Afterlife Page 74

Before I could finish, revealing the miracle within Mrs. Bethany’s plotting, my dad continued, “What I mean is, she’s always known about 193 Bianca.”

Mom’s hand clutched at the neck of her coat, gathering the wool together against a new chill. “Adrian, what are you talking about?”

He said, “I mean that Mrs. Bethany is after the wraith, and she always knew that our Bianca had a chance to turn into a wraith someday. Looking back, I suspect that’s why we were offered jobs here in the first place.”

“Mrs. Bethany is after the wraiths,” Mom said. “And you think Mrs. Bethany is specifically after Bianca. That can’t be true. Why would she do it?”

Everything fell into place. Mrs. Bethany wanted to live again. She knew that capturing wraiths gave her the power to create life — but only the sacrifice of a powerful, stable wraith would ensure her sanity after the transformation. And I, thanks to my special status as a born wraith, the many relationships that anchored me to this world, and the guidance of other powerful spirits that had found me when they, too, were drawn to Evernight — I would be a perfect example.

I was Mrs. Bethany’s best chance at returning to life. Not for one second did I think she would hesitate; if she could resurrect herself by murdering me, she would do it, gladly.

“I know why,” I said. They took hands, as if expecting a terrible blow, and I broke it to them as gently as I could.

The rest of our family reunion wasn’t as heartwarming as I might’ve wished. When Mom and Dad weren ‘t sick with anger at Mrs. Bethany, they were angry at themselves for coming to Evemight Academy in the first place. Instead of reminding them that I’d been against this plan from the start sometimes “I told you so” isn’t the best thing to say, even if later events have proved you totally correct — ! told them what my friends and I were planning. They agreed to serve as chaperones for the Autumn Ball, the better to make sure that the rest of us would be able to leave and return easily. Although they were thrilled that Balthazar and Patrice were playing a role in this, they both went very quiet anytime I mentioned Lucas. Rather than force the issue, I hoped they would wind up talking to him on the night of the ball. By cooperating on a common goal, maybe they could find a way to 194 be civil to each other.

Because of that, I started looking forward to the ball — the dance, the hunt, everything. By the time the night arrived, I was way too excited to just lurk in the great hall until everyone arrived. I dedded to enjoy some vicarious glamour by visiting Patrice’s room and helping her get ready for the dance.

The envy almost did me in. Her ball gown looked like it cost more than some cars. The ice blue sheath was beaded from straps to hem, and her shoes were embroidered in fine crystals. “Why couldn’t I appear in a dress like that?” I said wistfully, helping to hold back the rest of her hair as she worked on the last few fine braids. “It’s sort of a wraith — y color. Way more angelic than these stupid pajamas.”

“They’re cute pajamas, and thank goodness.” Patrice squinted at the mirror. Like most vampire girls at the school, she’d cut back on her blood to look thinner and hungrier at the dance; however, that meant she no longer reflected in a mirror very well. “If you ‘ d died in one of those old T — shirts you used to sleep in sophomore year? I shudder to think.”

“Even if these were the cutest pajamas in the world, an evening gown would have to be better.”

“True,” Patrice said. Her smile was luminous. There was nothing she liked more than dressing up. Or was that maybe not the only reason she was glowing?

“So, you and Balthazar,” I began. “just friends?”

She snorted, the least ladylike thing I’d ever heard her do. “I told you before, remember? Not my type.”

“Yeah, I remember.” Poor Balthazar was going to have to wait a little longer for romance. At least Patrice was having fun getting dressed up.

No wonder, given that her clothing was this expensive and beautiful. Her drop earrings glittered with diamonds, as did the fine bracelet she wore. She’d coiled her thin braids into an elegant twist.

Once she was getting done, I said, “I’m going to head on, okay? I’ll try to say hello during the dance?”

“Are you headed down already?” Patrice wore only her lacy underthings as she curled her eyelashes; the ice blue dress waited on a hanger upon the closet door. “What for?”

“Urn, I might actually be going to watch Lucas pick up Skye.”

Patrice shot me a sidelong look. “You know nothing’s going on there, right?”

“I know. But she gets to go to the party with my boyfriend, and I don’t. So if I go right now, after seeing how amazing you look, I’ll feel as though she’s totally average by comparison. It helps, you know?”

She laughed, pleased as ever by flattery. “Sure, go ahead.”

I drifted down to the base of the stairwell, where most girls would be come down to find their escorts for the evening. Ranulf and Vic had just met up with their dates; the glamorous Cristina snuggled on Ranulf’s arm happily enough, but Vic and his date regarded each other suspiciously.

No sooner had they walked out of the common area than Lucas walked in. He’d managed to rent or borrow an evening suit. I knew him well enough to know he hadn’t paid much attention to the process, but somehow the suit fit him perfectly, outlining his shoulders, his waist, and his hips. His dark gold hair was combed back, something he rarely did. The style made his hair seem darker, giving him a slightly older look. I’d never actually seen Lucas dressed up before; this might have been the first formal occasion he’d ever attended in his life. But his rugged good looks turned out to work just as well in midnight black as they did in jeans and flannel. He could ‘ve been in a Cary Grant movie. No — he could’ve been Cary Grant himself.

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