Afterlife Page 77

My mother shifted on her feet, and my dad slipped his arm around her shoulders in a half hug. I knew she found it difficult to think of herself as being on the side of the wraiths, but she hadn’t fled; she stood here with us.

“We have to free the trapped wraiths,” I said. “And after that, destroy the traps we’ve got, to stop Mrs. Bethany from using them again.”

“It is unlikely that anyone so determined as Mrs. Bethany would allow herself to be stopped by the destruction of a few traps,” Ranulf pointed out.

I nodded. “But when we’ve freed the trapped ones, the wraiths who have traveled to Evernight will stop being so afraid. I can convince some of 201 them to leave then, maybe.”

“And maybe it’s not a bad idea to start tipping off the human students,” Balthazar said, catching on to the idea. “The hauntings didn’t scare them off, but possession might.”

Lucas added, “And if possession doesn’t, vampires certainly will. I’m not above showing my fangs if it will get some human students out of this school for good.”

“So we can really shut her down.” I began to get excited; for the first time in far too long, it felt like I was getting the upper hand over Mrs. Bethany. “Destroy the traps, empty the school of anybody except the vampires who need to be here.”

My father looked wary. “When we destroy the traps, we’ll disrupt the deep magic inside. It’s going to be an enormous release of energy. Nobody will be able to miss it.”

Lucas grimaced. “In other words, Mrs. Bethany’s going to know we’ve messed up her plan. Not later, when we start telling the human students right away.”

From his place within the gazebo, where he sat on one of the long benches, Balthazar said, “And she’ll act. Immediately. When we do this, we have to be ready for the repercussions.”

“She Wouldn’t actually kill — ” Another vampire, I wanted to say, but I couldn ‘t, not after seeing what she’d done to Samuel Younger. Mrs.

Bethany had nurtured this plan as her dearest wish for two centuries, and she wouldn’t hesitate to destroy anybody who got in her way. When I looked at my father, he nodded once in confirmation.

“She would,” Dad said. “And she’s played favorites a lot this year — among the faculty and the students. I suspect other vampires are in on her plan. If we don’t want to get staked or worse, we need to get out of here as soon as we’ve set the wraiths free.”

Lucas turned to my parents — the first time I’d seen him directly speak to one of them since that initial altercation with my mother at the top of the school year. “Any chance she’s going to be gone for a while anytime soon?”

There was an awkward pause that made me cringe, but then Dad seemed to pull himself together. “No such luck. But we could come up with a distraction, maybe. A crisis to get her off the grounds for a day. She’d hear about it when she got back, but that would buy us some time to cover our 202 tracks.”

“She’ ll know I’m in on it,” Lucas said. “After I turned her down flat the other day — she’s got to know. But hopefully I can cover for the rest of you.”

Mom cleared her throat, like it cost her some effort to speak to Lucas politely. “Mrs. Bethany will suspect us, too, especially if we’re involved in getting her off campus. So we should just agree now that it was the three of us. Nobody else.”

“Hey, that’s not necessary,” Balthazar said.

“Spare me the noble routine, okay?” Lucas shot him a look. “Nobody wants that woman on their bad side if they can help it. So don’t be stupid.” To my surprise, Balthazar grinned. “You’re a good friend, Lucas. Though You’ll never admit it.”

They shared a smile, and I could see my parents realizing that — against the odds — Lucas and Balthazar had actually gotten fairly tight. For some reason, the fact that I loved and accepted Lucas didn’t have as much impact on them as that simple proof of friendship.

Vic made aT sign with his hands. “Time out from the male bonding, okay? There’s one thing we haven’t talked about — Bianca.”

“What about me?” I said.

“You ‘re, like, Superghost, right? So You’re exactly who Mrs. Bethany is gunning for.” Vic looked from person to person, as if hoping someone would contradict him, but of course nobody could. “Okay, so how do we stop her from figuring out that you’re a wraith? And that you’re here? Because she’s got to be on the lookout.”

“You’ve all been really careful,” Mom said. Her eyes briefly met Lucas’s, as if thanking him for helping to protect me. It was a small moment, but it made me want to hug her harder than ever. “She has to know that Bianca’s changed into a wraith, but maybe — maybe Mrs. Bethany doesn’t realize that she’s here. If she did know, wouldn’t she have tried to capture Bianca before now?”

I had to admit that was a good point. The traps weren’t for me specifically; Lucas’s room hadn’t been targeted.

Mom continued, “I don’t like not knowing how much Mrs. Bethany knows, but hopefully it’s about to be a moot point. Within a couple of weeks, 202 I suspect the three of us will have left Evernight Academy forever, and . .. You’ll come with us, won’t you, Bianca?”

“Wherever you guys are.” I leaned my head on Lucas’s shoulder, with enough weight to make him smile. The glowing strands of my hair fell across his chest. “That’s where I’ll be.”

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