Afterlife Page 61

“I got her out of there before she could do anything worse,” Maxie said. So it was her, and not Christopher, who had intervened. “You shouldn’t have let her go back, anyway.”

“Maxine, calm yourself.” Christopher put his hands on her shoulders. “It is not my role to allow or disallow Bianca’s travels. She is freer than the rest of us. She does not share our limitations. l realize that is hard for you to accept, but you must.”

Maxie snapped, “I don’t see the difference between what Mrs. Bethany’s doing and what Bianca did. She’s turned against her fellow wraiths. That doesn’t matter?”

I said, “That thing — “

“Thing again!”

“It hurt people, Maxie,” I continued. “Nobody has the right to do that.”

Christopher nodded. “It is one matter to act in defense of others. Another to act from selfish desires — no matter how understandable those desires may be.”

He seemed so sad that I hated to ask more. And yet his sadness itself drew my attention more than anything else. It was like whatever Mrs. Bethany was doing wounded him personally, deeply. Did he care so deeply about the wraiths — all the wraiths? No, this was something that affected him, not as the leader of this ghostly world or whatever else he’d become, but as the man he had been.

A laughably bizarre idea occurred to me, and yet I couldn’t shake it. Christopher watched me closely, able to see that I was struggling with something. Even his smile was sad.

“You know. now.” he said. “Trust your insight. You will see many things here that would be hidden to you elsewhere.”

This world’s clarity had worked its magic on me again — or had it? Still, I couldn’t quite believe. I asked the less direct question, in case I was wrong: “Christopher … what anchors you to the world? Or .. . who?”

“My beloved wife, though I have not spoken to her in nearly two hundred years.·• Was he saying what I thought he was saying? “Then You’re — ”

“Christopher Bethany,” he said. “Of course, you already know my wife.”

Chapter Sixteen

“MRS. BETHANY IS YOUR WIFE,” I REPEATED. Although I’d guessed it myself, I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around the information. The leader of the wraiths, married to one of the most powerful, ruthless vampires in existence? “Then why does she hate the wraiths so much?” Surely if she was married to a wraith, she’d have to like them a little. But maybe not. Maybe they’d broken up or something. A divorce would probably be extra — nasty after two hundred years of marriage.

But Christopher shook his head. “I have not spoken to her since my death.”

“Why not? Is it because she became a vampire? Did she — was she the one who killed you?” I corrected myself. “No, of course not. You said she was the only person loyal to you.”

“This is my history, mine alone,” Christopher said, and his voice held a sharpness I hadn’t heard since his first frightening manifestations at Evernight. Sensing my tension, though, he visibly calmed himself. “And yet, it concerns you now, and those close to you. It is not wrong for you to ask.”

Maxie gaped at him, her earlier outrage at my special treatment forgotten. “Are you going to tell us where you come from?” I got the impression this was a closely guarded secret.

Christopher glared at her. “I shall tell Bianca, as it relates to her existence,” he said. “It does not relate to yours.”

With a huff, Maxie stomped away, her shiny heels loud on the pavement. She disappeared into a crowd of people who seemed mostly to be dressed in feathers and paint. I turned back to Christopher. “If you don’t want to talk about it.” I said, “honestly, that’s okay. It’s your business.” I wanted answers, but that Wasn’t the same as wanting to pry.

“You will soon see how our paths intersected. These events are becoming part of your history as well.”

He swept his hand across the sky, turning it instantly black — as though, instead of being outside, we stood in a kind of planetarium. Instead of the flowing, chaotic land of lost things around us, we were entirely alone, in a sort of void. I understood, without being told, that this was beyond most wraiths’ power, including my own; this uncanny ability was something Christopher had forged from his long centuries trapped between 163 worlds.

“Wow,” I said. “What is this?”

“We are traveling to see the past.”

“We’re going back in time?” After everything else that had happened, it was weird that this had the power to surprise me. Like something out of a science — fiction movie; Vic would think this was extremely cool.

But Christopher shook his head. “Traveling to see,” he said. “The past is unreachable by any power, mortal or immortal.”

I Wasn’t sure what the difference was, but there was no time to ask. Taking shape around us was a forest, through which wound a narrow dirt road, striped with tracks from wheels and horses. A carriage came toward us, pulled by two pale gray horses and lit by actual lanterns on each side. It seemed romantic to me, something out of a novel by one of the Brontes.

At least, it seemed that way until figures jumped out of the dark — out of nowhere, it seemed — and sprang upon the carriage. The horses whinnied and snorted as one of the figures grabbed their harness, bringing everything to a halt.

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