Afterlife Page 85

Then the door thudded, making the vampires jump. It thudded again and gave way, splintering wood and mother — of — pearl in a thousand directions as Lucas burst into the room, crossbow in hand.

Either he instantly understood what was happening, or he was going to kill Mrs. Bethany first and ask questions later. Lucas shouldered his crossbow to fire, but Mrs. Bethany lunged for him, pushing the crossbow up so that tl1e arrow smacked the ceiling.

“Let her go,” Lucas said as they struggled for the weapon.

“She is no longer yours,” Mrs. Bethany said, shoving him back. “She is mine.”

The other vampires began to go after him, too, but Lucas hadn’t come alone. Balthazar and my mother smashed through what remained of the door; Balthazar had grabbed his fencing foil, and Mom just seized the vampire nearest her and punched him hard.

As I swirled, disoriented and unable to resist, the fight intensified around me. To me, it seemed to be happening in slow motion, dreamlike and yet more terrifying for the clarity of the violence. I caught a glimpse of my father, wielding a broken chair leg as a kind of stake. I saw Balthazar go Skye didn’t budge. She was a lot cooler than most people would be in a situation like this, but then again, she’d grown up in a haunted house. Maybe it came with the territory. “You said Bianca. That’s the girl you loved, the one who died — she’s a ghost?”

“She’s a ghost and she’s trapped and we’re getting her out of here,” Lucas said, never taking his eyes off me. “Now you get out ofhere, too!”

Instead, Skye took a couple of steps forward and spoke again — this time, to me. “Bianca, come into me. Like the spirits did at the ball.” She wanted me to possess her? Could I do that?

“What are you doing?” My mother tried to push Skye back. “This is dangerous!”

“I know what it is to lose somebody,” Skye said. “If anyone could do this for my brother. I’d want them to try. So I’ll try. Bianca, it’s okay. Come on! Do it!”

I let go of my vapor self and let the swirling energy in the room carry me down toward Skye. Everything vanished — and then suddenly I felt hard stone against my back, and pain. I tried to inhale, but the breath had been knocked out of me — Breath. Pain. A heartbeat. I opened my eyes — her eyes — and looked up to see my parents and Lucas kneeling above me. “Bianca?” Lucas said, hesitantly.

“It’s me,” I said. “It’s us.”

Because Skye was there with me, totally. This wasn’t like possessing Kate; Skye had welcomed me, and because of that, her spirit and mine existed side by side. Although she was frightened — her heartbeat fluttering as fast as a bird’s — she didn’t flinch.

Thank you, I thought to her.

She thought back, You’re welcome. But shouldn’t we maybe run?

“Good plan,” I said. Her voice sounded so strange as mine. Lucas and my parents stared at me, and I grabbed on to Lucas’s hand. “Let’s go. We have to save Maxie if we can.”

“We should just get out of here,” Mom said as Lucas helped me to my feet. I was startled to be able to look him directly in the eyes; Skye was taller than me. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry about your friend, but we have to think about your safety.”

“Maxie didn’t think about her safety when she came after me,” I said. “Besides, Vic’s trying to help her. Are you going to make Vic go up against Mrs. Bethany alone?”

Lucas guided me toward the door. “No way. Come on.”

My mom and dad glanced at each other for a second, but they followed us. Now that I was enclosed in Skye’s body, as though it were a warm, living suit of armor, the trap room had no more power over me; leaving was as simple as taking the stairs. Of course, those were a little clumsy — I didn’t wholly know how to move in Skye’s body yet, and both of us were shaky after what had just happened.

As we started going down the stairs, I said, “Was it Maxie who told you where I was?”

sliding across the floor, grimacing in pain before staggering to his feet. Lucas reclaiming his crossbow and firing — Mrs. Bethany smoothly dodging the arrow that sank into another vampire, with a plume of blood and the vampire’s cry.

Vampire’s blood, drawing me in, dragging me further down into nothingness.

Beyond the trap, I heard Maxie’s voice. “Bianca! You have to get out of there! Come on!” I could just make out her form as she stood on the very edge of the room, risking her own existence to try and help me. A few other faces appeared behind her — female students who lived in the upper floors of the dorm, no doubt startled by the noise, and Vic, who appeared to be trying desperately to get those students to go someplace safer.

I tried to do what Maxie said, but I was too weak. Too lost.

At that moment in the fray, Mrs. Bethany ran for the door at vampire speed, grabbing the smaller trap as she went. She opened it — just in front of Maxie.

No! I thought, but it was too late. There was just time to see the dawning terror on Maxie’s face before the vortex swallowed her up, enclosing her 222 within the trap.

“Hey!” Vic yelled. For the first time ever, I heard real fury in his voice. “That’s my ghost!”

Mrs. Bethany smashed Vic across the face with the trap, which sent him sprawling to the floor. The human students began screaming and shouting as Mrs. Bethany pushed through them.

“She’s getting away,” Balthazar shouted.

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