Afterlife Page 72

“Hang on,” Vic interrupted. “I’m about to be brilliant. What about the Autumn Ball?”

Evernight Academy’s biggest dance — the vampire version of the prom — was only a week away. Ranulf had a date, but to the best of my knowledge, nobody else did. As I rolled the idea around in my mind, I liked it more. “Everyone will be out, be busy, and lots of people will go into different rooms to make out or sneak a beer or whatever. That makes it good cover for pretty much anything we would need to do.”

“There’s no we here,” Lucas said. “It’s too dangerous for you.”

I wanted to argue, but in this particular case, Lucas wasn’t being overprotective. Sending a ghost to find ghost traps would be a little like sending a vampire to inspect a stake factory. “Well, then, it gives me something to watch while you guys are busy. It’s a perfect distraction — Balthazar, remember how you and I were able to go through the school records last year?”

After the words came out, I wished I could have pulled them back; it was never a great idea to remind Lucas, or Balthazar, that Balthazar and I had been on a date last year.

The silence that followed hung awkwardly in the room, until Vic couldn’t take it anymore. “Okay!” he said, too cheerfuUy. “So we’re all going to the Autumn Ball. Ranulf and I have dates — what about you guys?”

“Since when did you get a date?” I asked, joining his effort to brighten the mood of the evening.

Vic looked sheepish. Ranulf said, “Upon questioning, my date revealed that she has a friend lovely in visage yet unfortunate in matters of romance. We have therefore arranged for Vic to accompany her to the ball. “

“You found him someone,” I said. “Hey, it works.” It occurred to me that Maxie would probably be somewhat jealous about that.

““d planned to travel that weekend,” Patrice said, “but I suppose if I stayed, I could wear my new Chane!. What do you say, Balthazar? Let’s be partners in crime.”

Balthazar sighed. “Sure. But one of these years, I hope to go to this party with somebody who actually wants to date me.”

“So that just leaves Lucas,” Vic said. Then his face fell. “And that gets kinda awkward.”

Lucas shrugged. ‘Til be the guy who doesn’t go. I can just dig around up in the dorms.”

“No,” I said. Although I hated this, I knew it was true: “The people who go to the party are the ones who have the most freedom that night. Otherwise, the teachers will think that if You’re not in your dorm, you’ve got to be up to something.”

“You want me to ask some other girl out on a date?” His disbelief would’ve been funny, if it weren’t such serious business.

“Uh, no. But is there someone you could maybe go with just as a friend?” I hesitated, realizing that Lucas only had one other friend at school — but maybe she would do. “Like Skye?”

“Would she understand it’s not a date?” Patrice said.

“Sure,” I said. “She’d only be looking for a friend to go with, because she’s got a boyfriend back home.”

“Actually, not so much, “Lucas said. “I heard her telling Clementine earlier today — apparently her boyfriend just dumped her hard. But she said she’d date a guy again ‘about six months after hell freezes over,’ so I’m guessing she’d only want a friend right now. That’s not the real problem, though.”

“You Wouldn’t attack her,” I said, trying to be soothing. “You’re getting stronger. Besides, you’ll meet her downstairs and be in the center of a crowd the whole time. If you did snap, which you won’t, somebody would be there to stop you.”

Lucas shook his head. “Too risky. Let me go witl1 Patrice, and Balthazar, maybe you could ask Skye.”

“I’ve never so much as spoken to her,” Balthazar said. “She probably doesn’t know who I am.”

Patrice and I shared a look. Balthazar could be obtuse about his own good looks. Maybe he and Skye had never spoken, but there was no way any straight girl or g*y guy at Evernight Academy didn’t know exactly who he was.

“So ask somebody else,” Lucas said.

More firmly, Balthazar said, “I think spending some time with a human would be a good idea for you.” He glanced at Vic. “An .. . undaubed human. You can’t stay at Evernight much longer, now that things are getting weird with Mrs. Bethany. Eventually you’ve got to test yourself. Try to strengthen your self — control. And like Bianca said, this is as good an opportunity as any.”

“I guess.” Lucas gave me an uneasy look. “Bianca, are you sure about this?”

Honestly, I felt a little jealous. Not of anything happening between Lucas and Skye — I had total faith in him. But Skye would get to dress up, go to the ball, and dance with Lucas the whole night long, while I was stuck watching from the ceiling in the spectral version of the pajamas I’d died in. That was a pretty stupid reason to fret, though. “As long as she gets the whole friends thing, yeah. It’s fme.”

From his place in the beanbag chair, Vic hung his head backward and grinned at Lucas. “Okay, it’s slightly losery to have your best friend find you a date,” he admitted. “But way less losery than having your girlfriend find you one.”

Lucas scowled at him, though I could tell, despite his bleak mood, he thought it was funny. “Shut it.”

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