem to remember where he’d been or how he’d gotten here. Hurriedly he held out his arm to help Skye to her feet.

Mrs. Bethany held out a lacy white handkerchief. “Bandage it as best you can until you can get the first — aid kit.”

“It’s so pretty,” Skye protested, her fingers brushing over the delicate lace. “I don’t want to bleed on it.”

“If you rinse the linen in cold water as soon as possible, there will be little chance of any stain, “Mrs. Bethany said. “And a ruined handkerchief would be infinitely preferable to a student bleeding profusely in the hallways.”

Obviously Mrs. Bethany knew better than to tempt the undead half of the student body.

Skye thanked Mrs. Bethany and Lucas as Lucas returned her books to her backpack and handed it over. Just as she was leaving, she cast a curious glance at Lucas, maybe realizing that he’d hardly spoken a word since he’d seen her skinned knee. But she said nothing about it as she went limping back up toward her dorm room.

When Mrs. Bethany and Lucas were again alone, except for me, she gave him a hard stare. “You found that difncult, didn’t you?”

Lucas just nodded. He couldn ‘ t meet her eyes. I knew that shame had to be consuming him from the inside out. He hated himself for craving blood, and being tempted to attack a human — especially a human who had always been kind to him — would be unbearable.

“Take heart, Mr. Ross.” Mrs. Bethany put that familiar hand on his shoulder again. “There is a way beyond your present difficulty.”

“What, is there a way to stop vampires from wanting blood?” he scoffed.

“‘ Yes.”

He stared at her in blank surprise, at least so far as I could tell; I was too astonished to notice anything but my own shock.

Wanting blood — that was what made a vampire a vampire. Besides, Evernight Academy was almost wholly made up of vampires who didn’t 151 attack humans; wouldn’t they teach this kind of thing instead of driver’s ed!?

At Lucas’s stunned response, Mrs. Bethany smiled thinly. Her fingers tightened on his shoulder. “A way to silence the bloodlust forever,” she murmured. “It’s real. And it’s going to be mine. “

Lucas was utterly still, staring up at her raptly. “Teach me,” he said.

“When you’re ready.” She turned to go, but said, as she began to walk upstairs with her long skirts in her hands, “I think that will be very soon.” When we were alone again, he whispered, “Is it real? Bianca, can she be telling the truth?”

“I don’t know.”

The rest of the day passed in a weird sort of blur for me. My anxiety about Mrs. Bethany’s increasing hold on Lucas kept me from focusing properly on anything, including the task at hand. But as night fell and Lucas and my friends went to bed, I forced myself to get it together.

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