Afterlife Page 91

“Mom, it’s okay.” I’d been turning this over in my mind for several days now, and after tonight’s astonishing events, I finally knew what I wanted to tell her. “Stop thinking that something terrible happened to me, okay? You guys, of all people, should realize that death’s not the end. Besides — ! was meant to be a wraitil. I feel that now. These powers, these abilities — already I can ‘ t imagine not having them.This is my destiny. This is what I’m supposed to be.” After a moment’s pause, I added, “And it’s fun.”

My parents both started to laugh, and gatilered me into their arms for a ftong hug.

As the cops kept taking extremely confused statements from various students, and a very careful statement from Lucas, the red and blue lights from their vehicles beat raggedly, turning the snow crust on the ground different colors. Vic and Ranulf helped Skye down the front steps of Evernight; I could see that she continued to shake, and was clumsy as she tried to handle a duffle bag half as big as she was. When they walked past us, I heard her say, “Vampires and vampire hunters and ghosts — and they’ re all at war?”

“Present company excepted,” Vic said, with a grin over his shoulder. I could sense that Maxie hovered there, close by his side. “You know, if you 236 ask me, those shouldn’t be the sides. Instead, it should be the normal, awesome people versus the bug — nut crazy people. Plenty of people and vampires and ghosts on both sides of that equation, you know?”

“We are among the awesome,” Ranulf said gravely.

“Whatever you say.” Skye looked mostly like she wanted to get the hell away from anything supernatural and take a long nap. I couldn’t blame her, but I didn’t want to let her go without saying thanks.

“Skye, “I called as I walked up. She looked at me tiredly. “What you did up there — I’ll always be grateful. Me and Lucas both.”

“Lucas saved my life,” Skye said. “I wanted to help him, which meant helping you. And, like I said, I’d want somebody to do it for me.”

Her voice was so weary, and her eyes remained haunted. C hoosing my words with care, I said, “I possessed you for a pretty long time, and some intense supernatural things were happening. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Skye’s expression hardened. ““ll be okay the sooner I get away from here.” She took a deep breath. “Tell Lucas I’m happy for you guys. And . . . tell him good — bye.” Then she marched through the snow to the police car without looking back.

In the distance, I saw Balthazar standing apart from everyone else. I walked through the snow to his side. My father’s coat hung so large on my shoulders that I felt as though I were wearing a cape. Balthazar didn’t turn as I approached, but when I reached him, he said, “Someone will have to take care of the stables.”

I followed his gaze to the school stables, where a few students had kept their prize horses for riding. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“I’ll go down there tonight, make sure the horses are fed and warm,” he said quietly. “Their owners will come for them soon enough, probably, but I’ll keep checking. Oh, by the way, while we were looking for you today — I grabbed this.” From his pocket, Balthazar withdrew my silver and coral bracelet and dropped it into my hand. “It was under the beanbag chair. I guess Mrs. Bethany stashed it there when she replaced it with the trap.”

“Thank you,” I said, but it Wasn’t enough. Unspoken words hung between us, and I knew we had to deal with this immediately. Tve drunk your 237 blood, too,” I said. “What I did for Lucas — the return to life — it might work for you. If you want.”

Drinking somebody’s blood was a deeply intimate act, and for any other cause, I would never have offered; it would have been like cheating on Lucas. Yet I knew that Lucas would never begrudge Balthazar the chance to live again.

To my surprise, Balthazar shook his head. “No. There’s no guarantee it would work, and if it didn’t, I’d be poisoned.”

“It’s worth a shot.”

“It wouldn’t work.” His eyes narrowed as he stared at the horizon, as if he were blinded by the moonlight on the snow. “What happened tonight — that Wasn’t about blood. It was about the bond between you. The two of you are parts of one whole. That’s something you and I have never been.”

I laid my hand on his shoulder. “Balthazar, I’m sorry.”

He shrugged. “I’m no worse off than I was before. And — I’m happy for Lucas. I mean it.”

Quickly I stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. Balthazar smiled at me, but I could tell he mostly wanted to be alone. So I went back to help with the cleanup, and hoped that the police believed our version of events.

They would, of course. It was going to be a lot easier for them to decide that a water main had flooded the school, creating some ice on a cold night and shorting out electricity in the carriage house to start the fire. Why would they ever believe some panicked teenagers babbling about ghosts?

There was no telling precisely how the final official reports would read, but I knew how they would end: with the confirmation that Evernight Academy existed no more.

Around dawn, Raquel and Dana drove all of us to the town where they lived. Although their motel was anything but elegant, it was clean and safe, and there were tons of vacancies. If the tired couple running the motel was confused to suddenly check in seven guests at two a.m., they said nothing.

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