Afterlife Page 8

“Lucas?” I pleaded. “Lucas, can you hear me?”

It was like I didn’t exist. Lucas only wanted blood, and he didn’t care if he had to kill Vic to do it.

Ranulf dragged Lucas backward, struggling with him the whole way. All I could do was open the wine cellar door for them. In the distance, sirens blared, coming closer.

“Let me go!” Lucas raged, clawing Ranulf viciously in the side. Ranulf grimaced but held on. “Let me go!”

“You have to calm down,” I said. “Please, Lucas, get ahold of yourself.”

“He cannot hear you.” Ranulf managed to say as he wrestled Lucas toward a corner. “I remember the madness.”

Lucas roared, a terrifyingly animal sound. Every muscle of his body was flexed in his desperate need to escape, to kill and drink blood. Ranulf could hold him off, because of his great age and power, but after that battle, Ranulf’s strength had to be taxed to the limit. Seeing Lucas like this, reduced to an insane shell of himself, here in the little makeshift apartment where we had loved each other so much, nearly destroyed me.

The sirens got louder. Lucas roared again and smashed Ranulf backward against the wall with such force that the wine bottles rattled and Ranulf lost his grip. He leaped toward the door, and I started after him — but Balthazar came through.

Thank God, I thought. Balthazar can stop him, I know he can!

But then I cried out in horror as Balthazar brandished a stake and swung it, hard, so that it slammed deep into Lucas’s chest.

Chapter Three

LUCAS COLLAPSED UPON THE FLOOR, A STAKE jutting out from his heart.

I fell to my knees by his side. “Balthazar, no! What are you doing?” Just as I grasped the stake to pull it out, Balthazar roughly towed me up to my feet, away from Lucas. I went vapory again, slipping out of his arms easily. “You can’t stop me from taking care of him.”

“Think,” Balthazar said. “We need him to remain quiet while the police are here, and make sure he doesn’t go after Vic. I can’t come up with any other way to make that happen. Can you?”

“There has to be some way better than staking him,” I insisted.

“He is essentially unharmed,” Ranulf said, shaking off the impact of Lucas’s last blows. “The stake through the heart only paralyzes; it does not kill. When the stake is removed, Lucas will be as he was, except for a scar.”

“I know — but — ” The sight of him lying at my feet, crumpled and dead as he had been just a few hours ago, was too raw for me to bear. Balthazar stepped closer. In the relative darkness of the wine cellar, his shadowy form seemed more imposing than usual, which made the contrast with his quiet voice especially striking. “Lucas staked me once to save me. I’m returning the favor.”

“You probably enjoyed it.” I turned away from him then, but already I’d realized we couldn’t unstake Lucas yet. As he was, he was uncontrollable.

“Until we have fresh blood for him to drink, leaving him unconscious is a kindness,” Balthazar said. just when I might have softened toward him, he had to add, “When you calm down enough to act like an adult, you’ll see that.”

“Please do not force me to listen to romantic bickering,” Ranulf said.

Ranulf’s request was simple enough, but it was an uncomfortable reminder of everything that had happened between Balthazar and me — how much more he had wanted, and what I had been unable to give. Although I didn’t think jealousy drove Balthazar’s actions, I wondered if it allowed him to gain some satisfaction by staking Lucas.

Balthazar had insisted on going after Charity the day after my death, and he had brought Lucas along, knowing that Lucas was too grief-stricken to truly fight. Lucas, near suicidal, had plunged in unprepared. The aftermath of Balthazar’s mistake would be on Lucas forever. That outweighed everything that had happened between us before, good or bad.

This is what you get for hanging out with the wrong kind of dead people, a sardonic voice said.

That would be Maxie, the house ghost. The others couldn’t hear her. She’d been connected to Vic throughout his childhood but had never appeared to him or any other living creature — except me. Anticipating my transformation into a wraith, she’d begun appearing to me back when I was a student at Evernight Academy: now that I’d died. she wanted me to abandon the mortal world and join her in other, more mystical realms. The whole idea terrified me, and I’d never been less in the mood to talk to her about it.

An awkward silence filled the room. A dead body on the floor made casual conversation pretty much impossible. Balthazar studied the wine racks for a few minutes, in what I thought was just a distraction, until he pulled a bottle out. “Argentinean Malbec. Nice.”

“You’re going to sit here and drink wine?” I protested.

“We’ve got to sit here and do something.” Balthazar looked around for a corkscrew, failed to find one, and then simply smashed the neck of the bottle against the tiny sink. Spatters of red fell onto the floor. “It’s not a particularly expensive bottle. We can replace it.”

“That’s not the problem,” I said.

“What is the problem, Bianca?” He, too, had become frustrated. “Are you freaking out because I look underage? My face might be nineteen, but I’m legal plus four hundred years or so.”

He knew that Wasn’t what I meant either. Before I could snap at him, Ranulf groaned. “Still there is bickering.”

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel